DJ Dahi NPR Feature

dj-dahi

DJ Dahi, photo c/o Audible Treats

 

I wrote a feature story for the good folks at NPR on DJ Dahi, the guy who:

  • Produced “Worst Behavior” for Drake
  • Produced “Money Trees” for Kendrick
  • Who is about to be The Guy and release a compilation album called The Good Seed featuring a load of his music buddies and propel himself to a place where he doesn’t always need to be described as “the guy who…” You’ll just know.

DJ Dahi: Making The Move From Bass Line To Top Billing

“My goal with this music is to not to have to be less of myself when I see people. I want to be able to walk outside and be able to defend everything I created for it.”

I went to his studio in the valley to catch his vibe, called up his sweet Christian mom and also rapped with production wizard/Def Jam top dog No ID for the story. Read it. Then play his music and zone out. Cool? Cool.

Kanye West: Pablo Creates and Loves Seeing You Flourish, Too

 

This whole video—an SNL Kanye West performance of “Ultralight Beam” from his The Life of Pablo album—is pretty damn good and moving. But for the purpose of the following, just forward to the 3:15 mark.

“My daughter look just like Sia/ You can’t see her.” It’s a witty line Chance the Rapper slickly delivers (if you don’t get it, we can’t be friends. Go Genius it, then come back) during his verse.

Reacting to the bar, Kanye let’s out a joyful man squeal that basically can be translated into a half-second substitute for, “What a fucking line! Damn, he’s killing it!!!” That’s joy you see on his face when the camera switches to an angle that both shows Chance spitting and Kanye beaming, arm draped around The-Dream.

My point is this: Kanye, the creative, gets off on people getting off. It’s important to remember that he’s a producer first, meaning his job—one he clearly enjoys—is to make others shine. And his SNL “ULB” performance is an exhibition of that selflessness.

There’s nearly forgotten R&B singer Kelly Price blowing for Jesus on a stage she certainly wouldn’t be rocking on if not for joining a star of greater wattage like West. Same goes for Kirk Franklin, Dream, Young Thug and El DeBarge. El DeBagre, y’all!

Kanye’s Pablo is far from a singular effort. Rather, it’s masterful in its usage of umpteen featured guests. Rihanna, The Weeknd, Chris Brown, Ty Dolla $ign and Frank Ocean all make appearances among others. And they’re all showcased in their comfort zones, meaning that whether it’s Rihanna letting a guy amble away from her or Frank closing out the album with a thoughtful poem of sorts, they—for brief moments—own the songs they’re on.

Kanye West Career Album Roundup

It’s been a few days since Pablo came out. Wow, what a messy roll-out it’s been. But as usual, Kanye’s basking in the glory of critical acclaim and simultaneously backstroking in an ocean’s worth of backlash courtesy of tabloid celeb fodder, his own Twitter timeline, and Taylor Swift’s squadron.

I just wanted to take a little time out to bring the conversation back to what he does best, which is produce and galvanize. Pablo is a bunch of people getting together in rooms all over the world (Literally. Look at the credits) in the name of Kanye West and making some bomb audio art. I’m not mad at that.

So while many are out there clowning him for his public outcries for financial assistance and the means to create on a grander scale, I’m hoping he gets that help. People think Kanye’s some selfish attention whore that’s trying to load his pockets and feed his ego. But that can’t be right.

Again, look at the way he’s smiling when Chance is rapping.

Kanye West Roundup

 

One of the best pieces I’ve thought up and executed as an editor and writer was a career retrospective of Kanye West back in 2013 on the eve of him releasing his sixth solo album Yeezus. The idea was to wasn’t necessarily groundbreaking, but it was one of the first times that I asserted myself visually. Typically when you’re a writer, you have little say-so when it comes to the art/photography that will be paired with your words.

Kanye West: How the Rapper Grew From ‘Dropout’ to ‘Yeezus’

In this case though, Billboard’s digital photo editor Kate Glicksberg heard out my idea of finding an illustrator to draw a Kanye that represented who he was during each album and she loved it. She thought of Marco Cibola, a super talented artist, who eventually signed on for the job. Kate and I did some research and found the images that we thought were best to illustrate and Marc hit the assignment out of the park. When it came time to edit, I recall only having nitpick-y additions to ask for: “Can you put some more buttons on the leather jacket?” “Can he look more tired on the 808s pic’?”

And then I went to work writing about all of Kanye’s albums. As a legit fan, I had much to say and the discipline to know I shouldn’t be long-winded. So it was my mission to talk about his Dropout to icon journey in a tight manner.

When I finished the piece, I was super Kanye’d out and ready to go back to simply enjoying the man as a fan. His album was days away from dropping and, thankfully, then Hip-Hop/R&B editor Erika Ramirez was supposed to write the review. But as fate would have it, Yeezus leaked (hours after the retrospect as posted!) while she was out of the office and I was tasked with writing a track-by-track review A.S.A.P. to satiate an internet audience that was hungry for hot takes.

Kanye West, ‘Yeezus’: Track-by-Track review

Since Kanye’s releasing his seventh album, The Life of Pablo, today, I thought I’d round up these pieces and share them with y’all.

Bonus: The time Jay Z invited me and a handful of others to a hotel room listening seesion for a rough draft of Watch the Throne

I’m sure I’ll have something to say about his new album as well. Maybe I’ll come through later with those thoughts.

Majid Jordan Album Review for Billboard

 

Majid Jordan cover

Drake’s OVO Sound duo Majid Jordan dropped their self-titled debut album recently and I wrote a review of it for Billboard magazine.

“Majid Jordan masters the art of being weary on the dance floor with their self-titled debut album.”

That’s the first line of it. What I appreciate most about them is their packaging of sad love songs.

“Why you wanna be my love?” Majid asks after wondering why a girl all of a sudden wants to be in a relationship with him. Usually these types of lyrics would sit on top of slow, sullen music. But the duo brings these feelings to the club and make it danceable. It’s odd, in the sense of Wow, am I crying/contemplating this fucked up situation I’m in with the person I’m dating while I’m partying? It’s an awesome ability math those lyrics with that music.

I wish Billboard’s rating system wasn’t out of 5. 10 would be better, so that ratings could be a bit more exact. I would have preferred to give it a 7.5 out of 10, rather than a 3.5/5 for whatever it’s worth. I know a C grade is still a C, whether it’s a + or -. But wouldn’t you want $75 instead of $70 if you had a choice? Just sayin’.

Anyway, check out the review and give the album a listen. It’s a solid start to what’s hopefully a long career for them.

Jenna’s Sony Takeover

Last week I was commissioned by Sony/ATV Music Publishing to shoot Jenna Andrews. For those that don’t recall, I’ve shot her for HTS before. The difference this go-’round is that they didn’t need a full-on profile piece. Rather, they needed content for an Instagram takeover. Essentially, I hung out with her for a bit and put together several 15-second clips that helped introduce Sony/ATV followers to their new singer-songwriter.

“What’s your advice for people that want to follow your path?” “What are things that are  important to you as a writer?” Those are some of the questions we answered with the vids.

And it was a fun time. I was a fly on the wall while she wrote with other artists and even caught some of her goofier moments. Check out two of the clips. The first (up top) is the intro that went up on Monday (Feb. 1). The second is the blooper reel that closed out the series with some laughs.

All of the content was posted both on Sony/ATV and Jenna’s Instagram accounts. They’re happy costumers. It was a good gig. Mission accomplished.