For “Studios Sessions,” we delve into the stories behind the long hours in the studio and all that goes into making an album by talking with artists, producers, engineers, photographers, and more who are intimately connected to the recording process with some of the biggest artists in the world. These are the stories that rarely leave the booth.
Dem Jointz is a producer who has held his own on songs with Anderson .Paak, Eminem, Dr. Dre, and Kanye West to name a few. When you work with talent like that, you’re bound to see ways of creating you never knew existed.
“It’s one of those big ol’ barns that’s the size of a hangar or a basketball gym. It’s super dope. [Kanye West] had the opportunity to create a facility that is super inspiring. You go in there, and it makes you want to set up and make a movie score or something,” Jointz told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” Dem Jointz discusses working on Jesus Is King 2 with Kanye and Dr. Dre, helping Anderson .Paak get his first Grammy, and developing Keedron Bryant’s sound. Read below.
How did you first connect with Dr. Dre?
My publisher at the time connected me with Marsha Ambrosius and I was working on her album. While I working on her album, I decided to play her some other stuff I was working on. She was like, “Oh, this is crazy.” She lost her mind. So, she brought folks in to check on what I had going on. One of those people was Focus, who is pretty much the primary producer over at Aftermath. He came to check me out and he lost his mind. Then, he introduced me to Ty [Cannon] who is the A&R at Aftermath and he introduced me to Dre. I went to go meet Dre and I was like, “I’m never going to leave this studio ever again in my life. I’m here.”
At that point, the first track he heard from me is what is now the “Genocide” track from Compton. It was that one beat. From there, that’s where we based our relationship. I got to know him and he got to know me. First thing I told him was, “I’m from Compton, as well.” He was like, “Yeah? Where you grew up at?” It was all based off that one beat.
What have you noticed about his creative process?
I have noticed the level of quality and seriousness he puts into production and soundscaping. A lot of things we don’t pay attention to, even to this day, he’s always been about that. When he does release what he releases, it has such an impact because the things he pay attention to, other people don’t. That inspires me to keep the same practices when I’m doing stuff.
You produced “Deep Water,” “Genocide,” “Medicine Man,” and “Satisfiction” on Compton. Which song has the most memorable session?
The crazy thing about it is I probably made “Genocide” and “Satisfiction” in the same day. Marsha actually came to the studio and we were supposed to work on something totally different. Marsha came in, I played her these tracks, didn’t say anything, went in the booth and said, “Set me up.” She did that twice in a row. We did the hook for “Genocide” and “Satisfiction” in the same session. She does that all the time. She just freestyled it. She didn’t go back to fix things up or tweak things. What she did is what’s on the album. That’s crazy. I’m trying to keep up with her, but I’m still baffled. She took me over to Aftermath where that’s what they do.
Dre’s perfectionism is well-documented. What was it like in those recording sessions for Compton?
It was crazy. It was too much to take in because you’re in the studio and on the cutting room floor creating with him. The one time I got to look back and measure what it was, was when Kendrick came and did his verse. He had his peeps with him and didn’t need us in the room with him. I stayed in the room for a little, but left so he could have space to do what he do. While I was in the room I was thinking, “Yo, this is happening. This is crazy.”
You’ve produced for so many artists —
Hold on, give me two seconds. This is Kanye [calling]… OK, I’m back.
I had a different question, but I have to go to your time working with Kanye now. How did you two link up?
We linked up when Dre and Kanye was working on the Jesus Is King 2 album. They started it around October of last year. I knew Kanye was working on the project and I knew at some point, he was going to pop up. I was prepared for that.
You already saw Dre’s creative process in the studio. What was it like seeing him and Kanye working on Jesus Is King 2?
Two titans. Two totally different ways of working. The crazy thing was their willingness to compromise and have a great feel of consideration when neither of them have to. That was super crazy. Also, how their different ideas came together and how that sounds. I don’t think the world is going to be abreast to what is happening in the studio, but it was still a super dope experience. Dre actually introduced me to him personally and pretty much told him if he needed anything in terms of things that I do, I’m the guy. Kanye took his word for it and he flew me out to Wyoming. I worked on a lot of things that Kanye is working on. We hit it off from there, too.
What is Dr. Dre adding to Jesus Is King 2? How’s it sounding?
Jesus Is King 2 is super amazing. It started off as being a remix to Jesus Is King 1 before going in a whole different direction. It’s all new songs and maybe smaller elements of Jesus Is King 1. You may have a b-section or pieces of a hook [from Jesus Is King 1]. But, it’s featuring super dope artists. I highly doubt it’ll be released at this point. I don’t think it’s hitting the streets. I think Kanye is excited about different things right now. I think he might be working on something else. I’m not 100% sure.
I’ve seen videos of Kanye working on music in Wyoming in this sort of huge plane hangar.
It’s pretty much that. It’s one of those big ol’ barns that’s the size of a hangar or a basketball gym. It’s super dope. He had the opportunity to create a facility that is super inspiring. You go in there, and it makes you want to set up and make a movie score or something.
What do you do on the side in Wyoming in between working on music?
Come on, man. He got…I don’t even know what those things are called. You know, those [Sherp] ATVs. He even has a whole patch of collected Black horses. I don’t even know how many acres he has out there. You can’t see past the start and end point.
Did you get any of those classic Kanye speeches in the studio?
He stays with the speeches (laughs). What amazes me is how he multi-tasks and how he has so much to say about so many different things at the same time. He can have a couple of things going on at the same time.
You’re saying we might not get Jesus Is King 2, but that “Wash Us In Blood” is crazy.
That joint is hard. You like that, but there’s more that’s in the vault ready to hit the streets. For that song, I got the call from Dre and he told me, “See what you can do with this.” He sent me a record. It was the beat and [Kanye] rapping. What he does is go on there and spazz out. He do what he do. If that’s all he had in terms of what he’s saying, he’ll just give me that and I have to figure out how we’re going to turn this into a song. So, I’ll grab a sample from Bishop Moore. I chop his vocals up and turn it into a hook. I’m a producer, I’ll naturally hear something else in the beat that I can change and turn into an actual song. That’s what happened with that.
You worked on Anderson .Paak’s first song that got him a Grammy, “Bubblin.” How did that song get made?
Initially, that song was supposed to be a selection off Oxnard. I don’t know why It didn’t end up being that way. I feel like that was supposed to be the single and they decided to go a different direction. Shout out to Jhalil [Beats], my man AntMan Wonder. I assume AntMan had the sample and Jhalil made the beat. I was there when [Anderson] was recording and I helped out with the arrangements, soundscapes, vocal effects or whatever we wanted to do to put a rollercoaster around the song.
You worked on both the Ventura and Oxnard albums. I think Ventura is the better album.
A lot of people tell me that.
Did you adjust your production for each of the two albums?
He was in Hawaii when he did that, so I flew out to work with him initially. [“Reaching 2 Much”] is from the beginning stages of him recording for either Oxnard or Ventura or before he knew where that was going to go. When he went in, there was a loop playing. There was him on the drums, which he pre-recorded, and I want to say there’s Vicky [Farewell Nguyen] and Pomo just playing around, and he’s going back and forth laughing at himself. I’m going to the control room and I ask him, “What are you laughing at?” because he’s writing and trying to figure out what to say. He was saying funny stuff like, “You’re standing too close, baby.” He was saying all these different things and I got it immediately. He’s laughing and doing all these different lines, and I didn’t know which ones he was going to use. While they had those different elements, I was like, “Yo, I got an idea for the b-section and the hook.” Once he laid those down, I was like, “Give me the session” and I produced everything around it. Me and Stalone sung the backgrounds. I gave it back to him and he was like, “This is crazy.” We just kept adding on from there.
What is your relationship with rising new artist Keedron Bryant?
He’s a little genius. You know this from a gut feeling. It benefits you to follow your gut when you have a feeling about something and it’s strong, and you know you have to go ahead and knock this out. He’s more talented than I thought. He’s an incredible singer. He’s potentially going to be a super dope writer. He plays a bunch of dope instruments and dances. You don’t know these things initially. My first interaction with him was Instagramming his video and that video alone hit me in the gut. God places people in your life to inspire and amaze you.
What’s the most star-studded studio session you’ve ever been part of?
Being in the studio with Rihanna. Being in the studio and talking with Janet Jackson. Janet was trying to have a conversation with me and I’m thinking, “How am I going to respond to this? How am I going to have a conversation with Janet Jackson?” At the end of the day, I pinch myself and get back to work. We got work to do.