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.
For the last few years, hearing “d.a. got that dope” at the beginning of a record been a good enough indicator that the song’s about to bang. The 35-year-old producer from Chicago, Illinois has worked on Kodak Black’s viral sensation “ZEZE,” Tyga’s “Taste,” and recently scored a gold plaque for producing Eminem and JUICE WRLD’s collaboration, “Godzilla.” But, it’s his work on Maxo Kream’s Brandon Banks that gives a great example of what he’s really capable of.
“When we did ‘The Relays’ with him and Travis [Scott], I think [Maxo] was off a pill or something (laughs). He wouldn’t stop freestyling. He was dropping all of these dope ass bars and kept freestyling,” D.A. Got That Dope reveals to REVOLT. “He freestyled the whole song for three minutes straight. He didn’t keep all of it. I ended up going back, chopping up different parts of his flow to make it more like a song and more catchy.”
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” D.A. Got That Dope explains how he was the impetus to getting Offset on Tyga’s “Taste,” how secretive Eminem is about his music, and how unfair streaming royalties are for producers. Read below.
How did you end up with three placements on Eminem’s latest album?
Basically, Eminem really liked my stuff. Maybe six or seven months ago, I sent some beats to Steven Victor for Eminem. The thing that makes this complicated is I also sent some beats to Mike Heron [Herald] at Shady [Records] for Eminem. So, I don’t really know who placed what. The last one I did — ‘No Regrets’ — I sent straight to Paul Rosenberg, Eminem’s longtime manager and the CEO at Def Jam. That’s how that joint happened for sure. Eminem keeps his stuff really under wraps, so I don’t really know all of the details.
So, how soon before the album did you know you were going to be on it?
I knew real close to when the album got released. Em’s really big on keeping things on the low and surprising his fans when he drops. It’s similar to Beyonce. A few of the biggest artists do these surprise drops. This is the wave for a lot of the biggest A-list artists.
Did you know Juice WRLD was going to be on ‘Godzilla’?
Nah, I didn’t know until soon before the album came out. I can’t speak on it too much, but it’s crazy that I have another record with Juice coming that’s not with Eminem. It’s a real classic record. I can’t say who the artists are, but he was a huge talent. He was the complete package. He was a phenomenal writer. He was a phenomenal rapper. He was great with melodies. He was punchy and had an amazing voice. It was a blessing to work with him.
Eminem’s known to put his own spin on beats. What changes did he make to the ones you sent in?
I don’t want to reveal too much because Eminem is real secretive with how he works.
What about those beats did you think fit Eminem’s sound?
I definitely felt the ‘Godzilla’ beat fit Em. On ‘Godzilla,’ he said, ‘This beat is cray cray’ and on ‘Those Kinda Nights,’ he said, ‘This beat is taking me back to my D12 days.’ Both those beats fit Em.
You’re starting 2020 off with a No. 1 album. But, 2018 was big, too, with you producing Kodak Black’s ‘ZEZE’ and Tyga’s ‘Taste.’ How’d those come about?
With ‘ZEZE,’ I was out with my Christina, my wife. In L.A., Bossa Nova is this restaurant that’s opened late and has pretty good food. So, hella fucking industry people go there all the time. This was a couple of months before the song came out and I was there with my wife. I went there, sat down, looked over and went, ‘Damn, that’s Orlando [Wharton].’ That’s Kodak’s A&R.’ I had never met him, but was emailing stuff. He never responded to that many emails. I went over and said, ‘Hey, bro. Great to meet you. Could I get your number and text you some beats?’ Fast forward a week or two later, I saw on Instagram that he was in the studio with Kodak. It was four in the morning. I was in Ralph’s grocery store shopping for me, Christina, and my daughter Gabriella. I thought, ‘Let me text Orlando a beat.’ I had just made the ‘ZEZE’ beat and thought it would be perfect for Kodak.
I texted Orlando the ‘ZEZE’ beat and one or two others. I think it was the next day or something when I saw them post a snippet of Kodak dancing in the studio to ‘ZEZE’ beat. That joint was special because it may have been the first beat to be a hit on its own before the song had even come out because it went viral worldwide. The beat was never changed at all. It sounds exactly how I sent it. People were playing it at clubs. It was nuts. I really hope they free Kodak because it’s ridiculous that he’s locked up right now.
Is that similar to how ‘Taste’ came about?
Well, what happened with ‘Taste’ was Tyga hit me before summertime (in 2018) and said, ‘Hey, I’m trying to make some summer joints to turn the summer up. Send me a pack.’ I said, ‘Perfect.’ I had something right along those lines that I thought would’ve been dope for him. So, I sent him the ‘Taste’ beat, the ‘Swish’ beat, and I sent him some other beats, and he hopped on ‘Taste.’ I still remember that I was in Chicago when I sent him that pack and he sent it back to me while I still on vacation in Chicago. The first time Christina and I heard it, it was really fucking rough. It wasn’t well recorded. It wasn’t fully done yet. All it had was the hook and the beat blasting. Christina and I instantly knew, ‘Oh, this shit is a smash.’ I texted Tyga, ‘That’s a smash right there. That needs to come out A$AP.’
Originally, the song didn’t have any features on it. Offset wasn’t on the song. Tyga sent me the song and I’m pretty sure it was already mixed by Jaycen Joshua. He mixes all of my stuff and Tyga’s stuff. He sent me back the song with no one else on it. I was like, ‘What if you got Offset on it?’ I think T was shooting the video the next day, but he agreed that it was a really good idea to get a feature on that and Offset would be perfect. I don’t know all the details on how he got Offset on. But, I think he sent it to Offset, he hopped on it, and the rest is history. He hopped on that song really close to when the song dropped. It definitely was not always in the cards.
What does Tyga like to have in the studio when he’s recording?
He always has a few bad females in the studio. He’s real low-key, honestly. He doesn’t have a million dudes in there. For beats, he usually likes open beats. He doesn’t like shit that’s super busy. For singles, he likes his beats uptempo.
What’s Maxo Kream’s creative process in the studio?
He’s dope. When we did ‘The Relays’ with him and Travis [Scott], I think [Maxo] was off a pill or something. He wouldn’t stop freestyling. He was dropping all of these dope ass bars and kept freestyling. He freestyled the whole song for three minutes straight. He didn’t keep all of it. I ended up going back, chopping up different parts of his flow to make it more like a song and more catchy. But, after the beat went off, he just kept freestyling. He was in a zone. He’s a really smart guy who’s a hard worker.
Have you ever had an impromptu studio session result from another event?
What’s crazy is that’s how the Maxo shit happened. I remember I was at Paramount, which is a popular studio out here in L.A. It was either I was in a session with Blac Youngsta, I walked into another room and Maxo was there or it was the other way around. That happens all the time.
What song do you think had the greatest impact on your financial situation?
All of the big smash hits, obviously. On the low, you know what song makes a bunch of bread? Kevin Gates’ ‘One Thing’ from his debut album, Islah, from 2016. I don’t know why, but that song keeps making me money. It went gold, but it wasn’t a single. It didn’t get pushed to radio. It was an album cut. But, obviously, people like it a lot and it’s a fan favorite at shows.
That could speak to the influence of streaming on a song’s longevity. Have you seen that happen for other tracks?
Yeah. No question, streaming changed the game. In streaming, the way it’s paid out is ridiculous. A lot of people say, ‘You only made half a penny a stream’ and don’t realize that’s what the label makes. That’s not what the producer and the writer makes. The producers and the writers get 1/10th of that. The National Music Publishers Association and other people are trying to fight to make it more equitable for songwriters and producers to get them more money per stream. It’s all about streaming now. They’ve made some progress, but there’s a way to go.