Being a producer means being under-appreciated. While a producer is responsible for half the record, in most instances only the vocalists receive acclaim, and working behind-the-scenes on some of hip-hop's most beloved songs of the last couple years is a feeling DJ Dahi knows all too well.
With three production credits (“Talk About It,” “All In A Day’s Work” and “Deep Water”) on Dr. Dre’s newly-minted Compton album, however, the uber-talented boardsmith might have just played himself into the league of super producers.
The California born and raised Dahi fell in love with hip-hop while he studied film and American studies at UC Santa Cruz. Before graduating in 2005, Dahi began to DJ and produce records for his rapping college friends for fun. Post graduation Dahi enrolled in and attended an engineering school, which helped him to hone his production skills while making beats for local California acts. His first major placement came almost five years later, on Dom Kennedy’s 2012 record, "My Type of Party."
In the three subsequent years, Dahi’s production expertise has been elevated to in-demand, contributing work to a Who’s Who of hip-hop projects. Highlights include work with Ab-Soul and Ty Dolla $ign, a placement on Wale’s TheAlbum About Nothing, nearly the entire final chapter of Lupe’s Tetsuo & Youth, co-producing Vince Staples incredible debut, Summertime ’06, with No I.D., work with Big K.R.I.T. on his Cadillactica album, as well as young guns like Logic, SZA and Mick Jenkins.
For anyone who finds that resume unimpressive, Dahi also masterminded Drake's "Worst Behavior" and Kendrick's "Money Trees."
So, what is it about Dahi’s production work that has A-list talent lining up to work with him?
Dahi’s signature production elements include his mix of creative drum patterns, a characteristic that might be responsible for more neck injuries than a road side car crash, unusual futuristic sounds (see Lupe's "T.R.O.N.") and the use of instruments (see the pan flute on Big K.R.I.T's "Third Eye") that could easily spring the wildest dreams of Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams. Combine all of that with his undying love for voice samples and melodic elements and the result is a trip to a multitude of distinguishable mental environments that won’t stop knocking.
Speaking of variation, Dahi is the ruler of sound cropping, as his beats are often constantly changing speeds. Neither the listener, nor the artist, can ever feel safe over his production, a requirement that is challenging and rewarding at the same time.
Arguably his most impressive work to date, which incorporates all of these elements, is Schoolboy Q's "Hell of Night." First the inviting chorus with its dominating voice sample hints at a typical EDM party song. As the hard hitting drums increase their pulse by the second, the tone for a song that would make people go completely bananas at the Tomorrowland festival builds up the hype to a maximum. Dahi then completely pump fakes thelistener’s expectations in a Jordan-ish manner as the beat calms all the way down to his signature banging level. The tone is still hype-orientated, but instead of taking an E-pill you can throw on some shades, grab a glass of your favorite drink and just vibe out.
Regardless of public notice or notoriety, every corner of the industry, from Drake and Vince to Madonna (yes, that Madonna) and Compton’s very own Dr. Dre, now wants a part of the talented beatsmith, so it seems like only a matter of time before your favorite rapper's favorite producer becomes your favorite producer. In fact, Dahi may already be your favorite producer, you just didn't know the name of the man making all of those incredible beats. So if you don't know, now you know.
[Kevin Taylor is an aspiring music writer and master of the killer crossover. This is his Twitter.]