Sudden fame is never as unexpected as it appears. Every first step into the limelight is proceeded by hundreds taken in darkness, or at the very least, obscurity. Billboard hits and Platinum plaques take time and elbow grease.
Take A Daytrip—the production duo comprised of David Biral and Denzel Baptiste—have seen the fruits of their 10,000 hours pay off big time over the past 12 months. Crafting impromptu beats with 16yrold and Sheck Wes in 2017 eventually paved the way for the pair to work with astronomically larger artists like Big Sean (“Single Again”), Cousin Stizz (“STP”), and Lil Nas X (“Panini”). Not bad for two dudes exchanging nervous glances at Welcome Week at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute six years prior.
Over the previous 24 months, Biral and Baptiste have worked at perfecting a sound that is both bubbly and energetic. Lil Nas X’s “Panini” and Big Sean’s “Single Again” are both built around airy synth melodies that wouldn’t sound out of place on an episode of Peppa Pig, but backed by vicious drum programming that will put the thump in any party. It’s just one example of their melding of the minds in college.
“EDM and trap were both huge [while we were in school], so of course I wanted to be able to play that music in front of 30,000 people,” Biral says. “I had no idea how to produce at all when I got to college, but Denzel taught me so much about the process.”
This carefree yet strategic approach extends to our phone conversation. Both Biral and Baptiste regularly interject in the middle of each other’s stories, adding color and personality that the other might have missed. This interplay is quite entertaining.
“We’ll send ideas back and forth and even hold onto them because we don’t think the other will like it. More often than us, one of us has already done it,” Baptiste chuckles.
That discipline and trust didn’t develop overnight. Take A Daytrip are spending every waking moment preparing for their most significant excursion yet. “One of the reasons we called ourselves Take A Daytrip was because we wanted to be able to see the world through music and live through those experiences,” Biral affirms with a glow in his voice.
Now that they’re more visible than ever, it’s time to see how far they’re willing to go. Our conversation, edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: How did the two of you meet?
David Biral: We were both studying music at NYU. We first met at Welcome Week in August of 2011. We both walked in the room, looked around, and realized that we were the only two light-skinned niggas around [laughs].
Denzel Baptiste: I started making music growing up in the church. I would go on YouTube and watch tutorials about making other producer’s beats. I used that as my submission to NYU for production and engineering. Then I went to NYU and met David, who had already been DJing, and we’d already both played in jazz bands. We were showing each other music that we’d never heard of before.
David: I picked up DJing when I was 13 and was trained in jazz during high school. But I had always had a dream of learning how to produce and meeting people who could teach me. EDM and trap were both huge at that time, so of course, I wanted to be able to play that music in front of 30,000 people. I had no idea how to produce at all when I got to college, but Denzel taught me so much about the process.
You made the Sheck Wes single “Mo Bamba” very shortly after your stint at NYU. How has that song changed your career?
David: That song came out June of 2017, but the first big reaction we saw was at Fashion Week in February of 2018. That was the first time we’d ever seen anyone react to the song in a club. It was crazy.
Denzel: When [the song] first hit the Billboard charts that summer, we were just excited that it had charted at all. Every week it would go up another three slots, five slots, ten slots. In October 2018, it wound up hitting number one on the Spotify charts, over a year after we’d put it out. But after “Mo Bamba” and “Legends” with Juice WRLD came out, we still hadn’t made any money. I remember going to the “Legends” shoot and not even having enough money in my account to afford to take an Uber there. We had two Billboard hits and no money to show for it. It was still a real grind for a while.
Fast-forward to 2019. You create “Panini” with Dot Da Genius for Lil Nas X.
David: One thing we pride ourselves on is working with New York collaborators. Dot was someone who was always on our radar, and we had the opportunity to meet him in Los Angeles. The session that birthed what would become “Panini” happened in New York a couple of months after that.
We’d initially sent [the “Panini”] beat to Kid Cudi, but he wound up passing on it, so it went back into the folder that we were shopping to artists. The session where we played Lil Nas X that beat was his first session ever to make stuff with other producers. He opened up and said that he’d wanted to try other things aside from country rap, and the “Panini” beat was the second beat we played for him.
Having to grapple with newfound fame yourselves, what was it like to work with Lil Nas X?
Denzel: For our career up to that point, we had been working with lesser-known artists because we couldn’t command the attention of a Big Sean. Even though “Old Town Road” was two weeks away from reaching number one at that time and showing legs as a viral sensation, the fact that Nas X already had this massive hit on his hands made this a different situation for us. We approached it like a blank slate; we weren’t there to make the next “Old Town Road” and be derivative. He appreciated that approach.
David: Lil Nas X is incredible at being able to handle fame. It almost feels like he was destined for it. He’s a kid of the internet, as you can see with how he runs his Instagram page like a meme page. No ego whatsoever. He knows how to handle the spotlight.
Denzel: Once you’re put in situations where you go from obscurity to instant fame within a matter of months, there are so many things changing in your life that force you to put your ego in front for protection. Lil Nas X didn’t have that at all. He’s able to control any situation just because of his personality, which is extremely rare to see.
I see a parallel in how bubbly and fun your melodies are and how you’ve managed to navigate the industry after sudden fame.
Denzel: That’s one of the main things we try to capture. As a duo, every single idea becomes a compromise. We both have different ideas on everything, from hi-hat patterns to basslines. It’s not about who’s better; it’s about how can we find—and agree on—which is the best one? That informs how we interact with other people, too. It’s not about satisfying your ego.
David: Our whole mantra is egoless creation. If all three of us agree on what’s in there, then we work at it until we have a final product.
In that breath, what was it like working with an established star like Big Sean on “Single Again?”
David: Sean was the first household name who allowed us to work with him. I remember we met him at a writing camp, and he came in on the last day.
Denzel: There was this big room. Sean, Amaire Johnson, and his manager were all listening to ideas from all the different rooms. We would work on ideas, take their notes, and bring it back. After a couple of times, they were like “Hey, you guys know what you’re doing.” We walk into the studio one time, and Sean is there. He’s about to lay down a reference on a different track, so we’re being kicked out by his manager. Just before we’re about to leave, Sean turns around and asks us what we were about to play? He stopped whatever he was doing to hear our beats.
David: We played them beats, and Sean started putting a bunch of them to the side and recording references for them. From that session, he invited us to his house. That was me and Denz’ first experience pulling up to a rapper’s house. He showed us all the songs he’s working on for his next album and talked about his ideas and asked us to help with a little more drum and bass work alongside Amaire and Johan Lenox, who worked on strings. We helped arrange some Ty Dolla $ign vocals, too. Seeing all of these producers work on something that even more producers were sure to touch on, even more, was humbling. He’s been the first big artist not only to reach out to us but to invite us to stay over his house on some middle school sleepover shit. It’s been an incredible learning experience.
What does the future have in store for Take A Daytrip?
Denzel: We’ve been involved in music for so long, it’s been a balance of us wanting to do something versus people trusting us to do something. The beat on our song with YBN Cordae [“Broke As Fuck”] is more soulful with more musicality, so now we’re being trusted with stuff like that. Now that we’ve worked with [Big] Sean, we’re being trusted to work with bigger artists. We’re always getting better and improving our process.
David: One of the reasons we called ourselves Take A Daytrip was because we wanted to be able to see the world through music and live through those experiences. Now that we’re lucky enough to be able to do that, we’re trying to figure out how to make the world sound smaller through music. We’re trying to bring people together through working with artists from London and Nigeria. We’ve been from Colombia to China. If someone asks us to work with Adele tomorrow, we’re gonna run out our door immediately and say yes. We want to create music to have fun and share our process with the world.