Check The Credits: DVLP Speaks On Producing for Eminem, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, and More
Carter V season is officially upon us. Fans looking to stay in the loop of all things regarding Lil Wayne’s supposedly final album can check his weekly vlog series “Weezy Wednesdays” for frequent updates. During a recent episode, Wayne previewed an, at the time, unfinished record called “Side Bitch.” DVLP, the producer of the song, which, as of now, is slated to make C5’s final tracklisting, has been making magic with the Hot Boy since they first connected for 2005’s “Fireman.” Aside from appearing on almost every Wayne album since their Tha Carter II collaboration, DVLP has also crafted beats on projects by Rick Ross, Pitbull, Cam’Ron, and Eminem, including his 2013 hit-single, “Rap God.”
“I’m not into settling, because it’s always about moving forward,” he declares, proving that the more successful he becomes, the harder he’ll work. “It feels like all of the hard work that I’ve put in is finally getting the recognition that it deserves, but there’s always more to do. I just use that as the fuel to keep going.” Here, Life+Times talks to the DJ-turned -producer about being inspired by his uncle Marc Anthony, producing hits for Eminem and Lil Wayne and working on Tha Carter V.
Life + Times: How did “Side Bitch” end up being featured in an episode of Weezy Wednesdays?
DVLP: “Side Bitch” was an older track, but it was recently sent to Wayne by my manager. Actually, I was surprised to see it on “Weezy Wednesdays.” I believe it was just a matter of timing. I’m happy with the way the song turned out. I think it has great single potential.
L+T: Aside from the “Side Bitch” record, what else can we expect from Tha Carter V?
DVLP: He’s been someone who I’ve always looked up to, because, honestly, especially in the rap game, I don’t see that many people that work as hard as Wayne does. Wayne is a guy that is always recording. With that said, there are songs that have been recorded and songs that are being recorded, so you never really know what is going to make the album until the very last minute. Even the day of mastering, he’s changing bars or switching up portions of a song. I can say that the records that are possibles to make the album are amazing. I don’t like speaking too prematurely, but normally what me and Wayne make ends up standing out and being something pretty special. I think this album will have a lot of great records on it. He’s putting a lot of energy into it. I feel like he’s passionate about this album. He seems like he’s more passionate with this album than he has been with the last couple of albums. You want that passion from him. I know I want that. I’m a fan. I feel as fans we want that great Wayne who was spitting that shit back. With the time I spent with him in the studio it felt like he was back to being his old self. It was reminiscent of the way he used to really go in and lay that shit down, so I’m excited.
L+T: You’ve been working with Lil Wayne ever since you produced “Fireman” for him. How did you initially link up with him?
DVLP: “Fireman” came out in 2005, but that beat was made sometime in 2003. I was sitting on it for quite a bit. Around that time, I was working heavily with Juelz Santana, because besides doing production for him, I was pretty much his engineer. He randomly hit me one day saying that Wayne was coming into town and that I should come by the studio. He said they needed an engineer to cut vocals and that I could also throw Wayne some beats. That’s back when we were still using CDs. I ended up giving Wayne a beat CD with probably nine tracks. I got a call from him later that week saying that he wanted to cut vocals to six of the nine records that I left him. One of those records happened to be “Fireman.” There were different versions of that record. Most of the other records he cut from that initial beat tape ended up coming out on the mixtape circuit back when records were just leaking all over the place. I did produce two other joints on Tha Carter II, which were “Hit Em Up” and “Feel Me.”
L+T: You were one of the first producers to work with Wayne following his release from Rikers Island. What were those first few studio sessions like after his release?
DVLP: I wasn’t the first. There were a lot of people there that first night he hit the studio. When I had gotten there Pharrell had already been there. Khaled was there playing stuff from his producers. I had gone in there really with just one record that I had made specifically for Wayne, which was “Blunt Blowing.” I made that a couple of weeks before he came home. I had a couple other beats, but “Blunt Blowing” was the one I wanted him to get on. I felt like it was going to happen. With that beat I was really getting into character. I was thinking ball and chain and dark hallways. I was very cinematic in my approach to that record. I kept thinking that this guy had been in jail for eight months. I was sure he wanted to just lose his mind, so I wanted to make a really epic record where the music didn’t come in until about a minute and a half and really let him express himself. It was the first record that he cut when he came home. He spent about two days on it. A few records had come out before, but they were all recorded after “Blunt Blowing,” including “6 Foot 7 Foot.”
L+T: What was the biggest difference in Wayne after his release from jail?
DVLP: He’s known as an artist that doesn’t write things down, but due to his incarceration and to him not being able to record frequently, he had to write out the lyrics. He had started using notebooks for the first time in almost eight years. All of his bars in “Blunt Blowing” were from when he was incarcerated. I’m just happy that record really captured a moment for Wayne.
L+T: What was it like working with Eminem on “Rap God”?
DVLP: I was suppose to go to the studio throughout some of the process to work on the record with him, but being that he is who he is it just didn’t work out that way, but we did get on the phone. I produced the “Rap God” beat in 2011. I was traveling a lot between Europe and New York when I made that beat. I was pretty much living between Paris, Stockholm and London and whenever I would get back to New York I’d always try to knock out a few rap records. That was one of the beats I made in that time span. I wasn’t sure who I wanted to give it to. I just knew that there was something special about that beat. My manger had a relationship with Eminem’s manager and had sent the track over to him. Eminem’s team had gotten back to us basically telling us to put it under lock and key and to make sure nobody else gets it, because Em was interested in it and had started writing to it. It wasn’t a record that was finished within a session or two sessions. It was really a lot of time put into it. Almost two years of hearing “he’s writing to it” or “he’s recording to it” had gone by before the record was finished, because Em’s such a perfectionist with every single line and word. That was definitely a great experience.
L+T: Rick Ross’ collaboration with John Legend, “Rich Forever” was originally an idea for Drake. How did it get to Ross?
DVLP: Funny enough, we were talking about me not wanting to have a sound, but with that record I did want it to have kind of the feel and arrangement of “Blunt Blowing.” I wanted it to have a really long intro and for the beat basically not to drop for a while. That’s what I was going for with that beat. I was thinking it would be dope for Drake. I was thinking Wayne also and he had actually cut vocals to it. It was going to be the intro to I Am Not A Human Being II. Around the time Wayne was working on it, my manager Steven had gotten it to Ross’ camp. After Ross released in on his Rich Forever mixtape, I was kind of like “How are you putting this great song on a mixtape?” But it’s dope that the record became one of the highlights of that Ross’ project. Lyor Cohen told us that “Rich Forever” is the best record of Ross’ career.
L+T: Did having Marc Anthony as an uncle and being exposed to music at a young age have any influence on you wanting to get into music?
DVLP: Somewhat, I guess. He’s about ten years older than me and he’s the youngest out of all my uncles and aunts, so there was an automatic bond, because he wasn’t that much older than me. I was about eight years old spending hours with him in the studio. As a kid sitting in front of a SSL console, felt like I was sitting in front of a spaceship, but being around the production, vocal production and all these different aspects that go into making a record definitely was an influence on me wanting to create music. That didn’t guarantee that I could do it successfully. It was something I had to work on and I had to build. I soon got into DJing, but instead of DJing at a club or at parties I took the more technical route, which was DJ battling. That allowed for me to work with people like A-Trak and at eighteen years old I was traveling the world. Being in places like Japan, England and Hawaii allowed me to absorb so much. That all led to me wanting to be a producer.
L+T: Do you think that being introduced to the music and sounds of such an eclectic group of cultures played a role in you not adapting to one sound with your production?
DVLP: Absolutely. I grew up listening to all types of music. I’m a lover of all types of music and as a producer I get bored easily, so I just wanted to incorporate what I appreciate from all these different types of music and basically execute my version of what I hear in my head. I definitely feel that being around all of that and being able to tap into so many different cultures had an influence on me not wanting to have a particular sound. When I was coming into the game in the early 2000s, the biggest producers, from Timbaland to The Neptunes all had a sound. I think that may be a reason why I haven’t fully come across as a household name yet. There are probably people that are fans of a bunch of the records that I’ve produced, but since they aren’t reading the credits and aren’t hearing the similarity in the production they aren’t associating those records with me. Not having a particular sound has its pros and cons, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
L+T: But was there ever a point where you felt like you needed to find a sound?
DVLP: Yeah, it has definitely been something that has crossed my mind, but it was never something I wanted to give into. I’ve always thought it is cool having a sound, but why not have many sounds? What’s most important to me is just me being happy with what I produce and what I create. I feel like there’s no reason to stick to a particular sound. It’s about having fun and pushing yourself as a creator. Music is a form of expression where you can just do what you want and I just want to be able to do what I want.
L+T: How important has relationship building been for you throughout your career?
DVLP: For me, there really hasn’t been a record placed without dealing with either the artist or the artist’s manager directly. I haven’t really had to deal with A&Rs or publishers. I feel like you get a lot more out of the record when you have that personal relationship, as opposed to just sending off a record where there’s no real involvement and there’s no real communication. There’s no genuine connectivity that way, you know? Mostly everyone I’ve worked with from Graph to Juelz Santana to Lil Wayne are people that I’ve spent days and days with in the studio, which has definitely made a world of a difference.