This is the spot where you’ll see upcoming producers and Industry veterans in the game. A lot of people don’t know what goes into production. This will be the section where we feature the hottest producers in hip hop. Each month we’ll bring to you a new producer along with their background.
THIS MONTH’S FEATURE IS: Nate “Danjahandz” Hills
Grammy nominated producer Nate “Danjahandz” Hills has accomplished quite a lot for a person his age. While his peers may have succeeded in traditional career realms, at age 26, Nate Hills has orchestrated a laundry list of accomplishments following his passion for making music. The Virginia Beach, Virginia native possessed an innate desire to create since he was an adolescent and his appetite to fuel that creativity is not only the stuff that dreams are made of, but the substance to turn those dreams into reality.
“I always considered myself somewhat of a problem when I would play musical instruments,” says Nate Hills, recalling how he came up with his alias. “I was born with music in my blood,” Danjahandz adds, describing his natural inclination as a child to everything involving music. “I remember when I was five, I would pick up spoons and pans in the kitchen and bang on them like they were drums.” At the age of 12, Danjahandz became a skilled piano player and perfected those skills as a member of his church’s band.
By the age of 12, the self taught musician was playing drums and keyboard in church. “My name came from the way I used to play the keys – very quick, very fluent, almost effortless, and dangerous.” Growing up listening to the music of Teddy Riley, Chucky Thompson and Rodney Jerkins, Danja would hear the progression in their music. “I watched what they did, saw how they did it and applied my own style and sound. I didn’t have a mentor per se as far as teaching me what to do, but I learned instruments and learned how to produce.”
Developing his sound throughout high school on the church organ and in his parent’s garage on a Casio keyboard, the Danja sound was carefully being constructed. “It’s an electric sound with melody. It’s a different, weird sound that will poke out and grab you rather than the normal thing you hear.” By 1997, Danja was convinced that he was sonically doing something right when he heard the uniqueness in the tracks Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley produced for Missy Elliott, Aaliyah and Ginuwine.
Danja’s first placement came in 2001 with the song “Why, Why” from Teddy Riley’s group Blackstreet on their last album together Level Two. By 2003, Danja was on a tour bus with Timbaland navigating through his own tracks and Timbaland was more than intrigued. Approximately six months passed when Danja received a call to come to Miami to work with the mega producer. He hit the ground running and the rest has been history in the making.
The process of creating with Timbaland has not only been organic, but what Danja describes as a “partnership. He left me with my own individuality. I’m still Danja, but when we come together it’s Tim and Danja, one force musically but we’re two separate producers with two different ideas. We have an understanding of each other and we’re able to come together and create chemistry in the studio. He treats me with respect and as an equal.”
In 2004 the beat making duo created “I’m So Fly” for Lloyd Banks and by 2005 “Put You on the Game” for The Game and “He’ll Be Back” for Jennifer Lopez followed. It was 2006 that proved to be an amazing year for Danja. Collaborating with Timbaland and working with pop stars Nelly Furtado (“Promiscuous”) and Justin Timberlake (“My Love” featuring T.I) led to their collective Grammy nomination of Album of the Year for Justin’s FutureSex / LoveSounds having crafted nine out of the albums twelve tracks.
The hardworking Danjahandz is almost un-phased by his latest accomplishment. “I guess you can say I’m a work-a-holic. I feel I have flaws so I’m trying to develop a perfect sound for me – something that feels good to me every time and if I don’t feel that, I’m in the studio all the time. I’m not in the streets or in the industry. I’m just focused in the studio.”
Diddy (“Diddy Rock”), Snoop Dogg (“Get a Light”), Young Jeezy (“3 A.M”), Fantasia (“Girl Like Me”) and Trey Songz (“Wonder Woman”) are just a handful of the artists that Danja has lended his talents to. Eighty’s icons Duran Duran, female rapper MIA and Jennifer Lopez are just a few of the upcoming projects in 2007. While there are inherent, unique elements in Danja’s sound, it has continued to develop over the years. “It’s emotional and sexy. I’m constantly changing and evolving something. I’ll never be able to pinpoint a particular sound. I sit down and put emotion into what I’m doing. It is very uptempo, hip hop, fun, hard hitting beats, electronic and energetic. Or it’s very slow, melodic, slow and full of emotion.”
Inspired by newness and distinct sounds that touch his ear, Danjahandz’ vision for his musical future is to usher in a new generation of producers, artists, music and business. Remaining the same humble and hungry kid of years ago, “I look at where people before me might have failed and pick up the slack. I’m being as honest as I can with myself about where I am in my career and where want to go.” Armed with a well rounded perspective, talent and time on his side, there’s no doubt that Nate “Danjahandz” Hills will not only be a part of the production wave of the future but continue to put it down in his own unique and dangerous way.
Nate “Danjahandz” Hills was recently awarded SESAC’s “Songwriter of the Year” this past May, based on his multiple chart-topping hits back in 2006. (He co-wrote and co-produced a string of No.1 hits including “Promiscuous,” recorded by Nelly Furtado, “Sexy Back” and “My Love,” both recorded by Justin Timberlake.)
SPEAKING ON TIMBALAND.
“Me and Tim got a lot of the same phone calls once all of these hits started hitting,” Danja said. “We’ll call each other and be like, ‘You trying to do this?’ So we’ll just do it together. Of course me and Tim are partners, and while he’s on the road, I kind of just been holding down the studio. We’re teaming back up for Madonna. [And] we teamed up for Duran Duran. We did a 50 Cent track together. We did a T.I. joint together. So we were kind of back and forth. But he doesn’t call me and hand me work that he doesn’t want to do. That ain’t our relationship. I think we both do things that are inspiring for the both of us. If the energy ain’t right for him, it ain’t right for me. That’s how we work.”
He is currently working on the next albums by Eve, M.I.A., Madonna, Britney Spears, Simple Plan, Duran Duran, Chris Brown, Keri Hilson, will.i.am, JC Chasez, Missy Elliott, Lil Wayne, Nicole Scherzinger, Christina Milian, Antonella Barba, Nikki Flores & Trey Songz.