What goes around, comes back around. A&Rs, artists, and even a few magazine editors turned down Nate Danjahandz Hills in his long come-up behind the boards. Boy, what a mistake. Starting with Hills’ heavy hand in Put You onto Game from the Compton rapper’s debut, the comibination of Timbaland and Danja has been an organized chaos sought after by all.
Between hits with Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado and Akon the last two years, the Portsmouth, Virginia producer is now nestled in Miami studios, Ferrari leather, and the top of the charts. Although he forayed into Pop music, Danja still creates hits for Snoop Dogg, T.I. and his own artist Wyld. Like his influences Tim, Rodney Jerkins and Dr. Dre, Danjahandz aims to represent the Hip-Hop ear in as many genres as possible.
The humble producer refuses to get even with those who previously ducked him. However, with a priceless catalogue of unused potential hits, Danja says the book is closed. Instead, the flood gates open on a sound from the drummer that could send Hip-Hop into a brand new funk.
AllHipHop.com: For a time, you were working in construction. Im always fascinated with great artists balancing their love of art with day jobs. What was that experience like for you, balancing the two?
Danjahandz: It was pretty easy; I love what I do in the studio, making music. It was always my release at the end of the day. I was just burning up at work all day waiting to get there. I always had energy to do music, I never came home from work like, Man, Im too tired to go to the studio, it was always like, Man, Im too tired to go to work, I wanna go to the studio. [Laughs]
AllHipHop.com: And how good did it feel years later when you were able to be able to make that passion a profession?
Danjahandz: I mean, I cant describe it, to this day. I member getting the phone call, like Yo, you going to Miami can you go tomorrow? and Im on the job site, I got the phone call, I just looked at my brother-in-law and said, Im outta here. [Laughs]
I told him, You know I can still work, if you need me. I was back and forth between working with [Timbaland] and being home for a little bit. Like Id be gone for a week, then back for a week, or gone for two weeks, back for a few days. So I was just really on the grind [full] time. Like, might as well make this money here and then come back and make some money you know doing this, or whatever. I didnt quite feel like I made it until Tim just invited me to stay, like I was just out here living with him.
AllHipHop.com: What do you think it was about you, as a person, that let this icon know that you were trustworthy and creative at the same time?
Danjahandz: I think he just seen something in me that reminded me of him. I was always real from the jump. You know, just like… I was laid back. I remember the first meeting, we both in there talking, Im just like, you know, Im laid back. Im not thrilled at this point that its Timbaland. I am, you know inside like, Im talking to Timbaland. but Im not like, eyes wild open, mouth wide open. Im just listening to him and taking in what he has to say and what he has to offer me. But I think he just seen something in me and honestly he took a chance. Cause you know he just put his trust out there and kinda went with it.
Tim was the first to see [my talent] out of anybody, a couple people may try to claim it but, Tim seen it years ago, 2001, he was like, Yo, youre hot, and all you need is a massive sound library.
AllHipHop.com: For those that dont know, explain sound library
Danjahandz: Sound library is his collection of sounds from different keyboards, modules, different virtual instruments, different strings, different drum samples, different drum loops, different records, different CDs and styles of music. Like he has a sound library and its not necessarily like a sound you hit a keyboard, its from different styles of music to actual different instruments, so he gave me all of that at my leisure. If I wanted to use it, it was mine to use. He trusted me with it and we create stuff from that. I used that and ran with it but I wanted to start from ground zero so, I kinda like gave him the drums back and didnt really use his drums and kinda built my own.
AllHipHop.com: Youre a formally trained drummer? Correct?
Danjahandz: Well Im not trained, but I play most of the instruments by ear – keyboards and drums. I just took it up, going into church and just practice, practice, practice and of course you get better at it, the more you play, the more you get better.
AllHipHop.com: In 2001/2002, the music that you were making when you were working the construction job and coming home at night, was it R&B, was it Hip-Hop?
Danjahandz: It was Hip-Hop, because I had all Hip-Hop artists around me. I had the R&B group I was working with named Natural Blend. The Hip-Hop artists [were] Styles, Wyld, Hollow, Rage, Wreck, and there was Mike Wilder which was a soloist out of that group. Even before I had a hit record, before anybody even knew who I was, I was doing multiple projects at one time.
AllHipHop.com: What are some of the albums that really influenced your development as a producer and the music inside your head?
Danjahandz: I take a little bit; I take Tims style of putting together a song, and Dres style of putting together an album .and Rodney Jerkins melodic style. I just incorporate all these producers, I mean I didnt have access to a wide range of music, now that Im able to afford to buy different things, like I would keep a mental note of something that I heard back in the day that was crazy, whether it was a Rock group, like [Nirvanas] [Smells Like] Teen Spirit or something like that, it was all attractive to me because Im a musical guy so I might not have bought the album, I get more into now buying the album and just listening to what these people are doing.
AllHipHop.com: The first time that it really became apparent that you were this sonic visionary was The Games Put You onto Game. Tell me what that record did for you not only in terms of allowing your art to flow out there, but in terms of name recognition and people recognizing what youre about?
Danjahandz: I added my element. I added the piano and I added a lot of little stuff flying around. But the initial [hums bassline] – that is Tim. He played it; he knew what he had loaded it up, and it was history from there. Thats how we do; I might come with something he add to it, he come with something I add to it. Dont get me wrong, I had something crazy for Game that actually didnt make the album, didnt get used, but that particular track was [mostly from] Tim, and I sprinkled my little whatever over top of it.
AllHipHop.com: Its interesting that you say that, about the track wasnt used when you look back at the stuff you were doing all these years and now people are very interested in it, do you close the book on it, or if somebody wants to run with it they can have it? Kanye reportedly did that
Danjahandz: The book is closed. I dont even play it. Its a closed chapter. But, once I get back having a lot of free time, to do what I do in the studio Ima go back on some of that stuff, I need to cause it still counts. Like, Im not doing anything too different than what I was doing. I have different sounds, and I have a different ear, and I would say go back and revamp-like just add to it and beef it up-but I wouldnt change it because its still relevant. But as of now, I get more excited just to go in the studio when somebody wants something and just do it off of the top of the head, rather than digging in the archives.
AllHipHop.com: Now tell me about Wyld. Anytime a super producer emerges, that pivotal move is gonna be the first artist that they bring out but of all those artist that you were working with in 01, that you mentioned earlier, what spoke to you about Wild to bring him out first?
Danjahandz: Wyld is always at the streets level. They are attracted to him. And thats where hes from. It’s funny we [are] so close because, we [are from] two totally different walks of life. He did his thing in the streets; a little hustling the typical story, run-ins with the law, did his time, got shot, the whole nine. But he made it out, and I think hes more telling how he did it. You know he was doing his thing. Everything he talking about is true. And thats the thing about it, you know, just his realness. His real story and my real music is just a marriage.
AllHipHop.com: Wyld, how has interest in you increased since 2006, after all the hits Danja had?
Wyld: Its increased. Hes doing a lot of big things with a lot of hit records thats outside of the norm of Hip-Hop or whatever. You get a lot of contact now. Before, we was going straight to A&Rs, now were going straight to [label] presidents.
AllHipHop.com: How long have you been actively been pursuing a career in rap?
Wyld: Its been about 10 years for me now.
AllHipHop.com: Your biggest track to date is Cocky with Freeway. Obviously, youre in a position now where people might need you more than you need them. At the same time, is arrogance or cockiness what a fledging artist needs right now in Hip-Hop?
Wyld: Youre gonna get the people who pull for the underdogs and say, Oh, hes so cocky. He a talkback n***a. At the end of the day, I do music for people like me. If you cant feel it, youre probably not gonna like it. Its opinion. It aint even about the money for me; I can get rich doing anything.
AllHipHop.com: So youre not interested in shopping Crown Life Entertainment to a label, youre more interested in having them come to you?
Danjahandz: Exactly. Theres no better way to do it. The name of the game today, you gotta make yourself a commodity. And that was my thing even with myself. I could have shopped beats all day, I would have been on the same grind for years, but I said You know what? Ima make sure my craft is 100%, and they gon come, they gon come to me, as long as Im doing hot music.
AllHipHop.com: I look at the song What Goes Around Comes Back Around, talk about that in terms of this game where people dont really want to check for you and then all of a sudden they come to you.
Danjahandz: Its so funny you’re saying this because I just had a conversation about this last night. Im like Yo, I done been here, I been here. I shopped the beat to this person, this person, that person, none of them didnt say that the thing wasnt hot-everybody was on whoever was hot at the time. Thats just how the game go. And I understood that. But its just funny, I look back and I see these same people, see that some people not here, see some people try’na make it and Im at the top right now and looking back its just like, “Wow.” Especially when I hear that song [sings chorus of What Goes Around Comes Back Around] it just couldnt be put no better. It definitely has a special meaning to me. I try not to get into that, Im not a vengeful person.