Photo: Anshil Popli
White Dave On The Producers That Inspire Him, Why He's "Not A Rapper By Nature" & His New EP, 'Porch Sessions'
If White Dave doesn't have the right beat in front of him, it's hard for him to get creative. Luckily, one transported him to the period between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance.
Upon hearing the beat that would become "Peek," the rapper born Noah David Coogler suddenly hurtled through time and space; his street threads transformed into chain mail; his mic became Excalibur itself. "It gave me an old-school, stone-castles, moat-with-an-alligator-type vibe," he recalls to GRAMMY.com. "I was like, "Oh, man, this s**t sounds like some medieval-type, 'I'm on a horse,' jousting [scenario]. The horn felt like Merlin and wizards and s**t."
While that description may recall a D&D match on shag carpet with the shades drawn, White Dave hears the potential for the opposite: Ladies' night at the club. "It's got the crazy-ass beat; it's got the sexy-ass horn," he says of the tune’s appeal to the fairer sex. "I was like, "Let me do something for the ladies that will make them want to move and spark some imagination."
"Peek" is a slinky highlight from this month's Porch Sessions, White Dave's latest in a series of releases dropping on 4/20. The Richmond, California, rapper born Noah David Coogler has mostly gotten ink for contributing to films by his brother, Ryan, like Black Panther and Judas and the Black Messiah. But the EP's energy, vivacity and humor points to a future far afield from his brother's shadow.
White Dave takes a long toke on the cover of Porch Sessions, but if the weed imagery conjures an unmotivated couch potato, think again. His work ethic is second to none, and when the pandemic finally wraps up, expect this talented MC to make a massive splash onstage and in the studio.
"I want to connect more, build more with other artists and build up the bread," White Dave proclaims. "The best way to build up the bread is to expand and network, and that means working with other individuals who are like-minded and have a similar hustle."
GRAMMY.com gave White Dave a ring about the dynamo producers that made Porch Sessions possible, why he's had to work harder than most MCs and the inspiration behind each track on the EP.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
This is one of a few records you've released on 4/20. What's special about that day to you?
Brand reinforcement, brother. Brand reinforcement. I'm a fan of weed. My fans and people who listen to me are fans of weed. I felt like it would be not only on brand but a nice gift to connect with the fans on 4/20, the day of herb. It gives them something to look forward to every year.
I know if my favorite artist promised that they'd release something every year on 4/20, man, I'd be kept in. It's a good way to connect with the audience and give back to the people.
What was your approach for Porch Sessions as opposed to some of the other 4/20 albums?
Typically, if I'm making an EP, I just sit down, get a couple of beats together and start writing. What makes this a little bit more special is that I linked up with some new producers that I hadn't worked with before. Anytime I work with new producers, I always get excited because working with new people unlocks new creative energy.
That's why DP [Beats] and Beats By Holly are the two new producers I linked up with for the EP. They inspired me, man. Of course, I've got Boom production on there, but they really drove it home for me. I've got J-Mac vibing to the production as well. They all inspired me to make these records.
I made a bunch of records, we trimmed the fat and I've got these five records I felt could stand on their own and were an accurate representation of me. So, we put them together and got it out.
What do you specifically appreciate about these producers?
Man, anytime I turn on a beat and it sounds fresh—it doesn't sound like anything else that I've heard—I try to remain in my lane, you know? Kind of carve out my own sound, my own kind of lane. All the beats on the project, in my opinion, were really unique and kind of captured different artistic levels and sides of me.
Anytime I'm able to get inspired by the production, it makes the studio session that much easier. Sometimes, I'll be writing to a beat and the beat doesn't move me; the production doesn't move me. Which isn't to say that it's a bad beat; it just doesn't connect to me the way I'd like for it to.
The producers and production on this project spoke to me and I was able to sit down and get some nice records together. I'm excited about the feedback and I'm excited for people to be introduced.
It seems like it's not just the sound of the record; it's putting the right beat in front of you so the creativity can flow. The producer's role applies throughout the music-making process.
Absolutely. I'm not a rapper by nature. I talk about this all the time; I love making beats. And because I'm not a rapper by nature, I've got to really, really, really rock it with the production because that will encourage and unlock that rap energy.
I grew up making beats, so when I hear beats, I'm listening to it like a solo producer: "Yeah, yeah, yeah, this is tight, this is tight." Oftentimes, I hear a beat and it unlocks that rapper mentality, that rapper mind-state. Those are the beats that I usually put on my EPs and albums: the beats that unlock that type of creativity.
These producers, they did it for me. I'm so excited about the sound of this project. And it sounds so much different than all my other 4/20 projects. All my 4/20 projects sound different, and that's what I'm definitely going to do as an artist: continue to grow, continue to mature, continue to push the boundaries.
Photo: Anshil Popli
You said you're not a rapper by nature. Do you mean to say you're technically limited in some way? Which is not a slight, because many of my favorite singers and guitarists are very technically limited.
Yeah, absolutely. Man, I grew up with acts who can rap. And when I say "rap," I mean you can turn on anything and they just bar the s**t up. I never grew up with the innate ability to just rap off-the-cuff.
Of course, I could freestyle with friends and s**t like that and X, Y and Z, but I had to really sit down and learn and teach myself how to structure bars and how to ride the beat and how to format songs—hook, chorus, bridge, intro and outro. I had to really sit down and learn the fine technique and intricate detail of being a rapper.
For me, the way my brain works, producing is second nature because I've been banging on tables and making melodies and cutting rhythms since I came into the Earth. But layering words over beats was something that I had to teach myself.
I started freestyling and rapping and putting bars down when I was 10 or so, but I didn't record my first record until I was 12 years old. That's because I was teaching myself. Making beats came so easy, man. I don't even know how to explain it.
I had a keyboard at my house when I was growing up and I used to play on that thing all night, making beats, just because it connected. It sounds that way connected to my brain. But for me, personally, rapping activates a whole different hemisphere of my brain. That's why I'm always thankful when I meet and work with producers that activate that.
Technically speaking, what's the most important aspect of rapping?
That's a layered question, and I'll tell you why: It's different for every artist. I say that because as a rapper, you've got your tone as a whole—just how you sound on a record. Then, you've got your delivery. You've got your pitch. You've got how you're rapping—if it's super laid-back, if it's super amped-up. If you're changing your voice. All of these things factor into how your message is perceived.
Looking at myself as an artist, I'm a huge fan of how I deliver my raps. If something I'm saying has a comedic edge, it's kind of funny, it's kind of nonchalant, it's how I deliver it, too. I'm a real big fan of how you're delivering the raps.
Let me give you an example. I'm a huge 21 Savage fan. And the reason I'm a huge 21 Savage fan is because his beats are easy to follow along with. But that doesn't make them simple, you know? Having the ability to rap an entire song and have people rap with you bar-for-bar, not everyone can do that.
On the other hand, you've got artists like Eminem. Massive Eminem fans are able to rap along with him, but his delivery and technique is a little bit more intricate and precise. That's not to say one is better than the other; they just do things differently.
For me, personally, I think how I deliver the bars is not necessarily what sets me apart, but what makes me a little bit unique. A lot of artists sound similar but you can distinguish between them because of how they're presenting to you.
I'm a huge fan of Kendrick [Lamar]'s delivery. Huge fan of Kendrick's delivery. And it's because it travels a fine line of God-tier technicality but still resides in that realm of ear candy. Maybe it's not easy to rap along to, but easy to follow along with.
Let's go through the tunes on Porch Sessions. What can you tell me about "That's a Play"?
"That's a Play" is probably the newest record on there. Originally, my 4/20 albums were only four tracks. I kind of like the theme of four tracks.
But my boy J-Mac, who's a producer out of North Carolina, I met him a couple of years ago. He always sends me beats here and there. He sent that over and was like, "Hey, I made this beat, man. It's kind of got a cushy pop sheen to it. It's not a pop record, but it's got a poppy feel, almost."
I turned on the beat and, like I was saying earlier, it activated that part of the brain. It activated that lyric-writing portion, that "I have words to say" portion. I laid down a rough hook and I was like, "This might be a jam!" It kind of had a mellow-hype thing. You can either turn it on and chill to it or turn it on and get hype to it.
When I finished the record, I sent it over to my management team and they were like, "Aye, this record's tight. We want to put it on Porch Sessions. This has to go on there. This is a hell of record."
Right on. How about "Hotel Motel"?
"Hotel Motel" is one of my personal favorites. My boy Boom, who's a phenomenal producer, man—phenomenal producer—sent that beat over. I'd been telling him, "Say, bro, we need more uptempo shit, some party-type s**t!"
He sent the beat over, I was chewing on it for a bit, and I actually came up with a couple of different hooks for it. But I said, "We need something that will represent Bay Area culture a little bit." When I was growing up, we used to have hotel parties. And depending on the crowd you were hanging with, it was either a hotel party or a motel party.
That energy and that type of vibe, I wanted to capture that on the record. If you're from the Bay, you recognize that this is the Bay Area life. That is the Bay Area anthem for the album, if you will. I wanted to make sure I had at least one on there that was like that.
Tell me about "Odor."
It speaks for itself, man. If you're going to be dropping a project every 4/20, you've got to make sure you have a type of weed anthem on there. "Odor" is also produced by Boom. Boom is the GOAT. He's the backbone to my sound. He keeps me motivated.
Once again, Boom sent that beat over and I listened to it and I was like, "Yo, that s**t, that is such a unique sound." There is nobody rapping over these types of beats. I feel like that's what kind of separates me from everybody else. They always have a nice groove on them.
I hate when I turn on a beat and the beat's tight but it's got too much going on. You can overproduce. There's such a thing as overproducing. Boom does the exact amount every time—the perfect amount every time. For example, "Hotel Motel," it took me a while to get that song where I needed it to be. "Odor" wrote itself. He sent it over and I was like, "OK, this is the weed anthem. Now let's get it going."
I feel like "odor" is a word that kind of has negative connotations. People think of an odor as a negative thing. For me, an odor isn't necessarily a bad smell. It's a distinct smell. So I was like, "'Odor' is a good word for trees." Some people think weed stinks and other people think it's one of the best smells on Earth.
And how about "Peek"?
"Peek," man! Ah, man! One of my personal favorites from the project.
Beats By Holly—he's the guy on IG, man. He reached out to me a couple of months ago and goddamnit, man, he sent me, like 80 beats, man. Which I love. Because not only does it show me that you're serious about your craft; you're serious about working.
I can't tell you how many times somebody would hit me on IG telling me, "Let's do some work," and that's it. That is the full extent of the conversation. Holly hit me, he said, "Let's do some work," I said "Bro, let's go," and he sent me 80 beats the next day. Eighty beats!
And me, I'm very picky. Beats can be tight, but they may not speak to me. I'm going through the beats, brother, and I came up on the beat for "Peek." I was like, "Oh, man, this s**t sounds like some medieval-type, 'I'm on a horse,' jousting [scenario]." I felt like I was in a suit of armor. The horn felt like Merlin and wizards and s**t. It gave me an old-school, stone-castles, moat-with-an-alligator-type vibe.
I didn't come up with the words right off the bat, but the beat was talking to me. So, I said, "Let me chew on this for a little bit." I'm chewing on the beat for a little bit and I'm realizing … Something I think about all the time is that I'll be hovering over my listener's breakdown—not my streams, but my listener's breakdown—and it sounds funny, but I only have, like, eight percent female listeners.
I'm like, "Let me see if I can do something for the ladies, but not, like, super, super, super down the line. I've got R&B records for the ladies on the albums and s**t, but I was like, "Let me do something for the ladies that will make them want to move and spark some imagination," you know? "Peek" is my song that's for the ladies.
It's not a sex song, but it's kind of sexy, you know what I mean? It's got the crazy-ass beat; it's got the sexy-ass horn. It's got a certain feel to it. The way I did the hook, it's got a swing. Sometimes, I write my bars to be very precise and on-point because that's how I taught myself, and other times, I'll do something with a little more swing.
And the hook on "Peek," if you're looking at it from a musical standpoint, is a little more bluesy, a little more funky, because it lacks traditional structure. It holds notes, it starts at off times, and it gives the song a unique kind of swing when it gets to the hook portion. And that's what I really like. That's what I really f**k with.
Lastly, we've got "Brand New."
Yeah, yeah, that's DP, man. French producer, bro. He hit me about doing some work, brother, and he sent over, like, 10 beats. So, I'm going through them, I'm going through them, and I pulled up on this beat. I was like, "This s**t is wild!" I loaded it into ProTools, man, and once again—and I can't make this s**t up, bro—the song wrote itself.
It gave me this sliding-type feeling. Where I'm just sliding. I'm in a good mental space, I'm in a huge spiritual space, and I'm just vibing out. "Brand New" always felt like a phrase that was meant for rebirth. I'm reinvigorated. I'm full of fresh, new energy. That's what I wanted to capture on that record.
The guitar on that record is hella sexy. The bass gets to kickin'. It's kind of an aggressive record, and I don't have an aggressive sound, so that kind of gives it a layer. It was funny because, originally, that was going to be the opening track. But at the last minute, we moved "That's a Play" to the beginning and we moved "Brand New" to the end.
Now that I look at it, I'm like, "God, we should have put 'Brand New' at the front," just because of that energy. It's got a very unique energy that no other song has.
When things settle down, what are your plans for the remainder of 2021 and 2022?
I want to get on stage, man. I don't want to oversell myself, but I put on a pretty good live show. I want to do it safely. I know COVID is still poppin'. But the biggest thing, man, is I want to continue to make records. I want to branch out and make records with more artists.
It's more difficult to do as an independent artist—working with bigger artists and with bigger budgets and s**t. But I've made moves here and there, so I want to just continue to grow. Continue to hone my craft. Learn the industry better. Also, do more production. I still make beats. I make beats every day.
At the moment, I only produce for myself. I have a couple of artists I produce for here and there, but for the most part, I only produce for myself. I want to venture out more. I want to connect more, build more with other artists and build up the bread.
The best way to build up the bread is to expand and network, and that means working with other individuals who are like-minded and have a similar hustle. I want to continue to grow, get better, get smarter, mature and continue to make steps.
I really appreciate your drive and commitment to improve as an artist. It's inspiring stuff.
Oh, for sure, man. If you're not trying to get better, what are you doing?