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Yeti Beats: From Punk Guitarist To Doja Cat's Go-To Producer

Yeti Beats

Photo: Tyler Roi 

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Yeti Beats: From Punk Guitarist To Doja Cat's Go-To Producer

The Los Angeles-based producer chatted with GRAMMY.com about meeting Doja Cat, her appeal as a viral sensation, his creative process, musical evolution and more

GRAMMYs/Apr 9, 2021 - 09:36 pm

Yeti Beats was searching for some inspiration when he sat in his then-studio in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles with his intern in 2013. The genre-blurring producer and songwriter caught a vibe once he heard the electro-soulful "So High" on SoundCloud by a local rapper/singer/dancer calling herself Doja Cat, and knew collaborating could work wonders for the both of them.

Turns out Yeti Beats' gut was spot on. The beatmaker, who became Doja Cat's co-manager and tour DJ, executive produced all three of the 25-year-old's musically adventurous projects, the 2014 R&B-flavored EP Purrr!; her 2018 major label breakthrough Amala; and her 2019 smash Hot Pink.

A musical chameleon himself behind the console, the musician born David Sprecher either co-wrote or cranked the knobs on "Candy," "Juicy," "Like That," "Tia Tamera," "Cyber Sex," "Go to Town" and the GRAMMY-nominated chart-topper "Say So." His creative direction morphed into an exclusive deal for him with Warner Chappell Music last summer.

Related: From Meme Queen To Popstar: Revisiting Doja Cat’s Inevitable Breakout

But chasing success in the music business has been trial-and-error for Sprecher over the last two-plus decades. The Santa Barbara, California native started out playing guitar in a melodic/skate punk band, Slimer, while his ears stayed tuned into Al Green, The Cars, reggae and his sister's hip-hop tapes. When Slimer released its Adult Cabaret LP under Grilled Cheese Records in 1999, Sprecher knew the label and touring grind for a band wasn’t exactly for him.

By 2003, he started concentrating on producing records instead, carving out his niche in underground hip-hop and reggae. At his home studio, he booked sessions with Kool Keith, Sizzla, Junior Reid, The Pharcyde’s Fat Lip, late Geto Boys member Bushwick Bill, Kurupt, Ho99o9 and Rebelution. He opened his Echo Park spot, Himalayas, in 2010 before upgrading to another studio in Hollywood in 2015.

These days, the experienced producer has abandoned the state-of-the-art studio atmosphere in favor of his MIDI controller, speakers, laptop, guitar and bass in his house. He recently chatted with GRAMMY.com about how he met Doja Cat, her appeal as a viral sensation, his creative process, musical evolution, future projects, and how the dynamic pair would celebrate a GRAMMY win.

How did you meet Doja Cat?

I first heard her from an intern at my studio, Jerry Powell, a producer himself still involved with lots of Doja’s songs. He was just playing songs off of Soundcloud on the homepage, and he played a really rough home recording that Amala [Dlamini, a.k.a. Doja Cat] had done, "So High," and it immediately caught my ear.

I asked him who it was and we looked her up on Facebook. She happened to live in Los Angeles, we wrote her a message, and asked if she wanted to come in the studio to record some music. A couple of days later, she came in. Soon after recording with her, I just immediately knew that she had incredible raw talent. It was just something that needed to be nurtured. It’s just incredible to see how she’s grown over the years and evolved as an artist and a person is just beautiful to me.

"We try to make music as authentic to who she is, and each one of these records is like a time capsule of Amala as a person."

Is there a formula that you and Doja Cat have whenever you’re in the studio?

We try to keep the projects and creative process fun and lighthearted. Amala is such a unique talent, I just try to keep her inspired. The records have evolved over the years; we started on that dusty, slower, vibey R&B, and over time, we started changing it up, bringing in different sounds, adding elements of dance music and more melodic, quirky sounds that accent her personality. We try to make music as authentic to who she is, and each one of these records is like a time capsule of Amala as a person.

How has social media impacted Doja Cat’s success?

I’m not a social media expert, but I do think that Doja Cat’s music is particularly fun and sticky. She’s also a person that knows how to navigate the internet really well. She’s intriguing. Her sounds go viral, particularly on TikTok, because her music is authentic, and authentic music resonates with people.

How did you celebrate “Say So” becoming Doja Cat’s first No. 1 pop hit?

I was in Los Angeles at my house and in shock that Doja Cat had a No. 1. I talked with our team and the people that were involved on the project on the phone, and I was super congratulatory because it was her surreal moment. It was one of those “wow” moments; very, very crazy in a good way.

What did the Warped Tour in 1999 reveal to you about the music business?

I learned that you have to work really hard because every artist on the roster is out here working really hard. Traveling is not easy, and the lifestyle is not what people think it is. The rock star lifestyle is a different kind of work, which is exhausting. [Chuckles.] I understand the importance of touring, going out there, performing music in front of new people, and making sounds.

How did you go from punk musician to songwriter and producer?

I moved to L.A. to go to college. There, I was exposed to a lot more music. Through a friend, I ended up meeting another close friend of mine, Sam Stegall. He had a little home studio in Hollywood; he invited me to come over there. I watched him produce a beat and work with another artist. A light bulb went off. I was thinking I could do this; maybe I need to get ProTools or a MIDI controller.

I already knew how to play guitar and a little bit of keyboards, so I thought making beats would be fun. That was the beginning of a never-ending journey I would equate to a puzzle. I love creating music and had the realization that if I worked hard, then maybe I could turn that into a career. I already knew somebody who was doing this for a living, and I thought I was capable of it.

With each artist that I’m working with, I try to catch their vibe, have some fun, and not really focus on what I wanna make. I put myself in the artists’ shoes and really listen to what they want and make something that’s authentic to how they should sound. It’s about catching the moment; there’s parts of myself that enjoy the thrash of punk or to kick back and groove to reggae. I listen to uptempo music that makes you dance: funk, disco, house, jazz or pretty much anything across the board. I don’t wanna commit myself to making one genre of music or to just making rap beats. I aspire to be an eclectic producer.

Watch: Herbal Tea & White Sofas: Shelley FKA DRAM Praises Phone Chargers & Ravenously Eats Honey

What are you hoping to accomplish with your exclusive Warner Chappell Music deal?

The main reasons I’m doing the deal is to make sure someone is collecting all of my publishing royalties and to also have a strong partner to connect me with other artists, producers, or people that maybe either Doja wants to collaborate with or myself. It’s showing to be a very strong relationship; they’re putting me in the room with a lot of cool people.

What projects are you currently working on?

BJ The Chicago Kid is an artist that I've known for a while. We've worked together before, and I think he's one of the most amazing singers. We're doing a project together with a band that has a vintage element to it. It's gonna be a really interesting project based on an old soul sound. I have so much love and respect for BJ; he's an incredible artist, and I can’t wait to work with him more.

I have the next Doja Cat album, Planet Her, and I'm most excited about that. I have some really exciting songs on there, and I couldn’t be prouder of the people who worked on this project.

How has working with Doja Cat made you a better producer?

Working with Doja has taught me a lot about life. She was 16 when I met her, and I recognized her unique talent. My main objectives over the years have been to protect, enable and shepherd her through the music business, which can be very hard at times.

It's been a crazy experience watching her grow up from a teenager to a young woman. She’s grown tremendously as an artist, creator, entertainer, live performer. The whole experience has been completely surreal and beautiful. I get goosebumps when I think about where we used to be versus where we’re at; it is just incredible. I feel thankful and blessed.

How would you and Doja Cat celebrate a GRAMMY win?

It's a pretty surreal experience being nominated this year. We feel super blessed to be acknowledged. Me and Doja have a pact between some friends all involved from the early stages going back to 2013; if she was ever to win a GRAMMY, then we'd have to get tattoos of cats on our butts. We'll see if it happens. [Chuckles.]

Pink Sweat$ Talks Debut Album 'Pink Planet,' The Definition Of R&B & More

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GRAMMY SoundChecks With Gavin DeGraw

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

On Aug. 28 Nashville Chapter GRAMMY U members took part in GRAMMY SoundChecks with Gavin DeGraw. Approximately 30 students gathered at music venue City Hall and watched DeGraw play through some of the singles from earlier in his career along with "Cheated On Me" from his latest self-titled album.

In between songs, DeGraw conducted a question-and-answer session and inquired about the talents and goals of the students in attendance. He gave inside tips to the musicians present on how to make it in the industry and made sure that every question was answered before moving onto the next song.

 

Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year

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Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year

Annual star-studded gala slated for Nov. 4 in Las Vegas during 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Week celebration

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2017 - 01:36 pm

 GRAMMY.com

 Internationally renowned singer/songwriter/performer Juan Gabriel will be celebrated as the 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, it was announced today by The Latin Recording Academy. Juan Gabriel, chosen for his professional accomplishments as well as his commitment to philanthropic efforts, will be recognized at a star-studded concert and black tie dinner on Nov. 4 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nev. 

The "Celebration with Juan Gabriel" gala will be one of the most prestigious events held during Latin GRAMMY week, a celebration that culminates with the 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards ceremony. The milestone telecast will be held at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Nov. 5 and will be broadcast live on the Univision Television Network at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central. 

"As we celebrate this momentous decade of the Latin GRAMMYs, The Latin Recording Academy and its Board of Trustees take great pride in recognizing Juan Gabriel as an extraordinary entertainer who never has forgotten his roots, while at the same time having a global impact," said Latin Recording Academy President Gabriel Abaroa. "His influence on the music and culture of our era has been tremendous, and we welcome this opportunity to pay a fitting tribute to a voice that strongly resonates within our community.

Over the course of his 30-year career, Juan Gabriel has sold more than 100 million albums and has performed to sold-out audiences throughout the world. He has produced more than 100 albums for more than 50 artists including Paul Anka, Lola Beltran, Rocío Dúrcal, and Lucha Villa among many others. Additionally, Juan Gabriel has written more than 1,500 songs, which have been covered by such artists as Marc Anthony, Raúl Di Blasio, Ana Gabriel, Angelica María, Lucia Mendez, Estela Nuñez, and Son Del Son. In 1986, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declared Oct. 5 "The Day of Juan Gabriel." The '90s saw his induction into Billboard's Latin Music Hall of Fame and he joined La Opinion's Tributo Nacional Lifetime Achievement Award recipients list. 

At the age of 13, Juan Gabriel was already writing his own songs and in 1971 recorded his first hit, "No Tengo Dinero," which landed him a recording contract with RCA. Over the next 14 years, he established himself as Mexico's leading singer/songwriter, composing in diverse styles such as rancheras, ballads, pop, disco, and mariachi, which resulted in an incredible list of hits ("Hasta Que Te Conocí," "Siempre En Mi Mente," "Querida," "Inocente Pobre Amigo," "Abrázame Muy Fuerte," "Amor Eterno," "El Noa Noa," and "Insensible") not only for himself  but for many leading Latin artists. In 1990, Juan Gabriel became the only non-classical singer/songwriter to perform at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and the album release of that concert, Juan Gabriel En Vivo Desde El Palacio De Bellas Artes, broke sales records and established his iconic status. 

After a hiatus from recording, Juan Gabriel released such albums as Gracias Por Esperar, Juntos Otra Vez, Abrázame Muy Fuerte, Los Gabriel…Para Ti, Juan Gabriel Con La Banda…El Recodo, and El Mexico Que Se Nos Fue, which were all certified gold and/or platinum by the RIAA. In 1996, to commemorate his 25th anniversary in the music industry, BMG released a retrospective set of CDs entitled 25 Aniversario, Solos, Duetos, y Versiones Especiales, comprised appropriately of 25 discs.   

In addition to his numerous accolades and career successes, Juan Gabriel has been a compassionate and generous philanthropist. He has donated all proceeds from approximately 10 performances a year to his favorite children's foster homes, and proceeds from fan photo-ops go to support Mexican orphans. In 1987, he founded Semjase, an orphanage for approximately 120 children, which also serves as a music school with music, recreation and video game rooms. Today, he continues to personally fund the school he opened more than 22 years ago.   

Juan Gabriel will have the distinction of becoming the 10th Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year honoree, and joins a list of artists such as Gloria Estefan, Gilberto Gil, Juan Luis Guerra, Julio Iglesias, Ricky Martin, and Carlos Santana among others who have been recognized. 

For information on purchasing tickets or tables to The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year tribute to Juan Gabriel, please contact The Latin Recording Academy ticketing office at 310.314.8281 or ticketing@grammy.com.

Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013
Grizzled Mighty perform at Bumbershoot on Sept. 1

Photo: The Recording Academy

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Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.

By Alexa Zaske
Seattle

This past Labor Day weekend meant one thing for many folks in Seattle: Bumbershoot, a three-decade-old music and arts event that consumed the area surrounding the Space Needle from Aug. 31–Sept. 2. Amid attendees wandering around dressed as zombies and participating in festival-planned flash mobs to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," this year the focus was on music from the Pacific Northwest region — from the soulful sounds of Allen Stone and legendary female rockers Heart, to the highly-awaited return of Death Cab For Cutie performing their 2003 hit album Transatlanticism in its entirety.

The festival started off on day one with performances by synth-pop group the Flavr Blue, hip-hop artist Grynch, rapper Nacho Picasso, psychedelic pop group Beat Connection, lively rapper/writer George Watsky, hip-hop group the Physics, and (my personal favorite), punk/dance band !!! (Chk Chk Chk). Also performing on day one was Seattle folk singer/songwriter Kris Orlowski, who was accompanied by the Passenger String Quartet. As always, Orlowski's songs were catchy and endearing yet brilliant and honest.

Day one came to a scorching finale with a full set from GRAMMY-nominated rock group Heart. Kicking off with their Top 20 hit "Barracuda," the set spanned three decades of songs, including "Heartless," "Magic Man" and "What About Love?" It became a gathering of Seattle rock greats when, during Heart's final song, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready joined for 1976's "Crazy On You."

Day two got off to an early start with performances from eccentric Seattle group Kithkin and Seattle ladies Mary Lambert and Shelby Earl, who were accompanied by the band Le Wrens. My highlight of the day was the Grizzled Mighty — a duo with a bigger sound than most family sized bands. Drummer Whitney Petty, whose stage presence and skills make for an exciting performance, was balanced out by the easy listening of guitarist and lead singer Ryan Granger.

Then the long-awaited moment finally fell upon Seattle when, after wrapping a long-awaited tour with the Postal Service, singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard returned to Seattle to represent another great success of the Pacific Northwest — Death Cab For Cutie. The band celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their album Transatlanticism by performing it from front to back. While a majority of attendees opted to watch the set from an air-conditioned arena, some of us recognized the uniqueness of this experience and enjoyed the entire set lying in the grass where the entire performance was streamed. 

Monday was the day for soul and folk. Local blues/R&B group Hot Bodies In Motion have been making their way through the Seattle scene with songs such as "Old Habits," "That Darkness" and "The Pulse." Their set was lively and enticing to people who have seen them multiple times or never at all.

My other highlights of the festival included the Maldives, who delivered a fun performance with the perfect amount of satirical humor and folk. They represent the increasing number of Pacific Northwest bands who consist of many members playing different sounds while still managing to stay cohesive and simple. I embraced the return of folk/pop duo Ivan & Alyosha with open arms and later closed my festival experience with local favorite Stone.

For music fans in Seattle and beyond, the annual Bumbershoot festival is a must-attend.

(Alexa Zaske is the Chapter Assistant for The Recording Academy Pacific Northwest Chapter. She's a music enthusiast and obsessed with the local Seattle scene.)

Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Neil Portnow and Jimmy Jam

Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

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Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Jimmy Jam helps celebrate the outgoing President/CEO of the Recording Academy on the 61st GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Feb 11, 2019 - 10:58 am

As Neil Portnow's tenure as Recording Academy President/CEO draws to its end, five-time GRAMMY winner Jimmy Jam paid tribute to his friend and walked us through a brief overview of some of the Academy's major recent achievements, including the invaluable work of MusiCares, the GRAMMY Museum, Advocacy and more.

Portnow delivered a brief speech, acknowledging the need to continue to focus on issues of diversity and inclusion in the music industry. He also seized the golden opportunity to say the words he's always wanted to say on the GRAMMY stage, saying, "I'd like to thank the Academy," showing his gratitude and respect for the staff, elected leaders and music community he's worked with during his career at the Recording Academy. "We can be so proud of what we’ve all accomplished together," Portnow added.

"As I finish out my term leading this great organization, my heart and soul are filled with gratitude, pride, for the opportunity and unequal experience," he continued. "Please know that my commitment to all the good that we do will carry on as we turn the page on the next chapter of the storied history of this phenomenal institution."

Full Winners List: 61st GRAMMY Awards