Photo: Tyler Roi
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
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.
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.
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.]
Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images
Rolling Loud Festival Los Angeles Reveals 2019 Lineup
Find out who's bringing the heat to the hip-hop fest returning to L.A. this December
Today, Rolling Loud revealed the massive lineup for their final music festival of 2019, Rolling Loud Los Angeles, which is set to take over the Banc of California Stadium and adjacent Exposition Park on Dec. 14–15.
This iteration of "the Woodstock of Hip-Hop," as the all-knowing Diddy has called it, will feature Chance the Rapper, Lil Uzi Vert, Juice WRLD, Young Thug and Lil Baby as Saturday's heavy-hitting headliners. Sunday's headliners are none other than Future, A$AP Rocky, Meek Mill, YG and Playboi Carti.
L.A.'s own Blueface, Tyga and Doja Cat, are slated to perform, as well as representatives from the diverse rap scenes across the country, including Wale, Juicy J, Lil Yachty, Megan Thee Stallion, Gunna, Tyla Yaweh, Machine Gun Kelly and Yung Gravy.
The lineup announcement follows the successful wrap of Rolling Loud Bay Area in Oakland this past weekend. The event's flagship Miami event took place in May this year, and the New York and Hong Kong debut editions will both take place later this month.
Some of y’all not ready for these moshpits https://t.co/3nlaudjapq— Randy (@randyt0321) October 1, 2019
Photo: Harmony Korine
Iggy Pop Announces New Album, 'Free', Shares Title Track
"By the end of the tours following Post Pop Depression, I felt sure that I had rid myself of the problem of chronic insecurity that had dogged my life and career for too long. But I also felt drained… I wanted to be free," the Godfather of Punk explained
Today, GRAMMY-nominated punk forbearer Iggy Pop revealed the details for his forthcoming 18th solo studio album, along with its short—at under two minutes—yet spacious title track, "Free." The 10-track LP is due out Sept. 6 and follow's 2016's GRAMMY-nominated Post Pop Depression.
"This is an album in which other artists speak for me, but I lend my voice," Pop explains in a press release.
The statement notes jazz trumpeter Leron Thomas and L.A.-based electric guitarist Noveller as the "principal players" collaborating with Pop on this exploratory new project. On "Free," Thomas' horn and Noveller's guitar add layers of depth, somberness and exploration, as Pop's echoing voice cuts through twice to proclaim, "I want to be free."
Pop adds that his last tour left him feeling exhausted but ready for change, and the shifts eventually led him to these new sounds:
"By the end of the tours following Post Pop Depression, I felt sure that I had rid myself of the problem of chronic insecurity that had dogged my life and career for too long. But I also felt drained. And I felt like I wanted to put on shades, turn my back, and walk away. I wanted to be free. I know that's an illusion, and that freedom is only something you feel, but I have lived my life thus far in the belief that that feeling is all that is worth pursuing; all that you need—not happiness or love necessarily, but the feeling of being free. So this album just kind of happened to me, and I let it happen."
Post Pop Depression earned the former Stooges frontman his second GRAMMY nod, at the 59th GRAMMY Awards for Best Alternative Music Album. It was produced by GRAMMY winner Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and as a tribute of sorts to David Bowie, Pop's longtime friend the producer of his first two solo albums, and was released shortly after Bowie's surprising passing.
As the press release states, "While it follows the highest charting album of Iggy's career, Free has virtually nothing in common sonically with its predecessor—or with any other Iggy Pop album."
DJ Khaled, Samantha Smith and John Legend
Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle And John Legend Win Best Rap/Sung Performance For "Higher" | 2020 GRAMMYs
DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle and John Legend take home Best Rap/Sung Performance at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards
DJ Khaled, featuring Nipsey Hussle and John Legend, has won Best Rap/Sung Performance for "Higher" at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards. The single was featured on DJ Khaled's 2019 album Father of Asahd and featured Hussle's vocals and Legend on the piano. DJ Khaled predicted the track would win a GRAMMY.
"I even told him, 'We're going to win a GRAMMY.' Because that's how I feel about my album," DJ Khaled told Billboard. "I really feel like not only is this my biggest, this is very special."
After the release of the song and music video -- which was filmed before Hussle's death in March -- DJ Khaled announced all proceeds from "Higher" will go to Hussle's children.
DJ Khaled and co. beat out fellow category nominees Lil Baby & Gunna ("Drip Too Hard"), Lil Nas X ("Panini"), Mustard featuring Roddy Ricch ("Ballin") and Young Thug featuring J. Cole & Travis Scott ("The London"). Hussle earned a second posthumous award at the 62nd GRAMMYs for Best Rap Performance for "Racks In The Middle."
Along with Legend and DJ Khaled, Meek Mill, Kirk Franklin, Roddy Ricch and YG paid tribute to Hussle during the telecast, which concluded with "Higher."
Check out the complete 62nd GRAMMY Awards nominees and winners list here.
ReImagined At Home: Watch Ant Clemons Croon The Cosmic Blues In Performance Of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine"
Singer/songwriter Ant Clemons puts his own spin on Bill Withers' immortal "Ain't No Sunshine" in an exclusive performance for ReImagined At Home
Why has Bill Withers' immortal hit, "Ain't No Sunshine," endured for decades? And, furthermore, why does it seem set to reverberate throughout the ages?
Could it be because it's blues-based? Because it's relatable to anyone with a pulse? Because virtually anyone with an ounce of zeal can believably yowl the song at karaoke?
Maybe it's for all of those reasons and one more: "Ain't No Sunshine" is flexible.
In the latest episode of ReImagined At Home, check out how singer/songwriter Ant Clemons pulls at the song's edges like taffy. With a dose of vocoder and slapback, Clemons recasts the lonesome-lover blues as the lament of a shipwrecked android.
Giving this oft-covered soul classic a whirl, Clemons reminds music lovers exactly why Withers' signature song has staying power far beyond his passing in 2020. It will probably be a standard in 4040, too.
Check out Ant Clemons' cosmic, soulful performance of "Ain't No Sunshine" above and click here to enjoy more episodes of ReImagined At Home.