Welcome to the party! @marilynmanson + @AlexDaKid like the new Stevie Nicks album cover!
Producer Alex Da Kidd tells us about his journey from Thames Valley University to the top of the charts. Plus Holly Miranda explains how her pentecostal upbringing shaped her sound. This week’s Music Weekly begins with the man behind two of the biggest No 1 singles this year; producer Alex Da Kid. The former Thames Valley University student is currently studio-bound in Los Angeles, but he found time to discuss his role in Eminem’s Love the Way You Lie and B.O.B’s Airplanes.
The King’s album has finally been uncaged.
Yesterday, T.I.’s eighth solo album, No Mercy, hit the web in full just eight days before it’s release. Among the album’s highlights—the Kanye West and Kid Cudi-featured “Welcome To The World,” and “All She Wrote” with Eminem—perhaps the most breathtaking record unveiled was “Castle Walls,” a solemn collaboration with Christina Aguilera.
Producer of the moment Alex Da Kid, who laced what will become T.I.’s next single, spoke to VIBE about crafting the record.
“It’s different,” says the 27-year-old London hitmaker. “It’s hip-hop, but it’s definitely going to hit a broad audience. It’s my sound [but]… to me it feels like some shit that you might hear in the Scarface movie. It feels like the ‘80s… hopefully people will like it.”
Stringing together an impressive line of steady spinners—responsible for Eminem’s “Love The Way You Lie,” B.o.B’s “Airplanes” and Dirty Money’s “I’m Coming Home”—Alex says he’s aiming for only chart-toppers.
“If I feel like I’m making an album cut, I wont even save it half the time,” says Alex, who’s slated to work with 50 Cent in the future. “If you look at what I’ve done this year, every song has been a single. So I really want to have that high expectation for myself.”
He continues: “I just try and do things that haven’t been done before. I definitely want to evolve and once I’ve done this kind of sound for a little bit, I’m definitely going to go and turn it into something else.”
‘American Idol’: Major music producers Alex da Kid, Tricky Stewart, Darkchild working with auditioning contestants in Las Vegas
The big changes on American Idol in its 10th season just keep on coming. This week, about 60 auditioning contestants (whittled down from 325 who made it to the Hollywood week round)have been rehearsing at the Las Vegas Mirage hotel to performBeatles songs on the stage that Cirque du Soleil performs its Beatles-themed show LOVE.EW has learned that music executive and Idol‘s new in-house mentor Jimmy Iovine — whose mega-label Universal Music Group will release the Idol winner’s first album — has been in Las Vegas mentoring the potential contestants for those performances, and has assembled an impressive roster of major music producers to help: Alex da Kid (who produced Eminem’s megahit “Love the Way You Lie” featuring Rihanna, and B.o.B’s “Airplanes” featuring Hayley Williams), Christopher “Tricky” Stewart (Justin Bieber’s “Baby” featuring Ludacris, Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies”, Rihanna’s “Umbrella”), Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins(Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” featuring Beyoncé, the Pussycat Doll’s “When I Grow Up”), Polow da Don (several Keri Hilson tracks, including “Turnin’ Me On” featuring Lil Wayne), and Jim Jonsin (Nelly’s “Just a Dream”, T.I.’s “Whatever You Like”). The contestants will only perform for Idol judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, and Steven Tyler, and not a live audience.
An Idol insider explains to EW that this is part of the season-long effort to get audiences to know the kids better as people and artists, and to get them out of their comfort zones and more accustomed to what life as a major music star would be like — i.e. putting down the guitar, and getting used to the big stage.
“Been shootin’ for American Idol all day,” Alex da Kid tweeted yesterday. “There were some kool kids [sic].”
You may not know producer Alex Da Kid by name just yet, but trust us, it’s a temporary situation that’s about to change in 2011. The London-born 26-year-old is the man behind the beats in Emimen and Rihanna’s “Love The Way You Lie” and B.o.B and Hayley Williams’“Airplanes”—two of this year’s summer radio staples that have now earned work the onetime professional soccer player (real name: Alexander Grant) was involved infive Grammy nominations.
In our sitdown with hip hop’s rising behind-the-scenes star, he discussed his recent productions (like Diddy-Dirty Money’s “Coming Home” and Dr. Dre and Eminem’s “I Need A Doctor”), what he learned after the way things went down with Nicki Minaj’s debut single“Massive Attack” and the possibility of working on Christina Aguilera’s new material. He also sang the praises of his frequent collaborator and recent signing Skylar Grey. “She plays like nine or ten instruments,” says Alex. “She writes amazing songs. She’s the real deal.”
It’s hard out there for an aspiring music producer. In today’s world, where everyone has an iMac and a computer program, and from the comfort of Twitter or their college dorm, presumes they can “do music.” However, how do you get a top artist to come to you, without the studio or the wall of gold and platinum framed records? Even if you manage to land a placement, your job does not end there. You have to constantly keep that momentum and keep turning them out or the industry will turn its back on you.
Alex Da Kid, the British producer who has recently scored massive hits with B.o.B’s “Airplanes’ and most recently, Eminem and Rihanna’s “Love The Way You Lie,” knows all about the hustle of a producer in today’s saturated world of music. With two radio smashes, and more work with Nicki Minaj and Matchbox 20, this hopeful met his dreams quickly. Talking with DXnext, he explained how he did it his own way, and just how huge hits are born.
DR DRE may be a hip-hop legend but he’s turned to an ex-Bristol City footballer to help out on his new single.
The EMINEM duet I Need A Doctor is produced by ALEX DA KID, aka ALEXANDER GRANT, a former Robins youth team player. Alex quit to make music and will be raking it in thanks to the work with Dre.
The track is a slushy duet between the two rappers. Em says: “Dre I’m crying in this booth/You saved my life.”
And Dre adds: “All I see is Slim… All I need is him.”
Get a room, lads…
SOHH asks two players to name their Top 5 rappers of all-time, then pits their lists head-to-head to see whose hip-hop picks reign supreme. To make things tricky, we’ve created a “Hall of Fame” of emcees (see right) who are universally respected and therefore may not be mentioned by either player.
Thinking about who is the most underrated rapper in hip-hop, that’s a tough question. In terms of being an emcee, I really feel like Pusha T is the most underrated. I’ve always loved The Clipse and I have always been a fan of Pusha T as well.
I love all of their work they have put out together, going back to [their 2002 debut album] Lord Willin’. So when you look at it, Pusha T might not necessarily be underrated on the hip-hop scene. But [commercially], I feel Pusha T and even Malice, together, they both seem like they [have extraordinary potential]. I feel like they both could be even bigger than they are right now.
The quality of their music is amazing to me. It’s kind of hard not to notice them. So I don’t feel like they’re underrated by their peers, but I think, commercially, they could be a little bit bigger. I really love Pusha T and Malice as well.
In terms of producers being underrated as well, I’ve got to say DJ Khalil. He’s not too underrated anymore, but he’s also someone I find amazing. I just heard a beat CD of his the other day and he’s out there. He’s amazing. I love his stuff. He was on Eminem‘s [Recovery] album and he has a lot of big things coming up. He’s also someone who is going to get the shine he deserves.
Alex Da Kid is a producer known for working with artists like B.o.B. and is the hitmaker behind Eminem’s Recovery smash, “I Love The Way You Lie.”
Paging Alex Da Kid. The British producer steps into the E.R. with Dr. Dre on set of “I Need a Doctor,” the Detox single which he produced. The hitmaker tweeted a pic from the shoot, chucking up the deuces and sticking his tongue out at the camera while wearing a white lab coat with a medical cap on his head.
Eminem was also snapped arriving to the L.A. set last month. Allen Hughes, the director behind Menace II Society and The Book of Eli, is at the helm.
“Doctor,” which features vocals from Skylar Grey, is shaping up to be another hit for Alex. It has already reached No. 1 on the iTunes Top Songs chart after only a few days of release.
Eminem took a five-year break between albums before he released Relapse and Recovery in consecutive years. Now, with two handfuls of Grammy nominations, will the Detroit lyricist be putting out another album anytime soon?
According to Alex Da Kid, who produced Em’s “Love the Way You Lie,” the veteran MC is always working, so it’s within the realm of possibility.
“We’re constantly working and we never know what projects the things we’re working on will land,” he told MTV News. “But we have great musical chemistry, so he’s someone I pray to work with for the rest of my career, hopefully.
“I think he’s in a great position where [he and Dr. Dre] can make music,” he continued. “And whenever they feel like it, they can put it out. There’s not a label telling them what to do, because they’ve been so successful, so it’s really up to him.”
Eminem will be plenty busy this year whether he puts out a new project or not. He announced last week two new signings to Shady Records: underground supergroup Slaughterhouse and upstart rapper Yelawolf.
Em called the acquisitions the next leg in his company’s evolution, from D12 and Cashis (both still signed to the label) to Yelawolf and his new collective, which features Joe Budden, Royce Da 5’9″, Joell Ortiz and Crooked I.
“Yelawolf and Slaughterhouse, it’s kinda phase two of Shady,” Eminem explained in a statement. “It’s the new generation of Shady Records, and as we’re trying to rebuild our label, it’s exciting for hip-hop, and with all of these forces coming together and with what everybody’s capable of on the mic, it’s gonna be fun.”
Groundbreaking music producers RedOne, Alex Da Kid and Ari Levine — in the running for multiple Grammys — embody the competitive and future-focused spirit that’s now a part of pop music’s DNA.
Nadhir Kayat’s journey from obscurity to fame is the tale of a global wanderer. Born the youngest of nine children in the Moroccan port city of Tetouan, Kayat realized early on that his ambitions required him to leave all he knew.
“I grew up in Africa,” said Kayat, now better known by his nom du studio, RedOne, in a recent Los Angeles Times-sponsored roundtable discussion at the Grammy Museum in downtown L.A. “And America, the dream, is very far.” Luckily for Kayat, his particular dream — pop music — has a closer power center. In Sweden, he found the route to becoming what he is today: a Grammy-winning producer behind hits for Enrique Iglesias, Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga, nominated this year for his field’s most prestigious nod, that of producer of the year.
RedOne’s Scandinavian period was tough at first. “I knew no-bo-dy,” he recalled. “I didn’t know the language.” He found his way by trying everything. He played in rock bands, helped out aspiring pop singers and hung around recording studios, picking up the amalgam of languages he heard in pop’s various home environments.
Finding focus even in the most rapidly shifting landscapes, the producers who are the real powerhouses behind most mainstream hits thrive in circumstances that more traditional music-makers might consider chaotic. Genre is dead. Allegiance to a particular subculture is counterproductive. Old-fashioned values about “real music” don’t factor in when you’re reaching for the next unexpected sound.
“I’ve been traveling all over the world, and to me music is one, you know? The universal language,” said RedOne. For him, that’s not a cliché, it’s a lifeline. Linking African rhythms to Arabic melodic systems, adding in rock drums and post-disco synth lines, RedOne has hit upon a sound that seamlessly spans genres and historical styles: the hyper-mobile, transnational sound of post-millennial pop.
Since the explosion of hip-hop in the ’70s and ’80s, the role of the producer has generally been associated with mainly crafting beats, often without the presence of live instrumentation.
At last month’s Grammy roundtable, Los Angeles Times pop music critic Ann Powers led a freewheeling conversation with the three hitmakers responsible for Grammy-nominated songs (Alex da Kid, Ari Levine of the production trio the Smeezingtons and RedOne) by Eminem, B.o.B., Bruno Mars and Lady Gaga.
A topic that piqued her interest was how the role of the producer has shifted over the last few decades — and which part the soundsmiths thought they played.
“I think the most important thing is having a vision. Being able to see things before other people can see it,” Alexander Grant — better known as Alex da Kid — told the audience inside the Grammy Museum’s Clive Davis Theater. “Most of the songs you’re working on, they won’t even come out for three or four months at least, maybe longer, so you have to be able to think what’s going to be a hit record in six months.”
Check back daily until the Grammy Awards on Feb. 13 to see more of this conversation on pop music.
On Saturday evening at the Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles, Times pop music critic Ann Powers sat down with three of today’s hottest music producers for a freewheeling conversation about the state of pop music in 2011. Over the course of an hour, the Grammy-nominated hit makers RedOne (Lady Gaga, Enrique Iglesias), Alex Da Kid (Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie,” B.o.B.’s “Airplanes”) and Ari Levine of production trio the Smeezingtons (Bruno Mars’ “Nothin’ on You,” Cee Lo Green’s “[Forget] You” spoke about the state of pop music, their influences and the stories behind the songs. This first Los Angeles Times Music Producers Roundtable offered revelatory glimpses at the way in which hit songs get made in 2011.
The Times filmed the conversation, and in the next few weeks Awards Tracker will be rolling out video highlights, and Ann Powers will be chiming in with a Critic’s Notebook on her impressions of the Grammy-nominated music and the people who make it.
Times staffer Gerrick Kennedy wrote an overview, as well, in which he relayed a comment that Nadir Khayat, the Moroccan-born producer known as RedOne, made about the way in which he and Lady Gaga started working together:
“I just saw the vision,” he said of Gaga. “I just saw this girl that could be this [huge] thing. We went to the studio and talked about Queen, Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, she knows music,’” Khayat said. “She was inspired. I’ve always thought of music as one; it’s a universal language. That’s what we did with the sound of Lady Gaga.”
The three, Powers noted, have diverse upbringings. Levine was born in Teaneck, N.J., and Grant lived in London until recently relocating to Los Angeles. And though he was raised in Morocco, Khayat found success after he relocated to Sweden. Powers illustrated this global trend with snippets from their repertoire, which offers international rhythms and sounds that cross borders. The result? “Love the Way You Lie” hit No. 1 in 25 countries, and “Bad Romance” did the same in 19.
Read the entire story over at the Pop & Hiss blog, and check back on Awards Tracker starting next week, when video excerpts from the conversation will arrive.
— Randall Roberts
Photo: Alex Da Kid, left, Ari Levine and RedOne take part in the Los Angeles Times Music Producers Roundtable at the Grammy Museum’s Clive Davis Theater on Saturday. Photo credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times.
Grammy-nominated producers discuss their lives, careers and pop music in general at a roundtable event.
In 2010, the songs were ubiquitous, even if the music producers who helped create them were less well-known: Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie,” Cee Lo Green’s “[Forget] You” and B.o.B.’s “Nothin’ on You” and “Airplanes” blanketed airwaves and filled earbuds with indelible hooks and melodies.
But those hooks and melodies took work. Though they may drift out of the car stereo effortlessly, much sweat equity was spent crafting them. No one understands that process better than the music producers, whose job it is to turn an idea into a song. If the timing’s right, the song hits.
In advance of the Grammy Awards, which will be held Feb. 13 in downtown Los Angeles, three of today’s hottest hitmakers, RedOne (Lady Gaga, Enrique Iglesias), Alex Da Kid (Eminem, B.o.B.) and Ari Levine of the Smeezingtons (Cee Lo, Bruno Mars) sat down with Times pop music critic Ann Powers for the first Los Angeles Times Music Producers Roundtable, an intimate conversation with artists who helped shape 2010′s pop-music landscape.
On Saturday evening in front of a sold-out crowd, Powers led a freewheeling conversation that sought to put into words the magic that turns a bunch of notes on paper (or, these days, a hard drive) into a hit song.
“I think the most important thing is having a vision. Being able to see things before other people can see it,” Alexander Grant — better known as Alex Da Kid — told the audience inside the Grammy Museum’s Clive Davis Theater. “Most of the songs you’re working on, they won’t even come out for three or four months at least, maybe longer, so you have to be able to think what’s going to be a hit record in six months.”
Nadir Khayat, the Moroccan-born producer known as RedOne, knows something about foresight. His best known collaborator, and muse, is Lady Gaga.
“I just saw the vision,” he said of Gaga. “I just saw this girl that could be this [huge] thing. We went to the studio and talked about Queen, Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, she knows music,’” Khayat said. “She was inspired. I’ve always thought of music as one, it’s a universal language. That’s what we did with the sound of Lady Gaga.”
The three, Powers noted, have diverse upbringings. Levine was born in Teaneck, N.J., and Grant lived in London until recently relocating to Los Angeles. And though he was raised in Morocco, Khayat found success after he relocated to Sweden. Powers illustrated this global trend with snippets from their repertoire, which offers international rhythms and sounds that cross borders. The result? “Love the Way You Lie” hit No. 1 in 25 countries and “Bad Romance” did the same in 19.
The producers credited that global feel in part to the increasing mobility of their tools. Grant said he crafted the hyperactive beat for Nicki Minaj’s “Massive Attack” while riding a subway on the way to a studio in England; Khayat remembers writing the epic opening chords of “Bad Romance” while on a tour bus traveling with Gaga. “Love the Way You Lie” was also the result of an international mishmash: Grant mixed the track with Eminem in Detroit as Rihanna recorded her verse at the last minute a world away in Dublin.
All three are competing for Grammy gold in some hotly contended races. Levine, as part of the production trio the Smeezingtons (with Bruno Mars and Philip Lawrence), has four nominations, including record of the year for both B.o.B.’s “Nothin’ on You” and Cee Lo Green’s “[Forget] You.” Grant too has four nominations, including both record of the year and song of the year for “Love the Way You Lie.” Khayat received two nominations this year, capped by an album of the year nod for his work on Gaga’s “The Fame Monster.”
Though each is grounded in hip-hop, pop and vintage R&B, Powers noted that they all dabble in an array of genres and asked if musical boundaries exist anymore.
Grant credited the acceptance of more genre-bending singles to younger listeners who are able to explore different sounds while surfing the Internet. Levine, like the others, doesn’t abide by boundaries.
“Music is music,” he said. “I think music nowadays is taking elements from each. Music is always changing. People are [maybe] getting tired of hearing the same stuff — and it’s got to move to something else.”
–Gerrick D. Kennedy
Alex Da Kid has come a long way from his London beginnings. The former soccer player produced two of last year’s biggest hits, the Hayley Williams assisted B.o.B. single “Airplanes” and Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie” which featured Rihanna. The young producer has certainly found his lane with the rap/pop crossovers and the songs he worked on were rewarded with several Grammy nominations including Song of the Year and Record of the Year, both for “Love the Way You Lie.”
The British hit-maker recently sat down with Gerrick D. Kennedy of the Los Angeles Times to discuss his big year. About the Eminem collaboration Alex says it was his success with B.o.B. that lead to that pairing: “He was looking for a new sound and wanted to work with new producers on his album…We were trying to figure out what would make sense and not go too far out of his comfort zone, but he wanted something different. So I sent him ‘Love the Way You Lie.’ It happened really late on the album. He recorded it in two days, and I went to mix it with him in Detroit, and that’s when I first met him. Soon as he heard the song he said he wanted Rihanna.”
The producer plans to do it up just as big 2011 with production work for Dr. Dre, Diddy, T.I., and Rihanna all scheduled to be released. To read the full interview head over to The Los Angeles Times’ blog.
The Recording Academy asked this year’s first-time GRAMMY nominees to collect their thoughts and share what it feels like to be nominated for a GRAMMY. Tune in to the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards on Sunday, Feb. 13 on the CBS Television Network from 8–11:30 p.m. (ET/PT).
I was actually in the audience at “The GRAMMY Nominations Concert Live!!” when they read my nominations aloud. The first one came and I remember saying, “Wait, I got nominated?” And then the second, and then there was another, and another and it didn’t really sink in until I got home later that evening.
It was just more than two years ago that I moved to the United States to start my career. I grew up in London watching legendary musicians accept GRAMMY Awards. And now I’m nominated for four. I always hoped for this moment, but it’s surreal to see it play out. Unfortunately, I haven’t really had much time to celebrate; I’ve been so busy in the studio working. The show is creeping up in a few days, so I should probably start shopping (haha). I’m still not sure what I will wear exactly, but it will most likely include a sombrero (haha).
I’ve been asked who I am most excited to see perform. I guess I have to say anyone who is performing one of my songs (haha). Oh, and Miranda Lambert. I have a sneaky suspicion that she may dedicate one of her romantic ballads to me (haha).
However the night pans out, I plan to take some time off to celebrate.
(Producer/engineer Alexander Grant (aka Alex Da Kid) is nominated for Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Rap Song for Eminem’s “Love The Way You Lie” featuring Rihanna; and Album Of The Year for Eminem’s Recovery at the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards. Grant also produced B.o.B.’s GRAMMY-nominated “Airplanes, Part II” featuring Paramore’s Hayley Williams.)
Come back to GRAMMY.com tomorrow as we hear from first-time GRAMMY nominee Morgan Page. Tune in to the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards live from Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 13 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS. Meanwhile, visit The Recording Academy’s social networks on Facebook and Twitter for updates and breaking GRAMMY news.