Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Danja in Billboard Part 1: The Article

Remember Jermaine Dupri's outrage at Danja being on the cover of Billboard Magazine a few weeks ago? Well after a long search we found the article. Ever wonder how DanjaHandz got his name? Or how he got his start with Timbaland? Or what the music inudstry thinks about him? Then this article is for you:

****He may be "dangerous," but Nate "Danjahandz" Hills -- or just plain "Danja" -- is "a huge talent," according to none other than Madonna. A self-proclaimed "big fan of his work," Madonna tapped him for her hit "4 Minutes," featuring Justin Timberlake. But she's just the latest in a long line of big-name production clients -- also including Timberlake, Nelly Furtado, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Snoop Dogg, Katherine McPhee, Duran Duran, Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez -- that have made this Timbaland prot?g? the go-to guy on a wide range of recording projects.

"What sets Danja apart is his rare ability to not just make records, but create records -- building brilliant sonic landscapes that make his production style singularly unique," Atlantic Records chairman/CEO Craig Kallman says. "Far more than a fantastic beat-maker, he takes a hands-on role at every step of the recording process. At the same time, he has the gift of being able to adapt his sound and approach to the individual artist, bringing out their personal style rather than imposing one sound on everyone. "He also spans many genres, and has done fantastic work recently for a range of Atlantic artists from T.I. to Simple Plan to Missy Elliott," Kallman adds. "We're looking forward to a long future of making hit records together."

Zomba Music Group executive VP Peter Thea concurs: "He's an extraordinary producer who we can thank for many recent hits from many artists on our roster. His beats are incredible and he always seems to outdo himself on each successive record. He's that rare producer whose sonic flair and amazing sense of rhythm are matched by his gift of melody, and it all comes together in the song." BMG Label Group president/CEO Barry Weiss likewise lauds Hills as "one of the premier producers/creative forces in the world today," citing "his production flair and innovative but commercial sounds coupled with his calm demeanor and great artist sensitivity [that] make him a rare entity in today's musical landscape."

Chris Hicks, Atlantic Records senior VP of A&R and head of urban music at Warner/Chappell Music, who signed Hills to Warner/Chappell, observes that Hills is "very quick to step outside the box and not live by any rules creatively."

Pointing to Hills' effect on projects by Timberlake, Furtado, T.I. and Usher, Hicks adds, "He just wants to reinvent every time he goes in the studio and be groundbreaking." Indeed, Hills is inspired by the Foo Fighters as much as T.I., as his attorney David Ehrlich notes, "He's open-minded and doesn't like to be categorized, and draws influences from a vast variety of creative sources. And he plays piano, drums and guitar, and can explore a lot of different musical areas and opportunities. He's always evolving, but currently his uptempo, danceable beats are unique and fresh-sounding, and have proven inspirational to a lot of different artists."

"And in the last two years," Ehrlich adds, "you can't have turned on the radio without hearing a Danja record that he did with Timbaland, from Justin Timberlake's 'SexyBack' and 'My Love' to Nelly Furtado's 'Promiscuous' or 'Say It Right' to Britney Spears' 'Gimme More' and now to Madonna's '4 Minutes.'"

For his part, Hills agrees that the beat is much of what makes his sound. "I have a very bright and exciting sound, and it's because of the beat -- the groove, the sound of the drums," he says. "I might not be doing a lot of drum rolling and double-timing, but I pick one rhythm and make patterns as melodic as my lead lines, so you can hear the rhythm one time and remember it -- and it builds over and over again, just like melody." Not a lyricist, Hills notes that he is in fact known as "the Melody Man." "That's what they call me," he continues. "I hear it all the time." Hardly anything that might be construed as "dangerous." So where did that nickname come from?

"A long time ago me and some friends were hanging around making music -- a lot of freestyling stuff on the keyboard, and I was playing so fast with my hands," Hills recalls. "That's where it came from -- 'Danjahandz.' 'Danja.' I just spelled it like how I see it." The 27-year-old native of Virginia Beach, Va., played drums in church at age 12 before switching to keyboards. "I was always playing instruments at home and church," he says, "but I never practiced. I'd just seen how drummers played and hopped right on to the set and picked it up. And I'm self-taught on keyboards, too. I played by ear, listening to songs on the radio or learning in choir and teaching myself the chords." His influences included gospel music, of course, "R&B, some hip-hop and anything else that caught my ear. I just kept playing in church, but I was always interested in how can I create music: I was always trying to figure it out but never had the proper equipment until I eventually got a keyboard with a six-track sequencer when I was in high school and could lay down beats and melodies on two tracks." Hills gained some studio experience around Virginia Beach, "again basically teaching myself how to use a professional keyboard, microphone and computer.

But I was always only a producer, making multiple tracks of all kinds for different types of artists -- rock, pop, hip-hop, R&B -- all at the same time and nothing sounding alike. I look back and see where I was being prepared for what I am now." Among producers, Hills cites such role models as Dr. Dre, Rodney Jerkins, the Neptunes, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, "of course" Quincy Jones, Timbaland and Teddy Riley.

Working with Natural Blend, an R&B group from the Virginia Beach area, Hills met Leon Sylvers, who introduced him to Riley. True to his "studio rat" form, Danja began hanging out at Riley's studio in Virginia Beach and co-produced a track on Riley's group Blackstreet's 2003 album "Level II." But the real career turning point came when a CD containing 30 of Hills' beats was passed on to his idol Timbaland, who was duly impressed. Hills later had the opportunity to play more tracks for Timbaland personally on his tour bus.

"He didn't even listen to three seconds of each track and just knew where I was going," Hills says. "That was enough for him -- and that was it." Still, six months passed. Hills recalls "scraping by, breaking concrete with a sledgehammer doing construction work" during the day while "working and working and working" in the studio at night. Then Timbaland invited Hills to work with him down in Miami. "I had played some music for Scott Storch, Irv Gotti, Ja Rule, Fat Joe, all these dudes, and nothing came of it," Hills says. "But Tim recognized my talent level and potential from the start. It just goes to show that when it's your time it's your time." The Hills/Timbaland partnership then commenced in earnest in early 2004.

"Tim was hard on me, not in the sense of being a tyrant but musically very critical of what I was doing and pushing me to develop, develop, develop, push, push, push," Hills says. "We worked on a lot of different projects together including the Game, Black Eyed Peas, Jennifer Lopez, but nothing major happened. Then we did 'I'm So Fly' for Lloyd Banks, and it was really the first thing that people heard from me and Tim." Then the floodgates opened. "Nelly [Furtado] came along with some songs, but Tim had a different vision and we just started making music together," Hills says. "The first day we did 'Maneater.' " Furtado's 2006 hit from "Loose" flowed directly into Timberlake's "FutureSex/LoveSounds" project, the first session of which yielded "What Goes Around . . . Comes Around." "We were sitting on those two albums and nothing had dropped yet, but Tim felt really good about it, and I didn't have any choice but to feel good and excited because he was," Hills says. "Then in May of '06, 'Maneater' dropped overseas and started killing, and then the States. The rest is history." That history now also includes the likes of Madonna, Missy Elliott, Ciara and Fat Joe.

"Respect," along with "fearless" and "brilliant," are just some of the words colleagues use in assessing Hills' meteoric rise. "Danja is brilliant," Universal Motown president/executive VP Sylvia Rhone says. "He has a keen passion for his craft, takes great pride in his work and is the consummate perfectionist. I have watched him emerge from the shadows of his peers to become a major player in his own right -- an accomplished producer, composer and musician, a triple-threat in the studio and a genius hitmaker." Missy Elliott adds, "Danja is not only just a hot producer: He is fearless. That's what makes him hot. His music speaks for itself: When you listen to his beats you hear confidence in the track -- hard-hitting, cutting-edge confidence. He's not scared to take chances -- no matter what sound may be hot on the radio, he's going to give you what moves him. And that's what makes Danja dangerous." Furtado says, "Nate is an oddity because he possesses so much natural talent, combined with real musical focus at such a young age. He is invested in the original, constantly chasing musical risk -- and he is a stoic presence in the studio. He lives in his own beat-driven, keyboard-adoring world."

Future endeavors for Hills, according to Ehrlich, involve "expanding his brand and getting into other areas of commerce utilizing the brand." To this end, Ehrlich notes Hills' music work on the film "Step Up 2: The Streets." Hills says he looks forward to "stepping off as a solo entity" with a new company in the works and a new artist that he's "very excited about" to kick it off.

He notes that his goal is "to match or top what me and Tim did together," adding that "the good thing about it is that I still feel like that guy breaking up the concrete: I never forget what I'm out there doing, and I'm grateful for what I am. But to get that No. 1 record and then do it over and over again just to prove to myself that I can really do this, I want to continue that." But Hills' creative talents and accomplishments aside, he's also "a wonderful person," Ehrlich says. "He always does the right thing and strives to do the right thing. He's always sensitive to the feelings of others and tries to act ethically in business -- where sometimes you're challenged to not do so. One of the greatest joys is working with him." Offering a last word, Epic Records president Charlie Walk echoes Ehrlich.

"In this business you try to work with people who are great creatively, and Danja represents that from the purest place," he says. "He comes in with an impassioned willingness to be exceptional, but no drama, no ego. He's pure, which makes it different for him and for us."****


  1. YAY more danja news on a tim blog

  2. enlightening interview

  3. "YAY more danja news on a tim blog" Yay!!! I agree!!!!!!!

    Go Danja!

    I can't wait until I get up with MMG and DHM. I can't wait!!!!!!!!!

  4. DANJA BIIIIITCH!!!!!!!!!!

  5. yeah unbelievable...I think his father abused him big time or some other big accident during his childhood, that's why he is bitching so much on a blog, just crazy

  6. das guna b a challenge to try beat wot him and tim did. not jus cuz der bangin beats. but u gotta member ders a possibility dat da traks will sell more jus cuz it has tim on it

  7. I like that article Danja is a real dude and Tim took the chance out of all those people. People say Tim takes all the credit when in reality he was letting Danja spread his wings producing along with tim instead of co-produced by danja he has come along way can't wait to hear more music from him.

  8. in my opinion so far if u compare the 2's careers danjas deffinitly beating tim by miles. like if u would have looked back in the day and seen tims beats 4 years into the game there not as good..
    but danjas beats are really good for being so young.
    but of course Tim had to work his ass off to get to where he is.
    danja on the other hand got thrown into the top.

    ITS MY 16TH BDAY 2MORROW BTW!! sooo excited!

  9. I can agree with aayize Tim had to work harder than danja to an extent,people didn't know what to expect from the timbo sound it took time to get used to,where as danja was thrown in with timbo the king after that it was timbo's protege lets give it a listen now people are barely starting to separate the two and he is getting the props he deserves.

  10. VENTURE BRO, your music is not THAT good BRO, u need to calm down with these "exciting!!" post u have about joining mmg cuz I don't see it happening. Step back into reality BRO...

  11. LOL sorry venture bro stan, didn't mean to offend u, just stating the truth...

  12. So much for J Boogie's little theory of Hannon doing 4 minutes......HAHAHAHAH!!!

  13. Remember liner notes don't always tell the full story.

    Go check "Blowed Away" for some knowledge my friend.

  14. I love this, does anyone know if like Tim has a whole life biography out? i think he should write one.. i wanna know bout his past and all the sessions and shit.. y'know? and danja could be included in there too

  15. "I understand that's you don't clap your hands and i need you to understand..."

    Remenber this ?????

    Danja bring it back !!!!!!

  16. "VENTURE BRO, your music is not THAT good BRO, u need to calm down with these "exciting!!" post u have about joining mmg cuz I don't see it happening. Step back into reality BRO..."

    Damn... I ain't even established yet, and I'm already getting some haters. Damn... that is pretty good...

    New VB music will be up soon!

  17. but then again look at Calistylez i mean if Danja was so great wouldnt that sound better than it did?? i thought it was terrible

  18. Danja is still growing. He has been doing it for 4 years +. Ryan Tedder is really good, he is creating a name for himself. Tim been doing this for years, and he just wants to discover new innovative people. I've only been doing this for 10 months, and to that hater that I have... please don't let that old music on my page fool you. January may sound good, but February will sound 10x better. Do you (hating), and I will do me. :)

    I don't think Danja will put all his energy and creativeness in that side project you know? Like plus lets consider that when working with rappers, they are typically less inclined to use new sounds, and try different things. This will limit the producers creativeness and ultimately the rapper. Plus Nate said he broke into producing doing Pop. give him sometime. 4 years is nothing generally. Ask Tim. :)

    - VB

  19. Calistylz or whatever is wack Danja steals the show all the time when they collabo.Danja is definately a beast in pop but can do a variety of genres that most producers can do.

  20. I admit I only listen to Cali because of Danja... I downloaded that whole album a while back and all I spin is the Danja productions.


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