interview DJ KHALIL (PART 1) (July 2009) | Interview By: Nima Etminan

   Dubcnn sat down with possibly the hottest producer in the game right now, DJ Khalil for an in-depth 2-part interview. In this first part, we discuss DJ Khalil's upbringing, being the son of a NBA player and how he first got introduced to music. Khalil tells us about his inspirations and his first steps as a musician and how he ended up meeting his partner-n-rhyme Chace Infinite to form Self Scientific.

We then get into his relationship with Dr. Dre and Aftermath, on which we tried to get Khalil to talk as much as possible.

As you know, it's hard to find out what's really going on in the Aftermath studios, but Khalil opens up about the recent Detox leaks and Dre's reaction to them, what he thinks of fans criticizing Dre's perfectionism and why he admires his mentor as much as he does.

Look out for Part 2, where Khalil describes a typical studio session with Dre, talks about Bishop Lamont, and his current projects. We talk about the Slaughterhouse album, producing the Clipse & Kanye track "Kinda Like A Big Deal", Khalil's group the New Royales, and what else we can expect from DJ Khalil in the times to come.

As ever, you can read this exclusive interview below and we urge you to leave feedback on our forums or email them to nima@dubcnn.com.

Interview was done in July 2009

Questions Asked By: Nima Etminan
Related Media

Slaughterhouse - The One (Video)
Defari - Show Some Luv (Clean & Explicit) (Produced By DJ Khalil)
Cashis - Just Another Day (Produced by DJ Khalil)
ishop Lamont - Missile Testing (Death To Infidels) (Produced by DJ Khalil)
Bishop Lamont - Bitches On My Dick (Produced by DJ Khalil)
Xzibit - Gotta Get 'Em (ft. Kobe) (Produced by DJ Khalil)

Chino XL - I'm Coming (Produced By: DJ Khalil) (Explicit)

Interview Audio

Download The Full Interview Audio: Here
Download The DJ Khalil Dubcnn Drop: Here

Dubcnn: Dubcnn is right here with DJ Khalil! We're gonna go in-depth on this interview, so before we get into all the greatness that's going on right now, let's rewind back. Tell us about ur upbringing and how music found its way into your life.

Well, my dad played in the NBA. He played for like 10 years, and being how NBA players are, even today, they hang out with a lot of musicians. Back then it was a lot of jazz musicians, my dad used to get records from everybody. I just grew up around a lot of great music. My dad is from Philly so he's a big jazz head. I grew up listening to that, Luther Vandross, a lot of soul stuff, everything. That's kind of how I got introduced into music. I used to always sneak in my dad's stereo component system and I used to make tapes, pick out my own songs and all that stuff. I just grew up around a lot of great music. Then I finally picked up DJ'ing when I was in junior high. After that I just had the buzz, I loved DJing. That's pretty much it.

As far as your transition into Hip-Hop, who were you listening to when you got into making beats?

When I started making beats, which was around '91, I was listening to Gangstarr, Pete Rock, Main Source, it was the Golden Age! Public Enemy, anything the Bomb Squad was doing, Marley Marl, 45 King. I wanted to make that music. I met a friend who had a studio and he had a sampler and all kinds of stuff. I used to sneak out my dads records and go over there and we would just make beats all day. That's all I did, every summer, making beats. I had no idea what I was doing, but I loved it! I wanted to spend all my time doing it and eventually, when I went away to college, I bought a ASR10 and started doing it everyday. That's pretty much like how I got started.

Dubcnn: You got your first break as one half of the group Self Scientific. How did you and Chace Infinite hook up and decide to form a team?

It's funny cause Chace and I met through playing basketball. They have this thing in Santa Barbara called Superstar Camp and it's a invitation only basketball camp where they take some of the top junior high players. He was invited and I was invited, we were like the top guards in our age group. We ended up playing against each other and that's how we got introduced to each other. We started becoming friends and we were playing in the same league in high school. So before the games we would hook up, I had started making beats and Chace was rhyming. After a while we became really good friends, he started coming to the studio and we started recording! We cut like a 4 song demo in one summer and that's how we started. We weren't even called Self Scientific then, we were called something else.

What were you called?

We were called the Numbskulls. *laughs* We were just making music, we didn't think about getting signed or whatever. We just wanted to hear ourselves. That's how I got started. But Self Scientific didn't actually come about till we went to college in Atlanta. We lived together for a while and I was making beats every day and Chace was just rhyming, he came up with the name Self Scientific and all that. We started recording, making songs, and everytime we came out to L.A. we recorded demos. That kinda blossomed into the group.

Dubcnn: Back then, when you were on an underground level, did you have aspirations to become a force in the mainstream scene?

Nah, man. I didn't even really know you could make money doing it! *laughs* I wasn't really focused on that, I just wanted to make beats so I could listen to it in the car, you know? Like I'd hear a Pete Rock beat or a J Dilla beat or whatever and I just wanted to make something that fresh. For a while, I just loved the craft, being able to do that, listening to new records, new styles of music, trying to see what I could come up with. I was fascinated by it and I didn't really know until around 2000-2001 that I could actually make money and have a career! That wasn't my focus at first.

At what point did you first meet Dr. Dre? I heard it had something to do with a Keith Murray record that you did?

Well no, all that kind of happened at the same time. I had Keith Murray's joint, Def Jam calling me, and then Dre had signed an artist named Brooklyn. She did a demo with a bunch of my beats and a couple of other producers like Jake One. Dre heard it and loved all the music and he wanted to keep it for an album. I actually met Dre for the first time when I was 13 at my parents house, through a mutual friend. That day, I talked to him and I told him I was a DJ. He was my hero! So I was talking to him and I was bugging out! I told him "Dude, I'm gonna be a producer!" He remembered that.

When I saw him when we reconnected through the whole Brooklyn thing, we had a laugh about it, he was tripping out over it! At that point, I had so much music that I started just giving him stuff. He was really excited about what I was doing and just how creative I was. Back then I was still very raw, but he saw something. Probably a month later after connecting with him that day, they were like "Yo we wanna bring you on board." I've been there ever since!

Did you have any doubts about becoming part of the Aftermath team?

Nah, not at all. At that point I was so new and it was an opportunity to learn from one of the greats and be associated with him. Everything is a stepping stone and he has helped me with every stage of my career. Directly and indirectly, Dre has been a mentor to me. And it made perfect sense at the time: they had 50, Aftermath was on top! That made the whole situation that much better. But just to work with Dre and have him interested in my music, you can't beat that!

That's what every producer says that worked with him, they only have positive things to say, like being around him is such a great experience. But concretely, what are some of the most valuable lessons you've learned while being at Aftermath?

Man, there have been so many. For one, Dre, through everything he has accomplished, is still a very humble person. That's one thing that when you meet him, that strikes you. He's very humble. But he knows that he is about excellence. That's one thing that you pick up. You can't go into a room with him and play him something that's half assed or that's not up to par. You can't fake it with him, he'll call you out. He'll tell you! He gives you constructive criticism and he does it to me all the time, even now there are a lot of things that I have to improve on. But the main thing is that he's a producer. Like he produces vocals, he's a perfectionist, he can jump on a SSL and mix a record, he knows exactly what he wants and he makes decisions.

As a producer, you have to make a lot of decisions, every little thing, every little vocal, every snare, every hi-hat, where stuff is supposed to go. He is very in tune with that and just trying to craft the best piece of music possible. Recently I was in the studio with him and I got to actually watch him coach somebody doing vocals and just how he thinks about records. He wants everybody to love whatever record he's working on. He wants cross generation, world wide type records. He's very particular about what's being said on a record, how it's being said. He's just the ultimate perfectionist, professional producer. That's what I learned the most.

What's funny is that you see Dre getting criticized by the public a lot for taking so long to put something out. But all the artists and producers who work with him never have anything negative to say about him. What do you think that makes him so special to people working with him?

I guess it's because we're close to it and we support him. If anybody has the right to take as long as they want for a record, he can. His resume speaks for itself. Not only that, but he still has the most anticipated record, period, anyway. That's undeniable. It's not like if he puts his record out now people aren't gonna go get it because they're mad! *laughs* People are gonna get the record. Now how they take it in or whatever, that's up to them. But I just feel like if he wants to take time out to make the best record possible, then I think he's earned that right.

Honestly, he has nothing else to prove to anybody, as far as I'm concerned, after breaking superstar artists and creating several different movements and hit records. What else does he really have to prove? It kinda sucks that people even wanna doubt him like that, but that's Hip-Hop. That's the record business, it's all about what you've done lately. Especially in Hip-Hop, I don't think it's like that in Rock or anything else. But I think Dre has earned the right to take the time to make the best product possible. Every time he drops, it's a new movement, and it takes time to create that. They've had a heck of a run so now it's like starting fresh. Only he has the answers to that and nobody else.

I believe Focus... recently left the 'Math and he said he was tired of making music and it not getting released. Is that something you can relate to?

No, I don't look at it that way. I work for Aftermath, I'm a staff producer, I signed the deal, so no. I've also been able to work with Jay-Z and Game, 50 Cent... I'm able to do records outside of the camp so for me personally I don't have any regrets about anything. I don't know, I can only speak on my experience. I can't speak on Focus, who is one of my favorite producers and one of my mentors too. Everybody's experience is different. But me, I don't have any problem whatsoever. At first, I just wanted to be heard over there! After a while it was like, you couldn't even get heard over there! But now it's different. I don't have any issue with it at all. If they hold on to stuff, then that's what it is. I gotta keep working regardless. That just means I gotta work ten times harder. Dre is very particular about what he keeps anyway.

There was a Detox leak with T.I. on it and Kobe on the hook, that sounded a lot like your work, is that correct?

You know, I can't comment on any of that stuff... just so you know... I can't really talk about it either way...

I'm just saying, it sounded like it was you behind the boards. That was a good record too, I liked Kobe's hook. You know which one I'm talking about? That "This Is Detox".

Right, right.

How slim are the chances of leaked records ending up on the final product?

You know, who knows... He has so much music, there is so much music. Who knows what's gonna make it, what's not gonna make it. He's got an arsenal of music that's crazy. Stuff that just leaked and that's kinda out there, who knows if he's gonna keep it or not. I mean the response was really good on everything that got leaked, so that's a positive sign. But who knows! *laughs* He might scrap everything right now and just start fresh. You never know with Dre.

What's behind these reference tracks that leak? Is that actually a Dre beat for Detox that Ludacris was rapping over on the new joint that just leaked? Or did somebody make a beat that sounds like a Dre beat and he writes to it? What's the system behind that?

I don't even know. There's so many people working on songs for him and so many people that wanna be on this record. There are a lot of producers that are submitting ideas all the time and of course they end up getting leaked or whatever, then it's like "Oh there is a Detox leak!" Who knows if it's official, if Dre's even heard it or anything.

What's Dre's reaction to these leaks?

He's very calm. He's jut like "Oh well".

Does he even give a f-ck?

He does initially, because that's his record, his ideas that he's been working on, so of course, that would make anybody upset at first. But his attitude is more like "well, what can I do about it now?" *laughs* It's done, he can be upset about it or just keep working. He's really cool about that. A lot of the records actually leaked on his birthday and we were with him and talked about it and he was just like "we'll make more stuff". He doesn't really trip off that stuff.

What I don't get is, why do these people who write for him, all write the same sh-t?! Isn't he tired of hearing that he's the greatest, he brought you the Chronic, I'm in my 6-4? Nobody can come up with something creative for Dre?

*laughs* I don't know, there's way more to him than just that. He's not gonna talk about his accomplishments on every record. There is a lot of stuff that he's learned along the way, he's had a long career in the music business, so many stories. But see, when you start creating for him that way, that's a first sign that he's not even gonna listen to it. He's gonna be like "nah, I'm cool". Because he's heard it so many times! He's the greatest, this and that.

Yeah we don't wanna hear a whole album of him bragging.

Oh no it's not gonna be a whole album of that. But that's what everybody keeps submitting!

Can you describe a typical studio session with you and Dr. Dre? How involved are the musicians in the creative process?

Look out for Part 2, where Khalil answers this question, talks about Bishop Lamont, and his current projects. We talk about the Slaughterhouse album, producing the Clipse & Kanye track "Kinda Like A Big Deal", Khalil's group the New Royales, and what else we can expect from DJ Khalil in the times to come.


Download The Full Interview Audio: Here
Download The DJ Khalil Dubcnn Drop: Here

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