A lot of your favorite producers made a name for themselves the new-age, YouTube-driven, reality TV way: They moved from behind the mixing board to in front of the music video camera, and became stars—or what the kids call "legends." But DJ Toomp is what we call "old school": He earned legendary status without people even knowing what he looks like.
While producers like Pharrell were probably somewhere at band camp, and Puffy was on his way to college, DJ Toomp was already a professional in a business that swallows producers and spits them back out. Starting off as a DJ for MC Shy D, Toomp turned producer, and later became a Grammy-winning, go-to beatmaker that still has refused to go Hollywood. He's one of T.I.'s mentors, but never brags about it. Jay-Z flies him to New York just to hang out, and he never brags about that, either. Kanye West has used him as a muse in the studio, but for Toomp, it is what it is.
Though he's notorious for looking intimidating on the exterior, everyone who's met him will agree that Toomp is one of the friendliest and most humble dudes they've ever come across. Even when it comes to those jealous of his catalog or money, Toomp is still chipper. "I know how to kill stuff with kindness and a smile," he says softly from his home in Atlanta one evening while making a protein shake. "You just got to know how to deal with people. That’s a gift."
His other gift, production, has created for him a lifestyle that explains why he's so upbeat all the time. His body of work is unparalleled. His list of hits seems endless. And for the first time, in this Complex exclusive, DJ Toomp takes us through decades of his biggest tracks and gives us the in-depth inside stories you've never heard before.
As told to Linda Hobbs
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