MixedByAli worked on some of the biggest and best albums of the 2010s.

Over the past 10 years, the mix engineer, born Derek Ali, was behind the boards for classic projects from Top Dawg Entertainment artists like Kendrick Lamar, SZA, and Schoolboy Q, as well as other beloved rappers like Mac Miller, Nipsey Hussle, and Roddy Ricch. 

Ali joined the TDE family in his late teens. “I lived at Top Dawg’s house, and all we had to do was just record all day,” he tells Complex. “Me being the only engineer, I was lucky enough to be around the early Kendrick, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock, and Schoolboy Q. I’m the only guy recording all of these guys at one time, so I sharpened my sword as they were doing that for themselves.” 

In the 2010s, Ali’s won three Grammys for his work on Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, To Pimp A Butterfly, and “This Is America,” and was nominated five times. But he says he’s not in it for the accolades. “We definitely are grateful and appreciate it, but we work to create good music,” he explains. “We just wanted to create the best, most positive music we could, and whatever comes after it is the cherry on top.” 

Looking to the next decade, Ali is ready to help others learn the engineering business. He will be launching an online platform called EngineEars in 2020 that he says “pairs independent artists with independent mixing engineers, and gives engineers a way to have a home to conduct business properly, to have a personal manager, take payments, and to handle things to where it’s more streamlined and more professional.” 

“Engineering has always been a niche, behind the scenes, type of thing,” he adds. “I want the kids from the hood to know you don’t have to be a rapper or producer to be successful in the music industry. You can learn mixing at anytime by going to EngineEars.” Ali will be embarking on his Seeing Sounds Tour in 2020 to teach mixing techniques to aspiring creatives. As for what music releases he has in the works for 2020 (including a rumored Kendrick Lamar album), Ali is coy: “You’ll have to wait.” 

Celebrating the final days of the decade, Ali walked us through each year of the 2010s and shared stories behind some of the best albums of the past 10 years. This is MixedByAli’s decade, in his own words.