Interview: David "D.A." Doman Talks About Producing Young Money's "Senile"

D.A. talks about his relationship with Tyga and the years of work he's put in.

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Complex Original

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The first release from Young Money’s new LP, Rise of an Empire, hit the web yesterday, and judging by the sound of it, “Senile,” which features Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Tyga, should remain a fan favorite for some time. One of the reasons for that has to do with the song’s production, handled by 29-year-old David “D.A.” Doman. The subdued track finds the three Young Money spitters going hard over Doman’s rollicking bass tones, skittering 808 hi-hats and a creepy synthesizer melody. The beat is downright haunting.

Doman is an Evanston, I.L. native who got his start in the mid-aughts working with Chicago underground stalwarts like Mikkey Halsted, Kidz In The Hall, and Bump J. In 2011, after a few years handling drum programming for Jonathan “J.R.” Rotem— which landed him a platinum plaque for UK boy band JLS’ “Everybody In Love”— he moved to Los Angeles in search of better opportunities. Through a connection with Tyga, whom he’d started submitting beats to via Myspace years earlier, he wound up contributing to the Tyga’s Careless World: Rise of the Last King and Hotel California albums, and scored his indie latest single, “Young Kobe". Recently, Doman’s also put in studio time with Fabolous (“When I Feel Like It”) and Kevin Gates (“M.Y.B.”, “Get ‘Em”), but he’s hoping the Young Money single sets him for much bigger things.

We called D.A. up on the phone last week and talked about his fifteen year grind to get here and how “Senile” came together…

Interview by Paul Cantor (@PaulCantor)

On Producing "Senile"

What went into the making of “Senile?”
“Senile” was going to be a Tyga single off his album, but his album is not coming out until the summer. He was playing part of his album for Nicki and Nicki went nuts over it. She wanted to get on it, so he gave it to her. She really spazzed on her verse and was like, “We should put Wayne on this.” So then they put Wayne on it. Then everyone was like, “Man, this should be the Young Money single.” So it went from a Tyga single to a Young Money single.

How long ago did you make the beat?
I want to say I made it this past summer. But I went back in and touched it up around Tyga’s vocals, and the Nicki hopped on the second verse, Wayne hopped on the third. It was a dope beat originally, but then I went back in on it and it turned out really well, so it kinda went to the next level beat-wise.

What did you do when you went back in?
I made the sounds crazier. I sequenced the beat out, did a lot of drops that fit the rapping. I had already made changes to go with Tyga’s verses, but I guess they were just on the same wavelength, because I didn’t need to make any more changes after that for it to sound crazy.

Are you going to the be the newest member of Young Money?
No, not to my knowledge. I’m trying to get on as many albums as possible. I’d love to produce for Wayne. I’d love to produce for Drake. I’d love to produce for Nicki. I’m huge fans of all of them. So hopefully you’ll see me on all their albums soon.

On His Relationship With Tyga

How did you first start working with Tyga? 
I’ve been working with him since he’s been putting out mixtapes. I think his first mixtape was called Outraged and Underaged. So I’ve been working with him for about five years. I hit his [former] road manager on Myspace, he passed Tyga the music. Tyga liked it a lot. It was crazy because one of the first joints we ever recorded, he was like “I’m gonna get Lil Wayne on this.” And at that time, Wayne was the hottest thing out. I had never had a big huge name artist on my track. And then like two weeks later, he sent me a copy of “Lay You Down”. Crazy experience. It took years for it to come out on his album [Careless World: Rise of the Last King].

“Senile” was going to be a Tyga single off his album. It went from a Tyga single to a Young Money single.

So you used to email beats to Tyga, but now you’ve been going to the studio now with him every day. What’s the vibe like?
It’s a lot of focused work. Tyga is constantly cutting verses, doing features for other people. I typically bring one or two new beats to the studio every day. Some days I’ll bring a hook. There’s always a lot of talk, interesting music conversation. He’ll cut verses and then we’ll pretty do the same thing the next day.

Well, it’s cool that you have this relationship with Tyga. Young Money always seems to work with the same producers, and you’re breaking in there.
I don’t know if that’s true. I think the artists have their favorites, and that’s true for any artist. Cash Money just pays for it, basically. Wayne likes working with Detail. Drake really likes working with Boi-1da and 40, obviously. Tyga likes working with me and Jess Jackson. So there’s always other producers who are going to make beats and get placements, but it’s always natural for artists to have favorites.

Chicago, L.A., and His Career So Far

Lets backtrack a bit, how did you get into being a producer?
I got into it from a very young age. Started playing drums in fourth grade. I got my first beat machine when I was thirteen. I was into it, but didn’t know it was going to be my life’s passion until high school, when I bought an MPC.

What did your early beats sound like?
I used a lot of Asian instruments, like the koto. I was doing a lot of sample-based stuff. Eventually I started making keyboard beats and now I do a little bit of everything.

Coming up, you worked with a lot of local talent in Chicago, artists who were funded with money that obviously came from illegal activity. You’re a good Jewish boy. What was that like for you?
I knew that they were drug dealers but I didn’t see that part of their lifestyle. It wasn’t that exciting. They had nice cars and they had money to pay for beats, but I didn’t see any illicit activity. There was always a lot people around. [But] when I would be at Bump J’s condo downtown, it was always pretty low key. He was always either watching TV or working on music.

You worked with Lupe Fiasco too, though, right?
Indirectly, yeah. He spit on a record that I produced. It was a Mikkey Halsted record called “You’re Gone.” It’s funny, that record got laid down years ago, but it just came out last year.

It’s a new generation in Chicago that I didn’t come up around. I think they’re making much better music than what was going on when I was coming up in Chicago.

Were any of the new artists from Chicago on your radar before?
No. It’s a new generation in Chicago that I didn’t come up around. I think they’re making much better music than what was going on when I was coming up in Chicago. Their music is top-tier. Some of the best music in the game. Before, the music wasn’t that hot. But now, the music coming out of Chicago is real hot.

Why did you leave?
Partially because of that, I guess. I knew the industry was moving to L.A. I had actually split an apartment in Atlanta and gone back and forth between Chicago and Atlanta for about a year or two, with a friend of mine who is also a songwriter. But Atlanta doesn’t have enough good restaurants for me, so I moved to L.A.

Johna Austin was one of the original reasons I went down there. He’s a legend of a songwriter. I’d emailed him some beats and he was just like, “You should come down.” I almost signed to Sean Garrett. I had a bunch of other independent interactions. But not enough really got done down there, because I just didn’t have enough connections.

You did drums for Jonathan “J.R.” Rotem for a few years. How important is it for new producers to work under someone more established?
I think that’s a great path to take. The J.R. thing in a sense was, but I wasn’t doing full tracks with him. I was just sending him drum tracks. So I’ve never really been mentored by anyone. But the majority of producers who have gone on to become huge have come up under someone. It’s like a shortcut. You can learn so much from someone who pretty much knows everything. I had to learn everything on my own.

But there’s a perception there that if you sign with another songwriter or producer, that you’re automatically going to get a lot of work. Is that the wrong perception?
It depends on the situation. Some situations are great. The reason I didn’t sign with Sean Garrett is because I didn’t think the situation was great. Johna Austin, I couldn’t sign to him because he never put a deal in front of me. Polow Da Don, he put a publishing deal in front of me, but the numbers didn’t look how I wanted them to look. And I wasn’t totally fresh at that time. I had already had placements. I wasn’t young. I was more experienced and didn’t need the mentorship.

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