Alex Da Kid: The Idolator Interview
You may not know producer Alex Da Kid by name just yet, but trust us, it’s a temporary situation that’s about to change in 2011. The London-born 26-year-old is the man behind the beats in Emimen and Rihanna’s “Love The Way You Lie” and B.o.B and Hayley Williams’ “Airplanes”—two of this year’s summer radio staples that have now earned the onetime professional soccer player (real name: Alexander Grant) five Grammy nominations.
In our sitdown with hip hop’s rising behind-the-scenes star, he discussed his recent productions (like Diddy-Dirty Money’s “Coming Home” and Dr. Dre and Eminem’s “I Need A Doctor”), what he learned after the way things went down with Nicki Minaj’s debut single “Massive Attack” and the possibility of working on Christina Aguilera’s new material. He also sang the praises of his frequent collaborator and recent signing Skylar Grey. “She plays like nine or ten instruments,” says Alex. “She writes amazing songs. She’s the real deal.”
Catch our full one-on-one with Alex Da Kid below!IDOLATOR: Congrats on your five Grammy nods! ALEX DA KID: Thanks, man. I really appreciate it. It’s been a pretty good year so far!
How did you celebrate after finding out about your nominations? A: I didn’t actually celebrate. I kind of just went home, I think. It was kind of surreal. I didn’t really do much. I went home and had to be in the studio early the next morning.
Have you gotten any requests to work with artists since the Grammy announcement? A: I’ve had a lot of requests just in general. I’m sure the Grammy thing doesn’t hurt, but not so much just because of the nominations. I do get calls from people that are kind of crazy that want to work me. I’ve been getting that for a while now, since “Love The Way You Lie” came out.
Who rang up that really blew your mind? A: There are a few, but I probably shouldn’t talk about that yet. [Laughs] The whole music community has definitely embraced me, which is a good thing. Even if it’s not for work, even if it’s like words of wisdom, I get people calling me.
Were you surprised at just how big “Love The Way You Lie” became? A: I always knew it could do well. When we were [recording] it, I always had a really good feeling about it. But you never know—you could have a good song and things could go wrong at the label, and then it could not see the light of day. So you never 100% know. But I knew that if it got the right attention—which an Eminem single pretty much does—I thought people would really embrace it. Which they kind of did.
How did Rihanna end up singing the chorus on the song? A: Eminem, as soon as he heard it, he heard her on it and really wanted her on it. So they just went after Rihanna and sent it to her. She loved it as well and she knew it was a hit record.
Another collaborative effort you’re behind is T.I. and Christina Aguilera’s “Castle Walls.” Tell us how that one come to be. A: I really wanted to work with T.I. but I wanted to do something a little different. I didn’t want to do the same things he was doing on the past album. I knew people around T.I., like his manager, but I didn’t really know T.I. I knew where he would be, so I would pretty much just show up wherever he was and just randomly hang out. This was post-“Airplanes” and “Love The Way You Lie”, so I didn’t get thrown out of anywhere. I would just show up and start talking to him. After awhile we spoke about a few things and he was into it. So after stalking him, I sent his A&R “Castle Walls”—like the beat and the hook—and he loved it. He laid his verses, and then we were thinking about who we should feature. They had their own ideas, and I just thought immediately—Christina. So I sent it to her and asked her what she thought and she loved it. We recorded it, and T.I. heard what we did and he loved it. And that’s kind of how it happened. It’s a lot of me stalking people! [Laughs]
Well, I always say stalking is the highest form of love. Will you be doing more music with Christina? A: We haven’t started anything. To be honest, both of our schedules are really crazy. We spoke about potentially working together, but we haven’t even got dates and a schedule. She’s promoting her movie and I’m really busy with my new label. If it happens, it will happen in the new year.
Speaking of your new label, you recently signed Skylar Grey, who has a hit right now with Diddy-Dirty Money’s “Coming Home.” How did you two meet? A: We have the same publisher—she’s published by Universal as well. So we met and the first song we ever did was “Love The Way You Lie.” I sent her some tracks, she wrote some stuff and we just had instant musical chemistry. Since then I’ve pretty much put her on most of the things I’ve been doing, and she’s either written or featured on a lot of the things I’ve been doing. She’s signed to my production company and I’m just in the middle of negotiating a label situation through a major record company. We figure probably by January or February I’ll make it concrete and we’ll go from there. To me she’s an amazing artist. She plays like nine or ten instruments. She writes amazing songs. She’s the real deal.
Skylar also features on Dr. Dre and Eminem’s “I Need A Doctor.” Can you clear one thing up about that song—is it meant for Dre’s long-awaited Detox or will it feature on a re-release of Eminem’s Recovery? A: That’s for Detox. I can’t really talk too much about it, but, yeah—that’s for Detox.
You also co-produced Nicki Minaj’s debut single “Massive Attack” with Sean Garrett. Were you disappointed that it didn’t end up on Pink Friday? A: My whole thing is that when I was coming up—you never know what people are going to like and what they’re not going to like. And the whole “Massive Attack “ thing was a great experience for me, because when you’re younger and you’re a producer, people tend to just take your music and—not do what they want with it, but you have less control. I kind of just did the beat [on “Massive Attack”] and then I didn’t have much involvement on anything else that happened. Which, Nicki really tried to get me involved, but there were other things involved. It kind of went the way it went. That was a great lesson for me. Now I go the complete other end—now I have more power and a little more respect, probably. I go to the degree of picking the features on the record. It’s kind of what old-school producers used to do, where they really control what happens musically. That’s what I try to do now, and a lot of that is a result of what happened with “Massive Attack.” That whole thing is judged on something I really didn’t have much control over. A lot of the decisions weren’t really mine.
What’s a dream collaboration you would like to work on? A: My dream collaboration is definitely Lil Wayne and Cher. [Laughs] That would be fun! I would make Lil Wayne sing and have Cher do some gangster stuff. It’s sort of a joke, but at the same time I think that would be cool. I want to do things that have not necessarily been done in hip hop, things that create interest for people. So I’m joking when I say Wayne and Cher, but it’s not too far from what I think.
Well, if you pull that one off, next you have to work on getting Snoop Dogg and Susan Boyle on a track together. A: [Laughs] Now you’re talking!