dawaun-parker_phixrAs an artist, your dream is to have the ability to pack and sellout arenas around the globe, while being embraced by millions and millions of your fans in the process.

As a producer, your goal is relatively the same, but with the biggest artists in music lending their voices to your work in order for the two of you to make something timeless and classic—and producer/songwriter Dawaun Parker has been on the latter half of that spectrum since 2005.

Honing his craft at the Berklee College of Music, the young producer with a specialty in keyboarding was able to have the dream job interview of a lifetime when he auditioned his skills for Dr. Dre who was looking to add onto his Aftermath production stable.

After beating out other hopefuls for the job, the N.W.A. legend literally put the newest member of the team right into the studio two days later to work on the Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ soundtrack.

From that point on, his resume reads like a virtual who who’s of the music industry by amassing credits on projects from artists like Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Young Buck, Busta Rhymes, and most recently, Eminem’s Relapse album [Click for review].

Next on the operating table is the much-anticipated Detox album, but before the surgical instruments are used to bring it to life, the doctor’s young surgeon shares his story on how things came to be…


iHipHop.com: So when did you first get into songwriting and producing?

Dawaun Parker: I always liked music I guess, going all the way back to my early childhood. I always liked music, but I never wanted to it as a career, and really didn’t have the desire there either…

I wanted to be a lawyer growing up, and even halfway through high school, that’s still what I wanted to do…

Then I started dabbling with keys, drums, and little stuff like that around 8th-9th grade… As I picked it up more and more, I started to develop a proficiency at it, and it was enough to where the music bug started overtaking me…

I was always a Hip-Hop fan, and then I started reading credits, and I was really into it, but not enough to be involved in it, because I felt too many people wanted to rap…

By the time I was a senior in high school, I knew that I wanted to produce, so I applied to Berklee, and I got it in, and it was a wrap for me…

iHipHop.com: Is there one that comes more natural for you out of the two?

Dawaun Parker: For me, I think that they are pretty much hand-in-hand… I think that the producing area might be a little bit stronger, not in terms of making beats, but being able to turn an artist’s vision into fruition…

I think that I’m pretty good when it comes to collaborating with others, and I can play a lot of things that I hear because my ear is decent… I’m able to capture sounds, and I think I can do that consistently… Songwriting for me is a little more of a painstaking thing, and it’s a little more personal… So that’s a little bit more of a process for me…

iHipHop.com: When did you get your big break? What really put you on the map?

Dawaun Parker: I would say my break is when I met [Dr.] Dre… In terms of anyone really starting to know what I was doing, maybe Busta Rhymes… It took the credit-readers to really start reaching out to me, but word does get around…

Just a couple of days from getting out of school, I had an opportunity to meet Doc, and I let him hear what I could do, and from there that was it… I got on the Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ soundtrack two days after that, and from there we just kept building and building…

d-parker-11iHipHop.com: How did you first hook up with [Dr.] Dre? Was it one of those cases were it was through a friend of a friend?

Dawaun Parker: Yeah it was… I had started to mess with tracks around ’99, and a local crew that I was making beats with; one of the guys was a random guy in the industry…

Like Kay Gee and a bunch of Naughty By Nature cats, and they knew some of the cats who were working on Lauryn’s [Hill] records, and [Wy] Clef and all that…

There was a dude that was an assistant at Warner Bros. at the time, and he had heard some of our stuff, and he knew I was the keyboard guy that did all of the music on the track… I never heard from him again, but he ended up being an assistant to [Dr.] Dre around 2005…

So when [Dr.] Dre put the word out in the building that he needed another guy for his team, he started making calls, and one of the calls was to that team that I was making tracks with back in ’99…

They went and found me, because they knew I was at Berklee, so they put out a call there, and the next day I flew out to meet [Dr.] Dre

There were other keyboard players there trying to make tracks, and they all got sent home, so it’s definitely been a real blessing ever since then for me…

iHipHop.com: What type of things have you picked up from him, and added to the way you go about your business?

Dawaun Parker: On the production level, I learned a lot about space, the quality of your sound, how to get the best vocal performance out of a vocalist you’re working with, and just a lot of things from sitting there watching; not necessarily [Dr.] Dre telling me verbally to “remember this and remember that.”

He’s a genius mixer, and I’ve never seen anyone be able to mix a record like him, and that’s for any genre… I try to look over his shoulder as much as I can when he’s doing that… Just to pick up anything on the EQ level-wise, or anything like that…

Personally I learned a lot from [Dr.] Dre in terms of making your time valuable, treating everybody the same, and just how to be a boss really… Even fitness and getting into the gym, and just everything… He’s been a big part of helping me grow up…

iHipHop.com: Are you also going to be working on Detox—if it ever comes out?

Dawaun Parker: [Laughing]… Yeah, we’re working on it right now… People will know when he’s ready to push that button, and that’s a phrase I’ve been using as of late… But we’re working on it RIGHT NOW, and he’s sounds great in the booth…

iHipHop.com: You’ve worked with Jay-Z on Kingdom Come, 50 Cent on Curtis, Busta Rhymes on The Big Bang, and of course most recently you worked on Eminem’s entire Relapse album [Click for review]
… Is there anyone else out there that you want to work with particularly?

Dawaun Parker: Yeah… There are a lot of other genres… I want to work with John Mayer, I want to work with Björk, I want to work with Jay Electronica, and Drake… I’m pretty much down to hear from anyone to see what we can do…

But I do like a lot people, like Kim Burrell who’s a Gospel singer, and I’ll do a track with Yo-Yo Ma, it doesn’t matter to me, as long as the music is great… [Laughing]

d-parkeriHipHop.com: [Laughs]… Speaking of that, some producers might find the transition difficult going from working with a “Jay-Z” to a “John Mayer.” You don’t find that difficult at all?

Dawaun Parker: No not at all… I think that’s only for people who have had a Hip-Hop foundation… It might be difficult for them, or someone who really perfected their sound in Hip-Hop…

While Hip-Hop might have been the first style of music I feel in love with as a listener, it wasn’t the only music that I played…

So right there, I think that gives me a wider pallet to work with, and I’m an active listener of so many other things besides Hip-Hop—I really don’t play that much Hip-Hop in the house…

I listen to a lot of other things, and I’m a keyboard player, so I can play anything… I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant at all… [Laughs]

iHipHop.com: [Laughs]… Not at all…

Dawaun Parker: But I want to try to play everything… When it comes to arranging strings, I can do all of that, and I plan to…

iHipHop.com: As a songwriter also, do you sometimes find it hard writing for other artists?

Dawaun Parker: I think that if you’re looking at it from a point of where you have to submit a song to someone, and you’re trying to think of what the person wants to say on the project; yes… But I think whenever you have the opportunity to be in the same room as the artist; then it’s fine… As long as they can communicate where they want to go with me, I can deliver it…

So it’s been a blessing for me to be able to do so many things with the Aftermath camp, because it puts you in space where everyone is willing to work with you right in the lab…

You don’t have to do the hustle that a lot of producers do, when they’re trying to pitch beat CD’s to everyone, because it’s a little harder to break through that way… But I’ve been fortunate man, very fortunate…

iHipHop.com: With you being a keyboardist, it’s safe to say that’s the one piece of production equipment you can’t live without? [Laughs]

Dawaun Parker: Well there’s my MPC… I’ve worked and made plenty of tracks without that, but never without a keyboard… So you’re pretty accurate by saying that’s the main thing…

You can play drums on keys, if you pull up a drum patch… That’s it for me… Give me that and a computer, and I’m fine… I also would relish the challenge of having a lunch table, my synths, and nothing else… I’ll work it out…

  • http://www.ihiphop.com/nugobama fisherking

    I see u Dawaun! Its ur boy NUG! Keep up the hard work!!! Come home when ur not busy & see ur ppl>. I’m proud of u kid… ur lookin good too lol. i talk to catfish da otha day we were just talkin about how u did some joints on that eminem record & now i see u on here. CRAZY! KEEP DOIN UR THING BRO AIGGGHHHT…