Beat Construction: DP Beats

In two years, this producer went from facing an attempted murder charge to a wild residency at Chief Keef’s L.A. mansion.

November 11, 2015

How did you first get into music?

It's been in me since I was a toddler. My mom played the drums. My dad was rapping on and off. I used to see him rap and I would grab the mic. My uncle was a DJ, he used to do security with Das EFX. I was born in Long Island, New York. We were from the same neighborhood that Rakim and EPMD were from, Wyandanch. As I got older I was trying to rap and DJ. I was looping beats, the empty parts, and me and my homeboy would rap on them. Then my cousin threw me a Yamaha keyboard and I would just remake everything I heard on the radio. I learned how to structure music and layer sounds. Eventually somebody showed me Fruity Loops. That was '05. I've just been using it ever since.

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We moved to Virginia Beach when I was two, went back to New York for a bit, then came back [to Virginia]. I stayed there until I was 13, then moved to Fayetteville. I was skipping school and going to beat battles in Atlanta. I was like 15, 16. Everybody's like in their 20s and 30s, and I'd be the youngest one in there. I'd stick out like a sore thumb. I would always get to the last round but I would never win. So I was like, fuck this shit. I started emailing beats and people started using them. I'm like, "Well, if it's good enough for people to use, I guess it's good." I started with Soulja Boy ["Top Back"].

How did Soulja Boy get in touch with you?

Through somebody that would send him beats. They were really trying to use me as a ghost producer. I was cool with it at first, just to get the placement. I would let him tag it and he would leave my tag on it too just to give me the buzz. After a while, I got in some trouble—I got locked up for two years. But before I got locked up, I sent him a gang of beats. He was sending them out to everybody—that's how I got the "Stop Calling Me" with Keef and the "Fuck Em" with Durk and [French] Montana, the Shy Glizzy song "Access." When I came back home, people were still dropping shit that he sent them of mine. Those beats had my tags in them so I was starting to claim credit for everything. That's when I ran into Keef's emails and started sending him shit.

How did you get from that stage to becoming one of Keef's go-to producers?

I first started fucking with him when he was living in Highland Park [Illinois, in 2014]. When Bang 3 was supposed to originally come out, when he was deep into his Interscope deal. I was just sending him shit. He put up 5 or 6 [email addresses]. I would CC all of them motherfuckers on one email; him, managers, everybody. I was emailing, emailing, emailing. Then he started using everything. That's when I got directly connected to him.

At that time I had my daughter and her mother had moved in with me. I was real tied up during the daytime, cooking, cleaning and chasing the baby. Just trying to juggle. When he would send something, I'd be like, this is my opportunity. So I'd be like, "Watch her real quick," and I'd be making the beats and sending beats off. I got to the point where I had to make a schedule. At the end of the night, around 12 a.m. to 6 a.m., that's when I was free. When everyone was asleep, I'd be up cooking beats. Cali's three hours behind us, so that was perfect, because Keef would just be getting to the studio around that time.

Why did you decide to move out to L.A.? What was it like leaving your family behind?

I got out [of jail] February 10th of 2014. I went in at age 18, came out at 20. [Keef’s song] "Tec" came out around July. It got to a point where I was tired of emailing him. I'm about to turn 21 in January. I need to just go somewhere different and jump out there and see what I can get. It's time to meet everybody face to face and take it to the next level. So I flew there and I'm like, "I'm here." I stayed [with Keef] for a whole four months.

For me to go from being locked up in a room—at that point I hadn't even been out [of jail] as long as I'd been in. I was on max—I had [been accused of] attempted murder—in the back with everybody with murder charges. So we in the room 22 hours out the day. I was facing 10-23 years. Everybody didn't think I was getting out. Luckily, they didn't have no evidence. It was word of mouth. I got the plea that I wanted. I had to pay some money. But it all worked out.

Some niggas go in there a month and start crying. Some niggas go in there a year and start crying. I couldn't cry in that bitch. I'm in there with killers! There was niggas from the other side of town. Niggas that I done got into it with. Luckily people respected me for always speaking up for myself. If anything happens—ain't no guns in jail. But I ain't never fold, ever, for nobody or nothing. If motherfuckers try me, I be in that bitch fighting. Niggas respect me for that. So my time went by real smooth.

I started appreciating the small things in life, like being able to eat with a fork and a spoon. I couldn't see trees. I didn't see cars. I ain't never been in no planes or anything like that and then I'm flying to Cali. I'm really humble and appreciative for everything. That's why I have so much love for Keef. No matter what we go through, for one, me and him are going to always have that chemistry. And two, he ain't have to open up those emails and use my beats. Even though it was beneficial to him since all the other shit he was getting was fu. But he needed a new sound. He needed me but I needed him too. It was a mutually beneficial situation.

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I don't be sitting still. If I'm sitting still my face in the computer. My eyes and my ears hurt. I need to get my ears checked, my ears be randomly hurting and ringing. I be going, going, going, going. My mom be like, "Damn, you ain't sat down and actually thought about everything that's happened to you? I thought you weren't ever coming back. And now you're doing all this."

I've gotten shitted over a couple times, fucked out of money, paperwork. That's what I'm learning now, how to deal with shit. [This business] is slimy and I've got to learn how to deal with that. I can't go throw molotov cocktails and shoot up motherfucking A&Rs just because they ain't do me right on an album. I've got to learn how to maneuver having a bad attitude about shit.

I first met DP Beats in February, at Chief Keef's mansion in Los Angeles. At the time, he was the only person staying with Keef, who typically lives alone. DP (born Don Paschall, now 21) had just moved from his home of Fayetteville, North Carolina, 3000 miles away, leaving behind his family and a one-year-old daughter. It was his first time in Los Angeles. "I didn't know nobody over there. No family, nothing. I just took off," he explained in October. "I just said, 'Let me see if it works. If it don't work, I'm just gonna turn around and go back home.'"

Many still associate Chief Keef primarily with Young Chop, the producer whose "Don't Like" and "Love Sosa" beats helped make the rapper 2012's controversial rookie star. But no one has been more integral to the last year of Keef's creative evolution than DP Beats. They made a name together with one-two punch 2014 street hits “Tec” and “Fool Ya.” This year, eager to further their creative chemistry and rebounding from some grave legal trouble, DP joined Keef in California.

"Once I got to his house, he was like, 'I want you stay. And we just gonna work. Show me how to make beats.' I stayed there for a whole four months," DP said. These marathon, all-night recording sessions led to the formation of GGP—Keef and DP's beatmaking brand.

Time with Keef opened up other creative opportunities for DP; he's since worked with G Herbo (formerly Lil Herb) and had sessions with A$AP Rocky, Wiz Khalifa, and Ty Dolla $ign. But of these, the most telling co-sign remains Keef’s. When asked what quality first attracted him to DP's production, he gave a one-word answer that serves as a tribute to DP's titanic work ethic and aggressive hustle: "Amount."

You went through a whole lot. Have you ever tried going to therapy to help with it?

They made me take anger management when I got out. All anger management did was teach me the same shit that I taught myself when I was locked up. Just being in jail is triflin’ for one. But being in the hole? Locked in a room for 28 days? There were so many times I wanted to punch motherfuckers in the head, snatch the phone out and beat niggas with locks in socks and all kinds of shit. But I couldn't do that shit, I couldn't be in the hole any longer. I had to practice self control. I haven't put my hands on nobody in a really long time.

There are therapists who just talk through stuff—not anger management.

I put my emotion into my tracks. Even if nobody gets me mad, I just get mad at myself or get mad at a situation. Then I get on FruityLoops. Ain't nobody gonna understand how I feel, 'cause I'm me and they never been through everything I've been through. When I'm feeling smooth and happy, I make some smooth shit. I might strum some notes and do a little bassline, a mid-high bassline. If I'm feeling mad and aggressive—which is my nature, just dark and aggressive. I just try to paint a vivid picture of how I'm feeling.

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I might feel all fucked up, like I want to go do something—and then I sit my ass right at the computer. Because I'll go outside, get in trouble, and I'll lose. At the end of the day, I'm trying to prove something to these motherfuckers, "I'm hard." When you locked up, that shit don't mean nothing. You can't go to the bank and get no check like, "I'm hard, give me a check. I'm hard, give me a loan." It don't matter how many motherfuckers you shot, how many motherfuckers you robbed, that shit don't mean shit. But I can sit at the computer and make money off how I'm feeling.

Tell me about helping Keef with his own production.

I was kinda mad [when I got to LA] because—you Chief Keef. You got Young Chop and all these other producers around you all the time. And don't nobody wanna show you nothing? Motherfuckers was telling me, "Don't show him how to make beats, then he gonna take it, he ain't gonna need you any more." I'm like, “Well, if he do that, he do it.” He know where he got that shit from. It can only help both of us. That builds me and his bond a lot better, that's me letting my guard down and showing him all my shit that I don't show nobody else. I cloned my whole computer to his computer. Lucky I did, because motherfuckers stole my computer a day before my birthday in San Francisco. I was able to clone my computer back onto my new one.

Keef knew a little bit [about producing] because he made "Faneto" and all that. Chop sent him 808s, he was doing "Faneto" with whatever Chop gave him. So he knew a little bit about beats. But he didn't know nearly what he knows now. I gave him everything. I sat there for four months, day in, day out, we in that computer room in his house. I was in that room so much I started getting a headache when I walked in that damn room.

He was real into it. He liked learning. He was like "Show me how to do this," "Show me how to do that." Teaching him stuff helped me define my sound again. I found myself again. Then he got his sound. I would preset all the sounds so he could always go to them. All those drums that he use now to make his beats—"Tree-Tree," "Green Light," all them crazy melodies he be doing, I preset that shit on his computer so he can just go to it. "Green Light"—I love that motherfucking beat. The melody is—he just shocked me. I know what sounds he picks, but I love how he put that together.

Do you like his ideas as a producer? He's using a language you made, but what does he add to it?

By me showing him shit, he can show me how to do what I was doing in a different way. He always had new ideas—the weird ass sounds, the violin and the congos, them snare rolls—I ended up doing those congos on that "Bricks & Mansions" on [G Herbo’s] Ballin Like I'm Kobe. I always think to the conventional trap sound—pianos, horns, strings—but he's like "Nah." Keef will go back and change the sounds to something weird, to a weird lead synth, but it's still hard at the same time.

He brought the fun back to [producing] to me. It got to a point where this shit was just work—I get bored real easy. He gives me new ideas. It showed me, all right, now I can really be myself. I ain't gotta just stick to what everybody's used to hearing. I can just do something off the wall, just throw it out there and motherfuckers probably gonna like it because it's different. It can be unorthodox, but still within the lane of what people are used to hearing so it don't throw them off.

What was the average day like when you lived with him?

My first night there I got there at 12 a.m. I stayed up with him until almost noon the next day, installing stuff on his computer for him to make the beats. Once everything was on there, he'd be passed out on that white leather couch, I'd still be up. I wouldn't really stop. I'd go to sleep after being up for a whole day and a half, at 10 in the morning. Wake up at 3 or 4 in the afternoon. I might hear him running around the house yelling and slamming the door, or someone banging on the door trying to get in. So I jump up ready to react, and, oh it's just one of the guys at the door trying to get in. Or Keef would come in the room, "DP, wake your ass up, let's make some beats!" And I'd be up all the way until the next day.

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"Tec," your first real underground hit, has an unusual beat. It doesn't sound like Lex Luger or Zaytoven or the guys most people nationally associate with street rap.

I was trying to go for something that's gonna catch everybody's attention but it's still gonna be something Keef likes. I was like, "what are they not doing?" [With "Tec"], I was showing my girlfriend at the time how to make a beat. She was like, "How do you be doing all them snare rolls and all that crazy stuff?" I showed her, I went back, and I finished the beat in like 20 minutes.

I try to master the art of simplicity. Not doing too much, but still having just enough. It's about your drum patterns—you listen to Mike WiLL and them, all those club bangers, you don't really hear no instruments or sounds in the shit, but their drums are hitting. I'm big on my drums and percussion. I just make the melody real simple. When you put so much shit in the beat, it be hard for [rappers]. They be throwing them off. Emailing beats is cool, but you get that chemistry being around them, so they can tell you what not to do. I learned how shape my sound to fit everybody, without doing too much. I had to find my own swing, that would set me aside from everybody without being too off.

How long did it take you to find your own sound?

I just be experimenting. Sometimes I make a mistake while making a beat and then it comes out hard as hell. "You know, I'm gonna keep that just like that." That's how we be working.

I like that trap sound, but I like to put my own spin to it. And just go the extra mile, do something real sliced up. Try to get that vintage trap sound, with the trumpets, like "Zero to 250." The simple stuff, but it gives it that feel. I'll make a hundred beats how I like. I be going crazy telling myself, "Motherfuckers ain't even going to be up on this yet." I play the beat for somebody, and they're like "Next." Three or four months later, I'll play that same beat and motherfuckers will be like, "Oh, let me buy that."

"Bouncin" from Bang 3 Part 2, I made that beat in 2011. Wasn't nobody trying to rap on that back then! It was hard, it was just doing too much. I had to wait until I just happened to play it for Keef. That's why I just be making a gang of stuff that I like.

There’s a kid on Vine and Twitter, @retro_spectro_, he has videos of what he imagines it was like when Keef did "Earned It" and "Bouncin." Have you seen those? Was that what the real recording session was like?

Hell naw. We were at Paramount or something like that, one of them big studios. And I had my iPhone, because I got tired of making beats on the spot. So I'm like, "I've got all these other beats, why am I gonna keep making beats on the spot when we can just go through what I did already?" I plugged my phone in and Keef heard the beat and was like "Alright, I want that." When he picked what he want, he just go in the booth and don't come out until he's done. I think he did a couple takes. Like three takes and did the whole song. When he said that part—Something something something, I forgot now—he was just goin'.

Did he forget what he was rapping while he was in the booth?

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[Laughs] He get in that shit and say anything. Whatever comes into his head, he said. He's funny. His fans, they're gonna love it regardless. He could literally say anything and they're gonna love it.

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