The neo-soul movement is in mourning today following news that producer Dominique Trenier has died. According to Okayplayer, Trenier, who was best known as D'Angelo's former manager, was found dead in his Los Angeles home on Friday morning. The cause of death remains unknown.
A 20-year veteran of the music industry, Trenier worked with D'Angelo on Voodoo (which he executive produced) and served as the creative force behind the neo-soul artist's iconic "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" video. Prior to working with D'Angelo, Trenier co-produced the 6x platinum Space Jam soundtrack alongside R.Kelly in 1996.
After Voodoo, Trenier launched his own record label, Cheeba Records, signing funk and soul singer Nikka Costa. He also produced Mark Ronson's 2003 debut studio album, Here Comes The Fuzz. Late last night, Ronson shared a touching tribute to Trenier on his Instagram, calling the late producer "my musical mentor, my most trusted set of ears, and my earliest champion." Check out the two-part open letter below:
Words for Dom Part 1 For a good chunk of my life, Dominique Trenier was one of my very closest friends. He was also my musical mentor, my most trusted set of ears and my earliest champion. At 24 years old, I was just a downtown kid playing records at trendy hip hop clubs. One Friday night, he came up to my booth in the VIP room at Life and said, “Yo, i got this girl. She’s got an incredible voice…really incredible. Anyway, i don’t know what the album’s supposed to sound like exactly, but i want it to feel like one of your [DJ] sets. You know, EPMD, AC/DC, Chaka Khan…Biggie, all that shit”. I was both psyched and incredibly flattered. Dom was a already a bit of a downtown icon. His music cred was nuts. He worked with D’Angelo & rolled with Puffy, Russell and Andre. His charisma was off the chain, all types of people were drawn to him (i think he was holding court with Chris Rock & Rick Rubin that night). And most recognisably, he had this crazy raspy voice that sounded like he’d been gargling razor blades since the age of 6. Nobody knew how his voice got that way. Like Seal’s scars, one morning he apparently just awoke that way. And the fact that a young black man could have the same throaty timbre of a 70 year Jew from Brooklyn only added to the legend of “Exotic Dom”. A few weeks later, he introduced me to the “girl”—Nikka Costa. And over the next two years, under Dom’s musical guidance, Nikka, her husband Justin and I produced Nikka’s debut album—which in turn led to me getting my first album deal with Elektra. Also, being a walking charm factory, Dom always knew the best people to hang with in every city. The time we visited London, Dom says, “Yo. My friend Jade said the flyest club night is tonight. It’s called YOYO. We’re going”. That night, I met Leo Greenslade & Seb Chew. Through my incredible friendship with them and playing their night YOYO over the years, among other wonderful things, I met Lily Allen. Dom also introduced me to Guy Moot at an early Nikka gig in London. A few years later, Guy sent Amy Winehouse to my studio in NY to see if we would click musically. I can trace most every important thing that happened in my career back to his hand
Words for Dom Part 2 I was so in awe of him, his immaculate taste and instincts. In the studio, he was the only person who’s opinion I held as important as my own. And i loved him. Being around him. Listening to his brillo-pad rasp wax poetically about music for hours on end—yes, he liked the sound of his own voice as much as we did. I treasure the memory of the late nights we would spend in the studio. Listening through demos and beats, “do you like this one, Dom?”. I looked up to him like an older brother, and i could feel the pride bursting through him when i did something good. And it was one of the best feelings I had as a young artist striving for a sense of worth. Over the years, we went in and out of being in touch. I know he was going through some dark times. Sometimes I tried to help out and sometimes i foolishly/wishfully thought he would sort it out. The last two or three years had been increasingly fraught. Some of our encounters awkward even. A few weeks ago in Los Angeles, me and my brother Alexander were pulling up to the driveway of the hotel where i was staying. I saw Dom walking out. It was one in the morning, I was tired and usually would have taken a raincheck but i wanted to see him. i missed him and wanted to share his company again. I missed hearing his magical brain spout off wild monologues. So did my brother. We hung. Listened to new music we were all working on. He lay on the couch of my room, staring at the ceiling. Like the thousand other times he had laid on a couch while i had played him some demos for the first time. Him deep in thought, me thirsty for his stamp of approval. He did approve of the music. He was even singing along by the second chorus of a new Lady Gaga tune I played him. it’s bittersweet but I’m glad i’ll always be able to hear his signature throaty gravel in my head every time i hear that song. He got up from the couch and we made plans to hang when i was back at the end of August. i don’t know if that would have happened even if he hadn’t tragically passed away yesterday. I do know that his love, his influence and his voice…that voice…will be with me til it’s my time to go. i love you Dom.