This is an interview I did with Katie Doolittle from 'Thurston Talks' about how I started rhyming, making beats and DJ Premier putting "Battle Anybody" on his top 2013 list.
By Katie Doolittle
Mild-mannered IT guy by day, hip-hop recording artist by night. For musician Dawhud, having an alter-ego is just a natural part of life.
Every day he puts on his khakis and loafers, commuting to his tech support job. Little do his coworkers know that Dawhud spends his evenings mixing beats and writing lyrics. Little do they know that, under his sensible button-down work shirts, he sports multiple tattoos. Dawhud’s most noticeable ink pays homage to his wife, Kathleen, a classically trained jazz singer. It’s a tangible testimony to the two major loves of Dawhud’s life.
Of course, Dawhud’s passion for music runs more than skin-deep. He’s been hooked since the age of five and can still remember his first exposure to hip-hop. “My dad was changing the channels [on our TV] and we came across the beginning of Run DMC’s ‘It’s Tricky’ video. The beginning of it is Penn and Teller. It’s a skit; they’re doing Three Card Monte.” Though Dawhud’s father changed the channel just moments after the actual rapping started, Dawhud’s interest was piqued.
Arcade at Spider Monkey Tattoos|
did Dawhud’s sleeve tattoo.
It depicts Dawhud’s wife, a classically trained jazz singer.
Fast forward to middle school, when Dawhud realized that having a diverse group of friends meant having access to diverse music. “Where my parents’ collection was a lot of Credence and the Doors and Three Dog Night, my friends had all these Gladys Knight type records.” Using this wider range of music, Dawhud began pause mix beat-making, which involves hours of fiddling with a double cassette deck to create a short beat.
He kept making music throughout high school and college. As he grew older, he was able to afford more equipment and expand his production. But it wasn’t until his mid-20s that Dawhud got serious about recording an album. “A friend of mine, Tommy, passed away and that was really what made me realize that I can’t just think, ‘Well, I’ll get around to it… someday.’”
|Dawhud’s dog Max often keeps him |
company in the recording studio.
Dawhud began revisiting his earlier work, reshaping it into the critically acclaimed Basement Sessions. It’s a concept album examining the relationship between an artist and his larger-than-life on-stage persona. Dawhud describes it as a reimagining of Fight Club set in his own adolescence. It’s about a kid going to high school and then, outside of school hours, meeting up with people to free-style.
The album—indeed, most of Dawhud’s work—celebrates golden-era hip-hop. “The way I tackled it was not to just put something out. I was thinking about all the music I grew up with and liked, and I thought if this is my only shot I want to make something that, one, I would want to listen to and two, if this is it, I want it to be it.”
But as it turned out, Basement Sessions wasn’t it. Dawhud kept getting ideas, kept composing, and kept growing his contacts within the hip-hop community.
Last year, Dawhud sent a song to DJ Premier, who is widely considered one of the greatest hip-hop producers of all time. DJ Premier has his own record company and has worked with such big-name artists as Common, Mos Def, and Snoop Dogg. Currently, DJ Premier also hosts a weekly radio show. Dawhud sent in a copy of his song “Battle Anybody” (featuring A.C.E. One) after hearing that DJ Premier was willing to listen to demos.
“I honestly was like, ‘Whatever. He’s never gonna hear this. But why not?’ And then I completely forgot about it.” It took a friend’s text message to clue Dawhud in that DJ Premier was actually playing his song on air.
“I totally screamed like a little girl,” Dawhud confesses. It got even better. DJ Premier published his list of the top 20 hip-hop songs from 2013… and “Battle Anybody” appeared as number nineteen. Dawhud recaps: “There’s my song. Nobody’s heard of it. Nobody knows who I am. And then it’s right there in between Busta Rhymes and Jay-Z.”
Needless to say, making DJ Premier’s list is a big deal. The initial effects have been positive, but it’s still too early to predict the long-term impact on Dawhud’s music career. He’s actually not investing much effort in trying to forecast the future. “Just putting out the first album was all the success I needed. Everything else has been a blessing and well beyond what I imagined.”
Equipped with such a positive attitude, it’s no wonder that Dawhud enjoys all aspects of his life… both as a mild-mannered IT guy and as a hip-hop recording artist.
Want to hear Dawhud’s music for yourself? Check out the links on his website or look him up on iTunes.