For the past few years, the collective known as WEDIDIT have been on a slow – but steady – rise towards gaining mainstream traction. The group of maverick producers with a gloomy, DIY aesthetic includes D33J (alias Djavan Santos), a multi-talented artist who has undoubtedly had his biggest year yet. In addition to lending his incomparable talents to Mourn, the recently-released, highly-anticipated debut album from Corbin, he has unveiled his own debut solo album Death Valley Oasis, a project that has been three years in the making. It is a curious work; one that finds the beatmaker not only collaborating with Corbin but mainstays of the indie world like Baths and Deradoorian, seamlessly enmeshing these disparate influences into a sound wholly his own.
But for D33J, both his own work and Corbin’s breakthrough just scratch the surface of what he has been up to. His unmistakable sonic fingerprints have been found in the work of everyone from Lil Yachty to Tory Lanez, and his illustrious year thus far seems but a taster of what’s to come for the mysterious artist. We caught up with D33J to discuss bringing his debut to life, working with such a diverse stable of artists and what it’s like to get cursed by a bum.
You’re fresh from releasing your debut album. What was that process like? Did it differ greatly from producing for other artists? If so, how?
Working on Death Valley Oasis was an exploratory process for me. I worked on it over a few years while touring and producing for other people, so I would work on it in moments of stillness between all that. When I’m working on solo shit it can be very impulsive and chaotic. When I’m working with other people, I’m less concerned about bringing out my sound per se, and more about bringing out something from the artist I’m working with. I like both processes and am starting to find a balance between the two.
After three years of production, how does it feel to finally have it out in the world?
Feels great, been wanting to share these songs for years, glad it’s out in the world.
The track “Black Ice” has been described in your own words as “a lullaby for those moments of hypnagogia.” Can you elaborate on that?
It’s a sort of half awake half sleep vibe, you know? The beat is going throughout the whole time, but it’s not on some banger shit. I always end up making these songs that exist in both worlds, like you could chill to it if you wanted to, or move a little.
You’ve produced for a huge range of artists, from Corbin to Lil Yachty. Do you find that there’s a thematic or sonic through-line that unites such various projects?
For the most part, I’m unconcerned with a sonic through-line when working project to project. One thing that keeps re-occurring in these collaborations is my interest in making someone’s deeper cut than their next banger. The way I work and produce always lends itself to sound a certain way, so I think even if it’s unconscious, there ends up being a drive towards making the slower, deeper songs… be it working with Tory Lanez on a song like “Honda Civic,” Yachty on “Like a Star” or when working with Corbin.
With your work on Corbin’s album, did you find any sort of challenge in differentiating that sound from his previous work as Spooky Black?
Working with Corbin always feels natural. With the album, there was almost this innate understanding of what we wanted it to sound like, even if it was unspoken. We started with the first song “Mourn,” and that inspired us to pursue making the album together. We share similar tastes in what we like, and we’re always bouncing influences and investigating new shit together. I worked with Shlohmo on the entire record, and it definitely helps to have someone there to share ideas with and push tracks in ways you wouldn’t otherwise just working alone.
What inspired your moniker D33J?
Lol, its pronounced ‘Deej’ which is what most people called me anyways, so it just clicked.
I understand you fibbed your way into music school, saying you could play guitar without knowing how. How did that end up playing out?
I guess alright lol. I know enough about music to make the things I want, and through production have found workarounds and new methods of making shit without having to be a master shredder or a musical genius.
What keeps you inspired?
Friends making good shit, a sense of permanent boredom and big, big kush.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in the past year?
This is the opposite of advice. The other day outside the show in Vancouver, this homeless dude turned to me and said ‘You’re fucking done’ as he stared me in the eyes. Our van was robbed the next day and a lot of my shit got raided; passport, my gold grill and some audio gear. The advice here is when a bum curses you, heed that shit, or else…
If you could describe your sound in three words, what would they be?
Earth. Water. Fire.
Catch D33J live in New York this Saturday, click here for more info.
For more of our interviews, read our chat with rising rapper Global Dan right here.
- Photography: Aidan Cullen