Danja gives insight on some of his co-productions with Timbaland
I’m so Fly – Lloyd Banks:
Danja: “The way me and Tim were working at that time was that he would pick a sample and I would create a loop. When you listen to ‘I’m So Fly,’ you hear the flutes and the guitar and all that stuff. Those were things that I played. Tim would sample that and put a beat to it in his ASR-10. I was creating samples for him to use that were original records.
“I would play the instruments however I want. I would do a dummy drum beat-because I knew he’d do the drums-and just create everything musically. Then I would take out all of the drums. He would run it through his ASR, sample my loop, and recreate the drums. Then we’d probably add a little more when he got the Protools up.
“For the most part, we used everything we made. Even before I met him, sound selection and quality were big things to me. By the time I got to him, I was able to identify good sounds. We didn’t go and make a track and have to replace sounds later. We never had to do that, it was always a one-shot deal.”
Put You On The Game – The Game:
Danja: “I had a little set up in the house so I started doing some tracks. Tim worked on the bus while I was working in the studio. He came back in the studio off that bus with that track and it blew everybody’s head off in the studio. He came in and said, ‘I got something.’ I added on the choir, the piano, and stuff like that. The beat was definitely done by him, I was just in there but it was a competitive thing. It was always a competitive thing with us in the studio, that carried through the projects we worked on.
“I don’t know where Tim finds his [sounds]. He had stuff like that just sitting. You could make five beats just off the sounds he has. His sound collection and the elements he would find are so crazy and so easy that it’s a layup for him, he can just put stuff together. Once you get certain elements, sometimes they can almost work for any track.
“As far as myself, I have a massive amount of elements sometimes like little voice samples or little hits. You got them all pulled up in the studio, you can incorporate them into any track, but it takes time to search for all of that. Once you have them, it’s amazing because it makes your track that much more interesting, that much more intricate, and those are the elements people will remember.”
Promiscuous – Nelly Furtado feat. Timbaland:
Danja: “We worked on Nelly Furtado’s album first and then during the mixing process for that, Justin came in and started his project. So we did those back to back. We jumped right into Justin’s in Virginia and while we were finishing his project, we jumped into Shock Valueand finished that. We would start an album and during the mix of one album, start another album as the singles from the previous album rolled out.
“Tim had a working relationship with Nelly Furtado for years, she did remixes [with Missy and songs with Ms. Jade]. She was on Interscope as an artist and his label was there. It was a natural progression of artists being on the same label and Jimmy Iovine giving him the opportunity to produce that next album. That whole thing was made in Miami and mixed in Virginia. It took at least three months.
“I was in the studio [the whole time]. [Laughs.] I didn’t have time for the clubs. If anything, I was at a strip club. [Laughs.] I was in the studio knocking things out, [Tim] might go out and catch a vibe and come back. His studio was down in Virginia and he decided to go to Virginia to mix and start Justin’s album there.
“I had a beat playing. Tim walked in and said what came to him. he started doing the hook and added some drums. A lot of stuff we would start together, some he would start on his own and some I would start on my own. Then we’d come together and finalize it.
“The funny thing about ‘Promiscuous’ is he had that record done before we started on Nelly, though he might have had her in mind for it when we made it. I don’t remember if she was 100 percent feeling it or not. It was one of those, ‘I like it but we’re still getting ideas out.’ In the end, that was the last song we completed for the album. It ended up being the biggest song on the album.”
Say It Right – Nelly Furtado:
Danja: “For ‘Say It Right,’ everyone was in a room together and Nelly had a mic, Tim had drums, I’m playing chords. It was a tiny room and we did all of the records in there. Nelly would write down dummy vocals and then she would write out the lyrics while she was in the booth. She’ll write some stuff down and sing it, that’s how that one went.
“We weren’t even sure of the direction [of the album] at that point. I was just tossing ideas. Tim is a well more versed as a producer so he knew what he was doing. I’m sure Tim had a divine plan on how he wanted album to be. It was a smart thing to incorporate some of the old, classic Nelly Furtado with the new that we brought. It was the perfect blend. Everybody was happy: She gained new fans, her old fans saw her in an new light, and it worked perfectly for her.
“[She became a bigger star] just doing the uptempos and club-type records. I didn’t know any of that would work in the club but it did. With those projects, it was straight energy, there wasn’t a lot of thought put into it. I could say, ‘Okay, we might have been thinking of making it this was.’ But no I don’t think we thought about too much of anything, it was just good energy, good creative juices, and good chemistry flowing.
“We were all super excited. We knew we were doing something different. It’s was up to the powers that be, the executives, to identify the hits and the singles. That’s how the process went but we didn’t really think about it. We were just having fun. But we were working at all times of the night. I would go in as early as possible, sometimes 5 o’clock. We would go until 8 in the morning. We were dedicated to the studio.”
Maneater – Nelly Furtado:
Danja: “For Nelly [we might have had some leftover songs], but we used most of what we recorded. With ‘Maneater,’ we had a record going. I came in and dropped some drums down and the idea for ‘Maneater.’
“In general, we’d be working on ideas before Nelly got there and she would jump right in. She was opened minded, Justin was open minded too. You got to be an open-minded person, you got to be willing to accept what we’re doing in the studio, and not be scared. You just add your own thing and make it a hit. It just so happen we were making incredible music at the same time. When you have an amazing track, an amazing melody and lyrics, and a superstar artist such as Justin or Nelly, you’re gonna get what happened in 2006.”
SexyBack – Justin Timberlake feat. Timbaland:
Danja: “Tim and Justin already had a smash with ‘Cry Me A River’ [before I came into the picture]. Tim worked on four records on the first album so it’s one of those ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ type things. They maintained the relationship and Justin went back to work with him. I just so happened to be in on the process.
“We need to making [one artist/one producer albums]. There’s talk within the industry of people wanting to do that again. Every classic album has that element [of a single producer]. There’s not too many albums nowadays that have a plethora of producers and writers that’s been super successful. Yes, there are some, but there are very few.
“For ‘SexyBack’ We were vibing in the studio. The way those sessions went, we jumped right in. The first record we did was ‘What Goes Around Comes Around’ and then we hopped into another idea. Me and Timbaland were jamming in the studio and Justin was there. We were recording while we were busting riffs, melodies, and beat patterns.
“There was maybe 45 minutes to two hours of us just jamming and they turned into songs like ‘SexyBack,’ ‘Summer Love,’ ‘Sexy Ladies,’ and another track. We went back, fine-tuned them, and make them songs. Everything we did in those sessions ended up on the album except for one song. Everything else, we made it on the spot and ended up on the project. There was no leftover songs from the FutureSex/LoveSounds sessions except for maybe one.”
LoveStoned/I Think She Knows (interlude) – Justin Timberlake:
Danja: “Tim really went in on that. He had beatboxing, drums, guitar and all kinds of things going on. By the time I got to the studio, that thing was rocking already. I added some stuff here and there but it was a masterpiece by the time I walked in, he was in the zone with that one.
“The creative energy in the studio is important and it’s a vibe. It’s a domino effect: If good things happen, we’re just going to keep going. It doesn’t stop. It’s easy. You’re not distracted and we know we have nothing but time to work.”
What Goes Around… …Comes Back Around (interlude) – Justin Timberlake feat. Timbaland:
Danja: “That one was the first one we did in one day. We walked in, kicked it, then we got busy. I started playing that guitar lick on the keyboard and Tim came right in. hopped on the drums and it just had came about. It built from there. Justin was excited about it, he loved it.
“That song set the tone for the project. It just happened, no over thinking. As soon as you’re not open to the first thing that comes out are you’re like, ‘Nah, I don’t want to do this. Let’s go in this direction,’ that’s when you’re bringing ‘over thought’ energy into the studio and that’s not what you want.
“For everything we did, there wasn’t a lot of second guessing. We just went and did it. We didn’t have to redo anything. The only thing we were doing when it came to a song-to-song basis was asking, ‘Do we need a bridge? Do we need an intro?’ We weren’t recording songs and saying, ‘That’s not going to work for this project.’
“It was common to have jam sessions where we played for a few hours. It would be me and Justin. We had a bunch of sounds loaded up and we were just going. He’s pulling stuff up in spur of the moment. Our engineers had to be so skillful and quick to be able cut up and chop what we’re doing at the same time. We would have five or six keyboards going, drum machines, and we were just doing music in real time.”
Until The End Of Time – Justin Timberlake:
Danja: “That’s another one that was done in that jam session and we did those four records just vibing, knocking stuff out. Then we went back and finished it. We did ‘Summer Love’ in that same jam session. Even though ‘Summer Love’ didn’t have a video, it was a pretty big summer record. so we did a lot in a compressed amount of time.
“Justin would be writing it but he was writing it in his head. [Laughs.] If you can find a piece of paper with lyrics from any of those records, that piece of paper would be worth so much money because that’s rare. He came up with stuff off the top of his head, went in the booth, and just put it all down.
“You wouldn’t even think he had a whole song. He’d listen to it walking back and forth, he’ll go upstairs and eat, we’ll be talking, we’ll be doing whatever aside from music. Next thing you know, he’s like, ‘Alright, I’m ready to go in.’ [Laughs.]
“He’d go in the booth and lay down a whole song. He would do one take and then add on to it. I’m sure he rehearsed it in his head before he laid it down, but he knew how he wanted to sing it.”
Way I Are – Timbaland feat. Keri Hilson & D.O.E.:
Danja: “All those records [with Nelly, Justin, and the Timberland solo stuff] came together in that one year. For that song, I had some sounds and then Tim started playing my keyboard messing with sounds. I had a beat going and he did the [melody]. It was weird because now I’m sampling him [instead of the other way around]. I added the drums and everything around it.
“We both are always developing a new style so it evolved through the album-making process. It’s always evolving, it’s going to change and turn into something different. We strive to keep switching our styles, that’s how we maintain eclectic sounds.
“We would all give our feedback to each other. It goes both ways. It may come from one person, but we have to have an open mind [just like I was saying about Justin and Nelly] having an open mind. If they weren’t feeling it and they want to go in another direction, we have to be open minded enough to do it. Just like they have to be opened minded enough for us to give them something that may be a little bit different.”
Give It To Me – Timbaland feat. Nelly Furtado & Justin Timberlake:
Danja: “Tim had that beat and he was like, ‘Yo man, put something on top of this.’ I start adding all the different chords and other stuff and he was loving it. Nelly was in there writing, Justin came in way later and he did his verse. If you think about it, it felt like ‘Promiscuous.’
“[When we had a series of hits] it was one of those surreal moments. I didn’t realize what was going on until later. I’m such a studio rat and not caught up in the industry and the hype. So in the midst of all that, I did something for Britney. I stayed busy.”
Ayo Technology – 50 Cent feat. Justin Timberlake & Timbaland:
Danja: “Me and Tim were working on another album, we were just in the same place at the same time. 50 reached out to Tim and it just happened. In the midst of everything, all the success and the flood of people coming, 50 Cent was just in the mix.”
4 Minutes – Madonna feat. Justin Timberlake & Timbaland:
Danja: “We both spoke to Madonna separately. She reached out to me and I was like, ‘Of course I would do it with Tim.’ She reached out to Tim as well and circled all the communication and we ended up in London working.
“She was there writing, open minded, not a lot of input track wise. Justin was writing and myself and Tim were doing tracks. It was real easy. The biggest stars are the easiest ones to work with. Some of the artist with no hits or are mild success are the biggest pain in the ass, so it’s amazing to work with Madonna.
“She’d crack her little jokes in her dark way. She had a dark sense of humor and you got to be witty to keep up. She didn’t say anything specific but you wouldn’t know if she was cracking a joke. You can’t take her serious or be sensitive because she’s probably kidding.”