On a Monday night I don’t typically do too much; I’ll go home and work on music or write for the blog. A paid job to an unpaid one. But this past Monday night I beelined from work out the door and impatiently waited for a lyft to take me to Cambridge.
I patted myself down in the the crisp Boston air to make sure I had everything I needed: wallet, phone, keys, hand recorder, headphones…. fuck. I left my headphones on my desk.
I thought to myself, if I really need them I’m sure someone else will lend me a pair.
20 trafficky minutes later I found myself still in traffic. I thanked the driver and got out to walk the rest of the way. I walked past two tour vans and turned my gaze to the one with an Oregon plate to find some tired looking bodies past my own reflection. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about knocking on the door and introducing myself then and there but I didn’t want to ruin any pre-show rituals or prayers. If I were that far from home and fighting a cold on the night of a performance I wouldn’t want any surprise visitors coming to check out my already cozy quarters.
I walked past the van and towards the venue to find myself about 15th in line for the meet and greet event. The more shows I go to the older I find myself in comparison to the crowd. Again, oh well. The girl in front of me looked up who’s playing the show on her phone and told her friend she found him cute. Iz-eye-ah? The kids behind me thought out loud about how to pose for their pictures and mourned the lack of couches in what they thought would be an intimate meet and greet. Instead we were all in a line that looped itself past will call, down the hall, to the right, past the coat check and into the main room preceding the venue. Anyone who’s been to The Sinclair knows what I’m talking about.
Although I felt old compared to most of the fans I couldn’t beat the heartwarming father who had seemingly taken his young son to the event. My mom would never have taken me to meet a rapper.
Eventually Isaiah Rashad showed up in an Adidas clad outfit looking radiant and worry free. Very unlike someone that’s been on the road for a few weeks. The line slowly mulled along as I watched his interaction with each and every fan that came to support him. Isaiah followed the lead of the fans as they determined just how intimate the interaction would be. Some shy kids tried an awkward handshake, got their poster signed, picture taken, and then left. Others screamed and hugged him almost too hard as they soaked up the warmth from Isaiah’s generous smile. If it weren’t for his manager, Matt Miller, they would’ve stood there talking for well over their allotted time slot. This whole time I’m giggling at the funny encounters and watching from maybe 10-15 feet away. Now and then Isaiah’s eyes met mine and I wondered what he was thinking. Maybe he did the same.
I got to the front of the line and greeted Zay. I told him I’m a fan and to keep up the good work as we squared up for a picture.
Matt took our picture. Then I told Isaiah that in between student loans, bills, and an expensive music habit I had forgotten to buy a ticket to the show itself. I offered him 20$ then and there to get me into the show. Little did I know that the meet and greet line spat us fans out into the main venue area. But anyway Isaiah listened to my plea and then said ‘Sure man. Let me talk to Matt.’ He called over Matt, the manager, and they both agreed to add my name to a list. Eternally gratefully I shook his hand again and wished him luck at the show.
The Sinclair is a great and intimate venue. Getting to the stage is easy and the balcony is plenty close to the action as well. At this point it was only 6:15 and the show didn’t start until 7:30.
I wandered away from the young crowd swarming the vacant stage and noticed Chris Calor standing next to a wall watching the meet and greet. After telling him I’m a fan and asking some production questions he pointed behind me and said ‘D. Sanders right behind you, man.’ I turned around and quietly surveying our encounter was D. Sanders, a fellow producer to Chris Calor and a main producer for The Sun’s Tirade. We exchanged some pleasantries as well.
The show started with TDE’s Lance Skiiiwalker crooning to the crowd off of his 2016 album Introverted Intuition. The crowd started to vibe with him as he danced about the stage with rope lights wrapped around his microphone stand.
Next went Jay IDK who spit fire emojis from behind a Reagan facemask. His claim is to be Ignorantly Delivering Knowledge. I got a vibe similar to Kendrick’s message in ADHD –
we never do listen / / Unless it comes with an 808, a melody and some hoes
Then came the headliner, Isaiah Rashad. He played an energetic set and captivated everyone with his rapping, singing, and dancing. Seriously, if you’re reading this you should go see him.
The show ended and the crowd cleared. Another crowd started up in the same room as the meet and greet but this time circled around the merch tables that had been recently set up. I thought about buying some of the merch when I noticed D. Sanders selling the merch himself. I waited patiently for the crowd to funnel out until all that was left was me, D.Sanders, some security, and some girls trying unsuccessfully to get backstage.
We exchanged pleasantries again as I reintroduced myself and asked for his time. He was more than happy but had to consult with Matt first. I watched as he shimmied out from behind the table and over to Matt who was managing the second meet and greet of the night. After some motioning they both looked over in my direction and I smiled back at them while waving my hand recorder. Matt gave a subtle, approving head nod and D.Sanders came on over to talk.
We made ourselves comfortable in the plastic chairs behind the merch tables. I started to fumble with my hand recorder:
Neel: There we go. Think it can hear us now. Oh.. Check, check, check. Check, check, check..
D.Sanders: Nah man – you good. You do your thing.
This is Neel from the Neel Show and we’re with?
And what do you do?
I’m a producer, engineer, and dj.
He’s most recently featured all over The Sun’s Tirade – Isaiah Rashad.
On four tracks off The Sun’s Tirade Des, aka D. Sanders, shares production credit with only 1 other producer. You don’t see that much these days. More frequently you find 1 powerhouse producer with 3 or 4 other people and god knows who did what on the beat. Des is also the mastermind behind other hits like Heavenly Father and Smile.
How’s working on that?
It was a brutal two years.
Yes. But you know, nothing of value comes easy so it was definitely worth all the struggle and everything.
So I gotta ask you about that – 2 years.. did you start at a certain date thinking ‘Alright this is for the next project’ or are you always just constantly creating and you know you have what you have and then Zay comes up to you at some point and you say ‘hey i got this but I’m working on these and these are some ideas.’?
How does it go for you guys?
We’re constantly working. Always working on something.. and then when we got kinda geared towards a project we were just focused on that I guess and then we thought it was coming out way earlier than when it did.
Yeah everyone was waiting for it.
Yeah It was just like we thought it would come out in 3 months and then 3 months turned into 6 months 6 months turned into a year and so on. It was just.. just a constant process I guess.
And what was, if you can remember, the crowning moment in which you realized ’alright, this is a sound that we wanna adopt for this album. This project.’?
Des sat back in his chair and took a deep breath as he looked up searching for an answer. His cool calm made me feel like we were just 2 friends catching each other up on some significant life events. He leaned in closer to me as he found an answer –
Probably close to when he heard ‘4r Da Squaw’
‘4r Da Squaw’?
Yeah by Francis.
Yeah, he’s great.
He played that and I don’t know.. that’s probably the one song that just stuck around the whole like at least like a year and a half. It was the most consistent…so I’d have to say ‘4r Da Squaw’ for sure.
Nice. Yeah I saw a video of Francis recently when he was doing the beat battles with Wondagurl.
Oh yeah, yeah. I know exactly what you’re talking about.
But his beats were banging.
He’s the shit! Yeah Francis is the shit for sure.
It was so funny. And I found out he was on that beat and I was like ‘Wow. That’s awesome’
Yeah. He’s tight.
Neel and Des LAUGH
That beat battle I referenced can be found below. It was FrancisGotHeat vs. Wondagurl. This was about 5 years ago. Funny how time flies and hard work pays off as the two producers recently shared production credit on Ab Soul’s Do What Thou Wilt.
So do you work with Chris a lot?
Chris..? Calor? Yeah. That’s like my brother. He’s my homie. Chris is just like Zay.
And how do you divide ideas/credit amongst yourselves?
Yeah, uh.. It’s more like if he has an idea I add onto it or if I have an idea he adds onto it. Other than that it’s just us two in the studio taking turn working on the beat.
Nice. And how many hours would you say you average in the studio… During the heat of the moment? You sleep there?
Easily 16-20 hours.
Wow. You get the food right there and back to work huh?
You get the food and sit in the studio… smoke.. get back home like 5, 6 o’ clock in the morning.
And head back to the studio around 11.
And you’re still living in LA right now?
Uhhhhm.. I don’t know, I’m just kind of a nomad right now.
Cause tour life you’re everywhere for 4 months. You’ve got no home.
Yeah everywhere. Right before tour I was in Korea so..
You were in Korea? What were you doing there?
I was just signing with a label in Korea.
Yeah so I was out there handling all that and then came back and then right into tour.
Des recently signed on with BANA aka beasts and natives. He comes from a Korean mother who met his father while he was in the air force and stationed in Korea. His mother taught him Korean from a young age and instilled on him a sense of Korean pride. We bonded over growing up and being interested in music while your mom shits on your dream. Thankfully both our mothers now support us.
Another name you might see on his social media accounts is his Korean name, Son Dae Hyun. Shout out to all my Korean friends from highschool and their moms that introduced so many wonderful foods to me.
How was Korea?
Korea was awesome.
What parts did you go to? I’m guessing like –
I was in –
– the whole time yeah.
It was amazing.
Were they crazy for you guys over there? You guys do any shows or any pop ups or anything?
Uhhm. I dj’ed new years eve right at 12 o’ clock and then I dj’ed like the night before I left so I had hella fun.
That shit was awesome!
How are Korean crowds? They turn up too?
Oh they love it. They loooove it. Hip hop is still such a new market out there so..
They loved everything. They loved every single song.
Its funny because I definitely feel like the KPOP is kinda coming over here. More people are like ‘that’s catchy – that’s happy. I like that shit.’
Yeah for sure.
And then hiphop over there.. They had that version of OG Maco’s U Guessed It called.. It G Ma.
Yeah It G Ma!
It really was interesting to think that Des is exploring and pioneering a subset of a genre that seems so commonplace to us here in the States. Feelings are communicated without language though, so I have no doubt that he will help build up the scene there. Same stuff, different language.
So yeah, how’s the future looking for you man?
It’s looking really good. As long as I just keep working. After tour I’m planning on going back to Korea for like a month and a half to work on my album.
In Korea? Shit. That’s awesome.
Yeah, come back and then just keep working on music. I’m working on music all the time so I mean I know that’s gonna remain a constant.
That’s awesome. That makes me so happy to hear.
Well thank you for your time man.
No, thank you, thank you!
Really appreciate it
Appreciate you, bro.
I have no doubt that whatever Des works on next will be great. At such a young age he’s already so driven and established in now 2 countries. His humble and patient attitude sets him far apart from his peers in the industry. Be on the lookout for his next project. You can be sure to find it on here.