Behind The Beat: DP Beats

Meet DP Beats, the enigmatic producer whose oft-underrated work is inextricably linked to some of today’s biggest rap stars.

BYNarsimha Chintaluri
Behind The Beat: DP Beats

DP Beats, born Don Paschal in Long Island, New York, just turned 23 this past January. A constant fixture in the current hip-hop landscape, Paschal began producing at the age of 11, and he went on to participate in beat battles throughout high school. DP got his first big break in 2012 when Soulja Boy picked up a beat for the whimsical anthem, “Top Back." The beat was a whirlwind of colorful sounds, sharp but subtle hi-hats and hard drops -- all still trademarks of his much sought after sound.

Having spent much of his childhood moving up and down the East Coast, Paschal has long since learned how to distill contrasting regional influences: “I was born in Long Island -- like the neighborhood that Rakim from, but went to school in Virginia -- the same areas Pharrell and Timbaland from, and I live in Fayetteville, where J Cole from. Like, the music shit, I can see it from all sides,” he explained during a recent phone call with HotNewHipHop.

In a strange turn of fate, that initial placement with Soulja Boy happened to materialize in the heat of Summer 2012, while DP was on the run -- wanted for assault. Three days after “Top Back” came out, after nearly two months on the run, DP surrendered to the authorities, but for unforeseen reasons: his then-girlfriend was pregnant.

Presented below is a transcript of the conversation between HNHH and DP -- touching on everything from the fateful birth of his daughter, Sarai, to his recent collaborations with Rick Ross, Wiz Khalifa, and Lil Uzi Vert.

HotNewHipHop: So what’s on the horizon for 2017?

DP Beats: I’ve been working with Uzi on Luv Is Rage 2 and working on Rolling Papers 2 with Wiz. He’s going crazy right now. I should have one on Ty’s [Ty Dolla $ign’s] next project, but he gave me the song for me to do what I want with it. I might put it on DP On The Beat Volume IIVolume I got a good response last year, but it was stuff that was already out.

HNHH: Not gonna lie, you lost me at Luv Is Rage 2…

DP: Man, every time I’m with Uzi I get to experiment a little bit. You guys be hearing it. From like the Sosa [Chief Keef] EPs to the Herb [G Herbo] EP, my drums change a little, but with Uzi it be, like, more animated. “Woke Up Thankful,” “7 AM” -- you guys be hearin’ it!

HNHH: It’s almost more cartoonish. But the “He Did It” beat actually sounds like something G Herbo would snap on. 

DP: [Laughs] Yo, I actually made that beat back in like 2014/2015, and Young Chop actually rapped on it. It was supposed to be on his Still album. But when it wasn’t, I passed it to Uzi and he did it like a year later. That’s funny you say that though, it sound like a Chicago dude's beat. That was the era when I was making those type of beats. I met Uzi after that, through Ricky P. I knew Ricky since like 2014 -- “Tec” had caused Wiz and Juicy J to send Ricky after me. Ricky and Uzi was in Raleigh and I had pulled up. Uzi kinda had a buzz back then, but it wasn’t like now. He’s got the whole world now.

HNHH: Right, Luv is Rage hadn’t even dropped back then, if we’re talking, like, early 2015.

DP: I met Dram [DJ Drama] and all of them in June [2015] and started sending him some stuff. I would send it to Dram, but I guess he wasn’t giving it to him at first. And then I seen Uzi again in Atlanta. Me and Uzi recognized each other ‘cause we had met before, but I ain’t pressed tryna run up on somebody like that. My boy Niddy tried to introduce us like we didn’t know each other but Uzi was like, “Nah, I know the man ... Why you ain’t send me nothing?” I was like, “I been sending ‘em to Dram!” He said, “Man, Dram ain’t give me nothing!” So I told him to just give me his email and he said, “I’m a real nigga! Just take my number!” I was like, “Aight!” [Laughs] “Finessing Hearts” came out, then “He Did It,” “7 AM.” I have yet to actually be in a studio session with him.

HNHH: You’ve never actually worked with him in person?

DP: Nope! [Laughs]

HNHH: That’s crazy. What about Lil Durk, G Herbo, or any of them?

DP: I’ve been in with Wiz and Sosa, a lot.

HNHH: How are you and Sosa?

DP: I was just with him in January, actually.

HNHH: You guys had undeniable chemistry.

DP: Keef isn’t what people say. He’s younger than me. He’s a smart dude! Regardless of all the bad propaganda, I know he had to go through his own stuff. When I was his age, I was in jail! He’s doing shit I can’t imagine and going through stuff that I can’t understand. So, I just gotta let him do his own shit. I know we never have any bad blood about it. We’re both still getting paid from shit we did -- we’re good! I just know from being around him before that you gotta be around him to work with him. That’s how Sorry 4 the Weight and all that shit got made.

Low-key, I didn’t wanna burn myself out. You’ll burn your sound out and people be like, “What’s next?” It’s like a lunar eclipse, though -- it’s gonna come back around. Fredo [Santana] gave me a lot of good advice when I first got started. He said, “You’re gonna wanna get in the game and move around -- make your brand known.” And, I ain’t gon’ lie, I know Keef knew we had that sound, so he didn’t really want me to give beats away. [Laughs] I had to make my name, though.

HNHH: That’s a great mentality to have, especially when you’re trying to do it one step at a time.

DP: Now, I’m open to certain situations. I ain’t wanna let the cat outta the bag, you know? I’m used to being behind the scenes. But I have been sitting down with a lot of big labels. You gotta go hard enough that people reach out to you. When you’re reaching, it’s hard. Now I got labels hitting me up. That’s now -- after I got so much shit out. At the same time, that’s good because it shows how I am -- I’m relentless with it. But right now, I’m still doing things on my own. I want to work with Khaled, I’m aiming for that this year. Because, low-key, I want to get to the point where I can pick artists and put them on a record like him.

HNHH: Producer tapes seem to be coming back in style. Mike WiLL Made-It’s Ransom 2, for example.

DP: Exactly, I could put together a whole new wave. I want to be able to put people together on certain joints, and build the sounds, and make a record. This is the disconnection between the old school and the new school -- the disconnection is people not realizing the importance of the consumer and the fans. It’s not about us, it’s what we’re giving them.

HNHH: Does music run in your family? 

DP: My dad used to rap. I had an uncle that was DJing and did security for Das EFX back in the day. I always been around them. I wasn’t raised around my father, but I always did the same shit he did, got in trouble for the same shit. So the music shit is just one of those things. I’m like the perfect version of him. And that’s how I feel about my daughter -- she’s the perfect version of me.

HNHH: That’s really touching. Does your daughter play a big role in your career choices?

DP: Here’s the thing with my daughter: I got in an issue, right? I got into that shootout around the same time I got my baby mama pregnant -- a week before. I went on the run for almost two months after that, but when word got back to me she was pregnant, I realized I gotta give up. I gotta surrender. They pick me up, I go into the situation, and the baby is born while I’m in there. I did exactly 19 months. I get home exactly a week before her first birthday. Shit was wild man. And the whole time I was in, I was still getting placements! I got one with Durk and French Montana -- the first song Durk did with French was on my beat. “Top Back” came out 3 days before I got locked up. I knew it was coming, but it’s ironic it even worked out that way.

Then Durk did one, Sosa did “Stop Calling Me,” Soulja was doing more shit. I had just turned 18 that January, got locked up that August. I was writing everybody the whole time I was in jail, but you know, you don’t get no letters back. You call and niggas be dubbing your calls, whatever.

Everybody kinda gave up on the kid. I had no paid lawyers, all public defenders, and everybody think I’m finna get fried. But there were so many contradicting statements going around -- the DA started asking if I could pay hospital bills and restitution since I don’t have a record. I had to pay the victim, the courts, and I was on probation for like 30 months -- let alone the 19 months I just did. I was on house arrest for damn near 4 months. I was still getting buzz online -- nobody knew I was gone -- but it was fucked up. So I came home, a week before my daughter’s first birthday. They put me on papers for a little bit ... My mom let me come to her spot. I was there for a little bit. My BM, I had to beg to get back in with her.

HNHH: Where do you stand now with your kid’s mom?

DP:  Look, I got my daughter's name tatted on my face. I said I surrendered because I heard my BM was pregnant, right? Throughout the whole thing, even when I was facing 10 years and could have suckered it out and took 5, I was like, “I got a kid out there. I gotta try to get back as fast as I can.” Long story short, I felt like I had to choose between my career and someone who wasn’t seeing the vision that I was seeing. I knew what would pan out for me and everybody I care for. I chose to chase the music. And the more popularity I started getting, the more everybody around me started being weird.

They all knew me for the Sosa thing, but then Uzi starts poppin’ with “Finessin Hearts” and “7AM,” and we start hearing “DP on the beat” all over Fayetteville. Everybody started seeing the shit, and I’m not gonna lie, I started to get a little bit of money. I had got a Benz, I was flexin’. I was movin’ through the city, and it’s small here. I had been around here, went over there to get situated, then came back here, you know?

HNHH: They didn’t see it happen.

DP: Yeah, and they’re still over here fucked up, you know what I’m sayin’? I had to position myself with a plan. But the effects of all of that shit is that you’ll be isolated. You’ll outgrow people. They won’t understand stuff. And, with me doing everything on my own, I had to look at relationships from a business end too. Get my percentages and shit. When I wouldn’t have lawyers to handle the stuff, I had to learn the hard way. I had to start looking at stuff differently -- from a business point of view.

HNHH: You can definitely isolate people like that. Other people have a machine behind them.

DP: I see their campaigns though, I peep game. You don’t know how hard I was trying to get my shit out to Sosa or Wiz. Now, it’s different. When I look at the credits for Black Market, shit, I’m on there with Scott Storch and them! I’m the only one on there not signed to a big label. They’re not obligated to put me in the loop.

They fuck me with 'cause my shit hard! My fear is being boxed in. I don’t want to be in just one zone. And, deep down, I wanna be the best. I wanna win every round, you know what I’m sayin’? That’s just how I am -- I want extra credit. I don’t broadcast that, though. It’s just, like, a motive I have inside.

HNHH: Did that competitive spirit play a role in those beat battles you used to attend?

DP: I used to go to those beat battles in ATL from, like, 14 to 18. I’d spend the hard earned money I was earnin’ -- doin’ whatever I was doin’ -- go out there, and spend it all on hotels and try to get in the game. But bruh, that shit did not work! I got jugged and finessed, lost battles, all type of shit.

HNHH: Did you watch the battle between Just Blaze and...

DP: --Man, Swizz [Beatz] cheated!

HNHH: How’d he cheat?

DP: He pulled that song out!

HNHH: The unreleased one with Jay Z, Nas, DMX and Jadakiss?

DP: Yeah, man! He knew what he was doing! [Laughs] He shouldn’t have did Just like that. I seen Just face and I felt bad, man. Busta Rhymes' expressions killed Just. I was lookin’ at Just, and all I could see was that Jordan crying meme.

HNHH: Was that how it was for you back in the day?

DP: Oh, hell no! I ain’t never got done like that. [Laughs] Here’s the thing, right? I was 14 to 18 going to beat battles, so I was the youngest dude. I always made it to the very last round. But I’d lose ‘cause I wasn’t organized! I wouldn’t say they was cheating -- I’m not a sore loser -- but these niggas were going in there with their iPods, and they knew what tracks they had! Me? Remember, I’m skippin’ school, racin’ down here from North Carolina the same day. I’m making beats in the car while we smokin’ gas and shit. So I was randomly pickin’ beats and was winning rounds! But I always lost at the end doing that same shit. And I didn’t really pick up on that. I was the youngest though, so they would always tell me I was better than everyone else and kept telling me to come back.

But then, my 18th birthday came and I lost the night before. I went to Patchwerk [Studios] the next day yelling, “I’m tired of this shit, man! I’m finna get in the streets and turn up, fuck this shit!” My homeboy was like, “Nah man, don’t do that, hold tight and stick with the music thing.” People seen me bug out before, so they know when I’m serious. He knew I was serious. And a couple months later I got in that shit. I got jammed up. I was just on some hot-head shit. I was like, I’ll make beats on the side, but I’ll bust your ass! I don’t know man -- I was mad at the world.

HNHH: Do you think it was your daughter that made everything fall in place?

DP: Bro, if I never had her? Shit. If I didn’t have her, I would have no anchor. When I had her, I was like, “Imma give all this shit up.” I couldn’t think of myself as an individual. I knew everything I did was going to affect her. I know I’m going to plan for her future. I know where I want to see her go, and I’ve already put in the work to set myself up. So yeah, it was a big motivational thing. I didn’t know I could love something that much until I had her. Before, I didn’t have any real regard for anything.

She really made me slow down and think about tomorrow. When I had the baby, I had to get up at like 5 or 6 in the morning. She takes her naps around 12 or 1 in the afternoon. Then, she gets up, and I let her play and run around. I’m cleaning and cooking -- it’s lunch time. I make dinner around 7 or 9 . Then I clean up and get her ready for a bath and shit. I knew the schedule and was doing that everyday. And, in between midnight and 5 or 6 AM, I would still be up. I had that free time to go in the kitchen and put Power on. Remember, I’m on East Coast time so I had the perfect pocket. Everybody I was sending beats to at that time, like Sosa or Wiz -- soon as they woke up, they got brand new packs of beats. I was killin’ it.

HNHH: That must have been exhausting though!

DP: I didn’t care. I saw it paying it off. I was doing it for the baby. I’m not gonna lie though, it was exhausting. When the baby would take a nap, I would take a nap! We both knocked out. My mom would help out, because she was around too, but I just felt so strongly about caring for my daughter. I got her name tatted on my face -- Sarai. Her moms wanted to name her Sarah, but I wanted something more unique. In the Bible, Sarah’s name was originally Sarai.

HNHH: That’s a beautiful name.

DP: Sarai Don Paschall. I was originally going to name her entirely after me, but I didn’t want to be selfish. [Laughs] She’s my twin. You see her, she looks just like me. That’s my little mini-me. She’s the reason why a lot of stuff is the way it is.

I Face-Timed a fan once for an essay he had to do. He was like, “What is the American Dream?” Shit, my idea of it would be being successful in your career, taking care of your family financially, and just building from there. I think that’s all there really is in life. Once you do that, just stay focused. I just turned 23 on January 29th, and I almost got 23 years once. I’m lucky to be out here.

I used to have a Rolling Stone magazine in jail that was folded on two pages: It was Rick Ross on one side -- the pile of money when he was with Birdman -- and the other side was Wiz with an article about edibles or some shit. I had it up above my bunk. I was reading shit about [DJ] Mustard and shit like that in Vibe magazine. And then I get out, I’m in the studio, and Mustard’s right there next to Wiz! I got records with Ross now! Some shit me and Sosa did back in the day is in the magazines! I’m like, “Damn, I was just looking at these dudes.” I was wondering if life would ever get like this. 

HNHH: Who else do you want to work with?

DP: [Laughs] Who I do want to deal with, contrary to all the recent shit, is Soulja Boy! I got a lot of stuff with him too, on the low! He was the first famous person who was on my stuff. That was me kinda breaking into mixtape people that was big on the Worldstar scene. Now, I’m trying to stay in the mainstream and album zone. I’ve just been focusing more so on, like, Wiz -- he’s the big homie, his stuff is going to do numbers -- Ty, Ross. Just having those names alone will help me. I wanna do something with Quavo. 

HNHH: What other producers do you like right now? 

DP: I don’t fuck with other producers.

HNHH: Oh... 

DP: That’s the thing about me. Sosa don’t fuck with other rappers, I don’t fuck with other producers. I feel like I’m better than everybody! [Laughs] If you put us in a beat battle and you can’t use no collabs, no nothing -- just shit from scratch? I’m pretty sure I’d smoke a lot of these producers!

HNHH: So you’d do one of those HOT97 beat battles on Instagram Live?

DP: Man, I would do one with any producer that’s producing for the same types of artists as me. Our wave? I’d go against any of ‘em. I’ll challenge any producers from our wave. Whoever was on the XXL cover. Anybody from the drill scene. Anyone from 2014 down? I’ll battle any of ‘em. I’ll putting bragging rights on that! 

HNHH: You have an old-school mentality in a way.

DP: Nowadays, you can just be on your computer. I started taking advantage of that once I got in a position where I could do that, but I did have to go out -- take my ass to Atlanta and take my ass to LA. They’re probably more reluctant to do that shit. I think someone needs to reinstill some things that used to be to make the game fun again. But they have to be in a position to do that. I want to be in that position. It’s like if you see something wrong, I’m not gonna tell you what I see wrong -- I’m just going to take care of it. I’m not trying to pass the responsibility on. I ain’t gonna lie though, they treatin’ us better now. I gotta take my hat off to Metro [Boomin] and them for knocking doors down for us.

HNHH: And you want to continue knocking doors down.

DP: I think last time a producer really fucked the game up was Mustard with that snap shit -- it was a variation of the jerk shit if you want to be real. But I’m not gon’ front. He had came and definitely fucked the game up with that whole new swing. I be knowing the magnitude of it. When I was making beats on a laptop in the kitchen while my daughter was sleeping, I didn’t even get to see how the artists or anyone else reacts to what I’m doing! 

Being onstage with Wiz and them, or seeing how Uzi makes everybody go crazy, I’m like, damn, now I see the effect. Now I see the power in it. One song could change everything. I already changed the sound of the game -- niggas wasn’t doing that snare roll shit like that after Lex Luger stopped. Now, Sizzle [Southside] and Lex? They trap kings. I can’t ever fuck with their accomplishments. But, I can fuck with them skill-wise! Like, I can’t make another Waka Flocka, but I can help with another Uzi. I realized this shit bigger than what niggas think.

That sound they had, what you hear everyone doing now, it was only Sizzle and Lex that had that. When I was trying to do them fast trap hi-hats back in 2010, motherfuckers were saying they were “too fast”! Now, that’s all you fuckin’ hear! I can’t get away from it! I feel like the drums I use are the borders for a painting. So, usually, I’m at a certain tempo, but the colors, the paint brushes, the bristles -- all that will be different.

HNHH: You can gradually switch up the borders too, right?

DP: As far as changing the borders with the drums and shit? I used to want to score movies -- if you take the drums out of my beats, it sounds like a score to Call of Duty or some crazy shit. First placement I got on that side was actually like this past December, on that new HBO show, Insecure -- on the season finale, I think. Song never came out, but it’s in the background of the show. So, eventually, you’ll hear that DP sound effect in video games! Dre did headphones? I don’t wanna do headphones. I’ll fuck around and be one of the first trap niggas on Final Fantasy, Mortal Kombat, and shit. [Laughs] It’s all just different interpolations of the same shit.

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