Dahi, 33, grew up in a devout Christian household in Inglewood, CA. He was the oldest of six. He attended UC Santa Cruz, where he majored in film and American studies and learned to DJ. A few years after graduating from college, he enrolled in audio engineering school and began his career as a music producer. While he no longer DJs, his college career as a party DJ lives on in his approach to making beats.
"My sound has a lot to do with DJing in a sense," he tells HNHH. "I kind of look at my records as I’m DJing a party and I try to adapt to that style. So I think it was a natural progression [from DJing to producing]. It was like, 'Oh, I like that groove. I know how to make the people feel, you know, have energy. I know how to make the people feel like they want to go party.'"
Dahi describes his musical taste as "scatter-brained" and mentions that he's been bumping a lot of '90s rock lately. "I think for me music is just a mood," he explains. "I didn’t really realize that until I became a producer because I think you realize that naturally we should all be listening to a bunch of different things just to help our expansion, like have a certain type of meaning and understanding. I think for me, music is all about colors and what you can see and what you can feel. So if you hear a record that’s nostalgic or has some type of feeling that familiar, I think you can kind of put yourself in these places that aren’t necessarily here in the present."
Dahi's eclectic, wandering musical interests contextualize but do not fully explain his versatility as a producer. Unlike someone like Metro Boomin, Dahi has few recognizable sonic signatures. One might point to his frequent use of vocal samples and his fondness for pitched-down hi-hats, which appear on both Drake's "Worst Behavior" and Travis Scott's "Mamacita", two of his biggest records. But you'd be hard-pressed to listen a song he produced and say, "That's a DJ Dahi record."
Dahi co-produced three tracks on Dr. Dre's Compton, a feat he humbly chalks up to "good timing." The construction of Compton essentially comprised of Dre supervising a team of master builders. It was a setup that deepened Dahi's belief in the power of creative collaboration.
"The biggest thing I learned from [Dre] was that I think you just have to be confident and know when you’re directing you have to not be afraid to tell an artist when they’re doing great or when they’re not doing great," Dahi says. "You have to be honest. I think Dre had to be honest in his approach to what he’s trying to make and also to helping guide people when they are off beat or don’t know what they want. He’s a mentor in a sense, and I think that’s what producing is. You kind of have to mentor the artist to help them figure out what the hell they want."
Vince Staples' "Summertime '06"
The five songs Dahi produced on Vince Staples acclaimed debut album Summertime '06 -- "Lift Me Up", "Birds and Bees", "Lemme Know", "CNB", & "Like It Is" -- are almost indistinguishable from the grim soundscapes of No I.D., who executive produced the album. The majority of those five songs were the product of Dahi and Staples logging hours in the studio, developing an artistic bond that Dahi calls a "brotherhood" similar to the one he found while working on Compton.
"Me and Vince have a really good relationship where we have built trust with each other, so its not like if I tell him, 'Yo, I don’t like that. Do it again.' Or he’ll tell me, 'This is kind of cool, but I need something different,'" Dahi says. "Just building a sense of trusting each other where we just want to see the other do well."
Dahi made the beat for "Lift Me Up" in five minutes; he was sitting in the studio with No I.D. and Staples, who need a new beat for a track he had already written for. Dahi requested the a capella track and laid down the song's drums and stomatch-churning bass line immediately. Still, he attributes his ability to make that beat on the spot to his connection with Staples. "It was pretty dope because I’m a person that likes to work in the studio with artists," he says. "It's natural for me to see where he’s trying to go."
Dahi's upcoming album "The Good Seed"
Dahi is working on a compilation album called The Good Seed that will be released later in 2016 via Def Jam. Vince Staples will be on there. Word has it Kendrick Lamar and J Cole will be on there. Even with such high-profile guests, Dahi is not giving them carte blanche to do as they wish.
"I'm giving them a direction of what I want them to talk about," he says. "It's not like, 'rap about this or that.' It’s like,'Yo, I got this idea. Can you help relate it to whatever experience you had and how it correlates to your life?' Something that connects to the story of the album."
Production and lyrics, guided by Dahi's steady hand, will combine to convey a message of "honesty, positivity and truth."
“The album is really just about being young in LA or being young in life and trying to navigate through what it means to experience stuff that will help you make better decisions in the long run," he explains. "And how to think about life in terms of of trying to do good, even though sometimes you do bad, or sometimes you struggle and sometimes you’re put in situations where you have to make judgement calls that may not be the best for everyone else, but is ultimately its best for you and for your learning. And being able to put out that type of energy that’s always about returning and giving back and doing good in the world.”