Producer Crosstalk: Damion "Damizza" Young

Producer, DJ and radio aficionado Damion “Damizza” Young (a nickname by Mariah Carey) got his on-air start in hometown Santa Barbara when he was only 12. He broke alternative bands such as Garbage, Hootie & the Blowfish and Collective Soul, graduated to Los Angeles and ultimately New York. But he refused to be constrained to a single genre and went on to produce for artists including Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Lil Wayne and Ludacris. He claims a hand in the reunion of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg and the resulting 2001 (a.k.a. Chronic 2001).

He segued into production almost by accident with the remix of Carey’s “I Still Believe,” a cover of which she released in 1998, originally. “When I met Mariah at [L.A. radio station] Power 106, she asked me to send her some of my beats,” the producer recalls. “One of them became ‘I Still Believe.’ It was the last one on the B-side of a cassette—something I hadn’t meant to send. The beats I wanted her to hear were on the A-side. That was one of the first I’d ever done and I thought it was trash.” Even top-tier producers can sometimes doubt their own work.

The beat was based on the melody of “Pure Imagination” penned by songwriting veterans Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley for the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Securing permissions for it helped Young form his production philosophy. “I was sure we’d never get that cleared,” he recollects. “What’s funny is that neither Bricusse or Newley knew what a sample or interpolation was. Originally they thought we were trying to steal their song. Mariah and I spoke with Leslie and explained what we wanted to do. CrosstalkBoxHe said, ‘I don’t want any more or any less than anyone else. As long as everybody’s equal, you can have the song.’ I’ve kept those words to this day and use them in my approach to business. Treat everybody the same and you’ll be fine.”

With new projects, Young prefers a flexible work mode. “Every artist, studio and situation is different,” he explains. “I don’t have a set process. I make a beat, one thing leads to another and we take it from there. I treat beats like a suit: a basic approach to a format—alternative, hip-hop or R&B. Then we put the ‘suit’ on, tailor it with the other stuff: mix, mastering, etc. and hopefully by the time we’re done we have a right-fitting suit.

“My style is similar to [Japanese martial art] aikido,” he continues. “It’s all based on natural momentum. You can’t plan that. When you release a record, you never know. It could go to the stratosphere but it might not.”

Terrestrial radio has seen many unpopular changes over the years. Accordingly, Young is skeptical of its prospects. “It sucks,” he asserts. “People have to feel a part of it. It’s not necessarily what records you play but what’s in between. We proved that with Power 106. You need to have a relationship with your listener and have them feel that you’re talking to them. It’s impossible to be successful without that interaction. We’re the mentorless generation in radio right now.”

Young also runs Baby Ree Records and works out of Rose Lane Studio in Santa Barbara, a space that offers artists a soundstage for video shoots. It’s owned by Sjoerd Koppert, who’s engineered for The Who, Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones, among others. Some of Young’s upcoming projects include a record produced by DJ Mustard for Mr. Capone-E as well as albums by Migos, Mally Mall and R&B singer TQ. Baby Ree also distributes Rose Lane Music.

Contact Chelsea Freeman / Elvie G PR / Arivle Media Group, damizzapresents.com