Not exactly the East Coast and not necessarily pledging allegiance to the Dirty South either, Virginia is in somewhat of a peculiar predicament. But having no preconceived notions or ties to a regional sound is quite possibly the reason why the state has cranked out more than a few musical savants with universal appeal. Having toiled under the watchful eye of fellow Virginia native Timbaland, 25-year-old Nate Hills, better known as Danja, is now ready to step out of his mentor's shadow and show the world why Virginia is in fact for lovers…beat lovers.
“Boredom” is Danja's reason for taking up music production. “We had no choice but to be different and fuse different types of music to create a new sound,” he says. “There's nothing to do out here. Either you were a hustler, or you were involved in music.”
After he hustled his way into a meeting with Timbaland at a Virginia Music Symposium, the young hit-maker-in-training caught Tim's attention and has been rolling with the superproducer ever since. He has already established a name for himself by providing beats for artists such as Lloyd Banks, Jennifer Lopez, The Game and Black Eyed Peas; in fact, you have probably been bobbing your dome to Danja's creations quite a bit over the past few months. He co-produced 10 of the 12 tracks from Justin Timberlake's latest mega-hit FutureSex/LoveSounds (Jive, 2006) and is well on his way to becoming a household name, but don't tell him that. “I still have a long road to travel,” he explains. “I didn't look to Justin to make me a superstar producer. I was just happy to put some good music together and get it out.”
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Understanding how important it is to be able to express his creativity at any time, Danja uses a mobile setup to create his equally diverse and rich array of tracks, which include his laptop, an Edirol MIDI controller and his trusty Akai MPC4000. He also incorporates an Alesis Andromeda A6 synthesizer into the mix, as well as a Korg Triton and Yamaha Motif. “I can be sitting in the middle of the desert and produce the same quality of tracks as if I were in the Hit Factory.”
Danja also takes his role as a producer very seriously. Not to be confused with a simple beat maker, he appreciates every step in a song's progression, from concept to execution. “I don't just make beats — I'm there from the whole process, down to the mix,” he asserts. “I switch my attitude to cater to the individual artist.” Not willing to give away all of his sonic secrets, the dangerous one did divulge a couple of his methods of madness to Remix. “I use [Steinberg] Cubase to access the sounds, but there are a lot of virtual instruments I use as well. I play keys and drums, so there's always a live element in my tracks. I don't really use samples; I just play all of my instruments. It makes for a better sound.”
Having observed the master at work, Danja has also picked up a few things from Timbaland that he has incorporated into his own repertoire. “Tim will just find the weirdest sound ever and make something incredible,” he says. “I love to build melodies around those same types of weird sounds. See, me and Tim, we're spearheading the new wave of good music.”
With demand for one of his original compositions on the rise, Danja is hard at work, spreading that new wave of good music to future projects for artists including Britney Spears, Fantasia and of course, Timbaland's upcoming solo album. Planning on being around for more than a minute, Danja is confident in his place in this ever-changing game. “I'm here to continue Tim's throne.” All hail the king.