Cover Story: DEM JOINTZ & K.A.A.N

Music Industry Quarterly last spoke with Dem Jointz nearly two years ago – when the Compton-born-and-bred producer was sharing in the success of Dr. Dre’s long-awaited album, appropriately titled Compton: a companion piece for the N.W.A Straight Outta Compton motion picture. Jointz collaborated with Dre on five of the songs. The project was certified Gold by the RIAA and was also a Grammy-nominee for Best Rap Album. That same year (2015), Jointz co-produced 5 songs on Janet Jackson’s Unbreakable, her first studio album in seven years.

The last two years haven’t been quiet at all. Jointz put on both his producer and artist hat to gear up for the release of his own full-length project, Dem-A-God. The album will be chock full of special appearances and collaborations. At the project’s centerpiece is a young, powerhouse rapper from Columbia, Maryland, who goes by the name of K.A.A.N. (pronounced Khan). Joint & K.A.A.N.’s first single is “Limits.” The album hits all digital music platforms September 29.

Dem Jointz was in Hawaii when we caught up with him. What follows are excerpts from the interview.

M.I.Q.: After having successful projects with landmark artists like Dr. Dre and Janet Jackson, how much pressure did you put on yourself moving forward, especially when releasing your own music?

Dem Jointz: An extreme amount. I had an idea of going in as an artist before-hand, but having worked with Dre and Janet made me re-evaluate everything, come back to my base and dig even deeper. My approach had to be totally different. I can’t do the same thing everybody else is doing. It has to be innovative and unique, so I needed to take a bit more time to do things.

Before we get into your new project, Dem-A-God, let’s talk about some of your other recent successes: your production on South Korean boy band Exo and R&B/Hip-Hop artist Anderson.Paak.

Exo was a very exciting and fun project. Those guys are super huge in South Korea. I’m going there soon to work with them and other artists as well. I’ve been working with Anderson since I met him through Dre. We just hit it off and have been working together ever since. We picked out a song that worked for the Malibu album, another Grammy-nominated project. I’m blessed, man. I’m trying to make this an every-year thing [as it pertains to the Grammys]; at least a nomination. The nomination itself is a reward.

Give us some background on your new producer/artist album Dem-A-God and the first single “Limits” featuring K.A.A.N.

It’s super different and very musical. I pulled out all of the stops. I think the kids will dig it. K.A.A.N. is amazing and has an enormous following. The single is dope and high energy. The full-length album has 14 jams featuring some heavy-hitters. Dr. Dre came up with the name Dem-A-God. I took it and ran with it.

In terms of the message and the unique style that we wanted, the project was about displaying a different level of power, discipline and magic. The message I’m putting out there is really important. The story line of the album touches on certain issues that are going on in the world. All we had to do was figure out how to make it fun and bumpin’. This album reminds me of [Dr. Dre’s] The Chronic and that was the god of Hip-Hop compilation albums—producer/ artist collaborations.

How involved is K.A.A.N. on the project and were you looking to introduce him similarly to the way Dr. Dre introduced Snoop?

That’s exactly what I wanted to do…the kind of approach similar to how Dre introduced Snoop. K.A.A.N. is on close to half of Dem-A-God. We’re setting him up for a solo project that we’re working on together.

How did you discover K.A.A.N. and what made you decide to work with him?

K.A.A.N. was brought to me by my trusted compadre and manager, Mr. Danny Carter. When I heard his link on Soundcloud, I thought, “This n*gga is f*ckin fire!” His styles remind me of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony which really took me back. When I got him in the studio, I discovered that he was more diverse than that. We hit if off from there. I realized he had some soulfulness and that he can sing as well. He had all of these different things that he wanted to do with Rock and other genres. I just felt I could go places with him. It opened up a whole new world of ideas.

For an unsigned, indie artist, K.A.A.N. has a dynamic cult following online with 175k monthly Spotify listens. How important was that in factoring your decision to work with him?

That’s icing on the cake, actually. That’s not why we signed him. When I got in the studio with K.A.A.N., I didn’t know his social media stats until Danny told me what they were. I didn’t know he had a following like that. I just wanted to work with him. I gravitated to him the way all of his fans did. I’m assuming the fans are going to like my sh*t just as much as they love his. They will love the direction we’re going in.

You mentioned the involvement of heavyhitters, so we’re assuming Dre is involved with Dem-A-God. Who else is signed on?

I can’t name you everybody at this time, but some names are Anderson.Paak, Marsha Ambrosius, Xzibit and G Perico, but there will be way more than that. I’m just thankful for everyone who believed in the movement and is a part of it.

Are you rapping on the project?

You’re going to hear my voice on there a few times. I’ve got to sprinkle some things in. If you notice, on a lot of the records that I have produced, I’m on there. Ultimately, it’s about the ambiance, the beat…and wilding out over the beat.

The Dem-A-God album is more than HipHop. It’s a mixture of so many things and genres. It’s a full story. I know people don’t listen to full albums anymore. People are going to pick out their own favorite jams. What I’m trying to do with the Dem-A-God and the K.A.A.N. albums is create audio movies – on-going stories that will keep you hooked.

Throughout time, the release of producer artist projects has been somewhat rare. Yes, there’s been Quincy Jones, Dr. Dre and, arguably, projects headlined by DJs. Why don’t we see more producers doing albums and releasing their own music?

A lot of producers are concentrating in staying in traffic so to speak…where there’s more of a consistent revenue stream getting placements as opposed to working for yourself. To be honest, that’s where the money is.

When making a project for yourself, you’re not going to pay yourself at first. You have to be comfortable in where you’re going musically and know what you’re about. You have to stop and concentrate on you as opposed to being a producer for everyone else. I took that time to re-evaluate myself – to see what it would take to be the artist that I want to be and what it would take to put this project out. I want it to be special.

Discuss the vision for your label, U Made Us What We Are (U.M.U.W.W.A.), and what the world should expect from it going forward.

I want it to be the new hub of uniqueness. I want to get into film. I want to get my music and the visuals to align and just be dope. I want it to be a company where you can get a plethora of different things, coming from different artists, with a unique approach. I’m trying to Netflix this sh*t, you know what I mean – to turn this in to a global brand.

Interview Conducted by David A. Mitchell

QUICK TAKES WITH K.A.A.N.

Photo: Christopher ParsonsBrandon Perry p/k/a/ KA.A.N. is a very special talent with a very loyal cult following. His high social media and streaming stats for his mixtape Abstract Art, and songs such as “Flowers” and “Feel,” are evidence of that. Expectations are even higher for this Columbia, Maryland native, starting with “Limits,” the first single, from Dem-A-God.

What makes working with Dem Jointz unique from the experience you’ve had working with other producers?

His approach to creating and his ability to think outside the box.

Describe the creative process and chemistry you have working with Dem Jointz.

The process is pretty simple: create on the spot – make something that sounds different and creative.

How can the combination of your sound and Jointz’s sound make an impact in the market?

I’m just concerned with having dope, interesting sounding records. Jointz adds a dope dynamic to records that’s original and high quality. I’m not concerned with an impact on the market. I just want to make quality records.

You have a huge cult following. How much credit do you give, or not give, to social media in helping you establish such a strong listener base?

I have a modest, pretty decent base. Social media can help spread the music but the quality of what you’re putting out is the end all/be all.

What should people be on the lookout for from K.A.A.N. for 2017 into 2018?

More music…with different tones and feels to the sound.

Check out the single, “Limits”