Meet the NJ Producer who is powering the Unlimited Next Generation of Pop

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Denzel Baptiste sold his first beat in second year in high school. The price: a whopping $ 10.

As a student at Hillsborough in the late 2000s, the teenager was just learning to make his own music, between performances in his local rap group Next Generation. His stage name was Den-Z, in homage to Jay-Z.

Fast forward to 2021 and Baptiste has one of the most impressive resumes in pop music. He landed production and songwriting credits with superstars Dua Lipa, Kid Cudi and Miley Cyrus. He landed half a dozen charts on the Billboard Hot 100. And in September, his studio work was highlighted on mainstream monolith’s beaming new album Lil Nas X, “Montero,” a favorite for one. Grammy nomination for Album of the Year in December.

So how much does he charge for the beats now?

“A little more,” Baptiste joked in a recent interview with NJ Advance Media.

Baptiste, 28, is half of Take a day trip, a partnership with his fellow producer and songwriter David Biral. Since launching in 2014, the duo have created a slew of hit singles, especially for genre hip-hop artists like Lil Nas X (“Panini”) Sheck Wes (“Mo Bamba”) and the late Juice WRLD ‘ (“Legends”).

To this end, Take a Daytrip has quietly been one of the driving forces behind the evolution of pop music over the past few years, crossing genre boundaries to merge pop, rock, rap, country and into more nebulous – and addictive – sounds. The result: billions of online streams, more than one a dozen gold and platinum certifications and several Grammy nominations for the songs they worked on.

While no project represents their distinctive efforts quite like Lil Nas X’s debut LP “Montero,” which they co-produced and have writing credits for 10 of the 15 songs combined.

The couple first met as freshmen while attending NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music in 2011, and bonded around their love of electronic music and hip-hop producers Mike Dean and Plain Pat.

At the time, Baptiste had explored the production of songs independently while Biral was trained on classical piano. During his studies, Baptiste worked as an intern at Jungle City Studios and Biral bounced back from marketing gigs.

But both were looking to take the next steps in their careers.

“It’s rare to find someone you can work so closely with and have so much chemistry with from the start,” said Biral, also 28, from Rhode Island and Vermont.

When they graduated from college, the couple stayed in New York City, working as DJs at local clubs to fund their own studio in downtown Manhattan and earn a living. Even though songs like the viral smash “Mo Bamba” had hundreds of millions of streams, they only saw a small piece of the pie, struggling to pay the rent.

But Baptiste would do whatever it took to maintain his dream of a career in music.

Raised in Union and moved to Hillsborough at the age of 11, Baptiste found every opportunity possible to immerse himself in music, whether it was trying out for the marching band or learning to produce a song in his church.

Baptiste said it was in the First Baptist Church Gardens in Lincoln in Franklin Township where he found a place to develop his creativity. Church music director Noel Goring, who plays the organ on Lil Nas X’s song “Dead Right Now,” took Baptist “under his wing,” he said.

“In high school I got a ‘D’ in music theory and couldn’t get into the jazz band,” he said. “Something (Biral) and I have both developed over the years has been to identify who your advocates are and for some who might not be school. My music teacher wasn’t a fan of me, and I always thought I would wait until the day I got interviewed to say, “Look how it went. “

Laura Houssell, Baptiste’s high school guidance counselor, could sense Baptiste’s passion.

“Even then you could see he knew what he wanted to do,” Houssell said. “Some students have come to me and said they want to (continue) music, so I tell them about Denzel. He’s still in my head.

Baptiste said that when kids in his high school ask for advice, he tells them thick skin is needed.

“They should know that it is not an easy road. … Peaks and valleys create a lot of doubts, but forging a career in music is so dynamic, ”Baptiste said. “It takes a specific type of person to be able to go through this. I think the fact that (Biral) and I have been together throughout this process has helped us. “

This tenacity led to Baptise and Biral’s first major co-production credit on rapper Raury’s “Cigarette Song” in 2014. They said they also continued to infuse elements of gospel, classical, jazz and trap into their music. job. While Baptiste specializes more in beats and production, Biral has more of a mind on musicality, sometimes playing the piano to develop melodies.

Five years after their first major outing, Take a Daytrip attorney David Jacobs – who also had Lil Nas X as a client – hooked them up. Soon after, Baptiste and Biral played Lil Nas X the beat for “Panini” – the track that would launch the “Old Town Road” singer beyond marvel status.

The producers first played Lil Nas X to the beat of “Rodeo,” which would later become a single with rapper Cardi B. After Lil Nas X asked for something “futuristic,” Take a Daytrip performed the track from “Panini”, with which they collaborated. producer Dot Da Genius to create.

Two years and 600 million Spotify streams later, expanding the whole “Montero” album would also prove to be a “learning experience,” Baptiste said.

Part of this process can be heard on the album’s only sketch, “The Art of Realization”, where Lil Nas X reacts to one of the melodies played by Biral on the keyboard during a studio session.

This melody became the basis of the light and energetic “Scoop”, which features Doja Cat.

As Take a Daytrip evolved, the couple said they wanted to keep that sense of improvisation.

“One of the reasons we called ourselves Take a Daytrip was to remind ourselves that our biggest goal was to allow music to take us around the world,” said Biral. “It was also cool for the process of working with Nas and the ‘Montero’ album. He also thinks in similar terms of not wanting to stay in a lane. “

“And we look forward to continuing this journey,” added Baptiste.

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Steven Rodas can be reached at [email protected].



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