Max Bell sends ’em out of the park like Hank Aaron.
Every major music scene becomes subject to reductive narratives. Perhaps for the sake of public digestibility, musicians who landed more profiles and album reviews dominate the conversation in perpetuity. The Los Angeles Beat Scene is no different. Flying Lotus, Teebs, Tokimonsta, Nosaj Thing, Shlohmo — if you’re reading this, you probably know the names eventually bolded on desert festival flyers. (You can also read the POW “20 Greatest LA Beat Scene” albums here.) Seemingly, only those embedded in the scene appreciate the work and impact of foundational and more avant-garde figures. Take the late Ras G, for instance. He was celebrated by the cognoscenti, but the gravity of his bone-atomizing Afrofuturist beats didn’t receive their proper due broadly. For now, the same can be said of one of G’s closest compatriots, Dakim Saadiq aka Dakim. He’s been your favorite producer’s favorite producer for too long.
Born in Detroit, the now 39-year-old producer spent his youth absorbing everything from Detroit techno and Theolonius Monk to beats from Dilla, Aphex Twin, and Timbaland. When Dakim moved to Los Angeles in 2007, he carried luggage and over a decade of production experience, having spent countless hours programming drums and exploring the sonic parameters of every SP and MPC he acquired. It was the peak of MySpace, the platform that provided the beat scene’s transcontinental digital network. Dakim messaged Dibiase, who pointed him to the beat cyphers at Project Blowed. For the next three years, Dakim made weekly pilgrimages to Blowed and Low End Theory, quickly moving from observer to performer. At the time, his beats ranged from frenetic and jazzy to freaked, glitchy, and occasionally quasi-psychedelic boom-bap. They were precise and punishingly percussive, both elements perhaps carried over from his years playing snare in the marching band. You can hear it all on Standthis, Dakim’s Leaving Records debut and the first record ever released on the label.
In All Ears, Gus Sutherland’s 2013 LA beat scene documentary, Leaving Records founder Matthew David — and House Shoes, Jonwayne, and Zeroh — sings Dakim’s praises. “Dakim is my favorite producer. Period.” Ron Stivers, owner of Poo-Bah Records — a store that became instrumental to the beat scene’s development — said, “To me, the beat scene holy trinity is DJ Sacred, Ras G, and Dakim.” By the time the documentary was out, Dakim had decamped to the Bay Area with his wife. Low End had long lines before he left, but he didn’t stay in town to see the line wrapped around past the parking lot on Ave. 24.
Dakim found a beat community in the Bay, but he deserved and still deserves to be mentioned in the ranks of those who blew up in L.A.. Perhaps because Dakim has never engaged in self-promo, or perhaps because he’s consciously avoided boxing himself in with one identifiable sound, he’s remained the most overlooked foundational LA beat scene producer.
Over the last five years or so, Dakim has entered a new sonic phase. In continuing the Regos series he started in 2013, he has pared back the experimentation of his earliest work. Albums like 2020’s Regos_SLAMMIN’ and this year’s regos...of many moods deconstruct boom-bap, smacking you in the chest with their force as much as the swing and subtle complexity of the loops and drum patterns. What follows is an edited transcript of our 90 minute conversation, one that covers this new phase, his time in Detroit, L.A., and the Bay, his thoughts on the beat scene, his creative philosophies, and much more. Near the end, Dakim was reluctant to admit that his name belonged alongside beat scene legends. The next time someone tells the story of the L.A. beat scene, I hope they call to remind him.
Where are you living in the Bay? How long have you lived there?
Dakim: We were in Berkeley for the first five years. We moved up here in 2010. And then after that, we moved to San Pablo. That’s where we’re at now. We’re right in the middle of Richmond, surrounded by the City of Richmond. We’ve been here for almost six years now. Before that I was in L.A. for three years. Seemed like a much longer time, because a lot happened. But before that, I was in Detroit for the first 25 years of my life.
What’s the beat community like in the Bay Area?
Dakim: It’s very cooperative up here. There’s been a studio space that a lot of cats in the community have been working at for a few years now in downtown Oakland. I don’t know if the studio space has a name, but it’s right above a gallery called Pt. 2 Gallery. They show a lot of local artists. Pretty much everyone gathers there and puts in work there. There’s visual artists, painters, photographers, and musicians all in the same space. That seems to be ground zero for the whole community here. People are always willing to lend a hand, help however, and work on each other’s projects. Nobody’s tripping. It’s very family oriented here. It’s not really about getting on or blowing up or anything like that. It’s really just art for art’s sake up here in the Bay. Not that people don’t do their thing and become successful, it’s just the intent and motivation is so pure up here. The beat scene is so far away from the music industry. There’s not a lot of crossover. There’s cats out here that get a lot of major placements, but the community is really head-to-the-ground art all the time. There’s not a whole lot of distractions.
Before the pandemic, were you working there a lot?
Dakim: Prior to last year, I was. I was spending more and more time there. Working on projects, making plans, and really getting a lot of stuff done. I had some photoshoots there. It’s awesome space, and I never really experienced that kind of community vibe before. Everybody comes together. It’s not segmented. It’s not like cliqued up. Everybody is down here in the Bay.
I know there are beat events like Smart Bomb. What’s your experience been like with those folks?
Dakim: That just fit like a glove. Asonic Garcia started Smart Bomb. Back in 2008 or something like that, he was doing another beat night called Beat House. He had a lot of folks on the first one. I think Dibiase was on the first one. Dibiase was also on the one that I was on. I think [Asonic] only did two Beat House nights before Smart Bomb. But [in 2008] he basically called up everyone from L.A. at the time. It was myself, Samiyam, Dibiase, Ras G, and even Sacred rolled up here with us. It was a great night and experience. We all crashed at his place. All of us being there at the same time was really special energy. We even had a freestyle session with everybody just plugged up sitting on his living room floor. Then I moved up here. I’m not sure if Smart Bomb started around that same time, around 2010, or maybe a little bit before. Once I got here, there was always an open door. Whenever I wanted to rock Smart Bomb, it was already linked up. The vibe there was just so comfortable and cool. Family and friends. Performing at Smart Bomb didn’t have the same kind of pressure as performing at Low End Theory. It’s a little more casual, laid back, and less competitive.
Where did you grow up in Detroit?
Dakim: I grew up right in the middle of the city, a couple blocks from Central High School. It’s close to a neighborhood called Boston-Edison. That’s kind of a famous area of the town. That’s where Berry Gordy’s mansion is. It was a cool little pocket. We didn’t actually live in Boston-Edison. We lived a couple blocks north of it, so the climate was slightly different, but it was a cool neighborhood when we first moved over there.
How would you characterize your neighborhood? How did it differ from Mr. Gordy’s world?
Dakim: There weren’t a bunch of mansions on the block. There were modest two story, single family homes. At the time that we moved in, the block was pretty bright. It saw some decline while I lived there. Eventually, more and more houses on the block became abandoned. But when we first moved there, it was a nice neighborhood. Even though we could walk right up the street, just one block away, and see wreckage from the riots in ‘67 that was all over the landscape. Growing up in that sort of desolation was interesting. It bred appreciation for a lot of basic things that it seems folks elsewhere take for granted. Just shit like grocery stores. It’s like, “Oh, shit, y’all got grocery stores out here?” [laughs]
Did the city impact you musically? Were you into techno?
Dakim: I was into techno by default, not not by choice. It was everywhere. There was a show called The New Dance Show that would come on TV every night, like six o’clock in the evening. They just played all the techno shit, all of the Detroit, Chicago, and Baltimore music. It was just constantly being played on TV. There was also a lot of techno on the radio at night. I just took it for granted entirely. I didn’t recognize it as something special. It wasn’t until later, when I moved away, that I realized that it is a really special thing. The whole world knew about it, and we didn’t know. Juan Atkins could’ve walked right past us and we wouldn’t have recognized him, even though his music was on TV and the radio every night. But it definitely had a huge influence on me. Those rhythms are in my bones and my blood. I grew up on it, and it was so ubiquitous that I never had to question it or even even think about it. Techno was just kind of a way of life. Techno and ghettotech. I have to put ghettotech in there. That was a different sort of thing that was really coming into its own in the ’90s I when I was a teenager.
You played in the band in junior high. What instrument did you play?
Dakim: I was in the marching band. I played snare drum.
Was that your formal musical training?
Dakim: Yeah. I think it was fifth grade when somebody came around and said, “Hey, you want to join the band?” They had a list of things you could buy. If you wanted to play trumpet, you had to buy a mouthpiece for eight bucks or something. If you want to play drums, you have to buy your sticks. I picked drums. I don’t know why. I learned how to read music, all the basic stuff, and got pretty good at it. I ended up being the section leader by the time I finished junior high and then continued playing in the band in high school.
Did you have aspirations of playing in a college marching band?
Dakim: I did. That was actually the path that I thought I was on for a while. I was thinking of going to Grambling because their band was super tight at that time. I did think about that. That fell to the wayside pretty quickly, but I did have those aspirations.
When did hip-hop come into your life?
Dakim: Around the same time [I picked up the drums], like fourth or fifth grade. The song that first blew my wig was “Scenario” [by A Tribe Called Quest]. The energy was unlike anything I’d experienced. Me and a friend of mine in junior high would just quote “Scenario” day in and day out. Then my brother told me the first Leaders of the New School tape. I played that tape over and over. My brother would just dub me tapes of whatever he would get. My brother reminded me recently that the first tape I bought on my own was ’93 til Infinity. That beat was just something I needed. As soon as that tape came out, I went and got it. He was listening to my tape after that. So the early ’90s is when it really grabbed me, and it hasn’t let go since.
And now you’re in the Bay. Full circle.
Dakim: Full circle. Another Hiero reference. I’m just making that connection now. I hadn’t even seen it that way. When Souls first came out, they looked like us. They dressed like us, just like Detroit cats. Later on, Opio told me that they would go to Chicago and Detroit. These are the places where everybody knew all the words. They had so much support from these Midwest cities, because there’s always been a kinship between Detroit and Oakland. It was really so gratifying to hear that from him. They felt the same way about us, like we from the same place, we the same type of people. To be here now, it really does feel like home.
When did you become interested in instrumentals and instrumental music?
Dakim: That was probably around ’95. My brother went away to school in ’94. He left behind his turntables and tape decks and all that stuff, so I started fooling around with it. My mom used to go shopping every Saturday out to the burbs. Right up the street was Street Corner Music. After she did her shopping at Marshalls, she would take me up to Street Corner. That’s where your House Shoes worked. I would just get 12-inches with instrumentals because I wanted to rap. I was rapping at the time. I was like 14. I would just get all these rap instrumentals to freestyle to and make tapes and write raps to. Eventually, I just got a drum machine and started trying to make my own beats to rap to. And then, eventually, the beats became more of a focus than the raps.
Did you start with an MPC? What was your first drum machine?
Dakim: It was a while before I got an MPC. My first drum machine was a DR-550, just a super basic drum machine. That was pretty much the most basic machine on the market at the time. I got a hold of it and tried to freak it every way that I could to make it do strange things. I was very interested in what kind of sound the limitation would make. I was always trying to get to the get to the limit and then see how that limit can be worked into a new sound. I had that Dr. Rhythm for about a year. Then my mom got me a little cheap Yamaha keyboard. I program the drum beat, play something on the keyboard, and then overdub on another tape deck with more keyboard layers. I was totally unaware of what I was doing at the time. I didn’t even know what a producer was. I didn’t know what making beats was. I just wanted to have something that I could rap to.
What equipment did you move on to after that?
Dakim: I did that for maybe two or three years. In ’99, I got my first sampler, which was the SP-202. I had a whole lot of fun with that. I was inspired by this Jeff Beck record called Blow by Blow. There was a joint on there that I heard and was like, “Man, I gotta get a sampler and flip this.” That’s when I had to go to the sampler, which was pretty limited. It’s great for loops, but if you want to sample and chop up drums, it wasn’t really for that. I didn’t know at the time, but I could MIDIed up my drum machine to the 202 and sequenced it that way. I didn’t know that back then, so I reached the ceiling with what I thought I could do with the 202. Pretty quickly, I had to get a MPC 2000 XL. That was about a year later. I think I was about 18. Mike Paradinas, who runs Planet Mu, came to Detroit to tour his album Royal Astronomy. I saw him at Saint Andrews in The Shelter. I saw that he made that album with a MPC. I was like, “Okay, that’s what I need.” It’s kind of backwards. A lot of cats had MPC’s. House Shoes would bring his MPC out sometimes. I knew cats that had it. And of course I was a huge Jay Dee fan, and that was his instrument of choice. But it took this cat from the UK coming over for me to be like, “Oh shit, this is, this is how you do that. This is what I need.” I got my MPC pretty soon after seeing his show.
Have you stuck with the same equipment over the years, or have you modified your setup? What have you been composing on in recent years?
Dakim: The MPC has been a mainstay, in one form or another. I used the 2000 XL to the point where the buttons didn’t work. Buttons are missing. I took the face off of it for some time, and it was just a skeleton, and I was making beats like that with no face plate. She still works, but she’s gracefully retired right now. In 2014, I got my MPC 60. That changed how I made beats forever. It taught me some really valuable things. That same year, I got 1000. The 1000 became more of the workhorse. I was touring and going everywhere with the 1000. In 2019, I got the MPC live. I’ve been rocking with that ever since. And various synthesizers and stuff over the years, like the Korg MS2000. I was working with an AKAI AX60 for a little while. Waldorf Blofeld. I still use that from time to time. But the MPC was always the center.
Do you have a preferred DAW? Why?
Dakim: Whatever is the best instrument for the task. Some stuff is straight MPC. Some stuff I use Ableton. I was using Logic some years back. Nowadays, it’s kind of an integration between the MPC Live and Ableton. When I make a beat on the MP, it’s in controller mode in Ableton so everything is already already tracked out and ready to go. I don’t have to do a whole lot of middleman shit to record the beat. It’s already there. That’s a very new process for me because I’ve been very opposed to computer production for a while. I’ve grown past that and seen its benefits. Now it’s a nice middleground with the DAW and the MPC.
Where do you get your drums?
Dakim: I just pulled out a breakbeat record a couple days ago. Paris made some really dope breakbeat records that are easy to find here in the Bay. A lot of breakbeat records, still. A lot of times I’ll go to some old shit that I made and grab those drums, polish them up, and make them current.
What do you mean by “polish”?
Dakim: A lot of analog processing, I have a few boxes that I like to run stuff through. The RNC, Analog Heat. Stuff like that. If I really want to mash in some texture, I could use the SP-505 or the MicroSampler because those are like really big sonic characters. And then some plugins, too.
Having worked with many SP’s, do you have a preference?
Dakim: I like the sound of the 505. It has the same character as the 303, which is not the same as a 404. In my opinion, the 404 sounds a little soft or fluffy. A 303 or 505 sounds very firm and heavy. So I’ve had a 202, 404, and a 505. I never got my hands on the 303. As far as ease of use, the 505 may be the worst SP ever. It has a screen and menus and it’s just not intuitive. The sequencer is the worst. I don’t really use it to make stuff. I use it as an effects box, a processor.
Do you physically dig these days?
Dakim: It’s been a while, man. A lot of my digging these days is done on Discogs. I’ll find something I need to have and then see what else that seller has and just load up. I’ll do that a few times a year. But actually getting out to dig, it’s been a little while. I’ve gotten into just working with what I already have. I mean I have records I haven’t heard yet. I’ve have records I’ve been wanting to sample or sample again for many years. I have a plethora of sounds to work with, so I don’t really need to get new stuff to add to the pile. I can just work with what I have. Until recently, I had been digging at Berkeley Central Library. From vinyl and CDs, I collected all types of sounds I go back to all the time. For years, I was checking out from their regular collection, ripping CDs and recording vinyl. World music, sound effects, stuff I could never find elsewhere. There was also Brand Library in Glendale. A lot of cats like Kutmah and Frosty would dig there.
In Detroit, I imagine you frequented places like Saint Andrews and the Hip-Hop Spot. How did those spaces inform your music and your outlook?
Dakim: Going to Saint Andrews and hearing stuff on the big speakers really was a different world than what I considered I was doing. I was never really going for a big booming sound to come out of the speakers. My stuff was always very intimate, because I always worked on headphones. Even today, I do all my work in headphones. It just feels closer and more intimate that way. I’m sure those experiences inform my music making in an abstract way, but directly I’m not so sure. I was off in my own space, and I wasn’t really trying to emulate or compete with what I was hearing at the club. I didn’t even see myself as being in that world.
How well did you know House Shoes back then?
Dakim: He was feeding me those 12” when I went to the record shop. And when I was underage, he would sneak me in the backdoor at Saint Andrews. He put me up on some real serious, life-changing shit at that record shop. Sometimes I would go in there and he would wave me over like, “Come over here.” He’d put some headphones on my head and play some of his beats. I would sit there with my mouth open. One time he played one beat, and I was like, “You got more?” He just looked at me like, “Do you think that’s my only beat?” I just such a little kid. I had no idea what any of this was about. I didn’t even ask where these beats came from. But I was just fascinated by the whole shit. I found myself nose deep in it before I was even aware.
On your website, you cite Duke Ellington, Dilla, Scientist, Thelonius Monk, and RZA among your influences. First, what aspects of jazz resonate with you most? What have you learned from jazz that you’ve applied to your music?
Dakim: Well, there are direct ways that jazz has informed and influenced my work. One tape that I did called Soap was pretty much all based on jazz standards. I just play the chord progressions and then make up a new melody over the top of it. Beyond that, I think the inspiration is more spiritual. Rather than trying to find techniques or certain things to pull from, it’s just more of the same spirit that they put into their work that I want to put into mine. There’s a certain purity about it, a certain depth of understanding of the musicality of it. There’s a certain dedication that might be hard to come by these days. Back then, there weren’t a whole lot of distractions. If you played piano, that’s pretty much all you did. You might play some stickball, but there was no Nintendo or a million other things to occupy your time. I think people were super into music back then and the discipline of it. That’s the kind of stuff that I want to embody in my work and aesthetic, that level of dedication.
What have you learned from Scientist and dub music in general?
Dakim: That’s the technical stuff, like when I first got a mixer large enough to plug up a bunch of stuff and got some rack gear, some delays, and reverbs. Or even using SP delays and reverbs and then linking all that stuff up. Just hearing his music and seeing some clips on how he records, I rewired my whole studio. For a few years, while we were in Berkeley, I was doing a lot of heavily dub influence stuff. It was techno type beats, uptempo stuff. I was sampling 808 drums into my MPC 60 and then just dubbing them out. I got hours and hours worth of that sort of stuff, but I never put it out. Even to this day, those techniques still inform my work. Even if I’m doing something in a DAW, I might program some delay, assign it to a knob, and dub it out a little bit just to get that live automation in there.
And what about Dilla and RZA?
Dakim: To be totally fair, I gotta put Timbaland in there. When I got my MPC and decided I was doing this for real, I was like “I’m getting at that Squarepusher shit, that Jay Dee shit, and Timbaland shit.” That’s the language that I wanted to speak. The RZA was more subliminal. I was never trying to sound like RZA, but I listened to so much Wu-Tang in my youth that it was in me like how techno was in me. If something came out with a twinge of Wu-Tang that’s because that’s what I was eating every day.
When you lived in L.A., how did you get connected with Project Blowed? What was the Blowed like during that time?
Dakim: That was an internet connection. On Myspace, a cat from Jersey told me to hit up Dibiase when I got to LA about this new beat cipher they were having. I sent him a message on Myspace, he told me where I was at, and I went down. That was it. I didn’t play anything the first few nights that I went. I was a spectator soaking it up, just in awe of what was going on. Eventually, I got together my little CD. I made a medley of tracks and went to a beat cypher night, played a joint, and I met Ras G and Sacred that same night. I cliqued up with them pretty much immediately. The energy there was so electric, and The World Stage was right around the corner. A lot of times I would go to The World Stage and just be tripping out at how it’s the same energy. It’s like, “Okay, these cats are over here with their horns, and these cats are around the corner busting rhymes off the top and it’s the same energy.” I super fascinated by that. I would make the trek every week from Highland Park over to Leimert Park. I didn’t have a car at the time, so I was on the bus. That was a long bus ride. I had to catch maybe two or three connections to get there. Whenever I would catch the bus to Project Blowed, I didn’t know how I was getting home. It just always worked out. It was something that I had to do. I had to be there. The energy was nourishing.
What were your feelings about the beat scene between 2007 and 2010, when you lived in L.A.? That was the end of the germinal stage. Lotus dropped Los Angeles and then it did what it did. Did you conceive where it would go?
Dakim: Like most times earlier in my life, I had no idea what was going on. I was just there, and I knew there was a lot energy in the air and a lot of people coming to LA. I think Sam moved there a little bit before I did. Shoes was there. I knew something was happening, but I didn’t know the the magnitude. When I started seeing stuff like the All City 10” series, it was like, “There is something pretty big happening here. It’s like a global movement that’s going on right now.” I’d go chill at Ras G’s place sometimes and he’d play me records from folks I’d never heard of. I didn’t know people knew how to make beats in Scotland. I was pretty oblivious, but it was exciting to be there.
What did Low End look like at that time?
Dakim: Loud. It was very loud. You were liable to see anybody there. It was vibrant and electric. People seemed very excited about what they were doing.
What was your relationship like with Ras G back then?
Dakim: That’s my big brother. We just we just clicked right away. I played my set at the beat cipher, and I saw him and Sacred over to the side whispering to each other.I didn’t speak to Sacred that night. He just gave me this very weighty nod. I took that to heart. G was rolling up his backwoods, and I was like, “Yo, is that a Backwood?” He was like, “Of course.” I was smoking Backwoods at the time and cats weren’t really up on that shit. People were smoking Swishers and things like that. To find a cat that was smoking Backwoods was rare at that time. I hit his blunt, and that was the best blunt I ever hit. After that, he would just put me up on shit. He would be like, “Come to Poo-Bah,” or, “You should go to Low End,” or, “Come with me to Dublab.” He took me under his wing. I appreciate that forever. There’s no better person to have in your corner than that dude. He’s connected to everybody. He loved everybody. Everybody loves him. Just to be friends with him was a blessing. I can’t even comprehend the effect that knowing him has had on my life. It’s just been such a domino effect. I could probably trace back so many of my blessings to knowing him.
Leaving Records has put out a lot of your work. What’s your relationship like with them? Why have you had such a long-standing relationship?
Dakim: That was another thing that came through G. I met Matthew [David] at Dublab when G asked me to meet him at Dublab. Matthew said he was starting to label and asked if I wanted to put out a tape. I’m like, “Alright, cool.” I think Kev approached Matthew to see if he wanted to do something under Alpha Pup, and that was his first venture. I’m not sure why he thought I would be a good way to set it off, but it seemed like a good fit. Throughout the years as I would continually be making stuff, he’d hit me up every now and then see if I wanted to drop something. Or if I had something ready, I’d just hit him up like, “Yo, let’s put this out.”
Forgive my ignorance. What does “regos” mean?
Dakim: Where I’m from in Detroit, that’s what we call regular weed. In Chicago, they call them reggies. If you go to your weed man, he might have some purp or some ghans. This is all Detroit terminology. Some ghana is Afghani weed. Purps is kush. There was a very limited variety of what you could get, but you could get the high grade shit — the ghans or the purps — GaNS or or you can just get some regos. That’s just the regular shit that’s going to smooth you out. It’s basic shit, you know? It’s the same with the beats. Just random beats that don’t necessarily have a particular purpose. It’s just, you know, I make beats. Here’s some random ones.
Some of your earlier stuff was more experimental, and I can hear the jazz influence on stuff like standthis. The more recent records slamming and of many moods, feel more rooted in rap. Is that a fair assessment?
Dakim: I still experiment just as just as a function of my process, but in recent times I’ve started to produce more as a listener. Early on, I was producing like a producer who wanted to try everything. Basically, it was self indulgent. When I first got to MPC, I would spend hours programming drums on some Aphex Twin shit. I didn’t know how he was doing it, but I wanted to accomplish the same thing with the MPC. It wasn’t really concerned if the listener was going to appreciate it or be able to catch it. It was just like, “How far can I take this shit?” In more recent years, I’ve started to refine my process, my tastes, and my purpose. I’m learning that I want to make stuff that just feels good and is more relatable. Not that I’ve tried to change my style or tame it or do anything that’s unnatural. I’m just refining my own sensibilities and figuring out what I really liked to listen to. More often than not, not some super self-indulgent, experimental abstract shit. More often than not, it’s just some stuff with a tight pocket that sounds good. I’m trying to clear away all of the distractions and self indulgence and just get down to the pure, good thing. Maybe that’s what the more recent stuff is about.
Do you feel like you have a definitive style? Do you think it’s ever-evolving?
Dakim: I definitely want to feel like my style or approach is constantly growing, changing, and not stagnant. I have lots of different processes and different methods on how to apply these processes. But I don’t like to stick to one thing too much, I don’t like to make the same beat twice. I know I do sometimes. When I do, I like to acknowledge that. Whereas I feel like a lot of cats like to make the same be over and over, and they just have such a very defined and rigid identity. It’s like, “This is what I do and nothing more.” I want to be fluid. I have a wide range of influences and inspirations. I feel like these instruments can do all of that, so I want to be able to be fluid enough to express all of that just the same. Even though I might rock with a certain process for a little while, it’s not going to be long until I’m awesome whole other shit. I learned about myself early on. I go through phases that I can’t really control. There might be a time when all I’m listening to is what I call Eurotech, like Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Mike P, Autechre, and that whole world. I could just be on that tip super tough for like four months. And then I can’t listen to it anymore. Then I’ll be listening to Erroll Garner for two months. Even if I wanted to have a definitive style, or just something I was instantly recognizable, I’m not sure that I’m even capable of that. We have a whole range of feeling available to us, and I want to get at that whole range rather than make a brand.
At this point, what drives you to produce?
Dakim: [exhales deeply] There’s just something about the process of making something new or taking something old and flipping it into something that I haven’t heard yet. It feels like there’s something new to explore at all times. Being in that process of exploration is so deeply rewarding and peaceful. It doesn’t need to have a result. It doesn’t need to come out. The process itself is meditative, therapeutic. It’s a place that I’ve spent a lot of my life in. In a lot of ways, the creative process is really home. More than anything, it’s finding that place of solace. That keeps me going back to it.
What does it mean to you to have the respect of your peers? When I included your record in one of my columns, Kutmah was honored that his name was alongside yours. I imagine Dibiase respects your work. I’m sure Ras G did, too.
Dakim: That’s a doozy right there. That’s making me nervous to think about it. I don’t know, man. I always felt embraced by these guys as friends. To think of them as his peers, as far as our work is concerned, feels like a kind of a stretch. I feel like these guys are all masters of the craft. Professionals, people who do this shit for real. I kind of feel like more of a floater, like I don’t really have a solid ground to stand on. I don’t have this thing that’s like, “Boom, this is me.” I’m just very amorphous. I don’t feel as grounded as those guys. To recognize that I’m respected by them is a little bit abstract. These guys are giants in this world. It’s humbling, to say the least. Maybe it’s humbling that I haven’t really even thought about it. I never saw myself…. [exhales deeply] It’s hard to put into words, man. I might have to to get back to you on that. I don’t know what it feels like to be respected by my peers, because I’ve never really considered that aspect of it. I was just always grateful to be there and be in conversation with these guys.
I’ve heard your name mentioned in a lot of circles. I think Laurent Fintoni interviewed you for his book on beat music, Bedroom Beats and B‑Sides. He wouldn’t have done that if you weren’t a peer.
Dakim: It’s extremely gratifying. I’ll say that much. I’ve been doing this for basically my whole life with the aim of finding a little bit of peace and comfort. That it could reach people and inspire and influence them and get respect from cats that are like, super serious about this, it’s extremely gratifying, man. That also is fuel for creativity. Just knowing that cats like that are listening has pushed me at times. Like, “I gotta with some some next shit cuz G’s gonna be here tonight,” or, “I’m about to link up with Dibiase.” It’s humbling, gratifying, and blessing. That’s the most I can say about it. It’s a new idea for me. I gotta really ponder that and appreciate it. Because that is that is a serious thing, man. These are people who know about this work and this world. Even Gus Sutherland, when he came to the states to produce his documentary [All Ears], he talked with me quite a bit. I did maybe think about these things back then, about being included in the ranks of these greats in this world. But I don’t know that I’ve thought about it enough recently.