Step inside a nightclub these days and you’re almost guaranteed to hear either of the smash hits produced by Illinois native D.A. Doman this year. First up, the 34-year-old reconnected with Tyga in May to lay the sonic foundation behind T-Raww’s mainstream resurgence with the triple-Platinum-certified “Taste,” which is built behind a euphonious vocal sample that even had Joe Budden happily singing along.
The Offset-assisted club banger has been a staple of the Billboard Hot 100 for the last five months, peaking at No. 8 on the chart and helping to define the summer. Doman didn’t waste any time in turning his focus toward his next potential anthem, thanks in part to a viral snippet in early September of a fresh out of jail Kodak Black hitting his now-signature dance in the studio with Travis Scott, while the island-tinged instrumental blared for a few seconds.
Even though the string-laden tune was oozing with summer vibes, Kodak’s “ZEZE” lived up to the monumental hype even in mid-October, and is already a hit record. Featuring assists from Travis Scott and Offset, “ZEZE” — named after a Sub-Saharan Africa stringed instrument, which the beat samples — debuted at No. 2 on the Hot 100. The track was streamed over an astronomical 47 million times across platforms in its debut week, and currently sits firmly in the Hot 100‘s top 10 at No. 6.
“I won’t lie, I want that No. 1 spot. It’s blowing up at radio right now, so I think it’s possible,” D.A. tells Billboard. Even throughout his impressive year, Doman remains tightlipped when it comes to breaking down the records behind his success. “I don’t really like to talk too much about how I do my production. I like to keep things quiet, makes it more interesting that way.”
With that said, Billboard still caught up with D.A. Doman over the weekend to detail the origin of both “Taste” and “ZEZE,” Tyga’s comeback, his upcoming track with Quavo, and the snippet era of music we live in.
Billboard: With “ZEZE” debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, would you say you were surprised to see it up that high, even with all the hype surrounding the record?
D.A Doman: Yeah, I wasn’t super surprised because the hype was so huge with the beat, and the streaming numbers were off the charts for the first week. I expected it to debut high. I saw some people online saying it was going to debut at No. 3, so I was happy when it landed at No. 2. I won’t lie, I want that No. 1 spot. It’s blowing up at radio right now, so I think it’s possible.
It’s crazy that it was all largely thanks to this viral snippet that was getting played everywhere. Was it crazy to go through that, with people having high expectations for the track? Also, what do you think about this snippet era we are living in with music now?
Yeah, it was exciting, honestly. Everyone on the Internet knew about the beat. It was a worldwide phenomenon. It was the biggest music snippet of the month, and the biggest meme too. The love that the beat got shown hasn’t happened before for an unreleased song to my knowledge, and everyone I’ve talked to has said the same thing… [it’s] a first in hip-hop for an unreleased song’s instrumental to get so huge. It was getting played at parties, clubs, concerts, and everything.
I don’t really look at this era as the snippet era. I think, at the end of the day, it’s just about making amazing music. And if the music is really standout-dope, all the listener needs to hear is a short clip of it for them to know if they love it or not.
Was there any chance of Tyga getting on the original? What did you think about his “Shine” freestyle with Swae Lee? I was a fan of what they did there.
No, Tyga wasn’t in the plans for the original, to my knowledge. I thought the freestyle sounded good. It makes sense because the beat is so big, everyone has been doing freestyles to it.
I recently read up on the Zeze being a sub-Saharan string instrument. How did you come across that and end up flipping it into a full-fledged beat? Also, what made you keep that exclusively for Kodak Black?
I don’t really like to talk too much about how I do my production. I like to keep things quiet, makes it more interesting that way. I thought the island vibe matched Kodak perfect because he’s from Florida. I’m a real big Kodak fan, he’s an incredible artist, rapper, and I wanted to do a big record with him. I thought my sound would match well with his. Luckily, things worked out.
It’s been amazing to see Tyga’s resurgence this year. You’ve been someone that’s worked closely with him over the years, did you notice anything different in him working in 2018 rather than say 2014?
I think he has locked in on what his fans want from him. They, a lot of the time, want records that resonate in the club, and he’s been making those.
Walk me through how “Taste” came together. I heard you sent the main part of the beat to Tyga and then he actually pieced it together and rapped over it. Also, why did you recommend Offset as a feature? I saw you wanted someone else on there.
The beat that I sent him was the same as the one you hear on the radio, what he changed is he sped up the tempo a few [BPM]. I recommended Offset because he’s one of the best rappers in the game. You just don’t ever hear weak Offset verses. He also has a lot of buzz and momentum, so I thought that’d be the perfect feature to push the record over the top and make it a smash.
What else do you have planned to close out 2018? Who have you been working with?
Been working with a lot of different people. I don’t want to give too much away. I have a crazy record with Quavo coming up and some other big stuff too.
Are either of the aforementioned hits song of the year in your opinion?
Yeah, a lot of people were direct messaging me saying “Taste” was the beat of the year. Then, when “ZEZE” came out, people said the same thing. I definitely feel like both of those beats are up for beat of the year, and both of those songs are contenders for song of the year too. [They’re] definitely real big records that the people have connected with and that’s always my aim.