Just in time to kick off summer, veteran producer Salaam Remi (Amy Winehouse, Nas) wants to take you on a trip to Miami.
At the top of May, the Queens native teamed up with singer Kat Dahlia for the 4-track South Beach Social Club EP, and today the duo is unveiling the Miami-inspired “Sunny Daze” video exclusively with Billboard. “I always want to [present] the marketplace with something that’s going to be left of center but still appeals to your human and emotional senses,” the veteran producer says of his creative process.
The Michael Garcia-directed video jumps from picturesque beaches to nightclub alleyways as Dahlia shows off the authentic South Beach experience. “I wanted you to see how we were hanging out and doing a regular Miami day at the beach,” Remi, 46, says. “This feels like the cultural Miami life — I’ve been living here for 17 years, and [Kat] was raised here.”
Below, Remi tells Billboard about how the EP and video came together, his friendship with Nas, and future plans for his Louder Than Life record label.
How did you end up collaborating with Kat Dahlia for the South Beach Social Club EP?
Kat and I were always great friends, and what I like doing now is being more in the indie phase: “Come over and let’s jam and come up with some great music. If we like it, then we can put it out.” South Beach Social Club is basically Kat and I vibing on the weekend. We came up with a couple songs that we thought felt good and, rather than sitting on them, we started playing them for a couple of people, and they liked them. I decided, “Let’s just put it out” [and use] the indie space as a breeding ground for us to get things out there that feel organic to us, rather than feeling like it has to be the biggest thing in the world.
What did you want to convey with the vibe of the “Sunny Daze” visual? The setting of the video is oozing with summertime vibes.
That’s Miami 80 percent of the year. I just wanted it to be self-explanatory. I wanted you to see how we were hanging out and doing a regular Miami day at the beach. This feels like the cultural Miami life — I’ve been living here for 17 years, and [Kat] was raised here. For me, I always want to [present] the marketplace with something that’s going to be left of center but still appeals to your human and emotional senses. That’s really my flagship. At this point, I have a lot of culturally relevant music that goes from jazz to reggae that I feel people want to hear, so I’ll keep sharing it on that level.
What are you working on right now with your Louder Than Life label?
Overall the whole vibe is, “Fewer ideas is more.” Flying Buddha is definitely going to have more jazz collaborations with artists of today and older. Then you have Omi and Mack Wilds. My whole motive is to push the sound out of Miami. [I remember] there was a time when I first worked with Amy Winehouse in the studio in Circle House [during the making of Back to Black] — Pretty Ricky [was] in one room, and they were mixing Rick Ross in another.
It’s that same energy. I want to be the Miami hub for young artists working out of here and coming through my doors and leaving with a whole other sound. That’s what it’s been for Miguel and Amy Winehouse in the past. Kind of how Motown was in Detroit. I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years. I moved here in 2001, but the years of me functioning at the A-level is what it’s all about.
You’ve worked extensively with Nas in the past. What do you expect from his next album?
I haven’t heard it actually. Nas and I are really close. I can only assume it’s along the lines of Kanye West and Pusha-T‘s albums. Nas and I always connect regardless of music, so we’ll see what the rest of the year has to hold.
How do you feel about Angie Martinez getting nominated for the Radio Hall of Fame this year?
I love it. I just got off my social media to support that. I was around at Hot 97 with Angie and Funkmaster Flex, and I was happy when Flex got his. I’m also happy to see her [be recognized] as well. They entered [New York City] on the radio and they never left. Angie’s voice is still as relevant to those growing up now as it was to someone who was there 26 years ago. I don’t know many people that have been consistently on the front lines of the major stations for that long. It’s history, and it’s culture. This is the upbringing for kids. Angie Martinez, the Apollo Theater, the Daily News — these things don’t go anywhere.
How did Angie’s interview with J. Cole at your house come about?
J. Cole called me and wanted to know if they could do an interview at my house. He did some recording here when he was doing his first album. I’m one of those people where I like people to come by and hang out. We’ve all created music in my space. I wasn’t sure who was doing the interview. They told me Angie, and I was like, “So it’s all family.” They wanted somewhere private to record where they would be able to express how they felt, and I was like, “Do it here.” It was organic. My house is my creative space. I have three or four studios that are always making records. This is a factory pretty much. I can’t say everything I’m doing, but I even have artists here today.
I feel like, ever since you connected with Miguel, his artistry has reached a new level. Have you noticed that too?
For sure. Before I met Miguel, Jazmine Sullivan had been playing his mixtapes while we were working out in Los Angeles. She was playing [songs like “Sure Thing” and “Quickie”] that ended up becoming charting hits for him. When I heard them, I thought it was really good. I first met him when we created “All I Want Is You.” It was like J. Cole meeting me for the first time. Miguel walked into the session cold. I was like, “Who is this guy?” He told me he was friends with Mark Pitts, and Nas was working with him at the time. I was like, “You’re family. What’s good?”
He [had written] “How Many Drinks,” but he didn’t want to do that at the time, [so we] started something with guitars and had “All I Want Is You” nailed in a day. He was still like, “Nah, I’m not sure if it’s good enough.” But that changed when he saw the reaction to it. When he saw people say, “I like Miguel behind that song,” I felt like it opened up his confidence about all of his ideas. Sometimes as artists, we can overthink and feel like we have to go beyond, but sometimes you sit down and be who you are. What I unlocked in Miguel is him [showing] more of him being himself. He’s produced his biggest hit to date with “Adorn” on his own. I didn’t touch that. His confidence was at a certain level based on his experiences. That’s part of my goal [with] the community and with labels — to introduce some talent that will introduce other talents.