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Q&A | DAKARI

October 15, 2019

Read the full interview on FlauntMag.com!

Dakari is far more than just G-Eazy’s producer, he’s an artist in his own right. Born in Zimbabwe and putting on for his African roots at all times, real name Dakarai Gwitira is a creative above all else — ready to step out from behind-the-scenes and unleash his own music under his name.

Coming from humble beginnings, Dakari remembers growing up in the southern African nation as a kid making any noise he could, banging on garbage cans in his neighborhood to create a beat. From there, he moved to the States at age 12 where he eventually discovered the greats: from Pharrell to Outkast to Missy Elliott. To this day, it’s the way they were able to foster their own sound that resonated with him most, carrying over to his present-day work.

Being G-Eazy’s go-to producer definitely comes with much celebration. Dakari’s work on G’s 2017 album The Beautiful & The Damned does not go unnoticed, an album which debuted at #3 on the US Billboard 200 and became certified Platinum in January of this year. While the two’s relationship and bond in the studio is unmatched, it’s the sold-out shows, festivals, and tours that yield priceless memories that will last a lifetime.

But Dakari wants more. The 30-year-old wants to give back to his African community and unleash records with this in mind specifically. Breaking out as a solo artist, he unleashed his debut single “Enough” featuring G-Eazy, Tommy Genesis and Jozzy, which serves as just a light taste of what he’s capable of. Describing himself as a “producer, engineer, songwriter, extraordinaire,” the world is his playground when it comes to the music.

Flaunt Mag caught up with Dakari to discuss his journey to the states, childhood in Africa, wanting to move back to Africa, life on tour with G-Eazy, and unleashing his own unique sound.

Why should people fuck with you?

Because I make one of ones. Nowadays, everything is interchangeable. If you want something that’s one of one, that’s what I do. If you want a song that isn’t going to be made again, that’s what I do.

Talk about being born in Zimbabwe then coming to the US.

I was born and raised in Zimbabwe, I moved to the US when I was 12 years old. Moved to Texas which was crazy. Being born in Africa was cool because I didn’t really grow up listening to music, so it was whatever I wanted it to be. I didn’t even know people got paid off music. Moved from Zimbabwe to Texas then when I was 20, I moved to New York. Started interning there at Quad Studios, that’s where I met G-Eazy. Eventually became the head engineer, met G a few years later, then moved to LA.

How long have you lived in LA? 

It’ll be 4 years in October.

Favorite part about the West Coast?
The landscape. The weather.

Photographed by Chris Weigen.

How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist? 

It’s really important because you need to understand how it really works. Most people have an idea of what it looks like, but no idea how it works. Also in the process, you could really lose yourself because you start to see everybody else’s process. In that you can lose your own process, you lose your own voice. You have to be careful with it. I guess LA has some of that validation, but do you need to move to LA? No.

How was the household growing up? 

Great question. I grew up with my mom. My dad left, moved to the US when I was probably 2 years old. Honestly, I couldn’t put a face to him with the exception of pictures. It’s funny. When I was in Africa, one of my childhood friends told me he thought we were poppin’. We were good, paid up — but we weren’t. [laughs] It was just my mom and I. My mom held everything down, she was cool. My mom’s my best friend. She left, moved to the US when I was 10.

You didn’t go with her?

No, I stayed because she couldn’t afford it. It just didn’t make sense. You need immigration papers, all this stuff. She had to come here and figure it out first. She left, I stayed with some family and even our maid at the time. When I say ‘maid’, everyone’s like “what, maid?” But it’s different over there, everyone has a maid. It’s not a luxury item.

Aside from that actually, my childhood was fantastic. Until I moved here is when I felt trapped. Because I was always outside, I did whatever I did. Come over here, it’s like “oh you’ll get kidnapped.” I can’t even walk home from school or ride the school bus.

What were your parents listening to?

My mom listened to a lot of African gospel. This girl named Rebecca Malope, a South African gospel singer. That’s pretty much it. Just mainly African gospel, there were a couple English songs in there. I couldn’t even tell you the artists, that’s how insignificant it was. Mainly she’d be listening to this Rebecca lady. That and of course the local artists in Zimbabwe like Oliver Mtukudzi.

How did you get into producing?

When I was 16, I was watching Making Da Band. I saw Timbaland on there like “dang, this is fire.” At some point, I was online and saw instrumentals. I realized “whoa wait a minute, people make the shit. Damn, I want to do that.” My first time getting into a computer to make a beat, I was 17. I remember because that’s all I asked for for my birthday. My dad was really strict so he had this computer in my bedroom locked. I had no access. All I asked, I’m like “bro please unlock the computer so I can cook.”

At what point did you think you made it?

Funny, I thought I made it when I was making $8.25 at Quad Studios in New York. I thought I made it when I didn’t have to work another job. I was making $1500 dollars a month at Quad doing just engineering. My first feeling of “I made it” because before that, I worked in an office. I worked in a call center, got promoted. I worked as an analyst. When I left all that and got to New York, I worked serving food at a private school — then I worked at another call center. I was working at the studio so when I dropped the other 2 jobs and could only work off music, it was a feeling of “I made it.” To me, it was always so fleeting. Always felt I was one step away from going back. I still feel that way till this day.

Talk about working with G-Eazy and your relationship with him from Quad to now.

I love G. Met in 2015, he pulled up to the studio. It was quick man, within the first few seconds he walked in the booth. First, his assistant came like “yo he’s ready to record.” I’m like “alright.” I go to the room, shake his hand. “Wassup?” I’m like “boy this man tall as hell, skinny as hell.” I wasn’t sure who he was, didn’t know much of his work. He went in the booth and was killing it. I knew right away: “yeah, I’ma work with this guy.” No more than 10 seconds as soon as he started rapping his verse, I knew. After we’re done recording the song, he comes around and says the same thing. He’s like “bro I’ma work with you.”

The general flow of things, he’ll walk in the studio. He’ll say “play something” — after we’ve done everything we need to do. We gotta do features, we gotta do these drops, everything else that’s on the list, that’s when it’s time for us to do what we do. Create. He’ll say, “alright, play me something that’ll make the hairs on my arms stand up.” I play it. Just about every time, we end up recording a song.

The Beautiful & Damned was a big album for G. What was it like being alongside him in the process?

It was great. G, Edd and myself, the 3 of us worked on most of that album. That was a lot going on. We were touring, we went to South America and Asia. It was great. We tried to go a little deeper, we did most of it at the house. I pretty much moved into his house. Usually, I work longer. I’m the first person to the studio, last person to leave. Sometimes, I’d stay overnight. If we recorded something, I’d stay up until it’s finished. He’d wake up in the morning and I’d be leaving the studio. He’d come to the studio at noon like “you still up?” I’m like “yeah, but the song is finished! Listen to it, I’m about to go sleep.” It was dope because he just moved into the house [in Beachwood Canyon]. It was great, we really got a lot closer around that time.

How does the working relationship work with the friendship?

It’s actually quite smooth. One thing I like with G is we never really mixed business conversation or work. There was one time where we had to do that, we’re all kind of flirting around. We’re like “bro, we spent too much time together to have an elephant in the room. It can’t be like that.” No matter what goes on, we need to talk about it. Clear it out then go to work, because we just spent too much time together.

It was literally awkward just that one conversation. It’s smooth. It’s really open. He’s really my best friend so it’s open all around. “This is what’s going on, this how I’m feeling, I’m not feeling this.” If he goes in and does something that sucks, I’m like “bro that sucks.” If he comes in and I made a track and the drums suck, he’s like “bro the drums suck. Let’s redo the drums.” It’s no saving each other’s feelings, which is fantastic. We get the best out of each other.

I know G parties, talk about going on tour with him and the party lifestyle.

What happens on tour stays on tour. [laughs] It’s about balance. Everything’s about balance. Work hard, play hard. Generally, you want your homies around. Beyond the fact that we work, you want your homies around. If it was reversed, I’d be like “bro pull up” all the time. Energetically, we help each other out. The music is very personal. When you’re in the studio, you talk about your deepest darkest songs and you can do that in front of your engineer, they know you the most. They help you come up with an idea for a song. For instance, “what haven’t I said?” You want to be with that person all the time because you’re vulnerable around them the most.

Everyone else might have a version or an idea. “This person’s like this because this is how I see them on TV or when they’re out.” But the people in the studio, they really know you. You coming in and you’re sad, you’re like “I don’t feel like doing these features. I don’t feel like blah blah blah,” nobody else might know that when they hear the song on the radio. It’s having each other’s safety, that’s how I look at it.

You worked on “Him & I” right?

I did additional production, yes. It was The Futuristics and myself. That was great. Edd Grand from APG set up that session, we did it at G’s house. He’s one of the homies. The Futuristics came through, Madison Love, Edd, G, myself. We worked on the song. Eventually fast forward a few months later, Ashley Halsey cut it.

What was it like seeing him and Halsey in love?
It was funny because he was different in that situation. I was never one to have relationships but seeing them, I’m like “I might want a girl or something.” It was great because she hella pushed him. They pushed each other. The competitiveness and all that was cool. It’s sad how everything went down but it’s all part of the process. It’s part of the art. You can see on both sides what comes out, it’s part of life.

That whole album went Platinum, how does it feel? 

I mean, I’ve got a lot of plaques. They’re usually at my house. I’m actually not a plaque collector. Truthfully, I don’t dwell on anything. Once I work on it, it’s gone. Honestly, I don’t even really check charts. I’ll celebrate, but I don’t bask in it. I would feel weird — the last person in this room had their plaques up. You can see on the wall right there. But to me, it’s weird to do that.

I think it could be motivating.

I wish I could find that perspective of it. [chuckles] For me, I guess I’m always trying to make the next thing. Maybe it’s partly because I don’t know I’ve gotten plaques for what I truly want to get plaques for.

And what is that? 

My shit. It’s a certain sound. I’m just now starting to release music that’s representative of what I think is fire. Getting a plaque doing that? I mean everything I do is fire, but there’s a certain lane I always have to play if I’m making a song for G or for whoever. It’s partly their lane, not strictly my lane and having them come into my world. Getting a plaque in my world, it’s different.

What is your world, what is that sound? 

I’m not sure I could really pinpoint, you have to hear it. “Enough” has parts of that, but the next song I’m about to drop called “Don’t Mind Me.” It’s directly reflective of me and what I like to do. There’s a song by KO called “Mood,” that’s reflective of what I like to do. On the album, you have “Fly Away,” some B-side stuff, even the intro to Beautiful & The Damned, etc.

How important is a producer tag?

I don’t really have a producer tag but there might be one that might stick. But then again, beautiful things don’t ask for attention. My work should speak for itself, Timbaland, Pharell they didn’t have a tag. Their tag was the music. If you feel like you need a tag for people to recognize you, you’re focused on the wrong things.

Talk about wanting to move back to Africa in February. 

How people move to LA and pick up everyone’s processes, you learn. It’s how everything goes down. For me in that process, I’ve tapped too much into that. I need to dial back and spend more time with myself. I need to create from the place that got me here, which was separate of how things work. Now that I know how things work, I want to step back and fuse them. My true creativity, what I really feel like I should make — and put that together. That requires peace, it requires space. It requires you to hear your own voice uninhibited by other things.

Reality is what you make it. All this could be in my head, but that’s my reality. My heart tells me that I need to step out a little and give myself room to breathe. Not put pressure on my creativity to sustain my life, I’m able to do that in Africa. I’ll come back every quarter and hopefully I’ll have sessions. I really only want to get people who believe in what I do and I believe in them, not just because it’s a play or it’s what’s cool.

Being in Africa allows for that because it’s hella cheap. I’m not thinking about getting another bag per say, I just need to work a little bit. It gives me freedom. It’s about the real essence of why I did this. It’s like when you arrive somewhere and you’re the person you always imagined to be, but you don’t feel like that. You’re not that person anymore. I just want to complete the whole pie and live 2 separate lives. I have my home life when I leave LA and go back to Texas, mom’s in North Carolina and my dad’s in Texas. That’s a separate life. I don’t like that because this person that’s in Texas is the person that dreamed to be in LA, so I need both to feel whole. I believe I can do that in Africa. I spend a lot of time there. Every time I’m there, I feel good and I come back.

How often do you go?
Quite a bit, I went twice last year. The second time I was there, I was there for a month in a half.  The last time I went, I didn’t take anything. I took clothes and a guitar. I was playing a little bit of guitar. This time around will be different, I’m going to set up a studio.

3 things you need in the studio?

I need Buddy (dog) in the studio, he’s like my co-pilot. I need peace in the studio. I need time. Those are the 3 things I need to make something happen.

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