Reservoir Media Management - DANJA: FIRST CUTS
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Reservoir writer-producer Danja, a two-time Grammy Award winner, four-time nominee, and SESAC Songwriter Of The Year in 2007, 2008, and 2010, has contributed to twelve #1 Billboard singles performed by pop music royalty. Over the last few weeks, Danja has been treating his Instagram followers to an inside look at how his hit-making career started, providing behind-the-scenes anecdotes from his run-ins with chart-topping recording artists and memorable studio sessions. We’ve highlighted our favorite moments from his journey below:

2005: “My Style”, Monkey Business - The Black Eyed Peas

In 2005, Danja worked with The Black Eyed Peas, by then known for hits like “Where Is The Love” and “Let’s Get It Started”, on their fourth album Monkey Business, producing the album cut "My Style” featuring Justin Timberlake and Timbaland. Danja notes of the funk-influenced song, "That was a small glimpse of a style that was brewing in that small D room at the hit factory.”

2005: “Whatchu Want” featuring Jay-Z, Duets: The Final Chapter - The Notorious B.I.G.

Danja hooked up with rapper and mogul Jay-Z for the first time back in 2005 on the track “Whatcha Want” from The Nororious B.I.G album Duets: The Final Chapter. Jay-Z solicited Danja’s skills to produce the cut from a Biggie a cappella track. He remembers working in New York City to finish the project: "That intro before his verse came from him helping me orchestrate the feeling. I'll never forget how hype he was getting. The pressure was crazy. But pressure can be my comfort zone. I can say I produced a track for the commission. Who else has done that? Now we had to mix and get it right it was myself and Marcella Araica in the studio late. She originally did the hook vocal, but we ended up randomly finding somebody on the cold New York street to come in and lay it. It was fun and crazy. Like when Ray Charles needed a 'Johnny girl' I got it. We did the same thing.”

2005: “He’ll Be Back”, Rebirth - Jennifer Lopez

No stranger to working with A-listers, Danja collaborated with Jennifer Lopez on "He’ll Be Back", from her 2005 album, Rebirth. He recalls meeting her and feeling starstruck: "I think I've been star struck maybe 3 times. Definitely was wild being in the same room even if was for a few hours.”

Largely speculated to be a breakup song following her very public split from actor Ben Affleck, the super sexy “He’ll Be Back” made quite a statement with lines like, “I know better than anybody how it feels to want somebody so bad after you breakup.”

2006: “Diddy Rock”, “After Love”, “Wanna Move”, Press Play - P. Diddy

In 2006, Danja recalls meeting P. Diddy: "All I had to go by were stories, rumors and tv shows of his character. No idea what was gonna walk into the studio. Of course he pull up and enter the room in true puff daddy fashion. I was focused tho. Me and tim worked side by side. Both of us in headphones. We were both cooking.. But I had both tim and diddy's eyes on me. Puff started ear hustling. It was burning him up hat he couldn't hear what I was hearing. He finally put on my headphones and he laid his ears on "Diddy rock" beat... He went absolutely crazy.. Him and tim bangin it in the studio. The pressure was off shit was flowing."

When the album was complete, Danja had contributed to three cuts on Diddy’s fourth studio album Press Play, "Diddy Rock” featuring Timbaland, Shawnna, and Twista; "After Love” featuring Keri Kilson; and “Wanna Move” featuring Ciara, Big Boi, and Scar. The album debuted #1 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart and was certified Gold.

2006: “Get A Light” featuring Damien “Jr. Gong” Marley, The Blue Carpet Treatment - Snoop Dogg

As Danja was beginning work on “Whatchu Want”, Snoop Dogg was across the hallway at Hit Factory Criteria Studios working on ”Get A Light” from his eighth studio album The Blue Carpet Treatment. Danja lent his talents there, too, noting, “Tim had the beat rocking already then I came through with the sauce. Little small touches. It was cool to be a part of this one.”

2006: Loose - Nelly Furtado

Danja spent two years working on Nelly Furtado’s 2006 album Loose, co-writing and producing all but one track. The album was critically acclaimed and produced the #1 singles “Promiscuous” and “Get It Right”, which picked up Grammy nods for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance respectively. Danja fondly remembers, "Then we let loose... 2 years bunked inside of a studio everyday.. Making tracks, talkin shit, drinking, eating making more music, just studio rat life crafting chemistry and we applied it all to @nellyfurtado 'loose' album. We started cooking ideas before she arrived. I remember specifically working on 'wait for you' with @timbaland is was so jammin to us. I also remember going to atl for a few days I was working with @kerihilson then I came back and nelly was in town now. I walked in the room they were working on 'glow' with @beanzbeanzbeanz I was like oh ok... I put the headphones on and magically appeared the bones to 'maneater' we all went nuts in the studio and the speaker caught on fire literally! Lol. Was an amazing project. So many stories from almost every song! Needless to say 'promiscuous' was my 1st #1 record with 'say it right' to follow. It was now a new game.. We did 10 on that album.. Also came away with some Grammy nods."

2006: FutureSex/LoveSounds – Justin Timberlake

In 2006, Danja hooked up with Justin Timberlake for his second studio album FutureSex/LoveSounds. The critically acclaimed album is widely regarded as Timberlake’s best for his experimentation with diverse sounds and genres, eventually producing six charting singles including four Billboard Hot 100 #1s. It also received Grammy Award nominations for Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album and went on to sell over ten million copies worldwide.

Danja knew he was working on something special, at the time. As he puts it, “We shocked the world and shifted the music business. Let open the flood gates for edm to be accepted in the mainstream music world. We changed the game for a good for at least 8-9 years. I can go on and on about this project…as far as the creation process it was flawless... It flowed.. We were experimenting and everything worked. This was the moment where the teacher thru a challenge out to me and I came through with the checkmate. It happened... I developed something that was mines.. Tim just did a track that was crazy to me and everyone in the room!! one of those ones that leave you stuck for days he looked over at me and said 'ur turn' How do you come back from that?? So let's take a step back.. A year prior I bought some sounds with my own money from Brian Kidd he gave me a lil package I was hyped. Before that I went to club space with @incrediblelago and seen the future. I've never seen a rave for lack of a better word. And the music was so ill to me. What was even more crazy was how the people were in the trance just zoned out. I made a note right then and said I need to people to react like this to my music. Fast forward back to the package of these weird trance sounds. I now had the tools. Now I tried to cook up some dance trax of course they were trash. I got a few laughs and giggles out of a few people but it was cool I knew where it was headed. Fast forward day 3 or 4 of Justin sessions tim struck 1st a few days before left me stuck til day 3. I go to the headphones.. Load my cracking ass drums I get a pattern. Boom Boom kack... Boom boom kack... Boom boom kack... Boom boom boom ... Boom boom boom..... I was like ok.... Then I load that fucking vanguard vst. And played chords with the arpeggiator..... OH SHIT 😱😱😱😱😱🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️!!!!!! I got it... It was the bones to 'my love' it's been 10 years since.” Danja wrote and produced ten of the twelve tracks on the album.

2007: “Gimme More”, “Break The Ice”, “Hot As Ice”, “Perfect Lover”, “Get Naked (I Got A Plan)”, Blackout - Britney Spears

The following year, Danja flew to Vegas to work on Britney Spears’ 2007 comeback album, Blackout. He explains, "We end up in the hard rock studio where the 1st song written and recorded was 'break the ice' .. @kerihilson and Jim beans on the pen and arrangements. There's so many good stories and great ones about the @britneyspears that I got to really vibe with. Super sweetheart and she really put a lot of energy into the project. Seeing her reaction to 'gimmie more' and 'get naked' ..watching her dance in the studio while she recorded and listened to playback was a dream. She was connected to the vibes. I really am appreciative of the way Teresa let us work. Of course she said what was good and what was a no go but she just let me do whatever I wanted musically and that's what you guys got. Musical freedom. I remember doing the beat to 'get back' in a Katherine McPhee session and 'gimmie more' beat in a fantasia session lol. A&Rs I suggest you ear hustle cuz u never know what producers are doing in their headphones. Anyway I remember we were mixing 'gimmie more' one of my best studio memories. One of my 1st lead producer projects. It went platinum just recently. This was a diamond album. Everyone who contributed killed it.”

2007: “Hurt” featuring Alfa Mega and Busta Rhymes, “Respect This Hustle” “Tell ‘Em I Said That”, T.I. Vs. T.I.P - T.I.

Danja proves that opportunity is part luck, part preparation when he explains how his collaborations with rapper T.I. came to fruition. He saw T.I. in a studio parking lot, thinking to himself, "damn.. I gotta give him something.. but didn't have a damn thing.. I swear I ran in the room , went to the 1st patch I could find! I played a crazy melodic progression and did the beat in 5 minutes! No lie.. ran back out like yo I got something for you!”

The beat ended up becoming “Tell ‘Em I Said That” from T.I.’s fifth studio album, T.I. Vs. T.I.P. The pair went on to collaborate on two additional tracks on the album, “Respect This Hustle” and “Hurt” featuring Alfa Mega and Busta Rhymes. “Hurt” was released as the album’s third official single.

2008: “4 Minutes” featuring Justin Timberlake, “Miles Away”, Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You”, “Voices”, Hard Candy – Madonna

Danja recalls the unforgettable experience of working on superstar Madonna’s 2008 album Hard Candy, on which he wrote two of the album’s singles including the lead single “4 Minutes” with Justin Timberlake. As Madonna’s 37th Top 10 single, “4 Minutes” lead Madonna to dethrone Elvis Presley as the artist with the most Top 10 singles upon release.

Of the collaboration, Danja says, "So, not everyone can say the had the queen madonna at a text messages reach...and she hit u back with some dark humor that's aimed at weak and sensitive lol. Thank god im neither so I got it 😉 anyway the session was full of it. If You cant take it leave asap. Otherwise it was lovely lol. Super cool woman. Funny how working with the mega stars that I've been blessed to work with were the easiest and most laid back sessions. You prima donnas are pains in my ass.... so I had a meeting at her massive crib in Beverly Hills we chopped it up for a little, game planned and set a date to work. Fast forward we're in London. Justin, tim, myself and ms lago. 1st jam done was 4 minutes! The rest is what it is.. one of my favorites is 'the devil wouldn't recognize you' again headphone shawty (myself) got to work on the piano riff.. tim and Justin brought the magic. I also love miles away with jt on the guitars. Was an amazing feeling. Amazing and unforgettable experience. Being out the country surrounded by massive talent was something I never envisioned and there I was. AND it was 3 va producers on this project! Tim, Pharrell and myself.”

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