I sat down with the LA based musician and producer, Thaddeus Dixon, to discuss “Violations,” the new track he produced for Talib Kweli’s new album and to get some insight on his merge from being a touring drummer to now also a breakout producer. At age 29, Dixon is no new artist to the industry, but 2013 was certainly his re-introduction to the music world as a producer on the rise and not just the man behind the drums.
Let’s begin with the most recent, “Violations,” the track you produced for Talib Kweli, which also has the legendary Raekwon featured on it. How did you get connected with Talib? And was this your first collab with him and Raekwon?
I started working with Talib playing drums on tour with him. A friend of mine from Detroit, who’s also a producer. I think Talib’s drummer couldn’t make it so he called him and he couldn’t make it and that’s my homie so he called me like “yo Talib Kweli needs a drummer for these dates.” So that’s how we started working together. But you know I was getting my production game up, trying to get placements and stuff like that. So over about a year, I was sending him records whenever I had something that I thought would fit him. He hit me up and was like “yo, I’m writing to one of your records.” And I was like ‘oh that’s dope, go ahead.’ And then he hit me back like “yeah Raekwon’s gonna be on it.” He sent me the record back once they finished it. I loved it, I didn’t even know he was working on the album or nothing like that.
That’s dope that Talib just casually called you to let you know not only was he using your record, but Rae was featured on it. Can you talk about the creative process. How did violations, the production come about?
I heard some stuff and that inspired me to create this track. It was like the perfect sound, perfect everything came together all at once. Everything was just perfect, I had all the ingredients to make this record. I sent this record out to a lot of different artists.
That’s actually my next question, who else did you shop the record to or was it originally made for Talib?
Yeah, I shopped it to a lot of R&B artists and rap artists. That was one of my best records that I produced. Even if it wasn’t an artist necessarily that I felt it was particularly for, I still sent it to them. But Talib picked it up, so it’s his now and Raekwon jumping on it was out of the blue. I did the track in Los Angeles, I did it about a year ago and they recorded the vocals in New York. And they sent it back to me and I put my voice and I put some stuff on it, changed a couple things and I sent the files back to them in New York so they could mix it and that’s how it came about.
So you knew even before Talib picked this up that this was a hit record, you knew this was something great?
I did, I knew it was just a matter of time. I mean it’s a gamble, you can think it’s so great. But I mean I knew it was that great, because some people would write on it, some people it just wasn’t for, but from a lot of people and out of all the records I sent to people, I got good feedback and positive vibes on that record. I did know it was a dope ass record and whoever get it, get it and it was gonna be a dope ass record for them. It was that type of beat, it wasn’t just like an okay beat where it had to be dope ass lyrics or vocals to make it next level. The beat was dope on its own.
How was it to not only produce for two legends in hip hop but to see the incredible feedback that the record received? Not just from peers and colleagues who heard it before Talib released the album, but that was the single, I saw it on every major site with your name on it.
It felt really good, it was validation. It validated me as a producer and introduced me. I’m a new producer. I been playing drums for a long time with different artists from Ne-Yo, to Sean Kingston, to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, to Talib, for a whole bunch of motherfuckas. But the touring world is different from the producing world. It validated me as a producer and It let me know as well as others know that this n***gas dope. I mean I had a relationship with Talib but it wasn’t to the point where we me and him were cousins or brothers and he was gonna automatically put me on and make sure my beat was on his album. I had to earn it.
Not only did you prove yourself to Talib but you proved yourself as a dope producer on the rise. Your musical background, you talked about a lot already but it’s really evident on “Violations.” I know you play the drums do you play any other instruments?
I play keys as a producer but not as a touring musician.
Kind of in that same idea, you've also toured as a musician, are you stepping away from being a performance musician to focus on production or are still in both lanes?
I’m in both lanes. You know you only got so many hours in the day. I been calling myself a producer for awhile because I can produce and I do produce. But you have to dedicate time to that and it’s a craft and you have to develop that craft. Like dancing, you have to go to class to practice your shit, just because you know how to dance doesn’t mean you’re a dancer. So I said if I wanted to be taken seriously, and seriously submit records, then I have to put a little more time into this. I don’t think it took away from me playing drums or touring, my focus went to production while I wasn’t touring. Because it’s hard to tour and produce. It was hard to do both, I’m not shying away from playing drums, I just have been a little more focused on production. Like in February I’ll probably be going back out on tour. So it’s just a give and take relationship. I go out on the road to play drums, when I come back I’m producing.
That’s amazing to really be active and successful in two careers in the same industry but still two totally different careers. So you explained you always produced, but you needed the time to really perfect your craft. How did you first get into production or say okay now I’m gonna focus on this?
I was a musician first. I didn’t wake up and be like “Oh, I wanna make beats and let me get this and this so I can make beats.” I been in music all my life so I was always a musician. The end of high school going into to college is when I really started trying to get into production, recording and producing and making beats. Actually my first placement was with an Indie/major label but it was as I was a freshmen in college for Patrice Wilson who is a gospel singer, and it was written b J Moss.
That was the first foot in the door. Who were some major influences growing up to get into production?
I would say definitely Kanye West, Just Blaze, Timbaland, Dark Child, Teddy Riley, Dallas Austin, Mario Winans.
Dope, that’s a great list. But “Violations” was a huge breakout record for you, what are other standout either records, moments or studio sessions that changed the game for you?
The beginning of this year I was on tour with Cody Simpson on the Justin Beiber tour and that ended at the end of March. I co-wrote a record on Ariana Grande’s album, I produced Teedra Moses’ new single. 2013 was my introductory year into people knowing that I produce, but I feel like 2014 is the time for me to really make my mark. This is the year where I make my name a little bit more known and get more placements. I got a record coming out with Teedra Moses and Rick Ross coming out next year. I’m excited about that because it’s Rick Ross, he rapping on my beat. I made that beat and he rapping on that. Its not no remix or no friend of a friend, they sent me his raw vocals to mix it and do everything on my beat.
I think nowadays producers are receiving more recognition for their talent & hard work, have you noticed that shift in the industry?
Yeah, producers are getting shine. Producers are really the one who’s delivering the record, the artist is the face. The artist is the representation of the record. That’s just like with any company, you have the CEOs and the workers, but when it comes time to be on television, you have a spokesperson. Tiger Woods is the face on Nike Golf, but there are other people behind it who make the engine run. Producers are becoming more popular. You have producers like Swizz Beats and Timbaland and few other producers, who are artists within their own light. You see them and hear their voices on the record. It gives producers the shine, which is definitely a good thing.
I agree, producers work so hard and I’m glad people are starting to recognize them. But last question, who are some artists you wanna produce for in the future?
I’m not biased, there’s so many artists that I enjoy musically. There are hundreds of artists from the popular ones to those less popular that I would love to work with. But right now, I really don’t give a fuck who I work with, I just wanna make good music. Because the music will bring the recognition, I just want people to like it. If you’re open to working with me, we gonna make something dope.
Give a shoutout.
Give a shoutout.
I just wanna shoutout everybody who supports me and believes in me and I wanna give a shoutout to “Come Home With Me” for having interest enough in me and my music to do this interview and who I believe sees the vision thoroughly and one day “Come Home With Me” is gonna have one of the first interviews of me. You got dibbs.
2014 is going to be an exciting year for Thaddeus Dixon. Check out his YouTube and Soundcloud page to keep up with this talented producer and musician. Also we've got the official "Violations" stream below.