By Jessie Eden
Kentucky may not be the first thing to come to mind when you think about the music industry...but one Florence resident is working hard to change that. "The plan is to try and bring artists here so we don't have to move to LA, so hopefully we are here for good," said DJ Corbett, an NKY music producer who was nominated for a Grammy for "Best Rap Song" earlier this year.
Although Corbett didn't win the Grammy for "Racks in the Middle", he has some exciting new projects on the horizon. New efforts include one of his songs which will be featured in the new Madden game (for the second time), a new album with Harry Hudson and singles produced with Polo G, CNCO, Harry, and Big Sean.
This week, Corbett, a Villa Hills native, answered our questions about his work, what it was like to work with the late rapper Nipsey Hussle and how Kentucky is making a name for itself in the music industry. He even gave some useful advice for those looking to excel in the music industry. Enjoy!
===FTM: What led you to this career?
CORBETT: A friend of mine had a version of FL studio, which is the software I still use for beats, on his computer and showed it to me when we were roommates in 2005. I played around with it a little and just thought it was fun, and I always liked music. Later that year I went to college at Wittenberg University in Springfield, OH to play D3 basketball. But while I was there I kept going back to that program and trying to make music, I got really into it and ended up switching to a school in Minneapolis called the Institute for Production and Recording. I lived in MN for a while and worked on getting better, got to work with some great people there, then moved back to NKY when I got signed by Hi-Tek in 2009. Thats what brought me back to Florence.
FTM: How did you connect with rapper Nipsey Hussle?
CORBETT: I got to work on "Racks" thru my relationship with Hit-Boy. He is a legendary producer from Cali. My production partner, Sunny, who is also from NKY, introduced us in the summer of 2017.
FTM: For those who are reading and may not know, Nipsey Hussle sadly passed away in March 2019...but what was your favorite part about working with him?
CORBETT: I never got to meet Nipsey in person. Hit, Gdav, and I made the beat together in LA in Jan 2019 I believe, we also recorded Roddy's parts that same night. Then Hit played the song for Nip a week later or so, and the story is that Nip loved it and asked if he could have it.
Even though I never met him, being a part of this song gave me a completely new understanding of what music can mean to people. The way Nip motivated and uplifted people thru music is something that will stay w me forever. A lot of people from outside communities look at Nipsey Hussle's work as a negative because he spoke on gang life and rap life, but those of us outside that community cant really understand the experiences of the boys and girls who live everyday life in those neighborhoods.
Nipsey knew how to speak to the people in his community in a way that would really connect. Part of his genius was understanding how to connect to the marginalized and oppressed. He was delivering a multi-faceted message to that community, one of empowerment, self-enterprise, self acceptance, and family.
When I began to understand what Nipsey was really trying to do with his gift of music, I knew how much of an honor it was to even be a small part of that legacy.
FTM: Can you explain some of the creative challenges you encountered on this song? Or with producing/writing in general?
CORBETT: The crazy thing is I can't. Ive never had as seamless a process working on a record then with 'Racks'. Usually there are workflow issues of some kind when collaborating on a beat, but when we made this beat everything was just working so well. We probably made it in 20 minutes start to finish. Then Roddy walks in, Hit-Boy presses play on what we had just made and Roddy lays down a hook and verse in 20 min and leaves.
Then Nip heard it and recorded his verses the same week. Then, even more incredibly, the song was released only 2 weeks later, which is unheard of in the industry. Usually major releases take months or even a year to come out if they ever come out at all. It really felt like there was an urgency for this song that none of us understood at the time.
FTM: How did you feel being nominated for a Grammy?
CORBETT: It was a feeling I hadn't experienced before. Disbelief, then excitement, then disbelief again. I had the slightest feeling that there was like a 1% chance it would get nominated, so I was checking the grammy site when they announced nominations, and as I was scrolling down I saw it among the other nominated songs and my eyes just got big lol. Then I started getting texts. It was an amazing day!
FTM: What do you want people to understand about music production?
CORBETT: What I'm learning about music production really applies to life in general I think. You can't do it by yourself, and you can't always control what you want to control. The joy in doing any job is the relationships you are blessed to make and what you can learn from people you otherwise would probably never get an opportunity to spend time with.
I didn't start making traction in the music industry until I admitted to myself that I don't know what I'm doing and I needed other peoples help and insights. Once I opened up my network and took some chances, things really stared to happen, and after 10+ years working on my craft, I was ready!!
FTM: Are you working on any new projects now? / Anything you'd like to promote?
CORBETT: Sunny and I go by Th3 R3cip3 as a production team. We have been working on some really exciting projects so far this year. We actually had Harry Hudson come here to do his entire album in February, and we have singles with Polo G, CNCO, Harry, and Big Sean all due Q2 2020 (but due to corona everything is probably getting pushed). Just got word about a big placement on the upcoming Madden, which will be our second in a row now.
Cal Scruby is someone we work very closely with. He is another hometown artist who is doing amazing things. We produced the majority of his project that he will be releasing hopefully in May 2020.
FTM: What advice would you give people in Greater Cincinnati who are interested in this industry? What are the best steps for getting ahead?
CORBETT: Don't think the biggest opportunities can only come from people who are way ahead of you. Work with your peer group and build you network organically. Develop your skill set and understand the ecosystem of the industry. Try to understand people, and be kind and professional. Humility and grace go a long way in life. And personally for me, balance is important.
My faith and connection with my wife, T, allow me to stay consistent and even the ups and downs that a career can bring. Everything in my life is not about the music industry, which I feel gives me the ability to stay in the game longer.