Darrell “Digga” Branch is known as the “producer behind such acclaimed songs such as Many Men by 50 Cent, Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop by Young Gunz, Dopeman by Jay-Z, Open Off My Love by Jennifer Lopez and more.”
In his time in the music business as a producer he’s become so much more than a producer of music. His latest achievements include author (The Beat Game – peep our book club feature…) and teacher with PskillUniversity.com, his own music school, soon to be added to the list.
We were able to catch up with Digga for a quick Q & A. Let’s dig in.
For those that may not know tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Darrell “Digga” Branch, music producer from Harlem, NYC. I am one of the original members of Children Of The Corn, a collective group started by rapper Big L. The group members were Cam’ron, Mase, Herb McGruff and Bloodshed among others.
Who are some of the artists you’ve produced for?
Over the last 20 years, I have worked with artist such as Usher, Destiny;s Child, Wu-Tang, Nas and more. I’m best know for the production work I’ve done for Camron, 50 Cent, Jay Z, Jennifer Lopez, Ghostface and Young Gunz.
Do you have a favorite joint that you’ve produced for any of those artists? If so, which one?
I would probably say it’s a toss-up between Camron’s “357” and Young Gunz “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop.” “357” was my first record that gained a huge response, especially in New York City. It use to make everyone in NYC clubs go crazy. “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop” is my most successful radio single to date. It’s one of my favorites because it was created organically in 10 minutes. The track is mostly made up of drum sounds and I knew when I created that it would be a hit just by keeping it that simple. The song was released during the time when Jay Z released the Blueprint. Every producer was mostly sampling old soul records. I wanted to go in a different direction with that old school drum machine sound.
How did you break into the game of beat making on a professional level?
The first track that I actually got paid for was for a song called “American Dream.” Big L heard the original version that featured only Camron, Bloodshed and Mase. After that, he wanted to make it a group collaboration between all the members of Children Of The Corn. Columbia Records paid me $1500 and we went in the studio. The rest is history.
Are you a classically trained musician?
No. At times, I wish I was though. But then again, I think I can make an argument for being a classically trained beat makers. I think some beat makers are not learning the basics of beat making.
What, in your opinion, is the difference between beatmaking and producing?
I wrote about this in my book “The Beat Game.” Beatmaking is a skill of making beats, which means putting sounds together and knowing the technical aspects of the instruments. A producer is a leader, manager and overseer of a production project. Of course, you can share both responsibilities but they’re two different titles. Less and less “producing” is actually happening nowadays.
Technological advances have put the ability to produce music in everyone’s reach. Do you think there are advantages and/or disadvantages to that sort of accessibility?
I use to think that but over the years, I have learned that people view and consume art in different ways. So, just because it’s easier to get your hands on a production set up, doesn’t guarantee that anyone will like it or appreciate it. Of course, the technological advances are great because in some ways, it makes the process simpler but if you lack the beatmaking skills, it doesn’t matter. Skill is what is important.
Of all the beatmakers and producers, if beatmakers and producers became extinct tomorrow and you could save only 2 (excluding yourself) who would you save?
Wow! I would have to say Dr.Dre and DJ Premier. Truly the best of both worlds..
What was the inspiration for the writing the book?
It was really simple. After doing research to try to find a book on the business of Hip Hop, I couldn’t find one. Also, after talking with so many beat makers over the years, I realized that I could pass some wisdom on because I believe a lot of the neglect the business side.
Are there plans for another book?
Of course. My publishing company Branch Family Publishing is set to release three upcoming books. True Confessions Of A Hip Hop Producer, Heatmaking: 10 Techniques to Become A Hip Hop Producer and Mogul Kid Adventures: Making It In The Biz, which is our first children’s book release.
If aspiring producers could only take away 3 things from your book, what would you want them to be?
Well, I would hope that they would learn the basics of publishing, the different types of royalties and how to build a dream team. It still amazes that some beatmakers don’t know how they actually make money in this business. That truly needs to change if they have plans on becoming a professional.
I enjoyed the fact that your book takes a rather focused look at the “business” of beatmaking. Why was that important for you to focus on that throughout the book?
That was exactly my focus. I’m not an attorney and I wanted to write the book in a way to simplify the legal jargon. I named the book “The Beat Game” because I love basketball too. I wanted the book to be used as a manual or playbook for aspiring beatmakers. That’s where the idea for the cover derived from. Like I said earlier, the music and business should go hand in hand. It’s just like a young basketball player who has aspirations of playing in the NBA to making millions of dollars. The fun part in actually learning and playing the game. It’s the same with beatmakers. The fun part in making the beats but if you’re not prepared on the business side, you won’t know how to work with the people who will pay you.
It seems that your business has expanded from producing to educator, author, speaker etc. Have the additional hats, so to speak, made a difference in how and when you can actually do music and get into the creative space?
Yes. I think it was a natural progression for me. I’ve always been the one in my group to lead by example. I’ve never been the type of person who wouldn’t share knowledge with the next guy. I’m a music producer, I’m an educator with a music program in the NYC public schools system, the lead instructor at my online production school Pskill University and author. All of these things tie into each other to keep me busy. Because I’m doing a lot, I take my beatmaking time way more serious now. Creatively, I’m able to focus and zone right in on what I wanna do. Again, to use a basketball analogy, I try to make it count when I’m in front of my MPC.
What was your first piece of gear?
My very first piece of gear was a Sysonics Drum by Mattel. It had 4 drum pads and a sequencer. I used that with a Casio SK-1 keyboard, which I had a sampling feature. But my first “professional” set up was a AKAI S900 sampler and Yamaha RY-30 drum machine.
Your all time favorite piece of gear? Why?
Akai MPC 3000, hands down. Great sound and workflow too. Being able to create inside one box was monumental for me. Before than, I was using two pieces: an Akai S-900 and Yamaha RY-30 to sequence with. Although, I often hear people mention the MPC 3000 swing, I have yet to really experience that. unfortunately, I got rid of it for the MPC 4000, which is also great.
Whats your studio set up like now a days?
I’m on the MPC Renaissance and Reason 7. Axiom 61 Midi controller, M-Audio speakers and that’s pretty much it. I’m trying to keep it simple but I’m thinking about adding some more hardware synths.
Is there any particular machine or synth that you’ve always wanted but have yet to obtain?
Roland TR 808 of SP- 1200 would be nice vintage pieces to have.
What advise would you give to the aspiring producing coming up?
Just keep learning, don’t listen to the radio and make music that you like first. Good music will always last the test of time. Also, focus on providing quality. If your stuff sounds good, you will eventually get your break.
What can we expect from you going forward?
Of all of the book releases, the official launch of my online production school PskillUniversity.com and new joint albums & EPs produced entirely by me.