Music, whether we like to admit it or not, is an integral part of our lives. For those who create music, however, integral might just be an understatement. POP! recently sat down with award-winning producer and songwriter Dem Jointz and discussed his passion in music production, his artistry, and journey in a cutthroat, albeit colorful and exciting, industry.
Dwayne Allen Abernathy Jr., or more famously, Dem Jointz, is a nine-time Grammy Nominated, two-time Grammy winning American musician and music producer. He has worked with numerous award-winning artists such as Kanye West, Janet Jackson, Christina Aguilera, and Brandy. In 2021, he was extensively involved in the production of the album ‘Donda’ by Kanye West.
Despite being in the industry for ten years now, he says he’s just getting started.
Building his empire
Dem Jointz found his passion for music at a very early age – playing the drums for their Sunday church service as a kid, and eventually going on to make music purely for fun. Only when he got fired from his job at a telecommunications company in 2005 did he decide it was high time to finally pursue a music career full-time, and the journey sure was tough. At the time, it was almost impossible, Dem Jointz recounts. But his determination to achieve the impossible kept him going, “if you want it that bad, there’s no such thing as impossible”, he said proudly.
In the interview with POP!, he expressed still being starstruck from time to time- being where he is now, surrounded by the very artists he grew up listening to. In 2015 he was part of Dr. Dre’s collaborative studio album ‘Compton’, having worked on four tracks alongside Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, and Eminem. Dem Jointz is always determined to keep his head in the game.
He’s found a balance between celebrating his success, and focusing on further building his empire. ”you just remember that you have a job to do, […] you’re more inspired to just do a great job and set your own trailblazing trail.” He currently runs his own music label “U Made Us What We Are,” which he founded to promote talented creatives like himself. Artists under the label include rapper K.A.A.N., and R&B Keedron Bryant.
Dipping his toes into K-Pop
His K-Pop journey started when he was approached by SM Entertainment years ago. His very first track released under the company was ‘Don’t U Wait No More’, an eccentric, upbeat track from Red Velvet’s 1st Studio Album ‘The Red’. Unsurprisingly, it was the beginning of his long-term partnership with SM Entertainment, which he describes as creatively freeing. With the company unafraid to experiment with their sounds, often being touted as the setter of trends in the K-Pop industry, Dem Jointz has found a creative space for himself wherein he can go crazy with his songwriting and music production. To him, K-Pop is like his own musical playground.
Most, if not all of the songs he’s made for SM Entertainment are fan favorites, but some tend to garner reviews that are split down the middle. As he himself said, “you either love it, or hate it.” The perfect example is one of his most recent works, “Sticker”, by NCT 127. He revealed that he was initially unaware of the negative reactions to the song, and when he was, it no longer mattered because it was already charting. When asked how he feels about the conflicting reactions to his music, he said it’s exactly what he wants. He aims to leave a long-lasting impact with his music, which is also why his sound tends to be hard-hitting, aggressive, and unapologetic.
The east vs The west
Besides language being one of the many differences between the western and eastern market, Dem Jointz considers producing K-Pop tracks as a creative outlet. In this market, he’s able to play around with his craft more, as the audience is more accepting of experimental sounds. In contrast, he finds that it’s much better to play it safe in the west. The way sales work for each of the two hemispheres is astronomically different- with one being more focused on unit sales, and the other, digital numbers. But, him being himself, he’s much more concerned about his growth as an artist, and his freedom with his work- two very commendable traits as a creative.
So where is Dem Jointz headed now? Everywhere. He’s currently engaged to fellow grammy-award winning artist Stalone, and is working on multiple projects with different artists.
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Music has been around for thousands of years. People are creating music daily, and a huge amount of songs are birthed every hour. Some reach a wide audience, some unfortunately don’t even see the light of day. But at certain points in your life, you come across people whose burning passion you can feel from their words. And Dem Jointz, to me, is one of those people. The music industry is definitely lucky to have him, and we, the general public, need to keep our ears peeled because he’s still incoming.