Dan “The Automator” Nakamura isn’t just a producer, he is high productivity incarnate. Any man who can produce tracks with Beck and Busta Rhymes, whip together a platinum-selling cartoon supergroup (Gorillaz), record a cult-classic concept album with former Faith No More singer Mike Patton (Lovage), and put out his own rarities mixtape, (Wanna Buy a Monkey?) — all in the span of a year — pretty much defines the term “multitasking.”
But apparently all the music production know-how in the world doesn’t guarantee you a spot on a hip-hop record.
“Traditionally I’ve been known to produce rap records but nobody ever hires me to do rap records,” laughed Nakamura, who talked recently via cell phone while he shopped for computer equipment. “Hip-hop, on a commercial level, tends to be really restrictive because whatever’s hot at the moment is what everybody wants. I’m just trying to do what I’m feeling.”
This might explain why Nakamura’s own upcoming solo album, Omakase, features such an eclectic lineup. Making appearances are such hip-hop MCs as Maceo from De La Soul and Black Rob, as well as dancehall veteran Beenie Man, the Neptunes, Mike Patton, DJ Q-Bert and even Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, who’s making his singing debut.
“I think the problem that everyone has is that there are genres,” Nakamura explained. “There are always gonna be people who have one type of music that I like. But what I don’t think people are realizing is the relationship between all the genres. The reason I have an appreciation for different kinds of music is because I like different kinds of music, but more than that, I come from a hip-hop era where you can have Run-DMC rhyming over the Knack, or Mantronix and [Boogie Down Productions] sampling James Brown. Sometimes when it’s done well the music can mix together and it’s not all that different.”
By far, the most genre (and mind)-bending cuts on the Automator’s solo record will be the songs that will pair artists together based on their names — like LeAnn Rimes and Busta Rhymes.
“Busta’s recorded his part already,” Nakamura said. “LeAnn, we’re having trouble with her label and it’s kind of a drag because she wants to do it and her management wants to do it. The track is done and everyone’s approved the track. Creatively it’s all good, the parts are all ready to go.”
While all-encompassing musical exploits like Omakase probably won’t do much to get Nakamura the hip-hop work he’s been craving, his next Handsome Boy Modeling School album with Prince Paul just might.
“We’re really aiming toward more of an urban audience as opposed to my solo record. It’s gonna be a lot more hip-hop and we’re gonna give people some good fashionable tips for the new year,” said Nakamura, who will team up this spring with the veteran DJ for a fall release.
As for the other projects the Automator completed in 2002, namely the records with Beck and the Gorillaz, he expects that those, too, will soon have their day.
“It’ll happen, all of that will see the light of day. It’s just a matter of scheduling,” he joked.
— Gideon Yago