The 65th Grammy Awards is fast approaching and the nominees list has been completed. The 2023 ceremony airs live on Sunday, 5th February from Los Angeles’ Crypto.com Arena and much attention is being paid to who will win the 2023 Producer of the Year, Non-Classical category.
The award dates back to 1975 and is presented to producers who “represent consistently outstanding creativity in the area of record production”. Multiple winners include the likes of Babyface, Pharrell Williams, Quincy Jones, and David Foster. Last year’s winner was Jack Antonoff for his production work on recordings by Lana Del Rey, St. Vincent, Taylor Swift, Clairo, Lorde and Bleachers.
With Antonoff looking to scoop a rare second successive Grammy for the Non-Classical category, producers Dernst “D'mile” Emile II, DJ Dahi, Boi-1da, and Dan Auerbach will be vying to claim the prize. Here we examine the background and production style of all five contenders and explain why they’re in the running for the prestigious 2023 award.
No stranger to the Grammys, American singer, songwriter and producer Jack Antonoff has already pocketed the award four times. Aside from being the creative force behind New Jersey rock band Bleachers, his work as a songwriter and producer for the likes of Taylor Swift has seen him lauded for his impact on contemporary music.
Born in New Jersey, Antonoff joined the baroque pop band Fun in 2008, with the trio scoring a top 3 hit for their album, Some Nights, four years later. However, Antonoff secretly had designs on creating his own band and started writing tracks while on tour. The Bleachers’ debut album Strange Desire debuted two years later, spawning Billboard alternative chart hits such as the gold-certified I Wanna Get Better and Rollercoaster.
Meanwhile, Antonoff had been recruited to produce the Taylor Swift song Sweeter than Fiction for the biographical movie, One Chance. After the track earned a Golden Globe nomination, Antonoff continued his association with Swift, co-writing/producing three tracks on her fifth studio album 1989.
Known for his melodramatic production style founded on ‘80s synth riffs and big drums and choruses, Antonoff’s work with Swift opened the door for him to produce a raft of high-profile artists, although in recent years he has somewhat downplayed his maximalist approach. With Grammy nominations in 2020 and 2021, Antonoff won last year’s Produce of the Year, Non-Classical award for his work on songs by Lana Del Ray, St. Vincent, Taylor Swift, Lorde, Bleachers, and Clairo.
For this year’s Grammys, Antonoff is nominated for producing a 10-minute version of Taylor Swift’s global 2012 hit All Too Well, the Diana Ross track I Still Believe from her 25th album, Thank You, and The 1975’s indie-rock single Part of the Band. He also produced Florence and the Machine’s album Dance Fever and played a major role in the soundtrack for the computer-animated comedy, Minions: The Rise of Gru.
Son of Haitian vocalist Yanick Étienne and accomplished jazz musician Dernst Emile, Brooklyn-born producer/songwriter Dernst “D’Mile” Emile II, simply known as D’Mile, was nominated for seven Grammy Awards in 2020 and became the first songwriter in Grammy history to win Song of the Year for two consecutive years for co-writing the H.E.R. track I Can’t Breathe and Silk Sonic’s debut single Leave The Door Open.
An accomplished pianist, the classically trained D’Mile learned to play acoustic and electric guitar, bass and drums in his formative years and possessed a wide-range of influences having studied the compositional methods of artists such as Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Marvin Gaye and John Coltrane. The producer’s first big step into production arrived in 2005, producing and co-writing the track That La, La La, on Rhianna’s 2005 album Music of the Sun alongside hip hop group Full Force.
Later that year, D’Mile would co-write and produce Gonna Breakthrough from Mary J. Blige’s The Breakthrough LP, although chart success would not arrive until 2008 when he produced and co-wrote numerous tracks from Janet Jackson’s 10th studio album, Discipline. Thereafter, D’Mile would go on to work with category A artists such as Alicia Keys, Celine Dion, Justin Bieber, Diddy and Dirty Money, Jennifer Lopez, Usher, and Ty Dolla $ign who was effusive of D’Mile’s talent, stating: “Anything I imagine in my head and can’t explain with words, he can bring to life through music.” In 2018, he won a Grammy for producing Boss on Jay Z and Beyonce’s debut The Carters album Everything is Love.
This year, D’Mile’s Producer of the Year Grammy nomination is focused on production credits for the Mary J. Blige single Good Morning Gorgeous, Jazmine Sullivan’s Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child and albums by Candy Drip and Silk Sonic.
LA-based producer Dacoury Natche, also referred to as ‘DJ Dahi’ is well-known for working in the field of hip hop and rap, although his initial success came from producing the track Money Trees from Kendrick Lamar’s major label debut LP Good Kid, M.A.A.D City in 2012. Dahi is part of the D.R.U.G.$ production team, alongside Ty Dolla $ign.
Dahi’s career began as a DJ at the University of California before he began experimenting on sounds with LA-based rappers Pac Div, TiRon and Fashawn. Prior to working with Lamar, he worked on the raw hip-hop/rap track My Type of Party from Dom Kennedy’s mixtape, The Yellow Album and produced ScHoolboy Q’s topical yet explicit Sexting. In 2013, after sending Drakes’ manager a beat, Dahi worked with the influential rapper on the club-friendly trap track Worst Behaviour from the album Nothing Was the Same.
Over the past decade, the 39-year-old producer has been coveted for his inventive sonic textures and ability to adapt to different genres of music, appearing equally comfortable co-producing Dr. Dre’s jarring 2015 LP Compton as he was working on the majority of Childish Gambino’s more refined and emotionally complex R&B album 3.15.20.
Dahi reconvened his association with Kendrick Lamar in 2017, co-producing several tracks on the critically acclaimed album Damn and producing another five cuts from his most recent LP Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers. Those contributions form part of Dahi’s Grammy 2023 nomination alongside his production work for Vince Staples’ short-but-sweet rap track DJ Quick and three tracks from Steve Lacy’s rock/funk/R&B hybrid, Gemini Rights LP.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, record producer Matthew Jehu Samuels, better known as Boi-1da (pronounced “boy wonder”), moved to Toronto aged three and was heavily influenced by his father’s love of the dancehall genre.
He first began experimenting with music at the age of 15 using the beat-making program Fruity Loops and within a couple of years partook in Toronto’s Battle of the Beatmakers competition where up-and-coming producers submit their beats to a panel of established rappers and producers before participating in head-to-head ‘beat battles’. Samuels subsequently won the competition on three consecutive occasions.
Introduced by producer D10, Samuels began working with Drake in 2006, contributing to two tracks from the rapper’s first official mix tape, Room for Improvement. Over the years, the duo have become prolific collaborators, co-writing multiple hits such as Forever, Controlla and God’s Plan, which won ‘Best Rap Song’ at the 2019 Grammy Awards.
Known for incorporating samples, live instrumentation and air-horn sound effects, by the end of the 2000s Samuels sound had helped shape Canadian rap and hip hop, working on major projects for the likes of Busta Rhymes, Eminem and Nicki Minaj. In 2016, Samuels produced Rihanna’s chart-topping Billboard Hot 100 track Work and the Kanye West single Real Friends.
Samuels 2023 Grammy nomination arrives following another year of stellar successes, including producing the Beyoncé track Heated, Kendrick Lamar’s N95 and Silent Hill and Cordae Featuring H.E.R. & Lil Durk’s Chronicles.
Best known as the guitarist and vocalist of Ohio electric blues-rock band The Black Keys, Dan Auerbach’s focus on the Nashville sound has made him one of the most identifiable producers in country and roots, although he has frequently side-stepped into the world of rock and even rap.
During childhood, Auerbach became fascinated by his father’s collection of blues records, studying ‘50s guitar player Junior Kimbrough. Having met drummer Patrick Carney at school, the duo began recording demos in 1996 and formed The Black Keys in the early 2000s, debuting with the album The Big Come Up. Commercial success would be arduous, however, not arriving until their fifth album Attack & Release in 2008.
Owner of the Easy Eye Sound recording studio in Nashville, whilst Auerbach had already dabbled in production, it was amidst the mass success of The Black Keys’ 2014 album Turn Blue that he would truly demonstrate his versatility as a producer, working on Lana Del Rey’s chart-topping psychedelic rock album Ultraviolence, Ray LaMontagne’s Supernova, and Nikki Lane’s debut country album All or Nothin’. During an extended break from The Black Keys, he would also produce The Pretenders’10th album Alone in 2016.
Auerbach is no stranger to the Grammys, winning five awards at the 55th annual ceremony back in 2013. A decade later, he’s still demonstrating his production chops with credits including The Black Keys album Dropout Boogie, The Velveteers’ debut rock album Nightmare Daydream and Ceramic Animals’ indie-pop LP Sweet Unknown. Neither has Auerbach forgotten his blues credentials, producing Early James’ LP Strange Time to Be Alive and Hank Williams Jr.’s Rich White Honky Blues in 2022.