Melvin Henderson is a music producer from Watts, California. At a young age, Melvin fell in love with hip-hop, drawing much of his early inspiration from J Dilla. It wasn’t until freshman year of college that he became interested in production and decided to pursue a career in music. After attending Musician’s Institute and developing his craft, Mell landed his first major deal becoming an in-house producer with Dr. Dre at Aftermath. Since then he has earned production credits on major releases such as Christina Aguilera’s Liberation and Anderson Paak’s Oxnard, including one of the record’s first singles Who R U?
We sat down with Mell to discuss his process, recent work, and plans for the future.
What’s the first thing you do when you open a session?
If I’m creating, it depends on how I’m feeling at that moment. I’ll usually just load up some sounds/drums and experiment until something grabs me then go from there. When I’m not creating, digging for, and making new sounds/samples is something that I definitely spend a lot of time doing.
Do you have any tips for upcoming producers?
Invest in yourself. Be you. Get out of your head. Trust your heart. Trust your gut. Never stop learning. Work HARD!
What are your 5 most used plugins or current favorite plugins?
Neutron Transient Shaper
Fab Filter Pro-Q
Waves R Bass
What are some of your favorite VSTs?
Arturia V5 collection
Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2
What was one defining moment in your career?
Meeting the legend Dr. Dre and getting the opportunity to work with Aftermath.
What’s your favorite song that you produced?
“Who R U” – Anderson .Paak
How do you know when a song is done?
I don’t think it’s ever really done, but you can feel when it’s to a point that you’re comfortable with. Most times as a producer, you just keep adding and adding. You have to learn how to just let it be.
How do you stay focused and productive?
I continuously create goals for myself and hold myself accountable for reaching and exceeding them. I try to give my body the rest and fuel it needs to be consistent and effective..most of the time (*laughs*).
Where do you get inspiration?
Different things. Of course, new, good music. Old classic albums. Obscure music from other countries. Also, just living life. There’s plenty of inspiration all around us at all times.
How do you deal with creative block?
I don’t think there is such a thing. It’s like when you’re working out in the gym, you can’t just do bench presses all day. You have to switch it up. Same thing. If I’m not making beats, I’m digging for samples, making sounds, making drum loops, etc. Or I might just do something else like work out, eat, read, watch a tutorial…for me, all of that is part of the creative process.
How did you get into music and how long have you been doing it?
I loved jazz music since I was in middle school. When I got into hip-hop and realized they were sampling the same records I loved, It was a wrap. After a year of college, I decided to go to MI (Musicians Institute) in Hollywood, Ca. I took the “Recording Engineering” program there and basically started my journey. That was in 2001. So I guess it been a little over 17 years.
Who are some of your biggest influences and why?
J Dilla, Dr. Dre, Madlib, D’Angelo, Focus, Q-Tip, Jamiroquai, Dungeon Family, DJ Quik, Battlecat, Symbolic One, Timbaland, Pharrell, and !llmind. For different reasons, but most importantly for being individual heroes to me. Master teachers. Each one of these guys/gals has something unique about them that they took the time to perfect.
What are you listening to right now?
Anderson .Paak, JID, Rayvn Lenae, Syd, SMINO, SIR, K.A.A.N., Hiatus Kaiyote, JMSN, LION BABE, H.E.R., and Travis Scott to name just a few.
How has your production changed since working with Dr. Dre?
I’ve seen that now I have a lot more to offer in a session, besides just the music. Whereas before I would not be inclined to suggest or offer my opinion during writing/mixing or whatever the case. Now I have more experience with how to articulate to an artist or engineer, ideas and thoughts that may help with the outcome of a session. I’ve also learned that I need to clean up certain sounds, sometimes. I like to use gritty sounds. Dirty samples, dirty kicks, snares etc.. that doesn’t go well sometimes in professional recordings, but I can’t help it!
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from the experience?
Learning how to work with other people. Producers and artists working together in the same session. For the most part, I’d just be in my room at home, knocking out ideas on my own. Working at Aftermath, and being in sessions with all these other amazing people is definitely a very humbling and productive learning experience.
Has there been a time where you needed to change your production style to accommodate an artist?
I’ve never had to do that. I generally trust that I’ll be able to vibe with whoever I’m working with, and let that dictate how I approach making the track. I like to switch styles/genres naturally because I listen to all types of music. I think that lends itself to how versatile my style is, or at least that’s what I shoot for.
What do you do for fun when you aren’t working on music?
Simple things. Hanging with family and friends. Catching a movie. Bowling. But I’m adventurous. You gotta push the limit, sometimes.
What’s a crazy experience you’ve had in a session?
Not crazy as in bad, but one of the wildest things that happened was me meeting Smokey Robinson. Such a legendary class act man. Super Cool and genuine. Still holding it down on the mic!
Is there an artist you would like to work with and haven’t yet had the opportunity to?
Kendrick and Nas
Some of Henderson’s credits include:
Anderson .Paak – 6 Summers
Anderson .Paak – Who R U?
Christina Aguilera – Sick of Sitting
Snoop Dogg – Bad 4 Me