Musician, record producer, songwriter, record executive and fashion designer Alex Da Kid took over a Songwriters Hall of Fame Master Session Labs at Stuyvesant High School on March 4, giving students an inside look at his songwriting and production craft and inspirations. The Session was part of the All-City Modern Music Project, a program enabling students to write, record, and perform original and cover songs in popular musical genres, currently taking place on Saturday mornings at Stuyvesant High School. The Session was hosted by producer, songwriter and Stuyvesant HS Music Educator / SHOF NY Education Committee vice chair, Harold Stephan.
Alexander Junior Grant, professionally known as Alex da Kid or by.ALEXANDER, is a British musician, record producer, songwriter, record executive and fashion designer from Wood Green, London. He has gained recognition for producing several hit singles for artists of multiple music genres such as Dr. Dre (I Need a Doctor), Nicki Minaj (Massive Attack), B.o.B (Airplanes featuring Hayley Williams), Eminem (Love the Way You Lie featuring Rihanna), Diddy (Coming Home with Dirty Money featuring Skylar Grey), Imagine Dragons (Radioactive) and Cheryl (Under The Sun).
The Evening Standard named him one of "London's Most Influential People in 2011." He has been nominated for numerous Grammy Awards including "Album of the Year" for his work on Rihanna's Loud. His record label, KIDinaKORNER, is a subdivision of Interscope Records. In both 2013 and 2014, Grant (as owner of KIDinaKORNER Records) was chosen by Billboard Magazine for their "Top 40 Under 40." In 2020, Grant released a jazz album titled 000 CHANNEL BLACK, under the pseudonym by.ALEXANDER.
Stephan welcomed Alex and asked about the beginning of his musical journey. Alex said, “My Dad is Jamaican and I was exposed to a lot of reggae growing up, my Mom loved soul music and I always listened to pop, so I was into a lot of different genres. I got into music because my friend gave me a program called Fruity Loops at the time, and it had four tracks. It just completely changed my mind, and opened another part of my brain. I stopped talking to all my friends and just locked myself in my bedroom. I thought I was amazing and I was terrible. But then I kind of started that journey of just wanting to be closer to music really, and just kind of following it.”
Stephan asked, “I also read that you ended up attending a master's degree program in audio production, right?”
Alex responded, “I ended up interning everywhere, which I'm a big fan of, and I learned so many things. I worked at MTV and then I met people through that. And then I went back to school and studied it as a degree for a masters. In that program they had master classes and they would bring people in from the industry. I met someone from Island Records and everyone was going up to him and playing their demo. I had a demo and I was really debating when I was walking up the line to go and see him, and in that moment, I literally just asked him for an internship instead. I'm so glad I did because then I got to work for him.”
“What would you say is the number one thing that you would suggest these young people do to break into the industry,” Stephan asked.
“Obsess. I fell in love with music and I didn't know anything, but I realized that I just didn't feel like doing anything else. I just wanted to be closer to it. That's why being an intern, I would be cleaning toilets and I would love it because I felt like I was closer to the music in some way. Like when I was cleaning someone's toilets in a studio where the Black-Eyed Peas would be recording. At the time, I felt I was getting closer to it and I just kind of surrendered to loving it so much and then just want to be next to it. That was my talent. I was so bad for so long, but I just loved it so much, I would keep on coming back and then I slowly got better.”
The Master Session Labs continued with performances of original songs by four pre-selected students and Alex gave constructive criticism and advice with regard to platforms, production and songwriting to help students build their crafts, while listening intently to each.
The students then came together for a spirited tribute performance of Airplanes to Alex's delight.
A Q&A followed and Alex let the students know that he would be starting an internship program in his new studio he is creating in SOHO and would let Stephan know how they might apply.
In winding up the Session, Alex said, “It's a privilege that we have these lives, and a lot of people walk through them not loving anything. I think that's a waste of a person. I think with music, you can see that love, because it's such an amazing thing.”
This Master Session is available for viewing on the SHOF YouTube channel HERE.
The SHOF Master Sessions at Stuyvesant program has hosted events for NYC public school students highlighting both the business and creative sides of the music industry since 2018, with past sessions featuring Michael Uzowuru, Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, Nija Charles, TBHits, Sam Ashworth, Denzel Baptiste & David Biral p/k/a Take A Daytrip, Khari “Needlz” Cain, Steven Van Zandt, Steve Greenberg, Mark Hudson, Samantha Cox, Leyla Blue, Maude Latour, Laundry Day, Pom Pom, Mike Campbell, Billy Mann, Gregg Wattenberg and Rich Christina.