When we hear some of the hottest songs that hit the Apple Music, Spotify, or charted on Billboard, we celebrate those artists’ for their performances and delivery. Rarely, do we acknowledge the writers, engineers, and masterminds behind the creation. From songs like, ‘Hot Girl Summer‘ with Megan Thee Stallion and Nicki Minaj to Spicy by Nas, there is always someone behind the scene making the magic happen.
Derrick Milano has a magical ear for sound with creative wordplay, and best known to be one of the music industry’s best-kept secrets. Born in Philadelphia, raised in Delaware, Derrick is now West-Coast living manifesting his dreams.
Vayda: First, I want to congratulate you on winning, not one, but three Grammys. Tell me what emotion do you feel the most after such an extraordinary win?
Derrick: It all feels amazing, I think the moment was the rap song, just knowing what ‘Savage’ was up against. Working with Meg early, and my first time working with Beyonce. It was just like damn; just to have that history and to be able to tell my family and friends that my first Grammy was with Beyonce. That’s kind of like one of those things where people would be like, “Damn is he lying?”
Vayda: Work hard, play hard. What do your upcoming summer adventures look like?
Derrick: I put my project out soon, it’s going to be a lot of promo for that. I’m going to take it back to the roots to like how people use to promote music. Like, promo runs, linking with DJs, just doing the original groundwork with getting my music out. Summertime, because things are starting to open back up, is the opportunity to be around people again, but also having this leverage where the people will be a little more accepting to it [music] knowing my accomplishments and what I’ve done. So I’m excited about that and traveling of course.
Vayda: Winning a Grammy is not a minor accomplishment. You had to have put a lot of work in, made a lot of sacrifices, and have done a lot of networking. I’m really interested in knowing who your most impactful mentor is? Who can you really stop to thank for keeping you focused and helping you accomplish your goals?
Derrick: Yea, one of my managers’ Tee, he’s been with me since like 2016, my Mom, and Nicki Minaj. Those are my three.
Vayda: Shoutout to Mom, shoutout to Tee. Why Nicki?
Derrick: When I first started working with her, I didn’t have much going on. I had a lot of questions for her, she was giving me game about a lot. The first record that gave people an idea of who I am, was Hot Girl Summer … She trusted my ear … Just knowing who she is and what she’s done in the industry motivated me a lot. We not talking about somebody random, we talking about someone who has been doing this since we were young.
Vayda: Derrick, you are in transition from songwriter, writing music for others; To music artist, focusing more on your own catalog. And you have a project coming out this Spring? What can we expect from that, any features?
Derrick: How can I put it? It’s just a new sound, a new pocket. Of course, there are some songs that are commercial, but my songwriter ear knows the politics of it. Super fire, quality. My project is called, ‘Somebody’s Son‘. I got Ty Dolla Sign on there, Dani Leigh, I got Wale on there. So I’m excited.
Vayda: Is it a full project or just a few songs?
Derrick: I’m putting the whole project out. However, that’s only because of where we at with music now … Since I have rap and R&B on my project, I don’t only want to put just the rap out and only rappers like it. I don’t want to put only R&B out and people think all I’m doing is singing. I want to put the body of the project out and let the people choose what they like.
Gems to Remember
Vayda: I want to put a spotlight on two of your Instagram posts. I’m really interested in what you have to say about them. You screenshot a post from a former classmate who mentions how often you would have your laptop out playing Soundcloud music, bugging everyone. Your teachers would always try to stop you and make you put your computer away. For you to now have accomplished so much, what would you say to those that tried to stop or discourage your journey?
Derrick: If I was the old Derrick I’d say, “Ha Ha Ha” but since I’m grown now. I’m 27, it’s more like, don’t judge people. Just let people do them. If you feel a way about somebody or you don’t believe in them, keep it to yourself. Don’t shoot down peoples dreams because you don’t know what can happen later in life. But that’s the mature Derrick Milano.
Vayda: There was another post of your yearbook photo captioned, “You know me as Derrick Gray. In the future remember me as D. Milano.” What gave you that confidence at such a young age to know that you would be as successful as you are today?
Derrick Milano: Just the confidence. I believe anything you put your mind to is possible. So when I said that, I knew it was going to work somehow because of my work ethic, and the way I am with people, and the way I value my relationships … I knew it was going to be something I just didn’t know what it was going to be, but here we are.
Vayda: Lastly, Derrick, what are some gems or things to note when embracing your journey, talents, and skills? What would you tell aspiring artists or songwriters looking to follow a similar path as yours?
Derrick Milano: Really, honor and value your relationships. Really value your face card. The industry is so small you have to be careful with what you say, what you post, watch how you move … Focus on yourself, keep your face clean. Make sure every time you meet someone to make it an experience so when you leave, you’re remembered. Don’t be the person just standing there.