When Kendrick Lamar released his “Damn.” album last year, up for album of the year at the Grammys on Sunday night, hip-hop was abuzz with a mystery: Who is Bekon?
The name was all over the credits of “Damn.” — on eight of the album’s 14 songs — and his voice is actually the first heard on the album, opening the first track “Blood.” But no one had heard of him.
Eventually, people learned that Bekon was the new name for the producer and musician Danny Keyz, who had worked on Eminem’s “Recovery” album and P!nk’s “The Truth About Love” album. But until this week, it was not widely known that Bekon, or Danny Keyz, was also Daniel Tannenbaum, an Amityville native and 2002 graduate of Holy Trinity Diocesan High School in Hicksville who used to walk past Billy Joel’s Hicksville home and hope to follow in his footsteps.
Tannenbaum, 33, is now stepping forward as Bekon to let people know about his new album “Get With the Times,” which he released Wednesday on his own label Candy and Promises. It’s the project that led Tannenbaum to abandon his steady job as a producer and studio musician in Los Angeles two years ago to return to Amityville.
“I was retreating and regrouping, but there was something about being home that put things in perspective,” recalled Bekon, back in Amityville for the Grammys. “It reminded me how important my friends and my family are to me. If I’m going to work somewhere else, I have to do it with a sense of purpose, otherwise I should be home.”
However, that process was putting a strain on him, both financially and artistically. He admits he was struggling when his friend DJ Dahi introduced him to Lamar, who happened to be in New York. Bekon and Lamar bonded immediately over a mutual love of kung fu and an instrumental soundtrack that Bekon had written for a kung fu story that he had also written.
Soon, he was working full time on “Damn.” with Lamar and his crew, but afterward, Lamar told Bekon he had to make a choice.
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“Kendrick said to me, ‘You’ve got to decide if you want to inspire the people who inspire the world — whisper in the ears of kings and queens — or if you want to go inspire the world yourself,’ ” Bekon said. “I have some stuff I gotta get off my chest. . . . I still want to be the next Billy Joel.”
On “Get With the Times,” Bekon uses some of the same production and musical techniques — like stacked vocals and quick cuts — that he contributed to “Damn.” but with his own twist. Though there aren’t a lot of musical references to Joel, there are plenty of references to Brian Wilson and the “Pet Sounds” era. And Lamar has already lent his support, tweeting out a link to the album the day of its release.
After the Grammys, Bekon plans to focus on taking “Get With the Times” on the road in a multimedia extravaganza he says was inspired by Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.”
“I’m really excited about this year,” Bekon says, adding that he hopes to debut the show at South by Southwest. “Kendrick put me in this position. I’m hoping to do the same thing for other people.”