Daryhl "DJ" Camper Jr. of Mays Landing, knows who to thank if he goes to sleep tonight in possession of a Grammy statue.
The 22-year-old songwriter and producer said much credit will go to his father, Daryhl Anthony Camper, who died at age 50 in 2010 from asthma. His father was a singer who also played a little bit of guitar and piano. His father was called Lil' Michael because he sounded like Michael Jackson.
"He was very demanding. He said, 'You need to listen to this. You need to let this sink in,' like when I wasn't a big fan of Parliament and George Clinton and Earth, Wind & Fire," Camper said. "Now that I look back on it, I appreciate it all, and those are my biggest influences in making music now."
Camper was nominated for best R&B song for co-writing "Refill," which was recorded by Elle Varner.
The Mays Landing man remembers when he first heard the musical idea from his songwriting partner, Andrew "Pop" Wansel of Philadelphia.
"I added something to it. I completed it. It was amazing. It was quick," said Camper. In five minutes, Camper had changed Wansel's original beat and made other alterations. When the work was done, it was pretty clear the pair had a hit on their hands.
"Elle Varner, she jumped on it. We knew it would blow based on what they (Varner's label) had planned for her. ... She's like a modern-day version of Alicia Keys."
Still, Camper wasn't expecting to be included in the running when the Grammy nominations were announced.
"I was surprised. I'm speechless," said Camper about the Grammy nomination. "The sky's the limit for me. I feel good about it. I feel great."
Camper, who also plays keyboards, received a Grammy nomination in 2011 for his work on superstar R. Kelly's "Untitled" CD. The CD was nominated for best contemporary R&B album. Camper also saw a song he co-wrote with Wansel, "Marvin & Chardonnay," climb to
No. 1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs in 2011.
Sometimes, a musician's best known work is not their highest quality product, but Camper said the "Refill" music is one of his better efforts.
"I make beats. I make music just as quick or quicker than five minutes," said Camper, who compared a songwriter or producer knowing exactly what to do with an unfinished track to a mechanic knowing what to do with a malfunctioning car. "That's what I do. That's my profession. Sometimes, it's hard. Sometimes, it's easy."
Camper graduated from Oakcrest High School in 2008. Charles Bass, the choral director at Oakcrest, remembers Camper.
"I could see he was a gifted, definitely talented, young man. He was like a sponge. That's the best way I could put it. He would observe and pick up things so fast," said Bass, who added he has lots of memories of Camper, including working on music tracks together in the school's recording studio. "He's a good kid, a kid with great character, and that's the thing I'm really pleased with. He hasn't lost sight of where his priorities are."
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For a look at predicted winners at this year's awards show, see story on E2