It’s a Tuesday afternoon, and Darhyl Camper, eponymously known as Camper, is happily celebrating his fourth consecutive week at No. 1 on Billboard’s Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart with Coco Jones’ breakout song “ICU.” He produced the piano-laden track for her debut EP, What I Didn’t Tell You (Deluxe), released in 2022.
While working on “ICU,” Camper couldn’t have predicted the immense success it would achieve. “I didn’t know how big it was gonna be,” Camper tells Rated R&B. “It just so happened that it took off the way it did. God has his hands all through it.”
He provides another explanation for the song’s ongoing success. “It’s just saying staying true and making real music. [Coco] was down with that from day one.”
Camper recalls that Jones contacted him through her previous management to collaborate. Their initial meeting was simple. “The first couple of times, I was just figuring out her vibe and seeing what she wanted to do and how we could make it work.”
As he worked with her, he saw her passion and continued on the journey to create something unique. He also collaborated in writing and producing “No Chaser,” also lifted from What I Didn’t Tell You (Deluxe).
Camper has earned routine recognition on the charts and elsewhere. As a songwriter and producer, he has possessed a touch that has turned tracks into hits for the likes of H.E.R., Mary J. Blige and Tamar Braxton.
With the former musician, he’s achieved other prestigious honors, including his first Grammy (H.E.R.) and countless RIAA certifications. H.E.R. and Camper’s work on the song “Focus” has been the most successful, earning a 2x multi-platinum award.
Before collaborating with the artists mentioned above, Camper scored his first hit with Detroit rapper Big Sean’s 2011 hit “Marvin & Chardonnay” featuring Kanye West and Roscoe Dash.
“It went No. 1, my first No. 1. I did that with Andrew “Pop” Wansel and that was my first taste of what a big song could do and what a big song is. It was a dope stepping stone [and] it made me hungry for more of it.”
Before Camper fulfilled and overshot musical ambitions throughout his career, he grew up in a family where music came naturally. A deep interest in the piano was fostered by his grandmother and father at the age of six.
“I didn’t like playing in the beginning. I hated it,” Camper admits. “I would cry going to rehearsals. I would rather play basketball and just be a kid. But my grandmother [and] my father, they had a bigger plan for me. They saw what I didn’t see, so the blessing was within that.”
Camper’s passion for the piano inspired him to perform at his nearby church on Saturdays for free and at other churches on Sundays for pay. One of these churches was Evangelical Fellowship Church, led by Bishop Dr. Fred Jerkins Jr., whose son is the super producer Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins.
While playing Evangelical, Camper bonded with Jordan “Infinity” Suecof, an emerging songwriter and producer, who had previously worked under Darkchild. Some of their work together included “Shattered” by Backstreet Boys. Eventually, the two branched off, Camper went solo, securing placements with artists such as Ledisi, Ro James and Chrisette Michele.
Currently, Camper is not only assisting other artists but also working on his own music. The Atlantic City, New Jersey, native has recently released “Whatever You Say,” which is a track from his upcoming debut album.
In Rated R&B’s interview with Camper, the Grammy-winning songwriter and producer talks more about working with Coco Jones and his latest single, as well as changing his producer name, other projects he’s working on and more.
Can you recall the most memorable aspect of your session with Coco Jones while working on “ICU”?
I remember the vulnerability. Me, Coco and [Roy Keisha] Rockette were testifying, bonding, and really understanding what the intention was behind the song before we even did anything. Making beats and making music comes second nature to me. I just need someone to understand my vision and to see it through. “Okay, you wanna pick this beat? Good. What are we writing about? What’s real right now? What’s love for you right now? What’s painful for you right now? What can we attack?” I have the remedy for whatever you may need or whatever you’re going through as far as music. It was a beautiful process.
You used to go by the name DJ Camper for years before changing it to simply Camper. What inspired you to rebrand yourself?
DJ Camper is personal because it’s not my DJ name. It’s a real name. Darhyl Camper is my father’s name. He named me after him. People be like, “Yo, DJ Camper.” I’m like, “Bro, you don’t even know me. So you can’t call me that.” I get it because it meshes well with me being an artist. I will probably be [a DJ] in the future if people keep coming up to me long enough (laughs). So Camper is just the artist’s name. It’s the brand. It’s everything that I love. It’s everything that I am. DJ Camper comes out if I’m at the crib with my family.
You’ve been involved in several R&B comebacks, especially with female artists like Tamar Braxton, Keyshia Cole, Mary J. Blige, and Brandy. Why do you think you work so well with women?
They trust me. They come to me and they share stories with me. They tell what they don’t want and what they do want. I listen and I go right to work. I try to please them as much as possible with the work. I’m thankful because [they] ain’t have to choose me. So because you choose me, I’m going to deliver for you every single time and it’s going to be the same results every single time. At the end of the day, I’m for the artist. I show love and spread love and I want that reciprocated. It’s a beautiful connection with the music. Everybody’s vulnerable, honest [and] real. I love Mary. I love H.E.R. I love Brandy. I love Jessie J — she just had a baby; congrats to her. These are my family. I can call [them] and they’ll be there. It’s a beautiful thing. I’m just thankful that women trust me. I work with more women than I do with men. It’s a delicacy there, so I have to treat that as such.
You’ve been locked in with a lot of new faces in music, including Chxrry22, Maeta, The Amours and Alex Vaughn. Why is taking that active role in the development of rising acts important to you?
It’s the future. These artists that are mainstream, A-list right now, they ain’t gonna be there forever. It’s a new class that’s coming. I want to be part of all of that because it’s a beautiful thing to see where you are and meet you where you are. Rosemarie, she’s another new artist. I did “Best 2 out Of 3” for her [Rock Paper Scissors project] and she’s amazing. It’s just beautiful to get behind them early to let them know it ain’t because you hot right now. It ain’t because you got 20 million [followers]. It’s because I love your talent and energy, and now I wanna give you one of the most magical parts of me, which is my music. My musical heartstrings are crazy. Everybody doesn’t get that. I don’t look at people as a check. I do it because of my passion and my love for it.
Are there any songwriters whose writing style complements your production?
Yeah. It’s very important that you got somebody that can go there with you and meet you there creatively and spiritually, too. It’s only a handful of people that I can count on and think of that bring it home for me every single time. I’ll start off with the legend and my big brother, rest in peace, LaShawn Daniels. Every time we got in together, it was magic. Me singing, my ad-libs and my choices [musically], he’s heavily involved in that. DIXSON is another one. He’s incredible. We probably did two albums right now that are ready to go. DIXSON’s coming, and it’s crazy. Jozzy. Ant Clemons. Sam Hook. Love Ne-Yo. Every time we get together, it’s always incredible. I love INK. It’s a new writer named [Terrell] “Tre” [Roper]. He’s with The Camp. He’s on a lot of the new stuff happening right now. He’s splashing him right now. I know I’m missing a few other people.
What’s the inspiration behind your new single “Whatever You Say”?
I was just creating a beat, caught a vibe and went in the booth and was doing some melodies, just playing around. One sentence came after another one, and then line after line. I’m like, “Oh man, this kind of feels good.” The overall message to show a different type of love if you are willing to receive it. I know how I want it, so I could only imagine how you would want it. Let me show you what I feel until you tell me, and then until you tell me, it’s whatever you say. I want to touch and agree with you. Then I had another angle. I don’t wanna argue with you no more. Whatever you say. I had a double-entendre type of summary about it. But it came from a great place. It just felt good. The words felt good.
You recently put out the lyric video for “Whatever You Say.” Is there an official video coming as well?
Yep. I’m gonna do an official video with a feature. I already have the feature. I already have the artist. The song’s already done. I’m gonna figure out when I’m gonna do the video, but the video would be soon too.
You’ve been dropping solo music and hinting at a debut project since 2020. Are you getting closer to releasing it?
It’s coming. When I give it, I want to give it right. I want to give it to the best of my ability, and I want the presentation to be at the highest that I know it needs to be. I promise you it’s coming and I’m gearing up. All of this is gearing up towards it.
Vocals came in ⛺️ pic.twitter.com/mrVm7bsvbW
— Camper (@Caammper) October 26, 2022
Is there anyone else you’re excited to work with in the near future?
I’m doing a compilation album. I’m calling it the Campilation album. I have all the R&B artists I love that’s my family on the album together. [The album is] like what DJ Khaled did with hip-hop, but this is R&B. I got Tank on the album, [as well as] Syd, H.E.R., Brandy, Ty Dolla $ign, John Legend, Ne-Yo, Jill Scott [and Ari Lennox]. I’m digging deep in R&B. This is volume one. I’m gonna do more volumes because everybody else going to feel like they [were] left out. R&B is mine to take. I’m happy that R&B is loving me the way I’m loving R&B right now. I’m happy to be called upon. I’m happy to be in it and I’m staying in it. As far as I’m concerned, if I’m still here talking to you, R&B is not dead.
We saw in a tweet that you’re interested in collaborating with Chris Brown. What’s your vision for a full-length song with him, considering you’ve previously worked on an interlude for his X album?
My vision for CB is to fully executive produce an album on him that would shock and awe. [Just] real iconic music.
Listen to Camper’s new song “Whatever You Say” below.