While there’s no shortage of female vocalists and performers in the mainstream music scene, a major gender gap definitely exists between men and women working behind the scenes in the music industry with women fulfilling far fewer producer and engineering roles than men.
In a 2014 article published by The FADER, Ruth Saxelby wrote that less than 5% of music producers and engineers are women. While the number of women in the male-dominated industry remains unjustifiably small, there definitely are some talented female music producers making their name known in the scene, even if they’ve had to work a little harder to do it.
Diana D., better known as Lil’ Lyss, is one of the fiercely talented female music producers who’s made her way to the forefront of the industry, and she needs to be on your radar. Holding producing credits on several hit tracks for American rapper Ca$his, over the last few years Lil’ Lyss has become one incredibly sought after music producer, especially in the rap and hip-hop scene.
Originally from Bulgaria, Lil’ Lyss was instantly drawn to music during childhood, but it wasn’t until she heard 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” produced by Dr. Dre as a teenager that she realized she wanted to produce music.
She explains, “That opened my eyes for music. It was so simple and so great at the same time, then I thought I could do this too. I downloaded a bunch of programs and started messing with them and with time I taught myself to sound like I sound now.”
It’s been 14 years since the release of “In Da Club,” and Lil’ Lyss, now 27, has definitely utilized that time wisely. She spent those early years mastering the vast plethora of software necessary to be competitive in modern music and teaching herself the ins and outs of producing; and what she’s accomplished since is nothing short of amazing. Her unique beginning, flawless style and musical genius have definitely made her a rarity in the industry; and her drive to produce new and innovative tracks are what’s kept her ahead of the curve at every turn.
In 2013 Lil’ Lyss gained major industry credit when she was tapped by well-known Shady Records producer Rikanatti to come in as a producer on a few tracks for Ca$his’ second studio album The County Hound 2. How she landed that distinguished role as a producer on an album that features guest appearances from rap and hip-hop mainstays such as Crooked I, Obie Trice, Mistah F.A.B., Kuniva (D12), King Los, Boaz and more, is unique in itself– and it definitely proves that her skill is enough to catch the attention of the industry’s best.
She explains, “I am constantly looking for people to work with and that day I saw Rikanatti had tweeted that he was looking for producers to feature on Ca$his’ next album. I contacted him and sent him several examples of my work and he instantly responded with an offer. From the thousands who submitted music to him, I made the cut.”
And that was that. Lil’ Lyss landed her spot as a producer on the tracks “Imma Hustla” featuring Crooked I and Sullee J, and “Imma Hustla [W.C. Remix].” The hit single off The County Hound 2, “Imma Hustla” definitely thrust Lil’ Lyss’s skill as a music producer into the spotlight. Those in the rap game who didn’t know her name before definitely did after.
Undeniably one of the album’s standout tracks, “Imma Hustla [W.C. Remix],” which features Mistah F.A.B., Roccett, Crooked I and Goldie Gold, is hard, heavy and rhythmically energizing, which is due in no small part to the beats and overall musical backdrop that Lil’ Lyss masterfully created. It’s no secret that production is the foundation of any hip-hop song. The beats and tempo are the vehicle that allow the lyrics to flow, and Lil’ Lyss definitely nailed the production on both versions of “Imma Hustla.” It’s impossible not to nod your head to the song as it plays; and the way Lil’ Lyss creatively melds together the elements of gangster rap with energy amplifying cross fades and perfectly timed pauses throughout the track definitely deserves a nod as well. Her talent as a hip-hop producer is evident from the first few bars of the track, and the fact that she holds production credits on an album where four of the other 16 tracks were produced by 15-time Grammy Award winning rap icon Eminem doesn’t hurt her street cred either.
After producing two of the album’s most popular tracks, it’s not surprising that Rikanatti and Ca$his tapped Lil’ Lyss to come back to produce the track “A-Rod” on Ca$his’ 2015 album The County Hound 3.
The lead single off the album, “A-Rod” features New York heavy hitter Emilio Rojas. While it’s on the opposite end of the spectrum tempo-wise compared to the “Imma Hustla” tracks, with “A-Rod” boasting more of a low-key fluid vibe, the track is yet another hit under Lil’ Lyss’s belt as a producer.
“It was an honor and a challenge to work with Ca$his and Rikanatti, their talent is always very inspiring for me and their work ethic made me a better producer,” says Lil’ Lyss. “I created the music for the projects we did together, and Rikanatti adjusted the arrangements and mixed and mastered the whole album.”
While Lil’ Lyss’s reputation for producing epic beats has made her a highly sought after producer for rap and hip-hop artists, her skills are by no means limited to any single genre. Last year she released her first EDM/Trap track “Beast Race.” The dynamic, bass-heavy track generates an energizing, dancey vibe that will make you want to bob your head and get your booty shaking. “Beast Race” gained immediate traction with listeners through the internet with Crazy Pellas, Smash The Club, EDM Nation and other popular music outlets featuring the track on their website.
About what drives her to produce, Lil’ Lyss explains, “I love good music and I want to be a part of it. Especially now in the current state of music, I think the industry needs creativity more than ever. There are millions of people out there that crave the good music but all they get is mumble rap and 3 chord pop songs. I’m here for them!”
From producing hits for rap and hip-hop artists to creating tracks that strike a chord with EDM fans, Lil’ Lyss clearly has a stockpile of tricks up her sleeve, and the more music she produces the more we get to see just how dynamic a producer she really is. As long as we have creative female music producers like Lil’ Lyss who are driven to push the boundaries of the main stream, we can faithfully look forward to the direction rap and hip-hop music is going, while also opening the gates for more women to enter the field, because producing good music is not defined by gender, Lil’ Lyss is proof of that.
Up next for Lil’ Lyss is the upcoming album for The Marine Rapper, which she will be producing later this year. A 10-year US Marine Corps combat veteran, The Marine Rapper is an LA-based hip hop artist who’s created a recognizable name for himself by addressing military, civil and political issues through hip hop and rock music.
The Marine Rapper says, “I would like to work with Diana because she brings a unique production style that has not been introduced to modern music. I think with her worldly travels and various techniques she can bring something new to American music with a collaboration effort.”