YouTube video

Even rockers and rappers grow up and have kids. Two Berkeley High alums, both musicians, have collaborated on a music video that, while being upbeat and funny, also makes a candid stab at exploring the peculiar transition that happens when you segue from carefree youth into parenthood.

DJ Dave, aka David Wittman, will be known to Berkeleyside readers as the creator, via his company Fog and Smog, of the popular “Whole Foods Parking Lot” video, and the “Berkeley Enough” follow-up he put out with local performer LaeCharles Lawrence. Wittman met Sam Dorman at Berkeley High, although Dorman graduated in 1994, two years behind Witman. The pair got to know each other well when they both lived in Los Angeles.

The new video has clearly struck a chord. It’s been viewed more than 140,000 times on YouTube and has been featured on the TODAY Show. We caught up with Dorman, who now lives in San Francisco — and is the one with the daddy skills — to ask him for the skinny on the project.

How do you and DJ Dave know each other? 
Dave has been a good buddy for years. We were both in the BHS Jazz program, which was pretty influential, and we have a lot of similarities in our upbringings and families, even down to both having moms named Ruth.

We really got to know each other when we both went to LA for school. Lived in the same building a block from the ocean in Venice Beach for some formative post-college years. A whole cast of characters there, great rooftop barbecues and parties, hours of great, pointless hanging out. And plenty of beach football and drinking beer like he mentions in the song, that’s 100% true. Actually the whole song is true, I don’t think we made any part of it up.

Was this your first project together? 
We’ve been long-time creative collaborators. During those years we had a band together, called “fatslice” — a nod to our Berkeley roots. We were played on KCRW radio a bunch and had gigs like House of Blues, Knitting Factory, Temple Bar. It eventually ran its course like bands do, and I moved back up to San Francisco, got hitched, had a kid, and of course found it harder to find time for music.

Sam Dorman and his daughter in the “Daddy Skills” video
Sam Dorman and his daughter in the “Daddy Skills” video

How did you end up making the “Daddy Skills” video with DJ Dave?
When Dave did “Whole Foods Parking Lot” it was amazing to watch: such a perfect combination of all of his talents and his aesthetic sensibility coming together, and people really felt it. Seeing that happen also kind of inspired the creative energy that had gone a bit latent for me.

I helped out filming “Berkeley Enough” and played a small hype-man role. Actually in that video we both did a junior high-era dance move in front of King, where we both went. But I was mostly watching the whole phenomenon from afar, so I thought maybe I’d try to get in on the fun.

How did you decide to write about being a new dad? 
Back then Dave was getting interviewed and talking about his philosophy of “write what you know.”  So I thought, what the hell. But, of course, the thing I have come to know well over the last couple years is the whole new-parent life and this new, strange subculture you suddenly find yourself in.  So that’s the direction I went.

When did you make it?
I wrote the song at the very end of last year, mostly just to see if I could.  Produced the beat, recorded the verses, and sent it to Dave with the basic idea for the chorus. Maybe 45 minutes later he had written and recorded the hook and sent it back, and it just kind of fell together perfectly.  That’s when I was like, oh, this is pretty fun. I guess that’s more or less how our musical collaborations have always been. Kind of an intangible creative connection that just clicks.

What was the inspiration for making the video?
When friends heard the song they started encouraging me to make a video. I’ve done a bunch of video projects over the years, ever since I was a kid running around at the East Bay Media Center, on University Avenue back then.

So I set out to do the video, just like casual guerilla style. Just grabbing a scene here and there on my iPhone. Ironically enough, it was usually infringing on some nice quality time we were having as a family, in pursuit of making this video about being a great dad. That irony wasn’t lost on my wife, by the way.

But she was a great sport about it. She was also reluctantly drafted into head camerawoman duties, along with a bunch of friends and family who all helped out. And I edited the video myself. That was a great way to sink a staggering amount of spare time I didn’t really have in the first place.

DJ Dave, aka Dave Wittman, in “Daddy Skills” video
DJ Dave, aka Dave Wittman, in “Daddy Skills” video

What do you think of the response?
I’ve been pretty amazed by the response. I love hearing other new parents commenting about how much it nails their lifestyle, or people who laugh about their favorite lines.

Some people have lumped it in with the “genre” of rapping parent videos, which is understandable.  But if I can be picky, I like when people get a slightly different nuance from it. It’s not one of those videos where the humor is because it’s a fake hardcore rap about kiddie subjects. It’s more of an honest attempt to talk in a funny way about the whole transition of life that happens when you cross the border into parenthood. And you and your buddies are looking at each other across that divide, kind of like “whoa”.

Plus, you find yourself taking pride in a whole new set of knowledge and circumstances. You’re kind of embarrassed about it, but deep down you take a lot of pride in it and you do want to brag a little bit. So this is sort of having fun with vocalizing that and poking some fun at it.

Where do you live and what do you do now?
We’re still living in San Francisco now and loving it here. I have my own technology consulting business helping non-profits create digital products like mobile apps and web applications and videos. I guess being my own boss allows me to take some extra time and work on a creative project like this, which is such a luxury. I did wonder whether there might be a reputation cost to my consulting practice for doing this. So far so good on that score. Maybe ask me again next year.

There’s definitely a bit of pride when you see Berkeley folks doing creative work with a certain flavor.  Maybe you feel a kinship, sort of insider’s nod or something? So it’s fun to get to add to that body of work in some small way.

[Hat-tip: Monique Thiry-Zaragoza.]

Rapper’s Berkeley bona fides questioned in new video [12.21.11]
Berkeley musician responds to Whole Foods music video [07.28.11]
Berkeley boy is getting real in the Whole Foods parking lot [06.16.11]

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...