Producer's Corner: D Dot
New York Hip Hop in 1996 was reminiscent of the citys Yankees, untouchable. One man who could be considered to have vice captaincy in New York City at that time was Deric Angelletie. Leading Puffys Hitmen out onto the field, he hit nothing but homer after homer. Biggie, Puffy, Mase, and Faith Evans all benefited from what this Brooklyn slugger was capable of in at Daddy's House Studios.
Always one to encourage the next man or woman up to do their thing, it was D Dot who pushed Curtis Jackson out to the masses in 2000 on his Madd Rapper Tell 'Em Why U Madd album. His tenure of managing Kanye West may have caused a little friction between student and teacher, but real men do real things and D Dot wasnt about stealing bases as he discusses in this interview. Now as he embarks on a new inning in the life of the Madd Rapper, D Dot is depicting Brooklyn unity is at its best.
HipHopDX's Producer's Corner caught up with this former Hitman and got the 411 on his protg, the unveiling of his alter ego and just who we might see on that "Brooklyn Lets Go Part Two."
HipHopDX.com: So the Madd Rapper is back, not that you ever left of course. You came back with a bang with Brooklyn Lets Go Part One. Why did you choose to go with that track?
D Dot: It's funny because people are saying I am back and that was really just a record, me being who I am. All these year,s I have got down with all the new up and coming artists before the world gets to hear them and realize who they are. I like working with the next level artist. The "Brooklyn Lets Go" record was just that. I am from Brooklyn, and New York Hip Hop and east coast music has been taking a lot of criticism so I figured the best way for me to make a splash was with the new up and coming guys. I like all those guys, and I think they are all very talented, there are a lot of great rappers around, but I did want to show some love to my hometown. There are so many rappers out of New York, and particularly Brooklyn, that are trying to make it. Me being an older guy I feel like they deserve a shot at other ways as well as making a single and then their careers being over.
DX: Is there another album in the works?
DD: Yes and no. As a producer, I like to release records to see what the peoples reaction is to the records and also to let people know that I am still here and I am still relevant and have the ability to make them happy. But if the fans are not asking for a new Madd Rapper album, I would hate to drop one and it doesnt do the sales and the numbers which people are expecting for an album produced by me. I want the fans to want it and I want there to be a creative demand for it.
DX: Nowadays the fans are able to reach artists a lot more through different platforms primarily through the Internet, do you think that they have more of a say in dictating the way music goes?
DD: I wouldnt say they have much of a say. I would say we are able to reach more of them and they are able to get more music in a timely fashion and in more abundance. So you have to consider their opinions as they have the ability to now sit at home as opposed to getting up and going to a store and only buying one or two albums. Now they have the ability to buy three or four on the Internet for a lot cheaper and download four or five for their own listening pleasure. Now we have comment pages and we have all these ways to have a relationship with the artist, we get to listen to their opinions a lot more. But I dont necessarily think they dictate what the artists do per say.
DX: Do you read the comments that people leave on the sites where your music is placed?
DD: I mean, yeah I read some of them. It is very important to know both negative and positive. You know I have never made a record that the whole world has just completely embraced without their being one hater or one person who had a negative comment. You know with "Brooklyn Lets Go," people either liked the verses and hated the beat or loved the beat and hated the lyrics, or they hated Papoose, they hated Maino or "Madd Rapper sucks." You are never going to please them all. But you get someone like me; I know who my fans are and how to target them. Obviously now, if I am going to put out an album, I am going to target the fans that want it as opposed to forcing it down peoples' throats. Now the fans let you know where they are and how they want they music and that makes it a lot easier. Look at Lil Wayne; he has that appeal right now. He knows who his fans are and he targets them. He is not trying to make a "We Are The World" type of record, he is not trying to satisfy nobody but his core fans.
DX: Wouldnt you say "Hypnotize" is a track of yours that everyone embraced though? I mean that gets played still to this day in the clubs.
DD: Its funny that you say that though, as I remember when "Hypnotize" first came out, some of the negativity was, 'These guys, all they do is loop up records," you know there is always something. But when I look at it, it is 2008 and I made "Hypnotize" in 1996, but 12 years later that track still comes on in every club I go to. "[All About] The Benjamins," I made that in 1996 and that track still comes on at one or two am in the middle of all the hottest records that are being played in the club and that still gets the same reaction. I am happy that I have been able to make records that have been able to last for years like that and I hope to keep going and keep giving the people what they want.
DX: Will there be a "Brooklyn Lets Go Part 2"?
DD: Yes there will be.
DX: Can you give us some hints as to who might be on that? A lot of people thought Fabolous should have been on there?
DD: Yeah, its funny because DJ Clue heard part one and he said that he thought Fabolous [click to read] should have been on it. But Fabolous is considered an A Lister; he is not a new guy. So over the last week, a lot of A List artists from Brooklyn have commented to me about that, saying that they could have also been on that. So there is a possibility that there could be a part two with more newcomers, like say Sha Stimuli [click to read], Uncle Murda [click to read], Saigon, Hoffa, you know those sort of guys; or there might be a chance of a "Brooklyn Lets Go" with a Fabolous, a Lil Kim, a Foxy Brown, a Jay-Z [click to read], Mos Def, Talib Kweli [click to read], all those type of artists who are also from Brooklyn but are more A List.
DX: When your identity as the Madd Rapper was unveiled it caused quite a lot of controversy. Would you have rather stayed unknown longer?
DD: No, I mean I think back then, there was a lot of misunderstandings and there was a lot of media attention and it wasnt really focused on the right things. I wasnt upset that my identity came out; I was upset at the timing of the fact that my identity came out. What a lot of people dont know is that behind the scenes, I had well over a million dollars worth of endorsements and sponsorships from various clothing lines and big corporate companies because at that time, I was a very hot producer. Being associated with Puffy, it was that era when a lot of money was coming in and one of the stipulations for those deals was that the Madd Rapper was a little more negative than Deric Angelettie the producer, who was married and a family man. A lot of these corporations wanted to keep that Deric Angelletie persona and not have the negative association to the "Madd Rapper" so to speak. They didnt mind as long as I was introduced first as Deric Angelettie and let the people and the audience be more comfortable with Deric Angelettie and then slowly but surely bring them around to the fact that I am the Madd Rapper. When that information leaked too soon, the corporations and some of the sponsorships that I had, they ran for the hills. They werent comfortable with that and I lost out on the possibility of coming away with seven figures worth of endorsements and that really is where the regret came in. That would have taken me the man into different worlds, where there would be a life after music. That was where the problem was. I love people knowing that I am the Madd Rapper and I brought smiles to people's faces, made people laugh and knowing that people can remember the first time they heard it. It is really deep in peoples memories which is great and I love the fact that people know me. You know Dave Chapelle and Tracy Morgan, people of that stature have walked up to me and said how funny I was and I am looking at these guys as they are hysterical and they are looking at me in the same way, it is crazy. Cedric the Entertainer [click to read] gave me a big hug and told me how much he loved my skits and my interludes.
DX: Tell Em Why You Madd introduced the world to 50 Cent. Are you and 50 still cool today?
DD: I mean I would say we are still cool, as I havent spoken to him in a few years, as I havent seen him. But back then, it wasnt like we were the best of friends, we just happened to be label-mates as we were both signed to Columbia at the time. We thought it was a good combination - what I was doing and what he was doing. It wasnt like an organic friendship where we knew each other before the music business. You know through our trials and tribulations in both business and personal we went our separate ways, but when we do see each other, it is hugs and "How you doing?" etc. But we dont regularly talk on the phone or through email. I mean that is one of the reasons as to why I am still here as I try to find talent and associate myself with such talent as like a Kanye West or a 50 Cent [click to read]. I managed Kanye before anyone knew who he was, and I am comfortable in that space, being their college coach before they make the pros, you know what I am saying. You know they may play for various teams in the pros but they only play for one college coach and they have to remember that one college coach who taught them all the life lessons and taught them how to be a man, what you need to succeed in the business.
DX: When you do so much for the up and coming artists, how did it feel when it was expressed that some of your production had in fact been down to Kanye?
DD: Well that hurt me a little bit, but that is Kanye. The way he is now is the way he was in 1996 when I met him; very energetic, very hungry and very motivated to succeed and not necessarily making the best decisions when it comes to his words and actions. But I knew he was going to be big and be a success. The thing that bothered me was ghost producing and I had to have a chat with him to explain that if anything, I ghost produced for him. He didnt understand and as I explained to him, someone who sits on a drum machine all day and makes a track isnt a producer; they are a beat maker. I explained to him that if anything I ghost produced for him as he got to sit at home and make the track then he would hear his song, a full finished song that is a smash hit, spinning 5-10,000 times a week on the radio all because of D Dot. I put the artist on it, I helped write the lyrics and the hook, I mixed the record, I did over dubs on the record which means post-production to make it bigger, I, even through my connections at the time, put big name artists or singers on the records to help bring it to another level. So when you look at the amount of work I did to make that song that I did, to make that song a hit and the amount of work he did to make the song a hit, you would almost think that I was the ghost-producer. I did tell him that the term was a little disrespectful but I understood that he is a very emotional guy, but I explained to him "Ghost is not seen," his name appeared on all the records and you would never see a D Dot record without Kanyes name attached to it if it we did it together. That would never happen as I dont do business like that. He has got all his publishing, you have never heard him come out to magazines and say, "D Dot sold my publishing," and I have never taken any money. He has always had his checks from his songs, he has had all his credits and all his percentages, his splits were correct. We have since talked about it and everything is good and we have a great relationship now.
DX: Do you think it really was down to his hunger and ambition?
DD: I think that is part of it and he is also a very good marketing person. He knows how to attract attention to himself. If you sit and ask Kanye, "Has Deric ever stolen any money from you, or has he ever done anything to you business wise that you could have sued him for?" The answer would be no. So then the question becomes, "Why did he keep saying ghost producer, ghost producer?" and I think it made him look a lot bigger to the world and my name is so big and who else could he have possibly been under that could have attracted that much attention at the time. Back then, The Neptunes werent that big, it was really Puff Daddy, Jermaine Dupri [click to read], D Dot, DJ Premier and a few other people, and Kanye was up under me. I think that he just did it because he is a very emotional guy and also because he is very smart, and he knows how to attract attention to himself and a lot of his moves are premeditated.
DX: When American Gangster [click to read] dropped last fall, Sean C and LV were being hailed as the new Hitmen. You were considered captain of the Hitmen back in the day, was that like a slap in the face being that the days of the real Hitmen are a pivotal point in Hip Hop?
DD: I dont think, as I havent worked at Bad Boy since 1998. I havent been a Hitman since 2000. Puffy and I have been best of friends since 1987. I am going to be 40 years old in July. It wasnt a slap in the face, it was just time for Puffy to move on, but by the way, Sean C and LV [click to read] are not Hitmen, that was just Puffy trying to reinvigorate an era that a lot of people like yourself, and from MTV and BET and all these various magazines, that era was very special to people and a lot of people to these days cherish those times. A lot of people dont want to let that go, and Puffy is trying to capitalize off that by finding new Hitmen, but those days are kind of over. Sean C and LV are like best friends to me, they helped Puffy make a Jay-Z album that he needed the help with, and that was it. They are not Hitmen to this day, they dont move as Hitmen, and there are no Hitmen at this point right now and anyone who wants to be a Hitmen, the first question they ask is about me.
DX: Why did you leave then?
DD: The direction that Bad Boy was moving in I wasnt comfortable in and in order for me and Puffy to remain friends, as I have heard all the war stories about the people who have left Puffy, they wrote books about him, they call him names, they bash him on TV and that has never been my [attitude]. He is one of the greatest people to enter the entertainment industry and he has given so many blacks, whites, Puerto Ricans and Asians and all different people the opportunity to live their dreams and succeed and I was one of them. I just so happened to be one of the people that took it to another level to make it more beneficial for myself with the publicity and the fame and financially. Right now, Puff and I going into our forties, it is about time he found a crop of new guys but I will admit it is very hard as our history travels with us, and for all the people that walk into those studios, they look for D Dot, they look for Mario Winans, they looking for Stevie J, they looking for Nasheim and what they dont realize is that those guys arent there anymore and it takes a little bit of the luster away. It takes away some of the excitement. The stars were lined up perfectly, we had Biggie, we had D Dot, you had Puffy, you had Mase, Black Rob, Faith [Evans]. We had incredible artists, incredible production teams and incredible timing.
DX: Do you see history repeating itself?
DD: Well I hope to keep records like that, you know with "Brooklyn Lets Go" and I am working with Lil Kim, Akon, I have movies coming out.
DX: Well you are the music supervisor right on the Biggie movie right?
DD: I am the music consultant on that which is coming out in 2009 and I am also working on the new Terrence Howard soundtrack, for a movie called Fighting. I just produced a song for Jim Jones featuring Styles P [click to read] which is coming out, and I just produced a song for Akons new group called Rock City [click to read], which my partner manages. We used to manage this artist on Jive called Noah, and then he found Rock City, who I produced a record for called "One More Time" which is coming out on their new album.