Producer's Corner: Mr. Porter
The Bad Meets Evil executive producer explains how he nearly brought about his own demises, and cautions fans to be thankful for what they wish for, as well as artists to stop over-saturating.
When the rumors about Bad Meets Evil actually came to fruition earlier this year, it was an epic moment in Hip Hop. Back into the spotlight came the formidable duo of Eminem and Royce Da 5'9 that had buried their beef and rekindled their mutual passion for music-making. But the glue that sealed this highly anticipated project was Denaun Porter, who had been kick-started back into action in 2009 after overcoming demons, which could have resulted in a premature demise, had Eminem not called on his D12 brother to join him on the road.
Working with Em and getting his life back on track brought about a change in management, a new outlook and a new style of production, all of which have been working to his advantage. The producer known as Mr. Porter may have stepped out for a sabbatical which only he will ever comprehend, but the result of that break from the industry will be benefited by all as we have already seen with the work he has put in since his return.
Speaking to HipHopDX's Producer's Corner about just how he is still earning his respect with the world’s number one rapper, his role as executive producer on Hell: The Sequel and just who he admires amongst his production brethren, it is his lack of ego and ability to admit to this faults which make him the producer he is today.
HipHopDX: What does the Bad Meets Evil Hell: The Sequel project mean for Detroit?
Mr. Porter: Hopefully it created a spark to have kids and artists take a different approach, as we want to get the best artists out of our home state and encourage them to get out there and do what we do best.
DX: Is that you saying people are ready to pass the torch, so to speak?
Mr. Porter: Not so much that, it’s just us trying to restart the engine, that’s all. I think with [Eminem's Recovery] album and the success we have had, that was enough to get some people motivated, but they’re used to Em being in that light. Him doing [Hell: The Sequel] put him in a light that people haven’t seen him in for a while. I’m hoping that just doing the album, reigniting the group and doing something that should have been done a while ago, sparked something, as we want to hear what the next generation sounds like. We are still coming up with great ideas.
DX: When you look at the foundation laid in Detroit, how do you feel about the next generation?
Mr. Porter: It is a bit frustrating because we catch it on our end, people always ask us, "Why didn’t you put anyone else on from Detroit?" We have, and it's not like we were trying to ride the train alone; you want the success to have longevity. Detroit is a really weird place and we are inspired by a lot of different things. We have a lot of ways of getting things done. You’ve got guys like Guilty Simpson, who travels so much outside the U.S., Black Milk is another one. To me, I would love to have that on a bigger platform, as its not just Em, Royce [Da 5'9], D12, Obie [Trice], there’s also those guys. I had a big part in helping Guilty [work] with J Dilla [on Ode To The Ghetto]. Black Milk, I watched him grow and am really proud of him, but I want to see the next generation of that. Being a producer, I am always looking.
DX: You executive produced Hell: The Sequel, was that an inevitable move for you?
Mr. Porter: No, I really had to earn that. It was after this project I realized the expectations you have for yourself [of] the things you want people to see you’re capable of doing. I had so many challenges. I don’t run around saying, "I can do this – I can do that." I want my work to speak for itself. Each project I do I am so grateful for. I helped build the album, I produced 60% of it, and I drove through it with them. I was confident to step up and do it. But it’s hard when you get into executive production, when you have produced five or six joints on an album, credibility – that comes with it.
DX: Also a lot of pressure I imagine?
Mr. Porter: See, that’s the thing: it’s easy for me to put together an album now. When you see the teachers I’ve had, you look at the people I’ve been around. I was inspired by J Dilla closely; I was able to kick it with him from time to time. I got to introduce J Dilla to Dr. Dre. I got him and Dre in the studio at the same time. I was a protégé of Dre, Eminem, and Proof. With all these people and being behind the scenes and learning so much, I should be able to executive produce an album. My capabilities are incredible, it’s just now I have to do it outside of my own camp for people to say, "Oh that was a great step," and I hope I can continue to do more of that so people can see. But I had to earn that shit; it wasn’t given to me at all.
DX: How did the process come about?
Mr. Porter: We were on a plane, me, Em, Royce, Alchemist and Paul [Rosenberg]. We had been doing a show I think and Paul had said something about doing an album. People don’t really know but Royce and me had already been working around the time [he and] Eminem started talking, [and] Royce and me started talking.
DX: Did you feel it kick-start you again?
Mr. Porter: [It] totally kick-started me. I’ve been working with Snoop [Dogg], Ludacris and just stepping outside [of the Shady Records camp]. I want to work with Lil Wayne and the likes of Drake, who are outside of my camp and who I have never produced for.
DX: The music you gave the guys to record to for the Bad Meets Evil project, were these joints on the album or was this just what got the creative juices flowing?
Mr. Porter: I started the project and it took form with the music I was giving them. "I'm On Everything" was the first song that we worked on. ["Take From Me"] was the last song I brought to the table. I felt that that issue with the songs leaking to the Internet, it was the first time I had given a concept to Em, and I thought to myself, "Let me attack this." That was a great accomplishment for me. For one of the best rappers of our time taking an idea and actually turning it into something – that was actually the last song. But then we felt like we needed some diversity so we did the "A Kiss" joint, the second joint on the album and then the "The Reunion" joint.
DX: It has to be a nightmare when your music leaks, like the "Living Proof" joint. How does that feel for you guys, even though the response was for the most part positive?
Mr. Porter: As an artist you are thinking "I want to put out the real version," as the sound would have been better. There were a couple of things added and we really worked hard on finishing [it], but that was how it ended up on the album as a bonus track. But everything else leaked anyway. You have to understand that this is our passion and when you take something from someone like that, even though there is a high demand, it doesn’t make it right from our standpoint, it's just no-one ever speaks about it. You never hear Wayne or Beyonce talk, and they probably feel the same way. Your first impression is everything, and if you hear a Jay-Z or a Kanye [West] song and the first impression I get is that it isn’t mixed or the beat might not be put together how they want it - as my beats are basically a skeleton which are built after they put their verses on there, and then once they are mixed I still do more. So when I hear that track I am like "Wow."
There were so many ideas for the "Living Proof" track before it leaked. I mean, I originally wanted Travis Barker to play the drums on it, replay the sample, as he is part of my family. But after it came out and had I changed that people may have shot it down more and it hurts us because it is our passion but then we also do this for a living, so not only do we lose a song, but we lose the opportunity to license that song for a movie, to let radio play it. People just don’t have any mystique anymore and if they were to grab mystique again and just wait you might be happier with the end result.
DX: Do you think it comes down to greed?
Mr. Porter: Well, people just want what they want when they want it and nobody has any patience anymore. Artists have to be really careful though too. If you have a bunch of people hanging around the studio, that’s how things happen. We’re careful with how we handle our music; we take every precaution we possibly can. But then you have to send it to the factory to be pressed up and that is when it is out of our hands, those people don’t give a damn about us. We know that when we turn it into the labels: no one is really going to care. They don’t have the responsibility like we would.
Then on the fan-side, it hurts when you pressure a person to be great. When you are telling people what you expect from them as an artist and as a producer even when you are not done, "I am going to pressure you to put out that project and when it comes out I’m going to comment, I’m going to shit on it and say this and say that even though someone stole it from your archives and put it out prematurely," – it hurts. It hurts us and it hurts the fans that really want to wait and patience is a virtue. When you ask for so much from us, then you don’t have any patience, the people who do that, they don’t understand how this works.
Then you have artists who saturate the market. You put out a mixtape every two weeks, who’s going to buy your album? It’s still a business and now you are hurting the label, the fans – they are getting too much stuff. I don’t want to hear 30 songs a month. I want to hear one incredible song and then hear the rest of the work. No I.D. just put out a project, Cocaine 80s and I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. I didn’t know he was putting it out, for one, then I stumbled across it and it is the only thing I am playing right now besides [Hell: The Sequel] and a Drake joint I heard which I liked. Through this, I stumbled across a new artist too, James Fauntleroy which inspired me again and I went right back into the studio to make some different music. Nothing I am doing right now sounds like BME so if people were to get the mystique back, maybe people wouldn’t feel compelled to take, take, take. Also if people were to stop throwing music out all the time and realize it is quality over quantity, why throw out 30 songs if only two of them are good? Then you get upset when your album only sells 40,000 [units]. This is what happens when you put out five mixtapes before. Nobody is telling these kids – all they want to do is put out these songs and perform on the road, as that is where they make their money. But by doing that they are creating another monster where the label is saying, "Well if you are going to leak records and put out all these mixtapes and we aren’t going to be a part of it, we want part of your show money." They have to be smart with it as they keep changing the dynamics of the way in which the industry is working. That is why you are hearing so many disgruntled artists; no one is really teaching them how to have game and strategy,
DX: There doesn’t appear to be the level of management today that there once was. Do you think that is the problem?
Mr. Porter: I think it starts with a competent decision to choose that management. When you have a 20 year old kid... when I was 20 years old I didn’t give a shit who my manager was, but I knew when it came to paperwork [that] I wasn’t a lawyer. I didn’t even read books, so I went a got a guy who was smarter than me. That was number one, the competent decision starts with that person. Most of these guys choose their homie. Make your homie your assistant or the guy who deals with your calls – I am not going to bestow a great responsibility on him. My management is [DTP Records head] Chaka Zulu, and my relationship with [him] is I don’t have to call [him] every day, when its time for them to handle business I let [him] do [his] job and don’t step on their toes because I trust [him].
It’s a new system too; they have to pick who they have around them. Everybody wants to be a rapper or a producer, so there is no one aspiring to be like Chaka Zulu, a true manager. There are managers who want to be stars. I find it incredibly crazy that a manager can pick beats for artists. I‘ve never heard that before in my life. I’ve head of managers saying that, "Swizz [Beatz] is coming by the studio to play some music," that’s what I want to hear. I don't want to hear managers say, "I got this Swizz Beats CD and I’m going to sift through it and see what there is;" that’s bullshit. You’re losing the connection at that point. So when a manager wants to be a star, controlling everything and not asking the artist what he thinks that's when people have to be making better decisions.
DX: How long have you been with Chaka?
Mr. Porter: I was with Zach Katz at the time Proof past. At that time I was so confused as I was so not trying to do any music. All the music that was coming out during that time I had done before. I had enough music to take me through those years but I wasn’t making anything new. At that time, from 2006 to part-way through 2009, I was in a shambles. I was in a depressive state without realizing I was in a depressive state. I was not acknowledging what had gone on at all.
DX: But surely looking back now, you get it?
Mr. Porter: Yeah, you dom but you blame yourself when you say, "The last time I saw my brother we had a fight," and then you hear a year later a song where he is saying he is proud of you, that crushes you even more. Then I gained a new friend, a guitar player called Andre Smith, we had a lot of connections through family, and he died in 2007. I went from one home to the next, I drank, smoke and slept as much as I could. I didn't take care of myself, I was in a relationship that I shouldn't have been in; we should have just remained friends. I made horrible decisions with money. I put myself in the greatest hole possible. In saying that, I also left my management because you know I was going to sell myself short, I was going to do me and was not letting Zach do his job. I was angry and confused and we separated ways, but we still talk today. Then in 2009 when Em asked me to do the hype-man job, I just did it because if I didn't do something I would die anyway.
I started doing that and I started producing again and made the beat for "On Fire" , the first beat I had made. And I said to myself then, I didn't want the stress and the strain of the business so I needed to have someone that has a great heart but that has the strength and respect and know what they are doing. I asked Chaka to do it; it's not like Chaka was hurting for clients. He saw something in me and that relationship has worked to my advantage since I got with him. We’ve done so many great things so far. The first thing I tackled was my health and started working on that and just making better moves. When it came to producing, my producing style changed completely, Em told me that. I can produce Pop now and write Pop songs, [and] R&B, I had to really step outside and be the person God wants me to be.
DX: Just hearing Eminem on your beats, the cohesion and relationship you have is so obvious. It’s just like hearing him on a Dre beat. It has to be a win-win situation.
Mr. Porter: I’m always trying to impress him, always, but now he respects me as a producer. I had to grow into that again. When we were kids and I was making beats for him and D12 before he had a deal, we had a synergy that we still have now, we gelled the same way. When he got with Dre he took 30 steps forward and I had to catch up with those 30 steps. He didn’t introduce me to Dre. He didn't say, "This is my [old] producer. Is there anyway you can teach him?" I had to earn that as well. Dre heard some of the beats I produced, they caught his ear and he said, "Come to L.A.,'" and I became a protégé of Dre. I learned how to [expand] sonically. I don't care who you are, what you do, how many hits you've had, I’m going to stand there and blow everybody’s minds. I had never put myself out there like that. I’d made the platform with me and Em working together again. We have some joints that people haven’t heard, but getting into that mode, now it's chemical warfare, nuclear missiles. [Laughs]
DX: It ignites passion all around though, for you as artists and producers and then for us as fans you know, which is a great thing.
Mr. Porter: I am glad that people are feeling that as you could never have told me all those years ago when they were putting out "Scary Movies" , no one could have told me I was going to executive produce [their future] album.
DX: When it charted at #1 how did you feel? It must have been a pretty serious high.
Mr. Porter: I honestly have to say if I was a really obnoxious, egotistical loud mouth I could talk a lot of shit. I came into my career with hits. I came in with singles and so then the desire came that I wanted to be like Dilla. I wanted people to be checking for my songs, and then all the shit happened and I fell back. But coming back and producing five songs and co-executive producing an album with Em which was #1; I think I might be pretty good at this producing shit. [Laughs]
DX: But again, how long have you been doing this for you to now feel comfortable in saying that?
Mr. Porter: Yeah, but you know what? I think that is another thing that’s missing. I could have come out and said this shit back then, but I knew I had shit to learn, I wasn't ready, I wasn't ready for a label deal, I would have fucked it up, I wasn’t ready to have artists. Now I am. Clara J is on two tracks from [Hell 2: The Sequel]. I got producers, a guy from Baltimore, J Oliver, he is about to be madness and I signed the next producer from Detroit, then Marv Won, the battler, I turned him into an artist. I’m saying I’m ready now. Because if I signed those artists when I was 26-27, I would have fucked up their lives. Most kids don't care; they just think they’re ready. Sometimes you have to put the ego to the side, some people have to have attention and they are not really looking at the person who they are. I learned from Eminem to say, "My name is Denaun Porter or you can call me Mr. Porter," but I am a human being first and I have an astronomical talent that I was given and I appreciate that just as I hope people appreciate that from me, as I will be here in five years time and in 10 years from now. I don’t know if I am going to be producing, but I will be still here as I aspire to be an executive of a label now.
Everything is in due time and you have to be able to accept that. I knew I had things to learn, but now I’m going to bust your ass. I am never going to let Eminem down, or Dr. Dre or Proof, Dilla of Paul Rosenberg. I will never let them down because I took that 7-10 years learning. I learned about myself and what people expect from me. But now they are going to get shit that they didn't expect because I have got some artists that aren’t even rappers.
DX: You’ve nurtured your talent now I guess and are happy to go in a different direction?
Mr. Porter: It’s really scary because I am getting a lot of new fans that don't know who I am, they think I am now. But I saw Dr. Dre recreate himself from N.W.A. to The Chronic and then again. I feel I am recreating myself the way I have learned form my teachers and I am blessed to be able to say that. I’m still out here doing my thing with the young guys and it’s great to be able to do that. No I.D., he just recreated himself again, and right now he is the God to me. People like him and myself, we don’t talk a lot we just do it.