Denaun Porter, In-Depth: Working With Eminem & Dr. Dre, Making "Devil's Night," & "Infinite"

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Denaun Porter Interview
Go in-depth with Denaun Porter, known for his work with D12, Eminem, G-Unit, Xzibit, Busta Rhymes, and more, with an extensive conversation on his musical legacy.

Denaun Porter's legacy deserves respect. A key innovator in the Detroit hip-hop scene, one that saw Jay Dilla and Slum Village honing their talents, Denaun found himself building creative chemistry with a young Eminem. Together they began crafting an album that would become Infinite, developing a sound that would evolve into The Slim Shady EP. Before long, Denaun transformed into Kon Artis, a filthy-minded emcee and key player in the Dirty Dozen. Studio sessions with Dr. Dre became the new normal. D12's Devil's Night emerged in an unholy dark cloud -- with it came the biggest beats of Denaun's exploding career.

It didn't take long for that momentum to build, to the point where he remains a prolific force behind the boards. Denaun laced beats for 50 Cent, Xzibit, G-Unit, Busta Rhymes, Lil Kim, Method Man, Royce Da 5'9", The Game, Eminem, Grafh, Hopsin, and many more. All the while, he continued to expand on his foundation, a sound that would come to encapsulate his interpretation of Detroit. And after over twenty years in the game, Denaun has earned the right to speak as an authority -- one who put in his ten thousand hours. 

In the midst of a world-changing pandemic, one that has brought uncertainty to nearly every routine, we connected with Denaun Porter for an extensive conversation on life and the legacy he has built for himself. For anyone interested in Denaun's musical journey -- one that includes his time in D12, working with Eminem and Dr. Dre, and connecting with some of hip-hop's best lyricists, be sure to give this one a read. 

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HNHH: Denaun, what’s up! How’s it going these days? How’s the quarantine going?

Denaun: It’s good. I mean I’ve been good mentally. I think that’s the challenge. I’m a hypochondriac first, so having anxiety and all that, it's been teaching me how to be more mindful of that but I’m good, how about you? 

You know, kind of the same boat. Pretty much been in the house for like forty days at this point. I’m still lucky enough to be working so I get to have some normalcy. Are you making a lot of beats, working on music at all?

Yeah, I’m always making- you know what’s really weird? I moved from just making beats a while ago. I think you always are a person who makes beats, but I try not to touch nothing unless I’m producing something. Even with it not being for an artist, I’m finding myself- if it’s not something I’m using for my own album, I’ll produce the whole idea out. So it’s been like, just producing, producing, producing man like, consistently you know?  

I haven’t been able to nail a lot of vocals yet because some days when I think about what I want to write about and whatever the content of the song is, I’ll get the whole song. I got the whole album like right now, I sent it to Royce two days ago and was like “Yo I got the album, I just don’t have all the songs because every time I think about it, something will come out on the news. I’ll find out somebody that I know passed away.” It’s just throwing me off, you know what I mean? 

It’s just super weird. I’m now trying to battle that and get back in it. But I’ve been doing a lot of producing, playing Oculus [laughs]. It’s been pretty good. It’s been fair to me, you know?

Yeah. Do you find those feelings end up going into the music --  do you tend to express yourself and your anxieties through your beat making? Or do you use it as a form of escapism? 

I think it becomes an escape, but what has been happening to me more so, I’ve been trying to make sure that I don’t make a dark album. I have two of them. One of them is 90% done, but that one’s got features so I can’t put that one out first now. So I’m finishing the one that’s supposed to come out second, it’s called Reflections. It’s a reflective album, it’s about things that I grew up experiencing, things that are happening now, but it’s not dark. It’s an emotional album for sure. It’s gonna touch people’s emotions. I think the emotion of what’s happening is definitely coming out in the music. I noticed that in some of the songs for sure. 

So when you’re setting out to make an album- you mentioned how you view producing and making beats as two separate things. When you come up with the idea to start making a big body of work or an album in this case, do you have a vision set out from the beginning or do you discover what that is as it’s going? 

I put myself in these boxes, man. Like it’s unfortunate sometimes because I’m like a comic book kid right, so I’m writing my own comic. That’s my own little universe I’ve been creating for the last ten years. So what happens is I start writing that and I’ll take a break from it, right. And because I write those things and I come up with these backstories and they come very fast, I’m not having to connect the syllables, I’m not having to connect the lines to make it make sense, to make it sound cool and all of this.  

So, when I’m doing an album, like what I’m noticing with this project, I started with the beat, and it sounds like just a tape that I was putting together, like to give somebody, and I’ll have all of the songs put together in a sequence. So it’s twelve songs, twelve instrumentals that I made right. It’s like they’re all little canvases and I gotta go and paint each thing. So one day I might write four lines for one song, then I’ll watch TV or I’ll watch something or do something, look through a telescope for ten-fifteen minutes, then come back in the house and I’ll write for another thing. 

This is the weirdest time that I’ve ever created in my life. Man I don’t know if anybody got, like this ultimate focus. It’s hard to have it, you know? 

Yeah, definitely. Even like looking back on it, you know how there’s different art movements in history like surrealism and shit. People are gonna look at all this art that was made during this period of time with so much uncertainty, and there might be like themes coming together, you know what I mean? It might be interesting to look back on all the music that’s been made -- it’s gonna definitely be fascinating.

Yeah, I wonder, are you guys getting a lot of music from people? Cause it seems like it’s real slow. I know Tory Lanez put a record out, and that was really dope. 

Definitely. From what I’m seeing, there do seem to be some releases coming out but again the lack of touring is making- I’m getting a sense that a lot of artists are hesitant to release a big album at this time because they can’t monetize it fully. So I think some people are still going to release stuff, but they can’t tour, so--

I wonder if it’s a confidence thing, because I’m thinking this the perfect time to put things out because people will listen. I think some of the music just depends on what the content is. I don’t know how many people will be able to appreciate so many club, dance songs, but challenge songs, there’s a whole new era of challenge songs. If you’re not making that, I don’t know how easy it’s gonna be for them to translate to people, cause there’s real shit going on. Nobody wants to hear how rich you are.  We don’t want to hear how much you got and how little everybody else has, you know?  

Cause everybody else has a family that they gotta deal with right now. Everybody’s money is cut short. With touring being cut short, it’s almost like now you gotta really grab people’s attention. I wonder if it’s more so “hey I don’t have the label to push this in everybody’s face,” you know? There’s something different about it. I think it's a ghost town because a lot of shit that would come out, maybe it doesn’t work for what’s happening, you know?

Definitely. Have you been keeping in touch with some of your circle too? Artists like Em or Royce -- have you guys talking about creating during this period at all? 

We talk everyday pretty much. Em and Royce, that’s like mainstay, we talk anytime, we’re always talking. Me and Royce kind of work on the same schedule. It’s like we sleep when we sleep, eat when we eat, work when work, but I got a workout schedule that I keep right now. Marshall, it’s kind of of like the same thing. We still creating during this time, if we can.. We all have setups to do that, but I don’t know what’s gonna happen, you know what I mean, like whatever comes of it, I don’t know.

I wouldn’t say anyway if we had something in the chamber [laughs].  But we all are creating, but we’re constantly talking about what’s happening, and dealing with it. Donating, making sure people have things. I think it’s very important to- I think just more for me it’s a personal thing, so everybody in my life that I know, if you’re somebody that needs groceries, or somebody that needs help with rent, just little things that I could do. It’s a lot of prayer, a lot of just being a therapist to people, but we talk everyday. Sometimes you gotta talk each other off ledges, you know?

Yeah. I grew up listening to all you guys and sometimes it’s easy to forget that artists are people too -- they go through things. So maybe to fans it’s all about the music but in reality there’s other things that go beyond that, so I think this time is really starting to show that in a way that people can kind of understand, you know what I mean? 

Oh yeah. When you see everybody on live and they got fucked up beards and they all look crazy, reality sets in [Laughs]. The crazy part is for me, I have yet to feel comfortable enough just sitting in front of my phone talking to fans all day. I’ve never been that person, and now I’m starting to find reasons to. Like I have a fan phone that I gave out the number to, I don’t know like a year, a year and a half, two years ago. So I’ll talk to fans on that, literally.

Like they’ll call me and I’ll just pick up and be FaceTiming them for hours. I get the whole social media thing-- like social media has become more powerful with social distancing. But I don’t feel comfortable all the time because in one moment I could be depressed, I could be fighting my own shit and sometime I gotta take a moment, and you don’t want to just run out of the room like “oh I’ll be right back let me go cry real quick you know what I mean?” [Laughs] It’s kind of hard to deal with that, but…I don’t man it’s just a funky time to be in, but I just try to stay as positive as possible and try to keep people in good spirits.

So the social media and how it’s relating to music right now -- when you guys were first coming up with D12, people couldn’t even imagine that. I remember Napster and stuff and file sharing was a huge development at the time, but it’s kind of insane to think about how things have changed in twenty years.  When you were coming up, what was it like being a young artist who was selling millions of copies? Were you guys aware that your project Devil’s Night was going to be a massive commercial success at the time? Is that something that the group was fully aware was going to happen or was it a surprise?

Um, definitely wasn’t aware of it, at all. I think the numbers became the surprise. I was like wow, really? For me it was like “Is that good? What you did this first week is it good? Okay well great. What we gotta do next.” You in the loop at that point, right? So when you’re in that time loop I think it’s just a lot of work. None of us really looked at numbers--the way people do that today I think it hurts them more than it helps them. Cause now you have corporate rappers, you have corporate artists. I’m not a corporate artist, and I think people that come from my era, they’re not really corporate artists. They’re either really great or they’re good or they’re just not here, right?


That’s just how it was. When I put an album out, I’m expressing myself. If I look at the numbers, that’s like me calling Timbaland or talking to Swizz and being like I’m not doing what you doing, so I’m not a producer. Nah! That’s like standing in front of somebody, looking at your own success and trying to gauge it off of a number of what somebody else is doing -- that’s death to me. That’s unhappiness. I think the difference is now, you see a lot of people doing shit and it’s like, why are you doing this to yourself? 

It doesn’t really change nothing for me. I know it’s all a business, and it’s not going to affect me as long I keep making good music and figuring out ways to get it in front of people. With the numbers game, I heard recently Spotify was looking to take away the robot numbers and fake plays -- why would they let that go on so long anyway? 

I have no idea. 

For them to have to make an announcement -- it’s corny for them to even make the announcement, cause like -- what are you doing in the first?

I think there were an increasing number of people, rappers included-- J. Cole mentioned artists faking their streams on “A Lot,” and more artists started alluding to these shady practices going on behind the scenes. Maybe Spotify felt compelled to speak about it because a negative perception was starting to form. 

The biggest problem with them is that they don’t have enough connection to artists. You’re a corporation that sells people’s music that labels give you -- a label will give your music away. The biggest joke is, don’t act like you care about these fake numbers if you ain’t gon’ pay nobody the right way. Like, every artist right now should not be worried about the quarantine. They keep the doors open at Spotify. If Spotify didn’t have any music, there wouldn’t be no doors. Apple Music wouldn’t have no doors. If it wasn’t for the artists, those doors wouldn’t be open.  It’s odd to me. It’s like now they want to have some sort of moral compass? Where’s the moral compass when we were supposed to be getting paid correctly for streams?  

You’re not wrong. The game has really changed so much. For me, my golden era was like, 98-2003. That’s my hip-hop era, my favorite time. I always compare then and now, the musical trends and the way things were working, and I keep looking back to “Devil’s Night.” The singles off that album were so dark, and it’s shocking but awesome that those particular songs -- “Purple Pills” and “Fight Music” -- managed to move so many units. You’ll never hear a single like those today. Those are dark, badass tracks. Can you walk me through the process of deciding on your lead singles?  

At that time, I remember doing the album and working on “Ain’t Nothin’ But Music” with Dre, and “Fight Music” came out of that session there, in L.A. I remember trying to figure out what to do. I don’t remember if we had “Purple Pills” already, that might have come early in the game. But “Fight Music” was a no brainer. Em always said -- he still says -- that that’s his best vocal performance ever, in his whole career. From the verse to the hook, he felt like that was his best. And I would say that’s one of my best, and one of my favorites.

But “Purple Pills,” it felt more like what we were. We were raging young twenty-year olds man. We was on that, it was a college party every night. That’s a big difference from where we come from, Detroit. Detroit wasn’t playing our music because it didn’t fit. We had our own thing going on, and if we cared about them not playing the music---it hurt, but that song, I remember thinking to myself “they not going to play this song.” We didn’t get a lot of respect with the other artists right away because of that song. I hated performing it after a while, but everyone hate performing their biggest records. 

For what we were looking for, “Ain’t Nothin But Music,” “Fight Music,” and “Purple Pills” were the right songs. Everything Dre was coming with at that time would just work. I knew when I heard “Fight Music” and “Revelation,” those two had the same kind of feel. I think it worked because people had never heard that before. It reminds you of the old rock bands, right? You could see Pink Floyd or somebody doing something crazy like that. Having a song that was really dark, it wasn’t this big shiny suit kinda thing. It worked cause of the approach.

On that dark note, I always liked “American Psycho.” 

Aw yeah.

That’s probably one of my favorite of your verses. Maybe Em verses too. Bizarre, obviously [laughs]--

He comes out of nowhere with it. That album, man, when I think about it, there wasn’t a lot of skippers on that album. It was really well put together.

I know that one of the first albums you produced on, and helped put together was Eminem’s Infinite. When you were first presented with the idea of piecing together an album for an artist, was that something that excited you at the time? Was there a specific quality you wanted to bring out of young Em? 

First off, I was only doing beats three-four months at that time. I was a novice producer. I didn’t know I was good. I had a crew I was with, and I was taking it so seriously I was spending every dime I had to go to the studio. When I met with Em, it was somebody with the same work ethic. He’d be excited about the beats. Once we had the first record -- on Infinite the first song we did was “Backstabber.” [Laughs] That’s the first beat I gave him, the first song for that project. 

When I met with Em, it was somebody with the same work ethic. He’d be excited about the beats. Once we had the first record -- on Infinite the first song we did was “Backstabber.”

Then he started going into what was happening. At that time, it was Nas, AZ, and LL. We were just trying to get radio play. To get noticed by the radio when we was kids. While we were trying to do that, I’d just use everything I had. Soul samples -- I wanted people to feel something. All the songs meant something to us, it was really important that we did them. We started off making albums. That’s me and Em’s relationship. So anytime he was working on an album, that was the thing. I started off producing, I didn’t start off making beats. When we got to the studio, Em was like ‘I think this is dope but I want to change the drums.’ Proof had an SP-1200. I didn’t have that kind of stuff. What I made that album on was an Akai SO1, which didn’t even have a sequencer. I did all of that stuff by hand. [Laughs] 

Then Proof came in and fixed the drums on two or three songs, and that kind of birthed producing. Cause I was like, why didn’t those drums work? So the next time we worked on something was the Slim Shady EP, and I was all the way good to go. I learned something from Infinite and moved straight to the Slim Shady EP, and then moved into the Slim Shady LP. So I got thrown into it as a producer and I learned very fast. When Em would come home and play songs, I had an advantage because I could hear the songs he was working on with Dre. So I already knew what to do to step my game up. I was moving through super fast, man.  

On Infinite, I knew I wanted it to sound soulful. I wanted people to hear him over some shit like that. I knew he could rap. The first thing I told him was “Em, you gotta slow down.” He rapped so fast, I was like man could you say this slower? And that started it.

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When you were coming up and working on this stuff, can you paint a picture of the Detroit hip-hop landscape at the time? How was hip-hop music manifesting in Detroit? 

It was like Redman, 2Pac. I think 2Pac All Eyez On Me came out. There was a variety of music going on. De La Soul’s Stakes Is High. We were really into 2Pac right, but we couldn’t make 2Pac records, cause that would sound like Em trying to be like Pac. Even though he’s super influenced by it. I think Detroit had our own--bass lines was our thing. Production-wise, the bass lines and the drums had to be poppin’. 

At the time Jay Dee, I was able to learn from him, before I got to learn from Dre. Poppin’ drums and off-beat/on-beat kinda thing. If you listen to “Just Don’t Give A Fuck,” there’s no sequence to that song. It’s all live. I had to play it like that, cause I had a keyboard called an EMAX, and it also didn’t have a sequencer. I was figuring it out with what I had. When I gave him those beats, it was this filthy, dirty-ass sound, and I was like this is our sound. It’s gotta be filthy. Everything I had produced for D12 back then, for Em back then after Infinite. Infinite was cool, it had some great moments. J. Cole told me he loved the beat from “Infinite” and it fucked me up. I was like, how did you even know about that song! He said it was one of his favorite joints. I was flattered by that, and I was around his age when he told me that. [Laughs] 

J. Cole told me he loved the beat from “Infinite” and it fucked me up. I was like, how did you even know about that song!

For me, it was just dirt. Dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt. There was already a Dilla sound, and I didn’t want to sound like Jay Dee. I listened to a lot of RZA, and I listened to a lot of Erick Sermon. I took both of those influences and created what D12’s sound was, and Em at that time. I just called it filth. The samples was cruddy as fuck, 8-bit sounding. But everything around us, OutKast was poppin’, 2Pac was poppin’. De La Soul. Nas’ It Was Written was out. Fugees. During Infinite we were trying to do what people was doing -- we were still trying to get that play. But after that, that’s when it really formed. D12’s sound, Devil’s Night, was just a little bit cleaner version of the filth. You get what I’m saying? 

For sure. It’s funny you say that, cause I’ve heard my fair share of Detroit hip-hop, and there’s often a mix of that filth and that clean, crisp sound. Producers like yourself, Black Milk, Dilla. It’s like crisp lo-fi. Words that come to mind are bubbling, warbling synthesizers and super clean drums. Dark melodies too -- I don’t want to say creepy, but sort of carnival-esque.  

You know what’s funny? You know that play Les Miserables? Anytime I go into a project, I pick a sound. When I say I pick a sound, I mean a texture. This album I’m working on now, Reflections, is inspired by Marvin Gaye completely. It feels like that lo-fi clean Detroit sound, but I listened to a whole bunch of Marvin Gaye for a month. I listened to a bunch of Eddie Kendricks and all of these people, and then I’ll take the idea of the sounds they used. Like, okay, this bass had a little more mid in it than bottom. Or how the pianos fall, or how the horns feel on a Marvin Gaye song. I combine those things, pick a sound, and move forward. 

So that play Les Miserables, I listened to that album. I didn’t have money to go record shopping all the time. So I had the records that my dad had, and he had this really weird record. And I listened to that, and Bob James -- one of the records Bob James did -- it had a lot of harpsichords in it. So that sound started from “Just Don’t Give A Fuck.” It started from there. And then Em, when he started making beats, he’d have melodies. And the reason his melodies would come out like that is because Em was an eighties head. Eighties pop music, Duran Duran, shit like that. If you listen to Em’s music and the way he produces beats, it’s heavily influenced by that. Both of those sounds, his sound, my sound together -- that’s what the whole Eminem/D12 sound was. 

And Dre, he’s a master producer. He heard “Just Don’t Give A Fuck” and “Just The Two Of Us” and he was able to take what we was doing and turn it into something more incredible. That’s his superpower. But technically it comes from that dirty-filthy. It started with the Slim Shady EP, and if you go listen to all the music that came from there, I’m telling you. That’s really where that style of the Detroit sound came from. Cause there was another sound too -- Slum Village was a different sound. We all wanted to sound different. 

Definitely. Between you, Em, and Dre, that’s a three-headed monster on the beats. I can only imagine some of those sessions must have been insane.

Man, yeah! I would come in and play some shit. I got so many songs with Dre and Snoop that we did back then that Dre had. I played a skit, but it was a beat. I chopped up “Love and Happiness.” It’s a song that Dre has tucked away, and he and Snoop were killing that shit. And it was a skit, but Dre was like “what the fuck is that!?” We would all hear beats from each other, it was fun. Really fun.  

That’s something too -- at the end of the day it’s like jamming with a band. Having a good time playing music with friends and people you respect. Shit, I can only imagine. 

I love coming in and playing the music man. Anytime I see Dre, I come and play music, it’s always fun. It’s never this uptight thing. Em would play his album, we’d sit there and listen to it. I’d probably done heard it two or three times, so I’m wondering if Dre gon’ say the same thing I said about the songs [Laughs]. It’s really cool. That part of it is priceless, that’s why I still have a great relationship with Doc and Em. It’s something you can’t buy, man. Playing music with them, being excited about certain things. 

For sure. Not to mention that you work particularly well with great lyricists. Music with Black Thought, Royce Da 5’9”, Eminem, Pharoahe Monch. These are elite lyricists -- is there something about working with emcees that you appreciate as a hip-hop head? 

That’s the only time I like making those kind of beats. I like making beats that make people want to rap. If you not a person that don’t want to rap, I don’t really make good music for you. I worked with Hopsin, I worked with Grafh -- those artists, they love to rap. I don’t know if you know this, but Guilty Simpson was a protege of mine, and Jay Electronica. Jay Electronica was one of the first people that I was able to groom, one of the first artists. To see where he’s going with the Jay-Z album, to see him grow into that.  

Jay Electronica was one of the first people that I was able to groom, one of the first artists. To see where he’s going with the Jay-Z album, to see him grow into that.  

I always fuck with the best lyricists. I never go out of my way to try and say I’ma try to outrap one of the great Frankensteins that I helped create. I don’t need to do that. My talents stretch way further than that. My record has shown that I pick the best lyricists, period. I work with the best lyricists, period. That’s a strong point for me, so I can turn around and sing the panties off somebody. I love making music for the soul, but I love this dirty-grimy ass “make you want to rap” music. I think I live in a really weird world. It’s fucked up for me in quarantine -- I don’t know what to do.

I get that. It’s hard, man. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. 

We have no idea where we’re going. At all. I think the uncertainty of it and not knowing is very tough on everybody. You gotta keep yourself busy. I just started back with my telescope. I’ll do that for a month. I’m staying in even when they say everything’s cool. I don’t trust it. 

You’re doing some stargazing? 

Yeah, I got a mean telescope. I had it for a long time, I brought it back from California about a year ago. It’s been here sitting in the closet, and I was like you know what, its’ the perfect time. So I pulled that thing out -- I’m hooking up my computer to it next week. Im’a take some really crazy pictures. It’s a really great telescope. 

Damn. That’s cool.

If you want to know where you fit in this world, look through a telescope. It’ll put of shit in perspective for you, trust me. God don’t waste space. We say a lot of things like “don’t waste your food,” or “gluttony is a sin.” But why would he create a whole universe and not really -- is there no life on another planet? You feel super small looking through that shit. 

Maybe he felt that it was important for humans to feel existential dread. To humble themselves. I have no idea.

Yeah, either that or somebody’s not telling us the truth. I think we seeing that now, with how they handling shit. Everybody an expert. Somebody told me that they had the cure -- and I was like, okay, you have the cure, stay away from me. [Laughs] People are insane, you can see how selfish they are. They can’t stay in the house, and when they get home they don’t care about who they can get sick. I think it’s a very dangerous world we live in, and we starting to see exactly what we’re up against. And that’s tough, when you realize a lot of people are zombies. The zombie apocalypse is not a whole bunch of the dead walking, it’s people that don’t think lively thoughts. Selfishness can kill you. 

I wonder how live music is going to be affected -- festivals, concerts. 

We took everything off the board. We was planning on doing some things that we took off the board. Man, I’m telling you -- are you into Oculus? 

That’s the V.R system? I don’t have it. 

Listen. Oculus Quest, if you can get that -- that shit is the future. What Travis Scott just did with the concert on Fortnite is only the nipple of the whole tity. Barely scratching the surface. Me and Royce talk about this a lot. Artists need to take control over what’s happening, and live shows can still be something. It don’t have to be right in your face. As excited as everybody get over these Verzuz battles on Instagram, virtual reality is the absolute future. When I step into that virtual world, man, I lose five or six hours real fast.  


It’s incredible. I have a lot of ideas as to how it could work with music. If you know anything about this culture and how it works, we figure out a way. Labels don’t figure that shit out, we do. And then labels take credit and halfway pay us. Maybe labels won’t be coming back, we don’t know. It might get that bad.

With distribution platforms becoming more readily available, established artists can maybe go independent and keep one hundred percent of their ownership. Bigger artists can skip the middleman entirely. 

Everybody would have to follow suit, but it’s happening right now. We in it. We already in it. There’s no avoiding it, there’s no stimulus package that can save it. The talent always needed to be taken care of, and they weren’t. Now it’s going to come back and bite all these labels in the ass. And it’s not fortunate -- I know many great people that work at labels. But then I know a lot of mean people -- but it’s not going to be the same, ever. Once we figure it out, we don’t mean them. 

Between you and Royce, you guys have a lot of ideas on that topic. You could start a whole movement. I know Royce has been very vocal about it -- on another note, he’s been killing it lately. People are starting to realize what he’s capable of, albeit maybe twenty-years too late -- like shit, this is one of the greatest rappers ever. And now he’s producing too.

My whole goal at the beginning, when we first started, I think it was on Success Is Certain I came in. I wanted people to talk about him the way you talk about Jay-Z or Em. How can’t you, as good as he is? My main goal was to see that, and to see it happening right now, for me -- it’s like these guys is just late to the party. This party been going on, and it’s probably going to get crazier.  

But we got some ideas, we still working through the kinks. But I think nothing will be the same. We’ll still have the need for people that spread the word -- like you being a fan of the people you talk to, those are real journalists. Not the ones like “let me just start cause some corruption,” or this and that. That’s dangerous for the culture.

Thank you. Definitely. 

The most enjoyable interviews we ever have are with the people who understand who you are and who have an understanding. Not just doing the research ten minutes before they get there, asking questions on the paper. When you have really good questions, you get longer answers. You get more gems. But it’s changing, man! 

I guess we’ll see how it all plays out. I don’t even know! 

I’m starting to look at some things. Politically I’m paying attention. We have an election coming up, and if this is our new way of life, buckle in. Take care of your mental health and buckle in. But we won’t be going anywhere in terms of art. There’s more need for us to create the more we lose. It’s just the creations that come out of it are probably going to have to be more content driven. You’ll only care about the good artists. Not the filler. The filler will always be there, but they won’t be the forefront of attention. That’s not me sounding bitter, but the changing of the guard happens all the time. This is nothing new. 

It’s crazy -- 2020 started so promisingly on a musical level. Oh man.

It went to shit fast. It went to shit super fast. Like a plane taking off, and as soon as it got up it started to go down. After the Kobe thing I was already floored from that. Then this virus popped up and stunk the whole party up. 

I’m hoping some good can come from this, whether it’s an increase in empathy -- there’s gotta be some silver lining.

Well, maybe we lose a lot of the ego. Maybe we stop taking things for granted. Something simple that you normally would do, you can’t. I  think we gon’ get a lot more people being caring, careful, and less frivolous. Anytime there’s something like this, there’s always a great change. You just have to keep your head on a swivel and figure out where you gon’ plant your feet. It’s not what’s happening, it’s where you are. It’s how you choose to carry yourself. 

As for the music, there’s always going to be a need for it. There just won’t be a need for the bullshit. That’s why you see a lot of artists right now -- I saw guys having OnlyFans pages? That blew me away. I don’t even know how that happened. Some people are like -- let me charge you to talk to me. That’s insane to me. Why pay for something like that? That’s somebody with no talent, who is all about antics.

Antics have come to drive so much of the machine. I can’t even keep track of it.

[Laughs] The antics are at an all time high, but that shit is just temporary entertainment. You don’t know half the songs of none of these people. Period. I know I don’t. Not like I’m not paying attention, but I don’t know what you’ve done for me to care enough to watch you argue with another man for thirty minutes. Or snitch on somebody on Live Instagram. It’s crazy. Who knows, man. Hopefully we come out on top. 

Well, people are still listening to your guys’ stuff. That timeless music, it’s important.

I’m so glad I came up right after that golden era. Around that time was that golden era for me. 1996 to 2005 is my perfect golden era.

I think of that as “The Platinum Era.” It was a time when people were buying a lot of albums. Looking back at how album sales were measured then and now, it’s incredible to me to see people going out and buying hip-hop albums by the millions. Millions of people going to the store and buying CDs. I kind of miss that, I’m not going to lie. I like that era a lot. I don’t want to be the guy who reminisces on the good old days, that get off my lawn shit. But I do feel it was a great time in hip-hop -- so many classic albums were made. 

Mmmhmm. And a lot of things happened behind the curtain that we’re still finding out now. That was definitely the best time. It’s exciting now to see certain things. I love when Kendrick puts out a record, or when J. Cole put out a record. Or Thundercat! I’m a Thundercat fan, and I’m excited by certain people. 

But remember D4L, they had “Lean Wit It Rock Wit It,” “Shake That Laffy Taffy?” There’s always been that kind of thing! I don’t get mad at that. I’m not mad at the “Toosie Slide” thing, I’m not doing that shit, but I’m not mad at it. Stuff like that has always been around. 

Some things never change. There needs to be a balance. 

We can’t get rid of that.  

Look, before we go. I wanted to ask -- after all the beats, all the hits you made, what’s the one track you look back on that you’re most proud of on a musical level. Not necessarily the most successful, but a beat you feel would be the one you’re showing Dr. Dre or Dilla? 

You know what? There’s a song called “Decision” I did for Busta. That’s one of my favorite beats. It had so much emotion in it, but let me see. Hip-hop wise, Eminem’s “On Fire” is still one of my favorites. “They Out To Get Me” by Busta Rhymes, or “Promise I” by Snoop. It’s hard for me to pick, cause I got a lot of songs I love.  

But if I would pick one right now, I would say “On Fire.” I was just listening to that. I could listen to that song on repeat. It’s mean. It reminds me of when me and Em started, and how I would be excited cause I knew he was about to beat whoever he was rapping against. It’s one of my favorites today.

That’s up there for me as well. 

But even the more successful ones, like “Stunt 101.” Even more so than “P.I.M.P,” cause on “Stunt 101,” I had just decided to learn how to play keyboards. “Stunt 101” that one is one of my ultimate favorites, cause I was just learning how to play and it ended being a three or four time platinum song. Crazy.

I’ll give a special shout out to Xzibit's “Multiply” as well.

Awwww, fuck, right! “Multiply!” Man you know what’s crazy! That shit wasn’t supposed to happen like that either. It was before computers, and I came back in -- I had a totally different sound. For whatever reason, the sounds switched. I went to get something to eat or something and the sounds switched. I was able to get the bassline back, but man, it was a bunch of sounds that ended up playing. The intro to that song was playing a fucked up sequence.

Well, it turned out pretty fuckin’ good! And a second shout out to Busta Rhymes’ “Riot.”  

Awwww yeah!!! “Riot!” Oh my God! That was crazy. That was crazy. 

Thank you so much for taking the time -- it was a great conversation. Be safe out there! 

Hey man, you too. Any time.  

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About The Author
<b>Feature Editor</b> <!--BR--> Mitch Findlay is a writer and hip-hop journalist based in Montreal. Resident old head by default. Enjoys writing Original Content about music, albums, lyrics, and rap history. His favorite memories include interviewing J.I.D and EarthGang at the "Revenge Of The Dreamers 3" studio sessions in Atlanta and receiving a phone call from Dr. Dre. In his spare time he makes horror movies.