Your new album Goon Muzik is about to drop. How did you put this album together?
I started off making it as a mixtape, but based on the quality of the music, Babygrande actually picked it up for an album. It’s like a movie. It turned into a full production and it’s one of a series. It’s really a series of movies and it’s me doing my ‘hood narrating on it and I have a couple of guys behind me painting a picture without blatantly saying that we’re bringing New York back because that shit is corny and bullshit to me. We’re just giving more of a visual-audio feeling with this.
How was it rapping on Goon Muzik?
I’m ‘hood narrating. I’m not a rapper. I’m more of a ‘hood narrator. That’s what I do.
Does rhyming help your production?
Believe it or not, that’s why I’ve been successful for so many years. If I didn’t know how to rap, I wouldn’t know how to give another artist a beat that would fit right. If you can’t rap to your own shit, how the fuck can you expect anyone else to? I always knew how to format songs and all of that.
You feature your group the Lennox Ave Boyz throughout Goon Musik. What has the group been up to lately?
I’ve been branding the name for years and the funny thing is that the Lennox Ave Boyz, we’re all together as one. There’s me and Meeno. Everyone knows Meeno from his confrontation with Jay-Z. He’s known already. You got Tony Wink and Bigga Threat. Different guys have different fanbases, but when we’re all together, you get the collective sound and it couldn’t sound better.
Has it been hard to keep the group focused without having a major deal?
Actually, nah. This is what it is. We’re crew. There’s probably about 15 of us altogether. If we’re not making music, we’re hanging out and getting money. It’s not more of a rap thing. We’re the Lennox Ave Boyz.
I haven’t heard Goon Muzik yet, so I can’t ask any specific questions on the production. What kind of vibe did you want to create with your production on Goon Muzik?
I kept it to a theme. I’m not showing off too much versatility on this. This album is more of a straight street, gutter album. On my Sour Diesel album, my next one, I’m going to show off my versatility. I didn’t go crazy on this one like I did on Sour Diesel.
You’ve always been a producer who doesn’t have to rely on samples. How important is that in 2008?
I sample about 25% of the time and I don’t 75%. I’m not going to ever get completely away from sampling because that’s a part of hip-hop. The thing is, with me, if I do sample, I always play my own music to it. I’ll have to chop it and make it so different that the original version is still respected. That’s why I play a lot of my own stuff. You have to think of the artist you’re using and respect them. On a DMX album, I had the Phil Collins’ joint “Feel It In The Air”. Phil had never cleared anything in hip-hop before. I put some ghetto funk on it and some bass and he liked it. He said it was hot and he cleared it.
That sample has been used a lot of times, from Nas to Joe Budden to Young Buck to others. What do you think of the other beats that sampled “Feel It In The Air”?
It’s cool, man. If you think about it, I can’t take all the credit for it because it’s Phil Collins’ song. Let’s be real. But I’m the first person to really use it and it’s an honor to be the first.
To help promote Goon Muzik, you’re giving out a free beat which your press release says is worth $30,000. Can you really get that kind of money for beats in today’s climate?
First off, I’m going to put the beat on a site where everybody can download it for free and then I’ll check them out. They’ll get a spot on my series of mixtapes coming out and they can come to my studio, so it’s almost like you’re getting signed. The last one I did, there were a lot of good artists that came out for it. I got guys from Germany, the Bay Area, London, Japan and all other places. It’s worldwide and there are hot joints everywhere.
And as far as it being worth $30,000, it’s getting got. Let’s not get it twisted. (laughs) The good thing is that for producers like myself, Pharell, Kanye and Swizz, we have our sounds. As I came back after being gone, I started noticing that the sound I had was for the whole Northeast region. It’s the vibe and sound of this whole Northeast region including Boston and Connecticut all the way down to Maryland and even VA.
Do you use the internet more today to promote yourself?
Yeah, man. I love the internet, man. With the first contest I did, it was the first tool that I had done and I just watched how that spread like wildfire. It re-buzzed me. I coulda jumped on BET and other networks and other publications. Where I come from in the underground, the internet is great. It’s a big part and I love it. I gotta keep my cable modem running!
You’ve had a lot of hits, both recently with songs like DJ Drama’s “Feds Takin’ Pictures” and in the past with DMX, The Lox and others. Do you get the respect you deserve today?
I do get the respect. I had a couple of bumps in the road and certain situations, but now, with my good friend the internet, my people who always stood by me or supported me in the streets, I can keep in touch with them and the industry people.
You made your mark working with DMX. Will you ever work with him again?
Well, I did a couple joints with him on his new album. But, I mean, he’s dealing with all the stuff that’s going on. The cops just raided his crib and there’s all this crazy shit going on. Things are just different from when we were trying to make history from my basement. When the right time comes we’ll work more.
Are surprised by DMX’s legal problems and recklessness or did you always see that in him?
This is from my heart. DMX is a beautiful person. And despite everything that’s been said on the internet, he’s his own man. He do what he do. He’s a super-beautiful person. If you are an intense person and under the microscope, people are going to look at everything you do and make it look like big shit. The man walked out the precinct and went home with no charges. Once you’re a person of great magnitude and you have a strong personality, they’re going to go after you. They do it to everyone. They do it to actors. They do it to everyone.
You’re also working on Donny Goines’ album Minutes After Midnite. What made you want to work with him?
Some funny shit...Bigga Threat, who’s down with the team, knew Donny. Bigga’s got stacks and stacks of verses and he would just sit there with his walkman and Donny would be like, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ He was like, ‘I’m writing. I’m getting it in. I’m getting it in.’ Bigga got caught up with a case and got locked up. At that time, Donny really sat back and he just picked it up. As Donny started developing, me, I watched. I watch. I always hear a lot of guys who say they want to rap. I always hear all this bullshit, but when I see a person do it, that means more. Donny picked up that pen and started going and going and going. Even though we all started back in the hustling shit, Donny chose to keep his content more lyrical and more than the drug dealing and the gun slinging. He had his own identity and I told him I supported him. That’s how he picked it up.
It seems like you’re pretty open to working with young artists who have the talent.
Yeah. You have to have the talent. There are a lot of people who have the drive with no talent. You have to have talent and drive.
There’s been confusion on the internet recently over whether you and Swizz Beats have problems. Can you clear that up?
I’m gonna let it go. There is no beef with me and Swizz Beats. There is no beef with me and Kaseem Dean. It’s funny. In an interview, I was speaking my mind on what it is and they asked me why I haven’t worked with Mashonda or Cassidy. I told them it’s because Swizz ain’t cutting checks over there. He took that and flipped it around and magnified it, saying that we had beef. It’s funny, the first person to call me about that and tell me about that was Swizz. I was in the studio and I picked up my phone and we talked about it. He was telling me it was all over the internet. It’s funny because I didn’t even know shit. I didn’t know nothing at the time. I hadn’t read it or heard it or anything. He was the first person to let me know. I know I talk a lot of shit. That’s what it is, but I don’t sidetalk. If we got beef, then fuck you. That’s what it is. I told him what I said, that he wasn’t cutting no checks with Cassidy or Mashonda. It’s nothing. And I say the same thing whenever I see him.
And to tell the truth, that’s how we all talk because we’ve all known each other since day one. Are you cutting checks over there? That’s what it is. That’s what we say. It’s all good. I didn’t mean that as no diss and he didn’t take it as no diss but the people took it a different way.
Do you think the media and fans just want to see beef sometimes?
The thing is, man, everybody knows the story. Everybody knows DMX, The Lox, Grease. Everybody knows the Ruff Ryders. Everybody knows Grease has some blackballing going on and that Swizz is the next hottest producer. Everybody knows that the Ruff Ryders sent all the jobs to Swizz. I’m a man and I’m a hustler. You’re not going to stop my cheese. The streets don’t feel what went down. Motherfuckers want to talk the truth about who Dame Grease is. There are things we all did collectively to help all of our careers. But once some people got in the spotlight, some people never spoke to me again and they knew that I was a key element in igniting all this shit. If anyone, Lyor Cohen knows. The Sean’s know. That’s my name. That’s the Billionaire Friends Club. That’s Sean Combs and Shawn Carter. (laughs) Everybody knows I played a part in popping artists off. That’s what I do.
Will you work with The Lox on their new album Live, Suffer, Celebrate?
Hell yeah. I just worked with Styles P on his album. I’m working with ‘Kiss. I’m doing some joints for the D-Block compilation. I got a joint with The Lox and T-Pain that’s fire. It’s all in the family, man. It’s all in the family.
What’s the next move for Dame Grease?
Goon Muzik is coming and that’s going to be done in volumes. I didn’t even think about the radio on this one. It’s all hard shit. Sour Diesel is coming out next. That’s my whole star-studded album. I got my man Meeno who’s about to come out and I got my R&B artist coming. I got about 500-600 spins in the last year with the freestyles and all of that. When you hear the new shit, it’s crazy.
Now as far as Grease the producer, I’m about to go in full, super-duper hit overload. It’s going down. It’s going down. A lot of people have been hating and now the motherfuckers will know what the real deal is. The streets know what’s popping. It’s these industry niggas. I’m going to blow their fucking heads off and turn this shit up. I’ve been in the studio and when I come out, Lord knows. I’m going to do it again like I’ve done it once before.
And I’m going to point out when I change the game. I want everybody to pay attention. The Biggie and 2Pac war. Boom, everybody kills each other. The Lox popped off. They had “If You Think I’m Jiggy”, the last song of the jiggy era. I brought the streets right back on their whole next album and now there’s a blueprint. Here we go. So we’re in an age right now where we need that help, so that’s why I’m dropping all of this. This is only the startup. This is only the startup. After that, it’s going down. I’m in the studio right now with crack on the boards.
The streets have been my savior. They support me. I’m doing what I do. I’m still young and the bitches love me and the kids are doing fine.