You’ve been relatively quiet these last few years but just made a big splash with your track “Brooklyn Let’s Go” featuring a who’s-who roster of artists from Brooklyn. How did you put the record together?
Well, to be honest with you, that track is about a year old, but it’s not a year old lyrically. I went to all of those guys individually and I told them I was a fan of theirs and that I wanted to do a record with all of them. What I did is I didn’t let them hear anyone else’s verses. Everyone recorded theirs individually. I told them who was going to be on the record and that was that. I just wanted to make myself relevant to the new hip-hop guys. I represent a lot of Brooklyn from coming up back in the days. There are so many guys I could have put on the record, that’s why it’s “Brooklyn Part 1”. There’s Uncle Murder, Saigon, Stimuli and Sean Price too.
Do you think by not letting the other artists hear everyone else’s verses you got the best material from each artist?
I don’t know. I haven’t worked with all of them enough for me to know if I got their best material. It was only eight bars and I kind of let them do them. I kind of let them do themselves. That was the beauty of it. I wasn’t really trying to achieve lyrical bliss. It was just for the streets. This is a Brooklyn, street, grimy record and it allowed for them to do what they felt was best. I didn’t A&R them where I wanted them to bring out their most classic eight bar verse in their life.
Were you happy with the feedback to The Mad Rapper from today’s fans?
Yeah, I’m very happy because some people think it’s a single. It’s definitely not! Really, what it was, Deric Angelettie, The Mad Rapper, I got records from the A-list artists to the D-list artists right now. This was a record where I felt like Maino was doing his thing right now. Red Café is doing his thing right now. Joell Ortiz is doing his thing right now. I can’t believe he doesn’t have a deal right now. Papoose is doing his thing right now. I think this is a good way for me to come back and make an impact. I got a lot of Mad Rapper fans out there. You would be surprised how many fans like what I do. I figured it was a good way to get some attention. I got four and five stars and some people are hating on the record, but you’ll get that anyway.
Is it time for new Mad Rapper material?
I hope so. I got more of a platform to stand on now. Before, I didn’t really have a platform to stand on. Now with everyone hating on each other and all these beefs going on, it almost proves why The Mad Rapper was in existence. I think the people are ready for it. I’m not going to feed them a lot of Mad Rapper songs like I did last time. It’s going to be in spurts. I really want to show D-Dot’s production and how talented D-Dot can be in making a new artist or making an old artist.
What artists have you been working with lately?
Recently, I’ve produced for Jim Jones, Fat Joe, Danity Kane, Rock City, to name a few. I’m focused on The Mad Rapper and Wais P from Tha Ranjahz. He’s working on his solo project now. That’s pretty much it as far as Crazy Cat artists go.
What made you want to work with Wais P?
Well, one, he’s from Brooklyn! (laughs) But when Tha Ranjahz were on Rocafella, I was about to work with them then. I was a fan of theirs. I always felt like New York and hip-hop was always missing a hot duo and I thought they were going to be the dudes. I’ve always been a fan of duos. I always felt like duos worked. After awhile, I hooked up with Wais, probably at the end of 2006, and he’s a self-contained man, which any A&R respects. He’s on time and he makes his own money. He makes his own money, so he’s wise, no pun intended. He doesn’t really complain. It’s a dream working with him. If I ask him to write another verse or do another hook, he does it. He realizes what his job is and what my job is. He’s very close to being an LL Cool J, Jay-Z, Kanye West-type of artist, work ethic-wise. He knows what to do and he’s actually pretty good on top of all of that. That’s what makes me want to work with an artist like Wais.
With your history, it seems like artists would be knocking down your door to work with you.
You know, I ain’t gonna lie to you, I’ve had recent conversations with various people. And I think now more than ever, New York and East Coast hip-hop is realizing that we need to go back to being produced. Red Café and Maino both said that to me in recent times. They said that they think one of the biggest things missing has been the producer and how a lot of guys have just been taking tracks into the studio.
Everybody wants a Life After Death or a Reasonable Doubt or Illmatic. But they have to realize that those albums and all other classic albums were made by a producer. It wasn’t a producer sending tracks to the artist by email or producers hearing their song on the radio for the first time. That’s why albums have been lacking. That’s why people have been waiting for Dr. Dre to come back, because they know that he fully produces an album from top to bottom and I think that’s where my gift came in. People recognize that I was a producer, not a beatmaker. I was a producer for myself where I executive produced a Black Rob album. I made Biggie’s album and I made Puff’s album. I made the beats and helped write hooks, verses, post-production, went on tour, interviews, et cetera. That’s what a real producer and A&R does.
Can you tell from listening to artists when they’ve been produced and when that haven’t been?
Yes, I can listen to albums and I can tell who has been produced and who has not. I think the era of Pro Tools has ruined that producer-artist relationship. I think the era of self-made rappers has ruined that. Everybody has their own Pro Tools and they make their records and they think they can do it. Everybody in the world thinks they can do it and that’s what’s happening.
Getting back to Wais P, how is his project coming so far?
I definitely feel good about the project. It’s 85% done. He’s a good story-teller. He’s reminds of Black Rob in many ways. He’s very visual. His rap life and his personal life and his business life, they all come together and I love to work with somebody like that. You can close your eyes and picture him saying all of that stuff and really being in it. The album is going real good.
Will you put out another Mad Rapper album?
If the people want it. The “Brooklyn Let’s Go” record was exactly what I thought it would be. It was a test in the waters to see if people were feeling the music. The record was for the streets. It was for some grimy hip-hop heads who just wanted to hear some hip-hop and didn’t want to have to turn on the radio to hear it. I think if the fans want some more Mad Rapper music, I’ll put it out. I’m a service provider. I have a whole lot more records as far as D-Dot goes. I got records with Lil’ Kim, Puffy, Jim Jones, Akon, Redman, records with Wais P. I have records that should be heard and will be heard and I’m going to keep making them until the fans say, “Hey, D-Dot, we need to hear an album. We need an album.”
The first Mad Rapper album Tell ‘Em Why U Madd did well when it came out. How do you look back on the album today?
I wasn’t too happy with the sales of the album, but that was all timing stuff. But as far as it representing me and what I do, I think I hit it right on the bullseye. I had great producers around me like Kanye, Charlemagne, Coptic and Ron Lawrence. I had great artists like Lady May at the time and Tracey Lee. I had the support from my Bad Boy crew like Mase and Diddy. Eminem and 50 showed me love. Jermaine Dupri showed me love. At that point I got a lot of love and there were a lot of people who were fans of me. I got to introduce Kanye to the world and 50 Cent. I was really happy with that album. If anything I would have taken the samples out because the samples ended up killing me. I was really happy with that album though.
What was it like working with Kanye West before he blew up?
I think he’s pretty much the same as he is now – very eager and very motivated. He was very emotional. A lot of things he says and does are based on his emotions and I know he regrets some of those things now. He’s one of the most talented dudes I’ve met. He actually sought me out. He actually wanted to work as a producer under me. He said I was one of his favorite producers and he wanted to work with me. Once I heard his music, I put him on. I felt like he could be a great producer. He was very anxious to make it. He was very anxious to have the jewelry and to go see Jacob and to be on that stage and rock. And that’s still him today. He was very hungry and I knew the kid was going to be big when I met him.
Is one of those things Kanye said related to him saying he “ghostproduced” for you?
Yeah. I had a conversation with him about that. I don’t really like that term. I think that term is disrespectful. I don’t think he meant it as disrespect, but I think the way the world took it…When you take the world “ghost” and the word “producer,” it makes it seem like Kanye did all of the work and I took all of the credit and all of the money. That was not what happened. If you want to call anyone the ghostproducer, it was me. He sent me the track and I did everything else. I was one of the hottest producers at the time and I didn’t need to co-produce with anybody. I’m D-Dot!
But I couldn’t do everything I wanted at the time. I managed Charlemagne, Coptic, Kanye West and an R&B producer by the name of Blake. So I felt like this was a way for me to help them make money and still produce for my favorite artists. If I could take a Kanye track and go produce it, which means I would go sit with the artist and help write the record and add overdubs and hooks and strings and mix it down and get whoever was popular at the time to sing the hook, based on my relationships, then I produced it with Kanye. He just made the beat, I produced the record. Everybody ate, got money and fame! What was wrong with that?
That term is disrespectful. “Ghostproducer” means “not seen.” He’s on all of the credits. He got all of his publishing. That word “ghost” should be taken out. “Ghostproducing” is what Ron Lawrence did for Herbie Luvbug with Salt N Pepa. He didn’t get any credit or any money. That’s ghostproducing.
Do you look at situations like that as something producers have to do to pay dues and make a name for themselves?
You don’t have to do it, but when you’re afforded the opportunity to work with a legendary producer and it doesn’t cost you anything…I don’t know if you ever heard the story of Kanye where he went into the studio with Jay-Z for the first time and he didn’t tell Jay how to rhyme on a certain record and he wanted Jay to rhyme a certain way, but because it was his first time in the studio with Jay, he didn’t feel like it was his place. That’s exactly what a producer does. Now if I was there, I would tell Jay to do something different. That’s what a producer does.
And at the time, that’s what I was doing with Kanye. I was taking his track with Lil’ Kim and going and making it because if he was sitting in the room with her, she would have spit on it however she wanted and that’s how it would have came out. He may as well have not even been there. Producing sometimes involves hurting the artists’ feelings. That’s what the art of producing is. I don’t feel like he meant none of that in a bad way, but at the time he was emotional and hungry and after he spoke, he realized the term “ghostproducer” wasn’t really correct but it was already out there in the world.
Do you have a good relationship with Kanye today?
Yeah. We speak now and he thanked me on his first album. I heard him on Hot97 in New York telling the world that he wouldn’t be where he is without D-Dot. He was a loop guy when he came to me and I showed him how to cut samples up and how to reconstruct the sample. I showed him a lot of things and some of the sounds he’s using today, I let him go through every single sound in my zip drive that I had. All the shakers and snares for his first album probably came from me! (laughs) I allowed him to go into my library because he was one of the fam. When you’re one of the fam you get all the secrets.
How do you make that distinction between “fam” and producers you associate with?
It all depends on their agenda. Producers are a real small clique, the real producers. I have great relationships with all the producers, but right now I manage a producer named Teetimus. He’s Jamaican. He plays the keyboard, sings, plays guitar and plays the drums. He’s very talented. I still work very closely with Mario Winans, I work very closely with Grind Music, which is Sean C and LV. But my camp is real small right now. It’s just me, Wais P and Teetimus. That’s the Crazy Cat camp right now.
You were at Bad Boy from ’96 to ‘98 when the label was in its prime. How do you look back on those days?
That was a blessing to be there at the right place at the right time. It was a blessing. I think Puffy is a genius at what he does. He’s definitely a visionary and he’s a great talent scout because besides from picking Biggie and Mase and Mary and all of the artists he picked, he picked his team that helped put them together. A lot of props go to him. I was Vice President and I was Captain of the Hitmen from ’96 to ‘98. Those were probably our most historic years and I consider myself a lucky dude. It’s like having Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan running your team.
All of the artists respect me because I was able to relate to them. I was a real dude from Brooklyn and they respected that and I kept it gangsta with them. I didn’t argue with them. I just told them what it was going to take to win and they could either take that way or they could choose their way and I think they all respected me for that, from Mase to 112 to The Lox to Black Rob. They all respected that. I was just blessed to be there and I just did my part. I felt like if I was there, I wanted to be one of the shining stars of the team. I wanted to be one of the ones you mentioned at the top of the list when you talked about that era.
Speaking of Puffy, you guys went to school together at Howard. What was he like before Bad Boy took off?
Puff was a visionary even back then. I think that’s the best way to describe him. He always had a knack for seeing the future. He was a savage. He wanted what he wanted when he wanted it. He didn’t take no for an answer and he was very charismatic and very personal. He was able to pull you in with the smile and the business savvy. I was able to connect with him because I was very in-tune with the whole DMV crowd. I was in the streets and I had that whole crowd under my belt and I knew who was popping at Howard University. He used the opportunity to get with a popular guy and I used that as an opportunity to win because we both got a lot of fame and popularity from working together. He went on to get an internship at Uptown and I went on to get a record deal. It really worked for the both of us. It was a good combination. We called our company A Black Man and Puerto Rican Production.
What motivated you to leave the Hitmen squad in 1998?
We were rocking. Our record breaking years were ’96 to ’98. During that time Biggie died and The Lox weren’t happy with the direction that Puff was taking them in. He was taking them in the Mase direction and they weren’t like that. They were like Rob. They were grimy. They weren’t in the same mentality that Biggie was in at the time. Biggie was ready to crossover. They wanted to stay street and I totally agreed with them.
And I was becoming very popular and the labels were offering me a lot of money. From where I’m from, I thought that was a good opportunity to go grab the money and I could still work with Puff and Harve and the whole squad. I thought it was a good time to make my mark as me. Puff and I are still friends. We still remain very close friends. We still hang out together all of the time. I just don’t work for him. I felt like our friendship was more important than me working for him. I haven’t worked for him in 10 years but he still hires me to executive produce projects. He brought me in for both of Black Rob’s albums. I still get money with Puff and we’re still good friends.
I know you’ve been asked this question a million times. What was it like working with Biggie?
You know yourself that he was one of the greatest rappers alive and one of the top three MCs of all-time. Biggie is wonderful. He was just a gentlemen and a real Brooklyn dude. He was so gifted and he didn’t let a lot of people in. I was one of those people and we had a great relationship. He definitely was brought down before his time. It was just so outside of the box the way his mind worked. It was impossible to get inside of his head and where his mind was coming from and where he was getting his next idea from. God blessed me to work with him and I’m so happy I was able to work with him.
Is there a reason you never worked on his posthumous Duets album?
I didn’t work on any album after Life After Death. I did tracks on Born Again but I didn’t A&R or executive produce it. I didn’t want to work on [Duets]. It was a lot of old material and a lot of revamped material. I would have rather left my mark on the world on Life After Death. I felt better in that space.
You’ve done a ton of work with Black Rob. How important is Black Rob’s work to your entire discography?
Black Rob, probably next to Big, Black Rob is probably the closest thing to what kind of music I represent in hip-hop. Big was at No. 1 and Black Rob was at No. 2. Black Rob was one of the greatest storytellers I ever heard. He was almost the exact opposite of Big. He rolled with a big entourage and he wasn’t really ready for the pedicures and the manicures if you know what I’m saying. He wanted to stay at a certain level.
Me and Rob’s chemistry was perfect because we’re the same age and we grew up during the same era. We went to the same school and he’s a fan of my music and I was a fan of his. Working with Black Rob was a dream for me. That’s why I worked on both of his albums. It’s like with Biggie – we were both from the same ‘hood, we listened to the same music and we were both West Indian. We both just had to make a hit. And Black Rob is a big part of my discography. I love Black Rob.
Is Black Rob getting out of jail soon?
He should be getting out in the next couple of months, actually.
Have you been in touch with him?
Definitely. He’s doing as all right as he’s going to be for somebody in jail. He’s holding his head. One thing about Rob is that he’s a survivor. He’ll be okay.
Will you work with Rob again once he’s out?
I’m hoping so. Business-wise, I don’t really know what business he has. I don’t know how doing jail time affects his contracts and his publishing, so I couldn’t really speak on that. But as far as going in and making a record, I’ll always make a record with Rob. I just don’t know if he’s in a position to put out and album with singles once he comes home.
Do you think Bad Boy can get back on top of hip-hop again like they were when you were Captain of the Hitmen?
Of course. I think anybody can get back on top of their game in hip-hop. I think it’s just a timing thing. Puffy’s not a young man anymore. He can’t run around with 18 and 19 year-olds and scream and talk about the same things. Everybody that comes to Bad Boy, they want that hands-on Puffy in their video, Puffy adlibs on the record and Puffy going everywhere with them. That’s not going to happen. Puffy is a different man. He’s 15 years older and Bad Boy has grown into more of a pop and universally-distributed company. It’s more a matter of the people accepting what he’s doing. I do believe everyone has their movement when they will get back on top.
You’ve produced for a lot of R&B singers in the past and are currently working with Mario Winans. How do your production techniques change from working on hip-hop to R&B?
I also wrote the hook for Fat Joe and J. Holiday for the “I Won’t Tell” record that Sean C and LV produced. I have music currently out. I have a Jim Jones and Styles P record coming out on Jim Jones’ new album. I was just hitting Jadakiss because he hit me. He’s still working so I sent him some tracks. I’m still currently out there with people. I got this “Brooklyn” record out with the guys and I’m trying to get on Fab’s album. It’s the same concept right now of just trying to keep myself relevant and getting with quality artists that I really like. I’m trying to work with Beyonce and Jamie Foxx. I actually did three songs with Mario Winans for his new album.
The albums are definitely changing and you have to be a good listener. That’s what I am. I listen to Pharrell, R. Kelly, Kanye, Puff, Timbaland, Swizz Beats, DJ Premier, Havoc and Alchemist. I listen to all of these guys. I try my best not to leave anybody out because I can pick up a new technique of doing a drop or sequencing a song or a new technique for saying something. You can pick it up from everybody. I try to listen to everybody. I can’t listen to everything, but I do my best to listen to everybody. That’s my technique.
Do you still find yourself growing as a producer?
Definitely. My wife and my mother, my two best friends in the world, tell me that I probably haven’t done my biggest record yet. My mother tells me that all the time. She tells me that as many great records as I’ve done, I probably still haven’t done my biggest record yet. That’s inspirational. That gives me something to aspire to. I try to not even think about those past tracks and my Bad Boy days. I love them and I cherish them, but the goal is to work with up-and-coming people and stay afloat with the new stuff and not show my age. I will be 40 in July and I’m proud to still be here. I find myself still cherishing the old days but working on the new stuff. I used to tour-manage Mary J. Blige and now she’s having tremendous success and when we talk we don’t talk about when I was with her in ’94. We reminisce a little but we talk about the now. We’re talking about what we’re going to do in the future.
Have you found that your best songs happened naturally or do you have to force your hits?
I’d say it’s both. Some of my best songs happened like that and some of my songs I went in knowing what I had. Fortunately I have a gift. Let’s say I’m walking out of the studio with the “I Won’t Tell” record with Fat Joe and J. Holiday, I knew it would spin on the radio with just the hook and beat. The chorus would do it. It was about how much further Fat Joe would take it with his vocals. We wanted to make it an all-out smash and sometimes that happens naturally. You can watch a track go from just being a track to being a hit. That’s the beauty of being a producer, taking the song to another level when you have the talent.
What equipment are you using today?
I still pretty much am an MPC 3000 guy. I graduated to the 4000. I’m on all types of keyboards and outboard gear, whatever’s available. I usually like using the Phantoms and the Motifs as far as keyboards go. I make sure I have a great engineer. That’s the key to my music. And then I just go from there. I still got a turntable and a mixer. You never can go wrong with that.
It seems like a lot of accomplished producers are focusing more on live music than sampling. Do you find yourself getting away from sampling?
It’s always going to be a part of me. What a lot of people fail to realize is that when you listen to a lot of my old records, you’ll never just hear the sample. Ever. You’ll hear basslines on top of it. You’ll hear strings on top of it. You’ll hear horns on top of it. You’ll hear keys. You’ll hear hi-hats. You’ll hear new snares and new kicks. We have never done just sampling. We’ve always had live instrumentation. If you go back to Ready to Die and Life After Death in the ‘90s and when you ask Kanye about him coming up and listening to the Hitmen, our whole thing was live instrumentation. That’s how we made our records come to life. That’s how we did it.
There are some producers who have the ability to use no samples. More power to them. I didn’t have the opportunity to learn five instruments. I had a sampling foundation and once I had that, I was able to go find a keyboard player or a horn player and tell them exactly what I heard and exactly what I wanted to hear on my song. Sometimes when we did it we were able to take the sample out and sometimes we felt like it took away from the griminess and we had to keep it in.
Kanye still uses samples because that’s his lane and that’s what works for him. He could go get live musicians and it would work, but would it still be true to his heart and be what he wanted to get across? Me, I would say no. Sampling has been a major part of his sound and it’s been a major part of my sound. People have to learn how to take sampling to the next level to the point where the people don’t even mind and it just sounds like a loop.
Will we see The Mad Rapper album soon?
I don’t really have a timetable. I’m going to leak some music and let the people tell me. I’m a true believer in being a serviceman for the people. I’m going to serve the people. If they want it, I’m going to give it to them. I would tell them to expect some big tunes between now and next year. You’ll hear a few new singles and sounds. I’m the music consultant on the new Biggie movie. I’m also working on this new Terrance Howard soundtrack for a movie called Fighting. I do voiceovers on television for Under Armor and Pepsi with Diddy and Jackie Chan. I’m doing pretty well as far as keeping myself alive.
You’re also still doing your skits, right?
Yeah. I just did one on DJ Drama’s Gangsta Grillz album. I still get calls and people still think it’s funny. Glasses Malone just called me and he wants me to do a Mad Rapper skit for his album. I just appeared on the Self-Construction project with KRS-One. I guess The Mad Rapper made an impact on people. I just wanted to be funny. There’s all this gun talk and dope boy this. I think a little bit of comedy is necessary. I don’t think the pimps would mind laughing and that’s what I try to do with The Mad Rapper. I try to keep the people laughing and keep people bugging and keep them laughing at themselves and make fun of the music business, the television business and the movie business. So yeah, you should expect The Mad Rapper coming towards the end of the year.
It’s real important for me that people can have a good time listening to my music. That’s why I think we were so successful at Bad Boy. They were party records and they were feel-good records. MCs were talking universally to people. Every kid could feel like Biggie or Mase was them. That’s why I put out The Mad Rapper album, not because I thought it was going to change my life. No, not at all. There are people out there who actually don’t mind listening to some hip-hop. I’m not going to call it “real hip-hop,” but they don’t mind listening to hip-hop that’s not always on the radio. I have the ability and you will hear great crossover records from D-Dot. The J. Holiday record is spinning at least 5,000 times a week. I love the success and I love the dough cause I also have four daughters to feed. But I’m also from Brooklyn and I will have some records that will have an impact on the world and won’t spin as much. I want to give the people those records as well. I’m a regular guy and I’m still here.