To all the supporters and followers of the DJ Premier Blog and those in particular who enjoyed reading my contributions to the blog with my “Tales from D&D Studios” section, I would like to say thank you. I would also like to say that all the comments on my writing were much appreciated, both positive and negative. I will not, however, be adding any more stories to the site for a while as I am going to focus on writing a book about my experiences as well as shoot a documentary about the studio. Feel free to check my blog page out for the other posts I have up. Thanks again for the support.
Written by Dexter Thibou
I would like to thank Dexter in public for his contribution!
..This is probably one of the most difficult memories to write about,but it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t do it.Just a lil history on my man HeadQCourterz.I first met HeadQCourterz during the making of Group Home’s Livin’ Proof album.He was one of many crew members that rolled with Dap and Mal back then.Always a lively dude..loud and boisterous..but remarkably intelligent and well spoken when he wanted to be.Most of the time he was just a knucklehead,having fun with the crew doin dumb shit like we all did from time to time.When the Group Home album was done the crew dispersed to do their own thing i.e. go on tour or do time or whatever.As a result, I wouldn’t see Head for a few years.He popped up at the studio one day out the blue and planted himself on the couch in the main lounge..”I’m here to see Premier”..he said as if I wasn’t gonna let him…”Whatever just stay out my room son till he get here”..him..”Oh I can’t go in there son?!”..me..”Nah you good where you at..”..he laughed at me saying..”Aight G..I can respect that.”Him and I would have lots of verbal sparring matches when he came through to the studio,talking about each others clothes,shoes,if either one of us took a shower this week,stupid shit.One day I asked him,cause I had to frigging know..”Dog why they call you HeadQCourterz?”..him..”Cause I got a big ass fucking head!”..we both fell out laughing cause he was good at making fun of himself as well as others.
..Head had been M.I.A. for a few years as I said before.During his hiatus,he had decided to restructure himself .He was now hustling T-Shirts and hats outta this humongous back pack, as well as doing promo work for GangStarr.Dude would come through to the studio and sell a shit load of merchandise,racking up a couple hundred dollars at D&D alone.”I’m buying you lunch today you fat bastid..”he said to me one time counting his money..”Good,dealing with you is a full time job nukkah..and stop blocking the light with your dome piece”..him(voice raised and laughing at the same time)..”Yo word to my mother I’mma smack the shit outta you son..WORD IZ BOND!”..me..”Cool..can we eat first though?”..him..”No doubt”.His hustle eventually paid off.While selling tees and hats and doing his promo for GS,he landed a gig with Rawkus doing their street promotion,ultimately becoming the head of that division.I remember him coming through to the studio with a Dodge Durango that Rawkus purchased for the Street Team..”I told them niggas get me this shit!”..he said sitting in the drivers seat.By this time, he had made a name in the industry as one of the most aggressive street promoters for Hip Hop.Everyone knew Head,and respected the way he did his thing and handled his business.You always knew when he was in the building.His voice was loud and distinctive.One day while in the studio he told me he was going to go back to school and get his degree,as well as start his own promotions company.Almost as soon as he said he popped up with a mini van he copped and had it wrapped for his promotional push for Large Professor’s solo debut…”Look at this shit nigga,I’m doin this on my own!WORD IZ BOND!”.Yo I gotta run but I’mma catch up with you fat nigga..”..me..”Aight moon face be easy!Peace!”..him..”PEACE!”…
..On Wednesday 30th,October,2002.Jam Master Jay was tragically and violently gunned down in his recording studio in Queens,NY.Hip Hop mourned the loss of one of it’s forefathers,mentors,idols,heroes the list goes on and on.Ironically,that was the last time I saw Head alive.He told me about an up coming show he was going to, to promote for Large Pro and that is was supposed to be on Friday night.That Friday night/Saturday morning my dude was also gunned down.I was in the studio with Malachi(Group Home)waiting for Premo, to do whatever the fuck we were supposed to do that day.I got the call from Flippah of M.O.P.,who were on the road at the time.It took me about 2 minutes to really understand what he was saying to me.I guess I didn’t want to hear it,but he made sure that I did..”The same thing that happened to Jay happened to Head Dex..”.Malachi saw my reaction and was asking me what happened.When I told him,he lost it.Punching walls and screaming at the top of his lungs..”What happened to you Kenny?!..What Happened To You?!”.I calmed Mal down,locked up the studio,went home and went to bed and stayed there off and on till Monday.No one could answer any questions.The who’s,whats and whys were just that..who,what and why.Who would do this to my dude,a dude who had given himself a second chance to be great.A dude who had brought himself back up from the bottom.A dude who loved his family and friends as much as they loved him.What did they gain from it?Why now,just when he was about to excel past even his own expectations.My best friend Samantha picked me up to take me to Head’s wake.I sat in the car ..frozen,I couldn’t get out.I couldn’t look at him.It was too final.At some point though,I’m out the car,but I still can’t go inside.I’m standing outside BS’ing..talking with the fam reminiscing,laughing,drinking a lil henny someone had.Sam comes over..”You have to say good bye to him Dex.”.Reluctantly I go in,the first person I see is Guru, tears running down his cheek..”We gonna miss him Dex,but he still here wit us..Word IZ Bond!”.Walking down the pathway I see his sister.I met her briefly once at the studio,but I knew it was her because she was wearing a wooden necklace she had brought back from Africa for Head.He wore that necklace with pride..”This joint straight from Africa nigga…can you say that bout your bullshit gold chain”..he said to somebody once.I didn’t realize I had reached the coffin when I did.Looking down on my dude for what would be the last time..”Look out for us Head..watch our backs down here”.As I was leaving,Premier pulls me aside and says to me..”This is Head’s mom..”..with tears in my eyes I said to her that I was sorry for her loss,to which she responded..”We all lost that day son”..Preem interjects..”You see mom,you see how much we loved him?!”.She nods in agreement while giving me a hug.Bumpy Knuckles takes the podium to speak about Head,he was preaching rather and as he spoke I went outside.The reality of my dude passing had struck and now we have to regroup and carry on his legacy.I know he wouldn’t want us to mourn him to long,but rather use him as a source of encouragement when we need it.His murder was never solved but his name however lives on.In “03 D&D closed it’s doors,later to be reopened and renamed The HeadQCouterz,in honor of our fallen family member,and those of us who remember him will continue to carry the torch of him.We Love You Head..WORD IZ BOND!!!…
Written by Dexter Thibou
..One summer, at least I think it was summer,I went to the Bushwick Brooklyn HQ of Da Beatmierz,to link up with Evil Dee to go label hopping.Got to the lab,rang the doorbell and was greeted by Mr.Walt…”What Up Boy!”..me..”What Up Boy!”.Walking down the hall way to the studio/kitchen area..he was muttering something to me,but I couldn’t hear much, ’cause there’s a beat playing and somebody yelling at the top of their lungs..”C’mon on man,you supposed to make those baby!”.We walk into the kitchen and the intros commence..Mr.Walt..”Yo Dex this is my man Rashied..Sheed this my man Dex”..him..”Sup Joe”..me..”sup man pleasure to meet you”..him..”Likewise brother likewise..you got next on here or what?”.By the way the person I met was Common Sense,the next he was referring to was NBA Live and yes he can whup anybody’s ass on there.I don’t think we made to the second quarter before three of my starting five were in foul trouble.That’s what you get for picking the Knicks!Back to the studio/kitchen..Walt..”Dex I would offer you a Heineken but…”without uttering another word, Walt tilts his head sideways like three or four times in Common’s direction..Comm..”Man whatever I didn’t drink that much”..Walt..”Dude there were like twelve beers in here an hour ago!”…Comm..”Whatever whatever”.We chill for a minute,talking about whatever the hell til E comes down.BS’ing continued for a lil while longer,then me and bounce to Manhattan and leave Walt and Comm Sense to it.
..Move along to another summer,I think,and I’m at D&D,working with Premo on one of several “side” projects we had for that year.It was a hectic year already with the fact that on top of the side joints we had to do we had to finish up an M.O.P. project..I think it was ‘Worriorz”..not to mention GangStarr was also on tour,Smokin Grooves I believe,so alotta the times it was just me printing Primo’s beats and recording vocals with artists while Preem was on the road.Today he was in town for a minute..I get the call while I was waiting for him at the studio..”Yo find me a reel with some room on it..I gotta lay this beat down for Common..”..me(as I have done so many times before)replied..”Gotcha”..I go find a reel..did my engineering thing and waited.Preem shows up a lil later,the beat is laid to tape and Preem goes..”So listen I aint gonna be here for the vocals you think you can handle it for me?”..me..”Yea why not?”..him..”Cool, cause you know we go on the road tomorrow and all that…”..me..”It’s cool,I got it”.After a day goes by I get a call from Sarah Honda and David Carpenter to confirm that Common would be coming in to do his vocals the following day,which was like a Tuesday or something.”Cool whatever as long as he shows up!”.The day is here and so is he,early,and I can’t believe it’s the same guy I met maybe a year or so ago at E and Walt’s crib.No more baggy ass gear,now he all slim fitting and shit,making my fat more apparent.He walks into the “B” room with his manager and looks at me like “I know this cat!”…me..”Sup man,met you at Walt’s crib that ti…”..him..”Yo that’s right how you Brother?”..me..”I’m chillin,I’m chillin..you need a minute or you good to go?”..him..”yea lemme get a few seconds to get my thoughts together”..me..”cool”.He reaches into his back pack and pulls out a box of Nag Champa(incense for those of you who don’t know) and lights one up as he chops it up with his manager.”Can you run the beat for me right quick,this aint gonna take me long”..he says to me,to which I was like..”Cool”.So now the beat is playing,Nag Champa burning and he’s vybing out,I’m in the main lounge like..”Man this dude has changed!”
A few minutes go by and Common calls me into the room..”I’m ready”..and he literally ran through the song verse by verse.No punch in’s,a few take it from the tops(maybe twice) and we were done..just get in and get it done!The delivery to me was flawless.He gets out the booth to listen to the entire song on the studio monitors..he’s pleased as is his manager and they ask me my opinion..”You think Preem gonna dig it?”..me..”Hell yeah..that shit is perfect son”..”Cool”.I give him a copy and make one for Preem to be FedEx’d to him the next day..we say our goodbyes and we leave the studio…and the “6th Sense” is almost done…but it’s never that easy!On my way back to my crib in BK, I get a call from Comm himself..”Yo do you think we can get into the studio tomorrow..I wanna do the verses over”..me(to self)..”Nigga are you crazy?That shit is dope as is”..but to him I say..”Yeah no doubt,same time?”..he agrees to it..”Cool,Peace!”Next day..he’s in the room, does his Nag Champa thing and goes into the booth and recites the song,slightly different on the delivery.Glad I kept the first take,which I liked,he loves the new take..him..”We gonna have to wait for the man to say what he wants to do huh?”..me..”Yup..I think he gonna like it though,shit is tight,trust me”..him..”Aight Joe”.Before we leave that day though he lets me know that he’s gonna have his boy come in and lay a reference vocal for Mary J who’s agreed to do the chorus for the song…”Bet!”The next day he arrives with his man Bilal,looking like a mini Lenny Kravitz,cool dude though..didn’t say much.He lays the reference down and I’m like that damn was easy…but of course NOT!Comm wants to do the vocals over again!..”Last time brother last time,I promise,I promise”.Third take recorded and copied now with chorus ref and sent off.We again part ways.Now remember I said it’s never easy…well it isn’t.Ya see Common was signed to MCA/Universal Records at this time,as was Mary J.However Mary was in contract re-negotiations and things came to a head,so she couldn’t record for anybody,not even a label mate,as her old contract was still in place,valid and binding.So we now have to switch gears,and put Bilal in place of Mary.Easy enough because he wrote the chorus.He sailed through it and even added some unexpected ad-libs and riffs along the way.Everyone present loves it and all we need now is Preem’s approval.Several FedEx packages and phone calls later the man is back in town and me and him go through the song take by take.He likes parts of one and not the other..so we kinda mix and match the one’s he’s feeling..and the best part?Comm didn’t have to come back and re do a thing,which he,Common, was nervous about.”You really think Preem gonna dig this?”..he would ask me..”Yeah son you gave him enuff takes that he can fuck around with it and Bilal slayed the chorus so we good”..him..”Aight Joe,if you say so.You know him a lil better than me..”..me..”If he says do it over I’m buying you a Heineken!”..and he replied with a slight grin..”Bet!”..
Written by Dexter Thibou
..When people think about D&D,one name comes to mind.DJ Premier.His contribution to Hip Hop and music in general is without doubt well documented and appreciated.What he did to build the D&D sound and mystique is also undeniable.I mean GangStarr,Group Home,Jeru and countless other artists made their landmark albums and names there thanks to him.However there were other patches in the D&D quilt,and they should never be forgotten.Mr.Walt and Evil Dee collectively known as Da Beatminerz were a big part of the D&D sound, as well as the sound of the culture..period.. then and now.Shit, even Kanye had to admit he used to get dressed to “Got U Open” remix before he went to school..listen close you can here Da Beatminerz influence on “The College Drop Out”.We’re getting ahead of ourselves a bit,or should I say I am.I met E first, as most of you should already know.Walt I met a week or so later.Around this time”How Many EMCees” was in heavy rotation on the radio and on “The Box”.(damn did I just mention “The Box”)..and they were just about to get started on “Dah Shinin'”.Like KRS,Evil was one of the few dudes that knew what it was to be an intern and would constantly look out for me when he was up there…”Yo man I used to be an intern so I know what it is already!”.Walt on the other hand was more of the big brother/bully type.Never subtle and always quick to punch the crap out you.
..One late night session during the making of “Dah Shinin'”, Walt runs out the “A” room and into the main lounge area, where I was sitting watching one of three VHS tapes that were there(cable didn’t appear in the studio till much later).I knew for sure this fool was gonna mess with me..”Hey what you doing..Nothing?..Good get in here!”..me..”Huh?!”..him..”C’mon, c’mon I need you to do something for me real quick.”..me..”Aight”..I follow him into the “A” room,past the usually smoked out “A” room lounge that was almost always was filled with BCC affiliates.Today there weren’t any PNC’s there,just Tek, Steele and Dru Ha..who is sitting behind the board with Kieran Walsh the engineer.”Is he gonna do it?”..Dru asks Walt..”Nah I aint ask him yet”..me(to self)..”What The Fuck?”..Walt..”OK look we need you for this chorus,its only the five of us on it but we want it to sound like a big crowd..you feel me?”..me..”Yeah..what you need me to say..”..him..”BuckTown!”..me..”Cool”.We…meaning me ,Tek,Steele,Walt and Dru,pile into the vocal booth and get behind the mic.Several misfires of “BuckTown!” later we get the right energy and takes that Walt and E were looking for..”Yo yall sound like some bitches!”..one Evil’s many comments during the process.”Good lookin out”..Walt goes..”No doubt”..I reply and go back into the main lounge to finish watching the movie that I’ve seen like a thousand times before.Few seconds later Walt comes back out..laughin..”Yo!..you gotta hear this”..we go into the control room and Walt says to Kieran..”Play it for him”..they play me the chorus..”BuckTown!”..it sounds like a stadium now..what they wanted..but I’m confused..what’s the beef?Walt to me..”Duke you don’t Hear That?!..me..”Nah what?”..Evil..”Money..YOU are the Loudest nigga in the bunch!”..I’m like(ahhhh shit!)..they rollin..I’m thinkin I fucked the shit up..their like..”Son all we needed was you in there like twenty times for real”..me..”Yeah aight”..now I’m laughin’ cause Walt is on the floor..”Play it Again!..This nigga goin crazy!”..me..”OK I’m out”.Later on that night Walt comes back out..”For real good lookin out on that,that shit was funny as hell..You’re still a nigga though.”..
..So like I said,Walt was a big brother and a big bully..and he made it his business to mess with me.Being the” intern boy” at the time,I had clean up duty on a daily basis,and on a daily basis,Walt would come in and purposely wreck what I took an half hour to clean.Kick over the tables…toss the magazines..topple over the trash cans..then look at me and say..”Clean this shit up now!”..and walk away chuckling.I would be fuming mad at this dude.Is He Crazy?!One day after he is routine “Hurricane Walt” impression he then asked everyone in the room..”What’s For Lunch?”(that became a part of Da Beatminerz session routine,before we started to work we’d ask “What’s For Lunch?”).Anyway..I was like..”Wait…What?..Yeah he’s nuts!”.Evil took me aside one time and was like..”Yo you gotta whup his ass B…”..me..”Huh?”(This is a set up)”..Evil..”Nah he does that shit all the time,he just wanna see how much you gonna take before you snap and bug out…Next time just smack him..”..me..”hmmm”.Saturday rolls around and Beatminerz have a session and I’m on my clean up duties as usual.Walt and E arrive and enter the “A”room lounge…Evil..”Sup Dex!”..me..”Sup E”..Walt..” What’s Up Nigga!”..and scans the room and focuses on the coffee table with neatly arranged magazines on it…and smacks them all onto the floor..”Clean that sh..”..before he can finish I’m on him,choke hold city..Evil..”Oh Shit!He’s Wildin'”.I got Walt in what has got to be the best choke hold ever!He can’t get free..”Stop messin wit me Walt!..him(tappin on my arm)..”Aight Nigga I’m Done…”I let him go..he catches his breath..and says..”We good?”..me..”Yeah we good”..him..”Good nigga..What’s For Lunch??”…
Written by Dexter Thibou
..One of the best things about being in the industry or any creative forum,is being there when something great happens.I guess it would be the closest thing to seeing a child being born,minus the yelling and screaming.To say you were there when it happened,at the beginning of it,you can’t beat that.Being at D&D in the greatest era of Hip Hop,I have had the privilege of “being there” on many occasions. I cant really recall the exact time of year we started but it was around the time that they had their lil deal with Pay Day Records.It was then I was put into the whole Roc A Fella Records mix.The epitome of do it yourself,these cats were really bout their hustle.I mean they had every door shut in their faces.Not a lot of folks at the labels were messing with em,and if they were, they giving em low ball money.The streets loved em though and that’s all you really needed back then.Street love equaled big money interest..eventually.Now this was before Beans,Freeway,Kanye and all that.It was just Jay heading the bill with Memph in the wings awaiting his turn,soaking up everything.The dynamic was simple..Jay did the music…Dame and Biggs did the business.More than often as most would find to be true,Dame was the one who did most of the business dealings and handling the day to day,cause Jay needed to focus on the music.Jay would have his say of course,as did Biggs,but Dame was the one who had to carry out the missions most times.Cause that was his thing!
..Don’t get it twisted,they did have tough times in the beginning.It wasn’t always peaches and cream.I remember getting paid for sessions in singles and fives,maybe a ten or a twenty will show up,but yall get the idea.One time in particular will always stick out. Dame came to me when he was ready to pay with his Dame Dash shit on full tilt,as usual ..”Yo Did-Ex..my nigga..how much we owe?”..me..”$2,500″..him..”Aight hold up”..Now Dame was good for wearing sweats all the time, unless he had to carry money, back then.Depending on the amount it was either cargoes or fatigues, cause all the loot was loose bills.Today it was cargoes.He’s reaching into every possible pocket pulling out money and putting on top the piano in the “A” room vocal booth.Now there’s a pile of money sitting in front of me, he points at me and says..”It’s all there..Peace”..me..”HOLD ON MONEY!”..him,real calm..”Wah?”..me..”You stay here while I count this madness,you always do this shit Dame”..him..”Aight Aight Calm Down..Lemme get Biggs and Jay we gotta sort some shit out with this kid”..me..”Sort away nigga”.
..Few seconds later Jay and Biggs walk in,with some kid,I can’t remember who, but he was lookin a lil disgruntled.Dame..”What’s the problem Nigga?!”..me(to myself)..(yikes!)..dude..”Yo I aint makin no money with all this shit yo,I’m sayin,this shit is crazy right now man ..I dunno..”..Dame..”Yo HOLD ON!”..(me again to self)..(YIKES!)..back to Dame..”NONE OF US ARE MAKIN MONEY RIGHT NOW NIGGA!”..Dame proceeds to lay into this kid with a series of “Shits” “Damns” and “MotherFuckers”,not in any specific order.The kid is now nervous as all out doors and the room is a lil tense..and I lost count of the friggin money..DAMMIT!Dame now thoroughly heated,begins to poll the room..”Jay you makin money yet?”..Jay..”Nope”..Dame..”Biggs you makin money yet?”..Biggs..”At all”..Dame back to dude..”nigga we tryin to make this money nigga but we gotta sacrifice!We the only ones payin up this bitch anyways…why you complainin?!..I don’t see you complainin when everybody up here having a ball and shit,so what’s the problem?!”..Dame then turns to me..”This nigga here is probably the only one makin money!”..my reply..”yea right!”.Few more words are spit in dude’s direction by Dame as Jay and Biggs look on and occasionally chuckle at Dame’s antics.Homie’s train is now derailed and my money count is done..$2,500 is present and placed in the envelope..me..”Dame we good”..him..”I told you nigga..fuck outta here..I ain’t that type”..me..”I gotta do it son,you know!Nigga You Know!”..him..”Yea yea nigga I got you..Fuck outta here though(ha ha!)”..me..”Asshole”..
Written by Dexter Thibou
..September 10th 2001..starts off like any other Monday.Dollar cab ride to the “D” train,”D” train to 34th st., walk to the studio, set up for Preem and waaaaiiiiit.While waiting,the phone rings and Preem is on the line..”Yo what reel you got up now?”..me..”Nothing,waiting on you.We doin GS today right?”..him..”Nah we gotta do a remix for this kid Craig David”..me..”Fuck is a Craig David?”..him..”Some kid from London,supposed to be big,find a reel with some space I’ll put something together by the time he gets there”..me..”Aight.”So I find my reel,set my space,lay the SMPTE,all that good engineering stuff and resume waaaaiiiiting.Preem walks in a few minutes later,kinda early for him but from his tone earlier it’s a rush job,gotta get it done quick!He’s in there doing what he does and then Craig David walks in.Tall,light skinned “good hair” having R&B cat I saw on MTV just that weekend,making chicks loose their minds along with their underwear.OK,now I can put a face the hype.He’s a cool cat though.Me,him and Preem kick it for a minute while he tells Preem what he wants the remix to sound and feel like,that he plans to have Mos Def spit on it and that he can’t go to the mall without a police escort nowadays..WOW!..A little while later Preem comes up with a nice lil something for dude to vibe to,he goes..”That’s it right there,I’m going to the hotel and write my part tonight.I got pro tools on my lap top so I can do a reference vocal, and we’ll see if you like it”..Preem..”Aight then”..looks at me and we concur without speaking..”We don’t have pro tools here”.Time is set for the next day,which no one shows up on time for anyways, and Craig takes off to his hotel with his lil pro tools and me and Preem leave shortly after,him to Queens,me to Brooklyn.It’s around 2am September 11th and my session is at 11am,I’m taking a cab home…
…September 11th 2001, around 8:30ish in the am.I just stumbled into my lil BK basement apt a few hours ago.Phone rings.All types of mental expletives are flying around in my head.Can’t go off on who might on the line,could be moms…me(groggy voice)..”Hello”..my then girlfriend..”Dex turn on the TV…the World Trade Center is on fire!”..me..”Shut up yo,it’s to early for these games you playin”..her..”Dude I’m serious,turn on your TV”..me..”Aight”..fumbling around for the remote,on goes the TV,quickly switch to NY1….SHIT!IT’S ON FIRE..me to her..”I’ll call you back”.As I’m sitting there watching the coverage of the tower bellowing smoke, a small figure appears out of nowhere.I thought,because I’m still groggy eyed, it was a bird.No sir it was a commercial airliner,similar to the one that hit the the other tower moments before.”What The…!!”..”How is this happening!”On my block,people are going cookoo!In my apartment,I’m remaining calm.The phone rings..it’s her..”They evacuating the city,no trains,buses,nothing,I gotta walk home”..me..”Get to walking babe,call me when you get home!”..click!..My mental rolodex is on 100 right now.Who do I know that works in the Towers?Shit who works in that area?I’m watching people scampering for their lives,diving out of the towers and thinking damn,this is crazy.This is CRAZY!.Soon after there is no phone service what so ever,and only one channel broadcasting.I’m hearing about planes crashing all over the place,the Pentagon got hit,supposedly LA was gonna be next,all types of madness.”Stay calm dude and stay in your crib”.My landlady knocks on my door..”Are you seeing this?..me..”Yeah’..her..’My God what is this”..”I wish could tell you something Paulette,I really wish I could”.New York stood still for the next few hours and it felt like an eternity.At some point,I managed to fall asleep..not sure what time but it seemed like only seconds before my phone rang and woke me up..”Yo..sorry but Preem said we may have to go in tomorrow”..me..” Eddie you jokin right”..
..September 12th,2001,10 am.Another day but not like the others.You can feel the tension.People are scared to death, as we should be.We just watched a landmark crumble and lives lost and couldn’t do anything about it.There no answers but a slew of questions.NY is resilient and bounced back quick,not at full strength,but we back at it.The routine ensues..dollar cab ride to “D” train,”D” to Manhattan.Damn…look at this.As the train crosses the bridge to my left I see what’s left of the towers.Still smoldering.Everyone on the train is silent for a minute,or sobbing as they look out the window.”What the hell happened yo?”..this kid across from me asks looking dead at me like I had the answers.”Duke I dunno”..Few minutes later here comes my stop.34th street..I exit the train..exit the station..go out on to the street and pause.Silence.34th street at 11am..and nothing is happening.All the stores are closed,there is no traffic in any direction,literally I was walking down the middle of 34th st without dodging a vehicle.It was surreal.The air was filled with the smell of smoke, it felt eerie.Yet here I am in the city on my way to work!Got to the studio,second routine done and I wait..Eddie shows up and we wait.Gordon shows up and we wait..Preem shows up and says..”Let’s get this done,I wanna get outta here!”No shit we shouldn’t be here in the first place bruh!But we gotta get this shit done regardless.Mind you the kid David..he was on the first thing smoking outta the US…like Fuck u guys I’m going Home.So we working,Preem’s making music..me, Gordon and Eddie are watching TV for coverage,well repetitive BS about yesterday’s events.”What a mess”..I’m thinking as I watch expert after expert dissect this thing.All of a sudden Preem bursts out the room..”Yo they just called in a bomb threat at the Empire State Building…Let’s get outta here..fuck this!”..I don’t think I ever locked up the studio so fast,cause Gordon was giving me a ride home, and any second less than the time he said to be downstairs he woulda left my ass…no joke.We zoom outta Manhattan,cross the bridge and Gord drops me off at my crib…”Good Lookin”..him..”Yea Laterz”..He’s out and I’m in my basement apt.Sits on the couch and turns on the TV..nothing new..I turn it off.Cell phone rings..answers..”Yea?!”..then girlfriend..”you aight?”..me..”yea I’m home,we gonna do the joint another day”..her..”You know when?”..me..”Hmmph..maybe tomorrow..yea..maybe tomorrow”…
Written by Dexter Thibou
..So by now yall know I worked at D&D Recording Studios.Good,GREAT.It was the best place to work in HipHop at the time for sure.We made more than hits there we made classics.Not to say that classics weren’t made anywhere else but,let’s face it, if a client ate ramen noodles for almost a year just so they could mix their record in the same room Premier mixed “Mass Appeal”,that says a whole lot..right?!I’m also a fan of Rap music,I got my faves,my top ten,Blah Blah Blah..but a lot of times,these rap dudes will let you down.This time we won’t get into those dudes.However one cat will forever stand out as the most humble, down to earth dude I have ever met…KRS One.To this day I can’t say a bad word about my dude Krs…(or Kenny his brother for that matter)..
I’m a big fan of KRS,one of my favorite Emcees without doubt.So of course the opportunity to meet your favorite artist would make anybody’s day.Imagine getting to work with your favorite artist on their new project…yeah exactly!I’m still an intern at the time mind you but who cares, I get to sit in on the the sessions and learn a few things and get a preview of the new KRS album.Can’t get no better right?Wrong!Here’s why.Everyone has their favorite snack food..KRS Loved cashews…I mean he LOVED them joints.In particular the ones that came in the slim pack that would be on the counter of every corner bodega in NY. He would have me go to the store about every two hours or so to get him five packs of cashews,which were like a buck a piece.Why he didn’t just buy a big ole can of em is beyond me,nor did I care.He would give me $20,each run,to buy five packs of cashews.So on my first run, me being the good intern, I bring him his cashews and hand him his change.He looks at me and says” What Are You Doing?”.. In my mind I was like..”FUCK! What Did I Do?…’This Cat Is Gonna Chew Me Out!”.Oh by the way,Preemo is the room,Kenny,ICU,Willie D,Pal Joey..it was packed in there and I’m expecting to be clowned thoroughly.He says..”The Change Is Yours”…..me..(whew!)..”OK!”..Now mind you intern status means you work for FREE!If you’re lucky you’ll get clients that give you tips but basically you’re free labor.And $15 for a dude that been working since 11am and it’s now like 9:30pm(cause the night intern flaked so I had to stay) was alotta money!I could get chicken fried rice instead of plain!…Repeat the Cashew scenario, and this time I’m sure he wants his change,he just gave me $15.,no way he gives up another $15.WRONG AGAIN!..He gives me the same look and laughs at me..”Yo This Kid Is Buggin'” he goes..”Take The Money Man I’m Good”..From that day forward I worked on every KRS One session they put on the board,and he worked daily!
So let’s fast forward a bit to when Krs is working on the”KRS ONE” album.I’m still an intern but they let me assist certain sessions. This day I’m assisting,not on Krs’ session, but I’m still in the studio cause my session got cancelled or whateva.Krs is working with Norty Cotto and Luis Tineo(engineer and assistant engineer).Luis comes out the room and says to me” Krs needs you”..I go into the room…”Whuddup Krs?”..him..”Yo could you go to that store up the street and buy me a cheap pocket recorder..you know the ones you tape your voice notes with?”..me..”Sure no problem.”I go to the store, come back , drop off the recorder,bounce out the room.Louie comes out again..”Krs needs you again”..me..”Sup Krs?!”..him..”OK this is what I need you to do for me…”..his instructions.. I was to go out into the street and record street noises and say as loudly as possible..” These Are The Streets..Shit Is Real Out Here..This Ain’t No Fucking Joke!”..apprehensive and feeling a lil silly I did it anyway(plus Louie went with me so I wouldn’t look completely bonkers) ..and that’s how I ended up on the song “R.E.A.L.I.T.Y.” off that album.Oh did I mention I got to keep the change from the $100 he gave me get the $15 pocket recorder?And got another $30 for looking out?How could you possibly hate a dude like that?My point?..not all rappers are A$$E$!(But Some Are!)…One!..
Written by Dexter Thibou
D&D Studios was legendary for the sound that came out of that place.You couldn’t duplicate that for anything,with anything and I’m glad to have been a part of the era that was the Golden Era of Hip Hop and to be where alot of it went down,and even more so, to be a part of the process on a lot of those classics.A question I get asked a lot of times by Hip Hop cats,”What Was It Like Working In D&D?”.I tell ’em..”D&D was like high school,and hazing was a must for everyone..EVERYONE!”Believe me clients weren’t immune to the pranks or getting in on it.They were worse than the staff half the time.If we had camera phones back then..well let’s just say the D&D antics put “Animal House”(that’s a movie for some of you who don’t know) to shame.I was quickly schooled by everyone at D&D..”Don’t Sit In The Back Ground And Say or Do Nothing..We’ll Murder You If You Do That!”. Through out my ten years over at D&D,I got to do,see and be a part of alot of things most engineers never did or can say they did.I mean it’s not every day you get to work with people you looked up to and inspired you to get in the game.Alot of names are gonna be mentioned when I really get Blogging but all can say for now is..I met Donald Byrd and Roy Ayers there…WHAT!…a handful of people can say they walked into a Hip Hop studio and saw Donald Byrd sitting in the room with a collection of original quarter and half inch tapes of his master recordings…try and find em..I’ll be here.And he was sooo friggin’ cool.Said to me once and I’ll never forget this..”Some Stuff He Did Had No Real Plan,Just An Idea..We Just Went With The Vibe At The Moment.We Just Wanted To Make Good Music”..how many of you so called artists can say that?…
First Day..11:30 am..I didn’t really know who was gonna be walking through the door.Yeah they told me who was gonna be having a session that day,but one of the other interns said that anybody could show up at anytime.So here it is..first day,in the A room session Nikki Nikole..working with Nefertiti from LA.Never heard of ’em,but they were both sweethearts and great people,lots of fun to be around.Frigging door bell rings,sounded like a old school bicycle bell.Somebody yells “GET THA DOOR!”..(sidenote;yelling was mandatory at D&D,you got yelled at for not Yelling)..I open it..there’s Guru,Lil Dap and BlackStar.I’m like (to self)”WOW..Guru!”..he’s like “Whuddup Yo You New Here?”..me..”Yea Man First Day…”I snap outta it quick.Not cause the initial shock of meeting one of my favorite HipHop artists has faded that fast but because of what dude asked me to do right after kinda introducing himself.I say kinda cause he never said..”I’m Guru”..he said.. “Whuddup Yo..”Anyway my dude instructs me to go to the store for him and get four Phillies and two forties of Budweiser.OK…it’s 11:30 in the morning…and you already have a forty in your hand and you want two more…all I could think was..”WOW!…This Dude Is A RockStar!”..Lil Dap was like ..”Yo Son By The Time You Get Back That Shit He Will Be Done With This One!”.And that did turn out to be the case.Really doe!
Back from the store,had to finish up my shit detail(dudes didnt know how to flush after themselves half the time..no joke)..the dammed bicycle bell rings again.”GET THA DOOR!”..”AIGHT I GOT IT!”..didn’t take long to get into the yelling over there..door opened..tall dark skinned dude standing in the door way..walks past and turns to face me..”SUP,I’m Evil Dee”..me..”Sup I’m Dex”..him..”I Got A Session In The D Room”..me..”OK Lemme Get Somebody To Help You Out”.I’m walking away thinkin to myself that’s a big dude..why his voice so high pitched? He must have laryngitis or something.I get his engineer,tell him Evil is here..the engineer says..”You Met E?”..me..”Yeah”..engineer..”He’s A Mad Cool Dude And Yeah His Voice Is That High”..me..”OK Then”..engineer..”Come Sit In On This One,It’s Easy..He’s Doing DAT Copies For A Show Black Moon Got Coming Up”.Evil is in there talkin about the last show they did some friggin where and how somebody got punched in the face for doing the most when it really wasn’t that serious..I’m dying laughing cause E is real animated for a big dude.Trust me when I tell you Da Beatminerz along with a few others have become my big brothers in the game,we’ll get to that soon,along with other lil gems from my years of working at the Infamous D&D Studios.Till then..
Written by Dexter Thibou
No More Mr. Nice Guy (1989)
What comes to mind during that time was my amateur production skills [laughs]. I didn’t fully produce this album. Three of the songs The 45 King produced before even I joined the group. Then the ones I did produce, [including the single “Manifest”], I didn’t really have an understanding of how to make a record. So Guru and Slomo Sonnenfeld, who was the engineer at Such-A-Sound studios in Brooklyn, would help me put the SP-12 together. Guru and I would hit some snare sounds and Slomo would say, “Put the high hats like this.” And then I would throw in something and make it turn a certain way. Like Guru used to say, that was our early regiment because I wasn’t fully aware of the recording and production process. But those were some great times. Guru and I would catch the bus to the studio together.
I remember the day I walked into the studio to cut the first record with Gang Starr I tried to fist fight the engineer. I flew from Dallas to New York with my turntable coffin and I’m like, “Yeah, so where can I set up?” And Slomo said, “Oh, you’re not setting that up today.” And I’m like, “Motherfucker, this is how I make my beats!” They had to chill me out like, “Yo, this is not how we make records. You can lay it down on tape.” To this day, I only do my scratches on the last day of recording.
Step In The Arena (1991)
On the first album, I brought in a demo with just me repeating the drums over-and-over on one record and then I would start cutting up the records. I didn’t know the process of using a drum machine and trimming it straight to tape. But Step In The Arena is where I started to do the production all by myself.
The music started sounding the way Guru and I really wanted it to sound. There was more sampling and more musical concepts. Once I learned the process vs. by way of doing demos on a four-track, I knew the concept of how to lay a beat and make songs. With arrangements, I always had that down, but Step In The Arena is really my first all-production…just straight beats. You could hear our confidence growing.
Daily Operation (1992)
By now I was establishing the Gang Starr sound. My confidence level was 100 percent to where I was like, bring on anybody. I’ll take them all on! Before this album, I was getting a few calls from other artists to work with me. KRS-One reached out, but I was like, “Nah, I’m not ready yet.” I thought Kris was too large of an icon for me to even think that I could pull off an album with him. I was too nervous. But when he reached out after Daily Operation I said, “Ok, I’ll do it.” I did so many songs with other artists after that album.
We blew up big after Daily Operation. But we wanted to please the audience that already loved us as we were. That was always a conscious effort on both of our parts. And that’s the reason why Guru started doing the Jazzmatazz albums to protect Gang Starr from being pigeonholed as jazz rap. Guru used to hate being called that so much [laughs].
Hard To Earn (1994)
By this time, people were saying that I only used jazz samples. And that was cool early on because I used a lot of the jazz records to be different. Everyone else was sampling James Brown and Parliament, including myself at times, so much so that we started running out of the ill funky beats. But people started to over-emphasize the jazz samples and not listen to how dope Gang Starr’s sound was and how we converted it to hard beats. So I said, “You know what? On Hard To Earn I’m going to completely strip it down and use space sounds, helicopters or whatever, just to show it doesn’t matter what I use. And it’s going to be hard.” That’s what I did purposely to prove a point on songs like “Tonz O’ Gonz” and “Mass Appeal.”
Moment Of Truth (1998)
As I said before, this was the most emotional album for both of us. I had actually left the group before Moment Of Truth came out. We were not getting along over stupid shit. I just pretty much said, “Yo, I’m out of here,” so we put the album on hold. But it never got out to the press that I had bounced. At that time Guru was going through his gun trial and he was facing a five-year bid, so we thought he was going away for a long time. That’s when I called Guru and said, “I want to do this.” After we made up, people were telling me that we weren’t going to be able to tour. They just wanted to get the album out there while he did his bid. I remember when they read all the [not-guilty] verdicts and everything…it was just crazy.
I also remember the day we recorded the [title track] for Moment of Truth. Just looking at the emotions in Guru’s eyes doing the vocals to “Moment of Truth”…he was really nervous that he would be found guilty. “JFK 2 LAX” was a true story. And with “The Next Time,” I made that record the day my accountant passed away. She was someone who was a major part of my life. When she died, that fucked me up. The sample almost makes you want to cry because that was the mood I was in. It’s still an emotional song for me to this day. And it’s one of my favorite recordings, period. Moment of Truth ended up becoming our biggest album. Guru would say, “All I want is a gold album.” We finally got it with this one.
The Ownerz (2003)
We had one of the dopest staffs at our label Virgin, but they all got fired when Mariah Carey’s Glitter failed. That made them get rid of a lot of people. Before that, Virgin would always let us do whatever we wanted. We always picked our own singles and the sequence of the album. We always did the gutter street song first, followed by the radio record, a follow-up single and then the tour. That was our routine every year. But when it came down to The Ownerz, we had to switch over to an all-new staff. And the crazy thing is our new urban music president was the same guy who produced Rob Thomas and Matchbox 20. Dude was two years younger than me! He didn’t put his foot down and let Gang Starr do what we usually did.
We disagreed on the choice of singles and I started purposely being an asshole and not answering the phone. I would call up to the Virgin offices talking shit like, “Yo man, you better call me! [laughs].” Part of that was that I always held down Guru. His spirit knows that I’ve always been there to hold him down whatever we were dealing with. I didn’t mind being the spokesperson. We had to get out of that situation. But the legacy of Gang Starr was too big to destroy. We matter to the fans. We matter too much to hip hop.