Super Producer Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie is approaching his 10th year as a veteran of the music industry. Unfortunatley, rumours of a legal battle with puff and an Incindent with the press have greeted him. Happy Anniversary.
Deric sits in a swiwel chair in the middletown Manhattan recording studio that also serves as an office for his new record company, Crazy Cat Catalogue through Columbia/Sony. In the lounge outside the recording facility a huge projection TV blares Cool Brezze's "Watch for the Hook" and the burly security guards and guests lounge on couches and love seats, obvilous to the Chaothic movements of the staff, who scurry from room to room gathering reels of tapem CD's, DATs and paperwork. Angelettie is just frantic as he jumps up every few minutes to catch calls from clients and other Bizniz assoicates. His grey polo top and Blue jeans are hanging semi-low and baggy from the days constant moves. To top of it, Mark Pitts(Manager of The Notorious BIG, Changing Faces and the Madd Rapper) and A&R Kirk Lightburn of Bystorm Entertainment are there to talk buisness and listen to tracks for their latest signee - a female MC named Blue of the Group One Life to Live. The beats run the gamut from shaker, triangle and chime laced dance numbers to hooligan musicals. Following his track record of putting out ass-bouncing club hits, Pitts and his partners nod respectivley to the hard shit but decide to go for the danceable stuff thats been proving to work for previous artists like Tracey Lee.
D-Dot has a lot of stuff on his plate to chew on. He's worked on Nas I Am album, Tracey Lee's upcoming untitled album and Black Rob's Life Story, along with his two groups on Crazy Cat, Fierce and Black, and Desert Roze. Derics most anticipated realese, however is the Madd Rapper album due out this spring. The masses want to know what to expect. Is it comedy? Will the Madd Rapper rhyme? Or will he just talk shit like on the skits of every Bad Boy album since 1997? Judging from what he's recorded rite now, it's all of the above. The Madd Rapper comes off as a rap artist. His lyrics are indeed comical but also sharp and cleverly delivered.
"Hold up - I got some other shit" Deric says in a monotone and pops a new tape into the DAT machine. Like a cartoon character, he bounces into action, dancing around the small recording lab, waving his arms to accent the beats highlight. Theres a right arm wave to a sparkling high hat pattern and a low lean as he punches in unison to the bouncy, bottom filled bassline. "How about this one?" D-Dot asks with his back to his comrades. "Thats hot i want that". Pitts grins emphatticly. After listening to brief segments of other beats, Deric calls in a member of his staff for a blank tape and begins dubbing.
"Im trying to make classics," Deric says of his longevity. "Im not trying to make a joint thats going to spin for three months, and then you aint hearing about it no more. You're going to hear 'Its all about the Benjamins', 'Hypnotize' and Tracey Lees 'The Theme' for the rest of your life." And that may just be the case.
Chances are, if it's been made in the mid- to late 90's and theres a Bad Boy artist(or affiliate) on it, Derics fingerprints are all over the track. Unlike many other of his productions peers, Angellettie played the shadows. When the East Coast sound began it's renaissance, beatmasters like Wu-Tangs RZA, Gang Stars DJ Premier, Pete Rock and Large Professor clogged the credits of countless albums. Deric laid in the cut, mixing up musical brew that launched artists like Biggie, Puffy, Jay-Z, LL Cool J and Mase as they brought rap music back to its Mecca, New York City. Yeah, Tracey Lee's 'The Theme' made muthafuckas want to dance all night and sip bubbly, but D-Dots shine intesified when Puffys 'Its all about the Benjamins' exploded in late 97. In clubs all over NYC, Dj's banged the record way before it was realesed commercialy. The funked out guitar loop, reversed break and hook("So what you wanna do/Wanna be ballers/Shot callers, brawlers") mad clubgoers elbow each other like christmas shoppers in the Tickle Me Elmo aisle at Toys R Us. Everybody wanted to get snuffed. "My reaction was like 'Oh Shit'" says Bad Boy executive VP Jeff Burrughos. "We only made a hundred copies of the record. When people(DJ's) go out their way to get the record [DJ's pressed up their own copies of acetate], you know that a song has long legs to stand on."
"It's all about the Benjamins" broke ground at the 1997 How can i Be Down? music convention in Miami. The joint premiered on a 12" single exclusivley for radio and club DJ's, to set the stage for puffs new entourage, including The LOX and Mase. Then the desicon came to realese the song as a commercial single Quick-fast. According to Deric he didnt even know that song would blow the way it did. "Puff came to me with this record and wanted me to do something with it" he says while adjusting the volume on his 24-Track Einstein mixing board. "It was really fast, and i slowed it down and layed some more shit on top of it and it was ready."
With that, Derics sound began to gain momentum with the masses and become passionatley desired by artists who wanted the Bad Boy touch. D-Dot's cinematic musical craftmanship filled a void that rode the momentum of G-Funk and gangsteristic thump the Westside laid down. Only it took the dramatic sounds of the Dancefloors on the East. Although Angelettie takes pride in his talent, he's quick to give it up for Puffy, who's been criticized for taking credit for most Bad Boy productions.
"People confuse a person that makes beats with a person who is a producer" says Deric "Puffy doesent make beats, Puffy produces records. Most of his producers are Beat-Makers that are learning how to produce records. Because someone makes a beat on a drum-machine dont mean they can produce a whole song. To produce you have to see a vision before its done, to know how to coach vocals, mix and [do] all the nescessary things. Puff does that."
Deric himself came under criticsm last November, when he was arrested for an alleged attack on Blaze magazines editor in chief Jesse Washington, a charge which D-Dot attorneys deny. News programs smelled blood and ran stories on rap industry beatings, and Deric 'D-Dot' Angelettie name became household. In the eyes of too many members of the media and the public, a violent rapper/nigger beat nigger journalist to an ignorant pulp. All the more reason to knock hip-hop down. Topping Billboards coveted charts , out selling rock bands, influencing the style of the entire planet, providing thousands of jobs and entreprenuerial oppertunites to the young and ambitous muthafuckas in the streets mean nutting! This rap shit must stop!
Regarding this situation, Angelettie exhibits the composed appaerance of that older kid around the way who got smacked by a younger dude in a pathetic attempt to get props. It's the "Im not going to sweat that, niggas know the deal" look. Unable to comment on the Incident because of legal reasons, Deric feels that the media did exactly what was expected. "The media did a beatufiul job" he snickers. "Covering bullshit. I commend them" Although sickened by the way his name claimed fame, Angelettie harbors no ill feelings towards the news outlet. "All this is just going to help Crazy Cat Catalog sell a lot of records. Thank you very much"
In 1990 before the scorn of journalists, praise of artists and dates in courts, the Brooklyn-born only child of a black father and Puerto Rican mother was a MC in the rap duo 2 Kings in a Cipher, with his partner Amen-Ra. The groups debut album From Pyramids to Projects, achieved minimal success in 1991, but their spoken word single "For the brother who aint here" caught the ears of a few underground kids who still held on the late 80's Black awarness movement. By 1992, BAHIA Records had folded but 2 Kings remained on the roster of the parent company, RCA Records, Eventually poor sales and a management change at RCA caused 2 Kings in a Cipher to lose their deal and join the stockpile of hungry rap groups.
Salvation came soon there after, when 2 Kings in a Cipher performed with Leaders if the New School and Brand Nubian at Puffys 'Daddys house' jam at Red Zone in New York. " I was still living in DC and puff was like 'Come home im about to do my Bad Boy shit'" Deric says, sliding between mixing board and DAT Machine "I came home in August 1993 and thats when i started fucking with him"
While maintaing a job at the Awarness Communications bookstore at Medgar Evers College in Crown Eights, Brooklyns, Angelettie reguraly checked Puff in Scarsdale, NY, where he was staying with his producers Nashiem Myrick, Poke(From TrackMasters) and Chucky Thompson, sculpting Bad Boy. Finally in 1994(The years of Notorious BIG and Craig Mack), Deric left Awarness Communications and devoted all his time to Bad Boy, while Ron Lawrence(Amen-Ra) moved from DC to LA to help fellow Howard alumini Shai with their second album, Blackface. In 1996, he reconnected with D-Dot to form the beat team Mystery System and join the Hitmen. Along with producer, D-Dot played the role of Vice President of A&R for Puff Daddys Empire.
On the Notorious BIGs second album, 1997's "Life after Death" the Madd Rapper, the quintessential starving artist, made his debut. "What are u do mad about?" asked fictious character Shae on the untitled skit. Screaming in hoarse, rambunctions tone, The Madd Rapper retorted "Niggas is making $500,000 videos, they driving hot cars, they got bithces. Im still living with my moms".
Frustrated by the chastisement from hip-hops unforgiving purists, Puffy came up with the idea of returning fire with an angry rapper who criticized him for getting money. "The concept of doing an Hating MC was Puffs idea" says Deric half-joking " I sat at home thinking and was like Yeah i can do this" Angered by the Madd Rapper message, member of the underground rap community grumbled over the character. According to Angelettie however the Madd Rapper isnt against the underground movement or making mockery of the struggles of independent artists. Its a taste of what is camp has been getting. "How can i be against the Underground? Im underground all day everyday" he stresses "I make commercial records to eat".
Believe it or not, D-Dot does maintain his underground roots. On the Underground Railroad, DJ Ashknuckles and Madd Rappers mixtape, the beats have the underground hip hop trump, totally devoid of R&B choruses and radio happy production. So to say that Derics sound is limited to primetime radio slots would be an outright lie.
"The Madd Rapper is mocking the haters - not the rappers that are broke and struggling" he says, slightly raising his pitch. "Because a nigga got something i want, why hate on him for it? Just go get yours. If you have to hate on me to get your own, that means your nothing". In additon to dealing with the haters, Angelettie has also faced rumour of a feud with Sean Puffy Combs. Story has it that because the Madd Rapper made his debut on a Bad Boy realese, the character belonged to Puff. But it was also said that because Deric came up with the Character it belongs to him. "There was no dispute that was a media thing" D-Dot quips "What people heard was the Madd Rapper not wanting to be tha Madd Rapper - he just wanted to be a rapper... There was no dispute me and Puff are the Executive producers under my label Crazy Cat".
Deric admits that he was a madd rapper once, enraged by the politics and bullshit of the rap industry. Experience has grown him up and his frustration is focused. Anyone who says money doesent change u in bullshittin which is why maintaining morals and focus is the careers-defying feat is. And it can be Evel-Knievel difficult when thos who dont have what you've got want what you have.
"Because my womans bad, you want mine as opossed to getting your own" he asks rhetorically. Deric explains "Its not like it's us against you its were here and u can get in, too. Look at him(motions to Mark Pitts) hes not keeping a broke nigga down. If you got money coming in you keep got to keep getting money in cause you can easily go back to being broke".
What keeps Derics dough flow running in is production. The music excites him. When he pumps beats in the studio, he listens with the intesity of a Shaolin dispiclie and peeps out the songs intriances. If a snare drum is too low he puts it in too check. If the MC is sloppy with the Deliverey, the takes redone. Angelettie isnt being anal attentive . Thats what seperates a good song from a classic just ask Micheal Jackson. Wheter its a dance record or some grimy, back alley dumpster shit, he wants the music to tell a story. Thats the reasoning behind, say, the gothic trumpets in Puffys Victory.
"Keeping it real and telling your life story on records is cool, but how many people really want to know that?" D-Dot asks while tugging at his black knit PD-embroided cap and throwing back pistachios. "You can talk about your life, but it got be entertaining. If it's not entertaining it doesent sell. Ninety five precent buisness, five precent entertainment. You have to make a story out of a song, wheter its a party record, street joint, gangster or whatever". Even though he has tremenadous artistic expectaions from the song writers, Angelettie puts equal preassure on himself sometimes going through 40 to 50 ideas before he comes up with one he deems worthy. "The first thing is that the tracks gotta be nutty" he quickly snaps "If i can sweat off of a track even before the vocals are done, I know my battle is done".
As the Bystorm meeting winds down, Deric lets out a hearty sigh and prepare to venture off to Daddys house studio. From his eyes you can tell that there have been many sleepless nights and anticipation of many more. D isnt a glitzy star - his wardrobe betrays that fact - but he likes it that way. The light doesent attract him.
"I love to be in the background" he admits "Im a family man and a buisness man. I dont neccessarily need the limelight; i just want the check. I dont care how much as long as i can eat well".