Daddy-O Interview (by A to the L)
Stetsasonic front man Daddy-O is on a mission. Following the tragic murder of Jam Master Jay, he’s taken the initiative and begun mobilising Hiphop names from past and present with a view to making a follow-up to the classic “Self Destruction” track by the Stop The Violence movement. The original track featured some of the biggest Hiphop artists of the late 80’s – this one pledges to do the same with the biggest names of this era, while including some of the legends from the original track. Speaking from Miami, Daddy-O dropped the knowledge… and this is how the story goes…
First off, how is the planning for the new Self Destruction record coming along?
Daddy-O: Very, very well. During the first project – I was actually talking to D-Nice about this yesterday – during the first project the way Kris and D-Nice actually did it was… they kinda got together their own band of merry men, and then the support came afterwards. This time around, its the exact opposite – the support is already here, and all I gotta do is put the team together. The team is actually shaping really well – Busta Rhymes, KRS-One and Chuck D committed real early… then everyone else has started to step up. Shaggy, Jermaine Dupri, Common, J-Live, Wordsworth, MC Lyte, Kool Moe Dee… a lot of the original members have already committed alongside the new names I’ve mentioned. Rockwilder is gonna produce it – Redman is on it… I’m also talking to Evil Dee about co-producing it. I’m also talking to Tone and Poke about overseeing the production. Heather B is down… I talked to Latifah yesterday – she’s down. I talked to Ludacris today – he’s out here in Miami, where I’m at, so we’ll probably sit down and talk a little today. And I just thought about the fact that Luda got that girl called Shawna… so I might holla at her too, cos I wanna get a nice little representation going for the female side.
Are you gonna have enough space for everyone on there?
Daddy-O: Oh yeah. My plan is to get SEVENTY rappers, for three verses, lasting four minutes… I got a way to do it – basically using the same kind of concept De La Soul used on “Me Myself & I” with Q-Tip… if you think back to that record, they had the part where they said “… and I point at Q-Tip and he states ‘black is black'”… basically the same idea with different people doing key lines. You know, like maybe taking a lot of the original guys, the old school guys… and giving them character lines, and then having the other guys like Redman doing other things.
It’s been rumoured that cats like Jay-Z, DMX and Ja-Rule have been invited to participate. Surely a lot of the material that these artists put out is at odds with the basic principle of the Stop The Violence Movement?
Daddy-O: Right. Well they’ve ALL been invited… its a WORLDWIDE invitation… but my basic issue with those guys is… if you go to selfdestruction2.com right now… the full site is not up – but my manifesto IS up. I wanna see some changes – its a lot more than just an invitation to just show up and do a record. Included in the invitation is the encouragement to make a few changes in lyrical content and / or names and whatever. It’ll be real interesting to see exactly how that pans out. We DEFINITELY don’t want to deal with people on a hypocritical level – I guess that’s the best way to put it. We don’t wanna get these guys involved, and then they kinda go back to their regular lives and they’re still yelling and screaming “It’s murder” and all of that. That’s not where we’re trying to take this at all. But basically, we’re presenting a challenge to all of these guys… they have to take on board the fact that they DO have to have a sense of social responsibilty – so stop dealing drugs on record, and stop shooting people on record. That’s my BASIC challenge. There’s a whole bunch of other stuff that kinda comes with that, and I think people will see as the concept develops what those will be. But I think that we’ve sold enough drugs and shot enough people on records… and… basically we have to make a change and take the initiative to lead this thing. And when I say “we”, I mean everyone in Hiphop – you, me, everyone. Artists have to change lyrically – I don’t know if artists sometimes don’t appreciate the power of their words and the power of their music, and how that power can travel – to places like Brixton, areas of Paris and Germany… Australia. Its going a long, long way… and I think we STILL haven’t really seen the effects of this nationally and internationally. Our kids are being shaped by the music and the words they’re hearing, and we have to shape them the right way. Overall, I think this thing has gone a lot further that most of us expected, and we wanna try to cut it off at the pass before things escalate, and turn into something worse. Going back to the days when we were out there performing with PE on tours, and we did a big European run with EPMD – those kids were supporting us and listening to Hiphop back then. And now you have kids today supporting the popular groups who are out in the same way, and if all they’re hearing on a record is “murder, murder, kill, kill”, imagine what that’s doing on an international level.
At a time when artists like PE, KRS etc have struggled to make an impact on the majority of today’s Hiphop generation, how do you plan to make this joint relevant to them?
Daddy-O: Well of course the easiest way is to get new guys. This time around I got guys that THEY know and respect – like the Redmans and the Bustas… at the end of this thing I’m hoping to have Eminem, Ludacris… I’ll HAVE people that they respect on there. That’s the easiest way to make this thing relevant and give it a public face… and that’s really all this has been. Its a chance to speak up on behalf of certain topics and organisations that maybe don’t get a high profile in the media – organisations that are working, and have been working around the clock before this movement and still will be beyond this movement… people that are working with kids to get ’em high school diplomas, working with youth against violence, working with teen pregnancies and people with AIDS. There’s a bunch of organisations – local, national, and international – that have been doing this. In terms of having a public face though they may have struggled. Their success rates and success ratios are high – but imagine what they could do with MORE publicity. I mean, you might have a little movement that promotes positive lyrics in rap music and their base is maybe only 300 people strong… and that might not even be solid – it might be 150 workers and 150 stragglers. All we’re looking to do with this project is give it a public face, and help these people to continue to promote their causes. That’s one of my main objectives – I’m like the head of the octopus so to speak, and I’m gonna spread out my tentacles to help these organisations to get a little more support and recognition. A lot of times people don’t even know these organisations are out there – they need help and just don’t know where to go. Let’s be real here – BET and MTV are blasting in your face all day, and they ain’t always talking about help, despite the fact that you might have a depressed person sitting at home all day watching videos. We wanna try to turn this thing into something different… and I think I have an incredible opportunity to do that at this particular point. What’s unfortunate is the events that had to occur for me to be in this position – I mean my man got murdered, I’m real mad about that, but I also understand how pivotal this event could be.
You seem to be deadly serious when you call out the likes of Fat Joe, and Murder Inc for using names that seem to push negativity. Have you had any feedback from these artists on your comments?
Daddy-O: One thing came back from Joe’s publicist, and it didn’t come to me directly, but to one of my assistants and it basically said that he calls himself Joey Crack because when he was younger he wore these overalls that showed the crack of his ass. Yeah right! Whatever. Apart from that, I haven’t really heard anything – Murder Inc… it really seems like they’re ducking me. Those guys are big enough and they got enough contacts to know by now. I mean they might not have heard about this in the first couple of days, but its been a week now, and I know that they’ve heard what’s going on by now. In addition, Ed Lover and Star at 105 and Hot 97 in New York have been helping me out – they’ve also been talking about it and publicising it, so I know they’ve heard about it. Murder Inc is everybody’s poster child right now – people were talking about Murder Inc as soon as this thing went down. So it wasn’t just a Daddy-O thing. Personally, I think they’re just staying out of the loop to see what goes down first.
In terms of the new project, do you have a “perfect” line-up in mind? Who would be the ideal contributors?
Daddy-O: I actually do. I’m leaving a lot to prayer and meditation, because there’s a few things that I wanna do on this. For instance, people that have been publicly feuding – I wanna see them shake hands in the video… like… I really want Lauryn on this record – but I want the Fugees. I want Scarface on this record – but I want the Geto Boys. So I got some real idealism things going on right now – I’m just trying to work it out. As for “dream” people that I’m asking for? Eminem is number one… I believe that I’m gonna get Nelly… and Outkast. I got ideas for all these people. I want DMX and Ja-Rule… I want them to trade lyrics on the record – that’s my dream.
Going back to the first project was there anyone who you really wanted to appear who didn’t make it?
Daddy-O: Yeah… and I’ma get em this time – Big Daddy Kane. He WAS in the video, but I want him on wax. I’m real close to having Kane open this record. EPMD have already committed this time around… Rakim I still gotta reach out to.
Why did the original STV movement only record that one track? Why was there no album?
Daddy-O: Real simple. We all got famous and it just got lost. I had a real interesting conversation with D-Nice yesterday, because for the first half and hour D-Nice was very negative towards the whole thing, and he was shooting me down. He was like “Look man, I just don’t wanna be a part of another ‘please-don’t-kill-another-rapper’ record” if all you guys are gonna do is JUST a record.” But I explained to him all the things I wanna do with this, involving local organisations and forums, and I convinced him. Now he’s down with me. This time around I’m grabbing guys that are already famous, when before we had a little fame – but nowhere near the scale of things today, nowhere near the amounts of money being tossed around today. When we became involved with the song, yeah we were putting our names on the record, but the record was ALSO popularizing us. We were all at that time, still up and coming artists with blooming careers. At that time we were still creating our careers and growing and learning and the record helped that.
Obviously the death of Jam Master Jay has sparked the activity to get this project going. What are some of your favourite memories of Jay?
Daddy-O: I remember an interview with Jay and he said, “Look man, they keep saying rap music, rap music, rap music. I can put ANYTHING behind Run and D to rap to – I don’t understand why they try to limit our sound. I’m a DJ and I DJ behind MCs, and I can put anything behind these guys and they can still do their thing.” Other than that – Jay was always a very happy person – always smiling… Another thing that I recall, and its one of the things that D spoke about at his funeral – Jay was the kind of cat where if his crew couldn’t get in somewhere, he wasn’t going in. I remember this one night at the Roxy – I think it was about 1983… and Jay and all of his crew and Runny Ray getting in through the side door of the Roxy. And another show at Roseland, I think, around 1984… with Run DMC, UTFO and a few others – it was crazy. I was actually there at the Funhouse that night they recorded “Here We Go”… crazy.
And what about Daddy-O himself? What have you been doing since Stetsasonic?
Daddy-O: I’ve actually been doing quite a few things. I did quite a bit of production, but on top of that, I did A&R at MCA for 5 years. After that as well as being in and out of production, I worked for a dotcom for about 2 and a half years… and during the time I was there I started to do this Artist Development thing, where I started working with artists on stage – setting up their stage shows and stuff like that. I did some stuff for Mystikal for television, some stuff for Joe… some work for BET and for television, where I put together some live bands – they had a thing in New York called Fusion Live and I did the band for that. Recently I’m working with this label called Noc On Wood Records out of Seattle – I’m doing the same thing with them.
Are you still in touch with all the other members of Stetsasonic?
Daddy-O: Oh yeah. Actually me and Delite performed “Sally” not too long ago. They had a release party for Ernie Paniccioli’s “Who Shot Ya?” book,and MC Lyte had performed… and she brought me, and Delite, and Black Sheep up to the stage. Milk from Audio Two was there too, and he performed “Top Billin'”, and Lawnge and Dres got up their and did the Black Sheep stuff, and then we got up there and did “Sally”… so it was kinda cool. So I definitely always keep in touch with the guys and find out what they’re doing.
A lot of younger heads may bump Prince Paul’s work on the regular without knowing that he was originally a member of Stetsasonic. Are you ever surprised by the amount of dope production that Prince Paul has been involved in?
Daddy-O: Paul is still doing his thing. Paul is like a big bear to me… you know he’s the type of guy who just comes out of hibernation, and does a few things, and then he goes back. But I always talk to him, always holla at him, always finding out what type of things he got going on.
And did he ever try to bring that zany off-the-wall, bugged out humour to the table when he was with Stet?
Daddy-O: Yeah… in most cases. Like if you listen to “In Full Gear” you’ll hear “Music For The Stetfully Insane”… you’ll always hear some of that. Even on the “On Fire” album you’ll hear “4 Ever My Mouth” record. So, he always did something. But on Stetsasonic records it was a little different, because Paul was a SIXTH of the group… sometimes a seventh depending on whether Bobby contributed or not… but that meant he was like a sixth of the idea pool, and so he maybe didn’t get a chance to really express himself fully until after Stet. We did those things and discussed to try to make every one happy, whereas on his own he was able to just stretch out and make things how HE wanted it.
Tommy Boy re-released several of their older albums last year, and a couple of Stet albums were amongst those. Were you aware of this, and have you seen any reward from the younger fans exploring some of these older Hiphop classics?
Daddy-O: Not really… not really. But I’m sure the big reason behind that is that I haven’t travelled overseas for a long period of time. Yes nationally we had a real nice following, but in terms of really digging into Stetsasonic – we get a lot more of that from the international side… just in terms of the digging, the prying, the archiving… that sort of thing.
Self Destruction 2 aside, does Daddy-O have any future plans to get back behind the mic on a regular basis?
Daddy-O: You know what? I have been working on a couple of things. I am doing this one thing with Rich Nice from the Trackmasters collective called “Escapism”… and we did a few B-Boy rock things – not like that rock / rap thing, because its not the same at all. Just really doing old B-Boy “yes yes y’all” stuff, with the echo machine… like Fantastic 5… real old school stuff, and its been kinda working on. I’m not gonna lie – we wrote a full album… but, we’re just gonna see where its gonna go. But that’s really been the extent of things… I mean I still write a rhyme here or there… like working with the Noc On Wood cats – I was in the studio producing for them, and I just got on one of the beats and dropped a rhyme. I mean, its not like I still don’t have it. And then… I got a whole unreleased album that never ever came out. I did an album on Tommy Boy that they said was too hard for them to release – and you know, every time I listen to it, it sounds better and better. Its still real futuristic – its kinda out there… but I mean the rhythm is cool… there’s no real crazy, crazy rhythms on there – there’s one blues record on there, and apart from that its all real danceable 4/4 rhythm. Its just some of the things I’m saying politically that they couldn’t get with – its real heavy duty political product. Its like a “revolution” record, but not specifically black revolution – more human revolution… its a pretty hard record.
What has being the “leader” on this new Self Destruction record been like for you?
Daddy-O: Well what’s very interesting for me is that it already has given me certain “tentacles”… just in terms of business contacts, and some of the people who I’m reaching out to etc. I think the perfect word for this whole thing is “pivotal”. Its a pivotal point in Hiphop right now, and its a great time to bring the three quarters of the culture back into the fold. People are always asking me, “Why do you think these young kids just talk about one thing?And why do you think it got so different?” Come on man, if you were operating on a quarter of YOUR brain, you would sound crazy too! Because without breakdancing, and grafitti and DJing, OF COURSE they sound crazy – because it was always the DJ that kept you in order. When you had Flash behind the Furious 5, and Theodore behind Fantastic, and Breakout behind Keith and Sha Rock… it was the DJ that told you where you went with the routine, and what would happen, whether you were talking too much or too little, what to say, when to say it etc. And then you had breakdancers to tell you if your routine was hot or not… because if they couldn’t break to it, then what the hell are you doing? And then grafitti was something you see that lets you feel that you’re representing the culture. You need that balance. That’s why when I had my studio a few years ago in Brooklyn, I had a guy come up to do a big graf piece on my wall – what that did to people when they walked in was amazing… and that’s also a reason why guys like to record at D&D. When you go in D&D there’s a big mural, and you feel at home. So grafitti is like our version of that feng shui thing – your “house” don’t look right? Then you gonna be rapping crazy! Your music ain’t there, cos you ain’t got the guys who dance to tell you that you’re rapping crazy. And you ain’t got no leader – no DJ. So that’s what we’re trying to bring into this thing too. Also as another part of this movement I’m working with a good friend of mine on an international “4 Element of Hiphop” tour. All I’m really asking is for people to understand what long traditions stand for, and the traditions of this music. So I’m saying “align yourself with the traditional elements of Hiphop, and we’ll be straight.” A lot of this is coming from kids who don’t really identify with events that have happened before them, and not identifying with three quarters of the culture. And I don’t want anyone to thing I’m detaching myself from these kids – I love them, I wanna be down with them, I wanna help them. But I want them to be clear that I ain’t gonna be soft about it – its gonna be tough love coming from this side.
Do you have any concrete plans for when this is all gonna happen?
Daddy-O: I wanna be in the studio in December. So this week its gonna be a real simple issue of getting my confirmation letters signed, figuring out where the record will come out – I already got 2 deals on the table… but I wanna speak to Russell and Lyor first. Only because, if Def Jam says no, I want everybody to know “Hey, Def Jam said no.”
A final message to people who are gonna peep the interview…
Daddy-O: With this record I hope to align with like minds who have been thinking like this for a long time, who just haven’t had a public face on it. I know that there’s a lot of people who have been listening to rap music and have been saying “Man, this is too much.” And there IS! I’m hearing too much gunplay. I’m hearing too much drug talk. I’m hearing too much “gangsterism”. But its been a conversation that they have at had at their own “dinner table”, so to speak – it hasn’t been anything they’ve been able to say nationally or internationally, because they feel like the masses beat them out. They’re saying, “Nobody’s gonna listen to me, if they’re listening to these guys yelling murder all day.” I’m helping somebody to listen to them. We can make OUR voice just as big as any of these guys yelling and screaming this negative stuff. So I really just hope to align with those people of like minds, and whatever they feel like doing – I wanna support them. Once we get this site up and done, there’ll be ways for people to opt in, to sign up, and get info. Whatever people wanna do – we got you. You got a little anti-violence group at your school and you need some support? We got you. Because like I said, these kids are gonna listen to their rap heroes when THEY tell em to do something – we just gotta make sure we’re telling em to do positive things.
Thanks again to Daddy-O for taking part, and to Nasty Nes and Gene Dexter for their part in getting me the hook up.