In this interview he talks about the album that was just released on Death Row/WideAwake Ent. Why he decided to help the label, working with 2pac and Johnny J, the filming of the I Ain’t Mad at You video, and the craziest experience while on the original Death Row records.
|By William Hernandez
Who?Mag: Talk about the album you’re putting out through Death Row records.
Danny Boy: The name of the record is called It’s about Time. This is a lot of music I did on Death Row when they were at their peak. When Snoop and 2pac were with them on their records. It’s old music and nothing on it has been re-mastered. It’s giving a history and an inside look at what Death Row was doing besides the Hip Hop thing.
Who?Mag: Why did you decide to help the new Death Row out?
Danny Boy: WideAwake purchased this record and a lot of other records, as far as the catalog is concerned, and they got Death Row records. WideAwake is a new company and I was contacted by them and we’re trying to work out some relationships. This is music I always wanted to get out. Over the years a lot of fans have questioned if I had any of the stuff that I recorded. I was elated to have the music get out through them [WideAwake]. Anything I can do to help the fans get an opportunity to hear what I should’ve been doing during the 90s, I’ll do. I’ve just been participating with them and seeing where it goes. It’s stuff that I wrote and sang. It’s good for both myself and WideAwake.
Who?Mag: Who is on the album as far as producers and cameo appearances?
Danny Boy: One of the producers on the album is DJ Quik. DJ Quik picked up a lot of music with me and recorded the majority of the records I was doing back then. Devante Swing did some tracks as well and a couple of unknown producers. You got Jo Jo Hailey on one of the songs…Ginuwine sings background on a song or two… I’m sorry, I can’t forget Roger Troutman, he’s on the song Jo Jo is on.
Who?Mag: What do you remember about working with DJ Quik and Devante Swing in the studio?
Danny Boy: Working with DJ Quik I learned so much. Because DJ Quik is so technical in every aspect when it comes to music. You think just because this dude raps or some of the other records he’s done, you’d think that’s it to him. But when you get in the studio DJ Quik is so free spirited. Where he can get in on the production side, he knows when to bring the right instruments in, as well as go around and play any instruments. His music is more than just his pop music. You may come in and dude is bumping Jazz in the studio, just to set the mood. He’ll call out the best engineers, the best producers, and the best musicians. He taught me so much; working with him was incredible. Devante Swing was a dream come true. I’ve been in so many R&B groups when I was younger. Those were the kind of groups that we looked up to and we emulated. I looked at Jodeci, H Town…to get the opportunity to be in studio one on one with Devante Swing, another incredible musician, was amazing. At the time when I was working with Devante, people hadn’t heard of Ginuwine, Missy Elliot, Timbaland, Magoo, Static, and all those people. I was around those dudes working and it was a great experience.
Who?Mag: What do you remember about working with the late great Roger Troutman?
Danny Boy: Ah man! Roger Troutman…that was Uncle Roger, that’s what he made me call him. He would come into the studio and it was like your uncle showing up with a tube and a piano and like five quilts he would have to put on the floor, because he would have to put the tube in his mouth and hook it up and start doing the Talkbox. He always had some nice gators or something; He always pat his feet real hard. He would have to put another quilt down because he hit the floor hard…working with him was incredible, because who doesn’t know Computer Love? Roger could make so many voices. I was young around 16 when I first met him. My girl was just born and he would make Mickey Mouse sounds. It was like an uncle being in the studio.
Who?Mag: Did you get your first deal with the original Death Row label back in the mid 90s?
Danny Boy: I was with an independent company called Raw Dope. It was a dude out of Chicago called Shorty Capone. He had taken me out to California. I was going to have a couple of meetings with Motown, Warner Bros, and Capitol. Capone hooked me up with Suge [Knight] and we made a deal from there.
Who?Mag: Were you afraid? Being so young and hearing all the crazy stories about the label?
Danny Boy: I was never afraid. I was a church boy and people I went out there with weren’t the nicest people out there in the street. I had been around the street scene. I had been around the church scene. I was just known for what I was, a guy that’s singing; I didn’t go out there with fear. Once I got there I knew who I was around. I’m from Chicago, from a lot of love and strong people in the family. It wasn’t nothing different from what I came up under.
Who?Mag: How did you end up working with 2pac?
Danny Boy: I met 2pac before the time of him signing with Death Row. When he was on Interscope around the Above the Rim time. The next time I wrote him was when he was in jail, the last time Suge went to visit him. I went all the time. I was sitting across the street in this restaurant and I’d wait all day. Suge would tell me how 2pac was going to come home soon. The last time was when we went to New York City to pick 2pac up and bring him back to California. Through out all that time of me sitting in the car with him and flying with him, Suge would talk about how I sing all those old school songs. Before you know it, 2pac would have me sing 20 songs before we got to California. I think that was when our relationship began. 2pac was working on his record and the more he would work on it, the more he would get me involved. On a lot of the material WideAwake has, you will hear 2pac busting in the studio. Literally busting in the studio and saying “Hey come up for a minute. I know you’re on the mic. Come here I want you to do something.” Then he would pull me in the room that he was in.
Who?Mag: How was it working with Johnny J in the studio?
Danny Boy: Johnny was an incredible producer. Rest in Peace Johnny J. To me he came under the right chief. He really listened to everything 2pac said. 2pac was a great leader when it came to his team and Johnny J was the same as 2pac was. Johnny J would drop a track just as fast as 2pac would drop a verse. I don’t remember too much of the technical aspects because 2pac didn’t make no beats. He would tell you to drop a track and build it later. Johnny J would work all through the night to make sure it was right.
Who?Mag: What is your fondest memory of working with both of them?
Danny Boy: I remember we had so much fun in the studio. Every night was a party. We had the best of girls. We had the best of smoke. We had the best of friends and drinks. When it was time to work we worked. My fondest memory about working with 2pac was everyday you would learn something from him. It was something about how he would drive himself to do more or the words he was saying when people came down to do interviews with him. I had an opportunity to look and listen to his answers that he would give. Watch how he would take conversations, because a lot of people would try to come in and slander his name and make him look foolish. That was a hard thing to do when it came to 2pac, because the man read; if he wasn’t in the studio recording, doing interviews, that’s what you caught him doing. I’m happy to have been in that position at a young age.
Who?Mag: Talk about I Ain’t Mad at You.
Danny Boy: I don’t remember too much about the session and recording it. I do remember shooting the video and the concept. I remember 2pac and I at the video set; how scared we both were. We came out of the dressing room and there was a Donny Hathaway look alike, Dizzy Gillespie, and all these people that had went on. 2pac was like “Damn! That looks like Redd Foxx.” The sad thing is 2pac never had an opportunity to see the video when it was done. The day that I saw it was the day I was looking at 2pac in the urn. Then I was looking at the video on the other side of the room. It was kind of scary for me as well because I’m the only one really in the video that’s still living. The amazing part is when the Redd Foxx character said “ 2pac you got to earn your wings” and 2pac said “I will”. To know he had just passed on was emotional as anything.
Who?Mag: What’s the craziest thing you saw when you were on Death Row in the mid 90s?
Danny Boy: Oh! This guy knocked on the door one time when we were in a very important meeting. He wanted to rap. We were about 200 plus deep in that room. Which was called the red room and the dude kept on knocking on the door. When we opened the door he’s telling us he wants to rap. He got a bunch of dudes looking at him all pissed off because he kept interrupting. One of the guys told him “If you can’t rap. We’re going to kick your ass!” and he said “Aight I’m ready”. Dude didn’t even say half a verse. Dude said like three words and somebody reached through the crowd and punched him in the mouth. Dude was still rapping. (laughs) I think he was surprised that he got hit. Just the craziest thing. I was like “I’m around some crazy dudes”. Then he sat all night with us because we had some more sessions to do; he’s sitting there with his tooth missing and everybody asking him if he wanted pizza or something. He was the nicest guy in the world and he just lost a tooth. He was still loud and laughing. He even became a friend to everybody, because he wanted to keep coming to the studio. They bought him a new tooth and gave him some money.