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The Salute to the DJs series: An interview with D-Nice


Since the 1980’s Derrick Jones aka D-Nice has been an important part of Hip Hop history with his group BDP which featured the leader KRS-One and Scott La Rock from the South Bronx. This group was the first to personify a “crew”, and this crew started a borough war with Queens that brought the end to MC Shan’s career, but also witnessed the death of Scott La Rock. Its D-Nice’s story, in his words, unfiltered and as real as Hip-Hop used to be.

Me: How was the whole boogie down production movement in the 80's? 

D-Nice: It was so much love and so much family back then it wasn't about the money it was about the love for your crew.

Me: What was the make up of BDP?

D-Nice: There was BDP the group, which was myself, KRS and Scott La Rock, and then there was the BDP Posse, which included Ms. Melody.

Me: How is KRS one in the studio? 

D-Nice: KRS in the studio was always a professional he always knew what he wanted to do. KRS was always a beast when it came to laying lyrics down, when you think that ‘Criminal Minded’ has10 songs in it, it took 10 sessions to complete the album. KRS didn't take long to lay his rhymes down.

Me: Lyrically where would you put KRS One against Rakim and Big Daddy Kane?

D-Nice: It's tough because I've been a friend of Big Daddy Kane for a long time so when you think my bias lies with KRS One it actually lies with Big Daddy Kane. But KRS was more consistent than Rakim and Big Daddy Kane. It's crazy that I even have to do this list but if I have too then it’s KRS One then Big Daddy Kane and last Rakim.

Me: How was the mood in the group when Scott La Rock passed? 

D-Nice: Initially it was rough; matter fact the first time I spoke to KRS about Scott’s death was this past February at the Grammy. At first there was so many rumors circulating that I didn’t feel I owed anyone and explanation, but I felt like I owed KRS, one. So when I told him how Scott was killed coming to my aid he looked at me and said ‘wow I didn't know that’ because he had a lot of anger about the situation. 

Me: Anger towards you?

D-Nice: Yes because Scott La Rock came to my aid and lost his life. Not all the members of the group felt the way KRS felt towards me because four of the members of the group were there when Scott La Rock was murdered. But the overall mood of the group changed because it was Scott La Rock who was our leader it was his vision to start B Boy Records, and to do the Criminal Minded album. Scott La Rock was the producer he was the DJ was the nucleus of the group.

Me: Why the Rakim and Big Daddy Kane battle at Harlem World never happened? 

D-Nice: Rakim wasn't really a battle rapper. Ra was an educator from MC standpoint. I don't think Kane wanted to battle Rakim, once Kane started making hit records he went away from the battle rappin.

Me: How real was the battle between M.C. Shan and KRS One? 

D-Nice: Oh no that s*** was real. I remember taking the train to Queens to do shows performing South Bronx and the Bridge is Over. No car service none of that we took the train out there. Just the three of us me, Scott La Rock and KRS.

Me: So how was the crowd when ya were performing the songs? 

D-Nice: They were partying to it. The crowd understood that it wasn't personal it was just a record. But honestly sonically the record as a whole (The Bridge) was better than South Bronx, now what it stood for (The Bridge) wasn't better because the South Bronx movement was so crazy, but record for record, ‘The Bridge’ was the better record.

Me: How was it when KRS dropped "The Bridge is Over"?

D-Nice: Oh, that was it, battle done, we won. It was either (Nas’s Ether song) before Ether. That song was all KRS One too, with the piano on the song that's all KRS. I heard the record as Scott La Rock’s house he said ‘yo listen to this new record we got’ and when I heard the record I said yo oh my gosh. It was unbelievable. 

Me: You guys pretty killed MC Shan's career huh? 

D-Nice: On the hip-hop side yes his career was done but he still had a career as a producer.

Me: When did you start to do your own thing?

D-Nice: One day I was in battery studios and Q-Tip said to me 'Yo you need to make your own records b, stop giving away tracks' At the time I was giving away mad tracks, even the song 'Call Me D-nice" wasn't for me that was for Kid Rock, but when me and KRS started having some issues that's when I really wanted to venture on my own and I wanted people to look at me as a man as a real member of the group. There was always internal conflict, so we had a falling out at the time I had to deal with Jive Records it was sort of a throwaway deal since Jive had signed BDP they gave me a record deal as well. Jive didn't know that I was going to put out a hit records, so when I went to the studio to lay down verses for ‘Call Me D-Nice’ I took the record to DJ Red Alert on a Saturday just for him to listen to it, he loved the record, then he gave it a to the program director and my song ended up on the rotation top 8 at 8 for months without no release date.

Me: When did you know you wanted to DJ full time?

D-Nice: I used to go out in the late 90's to the clubs and have trouble getting in the door; door guys use to be extra rude for no reason. So one night I went to Q-tip’s birthday party, it was around 1999 or 2000, DJ Cassidy was djing with him he was playing Blondie and then mixing it with hip hop I had no idea that you can play that kind of music in the clubs. So when I saw that I thought wow this is the kind of music I grew up with, I can do this. Also Q-Tip has been very influential in some of the decisions I've made throughout my career, he was always that dude that helped steer me towards the right direction. Also DJ scratch was the first DJ who allowed me to co-dj with him. The first time I dj’d with DJ Scratch we made $175 the first night and we split that. DJ Scratch is a true supporter of me from day one.

Me: Where did you get your style?

D-Nice: It stems from MTV in the 80's. If you wanted to see a Run DMC video you have to sit through Bette Midler, Blondie, Pat Benatar, and Bon Jovi, then you will get a Run DMC song, then you have to wait again while they played Rolling Stones and David Bowie then you might get a Michael Jackson song. So from that I got my style I tend to DJ that way.

Me: What's the golden era of Hip-Hop for you? 

D-Nice: From 1986-95. Listening to LL Cool J, Kool G Rap my group BDP KRS One, it was like wow, that time changed hip hop, the flows were better, the beats were better everything in that time, that era was better. In the 90s cats musically evolved. From NWA, to Life After Death.

Me: How do you feel about the current hip-hop? 

D-Nice: Some of it is cool, I'm not mad at it, but I tend to lean more towards electronic music and new disco. Because this is what hip-hop is to me.

Me: Is there a record you hate to play? 

D-Nice: You want me to answer that honestly? The Trinidad James record ‘All Gold Everything’. I will play the record but feel some sort of way about it. I don't know the dude; I have no personal feelings against him I just felt some kind of way about the language. The Beat was hot but something about being in a room with non African Americans and having a song like that come on and having a crowd saying ‘n**** n**** n**** n****’ that bothered me. And I have not played that record since it peaked, I took it out of my playlist. I will never play that record ever.

Me: What are some of the bigger parties, events you have done?

D-Nice: Lyon Cohen had me open for Billy Joel, Tom Petty, James Taylor and Prince in the Hamptons. I have done parties where Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight were on the bill. But was cool to me is that people trust me, I’ve done parties for Fabolous, Rick Ross, the president of United States for the inaugural ball, and Pharrell, but the best part is that people trust me and for me that's the coolest thing. 

Me: But you're d-nice, we of a certain age remember D-Nice

D-Nice: Lil Shawn said to me last week, ‘yo take the DJ off DJ D-Nice, you’re D-Nice no matter what you do.’ And he didn't even know I was struggling with this, I was struggling with taking the DJ off my off my name.

Me: Did you ever envision you would be this far ahead in your career as a DJ and photographer when you started? 

D-Nice: I woke up today with two text messages one said are you available to DJ Babyface’s wedding and the other said are you available to DJ for an event that Outkast is hosting for Coachella... Now if you want to ask me did I see this in the late 90's early 2000's I would say hell no. I wake up everyday grateful for the life that I've had, for the time that I came out, and I'm grateful that I didn't have the success as a lyricist like KRS One.

Me: What would you tell and kid who wants to be the next DJ D-nice? 

D-Nice: Study your craft and know your lane.
 Also don't worry about what other guys are doing, for example, I had this DJ who I admired and looked up to, a non black DJ tell me that he was going for my gigs, he said ‘I know what gigs you're getting and I'm trying to take them from you.’ So I told him if it’s for you to get them then you will. Honestly I think you shouldn’t be worried about what gigs I’m getting, that tells me he got a lot of time on his hands. 

Me: He not getting enough gigs huh? 

D-Nice: Na, his not getting enough gigs (as he laughs slightly)

Me: Whom would you put on your MT Rushmore of current DJs who are similar to you and that are in your lane?

D-Nice: I am remove myself, so I got Questlove, because I love the way he DJs, he DJs from a drummer's perspective, DJ Jazzy Jeff, that dude is amazing to me, 3rd is Kid Capri because Capri made me feel like I want to do this.. That drive to be great comes from Kid Capri.. And lastly I'll put a young cat, DJ Ruckus. Ruckus is like Jazzy Jeff meets Doug E Fresh. His set is like a show, he understand music.

Me: So what's next for D-Nice? 

D-Nice: I have a book deal, a photo exhibition in the summer I also DJ on the Queen Latifah show, I'm at the Borgata once a month and here at the Dream Hotel Downtown (PHD) every Tuesday. But usually I'm on the road playing different cities.

I had such an amazing time speaking with D-Nice, as a fan of hip-hop, I was honored to sit there and interview this man. From music, to beats, to death, to a solo career, to DJing and photography, it seems that DJ D-Nice has constantly evolved and will continue to do what people didn’t think a ‘former rapper” can do… On March 5th DJ-D-Nice will be on The Commission show on PNC Radio from 6-8pm, speaking more on Scott La Rock’s death and his relationship with The Notorious B.I.G. Lastly, be on the lookout for the BDP documentary and album…

For all your music news, interviews and everything in between visit #Music

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