The first time I met Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie was during one of the busiest times of his career. It was the summer of 1997 and he and Sean “Puffy” Combs were in The Hit Factory putting the finishing touches on No Way Out. Their friend and franchise artist Christopher Notorious B.I.G Wallace had been killed in L.A just months before, and his posthumous Life After Death was rightfully dominating the charts and radio. However, fans could not get enough of the late Frank White and the defiant and celebratory “Victory” had just leaked to radio unmixed, or “dirty” as he said then. I was a freshman writer who had just cut his teeth interviewing D-Dot’s artist Tracey Lee and now I was here to get an early listen to Puff’s debut album to write a review.
What I heard that day went on to be one of the most successful and celebrated releases on the Bad Boy label, earning them a Grammy for Best Rap Album. The collective effort was accomplished in part to the careful coaching of the Hitmen production team’s captain, D-Dot. At WatchLOUD.com’s second “Be Inspired” event the Brooklyn native walked us through some key moments in hip-hop history and shed light on how the magic was made.
“It was like a factory. Not everybody works every machine,” he says of the Hitmen workflow. “The way way we had it set up was…Puff and I were the guys that walked up and down the assembly line. It would start at the beginning and we’d be at the end. Guys would sometimes bring their tracks, play ‘em for the artist. But the way we scheduled things the producer wasn’t always there. Because I was the A&R I was always there so I’d sit with them and go over the tracks, see which ones fit the concept of what we’re trying to do. Worked on the hooks and choruses to make sure they fit. Then we’d get to the rhymes and we had to scrutinize the rhymes because Biggie was talking about cutting [old] women’s throats and we’d be like ‘you can’t say that’ and go through Mase’s rhymes because his were x-rated sometimes.
“Sometimes the beats were empty and just drums and we had to add basses, strings, choruses and bridges. That’s what it was. It went through channels, chambers like how the WU talks. You had to go through chambers and by the end it was ready for approval and we were sitting at the end of the assembly line like ‘this is ready to go.’”
When it comes the creative process D-Dot’s experience has given him a pragmatic perspective on the music business. For example, having worked with artists who write for others (Notorious B.I.G., Jay Z, etc) and artists who have used writers (P. Diddy, Lil Kim) he offers a no-nonsense assessment of the current “ghostwriting” discussion.
“First of all, there is no hip-hop rule book. Everything was made up as we went along,” he says. “When I was growing up everybody in my crew wasn’t prolific. So maybe we did a routine that I wrote. Who cared? So I applaud Drake for using a co-writer because if he’d stuck to his guns as busy as he is and try to go in the studio and make you hits, we might not be liking him right now.”
D-Dot also talked about the creation of his alter-ego “The Mad Rapper,” managing and mentoring Kanye West, meeting Nicki Minaj on Myspace in 2006 and much more. Watch the highlight clips and/or listen to the full hour long discussion audio.
D-Dot On Mentoring Kanye West:
D-Dot On Ghostwriting/Producing vs Co-Writing:
D-Dot On Social Media and Meeting Nicki Minaj On Myspace