Since coming back on the scene in 2015 Daddy-O has consistently created and released music, something that he chided his contemporaries for not doing. His latest release is his best and most cohesive solo release yet. “From My Hood 2 U” is a 14-track album released by The SpitSLAM Record Label Group.
From My Hood 2 U features appearances by Bun B, Posdnous, Fran Lover, The Crash Crew, Shelley Nicole, The Impossebulls, DJ Majestik, Lena Jackson, RA the Rugged Man, and Smif-N-Wessun. The album is produced by Fran Lover, C-Doc, Mello Dope, Wisdom Beats, Tone Megatron, Shotgun the Beat King, Racer X, and Daddy-O himself.
The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Daddy-O about his new album, From My Hood 2 U, producing the Hip-Hop classic, Top Billin’, and his solution to fix black-on-black crime in America.
TRHH: Why’d you call the new album “From My Hood 2 U”?
Daddy-O: Here’s the honesty, the older I get the more East New York I recognize I am. Somewhere in the middle of your life you’re looking for different types of influences. In the middle of your life you’re really not thinking about the past. You’re thinking about the future and the things that are shaping you and are trying to pull to the top the best experiences. But when you get older and past that half a century mark, then all those lessons start making sense. I feel like when we were younger the old folks always had the best lines like, “Don’t take no wooden nickels.” It’s because they were experienced enough to realize the way things are and they weren’t as stressed. I think I did it on other records as well, but I feel like on this record my expression is an East New York expression. This is me; the guy from East New York that was born in 1961. This is from my hood to you. This is us. It’s us now, not us yesterday. I need to stress that a million times. I think sometimes when people think about classic emcees they box us in like we’re going to sound a certain way. I’m here to defy all those myths.
TRHH: The single “Drumma Man” has a good feel to it. How did that song come together?
Daddy-O: The Drumma Man record is very interesting. My man, Mello produced it. My man Darren Benbow was actually handling Mello at the time. I had the track for about nine years. I had an idea but it never came. My first idea was I wanted the drum to be the machine gun and I wanted kind of a gangster-ish record. Almost like Malcolm X at the window, By Any Means Necessary. That was my idea and it still translates a little bit like that. It just wouldn’t come out in the writing. Through my progression and after last year I made “County of Kings” with Fran Lover and that got a little swell and got me in the DJ pools, I said, “Oh, now I know what to do!” I figured out exactly how to flip it.
It’s really more of a testament to your artistry. Sometimes things are not as automatic as people think. Some are. There are some records on the album that I might have wrote right after I got the track because I felt it like that. I knew Drumma Man had to be special because the way Mello put the track together when “drummer man” comes in, he did it like that. I didn’t want to take that piece out and have it instrumental. It took me a while to do it. It still has that feeling. I still talk about protecting my children. I’m going at people a little subliminally, but I’m going at every drug trafficker and child pornography trafficker. I’m going at ‘em on a level of protecting kids, but I still wanted to make it feel right but it took a while to write.
TRHH: On the song “A Good Start” you mention how Stet signed with Tommy Boy Records. GZA famously said, “Tommy ain’t my motherfuckin’ boy,” and De La Soul has had a well-publicized issue with the label. What was your experience like with Tommy Boy Records?
Daddy-O: I pretty much say it on the record. Tommy Boy Records was a good start for me. I never knew anything about making records at all. I was a street emcee. We got our deal through a record contest, but when I basically took my first demo in I didn’t know what to do. “Just Say Stet” which is the first single for Stetsasonic was not Just Say Stet. It was just a record that we used to call “Stetsasonic” and the three of us used to rhyme on it and Wise had a beat box piece on it. When we went to Tom Silverman he said, “Where’s the hook?” I said, “What do you mean the hook? A chorus that repeats on over and over? He said, “Yeah,” I said, “We gotta do that?” Think about Rapper’s Delight and all the other records that came out, they never really had hooks. It was people rapping and doing their verses like we used to do in the park. He said, “That thing that you’re saying in your rhyme Daddy-O, ‘If you can’t say it all, just say Stet,’ that’s a good hook!”
We went back and re-wrote it and that’s how Just Say Stet became a hit. As time went on Tom and I had a great relationship. I bought my first 24 track machine from him. When I had my studio with Kedar in Brooklyn the 24 track was from Tom Silverman. All of my Stetsasonic demos were worked out right in the conference room at Tommy Boy because we didn’t have any speakers. We used to bring our equipment right up to the conference room at Tommy Boy and play and write before we went to the studio. It was like our little rehearsal studio to work out. As far as the numbers are concerned with royalties, we did what we could. We did what we knew how to do and we did what our lawyers knew how to do.
In terms of the entire experience I don’t know owe my life to Tommy Boy, but a big chunk of my career came from them. That’s why people talk to me now, ‘cause I’m Daddy-O from Stetsasonic that was signed to Tommy Boys. I’m not Daddy-O from Stetsasonic that was in the streets in East New York battling P-Funk, God bless the dead. I’m Daddy-O that had Just Stay Stet, Talkin’ All that Jazz, Sally, and A.F.R.I.C.A., and those particular records. We had some unique times at Tommy Boy. The A.F.R.I.C.A. record never ended up on an album until the third album and we had the Norman Cook remix. A.F.R.I.C.A. was a project all on its own. It was literally our first music video. We were able to do a lot. I did a lot through Tommy Boy. I still talk to Tom to this day. We got our ups and downs and our beefs, but I don’t think that’s any different from any ups and downs or beefs that I might have with my band members.
When I did have a problem with Tommy Boy they understood. There was a time that I was tight about something that happened at Tommy Boy and they never saw me like this. They knew me as the proper guy. I needed something happening and I literally just took my .38 special and put it on the table and said, “Hey, we’re going here or we’re going to deal with it.” They were shocked and scared but I got done what I needed to get done. The bottom line with us is the entire group of Stetsasonic, besides Prince Paul, we’re street kids. We can always go there. It’s just a turn of a button and we could go there. That’s why we always felt protected because we felt like, “If this goes sour, they’re going to go sour too. They’re going sour with us!” Some other people might not have had that experience.
TRHH: Another thing you mentioned in the song was that you produced “Top Billin’.” Maybe I forgot, but I had no idea that you produced “Top Billin’.” Those drums have been sampled a million times. Do you get royalties from that? What must those checks look like?
Daddy-O: Right. I do. I’m trying to work some other things out with them now because there are a couple of things that didn’t happen. It was a good time. Stetsasonic was starting to pop in New York. We did a release party of the On Fire album at the Palladium. Delite had let me hear Audio Two earlier from a song they had called “I Like Cherries.” He was staying with me at the time and he used to come home and sing it. I couldn’t even understand what I Like Cherries was. I said, “What are you talking about? Is it rap?” He said, “Yeah, it’s rap, but it’s kind of not rap.”
Anyway, once I heard it I loved it and I loved what Milk and Giz were doing on that. At the Michael Todd room at the Palladium they all walked past me, Milk, Giz, Lyte, and pops, Nat Robinson. I grabbed Milk and I said, “If you need somebody to produce you, I’ll make your record.” He was ecstatic. The first record I did on First Priority was for Positive K. Me and Grand Puba did “Quarter Gram Pam.” And then Nat enlisted my services to work with the Audio Two. I worked with them closely to pull the “What More Can I Say?” album together – the sequencing. I did a couple of tracks on the album, but one of the records that I did on the album happened to be Top Billin’.
TRHH: That is such a classic record. I don’t know why I didn’t know that.
Daddy-O: Sometimes it’s the song that we don’t know the background about. This is for people my age; I was just hanging out with Gene Barge who is now 92 years old. I did a record with him, Gary “U.S” Bonds and Chuck D. We re-made that record that went number 1 in 1961 called “’Quarter to Three.” We revisited it and remade it. I was telling Gene Barge that I always told people that “Here Comes the Judge” was the first rap record. That was the first time I heard something that sounded like rap when Pigmeat Markham was doing that, “Hear ye, hear ye, the court of swing/It’s just about ready to do that thing.”
Two things happened; one, Gene Barge was actually the producer of that record, two, he said, “Daddy-O, Pigmeat Markham was probably the worst of the rappers. Everybody used to rap. I used to have a guy come in here and tap dance and rap.” On top of that, that Here Comes the Judge record has some jokes in it. There is a woman on there doing the jokes and I found out that woman was Minnie Ripperton when she was really young. In a similar aspect, we don’t always know what’s behind all the records. Time will tell and we’ll figure it out.
TRHH: You have a song on the album with Smif-N-Wessun called “Part Uv Da Plan” with a message that’s similar to the Stop the Violence Movement. It’s been 31 years since the song “Self Destruction” and black on black violence is still an issue in the inner-city. Are you surprised that things haven’t changed much since you were a part of that song, and what do you think is the solution to fix the problem?
Daddy-O: That’s a two-part question. I’m not really sure if I’m surprised. If I could just for a minute talk about black folks. I’m sure not everyone that reads you is all black, no disrespect to them, I’m just going to talk to black folks for a minute. Righteousness is the name of the game. If you look at any of the movements that black folks have had that have worked on a positive level for the uplift of the people, whether it was a neighborhood or a nation, it was always based upon the concept of righteousness. I don’t know if I’m surprised particularly, because you can look at people and figure out if they’re righteous or not.
In most cases I think we’re all born with an intrinsic sense of what’s right and wrong. It’s not fair to say, “This one can do it, so why can’t I get away with it?” Which is some of the arguments I hear now when I see people do foolishness. That’s never been the issue with us as a people and that’s from my perspective of being a 58-year-old black male that was born in Brooklyn. I know certain things that maybe some younger people don’t know, but I’ve seen that in our people. I’ve seen the element of righteousness in our people – people who wanted to do right.
Even though it’s a two-part question it kind of points to one thing – if somebody has the wherewithal and the guts to be righteous. If somebody has the wherewithal and the guts to be righteous and say, “I’m not going to cheat the system,” “I’m not going to steal,” “I’m not going to deal with anything that’s illegal,” “If I’m going to smoke weed I’m not going to smoke it in any city that it’s illegal in,” “I’m going to stay clear!” Will that mean that everybody will be safe? Probably not, because we know the history of this country, but it will start shaping something.
I always mention to people something called “the best dressed protest.” A lot of people don’t know that when Dr. King went out to march and they knew that they were going to get hit with hoses, dogs, and they might get killed or pulled into a back alley, he made them dress to the nines. The men had their shoes shined and their ties on. The women had on their dresses and their skirts – they were almost covered three-fourths. They went out there to protest best dressed. If you see somebody protesting now they’ve got on t-shirts, pants that ain’t ironed, all of that’s in the line of righteousness. The answer in my head is that people need to think about what righteousness is and understand that that’s a part of our legacy. It’s a bunch of guys running their mouth on YouTube – I never hear them talk about righteousness. They can talk about anything else – the pressure, white supremacy, or whatever, but they never go back to their people and talk about righteousness.
I happen to be a person that grew up under the guidance and teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, so I saw this concept of men that were drug addicts and would go and hang with another drug addict until he was clean and then they would go and hang with another one. The whole concept was “clean up” so whenever you see the brothers they were cleaned up. They never looked bad. They all had haircuts, they all had on suits, and they all had shined shoes. That concept is almost lost. I remember being a kid when we used to wear tailor-made pants and Swedish Knits and everybody had shoes. Not what they call shoes now. They call Jordan’s shoes. Those are sneakers or tennis shoes! We used to have shoes – British Walkers, Playboy’s, and blue suede shoes.
All of that is in the line of being righteous. I agree with some people who say you can’t judge a book by its cover, I hear you. But the guarantee is, a guy walks in an office, a room, or even a studio looking raggedy with his pants hanging down and sagging, another guy is a little bit more contained, the guy with the sagging could be the smartest guy in 30 miles. Nobody will pay him any attention until he opens his mouth. The other guy will get attention before he opens his mouth. It’s something that we gotta think about because it’s something we’ve already done. We did it with Malcolm, we did it with Elijah — we did it with a lot of people.
It just seems like with the absence of the black leader – no one person – people are on this really free fall that we can do anything. Now you can’t even get the attention of the youth, the gangs have taken over, and it’s a weird kind of thing. I think it starts with adults. I can’t look at these kids and be like, “You’re just messed up.” Something messed them up! Are there some kids that are going to be rebellious regardless of whatever? Yes, but that’s not all. It’s one-in-five or one-in-six. The five or four that we need to affect, we as adults have to step up our level of righteousness and have them look at us in a way that we don’t break or bend. I always say that the difference between us and them, and when I say us I mean “us” from back in the day, if a little boy wanna hang out on the block with us we’ll say, “Shorty, either you’re going to leave or we’re going to take you to your momma.” These days they’re like, “Shorty only 9 and he can roll a blunt!” That’s the difference. The older people really need to step it up.
TRHH: You mentioned the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and one thing I’ve seen from people online recently is a disrespect and dismissive-ness of him. I think people miss the point of the movement because of whatever they buy into or believe. Have you seen that?
Daddy-O: I haven’t seen it, but I do see foolishness. Even in Drumma Man I say, “Half y’all woke, the other half lit.” Y’all be buggin’. My adlib in Drumma Man is “y’all be buggin’.” When they came out with the concept of “stay woke” I was like, “What are you talking about? We were reading packages on cookies when we were 11 to not eat pork.” What woke are you talking about? There is no woke beyond “the woke” that we got from Elijah. None! How to Eat to Live; all of you can use that right now because y’all live to eat, all of y’all! Y’all all fat! I don’t like to get into conspiracy things because it’s almost a rabbit hole within itself, but it almost feels like it’s planned because they can live with everybody else.
No disrespect to Meek, but he’s a lil’ kid to me, but Meek go to jail for something that he did and they all running around talking about “Free Meek.” It’s weird how this whole concept of free this one or that one, none of us ever said free nobody. We just put money on his books, did visits, and sent him pictures of the girls on the block until he came home. He did his time and came home. Wasn’t nobody yelling “free” nobody. We know what we did. He got caught! He might have taken the bullet for all of us and we’re going to take care of him when he gets home. Now they’re all running around here doing crime and yelling free this or that.
I’m not saying don’t notice Dr. Garvey or don’t notice Malcolm or not don’t notice Yahweh Ben Yahweh, I’m not trying to take away from people who were black leaders of other movements, but black people really need to realize that the line that Elijah had because of his training was incredible. His father was a minister so that means he had all the bible, and when he learned from W.D. Fard he learned something else. If you can get past and try to understand his concept of the white man being the devil, I’m not telling you to get all the way in it, but if you can get past that and understand where he was going with that, you’ll notice that he never pointed the finger at the white man, ever. He pointed the finger at us and said, “This is what you need to do.
That’s what Message to the Black Man was about. You need to clean up because this is what you’ve been doing all the time. You’ve just been living dirty. Although, I don’t try to get into conspiracies, it seems very much like a conspiracy to me that, that kind of voice would be silenced by anybody, by a Christian preacher, a Muslim imam, anybody! Because there was nothing there but a man that saw these people that were trodden, down, depressed, and he just wanted to bring them back up. His day and time was different from someone else’s day and time. Someone else’s day and time might have been crack, but I liked his day and time.
In Brooklyn I walked out of my apartment and saw a junkie dead with a needle in his arm. His whole thing was, “I’m going to get the needles out of these junkies’ arms and I’m going to clean that up.” What’s so weird to me, brother, is that YouTube exists. All you gotta do is dial something up. Is everything out there? No, but there’s enough for you to get a piece of what it was about and make your own assessment of it. But people live on memes. They live by one liners and the concept that somebody told them this is what happened. They let everybody skate. These rappers been talking bad about your momma and your daughter for years and y’all let them skate! You hear of one issue, and I’m not trying to justify it, that’s possibly infidelity, and we don’t know if it’s true, false, or otherwise, on Elijah’s part and the next thing you know, you want to throw out the baby with the bath water. But you don’t throw out the baby with the bath water with everybody else. That is unfair.
TRHH: I think Malcolm X has been put in hero status and they spin this story that, “You know the Nation of Islam killed him!” I think that’s where a lot of people’s disrespect of Elijah comes from, but they don’t look at what Malcolm X would be without him…
Daddy-O: Definitely. Maybe something, but not what we know him to be.
TRHH: Not what we know him as. Muhammad Ali is revered for standing up to the U.S. Government and not going to Vietnam, but who made that call?
Daddy-O: Elijah made that call.
TRHH: That wasn’t Ali acting on his own. Like you said, people throw the baby out with the bath water and they’re not looking at the overall contributions that he made for black people. It saddens me.
Daddy-O: It saddens me too, man. I talk about it as much as I can with people. That’s been my issue, I want to talk to people, not beyond belief, but within belief. If you study a book and a system, whether it’s the bible and you’re a Christian, or it’s the Qur’an and you’re a Muslim, whether you’re a Five Percenter and you study the Lessons, whether you’re down with the Kemet stuff and you study the 42 Laws of Maat, the systems in my opinion have been eliminated. When you take away systems, especially from people that created systems, you’ve got a big problem. You create railroads, lines, roads, and inroads, and then you say, “Ah man, forget it. I’m just going to walk across the tracks. We don’t need that track to be straight.” The track could be crooked and busted, but the train will start falling off.
That’s the thing I’ve been harping on for years for people. I believe a certain way, but all I need to know about you is you believe a certain way and we can have a conversation. If you jumping from philosophy to philosophy and one day you’re Will Smith, then one day you’re Jada Pinkett, then the next day you’re sitting down applauding Cardi B and Bernie. What is that about? You’re missing the point. I can’t even mess with you because I don’t know where you’re at. I don’t know what you’re about. Then the street part takes over and a sucker is a sucker and we can’t trust them. It’s a weird-ism going on right now and it really bothers me. A lot of them are so weird, even people in my age group. It would be different if we were just looking at millennial’s, and we do that sometimes, but even people in my age group get a little weird with it.
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