Dios Negasi is an emcee and producer of an eight-man crew called Reagan Era Records. In 2020 the Los Angeles collective released their debut self-titled album. 2023 saw the band get back together for their sophomore project titled, “The Black House.”
The Black House is produced by Dios Negasi with one track handled by GRIP of Grand Official. The 14-track album features Dios Negasi, Skrillz Dior, Halo the Lost Angel, Sneek Rothstein, Ike Burnerz, Herk the Terrible, September 8th, Dyverse, Creased Khaki, Black Face, Lefty Barnes, People Mover, Chamber Music, C the Illustrator, Drodians, Judrikid, DJ Manslaughter, and Grand Official.
The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Dios Negasi of Reagan Era Records about his role as a producer, building the Reagan Era brand, and their new album, The Black House.
TRHH: Why’d you call the new album The Black House?
Dios Negasi: That’s pretty much like a flip off of the whole crew name and the label, Reagan Era Records. So, for Reagan, politics, and our skew on it.
TRHH: How would you compare The Black House to the first Reagan Era Records album?
Dios Negasi: The first one we was trying something different. When I first put that record out we wanted to just stay grassroots. We did it through Bandcamp and we were just trying to fill things out. We got our coattails pulled by some of the big homies and they were like, “Look, y’all going about some of this shit the wrong way. What’s the point of having music out if it’s not out everywhere?”
So, we went back in and changed a few different things. Now we’re putting it out on every platform versus using that one. We were rocking with Bandcamp and our webpage just to keep it mom and pop. The idea was that when things are so accessible it kind of loses its value to a degree. Why would you want to be in the same place where anybody could be? Maybe it was too early of an approach, but you gotta shoot for the moon.
TRHH: Do you think it’s beneficial to have the music out now on a wider scale?
Dios Negasi: Yeah, I do actually because you gotta build it first. You gotta build the name. If you don’t get the notoriety and all of that.
TRHH: What was the process like recording the album from the lyrical point of view? Was it competitive or more collaborative?
Dios Negasi: It’s kind of different. From my standpoint because I make the beats, I’m doing it more from a collaborative standpoint. I’m trying to make the best songs. I’m not trying to go over anybody’s heads or combat with my fellow emcees on the tracks. But them, I don’t know. They may be going at it or feel the need to want to flex a little bit. It could be a mixture of both.
TRHH: There are a lot of long songs on The Black House; how do you make the determination on what gets cut and what gets kept?
Dios Negasi: I kind of take a backseat on that. We play it for a select few people. Again, it’s a lot of members, so they will decide whose verse stays or vote on it. “I like this one,” “Keep that one,” “This verse is making it too long,” “Does this verse even mesh with the song?” If they’re long now they were probably even longer before. That’s pretty much it. We try to pick the hottest verses and just run with it like that.
TRHH: “Get to Stepping” is a unique song; it’s up tempo but has no drums. How did you put that song together?
Dios Negasi: It was something I was roughly working with. Just a sample I was trying to put drums in it. They actually kick on in the very last verse. The drums weren’t sitting well with me and then I was kind of like vibing with it already just with it on loop. So, why ruin something that’s perfect? If it’s already good just leave it as is. I think Skrillz wound up picking that record and we just ran with it, sent it to Halo, and we got busy like that.
TRHH: What’s in your production workstation?
Dios Negasi: Check this out, I haven’t been making beats very long. Maybe three years, if that. So, I just got a Maschine and a laptop pretty much. I got a little Akai piano, but I don’t really mess with it too much. That’s it — straight basic.
TRHH: What got you into production?
Dios Negasi: I’ve always been around producers and have been a navigator for different projects. With different things I’ve been doing I’ve always been like, “Change that drum there” or “Why don’t you sample this?” I was always doing it, but my hands weren’t on it. I’ve been doing that for as long as I can remember. Until somebody said, “Man, why don’t you make your own beats? You want to stand over my shoulder the whole time while I’m making the beats, just make your own.” I said fuck it, why not? I always thought making beats would take away from the writing. From back in the days you didn’t really hear producer rappers that were really that dope. I was always like, shit, rap is my first thing. I don’t want to lose any steps in the rap to make beats. It transitioned kind of cool.
TRHH: Do you feel like you missed a step with The Black House?
Dios Negasi: Nah, because after a point it came with my name change and all of that. 10,000 hours makes you a master, correct? What does 20,000 hours make you? What does 30,000 hours make you? I put in 30,000 on the pen. I’m god level with the pen. I can’t lose. I can’t fall off with that. That’s when I feel comfortable. I had to really acknowledge the time that I spent writing. It really wouldn’t bother me to learn this Maschine and apply some of that effort into making beats.
TRHH: You mentioned the name change; give some background into why you changed your name.
Dios Negasi: I had a deal early on with an independent label. For those that don’t know, they get your name, likeness, and all of that. On top of that, cats started biting, man. This name is a very unique name. Nobody had this name. I started hearing people doing variations of the name, like cats that’s on, cats that’s up. I don’t know any of these dudes personally, but I’m hearing it like, “that’s weird.” We buzzing around the city. We’re doing House of Blues, Roxy, we’re all over L.A. going crazy. Now all of a sudden, I start hearing names that are similar to this name. I couldn’t really do what I wanted to with the name being under that label. I went and sat for a long while and came up with a name that I feel people really wouldn’t put together.
TRHH: The song “Out Here” has a crazy sound throughout it. What is that sound? Is that a sample or something you played?
Dios Negasi: That’s a sample. There’s nothing really crazy to it. It sounds like water dropping. I liked the sound because it made me think of Jeru the Damaja “Come Clean.” Of course, it’s not that but it was kind of in that realm. Again, too I started thinking “minimizing” on the beats. Even if it’s a sample or something that is played, try to keep it at a minimum. On that record I let the drums bring it all together.
TRHH: You’re a west coast artist, but your sound is sort of east coast. How would you describe your sound?
Dios Negasi: I would say it’s golden era Hip-Hop. I would say it’s what Hip-Hop sounded like growing up. I’m a reflection of that. It’s crazy to say everything is original or I invented this, nah, I’m a mixture of everything from Wu-Tang, to N.W.A., to Grand Puba and them. All of that reflects in me. The first CD I ever bought was Redman “Whut? Thee Album,” so I don’t know [laughs]. But he was rapping over funk beats, too though.
TRHH: Who is The Black House album made for?
Dios Negasi: That’s made for real connoisseurs of Hip-Hop. Not the people that like the microwave shit. They’ll eat a pot pie. This is for the people that’ll go sit down at Ruth’s Chris, get you a filet mignon with the bleu cheese crust and the garlic butter, and a nice glass of red, but in a Hip-Hop sense. Everybody that you hear on the album is seasoned. The flows are seasoned, for a person that’s been making beats for three years Im’ma say the beats is right where they need to be at. It’s a dope vibe and all around, it’s reality rap with an emcees flair, with delivery on it.
Purchase: Reagan Era Records – The Black House