My phone was dead when I heard the “blip-blip” sound from my MacBookPro, alerting me of a Facebook notification. Reach’s message read, “Yo, tried calling you. Do you wanna interview Dame Grease?”
I immediately jumped at the chance.
Dame Grease is a super producer from Harlem, New York and did the lion’s share of production on DMX’s acclaimed debut album, It’s Dark and Hell is Hot. He helped spearhead hip hop’s movement away from jazz and soul sample based music, to music created with keyboards, synths, and software. Since then, Dame has spent 15 years working with an impressive list of artists such as Mary J. Blige, Nas, Tricky, DJ Muggz, DJ Kay Slay, and The Lox.
Besides all that, Dame is also a part of The Wave Movement; a musical collective which includes himself, French Montana and Max B., the catalyst of said Wave Movement. Since 2009 Max has been locked up serving a 75 year sentence for murder and armed robbery. The Wave Movement has continued to keep Max’s music in the streets, and as of recently teamed with streetwear company CKDOUT. Their collaboration on a boutique line of streetwear goods includes hats, shades, tees, and outer wear, which are all inspired by Max B.
This was actually the second crack we took at trying to get a hold of Dame, as a few circumstances had arose to make us maneuver into it. Thankfully things worked out the second time around, as he had plenty of gems to drop for us.
Devon: Very cool to finally get a chance to sit down and talk with you Dame Grease. Thanks for your time. I want to start by talking about the 15 year anniversary of It’s Dark and Hell is Hot. Tell me what that album means to you, and what it was like creating it.
Dame: That album actually means a lot to me you know? Creating it was a great experience, nahmsayin’? It’s really the 2nd album I put out, but definitely the most successful. The first major album I was a part of was Money, Power, Respect, by the Lox. The next album we came out with was X’s It’s Dark and Hell is Hot, and its it’s like, shit…it was a surreal experience. We knew that we were going against the grain with the style of music that was out because it was different from what everyone else was doing. But we had so much….so much new perspective and raw energy to give, and we just put it aaalll into the album. And everything we put into the album came back out.
Devon: I remember how different it sounded, especially from the sound of East Coast production at the time, being more sample based. That album was real instrumental in moving hip hop to a more keyboard based style of production. Did anyone influence you?
Dame: Actually, really, the producers who I’ve truly been inspired by in my life are guys like A Tribe Called Quest, Dre, and The Bomb Squad. When I was making It’s Dark and Hell is Hot, they were still my inspiration. Even before that – before me, X, or any of them niggas got signed – that was always my signature element, dramatic sound and theatrical moods. And that’s actually why me and X worked so well I think, especially on that album. ‘Cuz what I did musically, X did lyrically and vocally. And that is what’s great about It’s Dark and Hell is Hot. It also gave future producers a blueprint of the type of music X needed.
“TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH, THE BEST THING ABOUT WORKING WITH X IS THAT WE’RE SO CONNECTED.”
Devon: All of us who only know DMX from what we see in the media know him as a really intense guy. Tell me the best and worst things about working with X.
Dame: To tell you the truth, the best thing about working with X is that we’re so connected. It doesn’t take us long to do songs. We’re on the same brain wavelength, as far as the content we like and don’t like. We don’t’ waste time. We just knock it out. We go into the lab and knock it the fuck out. That’s the best part. The worst? The only bad thing – and it really ain’t got anything to do really with him – it’s just that after a lot of the fame and shit, [you get] the extra people that come to the studio when I’m trying to work, so I usually gotta kick people the fuck out! Haha!
Devon: Besides becoming famous, how has your production evolved since the It’s Dark and Hell is Hot days?
Dame: It’s hard to say the exact ways it’s evolved. I think a better way to chart my artistic progression is by looking at specific songs that show different eras. Each song is from a different era that marks a different point in my 15 year plus career.
I’d say… Take “Let me Fly” off the Dark and Hell is Hot – Nah! Matter fact go back…go back to “Not to be Fucked With”, off Money, Power, Respect.
If you play them songs, you can actually hear my sound…but evolved. It’s the same sound, but inspired by new things. When you hear my work, you know it’s me. I was one of the producers on the cusp of the new age. I actually changed the new age, I helped take it from the jiggy era to the streets era. And now it’s evolved and come back around again.
“I’M A PRODUCER FROM THE NEXT AGE OF THE GAME THAT HAS ACTUALLY EVOLVED WITH THE WAY THE SOUND OF MUSIC IS GOING.”
I would put my self in the same category of producers as Timbaland. You know, someone who was able to change with the times, but maintained his sound. And not to diss him – I would never diss him, I would never diss someone that I look up to, I don’t like to use people I look up to as bad examples – but when you hear a Premier beat, you know that’s a Premier beat. I’m a producer from the next age of the game that has actually evolved with the way the sound of music is going, but always maintains the same sound. On that note, I would like to be worded right. Make sure you quote me in the proper context here, because I’m controversial, I’m drama, so I don’t want anyone taking my words outta context like, “Grease Got Beef!!” hahaha.
Devon: I totally understand. Let’s talk about the Wave Movement. Tell me what it’s about and how it started.
Dame: The whole Wave Movement started for Max B. I structured it and took it international. We all from Harlem – me, Jim [Jones], Max – we all from 10-20 blocks in Harlem. So Max started working with Jim and created The Byrd Gang movement, right after the Dipset movement. And then Max got arrested, for the stuff he’s locked up on now. I think him and Jim relationship was probably strained after that, you know. In his heart Max knew only had certain amount of time left, so he was like, “Yo! I just wanna kick ass! Just lemme kick ass! Please lemme kick ass!” Hahaha You know what I mean? He was like, “Let me get my voice out, cuz I don’t know what the fuck is gonna happen.” So at that time Jim gave him pointers and encouraged him to record songs. Max wrote mad songs and was always like, “I just gotta get this shit out.” And I understand. A man wants to build his legacy before anything happens, while he has time, because you never know what’s gonna happen. So not too long after they got started, they had a falling out. A lot of people don’t know that. I did one song on his first Million Dollar Baby Mixtape – matter fact it was the PD (Public Domain) 3 Mixtape. I was the go-to hood producer. I hooked up with Max because Max’s older brother. That was one of my guys, we grew up together. We was in a bar in Harlem and he was just talking to me like, “Yo Grease, can you please get my lil brotha. Can you please get’em.”
“WE WANTED OUR WAVE MOVEMENT TO BE UNIVERSAL”
So we started working, I started listening to his music, and I was like, “Damn, you got some shit my nigga.” It was my job to pull the music out of him, and to get it heard all over the world. I knew he could take it from the slow songs, to uptempo joints, and every other part of a wave. We wanted our wave movement to be universal, so if anybody heard it they’d be like, “Wow what the fuck is that? That’s some cool shit right there!” I like to make music like that; music that people dig based on how good the music is, not based on what you may have heard about the artist. We just wanted to make the music that catches you off top, before hearing any back story about it, because it speaks for itself. We took the music, took the sound, I stretched it, made it appeal to everyone.
Devon: So besides all that, what else are you working on?
Dame: Well right now, the whole Max B. thing. I’m about to drop the The Wave Gang 10 Mixtape, which is the last installment of the Wave Gang mixtapes. I’ve been putting ’em out since before Max got locked up. I started The Wave Gang because I was putting out a lot of music – Max, Ganggreen, French Montana – all of us were. We put all three of our styles into those compilations. The Wave Gang series of tapes is a collaboration of our whole crew. But For Wave Gang 10, I’m using all Max songs, some unreleased, some classics that’s been out and everyone fucks with. But we’ll put out the clothing line first.
Devon: So CKDOUT Clothing is the company releasing the Wave Movement line. With so many streetwear brands out, what made you choose to work with CKDOUT?
Dame: Over the years, I’ve worked with a few clothing companies. Some of them had great ideas, but when they got the gear to to me it was cheesy, as far as quality. I don’t sell anything that I’m not gonna wear. If I’m not gonna wear it, I don’t want anyone else to wear that shit. So I had to dead it. But as far as CKDOUT, I love their quality. I just received a pack of shirts from them – I have one on right now actually. The quality is really nice. This is something I would actually buy!
Devon: I think we’ve got enough Dame. I really appreciate your time. I was starting to think this wasn’t going to happen. It was real cool talking to you.
Dame: Haha. Man sorry about that. I’ve been running around nonstop. I fell asleep for an hour or two when were supposed to be talking. ‘Bout to start running again.
– Devon Ironchef Ward