“You know who the don be / Sheek Louch / Where he at? Under the palm tree,” the Yonkers product spits on the high octane intro “Rhyme Animal” to his fifth solo album Donnie G: Don Gorilla. If he’s lounging under a palm tree, it’s only for a siesta because Donnie Def Jam stays on his job through Donnie G, his first album released through a major since his 2003 solo debut Walk wit Me.
Moving to Def Jam was a big move for the hip-hop vet. Having put out three solos under Koch, Sheek was giving his fans what he wanted but not reaching as many fans as he felt he could reach with a major label machine behind his product. HipHopGame caught up with the rhyme animal to talk about his new album, moving to a major, the highly-anticipated Wu Block album, using camera phones appropriately and much, much more. Don’t miss this classic read.
Your new album Donnie G: Don Gorilla is out. Are you happy with how it’s doing so far?
I love my project! I love my album as far as the production and the lyrical content on there, the concepts…beautiful project, man. I’m loving it right now. Word. What I would want different is from Def Jam as far as pushing it more.
Are you talking about pushing it more to radio?
Yeah, to radio and for everything that I came over there for it to be, that big machine to do what they’re supposed to do. I know the game is changed right now and especially over there they’re making transitions and everything and new people are coming in at the top of the year. So we’ll see, man. But you know, as far as my album, to my fans that downloaded it or bought it, they’re loving it and they’re happy with it.
What’s been the main difference between working with a major like Def Jam and an indie like Koch, where your last two albums came out on?
Well, really, you know, just the machine. The machine behind it. Koch is hands-on with the grind, like we’re really out there every night as far as trying to get these DJs to play it. It’s just a grind over there at Koch. And over here it’s just a bigger machine, but we do get on the grind with Def Jam as well with Sav and we get out there and hit the streets and the DJs as well. But there are certain people working hard on your project, but overall, it’s a big-ass company.
It doesn’t sound like you’re mad at fans who downloaded the album.
Nah. You know why? You know what I’m really happy with? That everybody is saying that my album is fire. That means that they want an album. You can hit and miss and have everyone tell you your album is wack and this and that. Nah. From my mixtape that I did with Green Lantern, Guerilla Warfare, all the way up to this album, they’re saying that shit is fire. I don’t care how they got it. They’re bumping it and saying that the shit is hot to death and I’m good with that.
In the intro, “Rhyme Animal,” you talk about being a legend in hip-hop. When did you start feeling like that?
Shit, I guess hit after hit record, songs that we got out in the street, whether it be mainstream or commercial or mixshow type records like that “Everywhere we go…” We kept coming up with those and I’m making those and certain songs like “Kiss Your Ass Goodbye,” I said “Yeah, I’m here.” But not to mention 10-15 years in the game and still hot and still relevant when I’ve seen people come and go. That’s when you see it for all that it is.
You talk about that longevity on “Dinner Guest,” where you talk about “10 years on radio, 10 years on mixtapes…”
(interrupts) “Even survived the Puff raping!” Word! You know what, that’s kind of what I mean as far as still being there in the best shape of my life. I don’t care if there’s new artists or not. When I come in the club it’s a big thing.
Why have you been able to have that kind of longevity?
You know why? They’re trying to follow the trend. They’re trying to follow whatever’s hot. And I’m gonna speak for Jada and Styles as well. We don’t do that. We make our music what feels good to us, not what we’re trying to be.
Is that when you make your best music?
It’s more comfortable with being yourself. I would say it’s better to work that way. I’ve ventured out and I tried. I had the “Good Love” record and I got “Party After 2” with Jeremih now. That’s another lane that I discovered that I got. I really figured out that “Wow, these women is on me right now.” If you feel comfortable with doing those records, cool, but not just coming out the gate with those records because you feel the label wants you to.
How do you balance songs like “Good Love” and “Party After 2” while still giving hardcore D-Block fans the music they want?
You know why? I guess with myself, even when I’m talking to the chick, I don’t get that mushy to where motherfuckers are like “You hear this corny nigga?” Nah. I’m saying some real shit when I’m talking to the girls on the record. I think that helps. You know, I don’t get too “Baby, I love you.” I don’t get into this and that. I just talk about the real shit and how I want to bring her to the ‘hood and show her my life.
I’d vomit if I had to hear a song like that.
(laughs) You and me both! Word! That’s crazy.
There’s a fine line with love songs. What is that fine line between letting a chick know you like her without making it nausea-inducing?
You know when it crosses? When I play it for my niggas and they tell me “What the fuck are you doing, man, that ain’t it!” That’s when I know. And I got all my goons around me and I just got out the studio, out the booth, because we don’t really got no yes-men around us at all and when they’re telling me it’s hot, it’s fire and it’s going to bump in the club. You know what I mean? Then I’m cool. And these are wolves that are with me. I just hate when people just “Yes” you to death and don’t tell you the real deal on what’s what.
Has that happened to you in the past?
I want to say nah, not in my circle. Not in my camp. Especially where we record at. We don’t have big entourages and I don’t move in that direction. Not really. You could get it sometimes from the labels and other people that you’re dealing with, but that’s just temporarily.
You have “Picture Phone Foreplay,” a song about a girl sending pictures of herself. Are you going to hit Brett Favre off with that?
(laughs) You know what? I should have! I should have done that, right! You’re saying some funny shit! Aw, man, that’s for the chicks that’s sending me them pictures! Word. That’s for them. They go hard on that camera phone.
So No. 4 messed up the game.
It sounds like the general rule for anyone who is confused should be that dudes never take pictures of themselves and send it out.
Nah, I’m not with it. Especially right now with how shit is, you send it to her and she puts it on all these sites and all that shit. I don’t think that’s cool. I don’t do that. Keep your shit to yourself until you’re with that girl. That’s it. Sextapes and all that shit is not healthy right now!
That’s good advice.
Yeah. Keep that shit to yourself. That’s it.
What’s your writing process like on songs like “Dinner Guest” and “Clip Up”?
You know how I go about that? I’ll start it off. I’ll have the track and I’ll ride around with it for awhile before I lay it and then I’ll come to Bully and Styles and Kiss, like “Yo, check this out. I got this beat. I hear an anthem with all of us on it.” We get our liquor and go on in there and we light our bud up and shit and we get it popping. We figure out a formula for it and I may set it off and give the direction of it and let them know how I want the hook to sound. I get with the producer. I like to be hands-on with all that kind of shit, man.
Is that usually how your best songs are created?
Definitely. Definitely. Red Spyda may call me and tell me to check this idea out. A lot of times I don’t just get the beat and they tell me to write to it. Hell no. I’ll get a beat from Red Spyda with the “Guess who’s coming to dinner” and he’ll tell me I can have it going “D-Block” and we’ll build on it. We’ll sit there together and make a record.
Has your song-writing process changed over the years?
Of course. Of course it’s changed. And for the better, in my opinion, for the people that heard my project. For the better it’s changed. I’ve grown. I’m getting older. My son is getting older. Looking at life, I’ve seen more things. I’ve traveled and been on tours. I’ve done a million things so far and you gotta talk about the new experiences that you’ve seen. It’s hard for me to sit there and talk all day about being in the ‘hood and this and that. I’ll talk about a bunch of different shit. Even though I’m in the ‘hood now, it’s more like I’m coming through and we get our liq’ in and we drink and bug the fuck out but then I’m off to somewhere else. I can’t stay there all day no more because I own stores and car washes now. Things change.
What kind of production did you want for Donnie G: Don Gorilla?
Growth. I wanted to show that I’m stepping it up lyrically and that I’m stepping it up production-wise. I guess even songs like the one with Webstar, not being afraid to try certain music but still keep it gutter. You know what I’m saying? Word.
How effective was the Guerilla Warfare mixtape to setting up the album Donnie G?
Dope! I loved it. I loved it. The feedback I got with the Guerilla Warfare one, that was crazy! Crazy, crazy, crazy. Everybody said that shit was popping. I took it on the road with me. I just got off the road with Ghostface not too long ago before he left off on this one and I was just giving it all out on the road. Crazy. The feedback was nice, man.
You shout out Ghostface on “Rhyme Animal” and you’ve done some great collaborations. Why do you think you guys have such good chemistry on records?
Yo, you know we’re doing the Wu Block album! Top of the year, we’re working on the Wu Block. It’s going to be straight hip-hop, 100%. Wait ‘til you hear this shit! I mean, beats from RZA. You may hear songs with me, Jada and Method Man on a hook or me and Ghostface. It’s going to be something stupid. It’s going to be dumb.
How did that idea come up?
We’d been planning on doing a project together and we were just did two months on the road on tour. We said “Dogs, this need to take place.” We were just bugging out every night in the rooms and being onstage and we stamped it and said it’s a go.
What were some of the crazier stories from the tour?
(laughs) With me, I was more or less a fan out there with Ghostface and his boys. He’s an O.G. I remember riding around in the MPVs bumping his shit for real. I was more or less like “Wow, these dudes is crazy with their slang” and the mathematics and how they move about is crazy, man. I was more or less a fan, especially when he does certain songs like “Cream.” All of that is just crazy for me. Ghost is the kind of dude where we don’t even gotta be talking about the music. He’ll just come late night in my room with a bottle and start talking crazy shit and swapping stories. Good peoples, though, man, him and his whole staff.
Did you pick up any new slang?
What’d they say? “Yessir, yessir.” That’s their thing! “Yessir, yessir” when you talk. I don’t know what it means. I guess “no doubt.” (laughs) “Yo, Ghost, whaddup?” “Yessir, yessir!” I’ll be like “Alright.” They got a lot of “true indeeds” and “peace, god” and “whaddup, lord.” You know what I’m saying? That’s how they build.
And we’re going to start working on it top of the year. Probably in another week or so. We’re gathering some beats and waiting on some tracks from RZA. Primo’s supposed to hit us with some shit. It’s going to be straight rawness. If we got a radio hit record, it’s because the people made it a radio hit record. It wasn’t our intention. It’s just because we actually got in there and came up with a club banger. We’re going for the gutter.
I can’t wait to hear it.
Yeah, I can’t wait to actually…We’re spearheading it like it’s going to be me and his project but with his camp and my camp. It’s going to be dope. So dope.
What’s going on with The Lox album?
100% we can’t wait to get it popping. Our lawyer told us it’s looking good as far as moving to a new situation. We’re just waiting for Interscope and Ruff Ryders, not beefing, whatsoever, but for them to let up and let us move on to a new place because we have deals on the table as we speak. So hopefully top of the year, man, we can hopefully know that we’re off and ready to sign with someone else.
Is it realistic to say the album could come out in 2011?
Hell yeah, that’s what we’re aiming for. Lox album, 2011. Real talk. That needs to happen. I know we always say that it’s coming and we get sidetracked or some shit, but nah. I want to say that 2011, it’s a go.
Is the album done?
Nah, not whatsoever. We didn’t title it. Once we get the clearance, like “Yo, we off” and we’re going to move in this direction and sign with blah, blah, blah, that’s when. I really want to reach out to, like, a lot of producers, man. The people have been waiting so long for that Lox project. I definitely want the Primo and Kanye to do a track. I want some crazy shit on this album, man.
Are you going to scrap the older music you recorded for it when it was titled Live, Suffer, Celebrate?
Yeah, we’ll scrap it or just leak it to the streets. We’ll put out a mixtape before The Lox or some shit.
You and Beanie Sigel sound great together. Can we expect more collabs in the future?
Hell yeah. That’s my dude. He’s on my Guerilla Warfare Volume 1 joint. Beans is a good dude. He’s hardbody. I’m a Beans fan as well. Beans, Redman, a bunch of people, man. Word. I like that kind of music.
What are you doing to help the next generation of D-Block like A.P., Bully and the others?
One of the main things is with Bully and everybody else, we present them with fair contracts and we tell them to bring it to their lawyer and have him look at it. Even though it’s a business with family and all of that, it’s still a business. You make sure you check it out and let us know what you’re not feeling in there and let’s fix it to where everybody’s comfortable. ‘Cause in this shit, I don’t want anybody to feel like you’re working for me. I want you to feel like we’re wrong together to make you a star. And take it from us. We’ve signed bullshit and still to this day we’re still getting back our publishing. I don’t want that shit to happen to nobody.
Besides Wu Block and The Lox, are you working on any other projects for 2011?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m going to come with the Guerilla Warfare Volume 2 again. I’m going to drop that because they want that new mixtape. And then I’m going to get back in and work on another album. I want to keep going. Ain’t no time to wait right now. I gotta keep dropping, dropping, dropping records 100%. And I just opened up a store in Yonkers called D-Block City. It’s 797 Yonkers Avenue. That’s been occupying my time. I got all the latest hats and clothing and footwear.