D-Maq: California Love

Much like the: ‘Which came first the chicken or the egg?’ argument, we may never truly know if a hit is a hit because of the producer or the artist, but whatever the case it’s most assuredly a collaborative effort. Artists like Ice Cube, Tupac, Kurupt and W.C. aren’t willing to gamble one way or the other that’s why they’ve continually sought the techniques of multi-platinum west coast beat maker Derrick “D-Maq” McDowell. If his name isn’t familiar, his music most definitely is with songs like “Tadow”, “I Wonder If Heaven’s Got a Ghetto”, “R U Still Down?” and “California Love” (remix) to his credit. Since the days of N.W.A., D-Maq has played his position in West Coast Hip-Hop with his first professional studio session resulting in Tupac picking three tracks one being, Strictly 4 My Niggas. Back in the studio, with his long time production partner Lay Law, D-Maq just put his finishing touches on new albums from W.C. and Cube. Reminiscing on ‘Pac and the past while preparing for what’s to come, D-Maq shares with AllHipHop.com his perspective on being behind the boards creating timeless hits time and time again.

AllHipHop.com: Where did you learn how to produce?

D-Maq: I was at the liquor store with my friends, and I met this lady and she started telling me she sang and had all this equipment at her house. I hooked up with her and she basically taught me how to hook up everything. So, I learned all of my midi implementation and all that stuff over there. That’s the first time I used a sequencer. She had a keyboard hooked up to her sequencer and a drum machine hooked up to the keyboard, you know. I spent a lot of time over there getting my skills up and learning everything I could. After that I thought I’d get my own equipment and I started meeting different people going to different studios and working with more underground groups and things like that, in the midst of all that, came the opportunities.

AllHipHop.com: Okay, so we are going to fast-forward a bit. How did you start working with Cube?

D-Maq: That was through Lay Law. Him and Cube grew up together, plus he was part of N.W.A., so I had a direct line to him, Dre and everybody else.

AllHipHop.com: Being a successful West Coast producer with some of enormous hits in your own right, how do you compete with other heavy weights like Dre and Quik? Where do you fit in?

D-Maq: Well, I think I try and set myself apart by not being so one-dimensional. The thing I like about myself though is nothing I do sounds the same; everything I do has its own personality. Some people when they try to be different and people hear that they’re trying to be different; it might not always be received because people want to hear what’s familiar. They want to hear the old Quik. I want to hear the old Quik. Thing is everybody doesn’t know Quik like we do, he always reinvents himself. So I think its good and it works for me to do everything different.

AllHipHop.com: When West Coast artists you’ve worked with beef with each other, do you feel caught in the middle?

D-Maq: Well a lot of times it’s usually business, it’s never personal. Like Mack 10 was mad at me for a long time because I made that “Tadow” beat and I let him write to it but I wasn’t getting necessarily what I thought I should get, so I took it to Cube. Cube did his thing with it and it worked out, Mack 10 got introduced on that song. Everybody saw his face for the first time on that song. Ya know he was just a part of the song and as a result he was upset with me for some years behind it. Even though we had supposedly squashed it, you know you can always feel the under tones. You know, so I just kinda went the other way but that’s the only time I’ve ever really had any problems.

AllHipHop.com: So why did you have to sue Dre?

D-Maq: Basically, there was bad communication because Dre was leaving Death Row. And because no one was speaking, it made it hard for me to collect. After waiting a year and a half, my partner and I decided to do what we were supposed to do, sue everyone involved. As a result of that, the “California Love Remix” deal was reorganized and everyone, including Dre got paid.

AllHipHop.com: I know you guys settled out of court and you got paid from it, but do you get credited with “California Love”?

D-Maq: Definitely, I get a check for it so I definitely get credit for it. It wasn’t a big deal we just went in there and had one deposition, then it was over. It wasn’t like he was trying to beat us up or nothing. He was just leaving Death Row; he didn’t want anything to do with them.

AllHipHop.com: That’s crazy, I am sure producers have all kinds of crazy stories like that. How has that affected the way you do business now vs. then?

D-Maq: Well now communication is a lot better.

AllHipHop.com: How many times do you think you’ve gotten got as a producer?

D-Maq: Oh, just one time. I didn’t really care about it because it was the first thing I did, and I was getting paid under the table for it because I wasn’t supposed to be out front on that one. I took it on the chin, but a few years later when another issue came up with the same artist I reached back and I got that too. They didn’t even put up a fight, they knew. I’ve gotten paid for everything I’ve done. If somebody ever did try to get me, I turned around and reached into their pocket because my attorney, she don’t play. Generally, it is not a problem though.

AllHipHop.com: I know some people who would’ve given a lung to work with Pac or Cube what is one of your most memorable Pac experiences?

D-Maq: It would have to be April 29, 1992 while we recorded Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. during the Rodney King trial. We were recording at Echo Sound Studios and watching the trial at the same time. When the verdict came down, Pac was so pissed that he flipped the lyrics to the song as we watched everything unfold on TV. When we finished our session, we hit the street and we were all over the place.

AllHipHop.com: So what’s going on with the new Cube album?

D-Maq: Well, I have six songs on it. Cube is coming with some different s**t. We have a song called “Polla Seeds” that’s sick.

Related Stories