here are only two reactions to adversity – win or lose. Roadblocks are certain to affect progress in an environment as political and shark-infested as the music industry. Hit-making machine Dame Grease has gotten the job done time and time again, but has seemingly hit a glass ceiling when its time for that special promotion to legendary status.
Throughout his 10-plus year career, he’s crafted songs for DMX, Kelis, Mobb Deep, The Lox, Slick Rick, Nas and even scored several films. Grease has helped construct the sonic foundation for the wildly successful Ruff Ryders label, but charges that he’s been wronged by the very people he helped build. Outspoken but not bitter, Grease says he has pushed through the invisible career cap to maintain his course to greatness.
After taking a few years off to go to college, Dame Grease leaps back into the rough waters with a wiser mentality, a focused ambition and a sonic arsenal that could fend off Jaws. Touting recent work with long time friend DMX, Freeway, and Dipset, Grease says he’s long overdue for that promotion.
Three Dame Grease notables:
DMX "Let Me
Diplomats "More Than
Mary J. Blige
AllHipHop.com: What are you currently working on?
Dame Grease: Right now one of the latest joints I just put out is Its Nuttin off the [Funkmaster] Flex album, with Camron and Juelz [Santana]. I got about three cuts on the Freeway album coming out. I got a couple cuts with Mase, J.R. Writer, Hell Rell and all them guys. I got five cuts on the new DMX album, and its a lot going on.
AllHipHop.com: You started out with Ruff Ryders and DMX. How did you begin working with them?
Dame Grease: I had my group NIB. We used to mix with Cam and them in St. Nicks Projects, thats how we all know each other and got a certain respect for each others talents. From there, I had a big buzz in Harlem and thats where I met the owners of Ruff Ryders. I used to come around and they would be like, Grease we want you to get down with us. I was like, Get out of here Im doing [my label,] Vacant Lot. Then they said We want to manage you. Im like, Hey, that sounds alright. So I came in there and brung in my sound – which is the Harlem sound. I hooked up with their artists which was the Lox and DMX at the time, and I kind of made they whole careers and got their sound out of them and sent them on their way. As far as the first DMX album coming out, we all had a super buzz on the streets. Ruff Ryders went and did the deal with Interscope, and part of the deal with Interscope was based on their number one producer, which is [me]. When they came, they was like hey we got this little [check] for you. I was like Dog Im a hustler dog, Im not just a dude making a hot beat, so you cant just bamboozle me with bulls**t. So after that, we had a fall out. We went our separate ways, but I just thought, Okay, they do what they do, and I do what I do. I didnt know that motherf**kers was calling people and blackballing me.
AllHipHop.com: Do you know this for a fact?
Dame Grease: Quote unquote, a call went in to Jermaine Dupri — I aint gonna say where it came from, but a call went in to Jermaine Dupi and told him, Dont take no Grease tracks for the Da Brat album. One of the guys from [So So Def], a good friend of mine, was like, Yo Grease, the joints you got is crazy, but a phone call came through my n***a. So my Live on Lennox album was like Anti Ruff Ryder. I know it for a fact. Being the hottest thing on the streets to not getting calls and getting the confirmation from executives.
AllHipHop.com: So you attribute it to you being the backbone of Ruff Ryder label?
Dame Grease : Yeah, Ruff Ryders is Grease. The black and silver colors, thats Grease, thats Vacant Lot. Thats me. Thats my tradition. I aint gonna lie, we still cool.
AllHipHop.com: So you do still remain cool with them?
Dame Grease: I mean we say whats up. You gotta understand I mean, [DMX], thats my brother, thats my blood, I love him. He loves my kids, I love his kids, we family. Me and him is forever linked you know what Im saying? Throughout music or labels, f**k all that s**t , we homies. When it got down to it, me and him did a lot of talking. He used to tell me, Grease, I love you, just keep doing what you do.
AllHipHop.com: So your personal relationship with DMX kept you doing music?
Dame Grease: He was the guy that actually kept me going. When everything went down, he said, Grease, Im doing movies, I want you to score the movies. Thats how I went on to score all of his movies. Thats why I forever got the love and the gratitude for him. Its real stuff, I hear a lot of people say a lot of stuff about DMX, but he is a real person.
AllHipHop.com: You and Swizz Beats started out with Ruff Ryders together right?
Dame Grease: When I started at Ruff Ryders, Swizz Beats was still learning how to work the MPC. He was just learning how to make beats and so forth. All the producers used to watch what I do and try to emulate what I do. When the blackball came in, all the calls that came for Grease, went to Swizz Beats.
AllHipHop.com: You have an artist Meeno who had a slight beef with Jay-Z. Do you think that had an affect on your career or you being blackballed?
Dame Grease: As far as my label, it has tainted it. Meeno was the first person to go at Jay-Z, and that was done with a partner I had at the time. A crab mother f**er who put that influence within a person to do that. Me myself, I dont fear any man. I dont fear any bleeding air-breathing creature, but Im not stupid. It was actually with Kay Slay, he put the song on what was his biggest tape. The whole Meeno dissing Jay-Z, thats how he got the name Drama King. Im not a stupid dumb individual.
AllHipHop.com: So that may have affected Vacant Lot Records, but you dont feel like it affected your production work?
Dame Grease: Nah, from me being a man and know that my ground base is to do music. I keep that fact within myself. For two years, I had to get a big broom and start sweeping up s**t. Actually, me and Jay had done a Rap City show when he was putting out The Black Album. All through the show it was subliminal messages being thrown back and forth and s**t. My whole thing is I wasnt there to actually beef with Jay on none of that s**t.
AllHipHop.com: Did you make the effort to patch that up?
Dame Grease: [During the show, there were] subliminals thrown at each other. He was like This is a good look for Harlem, and I said You already know. Little tit for tat s**t. He went to do a freestyle, and I said, Alright, what beat you want? He said, Put that Ludacris and Kanye West joint on. So I played it and then stepped back from the turntables just to let dude know Im not here for no bulls**t. I aint gonna sabotage your freestyle. After the show we actually shook hands and said whats up.
AllHipHop.com: So now youre wide open to work with Def Jam?
Dame Grease : Im open to work with anyone. Grease is unpolitical. You aint gonna hear me talk about anyone. I just do music. I did two tracks on the Freeway album, and Jays on one of the tracks. You see how that s**t is like history? Thats actually my first song I ever worked with him. Its a good thing, youre a young dude, you live and you learn.
AllHipHop.com: Youve been in Hip-Hop for over ten years. Youve watched New York dominate to now the south taking over. What does New York Hip-Hop need to come back?
Dame Grease: I hope you got a lot of motherf**kin tape [laughs]. Real talk, I watched the giants of New York destroy the f**king rap game. All them motherf**kers is to blame. If they can get the s**t back and say we f**ked it up, and start rebuilding, thats when were all gonna be good. It takes a man to know his mistakes to rise.
AllHipHop.com: What mistakes do you think were made and who made them?
Dame Grease: All I do is talk the real, but I wont mention who, because I dont want no problems [laughs]. You have one kid whos a rap fan, say hes from upstate New York. In his six-CD changer, lets say he has Jay-Z, DMX, Ja Rule, Lox, P. Diddy, Biggie, and Pac. They got all these guys. Now you got two guys: DMX and Ja Rule going at each other. Then Jay-Z and Nas going at each other. Now the kid is like, Who am I supposed to listen to? The kid is confused. Now you have a guy with dreads [Lil Jon] that yells a lot. And he says Yo, you motherf**kers wanna have fun? And everybody puts the CD changers down, and say, Were gonna roll with this guy because hes only making good music. It s nothing in between or no subliminal [lines]. It got right back to music. Thats what the south is on right now, just making good music. I aint gonna knock them guys. Theyve been trying to do their music for a while and with the political stuff from up here, we were like, Yeah, whatever.
AllHipHop.com: So you think it was the beefs that destroyed every thing?
Dame Grease: The beef s**t murdered it because it made the consumer confused. The consumer loves Jay-Z and Nas, why do we have to choose?
AllHipHop.com: do you think what Jay-Z did on his I declare War concert is a beginning of a comeback?
Dame Grease: Yes sir. He was a smart enough person to look like it like that. Hes one of the main players. He looked at it and said we did f**k this s**t up and we got to do something. That was the first step to give some strength and structure back to this part of the worlds Hip-Hop.