The fourth floor of 320 West 37th Street is is a Hip-Hop landmark. D&D Studios. For close to a quarter of a century, some of the best Hip-Hop music ever made was recorded there. Sadly though, due to new building ownership, the studio recently closed. And according to reports, by today, January 7, DJ Premier (who has the most storied history there dating back to 1991) will have completed moving everything out in order to relocate to Kaufman Astoria Studios in Long Island City, Queens.
So much classic music was recorded here that it would be impractical to try and rank all or any of the records. Instead, AllHipHop.com has decided to pay homage to D&D by putting together a collection of a few stories about D&D that makes the studio itself and the people in it as memorable as the songs recorded there.
“R.E.A.L.I.T.Y.” Captures the Sounds of Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan: A then intern at D&D, at the request of The Blastmaster himself, went out into the streets and yelled, “These are the streets. S**t is real out here. This ain’t no f***ing joke!” The final cut captures the intern’s voice and the street sounds. It gets no realer than that.
Jeru the Damaja and DJ Premier Record “Come Clean”: DJ Premier’s catalog of hits is seemingly endless, but one record that definitely changed the course of his career was Jeru the Damaja’s classic “Come Clean.” The precedent had been set. The authenticity of a Premier beat had to be as uncompromising as the graffiti on the wall. Studios like D&D hardly exist anymore, and the same can be said for the top tier quality of music that they helped create.
Nas Spits the First Verse of “N.Y. State of Mind” in One Take: When doing press for the 15th anniversary of Illmatic in ’09, DJ Premier recalled Nas recording part of one of the album’s most memorable cuts on the first try. “He did the whole first verse in one take, and I remember when he finished the first verse, he stopped and said, ‘Does that sound cool?’ And we were all like, “Oh my God!” It was like, I don’t even care what else you write.”
Biggie Gets Oral Sex Before Laying the Vocals to “Unbelievable”: The Notorious B.I.G. had two women with their heads between his legs in the lounge for Studio B at D&D Studios when Premier fine tuned the beat for their first of three classic collaborations. Not long after, on that same night, Biggie stepped in the booth with no paper and spit, “… Bastards duckin’ when Big be buckin’ / Chickenheads be cluckin’ in my back room f***in’ / It ain’t nothin’.”
Foxy Brown Goes From School to D&D Studios with Jay Z: In 1995, Jay Z picked a then 15-year-old Foxy Brown up from school after she completed a day of ninth grade and took her to record what would become track 9 on his Reasonable Doubt album, “Ain’t No N***a.” DJ Funkmaster Flex and the song’s appearance on The Nutty Professor Soundtrack helped make the record a smash. The rest is history.
Biggie Finishes Life After Death: The last song recorded for The Notorious B.I.G.’s sophomore album was the DJ Premier-produced “Ten Crack Commandments.” After he finished the verse, B.I.G. yelled, “Preme, it’s over! It’s over! I’m the greatest. I did it!”
Gang Starr Goes Gold with Moment of Truth: In an interview about Gang Starr’s discography, DJ Premier identified Moment of Truth as “the most emotional album” he and Guru (R.I.P.) put out together. At the time, Guru was facing a gun charge and DJ Premier’s accountant and friend had recently passed away. All those feelings and then some found their way in to the booth and onto the duo’s fifth album. Premo also said that Guru used to say, “All I want is a gold album.” And they got one with Moment of Truth.
September 12, 2001: Just one day after the tragic events of 9/11, there is a bomb threat made on The Empire State Building. The already dark mood coupled with another potential disaster gets everyone out of D&D Studios immediately.
DJ Premier Buys D&D Studios: Back in ’03, Douglas Grama and David Lotwin (the D’s in D&D) sold the studio to DJ Premier. He renamed it “HeadQCourterz” in honor of his friend Kenneth “HeadQCourterz” Walker who was fatally shot in the fall of 2002.
The Legacy of Gang Starr Lives On: On a wooden wall in D&D, Guru’s lyrics were up there on display – written on yellow notepad paper. According to Premo, they were rhymes to some of the last songs they did together. Because of all that those words represent, those raps won’t be demolished with other parts of the building. The paper with lyrics is going to be made into a table in the new studio.
What’s your favorite record to come out of D&D? Please share your thoughts in the comments section!