Event specialist-turned-author Haywood G. Donerson was just a teenager when he and his brother, along with some buddies, decided to take a leap and head over to Los Angeles from Washington. It was out there on the lively streets of Hollywood that he got noticed and caught his big break with Delicious Vinyl Records, home of hit rappers like Young MC and Tone Lōc.
He had some crazy exciting times, but then life threw him a curveball – his son was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Suddenly, Haywood had to switch gears, juggling his career with taking care of his child. But, his story continued to unfurl in a number of ways. These experiences are assembled in a book called “A King’s Path: Turning Tragedy Into Triumph Along the Way.” The novel reads like an autobiography and Mr. Donerson includes his life and times into a fictitious backdrop. Some of it comes directly from his life, but oftentimes the names, locations and other details have been changed to protect folks personal lives.
Haywood continues to dip his toes in the entertainment and event management scene, effectively hustling around that world. Making things happen does not exclude giving back to his community while soaking up the good life with his wife, son, and the whole crew. The Humble King and Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur talk about the book that he hopes will help people.
AllHipHop: Respect. A King’s Path: Turning Tragedy Into Triumph Along the Way. I’m very proud of my brother because, first of all, he’s a positive, positive good brother. I’ll never forget interacting with him because he was the first person in my whole life to call me king for the first time. Man, thank you for coming to AllHipHop, man. I appreciate you as always, and all of our conversations have been utmost … Of the utmost positive variety.
Haywood Donerson: Yes, sir. No, thank you for having me, Chuck. It’s absolutely an honor to be interviewed by you as someone that has watched you and AllHipHop progress over these years, man. It is truly humbling to be sitting here in front of you, my good man.
AllHipHop: Thank you. Thank you. First of all, tell me about this book and what made you write this book.
Haywood Donerson: Well, believe it or not, Chuck, I’ve been through quite a bit in my life, because before I was doing public relations, I was actually a entertainer on stage with my brothers and my friends. I’ve been doing a lot of that, so I have so many stories to tell. Every time I kept telling people how I was discovered on the streets of LA with my brothers and my friends, everyone kept saying, “Oh, you need to write a book. You need to write a book. Oh, you need to tell this story.”
I got that Oprah Winfrey aha moment, and I said, “Okay, let me go ahead and start writing this book.” I was introduced to Mr. Marvin Bryson through a mutual friend of mine, and Marvin Bryson, he’s been on production for so many shows, including “Law & Order” and things of that nature. He was really helping me to shape it into a book instead of just doing a movie. The movie’s going to come later, but that’s really why I got started with the book.
AllHipHop: Okay. Anywho, so give us a download on the book, what it’s about and things of that sort.
Haywood Donerson: Well, as I tell everyone at the beginning of the book, it’s loosely based on my life because this brother has gone through quite a bit. If you can imagine, I was in my late teens in the late eighties in Hollywood, so there was a lot of sex, drugs, and go-go music going on throughout my life.
As they say, I changed up some names and circumstances to protect the innocent, as well as the guilty, because a lot of people, they’re my age now. They got grandkids. They don’t want me to put them out there like this. I said, “Let me try to write this in a way where it’s entertaining,” which it’s very entertaining. I’ve taken the names and changed up some circumstances, but a lot in that book is true.
AllHipHop: Yeah. Now, I believe you said it was an autobiography when we first talked. Am I right in saying that?
Haywood Donerson: Yes, sir. The more I started talking about actual circumstances that came about in my life, whether it was me and my brother having a house full of strippers when we used to be roommates. Some of those strippers, they’re grandmothers now. I don’t want to do that. I wanted it to be a autobiography, but I would’ve destroyed some lives.
AllHipHop: Before we pivot into some of those things, you talk about the eighties, the crack era, basically, the crack era. What impact did that have on your life?
Haywood Donerson: Had a lot of impact, to be honest with you, Chuck. I’m thankful for music. Everyone always says, “Hey, music saved me,” this, that, and the third. No, bruh, music, playing the instrument helped to save me, because a lot of times when I could have been out in the streets, when friends were getting killed, or friends were getting locked up, I was in the basement rehearsing.
You know what I did, Chuck? I picked up the autobiography of Malcolm X at 16 years old. That really helped to guide me so that I made some mistakes, but I was able to pivot a lot. It really did. DC was really serious back in the eighties, trust me.
AllHipHop: Well, let’s talk about Go-Go a little bit. Talk about your band and what your viewpoint of the music industry from that point of view is, because Go-Go is probably one of the last indigenous music forms that didn’t quite cross over.
Haywood Donerson: I used to work on Sugar Bear’s management team for EU until last year, so I’ve been in and around the go-go industry since my teens.
A brother like me, I was laughed at and teased in the hood because I wasn’t like my older brother. My older brother, he ran with the goons and all that kind of stuff. They whipped ass and took names. For me, I was more of a nerd, so I didn’t find my way really growing up until I started playing Go-Go music.
I always tell everyone, back in the early eighties, rap and Go-Go was like this, going head-to-head and seeing. Rap released some good hits, Go-Go released some good hits, and so on and so forth.
What happened was rap continued to release hits, release hits, release hits. I always tell everyone, DC is a politically based-town. It’s not entertainment-oriented, so you don’t get the publicists, you don’t get the entertainment attorneys. You don’t get all these people that’s behind the scenes and all these extracurricular jobs that New York and LA, and now even Atlanta has, so that you can really flourish as a indie artist.
AllHipHop: Somebody told me that, on another note, that Go-Go was kind of banned from DC because of violence or other things. I’m not sure if that’s true or any truth to that.
Haywood Donerson: Yes. There was that situation happening in Go-Go, but it got to the point where a lot of the club owners, they started shutting down. They started moving out of the city, and so on and so forth. There was less places for Go-Go to be showcased.
That’s what happened with that. Let me just say this, too, because I’m being interviewed by AllHipHop, my life intertwines with Hip-Hop, even though I was a go-go musician, because once I got signed to my record deal … I was signed to Delicious Vinyl records that was home to Tone Loc, Young MC, The Pharcyde. You name it.
READ ALSO: Iconic Rapper Young MC Discusses Tupac, Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ghost Writing, And The Hate He Got Being A Pop Star
I was influenced by a lot of those people. I was in Mellow Man Ace. Shouts to Mellow Man Ace. This brother, he put me in one of his videos. I went on tour with the Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E., Hip-Hop legends. When I tell you Hip-Hop, as well as go-go has played a big influence in my life, that’s without a shadow of a doubt.
AllHipHop: Yeah. Now you know I was going to say that. You know I was going to ask you about it. Now, did Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. protect you, man? They some big guys, man. They some big boys.
Haywood Donerson: Yes. Let me tell you something. Let me give a shout-out to the Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. Well, first and foremost, I made it by going on the road for two months, living with Bloods and Crips.
Haywood Donerson: Okay? So, those Samoans don’t play.
Haywood Donerson: That’s one. Second, let me say this too, they don’t get enough credit for being the caliber of musicians that those guys are. Those guys are some serious musicians. One of the other things that I really learned, they are strong on family.
They taught me a lot about looking out for each other, and so on and so forth. When I tell you … I had some experience. We almost got into it with Mc Hammer’s crew up in San Francisco and Oakland area when I was with them.
Haywood Donerson: Yeah, it was pretty deep. Thank God cooler heads calmed everything down. I’ve seen some experiences with those brothers, but it helped me in a lot of ways to understand different dichotomies, because I never knew Samoans in my life until I went out on tour with those guys.
AllHipHop: Y’all were going up against Mc Hammer? Mc Hammer was deep back in the day.
Haywood Donerson: Mc Hammer was extremely deep, and those Samoans was deep. When I tell you Mc Hammer came with the whole neighborhood, oh, yeah, don’t play with Hammer.
AllHipHop: Yeah. Don’t play with Hammer. Did you get to know Tone Loc and those guys? Did you get to know them at all, or was it mostly in and out of the tour bus or whatever?
Haywood Donerson: I didn’t get to know Tone Loc as much as I would like, but I did get to know Young MC.
Haywood Donerson: Young MC, great man. I’m in his video “Principal’s Office” as well.
AllHipHop: Personally, as a teenager, I couldn’t imagine myself being in Hollywood at that age, to be honest, straight up. I’ve been privy to go there a lot in my adult years and knowing fully well who I am at that point, being able to avoid all those pitfalls. But did you avoid those pitfalls? If so, how did you?
Haywood Donerson: To be honest with you, Chuck, I didn’t avoid some pitfalls. Some of the pitfalls God took me away from before things really got heated out there, because just as we were starting to really get going and the popularity was really starting to take on another level, I should say, my son was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. I gave up my record to be able to come back to DC to learn more about the disabilities and things of that nature.
While I was in LA for that time, man, as you stated, I was given any and everything that I wanted. If I wanted drugs or if I wanted women, or whatever smack you wanted, I was given. If I stayed out there for 10 years or so on and so forth, you might’ve been seeing me on TV One’s “Unsung” or something. And VH1’s Behind The Music, because I would’ve been strung out on drugs. I would’ve been having 12 baby mamas, all in some serious s###. It wasn’t that time for me to be able to be in that situation.
AllHipHop: True, true. Let’s talk about Marcus “Smacky” Gregory. Give us a profile of who this character is based on yourself, of course, but give us a profile on him.
Haywood Donerson: Marcus “Smacky” Gregory is loosely based on me. There’s a lot of characteristics that are me that are intertwined with this character.
This character, he’s a middle child, like I am, trying to find his way in the hood, being protected by his older brother as I was, being laughed at, teased. Not really becoming successful in neighborhood or locally successful until he started playing the conga drums, as I started doing.
Marcus … Well, I’m going to say Smacky. Smacky, over time, he learned about his abilities and learned how to utilize his abilities to navigate not only the entertainment industry, but also life in general. That’s the thing about Smacky. He’s always trying to find what’s the positive out of all the negative that comes at him.
AllHipHop: Yes. That was my next question. The book, turning it into a movie, it’s too soon to say people buying … Hopefully this strike will end soon so that we could get fully back to business. In a perfect world, who would you have playing you, or Smacky, I should say?
Haywood Donerson: You know what? That’s a good … Man, you are truly a great interviewer, Chuck, because you know who I would have playing me? That little youngin’ that plays Tariq on Power. Michael Rainey Jr.
AllHipHop: How did you maintain this positive spirit? That’s something that I find very hard to do. Personally, I’ve worked really hard to maintain that in myself. That sometimes will involve church, sometimes meditation, sometimes punching a heavy bag. How did you manage to do that?
Haywood Donerson: I’m going to give credit to, besides God, which is very important, I’m going to say my son. My son’s disability, Chuck, that taught me so much about patience, taking my time. When you meet him eventually, you’ll see my son has gone through countless operations, countless physical therapies, always getting the door shut in his face, and this, that, and the third. But guess what? He’s still positive, still happy, and he still tries to look for the best in life.
AllHipHop: Where can people get the book? All those facts so that we can point people in the right direction.
Haywood Donerson: Right. Well, the book is now on sale now. You can pick it up at hd3global.com, HD3global, as well as you can also get it on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles. We’re working on the actual Audible right now, so I’m recording that. We should have that hopefully by the end of this month.
I am thanking everyone in advance for your purchase because a lot of people may take people’s support for granted, but I do not. I know what it takes to pull out that money. You’ve been working hard all week long, and for you to support me and this major project, it means the world to me. Thank you.
For more on Mr. Haywood Donerson, check out the full video of his AllHipHop interview, where he details more of his time in the music game, his Top 5 dead or alive and more details about his amazing life and times.
AllHipHop: Anyway, King Haywood Donerson, I appreciate you. Do you have any final words of wisdom for the people?
Haywood Donerson: I’m going to say this, the only place to find success before work is in the dictionary. When you plan your work, work your plan. I’m saying once again, thank you, Chuck Creekmur, thank you, Grouchy Greg, thank you AllHipHop for taking the time out to speak with this king here, because it means more than you will ever know. I mean it with all my heart, and I love you, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.