Don Cannon: First To Bomb

Over the years, people have come up with more than a few different recipes for success. But one thing that is always included is perseverance, believing that, some day, your efforts will pay off. Despite only being in his mid-twenties, DJ Don Cannon, knows a thing or two about perseverance; probably more than many of […]

Over the years, people have come up with more than a few different recipes for success. But one thing that is always included is perseverance, believing that, some day, your efforts will pay off. Despite only being in his mid-twenties, DJ Don Cannon, knows a thing or two about perseverance; probably more than many of his peers. One of the founding members of Atlanta-based DJ collective The Aphilliates, Cannon also has a passion for music, which he has quietly expressed through his production company for many years.

Then almost overnight, the time came for the world to see that Don Cannon’s skills on the boards more than matched his skills as a turntablist. Atlanta’s Rookie of the Year received a 32-bar co-sign from Brooklyn’s favorite semi-retired native son, and the world went crazy. But as Don Cannon explains to, this moment was almost 20 years in the making. Go do your research! Are y’all still doing the show on Sirius Satellite radio?

Don Cannon: Yeah, it’s on Shade 45, that’s Eminem’s channel. Friday nights 8-10PM, you can catch all the hot music nobody else has, ’cause we are in touch with the artists and they do things for us and we get the music first. So you know, that’s a hot show. And then we got Gangsta Grillz Radio in Atlanta on Hot 107.9. Me, [DJ] Drama and Sense. The only show in Atlanta that can play what they wanna play. It’s from 8-10PM on Saturday nights. It’s got a new twist to it, ’cause it’s not really a mixshow. The second hour’s a mixshow, where I go on. From 9-10, I play some of the hottest joints that I think is hot, that they think is hot. The first hour is pretty much regular radio, where we play joints, exclusives. So you would have to hear it to know the format. Like, I’m really scratching and blending and all that good stuff in the second hour. But the first hour is pretty much just playing the songs from the station and doing the drops along with it. So how does one start DJing at five years old?

Don Cannon: I was always into music, from what my mom showed me. She used to videotape me when I was two or three years old. She bought me my first record player when I was three, and I just played the little records on there. My uncle, for Christmas, instead of buying me toys, he bought me Michael Jackson/Jackson 5 “Can You Feel It.” My uncle was doing mixtapes back then, like, just stuff for people around the way, and like clubs on New Year’s Eve. And I used to talk on the beginning of it. And the older people used to laugh at it, so my uncle was like, “Well, I’mma take you to the parties.” So he used to take me to the parties, late night, the New Year’s and Christmas parties at real, real clubs, and I would be on the mic just talking, and they would be like, “That dude is crazy! He’s like five years old on the mic.” That’s just how it happened, and pretty much, just had some tapes floating around. I was just talking on them, saying crazy stuff, like “Microphone, microphone” [laughs], like little kid stuff, I couldn’t talk! But I didn’t believe it when my mom told me, ’cause you can’t remember when you’re that young. But you remember BETA tapes? She had me on BETA tapes. Got pictures of when I was DJing, all kind of stuff. What did you first beat sound like? Do you still have it?

Don Cannon: Nah. I don’t have none of the beats I did from 18-years-old down. My first beat, I had this Kid N’ Play record, it was called “Gettin’ Funky.” I just played it backwards. That was my first beat. I would make pause> When you made this beat and you sent it over to Jeezy, did you have any idea that this song was gonna be that crazy?

Don Cannon: I usually treat my beats like I’m making a baby. I hold on to my beats pretty tightly, I work on them for hours and hours, doing different things. But I never mix it, I never do anything. I just make it plain, put it to CD, save it to disk, keep it cool. I had that beat, and it was sitting there for like a year maybe. Willie [The Kid], who’s still my artist – he got on the beat first and he had somebody out of town, coincidentally, got on the beat with him one summer, and I just held it. Then Drama said he was gonna do a mixtape with T.I., do I have any beats? And I just gave him a beat tape. And he picked the beat. Everybody liked it on the T.I. joint, but nobody really paid attention. T.I. really, he liked the beat, but it was really more of a freestyle thing, I don’t think that he was thinking in song mode. One day, me and Drama was doing [Club] 112, and I played that song like five times in a row, and everybody was jamming. And it just coincidentally happened to be Jeezy’s mixtape release party for [Gangsta Grillz] Streets is Watching. And I just kept playing the T.I. [freestyle]. And I just kept running it back like, “Y’all don’t understand what this is!” I just kept playing it. How did the Jay-Z remix come about?

Don Cannon: Coach called me one day, he was like, “Look, I’m going to New York. I’m shopping some songs up there to Def Jam. And I was just playing like four, five joints for Jay-Z.” And he said he played four, five joints, Jay-Z was like, “All these records is crazy, they hot as hell.” Then they said, I think my record was one of the last records they played for him. And they said Jay-Z just stood up, “What’s that? I’m getting on that! That’s crazy!” I think a month or two months later, he sent the joint back to Coach. He went to the studio and did the joint. He did not only one verse, but two verses. He did 32 bars. But they wasn’t supposed to tell me. So Drama said, “I got a surprise for you: Jay-Z got on the record.” What was your initial reaction when he told you?

Don Cannon: That being my favorite rapper, that’s like, what else could happen to you? Your first beat out, your favorite rapper got on it. That’s crazy! It’s kinda like, me and Drama be talking all the time: we grew up listening to a lot of artist, and then you get a call from that same artist like, six seven years later. Like, I was listening to Ma$e in ’97, and he was the biggest thing in the world. I know him now. It’s weird. Same thing with Ghostface, same thing with… just a lot of these artists. I used to listen to Keith Murray all through High School. I come down to Atlanta, four or five years grinding; and my first Hip-Hop CD, he host it. People wanted the [Jay-Z] record so damn bad, they wound up hacking it. And a hacker sent it to me. I was like, “Damn! I’mma hear my record first from a hacker!” From that, has anybody started reaching out to you wanting that next Don Cannon banger?

Don Cannon: You know, the first order is, “Let me get a ‘Go Crazy!’” That’s wack. Instead of, “Yo, I wanna get a beat CD from you.” I got a lot of calls, but some of them were stalkers, some of them just wanted to find out… So I changed my number. The people I been getting lately have been legit. I been working with Ma$e. We did a joint for Tango Red, which is out on Warner Brothers, that he did the beat for, I arranged it. I got some stuff to Scrappy, of course; Bohagon, of course. Slick Pulla, which is a new artist under Jeezy’s label, I did some joints for him. Lupe Fiasco; I sent some records to Saigon. I got a couple big people I’m trying to stay away from saying they names, ’cause I’m still at a happy stage where I be like, “I don’t wanna jinx that!” But I’m also excited about the little dudes too. Which, It may seem like it, but the rap game doesn’t have, is a lot of people that’s breaking through. I like to help out the little dudes too, like a SunN.Y. that’s on So So Def; I got some joints with T. Waters who’s on So So Def. It’s a lot of new people, I like to work with a lot of new people.