As one half of the Audio Two along with his brother Gizmo, Milk scored an early hit with the Honey Drippers sampling (no worries, sample is cleared), sparse but thumping Hip-Hop anthem Top Billin. Seems like everyone and their mama, including Milk, has come with their own take on 50s song, a testament to the enduring influence of “Top Billin'”.Although hes kept a relatively low profile in Hip-Hop circles, Milk has been anything but relegated to the side of a namesake carton. Focusing on production, he was responsible for singer Eamons 2004 hit F*ck It (I Dont Want You Back), which sold millions of copies across the world. Throw in the money he receives from sample clearances, and its safe to assume his I get money, money I got couplet still rings true. Nevertheless, despite the rapidfire boasts and braggadocio of the original Top Billin, Milk Dee is actually an incredibly humble guy. AllHipHop got to play catch up with MC Lytes half brother. Go Brooklyn.
AllHipHop: Milk, what you been up to?
Milk Dee: I been working this I Gets Money, Milk Dee [and] 50 Cent remix, pushing it and pushing the video. I just completed Eamons new album, Love & Pain. Right now were in the process of relaunching our label, First Priority Music, as an independent so thats been keeping me real busy, paperwork and stuff like that. We have distribution, we have everything, its coming, we just been getting everything together.
AllHipHop: What was your first thought when you heard 50s I Get Money?
Milk Dee: It was crazy, when I first heard it well, as always, whenever I hear somebody using one of my samples it always makes me feel good. I thank God for my blessings. It makes me feel like I have an impact on whats going on even if Im not out there. But the first time I heard it, they was playing it so many times the first day and my phone was blowing up like, Yo, this hot! I was happy. My mother was like, Oh, I hear your voice!
AllHipHop: So the sample wasnt cleared when you heard it?
Milk Dee:Initially they didnt clear the sample. But now were at the point where were negotiating everything and were in the process of clearing it.
AllHipHop: Are you pretty much open to people sampling you?
Milk Dee: Its so many. I cant even tell you how many sample clearances I get a month. Most people dont even have the slightest idea. I dont really care. I dont want to be part of anything thats ya know, crazy. A lot of time I dont get a chance to hear them before theyre cleared. I look at it as an honor for people to use me. And of course, its revenue. I would say Im easing up on a hundred [times the songs been sampled] right now. I got stack and stacks and stacks of sample clearances. A lot of people dont know the small ones I get from overseas. There was a big song by a group called All Saints overseas that was a multi-platinum single. They dont know about it here but they used Top Billin in itI get a lot of those.
AllHipHop: Must be a nice check.
Milk Dee: Yeah, its definitely gravy [laughing]
AllHipHop: The original Top Billin how did it come together?
Milk Dee: I was actually working on a remix for one of Lytes songs, Take It Light, and I was just down there and I made the beat and I was putting her vocals to it. But then I got inspired to write something. I wrote and spit it and just recorded it and the next day I let Daddy-O and Giz hear it and they kind of let me know the heat, they was like Yo, this is it right there. I didnt realize it. Thats basically how it came about. I was just playing around one night and did it, and Daddy-O and Giz let me know what it was.
AllHipHop: Ive seen Daddy-O credited with producing it, so you really produced it?
Milk Dee: Well, I guess that all depends on what your definition of production is. Back in the days the producer, somebody like Quincy Jones, they wouldnt have to do the music to produce the song. These days a lot of producers are really beatmakers. I made the beat, if thats the question, but Daddy-O really produced it, if that makes any sense. Hes the one that oversaw everything that I did and it wasnt completed until Daddy-O gave his approval and added his final touch to it. I consider it a joint production between Daddy-O and me, I did the beat. The kick, hi-hat and snare is from Impeach The President. Thats cleared, The Honey Drippers get paid everytime I get paid. Not Honey Drippers but Tuff America, they own that now. The guys that own the copyright, they get paid. A lot of people werent really clear on that either.
AllHipHop: What equipment did you use to make Top Billin and what are you using now?
Milk Dee: When I did Top Billin I used a Boss foot pedal sampler. It only samples two seconds, you cant save it, they use it a lot with guitars and whatever. I had one of those and I triggered the sample with a Roland-707 drum machine. I recorded it on Tascam 248 4-track. Now, I got everything [laughing]. I got two studios [in Staten Island] full of equipment. The main thing that I use is a MPC2500 and Logic.
AllHipHop: After the Audio Two albums where did your career head?
Milk Dee: The last album I did was the EP on American, Never Dated. After that I started doing more production work. I did the Janet Jackson remix for You Want This, I did a couple of movie scoresI did Hells Kitchen, thats with Mekhi Phifer and Angelina Jolie, I did the score for that movie. I did a score for another movie called Civil Brand MC Lyte, Tichina Arnold, theyre in that. I had a really big artist overseas named Jason Downs, which I was featured in the hit single, it was called White Boy With a Feather. Then a whole of stuff in between there and then most recently the Eamon. I Dont Want You Back, the number one played song of the year 2004, we sold 6 million copies on that album. I just been producing behind the scenes, developing artists, that kind of thing.
AllHipHop: The checks are lovely but do you ever miss the Hip-Hop spotlight?
Milk Dee: Yes, and its been haunting me for years. Ive been really thinking about doing some more material on my own. Im big enough to say that over the years the business scarred me a little bit and broke down my confidence. But everytime somebody samples me or all of the feedback I get on the e-mails, the MySpace it inspires me and it makes me feel like I can still be relevant. Ya know, you start getting up there in the age and they tell you that its a young mans game. Ya know what I mean? [From] all of those things you form insecurities, I think that prevented me from doing it for a while.
AllHipHop: Was there a particular experience that left you scarred like you said?
Milk Dee: I wouldnt say that it was any specific one. I would say one of the main things that effect me was getting involved in the major label system. I come from an independent background and when we were independent basically we made the decisions and we decided what was hot and what wasnt hot. Its funny because in the beginning when I first did Top Billin and we shopped it to the labels, they were like Oh, its wack, what is this? I know it may be hard to consider in this day and age but back then it was something that wasnt heard before. There were like, Oh, your voice is high pitched. Whats with this name Milk Dee? With Lyte they were like, Oh, she sounds like a boy. Shes cursing, thatll never work. Milk sounds like a girl, thatll never work. But in spite of that we still did what we felt and it broke, and twenty two years later its a classic. Once I got involved in the major label system, they kind of manipulate you into doing what they think is right, and it stifled me creatively because Ive never been one of those producers or artists that just do whatevers out. Anybody that knows my material, they know that I go out on the limb and do something different, not just the same old stuff. I had to get approval from cats that dont understand what it is. Not to say that I didnt learn anything, but I think that it stifled me creativity.
AllHipHop: So do you feel with the international stuff and with Eamon that you had more creative leeway?
Milk Dee: Yes. What happened is like with Eamon we shopped to all of the top labels and they all heard the single and they knew it was a hit. They were scared because of the cursing. [But] when you find that one person or that one label that can see the vision, then theyll do it and it will work out. But even in those situations, theyll be able to see the vision initially, but then as time goes on they want to convert you into their vision.Weve done a lot of business with Jive over the yearsEamon and Jason Downs, they were both through Jive. Jive is known as being a visionary label so when we go see Barry Weiss we already know that he has vision. That still doesnt mean that our vision and his vision are always completely in sync, but he has more vision than the next guy.
AllHipHop: Whats the status of the Audio Two now?
Milk Dee: Well, me and Giz dont work together anymore. The new stuff thats coming will be Milk Dee. Im in the studio right now working on new material, a single is coming real soon. Im taking a break right now to do this interview [laughing].Like I said, were re-launching First Priority. Were releasing Hip-Hop, R&B and Pop. I think this whole 50 Cent thing is a good opportunity to get my feet wet and start having some fun with it.
AllHipHop: Whats missing from the game now compared to back then?
Milk Dee: Its really hard to answer this question because number one, a lot of people dont like to hear the truth and If I say it, its always easy for them to say, Oh, youre old school. Or whatever, which is absolutely insane to me. Hip-Hop flows through my veins. Its not just Hip-Hop, its music across the board. What bother me the most its the same way in Rock and R&B, its lacking the passion. Really, I challenge all people that love Hip-Hop to raise the bar. In other words, if its wack, say its wack. If its great, then buy it. Make the artist work harder. It seems like its a little lackadaisical to me. Financially its great, the revenue is on the top. But coming from somebody that loves music, its lacking the innovativeness, the creativeness the best way I can describe [it] is, I remember back in the days when youd hear a Hip-Hop album and youd play it and youd be like, Oh my God! Thats hot! Youd want to keep playing it over and over again. Thats that shit. Now, a lot of the songs, not all of them, but a lot of them, it doesnt make me feel anything. I hear it, I could do with it, do without it. How do you describe that feeling? I really cant. But I just dont get that same feelingpassion.