Before he became be known for scummy moves and funny faces on “Love & Hip-Hop Atlanta“, Stevie J. was actually known for making a respectable living as a member of Diddy’s production team The Hitmen, a group that provided the back bone to Bad Boy’s period of dominance from the late 90s to the early 2000s.
While “L&HHA” had their reunion, The Urban Daily caught up with several members of the All Star squad to talk everything BUT reality TV.
TUD: Did you guys realize you were making history at the time?
Rich “Young Lord” Frierson: You got numb to it. It happened and it was always happening so you thought it’s supposed to! (Group laughs) You work on a record and it just goes platinum out of nowhere!
Chucky Thompson: A lot of that had to do with the caliber of artist we were blessed to work with. Young Mary J Blige, young Notorious B.I.G., young Faith Evans. And all of us were aspiring young entrepreneurs, producers and writers. And it was just a vibe and energy. We all were coming up at the same time so it was a total movement. Puff included.
Ron Lawrence: But you knew because of the magnitude of how those records were selling. 5, 7, 10 million… it was going to stand the test of time. The records we were selling was unheard of. Consecutively number one hits ,one after the other. And the radio airwaves were dominated; every record was ours. So you knew that down the line it would be monumental.
Deric D-Dot Angelettie: We also knew when our records were getting stolen. We had beef with DJ Clue because “Hypnotize” was so hot he played it on the radio from a mixtape just to be first. So when this artist and that artist are having confrontations where we have to sit in a room and go “Sorry, we made this for him… you’ll get the next one!” When you have problems like that? Something’s happening.
The numbers today are different, the caliber of artists are different. But do you see any signs of the era you guys helped create?
Deric D-Dot Angelettie:: Some of it’s out there. Trey Songz because he just sings panties off the chicks. R. Kelly, Melanie Fiona, Jill Scott. But because music is so easy to make because of Pro-tools, you’re not going to get the same quality of artist. You’re going to get someone’s nephew that just graduated from High school because that art is gone. That art been gone…
Prestige: I feel the respect is not there. No one wants to be a fan anymore. Everybody’s a boss… “You heard that new sh*t J. Dubb did?” “Nah, the hell with J, my cousin is better than him!” No one wants to be a fan so you got a bunch of mediocre artists running around. How many cats are the same? I can’t tell the difference between Future and 2 Chainz!! (Group Laughs)
But do you guys understand that the mold you set was so strong, most of what you’re complaining about, you created?
D-Dot Angelettie: Oh no, it’s our fault! (Group laughs) Yeah, we take complete responsibility! But the each one, teach one thing came in. Like me and Ron knew Chucky in DC, pre-Bad Boy. And the art of the music he made, unfortunately he handed the blueprint out without knowing. So you got people like Kanye who will tell you the story when he was coming through when I was managing him in and actually seeing like “Wow, there’s a whole different level to record-making!” So he watched Chucky and Stevie and got to see it for himself and now he’s the new producer for the new generation, but he came from Bad Boy College and got that tutelage!
Ron Lawrence: A lot of people didn’t understand the concept but when they heard the music they tried to copy it. That goes back to what Kanye said. When he actually saw it, he saw what was really going on.
D-Dot Angelettie: When I found Kanye all his beats were identical to mine or Ron Lawrence’s because that’s what he knew and wanted to emulate. But once he got to sit up with these guys [Kanye] is like “Shit, I gotta go record shopping in a whole other store!” Or when Nashiem showed up, his soul is here from 1910 or something. So when we saw his records we all were like “Where the fuck did you get these from??” We all got a chance to be d*ckriders… but in a positive way! (Group laughs)
But seeing all the work that went into your methods and the kind of quality and results it produced, do you think we’ll see that level of quality again?
Ron Lawrence: It’s just introduced to a new generation in a different way. To me personally yeah, a lot of it may sound the same but just like back then, there were records that were hot and records that were wack. I could tell you the ones I like and the ones I don’t…
D-Dot Angelettie: I can tell you wack records that I produced!!
J-Dubb: To answer your question, can music ever get back to that quality, I believe so. The problem is kids don’t have any guidance. Don’t know the history. Once producers do their homework, the quality will get back. Why radio sounds so, I won’t say horrible… redundant because these kids, all they have is what they hear on the radio.
Anthony Dent: Basically, I think music can change because there are those young Quincy Jones’s those young Pharrells and Kanye’s in Lincoln Nebraska, T-neck New Jersey. We don’t hear them because they might be scared on some “my sh*t is so different, they not f*cking with me.”
Prestige: I think the sound that’s happening now is more noise driven. There are people I have my eye on. I love J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, they incorporate a lot of different things. I like a lot of what’s happening but I believe what’s wrong with music today is its too money driven…
That’s a bold statement coming from a member of the Hitmen
Anthony Dent: We didn’t make money!! (Group laughs) I got opportunity. I was blessed to work with superstar artist. But when it came to money… us coming up at Bad Boy we would do music. Puff would tell us throw a sample in there and that took the paper away. So it wasn’t about money, it was about creativity and music.
Prestige: When we was doing it, it was still competition. I want to be the best at what I’m doing….
D-Dot Angelettie: Im’a bust Young Lord ASS today!! (Laughs)
Prestige: EXACTLY!! And that spirit is gone! Everybody is content with; “I’m gonna make this because I know the girls are gonna mess with it.” Nobody is digging deep. It’s all about selling and money. We need that balance, the balance has really shifted.
J-Dubb: Back to my producer brother’s statement, I don’t think he meant we didn’t make money. I think what he was trying to say is, when we were doing it, I know for myself I was doing it so tough for the love that I wasn’t thinking about the money, but the money came. So what he was trying to say was, people are trying to do it for the money. You have to have the love for it and the money is gonna come.
Young Lord: These young cats, they not getting paid the way we were. Lets say there are three or four producers on a track. We all would get paid our fees, which were real expensive. Puff spent a lot of money on us but these young guys, they selling tracks for a thousand dollars… (Group Laughs)
D-Dot Angelettie: Sixteen hundred or thousand… what’s that?! (Group Laughs)
Chucky Thompson: We all made money, might have fucked it up… but we made it! (Group Laughs) And at the end of the day things do move fast. Success happens and you have to enterprise on it.
Ron Lawrence: We made a lot of up front money. But the generation after us, there wasn’t as much sampling. We made a lot of up front money but the royalties wasn’t as big because of sample clearances.
D-Dot Angelettie: A person like Swizz Beats who came up under us got the ability from Ruff Ryders to do whole albums by himself. As opposed to one album done by eight of us where sometimes iftmay be five of us on one record breaking up 100% for the sample or breaking up production credits. J Dubb played on a lot of my records, me and Chucky co-produced records, sometimes he got additional production cause all we needed was a keyboard line….
Chucky Thompson: …and I was fine with that!
D-Dot Angelettie: Or Young Lord, we would leave the studio and he would make clean versions of the records and get credit. I remember [J Dubb & Anthony Dent] coming up from Atlanta and they added an element. Now my A&R hat goes on and I’m thinking “Damn who can I get on that?” Cause Ma$e didn’t like Nashiem. Nashiem gave him one of his hottest records, “Tell Me What You Want.” But Ma$e loved Ron Lawrence’s tracks! B.I.G. loved to work with Nashiem or a Stevie J track.
Ron Lawrence: Puffy also knew who to call when it came to that. Like if he wanted some grimey sh*t he hit up Nashiem. If he wanted some radio sh*t? He’d call me.
This brings me to my next question, what was Diddy’s roll in the Hitmen?
J-Dubb: People say Puff can’t play an instrument, he aint no producer. You aint gotta play sh*t to be a producer. He knew what he heard in his head and he knew who could make that happen. So when he came to the studio, he produced! That was his job!
Anthony Dent: When I first came to Bad Boy, I was working on a joint by myself. I was loud on the SP 1200 and he was trying to talk to me about what he wanted and was like “turn it off.” He was standing by the SP and I said: “It’s right there, turn it off.” He looked at the equipment and said “Playboy, I don’t know how to work none of this shit in here. I know how to make a hit!” And that’s when it hit me. You know how to put a record together… you’re a producer.
Ron Lawrence: After a while, he had the machine running so well, most of the time….
D-Dot Angelettie: No! I had the machine running so well…
Young Lord: I just want to say that D. Dot was a great coach of the team for running the operation…
D-Dot Angelettie: (Laughing) My Maaaan! That’s my dawg right there!
Young Lord: You’ll play him records and if he didn’t like em, he didn’t like em. But he’ll give you constructive criticism on how to make ya stuff better. And that’s why I was selling a lot during that period because he would help build everybody and get it to the point that it needed to be.
Prestige: I remember Puff had a phenomenal memory. I gave him this track I did. He liked it and told me to go lay it down. He only heard it once but I didn’t like the way it came out and was like let me just switch it up a little. He called me back and was like “Yo, that’s not the sh*t I heard. Put back those same sounds.”
Chucky Thompson: I just want to wrap it all up and say to me, it was like we were pretty much living his lifestyle. These are things that he knew about. I did my homework when I met him but he told me from the beginning, “Listen, my first record sounds like my last record. I have a sound with what I’m doing.” So it was basically about learning his ear.
Can the Hitmen happen again?
J-Dubb: We’re sitting here now, it’s happening. We here. We’re still have our creative juices flowing, still young vibrant and we ain’t gone never stop…. ever.
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