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De Notes Interview

September 16, 2009

RESIZEDeNotes - Dewitt Moore PicAn old colloquialism goes, “One monkey don’t stop no show.” And if it weren’t true, then DeWitt Moore’s career would’ve ended way too early. As The Sicknotes, he and Bryan “Pep” Johnson laced memorable singles for Obie Trice and D12 (“Cry Now” and “How Come,” respectively) and became some of the most sought-after producers in the state. They would also help boost the careers of Rashad Morgan, who would later sign a deal with T.I.’s Grand Hustle Records, and Robert “Magnum” Curry, who is a member of Diddy’s Making The Band group Day 26. But due to what he cites as business issues, Moore split from his longtime partner in 2008 to pursue a solo career.

With his new De Notes company and production team, Moore hasn’t lost a step. He’s retained the duo’s roster of artists and musicians, and added clients like Detroit staple Stretch Money and rap legend MC Lyte to his list of collaborators. The first official De Notes release, Mae Day’s Sade-inspired Cherish The Day mixtape (click here), has garnered national praise from fans and critical acclaim from the likes of The Source, iMeem, and more. Moore let MichiganHipHop sit in on a studio session and hear material from De Notes artists Mae Day, rapper J Cope, girl R&B trio Jaime Summers, and rap group DRG—and if the full, multi-layered samples we heard are consistent with what they release, listeners are in for a treat. In the interview below, Moore speaks about the Sicknotes split, what his team has to offer, and finding artists with the “it” factor.

What have you been up to since Cherish the Day?
I’ve been in the studio a lot lately. Me and my production team kind of trapped ourselves in a cage, just experimenting with different types and sounds of music. We’re trying to bring something new and different to the game because after doing that project we got a lot of good feedback and response. We set the bar real high for ourselves, so I just want to make sure whatever we drop next is better. I want to stay on that level, so I’ve just been in the studio. Outside of that, I’ve been working closely with Mae Day, working on her new record, she’s been doing a lot of shows, travelling here and there, collaborating with different artists. And you know, just doing production. I’ve been working with MC Lyte, she’s doing a new project, I got a few joints on there, I got a joint on the new K’Jon record that just came out. But other than that, I’m just doing my normal everyday grind in the studio. Couple other things I can’t speak on… but I can speak on this: I got in the studio with Obie and Em and did a record with them, but I don’t know what it’s for…

When did that happen?
About a couple months ago. After Relapse was done.

I thought that Obie had left Shady (Records)?
Yeah, this was after all that, I guess they’re still cool or whatever, they still worked with each other a few months after he left Shady, so that’s what’s up. … Also, I’ve been working on Stretch Money’s new project. Now, I’m doing like 80% of that new project. He just put a mixtape out last weekend, and he’s on some other level shit. He really threw down.

Who all is on the DeNotes team?
It’s my company, I’m heading it. I’m the main producer, and I have a team of musicians that I work with. Herb Alexander ismy drummer; he does production too, so he might get a little something started, I hear it, and I finish it off. I have another guy who goes by the name of Darrel Campbell, he’s my bass player and my keyboard player. Then I have other cats here and there that I work with: Amp Fiddler, I’m sure you’re familiar with him, and just a couple other cats that I work with, musician wise. And as far as artists that are on there, of course, Mae Day. I have an R&B group, three girls, they range in age from 16 to about 18. They’re next level, I can’t even compare them to anybody. They’re not the next Destiny’s Child; they got their own thing.

So what makes them different?
What makes them different for one is their look. Their look is definitely different. Usually with the group you have the one light-skinned girl, the one white girl, but they’re all just regular chicks from the hood. And what makes them different is that they all can sing. They all have pipes. There’s no lead singer to the group either; they all sing lead. And the music itself is different. The track I’m doing for them is a track you wouldn’t hear traditional R&B on, and the songwriters that I’m working with, they were signed with Rodney Jerkins. They wrote a lot of hits, they co-hosted stuff with Beyonce, they wrote that song “I Need a Boss” with Shareefa, and they’re from the D. So I collab with them on the writing tip and we just banged out five or six songs for them. Also, I got another guy by the name of J Cope. I’m not even gonna say what I said to you about him yesterday, but be on the lookout for him, he’s got some shit. J Cope, Mae Day, and Jaime Summers. And I’ve got DRG; they’re burnin’ up the streets with the underground shows, open mics, shit like that. They do street music, street hip-hop. … It’s a lot of work, and I’ve been happy to be working with my partner, but it’s like… all me now. It’s fun though, I love it.

What happened with Sicknotes? You and Pep made a lot of dope material together.
Basically, we had some issues with the business aspect of it, and I made the decision to just kind of do my own thing. I just felt like that was the best move for me. I told him, “I’m just doin my own thing, I’m starting my own company, we’re doing our own thing.” We may come back together and collab again, but right now, I’m just focusing on me and doing what I’m doing. It’s DeNotes all day.

Talk about Mae Day a minute. Just tell me what it’s like working with her, and who brings what to the table when you guys are in the studio?
When we’re in the studio, we bounce ideas off each other. Sometimes we’re on two different pages, but the fact that we’re on two different pages brings us to a middle ground that neither one of us was going to come to. Me and her vibe a lot outside the studio, we chill. She comes up with an idea for a song, I take that idea to the studio, or take that idea to my home studio, hook up a beat right quick, and she’ll be right there. “You know, you should put the beat in like this ‘cause I’m going to ride the flow like this.”

It’s like magic. Magic just happens. It’s really hard to explain, to be honest with you. It’s just a real good chemistry we’ve been brewing for like five years now. It’s just like clockwork, when we get in, it just happens, like by the grace of God, I can’t really explain it, but it’s definitely God-made and God-sent. What me and her do is stuff nobody else can do. I can’t do the stuff I can do with her with any other artist. She can’t do the stuff she does with me with any other producer. It’s like a Dre and Snoop kind of mix, you know? We get a lot of dope beats from other producers, but it always falls back to us, back to that Dre and Snoop approach.

How did you guys come up with the concept of Cherish The Day?
It’s funny, because Sade is like Mae Day’s favorite artist. I had played around with some Sade beats years ago. One day, MC Serch just made a call, like, “I got a girl concept. My wife’s been looking through a lot of Sade, and I think you’d be the type of artist to do a collaboration concept album with all Sade songs. … What do you think?” I’m like, “That is crazy,” and we just went from there. And the more we recorded, the more ideas came as far as conceptually how we were going to put it out. The whole idea of it being a mixtape and free download came about, and Mick Boogie came in and said “I’m down, I just want to be a part of it. I couldn’t change it (with mixes or scratches like DJs normally do with mixtapes); I can’t and won’t even touch it.”

Did you guys expect the project to catch on like it did? Because it was everywhere: 2DopeBoyz, iMeem, The Source
No. I expected it to get some type of buzz behind it, but I didn’t expect it to blow up like it did. What tripped us out is when it popped up in The Source magazine. We didn’t submit it or anything, it just popped up in there. It was a crazy story. I’m in the studio, Mae Day is out and about or whatever, and she called me like “You’re not going to believe this. My brother just called me, went off on me about, ‘How come you didn’t tell me you was in The Source?’” I’m like, “What are you talking about?” She’s like, “Cherish the Day is in The Source!” I’m like, “Yeah right,” but I go to the store and there it is. I definitely didn’t expect anything like that to happen. That was a blessing right there. I feel like that project still has legs, so we’re still promoting it and pushing it and trying to get it to the next level, while at the same time working on this new project.

How do you decide who you want to work with? What makes an artist worthy enough to work on a song with you, and what makes somebody worthy enough to do an entire album with you or sign to your company?
Well, first of all, the music. That’s the first thing that gets me. Once I’m sold on the music…

What about the music sells you on it, though?
It has to be something that’s creatively different, I always look for something that’s different, but at the same time still dope. Something that’s different and dope; you can’t have one without the other, in my opinion. There’s a lot of dope MC’s or singers I hear, but what I look for is what separates you from everybody else. Because there’s a lot of talent out here, and there’s a lot of competition, so as far as the music I look for something different, something that will bring something new to the game, something that the game doesn’t have but still has high-quality music. Also, I look for what type of person that person is, if this is the type of person I can gel with on a personal level. Also, I look for the other pieces to be in place: is this person a good performer, does this person have an image that can be sold to the masses, does this person have a personality that can be sold to the masses?

It’s a lot of factors. You have to be the total package. The “it” factor, know what I’m saying? I feel like all the artists that I work with definitely have the “it” factor. And a couple artists have proven that to me. For instance, an artist by the name of Rashad Morgan, people call him Ray-Ray, and we built him to the point where he was signed with T.I. in Atlanta and all of that. But the same “it” factor that I saw, all these labels saw, all these bigwigs saw. Also, this artist of mine, his name used to be Magnum, now he’s a part of Day 26, the band. That was my artist as well, I’d seen that “it” factor in him, and that’s why I worked with him. So I think that I’ve got a good talent eye, as far as saying “he’s the one” or “she’s the one.” That’s one of my gifts as a producer, aside from just pushing buttons and making beats.

We interviewed The Olympicks, a production team who recently signed to Rick Ross’s label, Maybach Music. They said, “We want to work with artists who have a mindset and a set of goals that’s bigger than a city.” We have a lot of great artists in Detroit, but a lot of them are content with still being here. What creates that drive to be bigger than a city? And what does an artist need to do to be bigger than a city?
First of all, that’s a good point, I agree with that. The artist shouldn’t be worried about “the city,” whatever city they’re in. It should be about making it, getting it out to the world. Detroit is not a focus with Mae Day, for example. She doesn’t focus on Detroit. We’re not doing Detroit-local shows, we’re not worried about Detroit radio. It’s about getting it out to the masses, to the world, to different people who can respect the music. The thing about the Detroit mentality, it’s almost like a race, everybody wants to be “That One”. But then that person never makes it outside the city because they end up getting content with the city life. So, you know, the artists that I work with, the mindset is to not really focus on Detroit; the focus should be the world.

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