Q&A Part 1: Harlem Rapper Donny Goines On The Life And Death Of Producer Disco D
"He told me, 'Donny, don't make music for others, make it for yourself.'"
Saturday marks four years since producer David "Disco D" Shayman took his own life in the basement of his parents' house. Disco's D's public legacy is defined by his involvement in the ghetto-tech scene, allegiances with hip rising stars like Spank Rock and M.I.A., and his production on 50 Cent's "Ski Mask Way," from the rapper's multi-platinum album The Massacre. Donny Goines, a rapper from Harlem, worked as Disco D's intern-turned-assistant-turned-friend for the final six months of his life, living part of the time in the producer's Williamsburg loft and witnessing firsthand the wicked highs and lows he went through. Goines' latest project, Success Served Cold, will see a percentage of the profits donated to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention; the album is headed up by "The Loudest Silence," a tribute to his friend and mentor rapped over an unreleased Disco D production.
Speaking in depth about his days with the troubled artist for the first time, Goines says, "I want people to know the real truth about what happened." He chalks up Disco's passing to an unfortunate series of quickly spiraling events, among them cash-flow problems, being somewhat black-balled by Atlantic Records, splitting up with his Playboy-model fiancé, seeing talented associates like Benny Blanco move on, and not receiving what he thought was due payment for the 50 Cent production. "Honestly, it doesn't seem crazy to me at all that he wanted to commit suicide," Goines say. "If I was in the situation, I would probably have considered it too. So much was hitting him, it was the equivalent of someone beating him to death." Here's the inside take on Disco D's final days.
How did you first meet Disco D? I was starting in the music industry but I didn't know a soul. This was back in early 2006. So one day I posted a message on the Bum Squad DJs forum board. I said I was trying to find a part-time job within the industry -- I didn't care what it was as long as someone could teach me about the industry and give me a little bit of money. Less than 24 hours later, I got a response from a man called Disco D through my MySpace page. He said he wanted to sit down and talk. He invited me to his loft in Williamsburg the very next day.
Where was his loft? It was on South 4th Street.
What happened when you got there? He's there, he's smoking a joint, and we just had a real organic conversation. After about 20 minutes he said, "You know something? You're hired." Just like that, on the spot. He paid me my first two weeks' salary and told me to get to work right now. I literally worked 18 hours straight at the crib for him. He was mixing a record for Trick Daddy that night called "I Pop."
How much was he paying you? It was $250 a week.
What sort of jobs did he have you doing? Anything really bad? Oh, hell yeah! I was in there cleaning toilets, mopping floors, all kinds of crazy shit! He had me running to stores doing intern shit -- he used to eat a lot of organic food. My job was basically to please everybody that was there at the studio, too, so I wasn't just his assistant but also an assistant to any artists who came through. I had to go to the store and fuckin' get candy!
What was his loft like? It was like a factory loft. It was a weird place. At first I was like, "Am I even in the right place?" 'Cause from the outside it looked like a factory. But I went up there and his loft was immaculate. When you walked inside the door, it was kinda in a U-shape, so to the right you'd see many records and many plaques and shipping materials and boxes -- cause he's an independent producer with a label. After that you had the kitchen set-up, while to the left when you walked in was a vocal booth, and if you continued going there was the studio. I remember the studio was amazing, because he'd worked out a deal with a company -- I forget their name -- to furnish the whole studio off the back of the buzz he had from the 50 Cent song. Then the living quarters were behind that. There were things like a framed interview he did with The Fader on the wall, too.
Was it a messy apartment? Oh yeah, the whole fuckin' crib was messy! I mean not like disgusting messy, but it was very disorganized and disheveled. He had a hectic lifestyle, which was why he wanted someone to come in and get things together and organized.
Which artists do you remember coming to his studio? Well at the time, I didn't know who a lot of these people were, but I saw Spank Rock a lot at the time, even though then I didn't know who the fuck Spank Rock was. A lot of people talk about the hipster movement, quote unquote, and I was able to see a lot of that stuff firsthand. He was telling me about the Amanda Blanks and the M.I.A.s. And I remember Emile, the producer, who would soon work with Snoop, he was co-producing with Disco D. It's funny, cause Emile does a lot of stuff with Kid Cudi now, but it was interesting to see these people ahead of their prominence.
How did he feel about your music? He liked it, but he wasn't crazy. He loved my hustle and my drive more than my music.
How did that make you feel? At first it felt disappointing. He was working with all these people, like Lil Scrappy, Trick Daddy, 50 Cent, but he was shooting me down. I'd record when he would go on trips to California or Brazil. I'd be in the studio for weeks then recording. He gave me permission to work with his beats -- it was a benefit of the job, along with having access to his brand and his name. But when I'd send him music he'd be like, "Nah, they're not hot, that's not hot." But I knew I was there to play my role at the time, which was as an intern.
Was Disco D good at discovering artists before they became well known? Yeah, like he ended up going to the favelas of Brazil and finding artists there, like Cabal. Disco actually built a studio out there in Brazil for those guys. And he did a record for Kevin Federline at that time. I never met Kevin Federline, but he would go to L.A. a lot and tell me these stories about them running around Hollywood in Ferraris!
Did he do the Kevin Federline project just for money, or did he genuinely like him as an artist? It was a little bit of both, from my understanding. He liked Kevin, he liked his vibe, he liked him as a person, but it was also business. Britney Spears, from my understanding, had a disposable income to do the album. I mean, no one's taking him serious, he's just married to Britney! But he produced a single, called "PopoZao."
Disco D's music wasn't on Kevin Federline's album though. What happened? From my knowing of the situation, Disco felt a bit bad and jaded. It was something to the effect that they were cool at one point and then they weren't. He didn't feel too good about the aftereffects of that situation. But it was so many things going on, and that whole project came out with 50 Cent and the buzz was crazy. 50 was a goliath at the time.
There are rumors that Disco D never got paid off "Ski Mask Way." That's no rumor. He didn't get paid.
What happened? From my understanding, and what he explained to me, he basically had to eat the sample. It was something to the effect that Disco had to eat the sample. The way he explained it, he didn't know 50, it got to him through a beat CD. 50 heard the beat, loved the beat, and used it. But something about the situation meant he didn't get any percentage because of the sample. It could be fact, it could be fiction, but I remember the number specifically -- it was $4,700 he got from the record. That was from the horse's mouth.
How did not getting paid what he thought he should have gotten make him feel? I think because he banked on money from it and it backfired, he was becoming bitter about it, mad about it, angry. That's no fault of 50's -- if you don't have people to make sure you're not getting screwed over, can you complain? One day I told him, and I remember it well, "Fuck it, just let it go, use it as a springboard." Other people in his circle were telling him that, too. But he was angry about it, he felt he was owed. And it became a problem for him -- he hired lawyers and things for it. That was one of the catalysts for what caused him to commit suicide. It was many different things, but that was one of them. He took it personally; it was an emotional thing. Of course there was the money. I remember we had a conversation one day about it and he said something to the effect like, "If I was looking at royalties, I'd get half a million dollars for this record!" I'm not saying he's right or wrong -- it could have been more like $50,000 -- but if you have a percentage, it's gonna be a number. But on the flip-side, he loved that record. It was one of the only records on that project [The Massacre] where you heard the 50 Cent from Southside, Queens. Just to know the story behind the beat, I know why he took it personally. That was the first record he made after trying to commit suicide the first time.
How did you find out about Disco D's first suicide attempt? He told me. He had no qualms about certain things when he was smoking weed at the time -- I just thought he was a serious pothead. That first 20 minutes I met him, he smoked literally like three, four joints. As time passed, he just told me things; he would blurt out things. At the time I didn't understand it, but years later a lot of things started to click. He would blurt out things like, "I don't want to take no meds, I smoke weed to medicate myself." Or he told me about the suicide thing. He said he was very depressed and down at the time, and he tried to commit suicide and was unsuccessful. But after that he was like, "Fuck it, I'm gonna pour my heart into music." And "Ski Mask Way" was one of the first beats he made then. He told me, "Donny, don't make music for others, make it for yourself."
Is that something you were doing at the time? Yeah, Disco D changed the course of my music. The first couple of records I wrote over his music, I didn't know who I wanted to be as an artist. I was doing stuff to appease what I thought a&r's and industry types wanted to hear. I did this one record called "Hit 'Em Hard" -- it was so wack! At the time my manager wrote hooks for people, he'd write hooks to Disco D's beats and I didn't know no better. But Disco would listen to these records and tell me they're not hot, they're not dope.
Can you remember the first record of yours that he actually liked? Yeah, cause I'd done this online contest where if you won you got an article in The Source magazine, an Unsigned Hype article. I hustled my ass off and I won the contest. So I'm waiting for the article to drop, but they pulled the article, said they weren't going to give it to me. I was furious. I wrote this song called "Fuck The Source," over Eminem's "'Till I Collapse." He said, "You want to know something? This is my most favorite record of yours. You know why I love it? Because I know it's you and how you feel."
And at the time, he knew my girl was in Canada having a baby, and that week I got the news that my baby was born premature and wasn't surviving. And then the Source thing came out a few days after, and I was losing it. Disco helped me. He told me the 50 Cent story. And I'll tell you this much about the situation: At the time, he had a lot of things going on, but he bought my ticket to Canada, and told me to go and take as long as I needed. I made that record, put it out before I left for Canada, and my son died two days later. I was going crazy up there. I explained to him that I was going nuts, that I had to leave to get my mind off of what was going on. He really understood the pain and the problems I was going through. I'll never forget that -- it's the most kind thing anybody has ever done for me. And I only knew him three months at the time.
Stayed tuned for part 2 of this interview, coming later today.
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