This is part two of our interview with Harlem rapper Donny Goines, commemorating the four-year anniversary of the suicide of friend and cohort Disco D (left), the producer behind beats for 50 Cent, Trick Daddy, Nina Sky, Kevin Federline (!), and others. Here’s part one; for more, read our 2007 Disco D cover story.
In your song “The Loudest Silence” you say there were rumors about him being bipolar or schizophrenic. Did you pick up on these things at the time?
Yeah, months later, cause he just told me. He didn’t confirm he was bipolar, he just said, “Donny, sometimes I get a little crazy.” It’s actually a reason why I quit the job later on, but he would have states of frantic activity and action. He warned me about it, but I didn’t really understand it, didn’t really know much about mental issues and suicide and disorders. But I would see cracks later on in the personality. At first everything was cool, and he was mad calm, but as he had more weight on him, he would crack and he would take it out on me and the interns, yelling, screaming, having us doing stuff that was not really necessary.
What sort of strange behavior do you remember?
One meeting in particular I remember was at Def Jam, with one of the head a&r’s. We go to the meeting, I sit down in a chair, and he starts sitting on the floor. It was like [raises eyebrows]. He knew the a&r person there, but it was like, why would you go to the meeting and sit on the floor? It was very erratic behavior, but not like, “This guy is nuts, get him out the office!”
Was he at Def Jam to try and get a deal?
He was shopping beats. At the time Jay-Z was the president of Def Jam, and you had acts like Fabolous, and he was trying to get beats to their artists. I remember someone who was part of DJ Clue’s camp was heavy at Def Jam at the time, and he came in the office and I guess he didn’t know Disco D, because not to say he was blowing him off — he was listening to the beats — but the reception seemed weird. But as I came to find out, there were many people that already knew that about him, that he was erratic and a little crazy.
In “The Loudest Silence” you say “sometimes I want a damn reason,” in reference to why he committed suicide. Do you have any ideas about what caused him to take his own life?
I know what things were a catalyst. It was a combination of a lot of different things. We’re three, four months in to working together. Benny Blanco is a very important part of the story, too. He’s a heavy producer now — he works with Dr Luke, he has hit records to his name — and he was there now too, he was an intern. We had a well-oiled machine by now — I was hiring other interns for him, and Disco was trying to catapult off the 50 Cent record. He had a really good relationship with Atlantic Records at the time, which is where the Trick Daddy thing came from. He had his own label, he had a fiancé who’d been on the cover of Playboy in Brazil. But as things went on, certain things wouldn’t hit right. The first thing I noticed was the Trick Daddy record. It wasn’t the big single everybody thought it was. It didn’t happen. He was putting a lot of stock in that record. From what I know — and I don’t know specifically how — but the record leaked. I don’t know if Disco D leaked it, or if somebody else did it, but Atlantic blamed him. That was a big rift between him and Atlantic. The “I Pop” thing didn’t really manifest.
So we’re coming to a point in time where people are leaving the situation. I don’t want to say they were leaving him like, “Fuck you, Disco D!” That’s not what it was about. Benny Blanco is a good example of this. Benny Blanco was an intern, and in the first couple of days we started talking and he was like, “Yo, I want to be a producer, I don’t want to do this [interning].” He was telling me he had another opportunity somewhere else. I told him, “You have to be real to you, go chase that.” A couple of days later, he quit. And Disco understood. I mean, me and Benny used to sleep on the floor, hustling, working, rocking out. But Benny left, which was one of Disco’s right hands.
Money also became a problem, because there was a lot of money going out, but not much money going in. Remember what I said about going out for food for him? I started to tell him we needed to go to the supermarket, not spend so much on take-out — we were ordering dumb food! So I would go to the supermarket and stock up on simple stuff like sandwiches, survival food. Then when he had guests in the studio he would order whatever. But he had to save money. It started to add up. And he said to me straight-up, “I can’t afford to pay you, but I need your help.” I said, “Fuck it, I’ll be here, I’ll be your homie.”
How did other people react to the money problem?
One thing I didn’t like about the situation was I felt like some of the people hanging around him were leeches, riding the wave. By this point, the 50 Cent joint already sold, and he’s trying to make placement for bigger records, but he wasn’t returning his calls and shit. It wasn’t genuine, it was like bullshit. Then another problem was him and his fiancé were going through issues — he broke up with her somewhere in that. He also had a business, importing rolling papers from Brazil. They were crystal clear. He had exclusive rights to distribute them in the U.S. If I remember correctly, I believe he brought in about 25,000. One of my jobs was to find distributors for the product. A big reason he was always going to California was to try and get distribution there. He linked up with a person named DJ Warrior, and he’d stay weeks on end at his house. The word was spreading about them, but he was having money issues, cash-flow problems, and he couldn’t afford to pay the rent.
How much was his rent?
$5,000, if I’m not mistaken.
So there were all these factors stacking up?
Yeah, his buzz is dying down, he’s having money issues, he’s started selling things, he’s broken up with his fiancé, and people are leaving him. He thinks he’s losing his hearing, he’s going to ear doctors, it comes to a point where he can’t create beats any more. He started to become withdrawn — he wasn’t who I first met. So I’m standing there like, ‘Yo, this is crazy!” It wasn’t just one thing — it was back to back to back to back. That’s when I started to notice a lot of breaks in the character. He started to get frantic and didn’t know what to do. Think of the analogy of being on a sinking ship, and the captain of the ship doesn’t know what to do at all, doesn’t know where the life rafts are, doesn’t know how to compose himself. It was very hard. I’m not a psychiatrist — I don’t know how to react. And as a lot of stuff started to rub me the wrong way, we would always bump heads. It was like I’m putting my own career aside to try and help him, and I’m not getting paid on top of that.
What sort of stuff did you bump heads over?
Sometimes petty shit. He’d be like, “Donny, why you ain’t roll my joint? Why aren’t my joints rolled?” But it would also be something major like, what with the rolling papers thing, he wasn’t in town for weeks, so I’d be house-sitting, out making money for him, and there’s mad things happening in the house that need taking care of. We would argue about that. He’d say, “You’re spending money on this and that?!” I’m like, “What do you want me to do? Just leave it?” You can’t agree with someone all the time, but he had a lot of yes-men around him, I felt. So I would butt heads with him. But that’s why we got on like that. That’s why he fucked with me.
You mentioned earlier that you quit working for him?
Yeah, at the four-, five-month mark, I said, “I quit, I can’t do it any more.” It’s like you have a friend and you want to help him or her but you don’t know how. You’re doing the best you can, but it comes to a point. And this is why I love him like a brother. Even after I quit, he still allowed me to come back to the crib and record. He was still a friend to me. After all the arguments, he still held me down. I will never forget that for as long as I live. Who does that?
When was the last time you spoke to him before he committed suicide?
The last conversation was on Instant Messenger. In the song, “The Loudest Silence,” I say, “A promise is a promise, this year is mine.” And the last thing I said to him was, “Hold your head up, we’re gonna make classics.” He never responded. I said that, and he just cut off, like it was done. Two days later, I found out about the suicide.
Do you think if he’d have sought out psychiatric help he’d still be alive today?
He may be alive today. That’s just my judgment. That’s not a fact, just my judgment from looking at the situation. Sometimes you need people to talk to. Sometimes it becomes overwhelming. This is something I’ll admit in public — I go to a psychiatrist, and Disco D is a big reason why I chose to get help when I felt under pressure as an artist. That’s not to say I’m crazy or he was crazy, cause it’s seeking help that makes you sane. But sometimes you get overwhelmed. I want to say Disco D’s biggest problem with the situation was that he didn’t want to show the problems to people outside of his circle; he self-medicated himself with weed. But I understood why he was doing what he was doing. We’re all a little crazy.