Virgo Summer

Back before the Internet, before software allowed anyone to have a complete studio beamed down to their computers from thin air, before you could download libraries of samples without having to leave your house, there were artists that were doing it big, and got put on for one reason only: They were Dope. The Visionaries are a crew that I remember very well from back in the day when I was trying to still figure out my position in this beautiful form of music (I was crafting beats on my Emax & sequencing with an MMT-8 then). Back when most people who listened to hip hop were just fans (and we happily paid our $10 bucks to see cats like them perform), these guys were making classic joints and representing the left coast properly.

Fast forward to 2011 - no longer making beats, but having so much knowledge of mixing and then mastering audio, I was honored to have the opportunity to be able to work with Dannu, member of The Visionaries on his first solo album. I remember catching up with DJ Rhettmatic one evening, at a Soul Sessions event where the legendary Kool Herc was making an appearance and Rhett mentioned that Dannu was working on his solo album, would I be interested in mastering it? Absolutely!

The album was mixed by Dub Knoxx, with the exception of "Good Vibes" which I mixed and then mastered for the album. Great mixes, and Dub Knoxx also provided the A Capellas (it's typical to ask for vocal up/down mixes for mastering, so this made it unecessary). I like to tell people that when I have proper room, I can make hip hop sound better than ever in Digital (back in the day, conversion and other digital processes weren't as good as they are today, so if you want an example of what a great album, with great sonics sounds like in 2011, make sure you pick up this album!)

I met Dannu in person at a Crown Royal show (DJ Rhettmatic + Buff1) recently and we clicked immediately. This brother is super cool peoples, a real asset to the hip hop community and I was happy he agreed on doing a spotlight to give us more details on the making of his album:

I know you’ve spent a good amount of time and effort in putting together your solo album. How do you feel now that it’s done?

I feel accomplished. It took at least 4 years to complete from the first song created to jump start "Virgo Summer" to when it was finally mastered by you. A lot of songs didn't make it and there was a lot of road blocks that I had to find ways around but now that it is finished the reward is the good feedback so far.

I honestly think your album is important for west coast heads that used to be into the scene back in the 90s and have “grown issues” now. It’s almost like you meant it to be like this, but it also comes across as something younger cats can listen to and learn from, without sounding condescending. This I think comes across very well on “She Would Say” (Produced by DJ Rhettmatic, featuring Noelle Scaggs & Jern Eye). Can you tell us a little bit about the making of this cut?

The main thing about this album is that I used everything that I have ever went thru with girls as well as hip hop in general and mashed them together in my lyrics. A lot of the songs that may seem like I am talking about a female can also be hip hop and the respect you have to give to maintain the relationship you have with the culture as well as of course a lady. I know it sounds a lot like Commons "I used to love her" but what else can we talk about that is in our direct control...our lives and what surrounds it naturally. With "She would say" I pay homage to the females in hip hop mainly the DJ's but I am also saying if it wasn't important then I would have not made anymore music and just be what I was before ...just a fan.

Your daughter sings on “Love Music” which is awesome. Is this the first time she has been featured on one of your songs?

Haha ya thats crazy cuz Kiyomi aka MOMO is now 15 yrs old and if you have the Visionaries first album "Galleries" theres a song called "Couch Potato" and she is on there as a 2 yr old, also on Writers Block first album "Enroute" song called "kiyomitro" but ya this is the first time I actually got her in the studio at Rhettmatics. Also, if you look at the inside cover of Galleries and follow the color code, you will decipher my color and it will read her name.

I didn't know about the color codes! A while back I let my cousin borrow Galleries, I remember the green cover with the empty frame and supposedly it got stolen from his car along with other CDs I had let him borrow. I have Pangaea and the one where the cover is you guys in a classroom (Sophomore Jinx). I need to have my cuzz find me a copy of Galleries now, haha! I know you have a younger daughter now, any plans to get her involved in music also?

Aw man you know that happened alot during those years Galleries came out...my car got smashed up too...took all my tapes and cds, weak. Oh the little one, .shes the craziest! She sings at bath time and dances all the time. When I brought her to some bboy events she even jumped in a circle and just got down. She doesnt know what shes doing yet but just the fact that the music makes her let go. Man she's gonna be crazy! Oh by the way the teen plays the piano, guitar and ukelele...my kids are more talented than I was, hahaha!

Are there any songs on the album in particular that you prefer performing, if so, which ones?

Well in the beggining I only performed certain ones with tempo like On the left, Free, Goodvibes, Love music,but now that I know the lyrics better I dont mind performing any of them. It depends on what the fans want to hear from me.

Now that your solo album is done, are you taking time off to support the album with performances/taking a creative break, or are you working on the next project?

Both. Rhett finally got me to get a Twitter account and I heavily bomb facebook; doing some interviews and setting up for shows as well. I am currently trying to get my own recording situation at home since all my dudes that record me either left the city or are too busy so I may be asking you for tips!!! lol...I have a Rode nk2 mic, Pro Tools 7.3 and a mini mbox, just deciding on if I stick with pc, or spend to get a mac or even have my geek friends build a hackintosh..someone let me know! But ya, I wanna be able to record myself so I can come out with more songs on the regular. Oh by the way I do have a 9 to 5 plus a teen and a 2 year old so this would definetly be in my favor to record myself.

You know I got you! I'm the first to tell people I don't have experience in the super high-end recording side of things, but I've been involved with the low-budget, home recording thing since I was a kid and it sounds like you have a decent set up as it is. Did you track your vocals for the album with the NK2? If so, it works well for your vocals, so maybe a better pre before hitting the Pro Tools box, but then again, I really dug the way your vocals sounded in the mixes, very natural (also, I'd stick to a Mac unless you like to tweak things, if so a PC would probably be better because you can build one based on the components you want, but again, you know you can holler at me any time bro!)

Yaaa man! crazy story is when I first recorded some of the songs I was in a different studio...deeskee from la 2 the bays studio...the house 2mex lives in.....and also Rhett's, but after a few years rolled by, I re-recorded the vocals all on my mike and like you said it turned out good. Well, guess I'll have to save up cause Macs aren't cheap hahaha! Word, I'll make sure I get a laptop so when I come up I can learn hands on. Brother thank you for having me and being a true hip hop supporter and I also consider you a friend. Peace to all that support my crew and all our ventures....see you at the next show!!!

Thanks again, Dannu! I'm honored to have worked on your album and value you not only as a friend, but an artist who helped shape the scene I grew up in. Keep doing what you do because it's extremely important, not just for Cali hip hop culture, but for hip hop in general (and remember you know geeks like me, so don't put too much thought on the technical stuff, LOL). Peace bro!

Thanks again bro for having me and also for making my first solo album sound bangin!!!





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