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Written by: Robbie Ettelson
The other aspect of Dante Ross’ career that’s noteworthy to rap fiends are the classic tracks he produced with John Gamble under the Stimulated Dummies banner. Providing beats for acts such as 3rd Bass, Hard 2 Obtain, Shazzy, Del, Grand Puba, KMD, Casual and Kurious Jorge to name a few, producing provided yet another outlet for the Dante to catch wreck. In the final part of our conversation, he speaks on working with Santana, the Stimulated records label and the Hieroglyphics crew.
Robbie: At what stage did you get into producing?
Dante Ross: I saw Prince Paul and those guys doin’ it, I had a lotta records and I kinda thought, ‘Hey, I could probably figure out the S-900 and the sequencer if I tried’ – and I did. I had a couple of partners who were doin’ shit, they had a little studio, so me and the SD’s kinda became a little team and shit. It was me, John Gamble and my boy Geeby Dajani. We had a basement studio and we started making shit. The first stuff was like Brand Nubian, Leaders of the New School first record, some stuff for 3rd Bass…I think the first thing we ever did was for Shinehead. I started working on 3rd Bass ‘cos they were my friends. Sam Sever had used some records I’d put him up on, so I figured why not just hook ‘em up myself?
You also had the period where you were producing Everlast and working with Santana.
Workin’ on them records with Eric was really beautiful, I hope one day we do it again actually. That was really fun to do something that wasn’t ‘rap music’ per say, it had elements of all the stuff I like – the blues, hip-hop, pop and soul music. I got to take off the ‘hip-hop’ coat and spread my wings a little bit. Of all the people I’ve ever worked with in my whole life, I think that the stuff that I am the most proud of [is the Everlast stuff], and people don’t really recognize it in my career as much as I personally do. Maybe because I didn’t A&R the record I had a little more freedom in exploring that emotional side and the relationship to it. I did a lot of stuff for Korn – I did like six or seven remixes for them – and all those other heavy bands, and that stuff was cool because it’s a challenge to make it something that you really dig. I did stuff on the 8 Mile record that was cool and I worked with Macy Grey and shit like that.
Everlast has been an interesting character, even back when he was the so-called ‘pretty boy’ of the Rhyme Syndicate.
Yeah, ‘Never Givin’ A Fuck’ was my shit. When I first started fuckin’ with him and he was fuckin’ with Muggs and shit, I was on some, ‘Yo! I like ‘Never Givin’ A Fuck. That was my shit!’ He’s like, ‘You know that? That’s cool that you know that shit.’ I never really fucked with the Rhyme Syndicate apart from Everlast…not even Donald D. I had the records but I never listened to ‘em – except for my man Divine [Styler]! I mean I liked Divine and Eric! That’s how fucked-up I am. I just love that weirdo rap.
Weren’t they sharing a house and dropping acid together?
Yeah. Everlast told me he was living in a shack it the back of Bilal Bashir’s house with fuckin’ Divine, takin’ acid like every day for a month. It’s crazy too, because when I was about 15, 16 I was all into skateboarding, started getting into punk rock, I used to take acid all the fuckin’ time! So it’s kinda weird that me and him relate the way we do, and I think maybe some of it comes from that fuckin’ brain damage from takin’ acid as a teenager. Fuckin’ this dude too – Del – is the same shit. I’m a psychedelic dude, so I guess there’s something to be said of that kindred spirit of psychedelicness. I got over really young – I’m a dude that did all my drugs before I was twenty years old. I just smoke pot and drink beer for like the last twenty years.
You also produced the song that Everlast did on the Santana album?
I worked on three songs with Santana. I did the one that was on the album that Everlast sang, ‘Put Your Lights On. The funny shit about that song is the drum loop was in a song I did with Casual that never came out. After we sent them the demo I went out to Cali and we did the shit. It was dope working with this band and working with Carlos, he was a mad cool dude and they had a lotta respect for our vision. That was a very spiritual experience to work with someone who’s not only someone I looked up to musically but someone my parents really dug. So to be involved that he recorded that my friend wrote was cool. Another thing is, that’s the first song that Eric had recorded and wrote since he had the heart attack. It’s very abstract but the imagery is kinda about that, so it was also emotional when we were doin’ it. That was one of the only times in my whole life I pinched myself, like, ‘Yo, I’m really here right now. This is crazy!’ I actually played percussion with them on the song, it was crazy. That was super-dope. I got paid really good money for it, and I got a huge royalty off that record a couple of times. I still get checks for it. And I won a Grammy! It was great. I got to work with again and working with dude is always cool, man. One thing about that guy is he lets me produce him. And it made me think about all the times a rap motherfucker would not let me produce him and made me into a beat motherfucker instead of a producer. I’m workin’ with this dude Carlos Santana – who’s a legend – and he’s letting me produce him. I’ll be honest – when it comes to producing music, I’m probably a better producer than a beat maker. I understand arrangement, I can play a little bit, I understand harmony, melody – I understand things that are far beyond chopping a loop up. It’s so funny, ‘cos my hip-hop career crazy overshadows that shit. People don’t give a fuck. People are more concerned at like, ‘What happened when you guys made ‘Peachfuzz’?’ than a song I made a Grammy with. The irony of life…
One thing I gotta say – I had a partner through all this stuff named John Gamble. Up until the second Everlast record I worked on, damn near everything I ever did with him. He was like the engineer of the team, but also a producer, and he’s an incredibly underrated part of the element. Geeby Dajani, he was my partner in the beginning. He put us together and then he wasn’t really involved from a really early point, after maybe the first Brand Nubian record I didn’t really fuck with him on music too much after that. Maybe H2O a little bit, but that was it. The thing was I was more dominant in making the music, so we kinda had to stop working together ‘cos I was just too ambitious and driven, so I just kinda went for mine. The whole time though, I had Gamble next to me, helping me clean my shit up, make it sound better, fixing up my programming – very underrated element. I was just wanna give him thanks, props and praise. I just wanna shout out my partner John Gamble, ‘cos he’s an ill dude.
How about Del? He seems like a real character. He’s pretty out there.
Working with Del was great, that dude is awesome. Still my friend to this day, I love that guy. He’s fuckin’ bugged, man. He’s burnt, but he’s awesome. That’s my dude! Anyone talkin’ shit about Del? Fuck you. He’s great. That’s my little bro and shit. Souls of Mischief, him, Casual – all those guys, I fucked with them hardcore. I don’t know if you know, but I connected Domino with Hieroglyphics. I used to record shop at Groove Merchant; the guys who owned Ubiquity Records – Jody McFadden and Michael McFadden – they said, ‘Oh, there’s a kid in the back who makes beats. He’s great, you should meet him. He’s cool.’ I met him – it was Domino. I played him ‘Wake Up’ by Brand Nubian, that had the Night Lighters sample – the version I did that – he liked that shit. He played me a joint he did that had the same fuckin’ loop! I was buggin’. I told him, ‘I’m gonna sign with Del The Funky Homosapian – Ice Cube’s cousin – I want you to meet them.’ He used to rap, his rappin’ was meh, his beats were dope. He started fuckin’ with them and the next thing you know he became the dude doin’ a lotta their beats and their manager.
What happened with Stimulated Records?
I had a label with Loud, I had fun, I was unfocused. I was busy making Everlast records and Korn records. I could’ve done more with it if I’d been more focused, but I was havin’ fun with it. I was in love, I had a very serious woman at that point, and also I was doing big records. I got to follow my dream and make so rock records so it was cool.
So you only released the Sadat X EP and the compilation?
I’ma keep it real – the real reason I did the compilation was I knew they were gonna go out of business, I figured I was gonna lose my deal and it was a way for me to get a lot of money. I made a lot of money doing that record. Here’s the deal – I had to get out of my publishing deal, and the way I got out of my publishing deal was I co-wrote half that album. So I used that to get the back-end of my publishing, which was like a couple of hundred thousand dollars. So that was my hustle on makin’ that record. Real talk, I was like, ‘You know what? Lemme see if I can pull this off.’ And I pulled it off. That record was cool and very fun to make. I knew it wouldn’t sell a lot but it had a couple of good songs on it.
What about the Kurious stuff?
I know I said some shit about Jorge but I love Kurious. He’s one of the best freestyle rappers I ever seen. In San Francisco I seen Kurious Jorge at the radio station, freestyle in front of CL Smooth – like ten dudes with deals – and fuckin’ slay everybody. The best shit that I ever did with him, nobody ever heard. Same with Casual. I did so many songs with Casual that people never heard. I have like thirty songs with that dude that no one heard.
Are you ever going to put ‘em out?
Maybe. We keep talkin’ about it, but who’d put it out?
You knew Paul C. as well?
That was my man! I went record shopping with him. He fuckin’ put me up on ‘Skull Snaps’ and some other shit. The dude was great. Much respect. He was the first person to let me know that ‘Get Out of My Life Woman’. ‘Any time you see that record, go get that!’ When people stopped fucking with breaks, that’s when rap music got corny. To me, it lost a lot of the soul.
For all the latest on, hit the official Dante Ross site.
Everlast – ‘Next Man’
Del – ‘Del Meets The Dummies’
Brand Nubian – ‘Wake Up’ [Stimulated Dummies Mix]
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