Rap maestro Dame Grease comes off slick with a hot new album

KHALID J. STRICKLAND | 4/12/2011, 4:34 p.m.

Throughout his exclusive interview with The Amsterdam News, hip-hop super-producer and official Harlem native, Dame Grease, exuded the calm of a Zen master. Perhaps Grease felt comfort in his very own Lot Musik Recording Studio, a state-of-the-art facility spawned from the millions of albums he's assisted in selling. Or Dame Grease may have been at ease now that his latest album, "Goon Musik", is now in stores and on iTunes (courtesy of his own Vacant Lot Records label) for the world to enjoy. Most likely, his cool demeanor was honed during numerous interviews; Grease has been heavily sought-after ever since he produced 13 tracks on rapper DMX's 1998 debut album, "It's Dark and Hell is Hot," which has sold over 4 million copies. Since then, Dame Grease's production resume spans like a scroll, punctuated with contributions to prominent artists such as the LOX, Nas, N.O.R.E., Freeway, Dipset's Hell Rell and, of course, many more collaborations with DMX. Grease also scored the Hollywood films "Exit Wounds," "Cradle 2 the Grave," and "Never Die Alone," all of which starred his friend, Earl Simmons aka DMX.

Despite his many accomplishments, Grease still dealt with prejudiced executives who stigmatized him due to his Harlem/hip-hop roots. Grease chuckled as he detailed one of his initial Tinseltown experiences, stating, "When I did my first movie score, and I'm not going to say any names, but a (movie industry) guy said, 'Okay, you're a rap producer; you produced all those DMX albums. What are you doing in Hollywood?' I said, 'I'm going to work on this movie, kick (butt) and score it.' Then he (showed his) ignorance. We were driving in a Saab car through Warner Brothers (Studios) and I remember him pressing the OnStar (navigation system). And he's like, 'This is an OnStar. Do you know what this is?' I take everything as a test from God, being a Black man and being from the street. I'm a humble guy. But I had to tap him on the shoulder and say, 'Sir, I hate to say it, but I've been a millionaire since 23 and I have two Benzes and two Cadillacs at home. They all have (OnStar) and I don't even know how to work that thing."

Beginning with "We'll Always Love Big Poppa," the memorable Biggie Smalls tribute song by the LOX in 1998, Dame Grease brought a style to hip-hop music that many an upstart producer has imitated. When asked how he felt he influenced rap beats, Grease deferred to another legendary hit maker.

"I'm a producer that respects other producers. Here's a quote from Easy Mo Bee, who produced other records and he's an O.G. in the game," said Grease.

"He told me, even though I didn't notice, 'Grease, you originated all of the string (instruments) and all of the horns that everybody is doing'. I know I do it, but it's cool when another person recognizes it."

Dame Grease's new album, "Goon Musik" is a cohesive compilation featuring vocals by his Lot Musik artists such as Meeno, Bigga Threat, Tony Wink, and even Grease himself. Former Dipset affiliate Max B also makes a cameo on the song "Connecticut Kush." The exceptional album, distributed by major indie label Babygrande Records, is a finely-produced labor of love for Mr. Grease.

"This album was actually not put out to be the first-week big seller and all that hoopla," Grease explained. "This album is a classic type of album that's going to go along a timeline. It's going to be volumes. A lot of my music is going to be prime time, like (the hit Jay-Z/Freeway duet) "Big Spender," done real big. But my element where I come from is street music, hard music-that's my element. So I always have to keep the balance. 'Goon Musik' is real serious. Then I go into the mainstream and do big songs with big artists." Grease has contributed beats to promising rapper and fellow Harlemite, Donny Goines, who sits just below the radar and could use a push from the famed producer to launch him into the stratosphere. With tracks for Virginia-based rap duo the Clipse in the can and his next album "Sour Diesel" (which features Styles P, N.O.R.E., Sheek Louch and the Clipse's Pusha T) already waiting in the wings, Dame Grease's Zen-like confidence is justified.