Beats, rhymes and life are three of the corners where hip hop intersects. Few other TV shows have been able to cover all of these angles in-depth and authentically quite like REVOLT TV’s “Drink Champs,” which thrives on its candid conversations with the biggest and most influential figures in the game. In honor of such a one-of-a-kind show, REVOLT will be recapping each weekly “Drink Champs” episode, so you can always catch the gems that are dropped in each lit interview.
On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN sat down with veteran producer Dame Grease to talk about his career, the artists he’s collaborated with, and his life outside of the industry.
Born Damon J. Blackman, Grease spent his early years in the Bronx and was later raised in Harlem. After working on demos with The LOX in the ‘90s, the supergroup would later secure a deal with Diddy’s Bad Boy Records. Thus, the producer inked placements on a string of noteworthy albums during the time including Ma$e’s Harlem World and The LOX’s Money, Power & Respect. From there, he also contributed heavily to DMX’s debut 1998 album, It’s Dark and Hell is Hot, and he ultimately became one of the industry’s premier hip hop producers from the East Coast. Grease would go on to work with artists including Max B, French Montana, JAY-Z, and the Diplomats and launched his own imprint through Priority Records named Vacant Lot.
To help give fans a recap, REVOLT compiled a list of nine facts that we learned from the Dame Grease interview. Take a look at them below.
1. On His Chemistry with DMX
Grease’s signature grandiose beats was the perfect complement to DMX’s hard-hitting and grimy bars. On “Drink Champs,” the producer spoke about their chemistry and said it was evident from the beginning. “My beats was always theatric,” he said. “And [DMX] was theatric. So, it was a match. The hip hop hoppity shit…he rhymed to it on freestyles coming up. But, when he came with them bars and I came with [my beats] it was like, ‘Oh shit!’”
2. On Only Getting One Song Placement on DMX’s Sophomore Album
After producing well over half of DMX’s debut album, Grease said he stopped receiving phone calls when it came time to work on the late rapper’s follow up effort, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood. He explained that he had to investigate what was going on and made calls to different contacts in the industry. “My phone calls weren’t coming through, so I had to go ‘Deep Cover,’” he said. “[People said] It’s some funny shit going on. They sending your phone calls to another producer.”
When the project was released, Swizz Beatz, who also contributed to DMX’s debut, ended up being the primary producer on Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood. Grease’s “Dogs for Life” ended up being his only contribution to the project and he said DMX created the song with him in mind. “Dog was catching the vibes [of what was going on] and he made the song for me,” he said.
3. On Working with Riff Raff
It’s no secret that Grease has worked with some of the most legendary and respected lyricists in the game. That’s why some may have looked at his collaboration with reality star-turned-rapper Riff Raff as an odd match up. The two linked up for the rapper’s 2012 mixtape Hologram Panda. Grease explained on “Drink Champs” that while he was initially criticized by fans, they ultimately gave him praise. “People were like what are you doing?” he said. “When the project came out, people was like Grease, ‘How you do that? How you make me like him?’ So, it was cool…it was different.”
4. On Taking a Break to Enjoy Life
French Montana and Grease worked together early in the rapper’s career, and he has since gone on to achieve commercial success. N.O.R.E. asked Grease if he felt slighted these days now that the artist is working with other producers. Grease explained that there is no love lost, especially because he needed to take some much-needed time off. “I needed to take some cool breaks off,” he said. “I had consecutive years. I don’t smoke, drink anymore. I took time off to get a lot of spiritual healing and get very close to my family. Dad is sitting still. I’m not outside. I’m home.”
5. On Max B Fitting in with Today’s Sound
Grease and fellow Harlemite Max B collaborated on a string of mixtape tracks before the rapper ultimately released his debut album, Vigilante Season, in 2011 though the MC was sentenced in 2009 for his role in a robbery-turned homicide. Originally sentenced to 75 years in prison, Max appealed his conviction and his charges were lowered to aggravated manslaughter. The rapper is reportedly scheduled to be released from prison this year. During the interview, N.O.R.E. asked Grease if he believes Max can fit in with today’s sound and he said he believes he can if he trains for it. “You got to come in, do you push-ups,” he said. “You got to spar. We gots to get in and go in. We got to know the targets. Max always got some shit. All that shit gotta be fire. He always got a slick ass bar.”
6. On French Montana Trading Beef for Commercial Success
Max and Montana collaborated heavily last decade with their Coke Wave mixtape series. At the time, both rappers were embroiled in beef with Max’s former Dipset cohort Jim Jones. Last year, Montana and Jones squashed their longstanding beef on a Instagram Live chat, and also released a track together months later. When asked about their reconciliation, Grease told N.O.R.E. that he knew that Montana had to put the beef and the street life behind him to get to the level that he is on now. “After we got off the mixtape wave, French came entirely politically correct,” he said. “Because he knew on the gang-banging side, he wasn’t going to be the French he is now. He knew that he had to clean up a few shit and not fuck with too many of the goons to get where he needed to be.”
7. On Working with Ol’ Dirty Bastard
Over the years, it seems like nearly everyone who got a chance to work with Wu-Tang’s Ol’ Dirty Bastard has a story about the rapper’s antics in the studio. Grease recalled working with him shortly before he died. He explained that while OBD was heavily sedated on medication, he said there were moments when the rapper’s old self would pop up. “He was just cool, chill and quiet,” he said. “It was only two things that was getting his reaction, one was my [friend’s] wife.” Grease added that the other thing that got the rapper’s attention was a beat that he made that later turned into the track “Move Back.” “I was making the ‘Move Back’ beat and that shit woke him out of it,” Grease said. “I saw the door creep open real slow and he peaked in. In 15 minutes, he did his verse.”
8. On His Health Scare
During the interview, Grease admitted numerous times that he doesn’t drink or smoke anymore, and even had one of his cohorts take shots for him during N.O.R.E.’s famous “Quick Time with Slime” segment. But despite Grease’s efforts to lead a healthier lifestyle, he revealed that he ran into some health problems earlier this year. But, he said now, he’s in the clear. “Right after [DMX’s] funeral, I had to have an operation the next day,” he said. “They had to check my chest because last year, I had a lung infection. They cut a nigga open and got tissue samples. They checked for cancer but [I’m] cancer free.”
9. On Producing “Body in the Trunk” for N.O.R.E. and Nas
N.O.R.E. and Grease collaborated with each other on several occasions, but their most memorable collaboration is arguably “Body in the Trunk,” which also featured Nas. The track appeared on N.O.R.E.’s debut solo album, and it featured both Queens spitters flowing off a mafioso beat crafted by Grease. N.O.R.E. reflected on the song’s creation, and revealed that he and Nas wanted to make a concept record and that’s what set the tone for the song. From there, he said they laid the track in 20 minutes. N.O.R.E. asked Grease what he remembered from making the track and the producer said that he was just satisfied to get the opportunity to work with both emcees. “Y’all was in the game way before us, so I was a fan already,” Grease said. “It was fucking magical. It was like niggas was on some mobster shit, so I made a mobster beat.”