When Mase spit the line “any nigga make it hot get signed to Vacant Lot” on DMX’s “Niggaz Done Started Something” back in ’98 it was a sign that Dame Grease, CEO of Vacant Lot Productions, had arrived. Born in The Bronx and raised in Harlem, Grease’s resume reads like a track listing to a “Hood’s Greatest Hits” collection. From songs like “Get At Me Dog” all the way up to “Feds Takin Pictures” he’s spent the past decade cementing his position as “your favorite producer’s favorite producer” and right now he’s putting the finishing touches on his own full length album “Goon Music,” which is due out May 27th on Babygrande Records. This week Grease sat down with us here at RapReviews and opened up about a number of topics, including his loves of techno and classical music, what it was like being in the studio with ODB, and what he thinks of all the artists that are upset over how the landscape of Hip-Hop is changing. As it turns out, there is a lot more to Dame Grease than just hood hits.

Adam Bernard: You’ve worked with a lot of high profile artists and a lot of underground emcees. Does your working style differ at all depending on whether or not you’re with a big name artist or an underground MC?
Dame Grease: Nah, it’s my thing to just do the best at what I do. I actually like to work with a lot of different artists because different artists have their own different vibes and different situations, so me as a producer, especially as a producer that’s had like twelve years in the game, thanks be to God that I’ve been successful this amount of years, I like to keep it moving. I can’t concentrate on doing one specific sound. If I was only working with DMX I would only be doing a sound for DMX. I work with different artists and when I hear what they have it’s my job to create a whole new sound or swag that I feel can propel that artist to stardom. I’m a next level type of dude. That’s why a lot of the songs that I make may end up being classics in their own right. If they’re a public classic, as far as being a mainstream classic, or if they’re an underground classic, or a jail person classic, or they’re a classic song that’s to a certain demographic of people. The songs I create tend to be that because that’s what I’m thinking, and put into it, to make it like that.

AB: So different sets of clubs have different sets of classics.
Dame Grease: Yeah, you know what I’m saying? And that’s the whole thing; I like to be in ALL the clubs. I’m all in Hip-Hop, R&B, techno; I’m in all them fuckin clubs.

AB: Techno?
Dame Grease: Yeah, I’m with it. I got a song called “Drugs in the Club,” which actually is a disco song. I’ve done three movie scores, Exit Wounds, Cradle 2 the Grave, Never Die Alone. In a lot of them scores I used a composition of techno, orchestral, classical, different types of styles in there.

AB: I think a lot of people who only know your work with The Lox and DMX and mixtapes might be kind of surprised to hear about the techno and the classical side of you. What kind of a musical background do you have?
Dame Grease: The streets. {*laughs*}

“It’s not the point that I ride around in the car listening to techno, but if I’m in a techno club I’m chillin, I’m bouncing, I’m grooving, having some drinks.”

AB: The streets raised ya on techno and classical?
Dame Grease: {*laughs*} Nah it’s funny because it’s not that, but I’ma tell you, I’m from the birth of gangsta rap, but just being like I was a little kid that used to tune in to MTV, it used to come in on 25, so I was always around different things and listened to different music. It’s not the point that I ride around in the car listening to techno, but if I’m in a techno club I’m chillin, I’m bouncing, I’m grooving, having some drinks. I acclimate to the music. Being a true musician you have to aspire in a spirit to all walks of music because this is what you do.

AB: So I’m guessing your album collection is pretty thick.
Dame Grease: Oh man, I don’t even collect albums, and fuck the MP3s, I buy CDs. When I sample I like my shit crispy, so I only use CDs.

AB: I can understand that. iTunes doesn’t have everything. There are some things you can only find on vinyl or CD.
Dame Grease: Exactly, they haven’t made it there yet. Vinyl’s the ultimate because there are songs that are on vinyl that you’ll never find anywhere else, but I’m not the one to gravitate towards the vinyl sound, I’m actually the producer that gravitates towards clarity. Even if my shit is dirty and knockin it’s still beautiful. I like it like that.

“I like my shit crispy because it gotta appeal to everybody.”

AB: No static or scratches?
Dame Grease: I ain’t with all that shit. I like my shit crispy because it gotta appeal to everybody and doing that is actually why doing some of the music I do crosses over to a different audience. Sometimes you will find an old lady singing the DMX version of “Ain’t No Sunshine” just because we actually played Bill Withers but put a different twang on it that Bill himself would respect and say “yo, you hooked that up!” We gotta keep it on that line. You gotta respect the music.

AB: I want to find a YouTube video of an old lady singing DMX, especially if she can do the voice. She’d have to have smoked for about 40 years to make it happen.
Dame Grease: There’s a lot of em out there now.

AB: On front porches all over America yelling at kids to get off their lawn and scaring the crap out of them.
Dame Grease: “Y’all gon’ make me lose my mind!”

AB: Yeah, I guess they originated that. So with all the different styles of music you’re doing, who are you associated with that you think might surprise people?
Dame Grease: I’ve done an album with Tricky. Me and DJ Muggs with Tricky, the alternative British artist. It’s a classic album, Juxtapose. That was a couple of years ago. Right now, I wouldn’t say there’s anybody that would surprise because a lot of the artists I work with are actually my homeboys, too. It’s funny, Kurious Jorge is my main man, we be in the bar all the time chillin.

AB: The Constipated Monkey?
Dame Grease: Yes, that’s my main man. Jorge was up in here yesterday. He has some new material coming out that I’m actually associated with, but we just chill, sit back and have some brews.

“I had some wild sessions with Dirty. Ol’ Dirty Bastard, he recorded like a whole album up here in my studio.”

AB: So that’s someone you chill out with. On the flipside, who has provided you with your wildest in-studio session?
Dame Grease: I had some wild sessions with Dirty. Ol’ Dirty Bastard, he recorded like a whole album up here in my studio. It was crazy because with my studio I have trees, a little river and all that, so you can get a breath of fresh air and do your thing, but when you come inside it’s like oh shit, you walk through trees, but you walk right back in Harlem, so people like it and I get a good vibe in here. At first he was cool and we were chillin out, we had worked together back in the day, before he did his bid, so he came in and was all cool, but after probably a day or two he looked around and said oh shit, this is home, man. He became more loose. I remember one time I was banging in the other room and he could hear it so he came in like “hey man, what’s that?” Now, a person won’t know the equipment so whatever you’re touching, they’ll think everything is coming out of there, and I was fucking with the Triton so he was like “yo, b you rocked the shit outta that Triton, man. I don’t know what the fuck you’re doing but you rocked the shit outta that Triton, man. What you doing in here with that shit.” The beat I was making was the “Move Back” remix and I said “you want to get on it? Do what you do.” That’s how it happens a lot of times. It’s more of a natural vibe, so that the songs that we create are classic material.

AB: That’s a great ODB story. Switching gears a bit, with you being involved in so many different genres of music, what do you think of the material that’s currently dominating NYC radio station airwaves?
Dame Grease: I like it. See I fuck with it. Of course I have my personal opinions of saying that sometimes things get a little too one sided, but now I ain’t gonna lie, I’m a different type of cat, man. There’s gotta be something out there poppin. Everybody just can’t be mad. If their shit ain’t poppin then it’s a new groove, it’s a new wave right now, so you gotta get up in that wave, make it pop and stay in the game.

AB: So is the key word “adjust?”
Dame Grease: Yeah, man. Make it pop, adjust. It makes it better when you have your own groove. Like right now, and what I’m saying is real talk, how I did “We’ll Always Love Big Poppa” and “If You Think I’m Jiggy” in 97, “Get At Me Dog” in β€˜98, “Dance With Me” Mary J. Blige, “Crown Me” with T.I. and Cam’ron in 2003, let’s go up to “Feds Takin Pictures” just last year with Jeezy, T.I., Rick Ross, Young Buck and Drama and “Big Spender” just last year with Jay-Z and Freeway. It’s total relevance from then to now, but it’s still me. It’s still Grease beats. It’s still Vacant Lot Productions. Adjust is a strong word when you tell a mothafucka to adjust. You can’t tell a street nigga to adjust. {*laughs*} Nobody can come in and say “Yo Grease you gotta adjust.” I’ma say fuck you, kiss my ass. But in the real fact, to keep this shit relevant and poppin, that’s what it is. How I done “Get At Me Dog,” that’s poppin, to “Feds Takin Pictures,” that’s poppin, and that’s like a ten year time span. I’m still doing me, it’s just me as of right now. Know your groove.

AB: A lot of people complaining may be stuck in 2001.
Dame Grease: They’re stuck in a time span from when they were the most popular and that’s a crybaby. Know your groove.

“That’s excuses. We’re in a man’s world, no motherfucking excuses.”

AB: Isn’t it hard, though, when you’ve had popularity, to say well that’s what was poppin then, this is what’s poppin now?
Dame Grease: Nope, not at all. That’s excuses. We’re in a man’s world, no motherfucking excuses. The Sean’s know their groove. Sean Combs and Sean Carter know their grooves. You don’t have to be caught up in no validation of complaining and stuff. C’mon man, music is fun. Music is something that we do for people to have fun, for people to feel good. If you’re upset we’re gonna cry with you and give you an outlet. If you’re angry you ain’t gonna go do it so you’re gonna listen to this shit and be like yeah and do some pushups and get it off. It’s what we do. I’m rocking with the Seans.

AB: Is there anything you’d like to see more of in Hip-Hop today?
Dame Grease: Originality, of course. I’ma say this, more success to making money and popularity, do what needs to be done, but if a lot of these muthafuckas ain’t the same muthafucka now I’ma kill myself. You feel me? That’s how I’ll put that. We need more originality, we need more Outkasts, we need more Goodie Mobs, we need more DMXs, we need more Lox, we need more Ludacris’, we need more Jeezeys, people who do their thing.

AB: And we need more people who listen to Gnarls Barkley knowing that Cee-Lo is from Goodie Mobb.
Dame Grease: Exactly. You see, there you go with that time span relevance. Those are the things that we need more of. You just do you and the music’s gonna come through.

AB: Finally, speaking of doing you, what can people expect to hear from you in the near future?
Dame Grease: On May 27th I’m putting out my next album, it’s called “Goon Music.” It’s on Vacant Lot / Babygrande Records. It’s a lot different from the Live on Lennox Ave. album that I put out a couple of years ago. On Live on Lennox I rapped on one song, on this album, this is my fucking album and I’m rapping on damn near all the joints. I’ma keep it real clear, I don’t want people to get it confused because I have a career as a producer and I’m never going to take away from my day job, my producer craft, this album is just a reflection. “Goon Music” is something a little more intimate and personal that I wanted to put out there so people could get a description from the streets of New York of how it’s poppin out here. I mixed and mastered the whole thing, too. It’s like a Hip-Hop opera and I’m not rappin or spitting, I’m hood narrating on this album. The album is like a movie and the good thing about it is this album is the reset button. After this album right here you’re going to see everybody in New York have their shit in tact. Trust me.