This is the spot where you’ll see upcoming producers and Industry veterans in the game. A lot of people don’t know what goes into production. This will be the section where we feature the hottest producers in hip hop. Each month we’ll bring to you a new producer along with their background.
THIS MONTH’S FEATURE IS: DARREN VEGAS
Darren Vegas, raised in Orange County Cali is a multi platinum producer who started playing the piano at the early age of six. He then in middle school started playing the drums, and began mixing and scratching on the turntables.
Early in his music career he teamed up with J Rocc of the Beat Junkies and the two began dee jayin local clubs in Orange County and Los Angeles and started producing local music acts. Darren decided that producing was where his real passion was at. After turning down his first record deal offer with Don Cornelius of Soul Train, he started his own label Killa Cali Records and formed the group Killafornia Organization with the help of Chill from Compton’s Most Wanted.
After selling over 350 thousand records with their first L.P, the group disbanded after their distribution company Raging Bull failed to pay any royalties and later claimed bankruptcy. Soon after, Vegas began workin with fellow producer Mark Sparks and artist Anthony Hamilton and Sunshine Anderson of Soul Life music.
Darren’s production really got noticed when he cut a track with Snoop Dog and the L.B.C. Crew entitled Dippen In My Low Low, which was later released on The Dogfather Album as an intermission track. After failing to sign with Death Row at the time when his new manager was murdered (Jake Robles A.K.A. BIG Jake), Darren moved on and soon met up with multi- platinum recording artist Layzie Bone of Bone Thuggs N Harmony. They instantly hit it off and after recording several records including Bone Thugs Resurrection, Layzie Bones solo debut Thug By Nature, Mo thug Mothership, and Bizzy Bone’s The GIFT. Darren’s career was in full motion. It was then when an M.C. by the name of Crooked I, who Vegas had met through a mutual friend Big C Style ( the founder of Tha Dog Pound) came into the picture.
After their first record at Virgin failed to come out over a record company scandal, the two joined forces and began recording Crook’s new record “Untouchable Cali” along with Long Beach producer Jim Gitum. Vegas was the producer and Executive producer of the album doing what ever he could to get the three of them in studios throughout Orange County and L.A. It was during this time that Crooked I, who then signed to a deal with Dog Pound records, hashed a deal with Death Row and Suge Knight.
After Big C Style, Daz and Suge fell out Crooked I then signed a deal directly with Death Row. Suge had been hearing about Darren’s production in the streets through fellow Compton associates and after producing two cuts off the Tupac album Untill The End Of Time, it was at this time that Darren flew to Mule Creek Penitentary to sign a production deal as the head producer of Tha Row Records with notorious C.E.O. Suge Knight.
While at Tha Row Darren produced hundreds of tracks with artists such as Kurupt, Left eye, Keyshia Cole, Ray J, Crooked I, Roscoe, Spider Loc, Ganxta Ridd, and Monsta from The Boo Yaa Tribe, KC and JO JO, Too Short, 187, Sisco and many more. After being promised that all the records were going to be released after their first release Disfunktional Family and Tupac’s New Mixx Classics, Darren realized that all wasn’t what it seemed at Tha Row and he soon left.
After struggling to leave the falling label Darren took a long break from the music industry and began a career as a professional poker player in high stake cash games.
Recently Darren has formed his new company DarrenVegas.com and THEBEATMAFIA.COM. He is currently working with many platinum artists and is again dedicating himself to his music. His latest songs include such artists as: Snoop Dog, XZIBT, Too Short, E40, Raz Caz, King T, MC EIHT, Kurupt, Roscoe, and many more.
Darren is once again excited about the music business and making some of the best songs of his career. He is also back working with Layzie Bone Again and he expects big things to come. RAPINDUSTRY.COM recently tackled the talented producer down..
What’s poppin? How have you been?
been real busy back in the studio again with my new production company the beat mafia we are a full fledged production company working with some of the biggest artist in hip hop today.
You been laying low for a minute, What have you been up to?
Im currently workin with 40 glocc on his album NWA. I recintly produced a cut “spin tha globe” on his last mix tape album. Latest cut I did has some of the West’ heaviest hitters, it’s called Welcome to Cali .. We have about 4 different versions of this cut with diff. west coast artists featured on each. The first one i just finished features SNOOP, E-40, TOO SHORT, XZIBIT, AND BIG 40 GLOCC. IT’S DEFINITELY A WEST COAST BANGER! Something we need over here which is a liitle untity so we can put this shit back together, should be hittin radio next couple weeks.
Lets talk about how you got into music.. What was your inspiration for getting into hip hop?
Who inspired you to do it, at what point did you say,, ” This is what I want to do”..?
I got into hip hop at an early age, I had played piano and drums as a young kid and then around 15 got into dee jaying, that’s when hip hop was really fresh and raw. My partner was the famous J Rocc from the Beat Junkies. We use to sit in his crib all day drinkin big gulps scratchin and mixin and I got my first sampler and we started loopin and i was adding keyboards to the cuts then we would play live parties and my man Boodro from kIllafornia would rock the mic. I was inspired alot by producers like Pete Rock, Dr. Dre, DJ Quik, Run Dmc, and Rakim were some of my favorite Mc’s.. also Cube/ NWA. There was alot of raw talent in those days.
Tell us about the Killafornia days.. There was a some nice music coming from that camp.. What happened with the whole Killa Cali label? That album still gets alot of attention for hardcore westcoast hip hop fans.. Any chances of a re-union album or Killafornia 2? You still stay in touch with any of the fellas?
The Killafornia days were some of the funniest days in the studio, there were no rules we just said what ever the fuck we wanted and didn’t care what people thought, it was just raw everyday, was like a damn gangsta party in the studio. I still stay in contact with all the guys and we have recently been talkin bout cuttin some new tracks.. should be fun. I would love to have a renuion. We sold alot of records with that album.. independent with no video.. strictly street with no co op from the label.. they pretty much ripped us off. We never got a cent from that record and it’s still selling. That kind of tore everyone apart at that time but we all cool now it’s all love.
Tell us a little about your brief stint as head producer of Death Row. What was the atmosphere like? What was it like working under Suge’s roof? Did you have free-reign? or was everything under a tight grip like legend has it? Working with Kurupt, Crooked I , Ray J, Danny Boy, etc.. any memorable stories you’d like to share that stuck out that the readers might be interested in?
I was head producer for Death Row from about 2001 to 2003 or so.. it’s all pretty much a blur. I used to spend 6 days a week in the studio doin 12 hour sessions. I had 3 albums on Billboards Top 100 so I was already platinum when I went there… with groups like Bone Thugz n Harmony. The first record I cut at Tha Row was Pac ( Till the End of Time ) I did songs Happy Home and Why U Want 2 Turn On Me, then Dogg Pound 2002. After that it was alot of Crooked I, Kurupt, Left Eye aka Nina, Keysha Cole was there, Ray J, Eastwood, Danny Boy, Spider Lo, c Gansta Rid from Booyaa and on any day u didn’t know who would slide through.. Too Short, KC. JOJO, Murder inc camp, Jada Kiss, and tons of other shit was dope and they was all rappin on ny beats.. lot of shit that should have been released. I still have some of that unreleased material. Some of the hottest shit was the Crooked I Untouchable Cali album produced by Jim Gitum and myself. Hutch did a cut as well. We had alot of fun makin that album with Crook cuz no one was there tryin to tell us how to make our music unlike some other times. The Crook album “Hoodstar” I just got word is gonna be released on june 15th which I produced almost the entire album. My man Monsta from Booyaa laced alot of guitar. Hutch was there at the mixin board for some of it and Jim Gitum was there for some as well. I’m glad it’s gonna finally have a real release.. I think Crook may have sold his rights to the album when he got released from Tha Row but I think people should still hear what we were working on. I think the album should have had tracks from Untouchable Cali and Say Hi to the Bad Guy… combined shit would have been a West coast classic but i didn’t have no control over that.
Do you still stay in touch with Crooked I? Any chance of working together again on anything?
I haven’t talked to crooked I in years since i introduced him to Treacherous Records and then got cut out the deal.. Bad decision on his part, I don’t think they ever released a solo record on him.
In terms of production, what is your process? do you use live instruments, etc.?
In terms of production i had always rocked the mpc with a bunch of keyboard racks makin beats from scratch or sometimes doin remixes. I pride myself on being able to play the instruments.. but i also Dj and can scratch and sample and all that shit. I feel u have to be well rounded to be able to make it in the game for as long as i have. I recently switched over to Reasons and am lovin it… havin all the racks at my disposal. The Beat Mafia also makes and designs our own drum sounds and loops. should be releasing a new cd shortly.
Take us through a typical studio session with you.
As far as creating i usually start out with a keyboard riff and take it from there adding what ever else comes to mind. I don’t know where all the songs come from it just happens. It still amazes me sometimes but i still love it as much as the day I first started. I also dabble on the guitar and live percussion.. pretty much whatever i can get my hands on. I’m always writing lyrics. Alot of people don’t know that i started out rappin too.. i spit verses on a few of the Killafornia cuts and often rap or write hooks for alot of the artists i work with.
What producers do you respect and look up to?
As far as producers i respect, i would have to say Dr. Dre. He knows how to make people and his production sounds really good and bottom line he makes stars. I also love Timbaland’s music. The cats that produce Sade are some of my favorite, others would be Storch, Premier, and Outkasts’ producers.
What artists do you listen to?
I bump alot of Jay Z’s shit, 50 Cent.. love Scarface and many more and i think the West bout do do some nice things again. I think people really miss the genre of music right now. I’m feelin alot of kanye’s production and Young Money is a talented cat as well.
What’s your take on the current state of Hip-Hop?
I think the current state of hip hop is in a transition. I feel people are gettin sick of alot of the gimmick bullshit raps and just solo dance songs. I think it’s time for some new artists to break out and show some substance. I think the net has changed the music so drastic in hip hop that alot of artists don’t make quality albums. People’s attention span has shrunk to the point where they want instant gratification and just to download alot of singles but you know the hip hop industry has to try and make a concious effort to change that.. maybe we gotta take it back to basics.
Looking ahead.. say, 5, or even 10 years down the road, where do you see yourself?
Biggest career moment has been ____________________ ?
Two moments stick out to me in my career the first time i met with Bone Thugs and Bizzy Layzie and Flesh started goin crazy when they first heard my tracks and Bizzy’s crazy ass was jumpin on tables rappin to them and i know we where about to make some dope shit together, and the other when i was flown to mule creek state prison in Northern Cali to meet SUGE KNIGHT where he told me he wanted to make me the next biggest producer in rap music…
Tell us about the recent remix you did with E-40, Xzibit, 40 glocc, and snoop.. How did that song come about? Is this song being featured on an album?
The new cut i did with 40 Glocc and a slew of other west coast artist came about by 40 bringin me an instrumental that he wanted me to remix, then he took it to Too short E-40 Snoop Xzibit and a few other superstar mc’s from the west and had them lay there verses. My man C Sick, one of my engineers who makin a big name for himself right now mixed the cut and then myself and the Beat Mafia did another remix to it. It’s an ongoing song that we bout to make alot of noise with. 40 Glocc connectin the West and we about to do big thangs. I thank him for that.. he a cool mothafucka. We gonna do alot of big things together.
What else can we expect from you? What else you working on?
Other things im workin on right now is my solo project wit the Beat Mafia where i will be puttin together a bunch of new and already famous artists on one album featuring my production. I jus started darrenvegas.com and the beatmafia.com. I been in the studio makin beats everyday, some of the best music of my life. I’m really grindin and feel i have had a rebirth.
Any last words?
I want fans to go cop the new release from Death Row June 15th Hoodstar. I am currently in talks with them and will see if they take care of me. I will be lettin the fans know for the record.. I produced on the cuts ‘Fuck em’ and ‘Cali Love’ . Three i think they got the credits wrong. Shout out to Big Monsta from Booyaa, The Jons and Mr P from the Beat Mafia. I wanna thank all the fans and friends that have shown me support over the years oh yeah Layzie and i are back in contact and on the verge of doin some big things again peace