Cool & Dre: Ridin’ Miami Across the Country

It used to be the case that when one thought of Florida, very rarely was it ever synonymous with Hip-Hop, but the tide has definitely changed. Hailing from one of the hottest cities in the country, the production duo consisting of Marcello “Cool” Valenzano and Andre “Dre” Lyon, better known as Cool & Dre, have […]

It used to be the case that

when one thought of Florida, very rarely was it ever synonymous with

Hip-Hop, but the tide has definitely changed. Hailing from one of the

hottest cities in the country, the production duo consisting of Marcello

“Cool” Valenzano and Andre “Dre” Lyon, better known as Cool

& Dre, have been slowly bring the heat wave to the masses. In just

seven years, the low key producers have lent their production and songwriting

skills to everyone from Ja Rule to Diddy, and in 2005 received two Grammy

nods for The Game’s#### single “Hate It or Love It.” 

Now, with the launch of their

record label Epidemic Music, the global marketing of their clothing

line, and their budding relationship with Miami’s hottest DJ, Khaled,

Cool and Dre are equipped to take over the music industry, one city

at a time. Read as they catch up on their latest business

ventures, from production to fine cuisine, and share their views on

sampling, trends in Hip-Hop music, and being a winner.  You guys

are one of the few production duos. Does having a partner make it easy

to be more efficient? 

Dre: Yeah. Me and Cool started

together so this is all we know, but we function separately when it

helps make the job easier, you know? We can actually be in the studio

with someone in one city and mixing another record for another artist

in another city.  And just ideas and creatively, two heads are

better than one.  There

was a time when Hip-Hop was more of a collaborative effort between an

MC and a producer, like Pete Rock and CL Smooth, Gangstarr.  Do

you think having that connection is necessary to developing your sound

as a producer? 

Dre: Pete Rock and CL Smooth

is a great example and so is Gangstarr. I mean, these days you can prominently

work with one person, and not even be like their whole album. Like,

Pharrell and Jay Z have great chemistry together. They’re known to

make hit records together. I feel like me and Cool have a great relationship

with like a DJ Khaled, where when we make records with him, the records

always turn out big; or with The Game. At the same

time, do you think that when you work with one artist that it stifles

you creatively? 

Dre: Not if it’s successful.

If it’s a successful union it makes it more powerful because it’s

hard to get at you. You’re not trying to make a record for everybody.

You’re extra exclusive. It’s almost like, “Yo, it’s an honor

to even get this guy to produce a record for me because all he works

with is…” you know?  And if you look at someone like Premo

and the other people that he decided to work with outside of Gangstarr,

it was always classic. Like, Dr. Dre is that. To this day, he is not

a guy that you can just call on the phone and get a beat. Dr. Dre is

exclusively with himself, Eminem, Snoop, 50, The Game, and that’s

about it. Dre, you had

a few singles out a couple of years ago, “Naomi” and “Chevy Ridin’

High.” Was the solo project an effort to showcase your lyrical ability

or to get you guys’ music out there? 

Dre: Me and Cool were artists

before we made beats and one of the things we feel we bring to the table

is the whole concept of the record, creatively. We come with the hook,

we give you ideas for your verses, like, we come with the whole package

and that comes from us being artists as well. So a lot of the records

that Cool and I would do, I would lend my vocals on the hook here and

there, and people started hearing it and a couple of big people spoke

with me and were like “Yo, you should do an album.” So Cool gave

me his blessing and we went in and started making music.  I was

dropping singles and I still hadn’t even dropped the album yet. I

was really feelin’ the vibe, and Jive just couldn’t connect the

dots. And honestly, I didn’t want to come out and do anything to harm

the Cool and Dre brand, and I didn’t want anyone to put me in a position

to fail, because we come to win. Like, we don’t leave the house to

lose.  Like, if you gonna lose, you gonna stay home.  I didn’t

feel as though I was gonna get that win with Jive at that time so I

kinda fell back and told everybody that I would take a break and just

get back in the studio with Cool and make a s**t load of records. When

I feel like everybody’s on the same page, maybe I’ll get back in

the studio. I hear you’re

launching your new clothing line this year, and that you’ve invested

in a restaurant.  Tell me a little about those projects. 

Cool: Yep, it’s called Dirty

Royalty. So basically we them flashy type of guys, like to be fly, you

know what I’m sayin’? We are creative as well, everyday we’re

thinkin’ of some new s**t, so we decided to do some shirts for ourselves,

and everywhere we go people would be like, “Yo, what’s up with them

shirts? Where ya’ll be buying them shirts at?”  Then it went

from that to putting them in local, hot boutiques out here. And now,

it’s like out of hand. Now all these stores are calling us from all

over the place. The website is boomin’ so now we’re at a point now

where we have to bring in reinforcements. We’re like running after

it right now, with the stores demands and all. It’s a beautiful thing.  Dre: The restaurant is called

510 Ocean. It was rated one of the top ten restaurants in all of Florida.

The Madison Chicken is great and the Filet Mignon. Okay, so let’s

talk strictly music.  What’s the most amazing new production

equipment to come out, in your opinion?  

Cool: All the soft synth technology

is the greatest thing ever.  It’s been around for a minute but

they keep revamping it.  

Dre: Yeah, it’s incredible.

Don’t get it twisted, we still on that MPC. The turntables ain’t

goin’ nowhere, so all ya’ll used to sampling off the laptops, Cool

and Dre like to hear that cracklin’ vinyl. What are Your views on sampling? 

Cool: I mean, if you’re gonna

use a sample you better be prepared to cut a check, ‘cause it’s

not cheap. 

Dre: That’s the problem I

have with sampling. We need to sample. Sampling is Hip-Hop. At the end

of the day, mostly every n**** that makes beats, their drums are sampled

from some f****n’ record.  What we need to do is get every producer

together and say we not gonna sample none of these motherf*****s’

s### for a good three years, so they can feel it. They charge you so

much to use their sample, and treat you like you’re doing somethin’

wrong, but they make so much money off of it. In some instances, it

resurrects n****s’ careers. My n***a, I’m doing you a favor. At

the end of the day, not only am I helping your career, you’re also

making a grip if the record is a hit. So you know what, how about you

pay me for sampling your record? It’s one thing when we sample a legend,

absolutely, you pay the Isley Brothers. You better pay. But if I sample

some n***a you never heard of that may have sold 100 records back in

1971, and you charging me to sample your s**t? Get the f**k outta here. : Five years into the game,

what is a trend that you have seen develop and gain momentum in the

music industry? 

Dre: Swizz [Beatz] created

something when he started really sampling for hooks. Premier used to

do it all the time, but Swizz did it with recent artists and songs you

just heard seven months ago. I think T-Pain has created something everyone

is running with, the effect that he does with his voice 

Another big trend is you have

to be a D-boy. I remember when a rapper’s story was “I had to hustle

on the side to feed the kids and pay the rent.”  But they weren’t

drug overlords. Today people feel like they have to be the dope boy

on the block and have developed millions on the street to make it in

rap.  I think that’s the only bad trend. Like, that may have

been true for a handful of people, but because their life story was

a success doesn’t mean you have to fabricate yours. So that’s like

the new thing, and it’s unfortunate. I think we’ve forgotten the

pain and struggle in slangin’.  Alright,

so talk to me about your upcoming projects 

Dre: Misery Loves Company,

with Joe Hound is droppin’ at the top of next year. Then there’s

a kid named C-Rod, we think he’s gonna be one of the biggest dudes

in the game. Then we worked on Rick Ross’ album Trilla. We

did the first single.  We did Baby’s single, featuring Lil’

Wayne, Jeezy and Rick Ross. We got Beanie Siegel’s single; it’s

called “However Do You Want It.” I promise it’s going to scare

people.  David Banner, we have his second single. We are working

with Mariah Carey, Usher, Lil’ Mama. We’re going in the studio with

The Game in couple of weeks to work on his retirement album. Now you guys

talk a lot about DJ Khaled. What exactly is the relationship between

you guys? 

Dre: We go back with him. Khaled

is important. Cool and I used to be DJs in the underground DJ station

in Miami and Khaled had just moved to Miami from Orlando. He was hustling

trying to find a way to get in the game.  He came on our station

and wanted to play. So we gave him our whole time slot, because we went

to Atlanta to pursue producing full-time.  We got back, and after

nine months he was already running the city. He’s just a winner and

he wins at a very high percentage. He had a relationship with Fat Joe

before we did, and that’s how we became close with He’s like a brother

to us. And he’s scaring the music industry right now, because people

ain’t sellin’ records anymore, and this dude found a way to sell

80, 000 units, independently, and he’s a DJ. Is there anyone

you’d give a beat to for free? 

Dre: D’Angelo.  Oh hell

yeah. D’Angelo- we’d do the whole album for free. He is the blueprint

for a lot of these n****s singing now. Who else… Goodie Mob, Outkast,

and of course, Jay Z. Any advice for

up and coming producers who are shopping their beats for free just to

get placements?  

Dre: To be honest, Cool and

I started giving out beats for free in Miami.  You have to create

a demand to get paid for something.  If you know you have something

that’s goin’ to f**k the game up, you have to get it out. A producer

should rather have his beat heard on the mix show or in the strip club,

than in his basement or garage because homeboy ain’t have the bread

to pay for the beat. Just let the motherf****r know you need that shout

out on the record. We had every n***a in Miami rappin’ over a Cool

and Dre beat, and you knew because them motherf*****s said “Cool and

Dre on this one!” And if the motherf****r didn’t like the rapper,

he damn sure said, “Them Cool and Dre n****s can make some beats.”

And then one day a n***a came knockin’ on that back door in the garage,

asking if we were Cool and Dre and how much we charge for beats. That’s

how it works. 

Cool: We always tell up and

coming producers, if you out there six or seven months and you shoppin’

your CDs with 30 or 40 beats out to all the popular, local rappers and

you don’t hear one of your beats on a mixtape, or nobody’s calling

you back…you gotta check your beats, because something’s wrong with

them.  Either you’re ahead of your time or you’re just not

on time. A producer is like a diamond in the rough. If you’re beats

are hot, they’re gonna shine through anything. Name a beat

right now that knocks. One that you hear and wish you had come up with


Dre: “Stay Fly” with 36

Mafia. Juicy J and DJ Paul’s beats are f****n phenomenal. They could

quit rappin’ and be the biggest producers in the game. 

Cool: Man, it had to be “Whoa”

[by Black Rob]. Buckwild killed that beat.