Domingo: The Most Known Unknown

You’ve heard Domingo, you just might not realize it. This East New York, Brooklyn producer has been at it for two decades as a go-to guy for the self-proclaimed “’90s sound.” Behind such records as Blahzay Blahzay’s “Danger,” Fat Joe’s “Success” and Masta Ace’s “No Regrets,” Domingo has more credits than an Oliver Stone film. […]

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You’ve heard Domingo, you just might not realize it. This East New York, Brooklyn producer has been at it for two decades as a go-to guy for the self-proclaimed “’90s sound.” Behind such records as Blahzay Blahzay’s “Danger,” Fat Joe’s “Success” and Masta Ace’s “No Regrets,” Domingo has more credits than an Oliver Stone film. With the release of his second LP, The Most Underrated, the Latin producer takes the reigns.

Touching on the role of his race in Hip-Hop, the state of the New York sound, and a publicized dispute with KRS-One, Domingo comes clean. Already getting strong reviews from a number of media outlets, this is one producer who emerges from the insert with presence. Laughing as he looks back, the most underrated New York producer refuses to change his formula and sound, and everybody from Tonedeff to Tony Yayo loves it. A lot of people associate you with QN5 Records. So it’s interesting that The Most Underrated came out on Deranged/Latchkey Records. Tell me why you went that route…

Domingo: QN5 is like a production company/label, and I’m more involved on the production side of it. I have my own thing, Deranged Music. My man Nomadic from Latchkey had approached me about putting something out, and you know, I’ll be honest: I really wasn’t looking to put anything out. They convinced me like, “Let’s just do it,” and I went with them. QN5 is fam, always will be, and I just went that route. Having put out Behind the Doors of the Thirteenth Floor in 1999, what did you learn going into this album?

Domingo: I feel I learned a lot of the politics of the game, and how the whole distribution network works. I didn’t my change my formula. I kept with the formula that record companies still love today. Musically, I’m there. You can say whatever, like I’m stuck in the ‘90s. Yeah, whateva, I’m a ‘90s era producer, and there’s a crowd for every kind of Hip-Hop. I grew mentally and musically where I learned that the sound can have more quality; that’s about it. Recently, I spoke to Tru Life. He had said that initially with his album, he intended to get veteran New York production, but changed his mind with the direction of the album. Do you think that today’s artists on the majors still want to go to people like yourself, Large Professor, Premier and others for that legitimized ‘90s New York sound?

Domingo: You know what? I can’t speak for artists outside of New York, but I feel like – yeah, every artist, their album should have diversity on every level. New York artists, one or two songs with ‘90s sounds don’t hurt. If an artist gave an audience what they wanted to hear…if Tru Life did one or two songs, it’d be cool. It doesn’t hurt. Evil Dee told me that he started out making beats in Bushwick hearing gunshots, now he hears birds chirping, but he still makes gunshot music. Being from East New York, what were you hearing when making your music?

Domingo: [Laughing] With me, I used to hear gunshots, but it don’t inspire me. I try to find a really obscure sample, mostly Latin; I used a lot of Latin records to be honest with you. I try to find that bangin’ sound and transform into something that’ll make you look ugly and break your neck. Speaking about East New York, you had an executive production hand in “Danger” by Blahzay Blahzay. That record gave your region an anthem, tell about your role in it…

Domingo: You know, you’re the first person that ever asked me that question, and I’m glad you did, ‘cause it’ll help me clear up a lot of stuff. A lot of cats always thought I produced I that record, because they don’t know the difference between executive producer and producer. My man P.F. Cuttin produced that record. P.F. played me the demo, and I, at the time, was managed by Russell Simmons and Francesca Spiro at Rush Producer Management. I knew automatically that it was a hit. Two days later, I walked over to my man Kenyatta Bell at Mercury Records, and he signed it. That’s the essence of East New York. If you look at the video, that’s East New York hangin’, throwin’ dice, partyin’. It only took one shot. Straight to Mercury, and it was signed. There’s a sense that artists need to give back to producers, like Nas putting Large Professor on his albums. In your situation, you gave back to the artists, putting Kane, Guru, and G Rap on. Do you think that’s a producer’s responsibility?

Domingo: Oh yeah! Because I always looked up to Kane, G Rap, Ras Kass, and all them artists from then. To me, like I told you, I come from that era of Hip-Hop, so I hold that real strong. Not to take away from cats of nowadays, but come on man, them cats was doing it! They still can do it! It goes with the title of the album: The Most Underrated. Come on man, Kool G Rap is mad underrated! I can’t say that about Kane; Kane always got his props. Ras Kass, underrated. That was the whole idea of the album. It wasn’t even the fact of “Yo, let me bring out the veterans,” but the veterans know how to do it better than most young dudes now. Young dudes now, a lot of ‘em is producin’ straight up garbage, rappin’-wise. You mentioned using Latin records in sampling. Do you feel, as a Latino, that when we tell the story of Hip-Hop your race is not given proper credit?

Domingo: We used to complain about it, but I think [Big] Pun set the standard. We get the props now – we still don’t get full props now, but I can say Pun made his mark, and even…I made my mark. Latins, we’re almost there with gettin’ full props. We was there from day one with Charlie Chase and stuff. We’re almost there. With every producer, I like to spotlight a specific record. Your catalog is so extensive that people might focus on the Pun record or a KRS record. To me, Domingo at his illest was Masta Ace “No Regrets.” As a concept, it’s so crazy. Was your hand in that creative process?

Domingo: [Laughs] Yeah and no. I didn’t give Ace the concept; Ace is excellent with comin’ up with concepts, and I think Disposable Arts is definitely one of his best albums, ever. He came up with his own concepts. That’s one of my favorites that I’ve done too, to be honest with you. ‘Cause I can throw it on, and anybody in the Hip-Hop game, whether a rapper or producer, can relate to it. Every rapper and producer goes up the ladder and comes down the ladder. If you’re lucky enough, you can go right back up. “No Regrets” is definitely something I can relate to. I’ve heard it’s a sore subject with you. So I’ll ask like this, we’ve seen over the years… [Domingo starts laughing hysterically]…you were KRS’ go-to producer, and overnight, it stopped. What happened?

Domingo: I knew you was comin’ with it, man! You’re doing so good, man. [Laughs] It’s funny, I’ve done interviews for this album, and that’s usually the first question. I knew the gunshot was comin’, bro.

Basically, it’s an unfortunate situation. I’ma be real with you; I’ma open the can right now, and I really hope you print it word-for-word. It’s like this, B – if Alan Grumblatt [CEO, Koch Records] didn’t let me know what was goin’ on, then me and KRS wouldn’t have been at war. Alan Grumblatt opened that can of worms. He hides behind the corporate pen. I don’t hate KRS, just for the record. KRS knows what happened, and bottom line, if nothing went wrong, I never would’ve won any kind of settlement, B. It’s unfortunate that I had to go that route, ‘cause I tried to get at Kris; I tried to get at him, constantly, with no prevail. It was unfortunate ‘cause it came to a night at [Manhattan Hip-Hop venue] SOB’s, where I was like, “Dude really disrespected me, man.” Whatever he’s done to other people that has them comin’ out the woodwork, it’s not my concern. But I was real loyal to cat, and he knows it! It’s unfortunate that he went the route he went, but I’m not gonna put it out there what he did. I had a blog up, and I’m pretty sure people read it. It is what it is. For the record, I don’t hate KRS; I hate what he did. When you’ve got loyalty, you don’t bite the hand that feeds you. I was there for homie, always was reliable to him, but he was never reliable to me. If he ever wants to throw me under the bus like he’s been doing, so I hear, it’s all good, B. I could do the same, but I’m a bigger man than that, and I’ll let him keep talkin’. Kris, just be KRS, man. He knows what he did. I feel that him and Alan Grumblatt were in cahoots with each other. If a getaway driver gets caught, the getaway driver rats on the dude that robs the bank. Feel me on that. Grumblatt was the getaway driver, and he did me like that. “I know what happened…this, this, and that. I can’t believe he did that to you, and I’ll never work with him again.” And you know what? All that crap that Alan Grumblatt said to me, he re-signed KRS, so go figure who the real jerk is. Will I ever work with KRS again? Probably not. [Laughing] I’m pretty sure he hates me right now, but you know what, it’s all good, B, ‘cause I know I did nothing wrong. The Most Underrated is getting very positive reviews. The industry sales are down, especially on an independent level. But when you look at a few instances, maybe Sean Price or Dangerdoom for examples, there are successes. All that said, what are your expectations for this album?

Domingo: I really would like to reach the kids of now. I go to the QN5 shows man, I know these kids. They can’t front on me, they’re not dancing to Crunk music, they’re dancing to ‘90s-sounding Hip-Hop. I’m hoping to get new fans of the younger generation, and let them experience the sound that I got, and pick up right from there, and make the same kinda impact that I did on the ‘90s. What’s the last new record that came out, production-wise, that you liked…something surprising?

Domingo: [Laughs] The last ill album to me… there’s a few, but I could tell you Hip-Hop is Dead by Nas, that wouldn’t surprise my fans. Sean Price’s [Jesus Price Supastar] album was hot…I don’t really know. I got you! I bought The Ultimate Breaks & Beats Collection on CD from Fat Beats. I will drive and listen to that, yo. The thing is, I got the originals, every one of them, on vinyl. My vinyl collection is crazy, I can’t play vinyl in the car, so…buy the CDs! There hasn’t been a bigger producer out of East New York than yourself. Everybody’s looking at Uncle Murda like he might be the next big rapper from there. What are your thoughts?

Domingo: Definitely, he’s reppin’ East New York, that’s always good. Ironically, I looked at all his videos today. My cousin was tellin’ me about GMG for a while. I’m sometimes in the studio right up the block from Cypress Projects, so I know about Uncle Murda…have I ever met him? No. I think and I hope that they do the right thing with him, ‘cause you know labels.