Interview with NOTTZ, producer for 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks, Cassidy, Busta Rhymes - Aug 16, 2004
"A lot of A&Rs try to be producers, but they're not"Based in Norfolk, Virginia, Dominick Lamb a.k.a. Nottz has produced a variety of urban artists, including 50 Cent (US multi-platinum), Lloyd Banks (US No. 1), Cassidy (US Top 3), and Busta Rhymes (US platinum).
How did you get started in the music business and how did you become a producer?
I started in the business when I was about fifteen, going back and forth to New York City. My manager Darryl Sloan and I used to go there so he could shop me and thatís where I in 1997 ran into Busta Rhymes and everything started happening for me.
What have been the important events that led you forward?
Working with and doing a track for Dr. Dre, doing the Ghostface album, the Cassidy album, and the G-Unit album that just came out.
Do you have your own studio?
Yes, I have my own studio and lab in Norfolk where I do all my beats. The labels send the artists down to work with me and I come up with songs for them.
What pieces of equipment are most important for you in your work?
The ASR-10 keyboard. Thatís the main piece of equipment that I use to make all my beats.
What have you improved since you started out?
Learning how to make songs and not just beats. Songs that people can enjoy. I do that best in my own studio when artists come down to me, like Busta Rhymes, to work with me.
At what point did you get management?
My manager, Darryl, has been with me since I started. He is my partner as well as my manager. I know him from Virginia, Darryl and my brothers used to make music together and he has been around my family and me since I was about fourteen years old. He was the one that had the knowledge about the business.
How important is it for a producer to have management?
Itís really important for a producer to have management, because you can be taken advantage off without proper management if you go out there and shop your beats yourself.
How did you come to work 50 Cent?
50 Cent used to be on Sony and he was down with the Track Masters. He called me up one day and wanted to work with me and I did a track for his Sony album that never came out, but it leaked out on a bootleg CD.
What separates 50 Cent and his crew G Unit from other rappers?
When 50 came out he was on everybodyís mixtapes and he was just was killing the mixtape market. At the time, that was a different approach; mixtapes were new to the game and 50 took advantage of it. But things have changed a lot since then and I donít think it can work again. Everybody has too much of their own agenda and groups now canít throw a lot of mixtapes.
What are you currently working on?
Right now, Iím working with r&b artist Bilal; 50 Cent and Busta Rhymesí new albums; Royce Da 5í9Ē; Canibus, and a couple of artists that are trying to come up, like Cory Gunz, who is Peter Gunzí son. Cory is signed to Tommy Mottolaís new label, Casablanca and itís a big act getting ready to come out.
Iím also working with an own project thatís coming out through Koch Records, and I got my own group coming out called D.M.P. Theyíre projects that Iíve been working for the last 3-4 years and theyíre finally getting their breaks.
What makes you take on a production?
It all depends on who the artist is. If Iím feeling that the artist gets me going, then I get excited. Like, ď Man, I definitely want that artist to be rappiní over my beatsĒ.
How much input generally do the A&Rs and managers have on the productions?
The A&Rs basically try to pick songs, but I like it when the artists pick the songs themselves because of what theyíre thinking they can do with them. The A&Rs or managers try to pick songs, but they donít know what the artist can do with it.
But yes, I do have enough independence to work with artists. A lot of the times labels call Darryl and say that theyíre looking for a song like this or that, but I like doing what I do. I donít make songs like this or that; I do what I do.
How much do you charge for a production?
I let my manager handle that business. I donít want to be greedy, it all depends on who the artist is and if I really want to work with him.
What do you consider your best productions?
I canít label that, because I feel like I havenít done my best production yet. Also, I donít want to label that, because I liked working with everybody I ever worked with. Some of my best productions havenít even been released due to the labels dropping the acts.
But I think the best stuff is going to be projects that I have that are just coming out. The world is going to see most of the new stuff coming out in the next three to four months and itís some of the best work I ever did.
Do you accept unsolicited material from unsigned artists?
Yes, I do. I like taking material from independent artists that donít have deals. You never know who the next big rapper or r&b artist is going to be. Darryl and I listen to everybodyís stuff and give them a chance if we feel theyíre ready.
There have been times that Iíve told Darryl that I like it and he then passed it on to another manager or to an A&R who looks for that type of artist. Other times Iíve felt that itís a project that I wanted to keep my hands on and I worked with the artist to help him reach the level where labels would want to sign him.
What are the important qualities for an aspiring rapper to have?
Iíd say have the basic business in order. I like it when they already have a manager and all they need is basic production, because for most artists their weak part is production. I like it when an artist comes to me and their singing and basic lyrics are already there and all they need is the right music. Basically, thatís where the stars are at.
What do you think of the current rap scene?
Hip-hop has become pop, but itís changing now and itís coming back to where hip-hop started at. I see rap going back to where it used to be, like back in 1988-90, and I see r&b going back more to live performing with a band.
What is bad about the music business?
Whatís bad about the music business right now is that good music and real talent arenít getting the respect it deserves. Fly-by-night songs are getting most of the attention and people have the wrong impression of whatís good and whatís bad music.
If you could dramatically change any aspect of the music industry, what would it be?
I would let more producers A&R projects, because a lot of producers know what they want and a lot of A&Rs try to be producers, but theyíre not.
What has been the greatest moment of your music career so far?
Being blessed just to work and keep working, and being lucky. Many producers arenít getting the work I get; and Iíve been given work constantly and moved to the next level.
What do you see yourself doing in 5-10 yearsí time?
I see myself getting my own hip-hop label off the ground.
Interviewed by Kimbel Bouwman
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