The city of Philadelphia breeds MC’s faster than dog kennel can usher out purebreds; but when the topic of discussion switches over to producers from the region, the gravy train might have a few kinks in it unless your name is Don Cannon.
Besides possessing a cool moniker that happens to be his real name, the former Aphiliates affiliate is also the proud owner of production credits from songs like his breakthrough smash ‘Go Crazy’ with Young Jeezy featuring Jay-Z, 50 Cent’s ‘Man Down’ from the Curtis album, Fabolous’ ‘Jokes On You’ featuring Pusha-T off his From Nothin’ To Somethin’ album, along with ‘Undisputed’ and ‘Everybody Hates Cris’ from Ludacris’ most recent project Theater Of The Mind.
Whereas some beat technicians have been trying to perfect their sound for years, this DJ/producer basically had everything down packed when he was still a youngster wearing pajamas equipped with the built-in footies—and with a busy itinerary scheduled for 2009, you can bet on hearing more of the signature “Cannon” drops from his tracks whenever listening to some of the biggest names in Hip-Hop.
iHipHop.com: How did you first get into DJ’ing?
Don Cannon: Well I started off when I was five, so I was kind of born into it. My uncle bought me the ‘Can You Feel It’ record by the Jackson 5 for Christmas, and from there I just took it to another level.
iHipHop.com: So from there, was trying your hand at producing an easy transition?
Don Cannon: Yeah, because I started making beats when I was 10-years-old… I was rapping, DJ’ing, and producing all at the same time, and I made my first beat around 11-years-old and I recorded it professionally.
After that, I was recording on a karaoke machine, and I would rap over the beat. That was just something I always did as a child.
iHipHop.com: Do you have anything coming up on deck that’s going to be big for the new year?
Don Cannon: Fabolous is about to drop something, and I gave him about ten records, so he’s still going through them. Juelz [Santana] is finally out of his situation with Cam’ron, so I’m definitely going to go in with him, it’s just a time issue. [Young] Jeezy’s next album is coming up, and I’m going to be producing the majority of the album.
I got a bunch of things coming up with 50 [Cent], and I’m also working on the Belvedere Vodka campaign for 2009, so that’s going to be pretty big. Plus Luda is coming right back, and I have a couple of records with him also. You know, I’m just trying to keep it moving.
iHipHop.com: How would you describe the Philly Hip-Hop scene, is it a united front?
Don Cannon: It used to be “All for yourself,” but it goes through periods. At first coming up in Philly there was a lot of love, and when Beanie [Sigel] started coming back around, it was more united. Now you see Gille [Da Kid] doing records with Meek Mills, Reed Dollaz, and E. Ness. Philly is coming back because they realize that they have to stick together in order for the scene to go up. One artist can’t come out of Philly; it has to be a whole bunch. Because once one person comes out, and they’re successful, [they] start looking for others from that same city.
It happened with Atlanta, St. Louis, and it’s just always been like that. If you look at Miami; they went and got Plies, and then they got Flo Rida; you know what I’m saying? It was the same thing with Houston… It went from Lil Flip, to Mike Jones, to Paul Wall, to Trae. So they realize that you have to be one unit, and once that happens you’ll have more people coming out of Philly.
iHipHop.com: How are some of your procedures? Would you produce a track for anyone who came around, or would you have to be a fan of their music first?
Don Cannon: I used to say that I wanted to be a fan of their music first, but now I feel like I can make any artist into something with my sound. I feel like I can take a piece of clay and mold it into a building. If I don’t have to wrestle with people on how a record is supposed to sound, and what’s a hit and what’s not a hit—I think I can do a lot of damage with a little piece of clay. So it can be a situation where I’m not feeling someone’s music, but I know I can still turn them into something, and that’s how I feel nowadays.
iHipHop.com: Is there anyone out there that you really want to work with?
Don Cannon: I want to work with a lot of people, especially with the young cats coming up because they don’t have a vessel to come out and break any records. So of course people like the Wale’s, the Cool Kids’, and Asher Roth. [Click to read Asher Roth interview] There is a lot of stuff coming up that I want to work on, especially with these new groups.
I used to say that I wanted to start a record company, but I’m going to wait and see how I do with the younger cats first. I want to see if I can actually take an artist to the next level, and I’m not talking about 500,000 sold, I mean 3-4 million records sold with awards for it…
iHipHop.com: What’s one piece of production equipment you can’t live without?
Don Cannon: It’s a new day with it being 2009, but I would say the ASR. I still have it to the side, but I really can’t live without Logic. That’s so crazy right now, and I’ve been on it for like a year and two months. It just changed up the whole world production-wise…
iHipHop.com: So do you have any methods when you’re trying to get placement for your music?
Don Cannon: Just coming from my background, I had a lot of relationships with artists, so there isn’t really anybody that I can’t get on the phone with. With somebody like Michael Jackson, obviously I won’t be able to get on the phone with him right now, but with someone like Christina Aguilera, I might not be able to get on the phone with her; but maybe my manager can.
But with people like Ludacris and [Young] Jeezy, I talk to on a regular basis on some cool sh*t, not even talking about music. Sometimes I do send out beat tapes, and sometimes I want to give the music the artist.
iHipHop.com: How would you describe the production world? Is it like one whole big competition, or more like a camaraderie?
Don Cannon: It depends… When you get to a certain level—like this year I got a lot of love from producers. Preemo told me I was one of his favorites out right now as a rookie, so when you get to a certain level and you meet these other producers it’s more like a brotherhood.
That’s why I try to bring the younger cats into that circle, because none of them have seen a producer like No I.D. or Kanye West, or got the full experience of a conversation between myself and somebody like Swizz Beatz.
Nowadays I might talk to Denaun “Mr.” Porter, and we can be in there sharing secrets. But when you’re on the lower level, nobody wants to share any secrets because it’s more like crabs in a barrel, and everyone is trying to get to the top. They don’t want to share kicks, snares, or samples. But when you get to that brotherhood stage, it’s like, “Yo, I got this pro kit!” So it’s a lot different…
iHipHop.com: Speaking of that, nowadays with anybody being able to buy a beat program and make beats from their basement, do you think the quality of music has gotten better or worse?
Don Cannon: It goes both ways, think about it like this: If rappers are doing something just to be an actor, or producers are just producing so they can be a rapper; those people will fall off because they’re only doing it for a reason. Some people like making beats, and that’s how I look at that situation.
As far someone saying, “Okay, I’m going to take this Swizz Beatz or this Jazze Pha kit, and make a bunch of beats that sound like Drumma Boy” that doesn’t mean anything, and that’s not making beats.
All that means is that you have some type of ulterior motive, because you would want to be original if it was something that you loved. You wouldn’t want to be a copycat, and you would want to figure yourself out.
iHipHop.com: Speaking of figuring yourself out, when you first started off was it difficult to find your own sound?
Don Cannon: No because it I loved it so much and when I was younger, everybody was playing with toys while I was working on that. I never thought about doing music professionally, it just happened.
I was just doing beats because they were fun; you know what I’m saying? So I wasn’t really worried about my sound, but as I grew from my early childhood, I just grew into a sound.
You’re going to know your sound once all of your music starts to have that feel, it doesn’t have to sound the same, but it does have to have that certain feel. But I can say that I tailor-made some of my style from early Pete Rock and [DJ] Premier with a little twist of lime. All you do is just add a little bit of current flavor.
iHipHop.com: Is there anyone that you’re a big fan of now?
Don Cannon: I f*ck with Black Milk heavy! HEAVY, HEAVY! I like him because he’s keeping the Detroit sound alive, and I really f*ck with Swizz Beatz because he continues to do what he does, no matter what people say about him. I’m a big fan of Timbaland, No I.D., and Kanye West. Just anybody that’s going in; you know what I mean? I like Drumma Boy, and I like Bangladesh for what he does.
There’s a young cat out here that I’m really feeling too, and his name is Wyldfyer—he did a couple of tracks on the Ludacris album. I still f*ck with 9th Wonder… I can go on and on, and sometimes I listen to producers for inspiration, because I can’t get it from the artist like I want to. But I like a lot of cats, because in the production world everyone is doing their own thing, as for rappers; they want to do the same thing over and over again…