Derrick “D-Nice” Jones is a man tailor-made for these modern times where skill diversification is more of the rule than the exception. The MC, DJ and photographer has been contributing to the advancement of hip-hop since the late ’80s as a teenaged member of the rap group Boogie Down Productions. Under the tutelage of KRS-One, Kenny Parker and the late Scott “La Rock” Sterling, D cut his teeth as the “TR-808” beat boxing for the crew. Their 1987 debut album “Criminal Minded,” containing the hit title track and the combative “The Bridge Is Over,” set the bar for gritty edutainment for that era and beyond.
“BDP, for the 15-year-old me back then was absolutely amazing. Even though I was in the group I was such a fan of KRS-One,” D-Nice tells TheUrbanDaily.com. “I learned so much about Black history through the records we were making. It was a serious movement and a time of hip-hop where it wasn’t so much about what you had, it was about educating people. That’s what I loved most about BDP back then.”
Despite having a front row seat to the recording of the album, D-Nice was not prominently featured on the album cover when it was completed.
“When we made the first album ‘Criminal Minded’ you see that I’m not on the album cover and it was for a reason,” he reveals. “I was this young kid from The Bronx and I didn’t want to go to school because I didn’t have the fresh gear. Scott La Rock made me an ultimatum that if you don’t want to follow the rules, go to school and be the best you can be, you can’t be a part of this group. That’s one of the things that always stands out to me because I became a better person because of this group.”
D-Nice would eventually release his own solo album, “Call Me D-Nice,” in 1990 and thanks to the title track and its catchy “Buzzsaw” sample, it peaked at number 75 on the Billboard 200. However, in almost Shakespearean form, it was rejection that gave him the lift he needed.
“During the recording of the ‘By All Means Necessary’ album I was doing a bunch of tracks and some record shopping and I found the sample for ‘I’m Still #1.’ I played that for KRS and he said I need that,” D-Nice remembers. “Then I played him the ‘Buzzsaw’ sample and he didn’t like it. So I sampled it anyway and laid the track and played it for Kid Rock. He said it was too slow for him.’ I was like ‘nah, you can rhyme on this.’ I wasn’t trying to be an MC, I just wanted to be a DJ and produce it. I ended up putting lyrics from a demo I made for DJ Red Alert over the beat just to show him you can flow over this record. Next day I played it for Red Alert and he gave it to his program director. From that cassette I was on daytime radio, which was hard for hip-hop. A week later I was in the ‘Top 8 at 8.’ That record gave me the career I wasn’t expecting because everyone turned the beat down.”
But after putting out a follow-up in 1991,”To The Rescue,” D-Nice decided that he wanted to take his career in another direction.
“Being that I started in the industry at the age of fifteen that was probably year eight for me and I felt burned out,” he explains. “I didn’t love hip-hop anymore and I didn’t lobr the direction it was going in. It was becoming more hardcore I didn’t see a place for me to fit in. I didn’t make gangster beats, I was ‘Self Destruction.’ I wanted to leave the music industry feeling like I’d done everything I wanted to do than to stick around and be some old school dude who loses his flavor. So I walked away and I don’t have any regrets. I happened to like the career that I have right now.”
That career now includes DJing all over the world opening for Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder and for The President of The United States, as well as shooting photography and hip-hop documentaries. But it all started with music.
“I grew up in the ’80s and in order to watch a RUN DMC video we had to sit through everything else MTV played,” he reasons. “So I had to listen to Bon Jovi and Madonna to see Run and Michael Jackson. Because of that I have a love for all of those songs. They all mean something to me. If I play a Blondie record it’s because I remember what that feeling was. It’s all for the love of music so I’m very grateful.”