V Don: «I always stuck with my own sound and identity»

We interviewed the Harlem (NY) producer, V-Don, who told us about his collaborations with Vado, Eto, Dave East, Ransom, Willie The Kid, Bodega Bamz, Smoke DZA, Griselda and many other artists of the American underground scene, of which V-Don himself is a fundamental contributor since more than ten years. In fact, his production style, thanks to a unique and well-defined identity, has contributed to the revival of the raw and gritty sound in American Hip-Hop.

Essential Projects
  • Lil Eto x VDon - Omertà The Film copertina album
    Omertà The Film [with Eto]
  • Timeless [with Dark Lo]
  • Heather Grey [with Willie The Kid & Eto]

Peace V-Don, thank you for giving us the opportunity to ask you some questions, as, in our opinion, you are one of the dopest and most original producers around. We already know you have a strong musical background as your father was a DJ. What music did he use to play and where? And why did you choose to become a producer rather than a rapper or a DJ?

V Don: “Early 90s, my pops stayed with the latest Hip-Hop / R&B records and He also played soul records from his era, the 70s. I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to be, coming up I just knew I wanted to be involved with music. Early teens, I thought about rapping and even wrote a few raps, but as I got older I was more interested in production.”

What are your earliest memories of when you started making beats? What are the first producing equipment or programs you used? Have you ever taken any music instrument lessons?

V Don: “I was around 18 – 19 when I started making beats. I moved from NYC to Richmond (VA)…It was a whole new scene for me and was way slower than being in Harlem or the Bronx. I had too much time on my hands, so I started making beats on the Playstation 2, lol.

I would send the beats back to all the homies in N.Y. and they would tell me “yo you dope with this shit, you should keep it goin”. I started selling beats locally…and learned how to make beats on FL Studio. I never took any instrument lessons.

What were your first moves in the Hip-Hop scene and when did you start making a name for yourself? Which are the first songs and rappers you have produced that gave you a certain reputation, in your opinion?

V Don: “When I moved back to N.Y. is when things started rolling for me… I was working with artists like Jae Millz, Ransom and Vado.

Me and Vado had good chemistry and he was the first artist saying my name on the songs. The record “Large On The Streets”, is the song that got my name out there more”.

For example one of the first names we saw you associated with, about ten years ago, was ETO (when he was called Lil’Eto). We think your chemistry with him is immaculate… The “Omertà” project is an evidence of that. How did you connect? Why do you think you work so well together?

V Don: “The first time I heard ETO was on a record with Ransom called “More Money To Count” … I was already working with Ran, but when I heard that song I was like “who the fuck is that? lol”… His voice and flow was different and the shit he was saying was like a mafia movie…

I didn’t know his name or where to find him, until I came across a Myspace page with his music on it. I sent him a message and he sent me a link to his latest tape at the time… It was crazy !!! Beat Butcha was doing a lot of his production.

We clicked instantly after We did our first record called “New Crack Era”. Me and Eto work so good together because We able to relate. My style of beats is the perfect canvas for what he raps about and his flow. That’s my brother rite there.”

You have always kept up with the East Coast underground movement and developed ties with some of the dopest emcees of that scene as Ransom, Willie The Kid, DA$H, Dark Lo, Griselda and many others as already one of your first full produced LPs (“Opiate”), demonstrated. You definitely are one of the architects of this “underground renaissance”. How and why did you get involved in this movement? And how the Opiate album was born?

V Don: “To me the underground movement is nothing new. I think all the names that leading the “renaissance” now, is people that never stopped making that type of music, even when it wasn’t popular.”

I remember when people was telling me to make beats like all the latest producers at the time, but I always stuck with my own sound and my own identity.
THE OPIATE was formed from me just making music with all the homies. Every artist that’s on that album I produced for them before on their projects, so when I told them I was putting together a compilation they held me down.

Growing up in Harlem, you were also linked early with some of the strongest artists of your hood as Dave East, Vado or Smoke DZA. How did you meet and start to collaborate with those artists? How much and in which way growing up in Harlem has it influenced you and your music?

V Don: “Harlem is small, so everyone is connected one way or another. I met Dave East at D-Block studio from knowing Wayno who used to manage Dave at the time. I know Wayno because we both from the Eastside of Harlem. I met DZA thru Bodega Bamz and me and Bamz went to elementary school together. And Vado I met thru mutual friends.”

Harlem is the Mecca… It’s much style, lango & gritty.
I believe all that is in my music. It’s very influential to me.

Often, we have seen you entirely produce a project for a rapper from start to finish. What do you like about this way of working? Who would you like to produce an entire album with that you haven’t had the opportunity to do yet? What are your favourite albums among your catalog and why?

V Don: “I love executive producing and taylor making an artist, on how I would want to hear them rap. Artists have to be produced the rite way to reach their full potential and vice versa.

It made more sense to me to produce whole projects rather than wait around for major placement. If you can do both, go for it. I would love to do a whole project with Curren$y , Schoolboy Q, Dave East.

My favorite projects I produced so far, is “Omertà The Film” with Eto, “Timeless” with Dark Lo, “Heather Grey” with Willie The Kid & Eto… It’s many tho, I love all of them”

In our opinion, one of your greatest strengths is certainly having a distinctive style as your darks and gloomy beats have a very recognizable trademark at first glance. How would you define your style and how did you come to create such an identity for your beats? Why did you choose to develop this grimy and “underground” trademark sound? How important is it for a producer to develop a distinctive and original style?

V Don: “I think my style and identity came from the type of music I love… I grew up on Havoc, Dame Grease, Alc, Hi-Tek, Swizz Beatz, Just Blaze. It’s one big mixup of all of that”.

How does your producing process take place and what equipment to make beats do you use most today?

V Don: “I usually listen to records, until I find something that makes me want to chop it up. I spent most of my days and nights at the studio. Weed, water and food breaks lol. I still use FL Studio and the MPC live.”

You recently released two singles with the New Jersey rapper Retch. Are you working for an album together? How did this idea come about? Can you give us some anticipation on your next collaborations or projects you’re working on?

V Don: “Me and Retch dropping a project late July / early August. Me and Dark Lo dropping July 23Rd. Then I’m back with Willie The Kid in August. Sauce Heist in September. Compilation in October. Very busy rest of the year for me”.


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