Some may know his distinctive vocal contributions as Kon Artis from D12, others will recognize his productions for 50 and G Unit on P.I.M.P. and Stunt 101, and others will know of his work as a producer for Eminem, Pharoahe Monche, Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg and Royce Da 5’9.
With an impressive hit list as a producer, Mr Porter is now prepping the release of his long awaited solo debut album. A core part of the Detroit hip hop community, Denaun has seen it all, from Eminem’s rise to fame, Proof’s demise. More recently he has worked on the soundtrack of the current blockbuster Southpaw.
Mr Porter spoke to Nick from BlatantlyBlunt to discuss his studio process, his thoughts on record labels’ place in the industry and his love of astronomy and comic books.
NICK: Yo, Mr. Porter, Denaun, how are you doing sir?
DENAUN: Yo, what’s going on?
NICK: Good to speak, last time I saw you was back in 2001 when you guys came out to London, that was like the first hip hop gig I ever went to – D12 at the Astoria in London.
DENAUN: Wow, wow, that’s crazy.
NICK: Long time ago bro! I wanted to talk to you today about ‘The Memo’, which is your forthcoming project right?
DENAUN: Actually it’s called ‘Nine’ and ‘The Memo’ was the first version of what Nine is, and it’s probably like the first time I’m actually even talking about that.
I was going to call ‘Nine’ ‘The Memo’ and I changed that because ‘The Memo’, it’s almost like a kind of, hmmm, what’s the way to say it? It’s like a really ‘super close to the heart idea’ and it’s definitely an album that I’m going to do but it’s going to take me a while to actually do it.
I didn’t feel like these songs were for that project, so ‘The Memo’ is definitely something I’m looking forward to doing but oh man, it’s like it’s real close to my heart because, you know, it revolves around my whole life.
NICK: Right, right. But on the Nine are you going to be mixing up the upper case and lower case like you do on your previous projects? I see you do that a lot?
DENAUN: Yeah, I did that on ‘sTuFf In My BaCkPaCk’ because it represented the ups and downs in my life.
NICK: Okay, I like the idea of that, that makes sense. So on the Nine, what can we expect on that project? What’s the motive on there?
DENAUN: That is going to be one complete thought. It takes nine months to prepare your life, they say nine is the number of man. It’s the first time I’m actually putting something together for it to be an album in a sense and I still haven’t decided if it’s going to be more than nine songs, just expect a more in depth look. It’s not as light as ‘stuff in my backpack’, which I really had fun with, as it represented the fun part of what I remember in hip hop. Nine is totally different – a little darker and people can expect to see almost my full potential, like all of the things that I know how to do.
NICK: You rap and you produce, but also you’ve got a really distinctive singing style which people are going to straight away tell, “that’s Denaun Porter”. How did you find that style and were there any artists that inspired you to bring through that real distinctive singing voice?
DENAUN: I got it mostly from my family but especially my dad. I think Eminem was the first person that got me to really give it a shot, like on record. And once I did that I was like, okay, I’ll keep trying it. If you listen to ‘Lose my mind’ with Pharoahe Monche I think it’s a soulful sound but I wouldn’t classify it as a style.
I have a song coming out on the South Paw soundtrack and that singing style is totally different from everything else I have done. I don’t even know if I can call it singing, it’s just a very different way of approaching rap. You’re going to hear a lot more melodies, more people mixing the two and I’ve kind of been doing that for a while, I just never put music out.
NICK: So you’re coming out of Detroit – you’ve got a lot of strong artists representing that city, flying the flag. Em and Royce, Big Sean and Dej Loaf to name just four. What aspect of the Detroit hip hop sound makes you proud?
DENAUN: I think a lot of that can be attributed to the legacy that was built by Proof because he really brought attention to our scene and he guided a lot of us – I’m proud to be a part of that legacy.
NICK: So break down your studio process – is it normally with a rapper in there or do you create your beats and then bring the rapper in to vocal your track?
DENAUN: I literally am only in the studio with the same three or four people – I’m really shy in a sense when it comes to that – I don’t even like anybody in the room when I’m doing vocals. When I’m creating I like to have the doors closed and I’m kind of in my own little hole. I can be more free and sometimes I get super excited, like I scream, I can’t even breath! I still get excited like a kid.
NICK: Okay so through the years which have been the occasions where the artist come out with some fire and you were more impressed than you thought you would have been – which moments jump in your memory that bring back those kind of feelings?
DENAUN: I was happy with the 50 Cent songs because he was able to turn them into huge things, such as Stunt 101 and P.I.M.P. ‘On Fire’ was the closest thing I came to with Eminem. I felt some feelings from that but I feel like I can make even more now, I’m a lot more confident than I used to be and I’m looking forward to being able to bring those bigger records. When I look at his career, I’ve been in his life and his legacy since the beginning and I felt like the thing I never done was brought a huge record to Em, I feel like I can do something, knowing him for so long, I feel like I should be able to bring something like that to the table.
But it is different because when you’re that close to him sometimes it’s harder for you because you’re used to having a one/two punch. We can do ‘Bad Meets Evil’ all day but I think with Em, I’m still looking for that one connection where it’s like “let me really produce for him because he just produced a song on the soundtrack for me, like he produced it, I didn’t even produce it”. I love making songs to his beats because they bring something out of me that is different. I’m getting as many beats from him as I can because he brings a different style to what I do.
NICK: I don’t blame you man. So has there been any London rappers or London producers or UK producers, rappers that have kind of caught your attention?
DENAUN: I’m always listening and there’s so many that I can’t even name them. You know I’m planning to do some shows over there myself and I’m thinking about just taking some extra time and just having a studio and inviting some of the people that are producers and artists to work with them. A lot of people are closed minded to it whereas I’m looking for something different because I feel like the UK has such a warm sound as far as production. You guys have that warm sound but still able to do things digitally and we lost that. People can hit me up on Twitter, any UK artist, I’m open to hearing everything.
NICK RUSSELL: How would you like to be remembered by the hip hop community in 50 years time?
DENAUN: I will be remembered as one of the people, that everything that he chose to do, he did it great, he was good at everything, there was nothing he wasn’t good at – hype man, producer, artist, group member, CEO. You know how they say James Brown was one of the hardest working men in business? Well I’ve had almost every job that you can think of when it comes to the entertainment side, and been successful in each thing.
People sometimes wage their success by looking at other peoples’ success, and that’s the wrong way to do it. If you wake up everyday and you’re an MC and you want to be Jay Z, and you still never get to that point, you forget that you got to a point that other people didn’t get to. And I think that’s the key to success – knowing what you’re successful at. I’ve been successful in everything.
NICK: What’s Eminem like behind closed doors? What’s he like as a friend?
DENAUN: Inspiring, encouraging, hilarious and very unpredictable. He’s a super inspiration to me and always encouraging me to step out on my own. He’s very simple when it comes to living, you know, what I mean? Like he don’t need much and I’m glad I learned that from him because where I’m from, there’s a lot of flash before there’s work. And he taught me how to really work for it before you flash or never flash and just work.
NICK: What is your passion outside the hip hop game if you have any?
DENAUN: The stars is one thing that I am super deep into. I own a couple of different telescopes and I study astronomy. I think the other thing would be comic books. I’m a real big Marvel fan, but comic books in general.
NICK: Any other tips that you’ve got for the next to Denaun Porter? Any gems of advice?
DENAUN: Yeah, be better – everything that I did wrong, do it right. Anything that you think I did wrong, do it right. Don’t ever let a company dictate just because they’re offering you money. A company can’t make money without an artist, and if we start realizing that, we can take it back.
You won’t see money off streaming because people won’t go buy your album, they’ll go streaming it. Go put your music out and just demand what you are owed. You don’t need a record label, they’re going to be dinosaurs in a minute – what do you need a label for if you can just give your song to iTunes?
Every artist that’s looking at this or listening to this right now, fight for what you believe in, pull your music. It don’t mean you won’t make it, it just means that fans that really want it, have to work harder to find it, and if they really, really care about your shit then they’ll find it and they’ll pay for it. Because it ain’t that fans don’t want to pay for shit, it’s just that we stupid, we’re not demanding to be paid.
As well as his current EP ‘sTuFf In My BaCkPaCk‘ being out, dEnAuN’s track “This Corner” is featured on the Southpaw Soundtrack, and first ever commercially released instrumental album The Great Depression AP in conjunction with Fat Beats is out now. Also look out for his album ‘Nine’ set to drop in the coming months. Stay up to date using the links below!