Interviews — 26 February 2010

By Odeisel

Planet Ill: You came to a point in your label’s history where you decided, you know what, maybe we should expand outside of Brooklyn emcees and I believe that’s what led to your current new wave.  And you’ve done extremely well, probably stronger than your original run. What led to the decision to say let’s bring more people into the fold? Let’s bring more artists from different places into the fold.

Dru Ha: See again, I keep referencing Buck. Like I always say that because that shows you how much we really talk.  People will look at Duck Down and see Buckshot as the artist and me as the business person and it’s like man, it is truly a partnership.  The questions you are asking, I have to say that first because these are things me and Buck have talked about over all the years.  That was a vision of ours well long before we made it a reality.  The problem for us was we just never had the right situation.  We went through about five or six different types of production label deals for the brand or for the label and each time we learned something new, or  we found out the deal wasn’t all we thought it would be, or the deal wasn’t making sense for us or we were losing money or we were getting ripped off or whatever it might be. 

It wasn’t until we left Koch in 2005 and we went to a label called Navar, a distributor called Navar, that we finally got the situation under control. Where we were truly, I know that all of this is really technical, but we truly became that independent label where we could understand the business model, understand what we were going to make on each record, and control it.  So many times you do these deals, artists and labels, it’s so hard to tell what you are going to earn or what you put into it because it can be so shady man. 

The deals can be so backwards.  You never really understand them until you actually execute them. I don’t care how good your lawyer is. By the time you get slapped with a statement it’s like you’ve already spent so much money or went through so much.  You get your learn on through putting the project out. So long short, we finally got that situation straight with Navar in 2005 and we knew that we understood our business plan and the business model of how the company was going to operate.  That’s when we knew we could open the doors up and start investing more money in groups outside of the original core family that was already with us.

We felt like for a while we didn’t want to invest money into new talent or things outside of the core just until we knew we had the situation right. And I will say it was around that time, 2005 when we said alright, things are looking better.  The deal, we were comfortable with the deal and that led … at that moment we put out that triple threat package. I mean we led with what we had and we felt like… you know I’m actually writing a note about that right now because I know we just mailed that out and I wanted to kind of say a couple of words to everyone who is getting that for them to understand the significance of those three records as we close out a decade because damn it’s like it was the 90’s and now we are closing out 09 to 2010.  Man that played a major role, that triple threat is like what got us back on track. They didn’t sell the most in our history or all that sh*t. But it made us relevant again and represented finally a good business. Like I know people don’t even care about that but for us as a business it was so important to get the deal correct.  Yo, it was the first time we felt like we weren’t getting ripped off. Maybe we can still lower our percentages and shave some money off manufacturing and things like that and still mold it better, but we didn’t feel like we were being ripped off anymore. You know, we owned our shit.  We were funding our projects.  We were funding our marketing and we felt like we were getting the return that we needed to really do that as an independent. So, for all those reasons. Then of course, Sean Price, we felt like that was introducing a new act because we had to reinvent him. He reinvented himself but we had to be a part of that and that showed us we could do it. We can do this.

Planet Ill: That album [Monkey Bars] just recently got nominated by HipHopDX as one of the top ten albums of the decade so congratulations on that.

Dru Ha: Word.  I appreciate that.  That’s definitely an honor to me and I know to Sean, but s**t I don’t even care what Sean says. I feel good about that.  That’s a great honor.

Planet Ill: When you think about Duck Down what immediately comes to mind to you?

Dru Ha: Damn, that’s a crazy question.  No one has ever asked me that. What do I think about?  A lot of hard work.  I told you earlier, trials and tribulations and a big part of my life.  It’s been 15 years so it’s all I’ve really ever known in terms of what my work is.  Like what’s defined my working life? That’s been Duck Down.  A lot of good friends made and incredible experiences. I’m fortunate to have that company.  I can’t put it into one word. Life lessons.

Planet Ill: One last question, how do you draw the line between expanding your brand and going too far in terms of bringing in new members?

Dru Ha: Well, you’re not going to be right all the time. So if you bring it back to that, you can’t be scared to fail and you have to put your best foot forward and try. You got to trust at the end of it you have to trust your instincts and I say that to my guys a lot also. It’s like we’ll say music is an opinion.  Everyone has an opinion and no one’s opinion on a sound is wrong. Nobody’s.  Who is to say what you like isn’t what you like?  I mean its art. So I say to my artists, I’m like yo we are experts at what we do whether you realize it or not. I can speak on something pertaining to Duck Down because I am an expert.  In my opinion, I am an expert in this space.

So I have to trust what I feel instinct-wise from judging talent. If I feel like it makes sense.  If I can see it fitting in somewhere in this roster from the music to the personality to the character to the word I hate, the swagger.  I call it the intangibles. That’s another word for it. I understand what they are saying with that word, I just hate to use it. The intangibles of an artist, the star power of an artist.  You have to trust yourself to say this is what I like and this is what has worked for us in the past, being able to identify certain artists. We probably won’t always be right and I’m sure in some of our fans minds we have already been wrong. As you expand and grow, that’s what it’s about.  You’re not going to please everybody. You got to trust the people who around you also.  Put good people around you and take a shot

 ***LISTEN*** 15 minutes on 15 years Part 2

Part 1

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