Former Death Row recording artist Danny Boy who’s best known for collaborating with Tupac Shakur on the song “I Aint Mad at Cha” returns independently. Danny Boy discuss his time with Death Row, friendship developed with Tupac, Suge Knight, coming out and much more...
TERRANCE: Tell us about Thursday Night Soul Sessions. Why did you establish it and what would like to accomplish with it.
DANNY BOY: Thursday Night Sessions is like a relief for artists that trying to get themselves noticed with a live band and also working artists such as myself that's always on the road who just like getting with their friends and just sharing great music, playing great music and keeping live music in the community you know. What I hope to do is hopefully have one in cities a soul sessions tour that's what I hope end up and not just an open mic. Just bring great live music closer to the community not just large venues but smaller venues hidden smaller venues such as the chitlin circuit I guess as we used to call it back in the day.
TERRANCE: What has been the most rewarding and challenging about having your own label thus far?
DANNY BOY: The most rewarding has been the creative process I feel free on creating I'm not worried about you know trying to impress anyone else with the music that I want to put out and I guess the challenging part is not having the budget and the right means of a moving label so you know it’s grind mode. We’re independent and if I gotta sell a CD at a time or song at a time just until we do get the right budget and the right distribution behind it that's what I'll do but I really do enjoy heading my own label.
TERRANCE: Talk about the single you have out called “Thunderstorm”.
DANNY BOY: Thunderstorm is a great song that I had an opportunity to get with a great writer by the name of Sean Penn and he kind of interviewed me and it was incredible working with him and at the time of that song I was just going through a divorce and Thunderstorm everything just kept coming, kept coming like you know when it rains it pours. And that song is really a representation of that time and that moment. It kind of pulled me through it so I hope that people enjoy it.
TERRANCE: What types of music are you currently inspired by?
DANNY BOY: I am inspired by real music. Anything that’s lyrical. Things that mean something. Teaching. Showing people something. People are hurting so i’m more into the Jazmine Sullivan’s and Jill Scott’s. Music of conscience that’s what I really love.
TERRANCE: It’s interesting you say that which leads to the question. What are your thoughts on R&B music today?
DANNY BOY: Well it’s really hard to tell because what they classify as R&B music isn’t R&B music to me. More rappers are being classified as R&B music so that’s really a hard question.
TERRANCE: Which artists had a major impact on you?
DANNY BOY: I guess Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye because I grew up much older than I was. I was always around older people and my dad was older when I was born so I grew up around blues, jukeboxes, I grew up in a tavern on the Westside of Chicago so there are plenty of artists who brought me through moments such as the Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston all of them have molded something in me since I was young.
TERRANCE: How beneficial do you think social media is to an artist presence?
DANNY BOY: Very very very very very beneficial. I just hate it’s so late in the game wish it was around back when I was on Death Row when I was doing the things I were doing because it seem social media is a great part of helping people become famous, helping people push records as well as helping people get gigs so it’s very much so needed.
TERRANCE: While we’re on the subject of Death Row, take us back to how you were discovered and signed.
DANNY BOY: Well it was a dude out of Chicago by the name of Shorty Capone he had a record label that housed Crucial Conflict and another group by the name of Fuskee and myself and he put together a demo package. We got with some great writers Chuck, Reggie Lambe, Mark you know we got with some great writers and producers and we went out to Los Angeles and shopped for a deal. We had a dude by the name of Pitbull that would get us a meeting with, it didn't matter what record company it was and then we went out to LA and we kicked the door down and Death Row just happen to be the one that I chose to be with.
TERRANCE: As a then young newcomer on the scene were you ever intimidated by the roster of artists Death Row had?
DANNY BOY: Yes I was because when I came to Death Row it was already a label, they had already built a great company and had the family village already something that I come from you know when I'm speaking of that coming from a label being with Crucial Conflict and Fuskee we were a family oriented label so they were the same way. When I went there it was Snoop Dogg, the Dogg Pound and Dr. Dre so I had to kind of find myself, my way in and make it click so for sure I had to make it in the Death Row clique but after awhile it was all good.
TERRANCE: “Come When I Call” from the Murder Was the Case soundtrack was your first introduction to the music scene. What was that experience like working with DJ Quik?
DANNY BOY: Incredible. DJ Quik was like a genius and that was one of the first producers, well he’s the second producer I ever worked with over at Death Row but when he and I worked I really didn’t want to work with anybody else he brought a lot to the table he brought real musicians to the table and not only real musicians but he had that sound I guess people and I would compare to the Dr. Dre sound so he had a real solid sound and he took me in like a lil brother. What better producer who take you in like a brother as legendary as Quik?
TERRANCE: Shortly after you recorded a project It’s About Time in 1996 but it got shelved until more recently it was released. What caused that?
DANNY BOY: Well I recorded all those songs back in ‘95, ‘96 those were songs that DJ Quik and myself were recording; DeVante Swing, G-One, different producers that I were recording with and I just that Suge was really scared to get behind R&B music because everyone were so used to Death Row doing gangsta rap music. I think that was kind of something he was afraid to step into and he didn't want to really mess up the whole thing was going on with Death Row as far as the rap was concerned so I was always kind of kicked back a little bit. I was supposed to come out with a record and then 2Pac came over to the label, then I was supposed to come out with a record and then Da Dogg Pound came out with a record so I always got singles that were put out but never the opportunity to put my own record out so when Suge Knight lost that label the people that purchased that label contacted me and told me that they were releasing the record and I kind of helped them promote it and with hopes of them being fair and letting me polish the record up but they didn’t do either one of those things they kind of mixed what they heard and called themselves producing what they heard and gave the wrong titles to producers, the wrong titles to writers and just took it and put it out.
TERRANCE: You and Tupac have quite a history on collaborative songs like “Heaven Ain’t Hard 2 Find”, “Toss It Up”, “I Ain’t Mad at Cha”. What was it like working with Tupac and most fondest memory?
DANNY BOY: My most fondest memory was just us being in the studio together all the time. Suge rented a studio that was just there for us the Death Row artists. We all would take turns going in the studio. I particularly always stayed in Studio A recording songs no matter who was in B and while I was in there Pac would be in the room working and I wouldn’t care if I was on the microphone or not he would come in and say come on DB I got something for you I know you gonna feel it. He would always tell me to come in and I would go back there and lay those songs. So my fondest memory would definitely be having the opportunity to work with him and also knowing him personally and kicking it with him not knowing I would be kicking with a soon to be Legend, not knowing a friendship when I was younger I may have taken for granted that everyone in the world years later wished they had known him so I appreciate those moments with him.
TERRANCE: Where were you when you heard of his untimely death?
DANNY BOY: I was in my hotel; a Luxor Hotel asleep and the security guard knocked on my door just about kicked it in. He had some of the other guys with him and they been trying to contact me but I was asleep and that’s when they told me Tupac had passed.
TERRANCE: What’s your favorite Tupac song and why does it gravitate to you?
DANNY BOY: My favorite Tupac song well there’s a lot of em and this changes daily. It would have to be “Ambitionz Az a Ridah” I’m on that right now so it change from time to time. If you ask me this in two more months I probably would say something different.
TERRANCE: You mentioned getting to know Tupac personally so do you stay in touch with any of his family, particularly his mother Afeni Shakur?
DANNY BOY: Nah, everybody stay away from me. I used to talk to Ms. Shakur. We used to talk but that changed drastically and no I don’t talk to any of em.
TERRANCE: Would you say your career suffered after leaving Death Row due to the image and name it had?
DANNY BOY: Yeah I think it had a lot to do with it and people were afraid of Suge Knight. They didn’t want the drama it probably would of caused so they kinda passed on me. I knew what it was I went to major executives and it was Aww man if it wasn’t because of this or if it wasn’t for Suge we would definitely sign you so for sure that is valid and me being signed with them having the karma or stigma that it had no label wanted to sign me or take that chance.
TERRANCE: When was the last time you seen or heard from Suge Knight?
DANNY BOY: I heard from him maybe a few years ago when he got knocked out after the Barber incident. I heard of him through other people you know? The last time I seen him was maybe 4 or 5 years ago. I haven’t seen him in a while.
TERRANCE: You were a contestant on American Idol season 4 but there was some controversy that caused your disqualification. Can you explain that?
DANNY BOY: Being apart of American Idol you can’t have a record deal or couldn’t be part of a record label and they kinda knew earlier on there was something I did with Death Row but I kind of downplayed it in the beginning. I downplayed it as I was featured with a couple of artists. I didn’t tell them that I was signed and then they decided to let me on the show after I told them that and later on after I made it to the top 20 Death Row was promoting that I was dropping an album that following Summer and the lawyer of the showcase was like what the fuck is this? His exact words. And the next thing you know I was in the room of being cut, not sure if it was my talent that cut me, not sure if it was because of the Death Row agreement or Death Row promoting that I was coming out with an album is what disqualified me.
TERRANCE: When did you decide it was time you came out as an individual of the LGBT community?
DANNY BOY: I was dating someone and they committed suicide and you know after he passed I had an opportunity to look back on some of the things that I could have imagined that was hurting him because his people not accepting him for who he is you know just the struggle of being a black gay man and then I just decided at that point that no matter what I would never put myself through that shame or put myself through the agony or pain and hiding and not being who I am. I’m grown and decided I could be strong in who I am. I’m grown enough to kind of make that decision and that’s something I thought was best for me.
TERRANCE: Do you think artists of the LGBT community are being embraced and acceptable more now than ever before?
DANNY BOY: I know they’ve always been embraced and acceptable as far as not being open (laughs), but as far as being open it’s becoming more acceptable but again it’s been the most challenging part of my career thus far and I’ve been through some challenges, anybody that know me and know the story and where I come from but this has definitely been challenging because people have an X on their back anyway once they find out that you’re gay so you know it’s working and coming along but it’s not where it need to be and I don’t think it’s in a place where it wanna be.
TERRANCE: Got it. So looking back over all you’ve been through as an individual and artist; the success, the losses, and overcoming adversity, what are you most grateful for?
DANNY BOY: I’m most grateful just to still be living and out of everything I didn’t get or felt like I was cheated out of or everything I feel I should’ve had. I still have the gift of singing and I'm most appreciative of that I am. I feel blessed to still be able to sing and have the opportunity just for to know me for the little small part of “I Aint Mad at You” I done with Tupac and for people to still know me and recognize me. They may not recognize me by face but sometimes I could sing that or they’ll know that it's me that sung that and people still know who I am and I appreciate that and that’s more than a blessing to still be remembered and for people to still know my name and to still have an opportunity to try this music thing again.
TERRANCE: Are there any last words our readers should know?
DANNY BOY: I appreciate everyone first off checkin’ out the interview and taking out the time as well and any other questions or unanswered questions anyone have I should say should hopefully check out my book that will soon be out, Stranded on Death Row. It’s about my journey - the beginning of my life, my musical journey being with Death Row, my relationship with Suge Knight and Tupac Shakur to where I am right now. I auditioned and landed a role in John Ruffin's play, "His Love, Her Lesson" which will debut in Harvey Illinois on Mother's Day weekend. So check that out and they could always follow me at instagram.com/legendarydannyboy, twitter.com/ThaRealDannyBoy and they could also find me on ReverbNation to find out if I'm in a city near you out doing background vocals for K-Ci & JoJo or when I’m out doing something for myself. Check my single out!! I know I have a lot to say but check it out in all the music play stores, Amazon, and so on. Keep following me, check out my music, the play and the book. I appreciate it.https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/thunderstorm-single/id1082234808