Damion Young, aka Damizza, has done it all. He started in radio when he was 12 and his drive, passion, and ambition launched one of the most interesting and diverse careers in the music industry. He's worked with legendary greats like Michael and Janet Jackson, Dr. Dre, Mariah Carey, Tupac, Biggie, Hootie and the Blowfish. His latest project is a book, Guilty By Association, and if the hype surrounding this book is anything like the hype he's created in the music biz over the years, Damizza just might have yet another hit on his hands...and a new career path!
OC Weekly (Ali Lerman): How did your book, "Guilty By Association" come about?
Damizza: Well I couldn't do it in interviews or on stage and then Jeff Craig came up and said, "I'd like to make a book and I don't really care about the personal stuff." I told him this is what I'd want it to portray, I wanted it to be about how radio worked back in the day, how drum machines work, how tape players are used in the studios, etc. That's what we did, I wanted to show those types of things mixed with my personal experiences so people could relate but at the same time, show who was behind the scenes and the people who helped make it happen.
What's the feedback been like so far?
It's actually blown me away. I'm very humbled by it. I haven't heard anything negative at all. I've just heard things like, "I couldn't put it down" and "it's a great read." Jeff Marshall Craig was a co-writer with me and did an amazing job. One of the greatest things I've heard on the feedback was like, "Whoa I was there that night of the story! That's what really happened back stage?" I'm really happy about it, I'm just blown away!
That's great! I mean, there aren't too many people whose lives are that exciting.
[Laughs.] Well it wasn't easy and I don't think my life is that exciting at all but it sure made a neat book!
It's weird because I read on-line that is a "tell all" type book and then I read somewhere else that it isn't. Which is true?
You know it's like, what is "tell all?" If I'm telling everybody what the music business is like in a very nice way then, yeah. I guess it is a "tell all" about how the music business is and how deals get done though one person's story. I'm telling you my story without going too deep. I just wanted it to be relatable. So the cheeky "tell all?" No, I wouldn't say that at all. But as a hip-hop fan to tell people, look at all of these cool things that I saw, then yeah. If you're looking for the sleazy tell all, it's just not me.
I guess it's another case of the media spinning it then.
Oh yeah and I'm really down to earth. So then, I get huge a-list rappers calling me up going, hey what's this book about? I'd be like, don't tell me you're falling for this spin too! The whole thing got really twisted. It's not what I set out to do. I really wanted to show people why these songs and artists were famous and how they did it. The work, the behind the scenes, and my experience in seeing those moments. I'm a homebody, a family person, and my friends are really important to me. I'm just someone who is really lucky to have gotten into the music business.
The people mentioned in the book probably freaked out because you have some valid stories they don't want to get out!
Yeah, and I kind of have an allergy to lawyers so when the artists popped up and the lawyers popped up and started saying what the hell-- I felt like they obviously didn't know me at all.
I saw there is a link to the book on your Twitter page, so is it free or do you just have it posted up for a while?
Yeah it's free! I didn't do it for the money! I wanted to share the story. See that's where it got messed up too. When the lawyers got into it, then it became about money. It was never intended like that, I just wanted to show the fans what I had the opportunity to see. I gave a little background story about me too just to show everyone that I'm just like them. I've had my money problems, I've stumbled and I've fallen, and please try not to make those mistakes. Now, this is how you make it I the music business.
Well maybe you'll make a movie about it and make some money because I think you should get paid for your work. I mean, it's your story!
Well then any producers in Orange County that don't do porn, call me! [Laughs.] I mean, I'm not rich and the reason why is because I've never done it for money. When I did, "I Still Believe" for Mariah, I did it for free. I said thank you, I appreciate you giving me the chance. That's seems to be my problem, I can't seem to break the pattern! [Laughs.]
What do you think about rappers these days?
Let's be real, the music business is like the Wizard of Oz. If all of these rappers were really gangster, they'd all be in jail. You can't sell drugs and be that high profile, someone's going to recognize you! I guess when you know the whole story people think you're going to give away the magic. I just want to say this is how we did it, what are you doing? We needed to keep the mentoring going but we didn't really. I wish my generation stayed next to these kids and showed them so they could have learned how it was done.
I sing bad in the shower but I'm pretty sure I could get a record deal these days...
Right? All you need is a T-Pain plug-in. [Laughs.] You're dead on. These kids that have nothing to do so at 16 and after being in a safe environment, they're thrown to the streets. It's important to me to get involved with the community and get out there and talk to people. It really works great for kids and gang interventions, I mean hello? Instead of buying a new Bugatti why not put a studio in the Boys and Girls clubs?
Besides setting the media straight with your book content, what else are you up to?
I'm been doing some lectures at colleges which is a lot of fun because when the hip-hop world meets the scholastic world, it stops at 1997. There aren't too many people who can say I met Tupac and this what he was like, I talked to Biggie the morning before he died and this is how his headspace was, this is how Jay-Z became a superstar, this is how Mariah crossed pop with the urban world, Eminem and his contribution--all of this stuff is supposed to be like a historical document. It's not like hey look at me, it's just a fun story with the background and education so these young artists can look at it and know they can do it.
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Is there another book in your future?
Maybe the next book will be all about the alternative stuff I did, we didn't even get into that yet. I don't know though, if there was a "Part 2" I don't know how I'd attack it after this. I've been getting so much great feedback so it's like one of those things where you don't want to make a Hangover 2. There's some funny parts in Hangover 2 no disrespect but, the first Hangover was so classic.
If you are intrigued then you are not alone, you can read the story and experiences behind Damion Young aka Damizza for yourself on www.damizzabook.com and you can also follow him on Twitter @Damizza!