By Ashley Zimmerman
By Dana Krangel
By John Hood
By Ashley Zimmerman
By David Von Bader
By Sayre Berman
By Steve Brennan
By Ashley Zimmerman
Hundreds of labels died off during the past decade and a half, but independent hip-hop purveyor Duck Down Entaprizez has survived and thrived. Established in 1995 by Black Moon MC Buckshot and business partner Dru-Ha, the label released only four albums in its first three years — Smif-N-Wessun's Dah Shinin', Heltah Skeltah's Nocturnal, O.G.C.'s Da Storm, and Boot Camp Clik's For the People — each receiving widespread acclaim and netting total sales of more than a million copies. The four records solidified Duck Down's raw, grimy brand, which has since sold an additional 3 million records — numbers that could easily have been tripled had its former distributor, Priority, not thwarted attempts to sign a then-unknown Eminem in '97.
Ever since 2007's Special Teamz album signaled Duck Down branching beyond the Boot Camp Clik's immediate circle, the label has developed projects with Cypress Hill's B-Real, KRS-One, Pete Rock, and most recently Pharoahe Monch. With more releases already in 2010 than in any past year, Duck Down is hitting 15 years in stride. New Times recently caught up with Buckshot, and he shed some light on his label's past and future.
New Times: With so many hip-hop labels, independent and major, having come and gone during the past 15 years, what is Duck Down's secret to longevity?
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Buckshot: Just knowing what we do and how we do it. Me and Dru-Ha know it like old ballplayers know the game of basketball. You have to know the fundamentals; you know how to do a moving pick, a fadeaway, and a crossover. So when it comes to the entertainment business, it's the same thing. There's techniques, formulas, and formats that you have to know before you can really start adding your own flavor to it. We've seen different people shine and get to that number-one spot and then what they did to adjust afterwards when it was the next dude's turn. So I can tell you who stayed in the game and who has longevity. And I'm still with these people. I do more ghost consulting than anything else. Companies coming to hire me to talk with managers and executives, build with promotional and advertising people. This is what I do. So if you don't see me rapping on the mic every five minutes, it's 'cause I'm not trying to be on one level. I'm trying to be Don King. I'm not trying to be no 50-year-old boxer.
So you're publishing a pamphlet called The Common Knowledgy of the Entertainment Industry. What's the inspiration behind this, and what can we expect from it?
I'm ecstatic about this. People were coming to me all the time at shows and on the street asking how I got into the industry and how you do this and that. It's for people who have the skills but don't have the information or the knowledge. They don't know how to get a DJ to play their record or how to promote or represent themselves on the internet or how to apply all these things together effectively. You need those fundamentals, and the fundamentals never change. I don't wanna sell people no fake Jake Roberts image of me out there with a microphone in the side of my ear trying to pump you up and sell you a dream about making it in the industry. That's not what it's about.
When you first started out releasing music with Nervous Records, did you always have it in mind that you would eventually own your own label?
Ultimately that happened as a result of my experiences on that label. Ever since I was young, I always knew I wanted to be in an executive position. I started out as an intern for Soul/MCA with Adario Strange and all those dudes. I always knew I wanted to be in their position, but I didn't know it would be with my own label. I ended up there through trial and error. There was just no other way. I would just never allow myself to be under the rules of another person telling me what I can and can't do with my record.
You're currently in the studio mixing your third record with 9th Wonder. Can you tell us anything about what's in store?
Yup, that album's done already. It's called The Solution, and it's gonna be fire! I just went in and did what I do, man. I just went in and rhymed and vibed. There's no rocket science to any of that. I spit over tracks I love to spit over and wrote about what I wanted to at that particular time.
What can you tell us about the future of the label and its releases and new additions to the roster?
We have a new artist I haven't announced yet. I can't tell you who it is. They wanna announce it themselves in October. They'll be with us on the tours, and the album's ready to drop. We got a gang of crazy new projects coming out after that too. 2011 is really the year that we come back to the surface. We started as an underground movement even before Black Moon hit with "Who Got da Props?," "I Got Cha Opin," "Buck Em Down," and all of that. When I say come to the surface, I don't mean commercial. We're not trying to sell you no shit. I mean when the whole movement comes to the surface this time, it's gonna be with an even bigger posse, stronger army, more new artists, more new projects, more soldiers, more followers, and just keep doing what we do. That's what's unique about us and our mentalities. You can't duplicate that; all you can do is get up with us.