Fans and listeners who have followed the rap musings of producer/performer DJ DMD know the man has very little to be bashful about. After all, his pimp-tight lyrics and sporadically funky beats have made him a brave and bawdy cult fixture to Houston rap lovers. But there is one thing he is kind of insecure talking about: the significance of his rap name.
"It's kinda corny, so I don't like to tell people that," DMD says. But soon enough he reveals his dirty, naughty little secret.
"It actually means Disc Master D," he says. "But I'm supposed to not tell anybody about that. It's kinda corny. That's my old-school DJ name, and I decided not to change it." DMD rarely discloses the origins of his hip-hop handle, but since he feels especially close to the people of the Bayou City (he calls Houstonians his "folks"), he believes there is nothing worth hiding from us. "Consider yourself privileged," he says.
It is somewhat of a privilege to talk to DJ DMD, a.k.a. Dorie Dorsey, Port Arthur native and resident, record-store owner, husband and father of two girls, who has made a name for himself and for his home turf in the Southern rap biz. This is the guy who produced and performed (with Lil' KeKe and the late Fat Pat) "25 Lighters," a song that, if you've spent most of your days the past year tuned to local rap radio, you surely would've heard being played every other minute. Set against a bubbly backbeat that parodies Al B. Sure!'s 1988 breakout hit, "Night & Day," "25 Lighters" is a flighty rap composition, replete with head-scratching chorus ("25 lighters on my dresser / Yessir / I gots to get paid"). As for what exactly the title means, the DJ lets the listener decide.
"I wanted it to mean ... to be a symbol for, uh, just people getting their money on, getting their hustle on," he says. "Working a nine-to-five or you doing whatever, you know. I'm just trying to get people to concentrate on getting their money on in a feel-good type of way. You know what I mean, '25 Lighters' is just like a symbol of that. 'Cause if you really think about it, how can lighters get you paid anyway? Everybody has been having their own, like, ideals of what '25 Lighters' mean. I done heard, uh, dope, crack. I've heard people use some of the wildest things in what they thought '25 Lighters' was. It can mean whatever anybody wants it to be about in a feel-good type of way."
"25 Lighters" became a heavy-rotation hit and gave the album it appeared on, 1997's Twenty-Two: P.A. World Wide, a boost in sales. The album is DMD's second, and it's independently distributed by DMD's own Inner Soul Records. DMD started the label five years ago, with partners John Williams III and Chandrea Celestine, as a way of unleashing his own brand of Texas hip-hop into cultural consciousness. "It was like, I wasn't gonna be in music unless I was in control of my own destiny," he says. "So, after looking for some investors and stuff like that, my friends, we just decided we were gonna do it ourselves."
The album's title is a continuation of his debut album's, 1996's Eleven. So what's up with the number?
"It's been my lucky number for, I don't know why, [but] I just took to that number, 11," he says. "And I was searching for a title for the first record. It's a part of my life. I mean, for instance, my birthday is on the 11th of December. My wife is on the 11th of July. My eldest baby girl is on the 11th of September. I had 11 artists signed to the [Inner Soul] label at the time we did Eleven. And the number just kept the important dates in my life all falling on that date, that number. So, it was like, to me, being that I'm a spiritual person, it's just like a message The Man was sending to me that that number is important." DMD is looking to name all his albums after multiples of 11. "Eleven, Twenty-Two, Thirty-Three, Forty-Four, if I ever get that far," he says.
DMD, who claims to be "17 for life," has been letting his music speak for himself ever since he was "here it goes again, 11." During that age, friends and relatives introduced him to the DJ arts (scratching, mixing, etc.).
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He soon became a popular DJ during his high school days. As he got older, he began making demo tapes of his work. Word of mouth soon hooked him up with Houston rap team UGK. He produced three tracks (and performed on one) for the band's Supertight album in 1994. That later led to DMD's working with Fat Pat, Lil' KeKe and DJ Screw. It was during one of those collaborations when DMD began working on "25 Lighters."
DMD's status as a Houston rap favorite caught the eyes of national record label execs who wanted to distribute Twenty-Two nationally, including Elektra. "It was like, at the time, Elektra came to the table earlier this year, we had about a little over 50,000 copies," he says. "And for anybody in the industry, they know that, you know, on an independent scale, 50,000 in four months, 16 weeks, that's an incredible amount of numbers for a little label to be doing." DMD immediately hooked up with Elektra, who outbid all other labels in contention. DMD says the label's "radio-tripping" publicity skills will come in handy for the other songs on the album he wants to release as singles. "I mean, there are plenty other songs on the record that we do feel have that same mass appeal to it," he says, "like '25 Lighters.' "
Despite his newfound rank as a major-label playa, DMD, who cites Dr. Dre as a major influence, is still gonna stick with the independent, often multifarious style of rap that got him where he is now. "I wanted to spotlight all kinds of influences [on Twenty-Two], you know," he says. "So there's a little East Coast feel on some tunes, South gangsta feel on some tunes, there's a little West Coast feel on some tunes. I mean, it's like a gumbo of tunes, a gumbo of flavor, and it kinda like creates its own little sound."
So DMD isn't worried about coming up with the goods for a national rap audience -- he knows what he can deliver. "I ain't the best," says the ever-humble DMD, "but I'm decent.