Grammy-award winning producer Darius ‘Deezle’ Harrison made headlines this year when he filed a reported $20 million lawsuit against Lil Wayne and his Cash Money/Young Money empire.
The lawsuit alleged that Wayne and his imprints failed to pay him royalites for one of the rapper’s biggest hits to date “Lollipop”, estimated to have accumulated over $70 million in sales.
Since then Deezle, the producer, instrumentalist, singer AND rapper, says he’s been misrepresented in the media as a money-hungry ‘monster’ instead of what he really was—the in-house producer for Cash Money Records after the departure of Mannie Fresh.
Deezle sat down with HipHopWired to air out his grievances with the company and explain how he took over for Fresh, his last conversation with Weezy and why he ultimately wants to settle out of court before things go too far.
HipHopWired: For all those who don’t know, explain your background.
Deezle: I’m a multi-instrumentalist. I play bass, I play guitar, I play the keys, I sing and rap. I started as an engineer and became an artist and started producing my own stuff because I couldn’t afford to pay any producers. As far as my production credits, I’ve worked with Aaron Neville, N’Dea Davenport from The Brand New Heavies, James Hall, Ani D. Franco, Bishop Paul Morton. I’ve done rock and country records and I finally became a Hip-Hop producer. I started at the bottom and one day I got a phone call from Slim to be their producer. And the rest with Cash Money, I guess you could say is history.
HipHopWired: Weren’t you Cash Money’s in-house producer?
Deezle: I was for several years, I worked on Birdman’s Fast Money and I had six songs on there. Then Tha Carter I, I engineered over 75% of that record as a recording engineer. The same thing for the Carter II, I ended up having one song on that one but between Tha Carter I and Tha Carter II about six or seven of my records got leaked. I was really supposed to end up with about four or five records but six or seven of them got leaked. It was a big disappointment because they were talking about [making it] a single for at least on of them.
HipHopWired: What do you do then when one of your songs gets leaked or if you produce a song thinking it’s for an album but find out it’ll be given away for free on a mixtape?
Deezle: It’s really a problem that certain labels have. I don’t see the point in leaking records because I don’t any money from that. When somebody leaks one of my records it’s a problem for me. Over the course of my career with my involvement with Cash Money, I had at least 19 of my records leak. Can you imagine 19 Lil Wayne records between Carter I and Carter III Lil Wayne? You might as well say that’s $19 million. From a producer’s standpoint I don’t believe in leaking records. The thing is it would be without my approval. I’d be riding down the street and hear people playing my records.
HipHopWired: What made you want to be Cash Money’s in-house producer after Mannie Fresh was seen airing out his grievances with them for not paying him?
Deezle: When I got over there it was toward the end of Fresh’s stint with them and that stuff hadn’t been aired out yet.
HipHopWired: Let’s talk about the actual lawsuit that you have against them. It’s estimated that “Lollipop” generated over $70 million in sales. What makes you think that $20 million of that is yours?
Deezle: First of all in the media that number’s been kind of boosted. We’re not going for $20 [million], we’re just going for 12 which is damages. Not only did they use the records that I did with them but I haven’t seen any royalties from stuff from way back in 2005.
HipHopWired: Do you know if they paid Static Major for “Lollipop?”
Deezle: I really don’t know and I don’t get involved with Static’s business. He was my friend but I don’t get involved in his personal business and I wouldn’t speak on it because it’s not my place.
HipHopWired: We also heard that there’s a rapper [Dirahn Gilliam] suing you now about the song.
Deezle: I don’t even know who that guy is…
HipHopWired: So he’s just coming from left field?
Deezle: This is another guy out of the blue suing me for my song. The same thing happened with this other guy. I’ve never heard of this guy in my life but he says I took his song because Lil Wayne’s daughter played a CD for me. Now how often do you hear of grown men hanging with their colleague’s daughter to listen to CDS? Really?
HipHopWired: When was the last time you talked to Wayne?
Deezle: It’s been a while; I’ve been pretty busy working on my album. The last time we spoke was before he went to jail.
HipHopWired: Was it a friendly conversation?
Deezle: It was cool, a cool conversation. Ultimately I think Wayne is a great talent and he has a great heart and he’s really a super talented individual. We worked extremely well together and we came up with record-breaking music, the things that really changed the sound of Hip-Hop music. All I have to say about Wayne is good things.
HipHopWired: So it’s not personal, it’s just business.
Deezle: No it’s not personal. I don’t have anything personal against Wayne. In most cases this stuff is over Wayne’s head. When I worked for Wayne I never had issues.
HipHopWired: I know you say it’s not personal but how do you feel when you see Baby and Wayne out in the clubs and they’re spending $50,000 a night when they still owe you money?
Deezle: I think that’s not smart business. Let’s use an analogy, if you sell cardboard gift boxes and the cardboard you buy from the cardboard producer people are eating it up, stuff is flying off the shelves, people can’t get enough of it—would you not pay your cardboard producer? Or would you continue to pay them and continue to sell tons of product? That goes for any game. That goes for the dope game, weed, automobiles, gas, that goes for anything. I just don’t think it’s smart business when you don’t take care of the people who allowed your company to see large gains and rapid advance.
HipHopWired: We’ve heard several more horror stories of producers not being paid royalties, have you worked with anyone else that “forgot” to pay you?
Deezle: No, this is the only time I’ve ever had a problem. One time I saw that someone did an article about me saying, ‘Oh he’s a monster, he sues everybody!’” No, this is the first time I’ve ever had to sue anybody. All it takes is a phone call to say, ‘Hey can we re-do the accounting?’ because they’re sensible.
HipHopWired: So the ultimate goal is to get this all settled, have the accounting redone and have the money divvied up like it’s supposed to…
Deezle: That’s the goal, to settle this in a timely fashion without any issues and without having to go to court because that’s stressful on everybody. It’s easier to do it before it gets that far.
HipHopWired: After all this is settled would you work with Cash Money again?
Deezle: I don’t know how wise that would be…[Laughs]
HipHopWired: Any Cash Money affiliates?
Deezle: [Laughs] My grandmother always told me, if you stick your hand on the stove and get burned once, shame on her, she left it on. If I stick my hand up there twice, shame on me. Let’s put it like that…”
Deezle is currently working on his Blue Magic album featuring Junior Montana, overseas pop sensation Tanisha Kelly, singer Attozzio and himself as a rapping vocalist.
According to Harrison the title Blue Magic is a reference to the movie “American Gangster” and plays off how “sick and potent” the sound of his music is.