06 Dec Meet The Artist: DJ DreGhost
DJ DreGhost may be a newcomer to Melodie, but in the world of music he is a true pioneer and innovator who has not only left an indelible mark on the Hip Hop landscape, but has also contributed significantly to the evolution of the genre.
His journey from the DJ decks of South Central LA, to producing chart-topping hits for legendary artists like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and the Wu-Tang Clan, is a testament to his unparalleled talent and dedication to music. We sat down with DJ DreGhost to welcome him to Melodie and hear about his musical journey so far.
Melodie: DJ DreGhost! Beyond excited to be chatting with you today as your music has had such a profound impact on me, as I know it has for so many music fans. Let’s start right at the beginning. How did you get into music?
Growing up, my older brother George, a DJ himself, played a pivotal role in my musical journey. On weekends, he’d pick me up, taking me to his parties where he set up his turntables. He’d hand me albums, saying, “Here you go lil bro, put these records in order the way you want to hear them.” As I watched the crowd dance and laugh, I knew I wanted to be a DJ like my oldest brother, George Curtis Bell (RIP). His passion and the joy on people’s faces inspired my own love for DJing and set me on this incredible musical path.
Tell us about your influences and the artists that laid the foundation for your musical style?
My musical style has been shaped by an eclectic mix of legendary artists across genres. Artists like Earth, Wind & Fire, The Rolling Stones, Parliament Funkadelic, Pink Floyd, and Jimi Hendrix have profoundly influenced me. Each of them contributed unique elements — whether it’s the soulful rhythms of Earth, Wind & Fire or the innovative sounds of Pink Floyd — that have left an indelible mark on my approach to music. Their creativity, boundary-pushing techniques, and ability to connect with audiences, have been foundational in shaping my musical style.
You have a reputation for giving these electrifying performances that kept clubs and events packed – from the heart of South Central LA to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. What do you think it is about your style that leaves this impression?
I believe it’s the energy and passion I bring to my performances that resonate with audiences. My style is all about connecting with the crowd on a deeper level, understanding their vibe, and translating that into a musical experience. It’s not just about playing tracks but curating a journey that moves people emotionally and physically. My roots in South Central LA have instilled in me an authenticity and rawness that I bring to my performances, while my experiences in Hollywood have taught me showmanship and finesse. Combining these elements creates an electrifying atmosphere that keeps the energy high and the dance floors packed.
You transitioned from Djing, to producing Hip Hop in the early ‘80s. When was the moment you knew things were about to take off on a whole other level?
Amidst my neighbourhood production success with my brother, Lafont Tolliver (Big Boob), we crossed paths with Tim ‘DJ U-Neek’ Middleton on the East side of South Los Angeles. U-Neek, a DJ and producer, was introduced to Eazy-E by my friend Don Jaguar, one of the owners of Earle’s on Crenshaw Blvd, (trust me, if you haven’t been there, you absolutely need that food in your life! Their cuisine is an experience you won’t want to miss.) This meeting marked a turning point. Eazy-E had just signed Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and U-Neek, recognizing our potential synergy, reached out to me to embark on this musical journey together. Without revealing too much, it was an unforgettable and wild ride that followed.
Ok, we are definitely eating at Earle’s on Crenshaw next time in LA! One of those ground-breaking moments in your career was when you co-produced “East 1999” for Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, a record that not only shattered The Beatles’ 30-year record for the longest-standing #1 album but also earned a Grammy Award. The single “Tha Crossroads,” soared to over 2 million units sold and propelled Bone Thugs-N-Harmony to supergroup status. Then “East 1999” went on to sell over 7 million copies, forever altering the Hip Hop landscape. Can you describe what that moment in time was like for you?
That moment was surreal. Co-producing “East 1999” for Bone Thugs-N-Harmony was a ground-breaking achievement that exceeded all expectations. Witnessing the album break The Beatles’ long-standing record for the longest-standing #1 album and then winning a Grammy Award was beyond words. “Tha Crossroads” soaring to over 2 million units sold and catapulting Bone Thugs-N-Harmony to supergroup status was a testament to the power of music to connect with audiences on a profound level. Seeing “East 1999” sell over 7 million copies and witnessing its impact forever alter the Hip Hop landscape was a defining moment — one filled with pride, joy, and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.
From there, you went on to producing hits for legendary groups like the Wu-Tang Clan and artists like Mack 10 (alongside DJ U-Neek) and also had music featured in iconic movies like ‘Barbershop’. How did these projects come to be?
During that time, U-Neek Entertainment was a pivotal venture featuring artists like Nytowl, Gemini with her single (“Doctor Doctor” feat. Bizzy Bone ), and “E.W.F (Every Woman Fantasy)”. The collaboration between Nytowl and Killer Priest of the Wu-Tang Clan on the song “Pay the Piper” and another track “The Game,” for the ‘Ride’ soundtrack solidified our connections within the industry.
Additionally, the opportunity with ‘Barbershop’ unfolded through the introduction by Big Chris Flores and Cedric the Entertainer. Working closely with Big Chris, we co-produced a track titled “Smoke,” featuring ES.COMM, Layzie Bone of BoneThugs-N-Harmony, and the Mo Thug Family. These collaborations expanded our creative horizons and showcased the versatility and depth of our music within various platforms, from film soundtracks to artist collaborations.
You are very involved in paying it forward and nurturing the success of the next generation of music talent through your volunteering efforts. Do you want to tell us a bit about that?
Partnered with my wife, Shasta Bell, our commitment to nurturing the next generation of musical talent through volunteer efforts at various Southern California schools and our program, HOME (Helping Others through Music Experience), is a passion close to our hearts. Together, we aim to inspire and guide young aspiring musicians by not only honing their musical skills but also instilling confidence and self-esteem.
Sharing our experiences and knowledge, we provide them with the tools and guidance needed to flourish in their creative pursuits. Witnessing their growth and seeing the spark of passion for music ignite within them is incredibly rewarding. It’s a joint effort to give back to the community that has supported us throughout our musical journey, ensuring the future of music is in capable, passionate hands.
What is your DAW set-up like? Where do you like to work from?
At Peartree Studios, a shout-out goes to my valued partner Patrick Samuels. His support and collaboration have been instrumental in enhancing my creative process. Thanks to his contributions, along with the support from the Yamaha/Steinberg family, Cubase has become my DAW of choice at Peartree Studios.
Additionally, at Multi-Platinum Studios, I extend gratitude to Dave Banta and Tommy Bruno. Their partnership and support have been invaluable in providing the tools, resources, and space I need to craft innovative and impactful music compositions.
What is your favourite track in the Melodie library and why?
Among the array of fantastic tracks in the Melodie library, my favorite stands out: “Never Too Much”. Its laid-back vibe infused with a hint of Hip Hop spices resonates deeply with me. The track’s blend of elements creates an irresistible allure that captures the essence of what I love in music — effortlessly combining relaxation with the energetic flair of Hip Hop. It’s a standout gem within the diverse collection available in the Melodie library.
What’s on the horizon? What have you got coming up?
On the horizon, there’s an exciting line-up of projects and collaborations that I’m thrilled about. I’m working on a compelling documentary that delves into the intricate layers of my musical journey, offering an intimate glimpse into the behind-the-scenes aspects of my career. Moreover, 2024 will see the release of a highly anticipated album that promises to showcase a new dimension of my musicality. This album embodies a culmination of experiences and inspirations, reflecting my evolution as an artist.
A special shout-out goes to my new manager, Mrs. Laney Brabson, whose guidance and expertise are instrumental in steering these projects toward success. Together, we’re forging new paths in the music industry and bringing forth exciting ventures that will leave a lasting impact. Shout out to The Audio Lunch Bunch & Tech Breakfast Group!