FEATURE: Don Cannon, Leader of the New Cool
Though still largely known for his signature “Cannon” soundbite from his popular Gangsta Grillz mixtapes with former Aphilliates partner DJ Drama, Don Cannon is steadily making a name for himself as an in-demand beatmaker and tastemaker. Since setting up shop in the ATL (after graduating from HBCU Clark Atlanta University), the Philadelphia native has continued to work his way up the hip-hop ranks: from radio DJ to mixtape powerhouse to respected producer, to talent scout. Over the last few years Cannon has not only worked with established artists like Young Jeezy, 50 Cent, Ludacris and Busta Rhymes, but has been instrumental in helping introduce rap’s new crop of talent like Asher Roth and the Cool Kids. He has even managed to score the theme to Tyler Perry’s House of Payne TV series and the Atlanta Hawks Basketball team.
XXLMag.com recently caught up with the man behind the boards to speak on his upcoming projects, his skate shop with Stevie Williams and his stance in the DJ Drama/Young Jeezy beef.
XXLMag.com: We spoke to Jeezy on the new XXL, which actually just hit stands, and he was talking a lot of stuff about [DJ] Drama. And Drama came back—he responded to the comments that Jeezy made, basically saying that Jeezy was lying and that the reason he’s got beef with Jeezy is because he played a Gucci [Mane] record at a Jeezy party and that’s why they’re beefing. But Jeezy is saying it has to do with Drama as a person. He changed his character. I know that you haven’t been working with Drama for a long time and there’s rumors that there’s some kind of a split between you guys—some sort of a rift. I was just wondering if you wanted to speak on that at all?
Don Cannon: On the situation between him and Jeezy—I’m basically—I’m out of that situation. I’m not a sideline coach—they’re two grown men. They having their problems. As far as me and Drama, we don’t have any problems, it’s just that we have different visions and energy of where music is supposed to go. I want to do a lot of different things with music as far as street and real hip-hoppers, and it’s a situation that we built the company up to where I didn’t wanna be [there] and sometimes you don’t want to ruin relationships and friendships over it. As soon as we do that, they look at it—the media always tears things in half.
Don Cannon: You get down to the nitty gritty and it’s not a Dame Dash/Jay-Z situation. It’s not a Cam’ron/ Jim Jones situation. It’s basically you going over here to illustrate and you going over here to do photography. We both ain’t gon be sitting like, “I don’t like photography.” It’s just like, “Aight, cool.” So the way we stay cool is, you do that, you do this and if you gotta take pictures of the buildings that you building then cool. If I gotta build you a studio for your photography, cool.
XXL: So you guys are still on good terms?
Don Cannon: Yeah, I mean I haven’t worked with him since then because you know they have their type of music that they’re doing and I’m doing mine but, I been concentrating on putting out an album and really concentrating on getting these placements outside of what they was doing.
XXL: Word is that LA the Darkman has something to do with Drama’s bad name in the industry. Do you have anything to say about that, that LA the Darkman was a negative influence on Drama?
Don Cannon: I can’t really say that one person can make somebody feel about somebody else. I mean, what you think? I haven’t seen anything that LA the Darkman has done except for the comments that were made on the internet about them fighting. But like I said, I’m outside looking in so I know as much as a blogger would know about Drama feeling some type a way about somebody else. I know he’s definitely not that type of person from what I see. Like the new beef that they call on the internet going back and forth—I haven’t even read Jeezy’s part of the article, but I read Dram’s comments and it’s like—it’s different. Cause I’ve never known anybody to be like that. I’ve never known Jeezy to be on that. I would have to do more investigation into their beef cause I basically—staying away and being out of everything and just continuing to do beats—when you’re a producer, you’re looking up at it like, “Damn, I been out the loop that long. I don’t know what’s going on. When did that start?” It was kind of like I’m playing catch up a lil’ bit. And it’s a weird energy because I work with both and everybody’s made history together. I continued to do records on Jeezy’s album without having a convo about Dram. People don’t look at me—like Jeezy’s gotta come to me like, “Yo what’s up with Dram.” I just go in there and he’s like, “I’ma put Puff on this. Or I’ma do this—I’ma do that.” Cool and we do the record and I’m gone. On the other side, Drama might call me and we’d talk about something totally different.
XXL: Switching gears, what’s the next mixtape you got? You worked on that Mike Posner tape right?
Don Cannon: Yeah, actually Mike Posner was supposedly down with me and he made a decision to where he wanted to move on without a production deal which was cool. I’m still cool friends with him, but I just wanted to see talented people go further and it’s a lot of movement. I don’t know why people continue to call it “the hipster movement” because they act nothing like hipsters. I’m more of a Kanye as far as producer-wise. I wanted to [be] kinda like how Kanye is [as an] artist, I’m as a producer. I wanted to bridge the gap between the Jeezy’s and the Cool Kids. Like I did with the Cool Kids, who would have ever thought of them doing a song with Ryan Leslie, or them doing a song with Ludacris, or them doing a song with Bun B. These was all my likings. It’s kind of like I’m trying to bridge that gap, so I can get more attention to things like me doing a skate shop. When I throw shows I could have OJ Da Juiceman in there with Asher Roth and it’s not just be so segregated in the music world.
XXL: You have a skate shop?
Don Cannon: Yeah, I have a skate shop in Atlanta called Sk8tique. I own it with one of my closest buddies, Stevie Williams, one of the biggest skateboarders in America.
XXL: You skate board?
Don Cannon: I don’t, but that’s why the shop is so unique because it’s called Sk8tique and it’s a blend between skateboard and hip-hop. It’s wear it collides at.
XXL: What’s the next tape you’re working on? Is there anything in particular?
Don Cannon: Actually I’m doing a bunch of em’. I just dropped Young Chris from the Young Gunz. That tape came out really crazy. It brought out a reunion between him, Freeway, Beanie Sigel, and Peedi Crakk. We had all them back in State Property mode, and the tape came out super crazy. We been getting a lot of calls about his buzz. Curren$y, I’m working on his project right now. I just finished up B.o.B.’s. [And] I’m working on Rock City which is a dope group of writers/artists.
XXL: What production work are you doing? I know you’re going to be on Jeezy’s new album…
Don Cannon: I’m gonna be on Jeezy’s new album. [I’m] still working out the kinks with Juelz Santana. Luda’s album is coming out. Ludaversal is coming out pretty soon—definitely gonna be on there. Working the kinks out of Game’s album. Who else? I just got a host of people that just called me wanting to get in. You got Nipsey Hu$$le—I’m definitely gon’ work with him. I think he’s crazy. This guy named Steve J, he’s like a modern day Marvin Gaye. He’s out on J Records. You know Jazmine Sullivan, and Lil’ Scrappy—he’s coming out with a new project. 50 Cent, got another project with him. Shareefa—gotta crazy record with Shareefa, make that mean record jump out. I mean, I got a host—I got a list of fifty people I just can’t come off top of the head. I’m really excited about this new Jeezy record because everybody telling me it’s a smash.
XXL: It’s the next “Circulate?”
Don Cannon: [laughs] That’s what they say. As they said “Circulate” was the next “Go Crazy” or “Mr. 17.5.” So I’m just continuing to make records. I don’t like to jinx em’ and tell em’ what’s coming out for the simple fact that that might not be the one. I might do another one. Cause I did that with “Circulate.” I did one record, then we scratched that and did this one and we thought the first one was crazy. –Jonathan Jeffries