Danny Boy’s smooth voice can be heard on some of the memorable songs from the 90’s including 2Pac’s “I Ain’t Mad At Cha” as well as “Picture Me Rolling”. However his story is much deeper than those hits. The singer has had quite a journey in the industry since he first signed with Death Row in the mid 90’s. After many false starts, Danny Boy is looking to pick up the pieces as he gears up for the release of upcoming album “Black Heart”. We talk to the crooner about his history in the industry as well as his work with the likes of R&B legends Babyface, Devante Swing and DJ Quik. We also talk about his new music as well as his ventures outside of music including his restaurant in Chicago.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You were originally signed to Death Row. What were your expectations when you first signed?
Danny Boy: To be honest, I signed to Death Row at a very young so I can’t really say there was an expectation that I went with. I was just excited to be able to sign my first deal. It was my first deal I was a part of and I was about 15 years old. I didn’t sign the deal until I turned 16 and I was just expecting everything that came from that. It was just an opportunity to sing and the world to know me for singing.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Did Suge Knight give you a timeline as developing you as an artist and putting your album out?
Danny Boy: Not really because when I went to Death Row, the work started instantly. When I went in, they were already working on the “Murder Was The Case” soundtrack and the album was already being mixed. Suge came up with an idea of me being on the soundtrack. He was like “No, it’s not done. Danny Boy is going to put a song on there”. I immediately started working with DJ Quik and he fell in love with my music. He took me under his wing, so I was recording before I had even signed a contract. To be that young and to be able to be in the best studios, it was an experience more than anything.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Death Row ended up being this huge label. Looking back at those experiences, it must feel like a different lifetime ago.
Danny Boy: Listen, even now when I get an opportunity to go back and think on the times that I’ve had or sometimes I see some of the stories while I was there, you never really understand a picture or what you look like in the picture until you step out of the frame. I had an opportunity to look back and it was an incredible moment. I was with some of the best rappers of the 90’s and Death Row was the sound of the 90’s. They were doing more than any other record label at that time. It was the time of my life and to look back on that, I would have never imagined that I would have such a great opportunity to rub elbows with so many people.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You had a chance to work with Devante Swing from Jodeci on “Slip N Slide”. Talk about working with him on that song.
Danny Boy: So when I went to Rochester, Devante Swing and coming up to Jodeci, everybody wanted his production and songwriting. They sent me to Rochester and I had an opportunity to work with him. He had a team going called Da Bassment and that’s when he had Playa, Missy Elliott, Tweet, Timbaland, Magoo and my homie Ginuwine. Nobody knew who they were, we were just young people working on records. Devante was building a strong camp. Even during the demise of Death Row is when I started seeing all of them move up the charts. That was amazing to see that I was around those type of people. Nobody knew who Ginuwine was when we recorded “Slip N Slide” and he did a lot of the backgrounds on it. Later to see “Pony” out and him doing what he loved doing, you couldn’t ask for anything bigger than that.
YouKnowIGotSoul: On Ginuwine’s debut album “The Bachelor”, he actually thanked you in the credits. I’m not sure if you knew that!
Danny Boy: I read that later on. It took for me to run back into Ginuwine and someone told me he said something about me on the album. I’m so grateful for that because a lot of people try to forget about you, but Ginuwine has always been one of the true friends in the business.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Ginuwine has mentioned in other interviews that Devante was trying to push you and Ginwuine as a duo at one point?
Danny Boy: Yes, for sure! *Laughs* Especially during that time, there were a couple of artists that Death Row either tried to put me with or other producers saw me with especially with all of us being young. I couldn’t imagine what that group would have been like. I guess we would have been a little ahead of time with what Ginuwine did Tank and Tyrese.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about your work with DJ Quik because it seemed like the chemistry that you guys had was special.
Danny Boy: I never had an opportunity to work like that with Dr. Dre, but I guess if I can imagine someone working with Dre and how awesome it was, I could probably compare that to working with DJ Quik. He’s so melodic with his producing skills in the studio. I was young and he took me under his wings. I was a little brother and he showed me everything it took to be professional in the studio. I learned a lot of those things and he always pulled the best musicians. When the musicians weren’t available, I’ve seen him walk over to a flute and try to play it. He would put that to a beat and that would be a DJ Quik song! I’ve seen that with my own eyes. I was being groomed at that time. Death Row had A&Rs and they would put artists with producers to create a sound. I think DJ Quik was good at trying to create that Danny Boy sound. He always allowed me to sing and be who I was, but it would also be with old school bass and drum patterns. He used stuff that always made great records. I did a song over with him by Bobby Womack. Nobody cut a remake better than DJ Quik. You would really think that I was singing over a real Marvin Gaye track because he went in and made sure it was that tight.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about working with Babyface on the song “It’s Over”.
Danny Boy: Who can say they worked with Babyface in the 90’s? His music is on the elevators and in the grocery stores! I remember recording that single with Babyface. I had just got back from Atlanta working with Dallas Austin and when I got back, I had a cold. My throat was hurting, but Suge told me to go to the studio to listen to the record. I waited a couple of hours for Babyface to the studio and I was trying to explain to him that I wanted to hear the record for the day and I’ll sleep with it overnight and maybe tomorrow we’ll come back to record it. Babyface was like “What’s wrong with you? I’m going to lay some guitar parts and maybe you’ll get over your hoarseness and be prepared to record in about an hour”. It didn’t sound like I really had a choice so I had to pull it together. I wasn’t my best because I was hoarse, but to record that song with Babyface and see how he stacked harmonies and the way he did the bridge. To be a part of that and that’s when he was doing the “Waiting To Exhale” soundtrack, so I was already ready for a Babyface song. That also was one of my biggest aspirations and dreams, I wanted to work with Babyface and I’m grateful to Suge for making that happen.
YouKnowIGotSoul: It sounds like you were in the studio constantly during those Death Row days.
Danny Boy: I think I am one of the most recorded artists on Death Row when it comes to being in the studio. I can’t say all of them are hits, but I was in the studio everyday and they would be 8-12 hour sessions. I would be recording something everyday. That was one of the things about being around Death Row. The work ethic was great because there was so much great music happening. Everybody wanted to make sure that they had the next song to match the previous material that had been released. It was an inside competition for everybody. If there was a soundtrack, everyone tried to do the best song to make sure that the song would be on the soundtrack. Suge was going to put it on there and every artist had that opportunity. That work ethic once Pac came around and you saw how he worked, he did 5-6 a day. Pac also brought that hard energy and work ethic to Death Row.
YouKnowIGotSoul: While you were working on your debut album, you were featured on some 2Pac records. Was the master plan to have those songs as the introduction to your career as a solo artist?
Danny Boy: I don’t know if that was the plan, but if you look back and see how Suge marketed and branded different artists, I can say that he was sticking to a formula that he had. He brought Dr. Dre to the position that needed to be at after he left the N.W.A. situation and then he introduced Snoop Dogg. It was a piggyback situation and after Snoop Dogg came The Dogg Pound and Jewell. It just so happened that when 2Pac and I gained our working relationship, I was always in the studio and Pac would be like “Come do something on this song!”. I ended up being on maybe 12 songs and some of them making the album. I think that was being in the right place at the right time. The chemistry 2Pac and I was amazing as well.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Due to Death Row being so Hip Hop driven at the time, do you think they really knew how to promote an R&B act such as your self?
Danny Boy: I think Suge’s apprehensiveness about releasing an R&B record was that everybody knew Death Row as this gangster label. I don’t think Suge wanted to risk everybody not knowing us as that. It was normal to me because even though we were recording these records, Suge would ride around listening to The O’Jays, Anita Baker and Bobby Womack. But the bread and butter was songs like “Gin & Juice”, “How Do U Want It?” and “Picture Me Rollin'”.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Your project didn’t get a chance to come out during that era. When did that frustration kick in for you?
Danny Boy: After the death of 2Pac and after Suge went to jail, it got really hard because a lot of things that I was used to was no more. All of the fringe benefits slowed down. Being able to provide as well as I was when Suge was out, all those dynamics changed and life changed. At this time, I was becoming a man and I was trying to understand more of the business aspect and what I was supposed to be getting. The dynamics changed greatly.
YouKnowIGotSoul: How did you manage with your career at that point?
Danny Boy: It was really hard managing it because of other opportunities that came up. A lot of people were scared to deal with me because of my past relationship with Death Row. A lot of doors were closed, but I was able to do plays and musicals. I was still able to do shows and then it got to a time where I had to work a 9-5 job. It was really hard being on television and waiting tables. It got hard, but I enjoy singing. God has allowed me to sing and he left me with the gift, that’s what keeps me going. I get an opportunity to sing again. There’s been a long time in releasing records, but as long as you can get another song, there’s always another opportunity.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Was there ever a point that you questioned your talent during those tough periods?
Danny Boy: Absolutely. I’ve always questioned if it was me especially when you go into a record label and they give you an excuse like “You have to work out!”. There was a lot of excuses given in order for me to make it. At times there was like “Am I too fat or old?” and then when I lost my hair, it was like “Oh my god! I don’t have any hair anymore”. There’s a lot of things that definitely came up throughout that process but as I said before, I never lost the joy of singing. I think that’s something that kept me pushing. I was like “Man I can get in the studio and hopefully someone will hear the hook of it again”. That’s how you hear songs with artists that I did with Twista and Do Or Die. Those songs helped me stay alive for a while and helped me stay eating and standing amongst my peers.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You appeared on American Idol but that was cut short after they found out you were signed to Death Row. What was your next move after that?
Danny Boy: I can’t get on American Idol, so I found myself doing backgrounds on the road for beings that I looked up to. I went out with K-Ci & JoJo and sang backgrounds for them for four years. That grew into a great relationship. I did backgrounds for the Jodeci reunion show. I did backgrounds for New Edition, but my first background gig was for Teena Marie. I sang backgrounds for her and I had never sang background for anybody. That was an experience because who didn’t grow up listening to Teena Marie songs? I shared some great stages doing that.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Was being an artist still on your mind at that point?
Danny Boy: It fed me for a long time. I can’t say that I was comfortable because when you are a lead singer, you always dream of yourself in the front singing. I knew it was a humbling stage and it was time for me to be in the background. I learned so much about touring. If it wasn’t for K-Ci & JoJo putting me on a Jodeci tour, I hadn’t been one in a while. I was able to do the training that needed to be done through those guys and I got paid to do this training. I appreciate that I still get an opportunity to do just that. I’m so ready to hit the live stage and sing in the front and do what God has gifted me to do.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Aside from the music, I know you’re in the restaurant business.
Danny Boy: I have a restaurant out in Chicago called OH Danny Boy’s. It’s a kiss of culture. I have a 2Pac burger or you can come through and get a Bernie Mac and Cheese. I named most of my meals after people I look up to whether it’s philanthropists, artists or entertainers. It’s been going great. This is my fourth attempt at the restaurant business. I love it like I love the stage and it’s been going pretty well. In this business, there are some hiccups along the way but I love it.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You just released the new single “This Song”. Talk about this upcoming project.
Danny Boy: This record that I’m working on now will be out Valentine’s Day. I have a song called “This Song”. It’s been going great and it’s in the top 30’s right now. We are working to get the song noticed everywhere. To have that opportunity again after so many years, I;m so grateful for that. Everything was working against making this album happen like with COVID and I went through a breakup. Usually when I go through a breakup, I don’t want to work. I went into the studio the next day and the producer and writers were sitting in my closet because they were presenting songs that fit my life or fit something that i was going through. It was important for me to get some music in. I think that’s what music is missing. It’s the love part of it and it’s not always about happy moments. Love has some sad moments and crying. It has everything in it. I hope that’s what people see in the record we’re putting together.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Lastly, reflect back on your “It’s About Time” album because I know that was some older material that came out later.
Danny Boy: That album was all of the music that DJ Quik and I had done. It was some of the music that I had done on Death Row that was never released. I was happy, maybe not on the business, but that the music finally got out. It was songs that I hadn’t heard in a while. To hear some music that you did when you were 16 and you hear it at 30, it was a growing stage for me. It was like “Oh that’s how you used to sing!” and there were some records that I wish I could go back and re-cut because I think they fit today. I thank Suge and that Death Row moment that I did great music with great producers. When you do that, it’s just timeless. The voice might sound different and you may have to change the words because the wordings have changed, but it’s a great song if the melody is good. I’m grateful to have been a part of that.