We recently had a chance to catch up with producer Darryl Pearson. During our conversation, we touched on his time in DeVante Swing’s Swing Mob & Da Bassment, working with artists like Ginuwine, Timbaland, Missy Elliott, Sugah, Sista, Playa, Tweet, and Magoo, leaving Da Bassment and working with artists like Dru Hill, Mya, Justin Timberlake and Beyonce, and what he’s currently working on.
Darryl Pearson: When I was a kid, my uncles came to the house one day, and they played the guitar. I guess I was 4 years old. It really intrigued me. From that point, I started dabbling with different instruments and playing by ear, and I taught myself how to play guitar and then bass and keyboard and stuff like that. Then I fell in love with music. I started thinking about being a producer. The way I figured I would do that is by duplicating people’s stuff. So when I was younger, anybody who was doing a talent show and needed music reproduced, I would sit down and I would just reproduce the music. From that point, I figured I wanted to get in the business. Believe it or not I watched a Roach Motel commercial. I saw how the roaches tracked the poison on their feet and it killed the rest of them. So I figured anybody I knew who was trying to get a deal, I made sure I did their demos. Pretty much doing it that way, started me on track. The rest is history. One day, Jodeci when they had just came out. They were performing in Baltimore. I got in and introduced myself and that next week I moved in with DeVante and Dalvin in New Jersey and from there the rest is history.
YouKnowIGotSoul: This was after their debut album?
Darryl Pearson: Yea, they had just did their debut album and they were doing a promo tour at the African American Festival in Baltimore. I met them there. Actually, when I was playing, I grew up in the church. I was playing with a national Christian group called Nicholas. When I was on tour with them, we were all young, like 15 years old, I met DeVante’s father, he had a group. When I saw Jodeci, I told DeVante I met his father. That was when they were staying in DC. We went to the hotel and I let him hear some tracks. He said he wanted to start a production company and asked if I wanted to be down. I said yes. The first four members of Da Bassment were mysef, DeVante, Dalvin, and Chad Elliott, Dr. Suess. That’s how we started.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What year was this?
Darryl Pearson: 1993 I guess it was. Myself and Chad Elliott, we were the first. Da Bassment was The Swing Mob with us four. This was way before Rochester. We had a house in Teaneck, New Jersey. When we first started, it was really wild. We didn’t have furniture, all we had was instruments!
YouKnowIGotSoul: You worked on Mary J. Blige’s debut album “What’s the 411?” When did that happen?
Darryl Pearson: Yea, we were in New Jersey then. I was in the house working on a track. Then JoJo came in and started singing the hook to the song. DeVante myself and JoJo went into the studio and finished it up. That was “I Don’t Want To Do Anything” with Mary J. Blige and K-Ci. That was the first song that I ever heard that I had done on the radio. I was really excited about that.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Was that your first placement with DeVante?
Darryl Pearson: I think the first placement I ever had, we did a song called “This Time” by Georgio. We did a song called “I See Love” by Cece Peniston. Those are the first placements that I had with DeVante. Aftewards, we did Horace Brown, Christopher Williams, Al B Sure, we had a whole bunch of tracks then. We did H-Town “Part Time Lover”. DeVante and I were doing a lot of production together with Chad Elliott. Also the Usher song “Can U Get Wit It”. We did that one and also “Whispers”. I started that when I lived in Baltimore and we started messing around with it, and ended up on the Usher record. I sang background on “Can U Get Wit It” also.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Take us back to Da Bassment. Where did it go after it was the 4 of you guys?
Darryl Pearson: What happened then was, Jodeci went on a promo tour and met Ginuwine. He came back, we started working with him. Then Missy and her group Sista. Missy brought Timbaland and his crew up. It was crazy because DeVante sent everybody home, but he called back Timbaland and Magoo. That was when Timbaland joined in with us also. This was around 1994. Everything was happening pretty quickly.
YouKnowIGotSoul: As more artists starting coming into Da Bassment, what was it like?
Darryl Pearson: What we would do is, we would go to sleep, wake up, working constantly. All day long. It was just music. We would clown around, but we were serious about what we did musically. Work, work, work. But we had fun, but we worked like crazy.
YouKnowIGotSoul: At what point did you end up going to Rochester?
Darryl Pearson: What happened is, we went on tour. I did all the guitar and bass stuff for Jodeci. When we went on tour, I was playing on tour also. While we were there, we had the different guys in the band. Our drummer Reggie, he basically lived in Rochester, he was from there. We were getting ready to record the third album, “The Show, The After Party, The Hotel”. We didn’t want to do it in New York. He said he had a real nice studio we could work with in Rochester. It was owned by my business partner Dave Schumaker, he owned Dajhelon Studios. That’s where we went to record. After tour, we all packed up and moved to Rochester, New York. That was about 1995.
YouKnowIGotSoul: It’s really interesting to think about how DeVante moved all of that talent up to Rochester, which is not known as a major area for music. It’s probably about 5 hours from New York City.
Darryl Pearson: Yea, I guess we grew out of Teaneck. We were going to The Hit Factory and different places. But we were able to lock the whole studio out, it was just us, we had free run. The atmosphere was better for cultivation purposes. What happened is Playa came along. They were working, and then Dalvin met Stevie J from Buffalo when we got out there. We were all in one place in Rochester. I think DeVante’s whole idea was creating a new Motown situation. One of the only ways to get all of us in the studio working at the same time and it being cost effective was taking us to Rochester. Dave opened the whole studio to us. The way we had it was Tim in one room, I was in one room, DeVante was in a room, Dalvin was in a room. Everybody was just working continuously around the clock. We had a bunch of engineers with us. We all played multiple instruments. Any time of night, we were able to work. We slept in the place!
YouKnowIGotSoul: You were able to contribute to Jodeci’s second album “Diary of a Mad Band” as well. Did it hit you in the moment what you were a part of?
Darryl Pearson: It was really cool. The first album was done, but me and DeVante were getting more creative. One morning I was sleeping on the floor in the studio, and he was working on “Cry for You”. I heard the keyboard part and it blew me away. We got up and went to this store called Rogue Music in New York. We found all of these old Wah Wah Pedals, and old guitars, and old synths. We decided to give the music an old sound like with static. You might notice the change in the sound from the “Forever My Lady” album to the second album. We added that twist. I guess that was the beginning of our new sound that we started creating, Da Bassment, Swing Mob. He was doing all of the static and the moves and stuff. It just turned into something really funky and different at the time.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about your contributions to Jodeci’s third album “The Show, The After Party, The Hotel”.
Darryl Pearson: That was a lot of fun. Myself, Timbaland, Dalvin, DeVante, Stevie J., Missy, Tweet, everybody contributed to that thing. I believe our experience contributed to that. It was a grimey sound with the interludes. I believe the whole album was an expression of our experience in our lives there. Basically, we were around a bunch of geniuses. DeVante is a genius. So is Timbaland and Stevie J. I do what I do as well. We all contributed and it turned into what it turned into. That was DeVante’s baby, he was really particular about it. He put a lot of time and energy into it. I believe “Cry for You” had 130 tracks! He was in there tweaking a hi-hat, or the cymbal or whatever. It was pretty deep.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What was your plan for after Da Bassment?
Darryl Pearson: The thing is, when DeVante and I were doing production together, that broke me in. That’s when I started getting recognized as a producer. It was my idea to be a producer, but DeVante wanted me to be a recording artist! What he did was, we were working on Al Green songs. DeVante told me I should do it. Sony agreed and they wanted to sign me as an artist. I actually did sign with them, but that was when things started getting a little shaky with Da Bassment. I did what I did, but after awhile I got with Refugee Camp, once everything started fading with Da Bassment. It was my intention to be a producer, but DeVante named me Day at the time. He had a whole concept.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What is it like at the end of Da Bassment?
Darryl Pearson: What happened is it seemed like, I’m not sure, but Missy had left and then little by little, there was some situations that were popping up. It was causing the whole situation to deteriorate. Gradually it seemed like the whole situation dissolved. Ginuwine had signed to Sony and came out with “Pony”. Tim and Missy started doing their thing, and everybody just kinda separated a bit. When things started getting funky, I went back home for a second and just chilled to see what was going on. I was still tight with everybody. I never took sides with anybody. I didn’t have a reason to. Things did dissolve a little bit and I was hanging out with Timbaland and Missy more than everybody else. We just kept continuing to do things ourselves too.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You were able to work on Dru Hill’s debut album with the song “So Special”. They are Baltimore guys too. How’d that happen?
Darryl Pearson: It was really crazy because the same festival that I met DeVante and them at, I would see them in Baltimore. Sisqo used to work at this place at the harbor called The Fudgery, where they would sit and make fudge and sing. We were at the festival and Nokio pulled me aside. We were actually in Rochester working when that happened. I flew them to Rochester to record the song, since they asked me to do the song for them. That was when we were at Dajhelon Studios. We recorded “So Special” there. It was crazy because at one point, K-Ci wasn’t happy because Sisqo sounded a lot like him, and he thought they were trying to copy him. I told K-Ci they admire him very much. They are not trying to copy, it’s his style. He just happens to have a feel like yours, like K-Ci has a feel like Bobby Womack. So K-Ci was cool after that.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We were talking to Nokio about the song “She Said” you produced from Dru Hill’s 3rd album. We felt that should have been a single.
Darryl Pearson: You know I did “Beauty” for Dru Hill too. I have to talk to them about my credits! We recorded that record, we were in Virginia Beach, we had gotten a beach house when we worked on that record. We got caught in a hurricane and all types of stuff. “Love/Hate”, “Beauty”, there were a few songs I did. We did a remix to “Beauty” too. The one with the Wah Wah’s on there, that was me and Nokio. Then I did “Xstacey Jones” as well.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You contributed a lot to Mya’s debut album. Tell us about that.
Darryl Pearson: Actually, Mya and Dru Hill were on the same label. Once I did the stuff with Dru Hill, Haqq Islam, he put me in the studio with Mya. Actually, Sisqo and I wrote “It’s All About Me”. Sisqo wrote the lyrics and I did the music. “Movin On” as well, I did about 8 records on that album. “Keep on Lovin Me” had Missy on it with me. Timbaland got on that a little bit too, on a couple of different songs. We banged that one out in Atlanta.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Did you know Mya was going to be a star?
Darryl Pearson: I think like a strategist. When I heard and saw her, I knew she’d be good. But what I told them was, at the time Aaliyah’s record was fading, and I waited for everybody to get out of the way and do something a little different. I got Sisqo to write “It’s All About Me”, and he didn’t know, but I left him in the second verse. So Dru Hill was hot, let’s leave Sisqo on there and make it a duet. At the time, that was a great thing, because the song went up to number 2 on the R&B charts.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You were part of Total’s “Kima, Keisha, and Pam” album. How did that come together? You did their song “Trippin” right?
Darryl Pearson: Yep, “I Tried”, “Move Too Fast”. We did a few songs. I worked with Missy on that one. I had gotten a new machine called an ASR-X. It was a little red machine. I remember sitting in a hotel room and learning my machine. That was when I came up with “Trippin” on that machine. It was a little sampler, and I sampled all the parts and sequenced and what not. The track came in my hotel room, that’s how it worked. Missy and I went into the studio and just started recording it all. All organic. When I got to the studio, I added live bass and things like that.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You were on Mya’s second album “Fear of Flying” as well.
Darryl Pearson: It’s crazy because the song I did “For the First Time” changed a lot. After I did it, they came in and changed a couple of things. It was cool but, I don’t feel like personally that wasn’t the way I imagined it to be. It was remixed and they released the remix version. I’m not jumping up and down about that one, that messed me up a little bit. It is what it is.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We’re talking about music from around 2000. Was there ever a time when you knew Jodeci was going to do another album?
Darryl Pearson: I would hear stuff. I would see K-Ci and JoJo periodically. I saw Dalvin at a concert one time. I had been trying to reach DeVante to catch up. I heard that he was in L.A. We were never able to catch up with each other. He was doing what he was doing, and I was doing what I was doing. I was doing a lot of music and dabbling with the tech stuff. I was doing stuff with Rodney Jerkins and staying out of the country a whole lot. Then one time, even Timbaland had said we should catch up with DeVante, we had heard he was doing some stuff. It never really materialized. DeVante will always be my brother and mentor, I love him and Dalvin, only God knows what will happen in the future. We haven’t had a chance to really catch up. I’ve been talking, his brother Bossman, we keep in touch periodically, and also his son hits me up to see what’s going on. We’ll just wait and see what happens. It would be great to do a reunion thing.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about working with Justin Timberlake on the “FutureSex/LoveSounds” album.
Darryl Pearson: I did “SexyBack” and “Sexy Ladies”. I played bass guitar on those. It was fun. The whole project was really fun. We spent a whole lot of time. Justin is a machine. Working with him is ridiculous, he has one of the best personalities I’ve ever met. His memory, he never writes anything down. He just memorizes everything. It was a lot of fun. We just got into the studio and were jamming.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We love to read the liner notes, and it’s cool to see your name pop up. We always see the producers and songwriters, but you’re a musician. You contribute instrumentation to tracks.
Darryl Pearson: A lot of times it’s just little things. Like on Timbaland and Magoo’s record, I was sitting there singing the Spider-Man hook. Timbaland said we should do it, so he made a song out of it. Nowadays music is a little different. They pay more attention to the producer than the musician. That’s why I want to bring that back and cause people to respect musicians. A sample was created by a musician. People don’t really get it. They think samples do what they do. It came from somebody that’s actually playing an instrument. Even now, I do a lot of loops and stuff. But I create my own loops. I think one of the last couple songs I did, “Cubicle” by Buddy, that was a vocal loop that was intentional. I’ll do a vocal loop and then a producer will do what they need to do. Music is never going to go anywhere or change. I want musicians all around the world to get props and remain active. The producer has to understand they can sample forever, but somebody has to keep creating for the music industry to keep going.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Tell us about some of the more recent songs you’ve contributed to.
Darryl Pearson: I also did songs with Terry Dexter and a bunch of things back then. But recently, the song “Grown Woman” for Beyonce, that comes from a loop also. Before you know it, Timbaland and J-Roc added what they added, and The Dream and Beyonce started writing. We’ve done a whole bunch of stuff, the Justin Timberlake songs, Brad Paisley stuff. Most stuff I’ve done lately I’ve either done with Timbaland or 1500 or Nothin. We all hang out and do our things. There’s going to be more stuff coming this year. I’ve been coming up with a bunch of different tech ideas that will enable us to continue working through a pandemic wherever we want with whoever we want. Once that happens, we can start talking again. I want to level the playing field and give everyone the same type of opportunities. I tell people if you learn how to be a team player, you can get placements. If you offer something that you can contribute, you’re part of a team. It can take you into the future. I’m a team player and that’s the way I think. Right now I have my little cousin, who is ridiculous, and my nephew, I’m bringing him on as a producer. I’m meeting a lot of young people I want to pass the torch onto. I’ll probably play music all my life, but I want to let them get out there and do what they can do. Just to give them an avenue to get on without having to go through everything in the industry. I’m sure with some of the interviews you’ve done with Sugah and Sista, you’ve heard all of the horror stories. I chose to kind of float about all of the drama as much as I could, and I still do that today. I like to talk about the light things. I would like to help people get in without dealing with some of the mess that we did have to deal with. It was no bowl of cherries. It was a lot of hard work. When Jodeci went on tour, the whole Da Bassment went on tour too. Everybody was there together. They were able to witness the mountains as well as the pitfalls on tour. Everybody can tell a story. It was great to see Smokey and Black of Playa with Dru Hill now, they are all my little brothers. I love all of them, from Missy to Sista to Sugah to Tweet to Stevie J to DeVante to Dalvin, K-Ci, JoJo, Timbaland, Ginuwine. They will always be my family, I love all of them. No matter what any of them are going through. I thank God for all of them. Through good and bad, every situation added to who I am as a musician.
YouKnowIGotSoul: When you were in Da Bassment, did you work with one artist more than the others? We thought we had heard you worked with Ginuwine a lot.
Darryl Pearson: We did hundreds of songs. Actually what happened was, when we all got together, the whole crew, they all had houses and people lived in the same houses with them. DeVante had his house, Timbaland and them lived in there with him. Then Dalvin had his place, he had his people there. I had my place, Ginuwine was there in my place with me. We worked on a whole lot of stuff together because we were together a whole lot. I did a whole lot of stuff with Sugah too. I think I worked more with Ginuwine than anybody else. I even did stuff for Playa, but Ginuwine maybe we did do a lot more. On his record, the one that they did for Da Bassment, you might see my name more than anybody else’s.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We’ve seen the building in Rochester where Da Bassment was at. How was the setup of where everyone lived?
Darryl Pearson: It was multiple floors. Our studios were in the basement. DeVante had his room, but Timbaland slept in the studio too, he didn’t want to go anywhere. He had a room down there, when he was recording, he was so dedicated he’d sleep in there. There was an upstairs with different rooms we’d work in. There were a few levels. We were all spread out all over the whole building. We are thankful that Dave Schumaker let DeVante do anything he wanted. DeVante painted the walls, he did everything. He just accommodated us. Dave was a real good guy.
YouKnowIGotSoul: It’s really unfortunate that DeVante Swing doesn’t come out more often to help share these stories.
Darryl Pearson: Yea. I guess one day we’ll have another call. Last time we had a conversation, we had a good conversation, but like you said, DeVante is really staying to himself a lot. I haven’t had a conversation real recently enough to see his feelings on everything. I think that the situation may have hurt him a little bit. Not so much people in Da Bassment, but outside influences that tried to break his spirit as who he is. I pray for him every day and I believe that one day he is going to pop up and do something and people will know. God has his way of doing things in his own time. All we can do is wait and see what happens.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Tell us your memories of Static Major.
Darryl Pearson: I was actually on my way to Louisville to see Black and Static that weekend that he passed. It was ironic that I was in the house with Timbaland when he died. We flew to the funeral together. It was a real shock, losing Aaliyah, and then losing Static. It was surreal. I was right there with him in Da Bassment. Even when he was doing writing with Timbaland, I was there working with Timbaland while Static was doing his thing. I was still there in Louisville even when they were quiet. I remember when they first came on. They’d come out singing Gospel songs. It was really cool just to watch all of them develop.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Did you ever get to spend any time around Aaliyah?
Darryl Pearson: Yea always. She was Babygirl. She was with us all of the time. That was when Tim & Missy were signed to Barry Hankerson management. She was around us all of the time. We were all like family. Ginuwine, Aaliyah, me, Timbaland. We were around each other a whole lot. Her cousin Malik and Jomo, we had a lot of fun.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Anything you’d like to add?
Darryl Pearson: I like what you guys are doing. A lot of people forget where things originate or come from. They have to remember, even moving forward, you have to remember where you came from. People have to be real, know where it came from, take examples from what happened in the past, do new things, but never forget the root of what it is. Just like with us. Even a Justin Timberlake, he could go back to the 30’s and 40’s and sing songs that nobody ever thought about. It’s great to see young people that are able to use everything past, present and future to make something new. You can’t forget the past, you have to pay attention to your present, and have to imagine what those things could be in the future in order to make it something new and innovative and different.