The formation of DeVante Swing’s Da Bassment (Also known as The Swing Mob Collective) is one of the most epic moments in music history and has a story we’ve never quite heard enough about. The legendary Jodeci group member had a vision for creating something special and he was able to achieve that and much more.
The fact that DeVante was able to recruit talented artists and producers from across the country, cultivate their talents in a boot camp like environment, and develop many of them into superstars is almost unfathomable. Some of these artists remain among the most successful in music even today. There is no doubt that what ended up coming out of Da Bassment helped to shift the sound in music and have a huge influence on future generations of artists.
Each of the artists who landed at Da Bassment has a unique story to share of how they ended up there and certainly lasting memories of their time spent. Here are some of the artists and producers recruited by DeVante Swing (aka Donald DeGrate / Boss Playa) and his brother Mr. Dalvin (aka Dalvin DeGrate) to join Da Bassment include: Timbaland, Magoo, Missy Elliott, Ginuwine, Tweet, Playa (Static Major, Smokey & Black), Stevie J., Darryl Pearson, Chad Elliott (aka Dr. Seuss), Radiah Scott, Chonita Coleman, LeShawn Shellman, Susan Weems, Rolita White, Renee Anderson, Bazaar Royale, Virginia Williams, Dante Hawkins, and Mr. Enoch. DeVante’s childhood friend Shannon Miller (aka Big Shann) was brought in to be the Vice President of the situation and help keep things running smoothly (thanks to Dimu for this interview).
We’ve felt inspired to write this article for a long time now because this is truly a story that deserves more attention than it’s received, despite the fact that all of this occurred in the early to mid 90’s. Much of the history was covered in a great article we’ve found here, and we’ve also been able to uncover a lot of it ourselves over the years by running this site as well as the Static Major is Music Blog.
What you’ll find below are quotes from members of Da Bassment on their experience as a part of it. We’ve collected these quotes through various interviews we’ve conducted over the years through this site as well as the afore mentioned Static Major blog. Unfortunately not every artist was available, but we rounded up as many as we could to allow them to tell the story in their own words. DeVante Swing remains elusive as ever but we were able to score a very rare interview with him years ago to share his memories of Static Major following his passing.
Without further ado, here is the story of DeVante Swing’s Da Bassment in the words of the members who were there.
The Early Days
Allow us to paint the picture for you. The year is 1991 and new R&B group Jodeci has just taken the world by storm. Their debut album “Forever My Lady” has become a breakout success and hits like “Stay”, “Come and Talk to Me”, and the title track help the group become a household name. It was around this time that the group’s producer DeVante Swing had visions of starting his own movement. He began recruiting talent, some of which even ended up contributing to Jodeci’s next album “Diary of a Mad Band” in 1993.
Mr. Dalvin (from Jodeci): It started out with just us four (DeVante Swing, Mr. Dalvin, Darryl Pearson, Chad Elliott). We all had our own MPC’s and we’d all learn from each other. We all bounced off each other. DeVante was the big boss of everything. Ultimately it was like we got DeVante’s approval and we were good. He set us up like we had our own stations. We started out in Teaneck, New Jersey and we all lived together. We all had our own room and our own little studio. We all toured, Chad did a midi production on tour, Darryl played guitar. We were always together. We had the studio on the bus. So then Da Bassment moved to Rochester so we wouldn’t be distracted by anything.
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!
Joining Da Bassment
One of the most special aspects of Da Bassment is the story of how each of the artists was discovered. This was well before the social media days and even the MySpace days, you couldn’t simply go on Soundcloud to find out who was buzzing. Surely DeVante Swing must have had a ton of artists approach him looking to get heard. With a magic ear, he and his brother Mr. Dalvin somehow were able to really determine who the special talents were.
Devante Swing: Oh man, I’m going to have to take it back! I met Static in Louisville where he’s from. Jodeci went on a tour and Static’s group came backstage and sung for me. I liked them ever since then. I went to New Jersey after and they called me every day until I eventually got them in Jersey. I had Missy and everyone else there. As far as Static, we used to talk on the phone all the time with his group and they used to sing for me.
Mr. Dalvin (from Jodeci): I discovered Missy too you know. I brought Missy to DeVante. There are few people who know that. She wasn’t the most flattering looking person, but I saw through all of that. I knew she had something special. I felt that about her. It wasn’t a typical Beyonce look. But I saw way beyond the physical appearance and I knew what she could be. The same with Stevie J. When I first met Stevie J., he was nothing like he is now. I just saw him playing this broken down piano at this wedding in Rochester, NY, and I have no idea why I was at this wedding! *Laughs* After the wedding was over, the guy I went with, I think the guy I went with liked one of girls in the wedding, she was a bridesmaid. I don’t even know why I was there. I think he brought me just to give him props. I said I had to meet the guy playing the piano. I saw something in him. I told him to come down to the studio in downtown Rochester, when we were working on our “The Show, The After Party, The Hotel” album. He came down to the studio and he never left. I ended up taking him on tour with me, let him make some money, kept him in the camp, let him play on some of the Jodeci records.
Stevie J.: Actually I wasn’t signed with him as an artist. Pretty much it was a handshake situation, as a producer and I could write some songs, facilitate any way I could musically, vocally or whatever. It was just a cool friendship. I had that opportunity by I had a fashion show that I had to sing at in Rochester, NY where I was raised for most of my life, although I am from Buffalo. Being from Rochester, I was living in Buffalo at the time, but I had the opportunity to go back and sing at this fashion show. So when I first got to the fashion show, I got there earlier with my partner Sonny Boy, there wasn’t anybody there so we went to the bar and we got some food, got a few drinks, and we came back in and it was packed. Before we got up to sing, they was like “Hey we have some people from Jodeci in the house,” you know Dalvin and K-Ci was there. So they listened to the tracks, listened to me sing or whatever. And they were like “Yo you’re nice, who did the tracks,” and I was like “Me,” and they were like “Get outta here!” So I was like “There’s a piano in the back, let’s go!” So I go to the piano in the back, started a playing a few of the jams and they were sold on it, they were like “Oh you with us!” So that’s when I began. SJ: Yea very cool. From there, we went to the studio and that’s how I meant DeVante and Jo Jo and I got on the piano at the studio, and DeVante and I were trading chords, it was pretty cool!
Darryl Pearson: [Jodeci] 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 myself, DeVante, Dalvin, and Chad Elliott, Dr. Suess.
Tweet (from Sugah): Jodeci came to Rochester to record their last album, “The Show, The After Party, The Hotel”. DeVante brought all of his artists there, Da Bassment. Not Swing Mob, but it probably was a part of it. He needed to replace a member of Sugah so I auditioned. That’s when I found out about everybody and I met Timbaland, Missy, Magoo, Playa, Ginuwine, and that’s how I knew. I’m from Rochester, that’s my hometown born and raised. It was about 3 other girls in there. I sung an original song. I don’t think I did too good on the audition. I was just chillin, I didn’t want to be in a group, I was already in a rap group. I had the opportunity so I said let me go see what’s going on. I knew Jodeci was in town but I didn’t know all of this was going on. So then I went to the studio and saw all of this music just everywhere in every room, so much talent. I definitely wanted to be part of this.
Magoo: Missy’s group went to a Jodeci show and then they got on. When they got on, they told Devante Swing specifically about Tim because he was the producer of the group. Devante didn’t really want to deal with it. He thought Tim was talented, but he was going to use Al B. Sure! Missy was like “Nah, my man has to do work on this too”. Missy has always been a rock and she’s been the toughest business person I’ve ever met. She will tell you that won’t work and it literally won’t work. She knew Tim would work for what she was doing. She was like “I love Al but Tim fits with what I want to do”. She saw the future for what Tim’s production could do. I have to give Devante credit because he actually listened. Missy then told him about us and then we went for an audition. Devante pulled me to the side and was like “I want you. I don’t want the rest of the group”. I was shocked because I didn’t think I was a great rapper. I think Devante heard something he could mold. I asked if he could keep the rest of the group. Devante agreed to keep Larry and Elmo, but the last dude he didn’t want to keep. I was like “Well if you’re not going to keep him, I’m going to leave” but it wasn’t a diss to Devante. I just couldn’t leave my boy like that. I ended up leaving and then two years later, Devante told me what happened. He was like “I did want to sign you anyway, but Missy told me that you were the star because you’re a nice dude and you have the right attitude.”. Missy could see things in people as far as their gift. I always look back to when she rode with Tim because how did she know? That was a big chance because Devante could have said “If you don’t want to work with Al then you’re done!”. She put it out there and probably risked her opportunity because she believed in Tim so much that she was willing to put herself out there. Don’t get me wrong, Tim’s talent speaks for itself but I want you to understand the significance and importance of pulling other people up. You can pull other people up and also still have your opportunity. Once you show someone that’s helping you how great you believe somebody is, you’ll still have your opportunity. Missy wasn’t going to lose her opportunity because she was too talented. I’m forever grateful for Missy and God really did that.
LaShawn Shellman (from Sista): Well basically Timbaland discovered me at the Hampton Coliseum in Virgina. I was a solo act and Sista had like lost a member or something and I was singing before Mary J. Blige, TLC and Bobby Brown at a concert. The show was delayed so they called some girls up on stage and I think I had just arrived, I thought I had just missed the opening part of the show, but I guess I was right on time. All my friends had pushed me up on stage, so I sang a song and had a standing ovation. Timbaland happened to be in the crowd and after the show, we kind of crossed paths at the McDonalds outside of Hampton Coliseum. He asked me if I was the girl singing and I was like “Yes” and he was like “Well I work with Sista which is Jodeci’s girl group. Would you be interested in joining the group?” That’s how I came about with Sista.
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.
Ginuwine: I had been doing talent shows. When I heard DeVante, MC Hammer and Boyz II Men were coming here, I made it my business to go find out where they were staying after the show so I could perform for him. I knew if DeVante saw me, he’d see a star. I always had confidence in myself. I knew he would think this kid had something. I found him, I was in the hotel, getting into the hotel was another long story. I was able to find DeVante when he was downstairs in a ballroom surrounded by girls. I just was standing there and he kept looking. He just got up and came over to me and asked if I could sing. I told him I could, so he asked me hear me sing. He brought me over to the piano, and I started singing the Jodeci song “Stay”. All the girls started screaming and stuff, so he grabbed me and took me to meet his manager. He told me he was looking for groups, he was starting a new thing called Swing Mobb. He had some groups already, which I found out was Missy and Timbaland and all of that stuff. So that’s pretty much how it actually happened. A couple of months later after I met him, I moved up to New York with him, and that’s how I met Timbaland and Missy.
Smoke E. Digglera (from Playa): There was a concert in Louisville, Kentucky in 1991, I believe, that included Jodeci, Boyz II Men, MC Hammer, and many others. The group that I was in at the time attended that concert with the hopes of being able to sing for someone and get noticed. A security guard, guarding the doors that led to the buses that loaded and unloaded the performing stars, allowed us to go out by the buses to see if we saw anyone. He remembered us from singing somewhere in Louisville, being that we were a local favorite at the time. When we went out to the buses we ran into Mr. Dalvin. He went and got his brother, DeVante Swing, we sang for him, and exchanged numbers. DeVante Swing ended up calling my number, from memory, in March of 1994, after the tour was over and after he got his label, Swing Mob, up and running. The initial concept was to put me in Intro or H-Town, but, I really wanted him to hear the group. At that time, it was a group compiled of new members. When he came down to Louisville, after the Soul Train Awards, he heard us, and the rest was history.
Ending up in Rochester
Another of the most unique aspects of Da Bassment is where the whole operation took place. Having the vision to understand that being in the proximity of New York City could be a huge distraction his his crew of young artists, DeVante took them four hours away to Rochester, New York. That’s eventually how the lore of Dajhelon Studios began, and where Jodeci also recorded their third album “The Show, the After Party, the Hotel”.
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. 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.
Digital Black (from Playa): First of all, it’s cold as hell in Rochester! It felt like Antarctica! 20 inches of snow and winter advisories. So it wasn’t anything to do but music. DeVante was very smart to take us there. At first we were in Teaneck, NJ, so DeVante was smart to take us away from being very close to the city. We could really develop.
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.
Shannon “Big Shan” Miller (VP of Da Bassment): Devante had been looking for groups and of course he was very particular about who he chose. He didn’t want anyone looking to do music just for the sake of being famous and having money. He wanted real genuine artists. That’s where his heart is as a musician. One he got everybody together who he wanted, what we wanted to do was get away from New York City and the influences and distractions, and Dajhelon Studios in Rochester just seemed to fit the bill there. We ran into Dave who owned Dajhelon Studios. We flew up to meet him and talk him and tour the studios and decided to rent the whole studio out, and to bring all of the artists out and house them there. Just make it this base camp for production. There were some awesome times up here.
A Day in the life
With all of this dynamic talent in one place, it’s hard to even imagine what it was like being around Da Bassment at this time. Singers, songwriters, producers, rappers, engineers. Just music all day every day with no distractions.
Devante Swing: Everybody had their little area, but Static had an overall responsibility to write and make others as hot in the camp. I had main writers in the camp. It was Static, Missy and me. Static’s main thing was if I needed a slick line, I would get Static because that was his department. He had a certain swag. You know if you wanted something hot, you would go to Missy or Static. He came to be an artist and then he learned how to write from being around it. He always had his own swag that made him stick out. I just kind of rounded up the sharp edges and smoothed it out.
Mr. Dalvin (from Jodeci): Everybody had their own studio room. Everyone from Missy, to Magoo, to Timbaland, Ginuwine, Playa, everybody would bounce around to everyone’s station and always record. DeVante, Chad, Darryl or I would have something. Then Timbaland started having his own little section. Whoever had the track that fit one of the artists in Da Bassment, that’s the station they’d go and work at. It was an experience I wish would have all been videotaped. It would have been a nice documentary to have.
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. 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.
Tweet (from Sugah): Constant music. There was nothing we wouldn’t do that wasn’t musical. We would get in trouble if we weren’t writing or singing on something musical. We couldn’t be sitting around chillin not doing anything. That’s what the day to day life was, just all music. It was really, really, really fun. Devante actually had a studio which was Dajhelon Studios in Rochester, NY and he also had an apartment building, so we all had our own apartment and we all stayed in the same apartment complex, and we all had the whole studio. So it was always music going on, it was always writing, it was always collaborating with one another. So it was like having Motown, but updated, and I think that’s the business that Devante had, wanting to recreate the Motown music. So that’s what it was, good music all day everyday, who wouldn’t want to do that?
Magoo: When I first got around all those cats, they were the most talented group of people I’d ever been around. When you’re in the moment, you don’t appreciate it as much but all those people pushed me. They never pushed me because it was a competition though. Nobody ever competed against each other and there was no animosity, but when you see Playa or Ginuwine, Missy’s group Sista or Tweet’s group Sugah recording, it was so much talent. Devante had a fantastic eye for talent. I never looked at it like it was a school, but they are right. You learned from each person. Static and his group Playa introduced me to Rap from the South. My city was strictly East Coast rap or that DC Go-go music. Playa introduced me to 8Ball & MJG and UGK. Those rappers would have a different flow on every song and sometimes they would have a flow on each verse. I ended up concentrating more on flow than words because that gave you the rhythm of the music more than anything. I owe Black, Static and Smokey for the influence that they gave me when they introduced me to that type of rap.
LaShawn Shellman (from Sista): We all sat around, we sang and we were young. Everybody was talented, it was nothing but singing going on around there. I remember Static from Playa, he used to whistle tunes and other members of Da Bassment would join in with harmonies. It was just fun, we had a good time and it was a good atmosphere. To be honest, there were some bad memories but overall to me, it was very good memories. I can remember when the rollerblades first came out and we were all trying to get in the shape. We would get up at 5 in the morning and meet at the park. We’d go rollerblading and playing basketball. I always used to always beat Dalvin in basketball. *Laughs* We had fun, it was really fun for us. We were young and away from home and just doing what we loved to do which is sing.
Smoke E. Digglera (from Playa): Da Bassment, to myself and most of us, was like school,. All of the talent education needed was experienced there. You was around unbelievable talent all day long, which made u only strive to be better and better. We all had different apartments and lofts in an apartment building in Rochester, New York. Most of the time, DeVante was busy working on The Show, The After Party, The Hotel album, so we, rarely, got any chance to work with him. Through that, we had to make time useful and work together to, at best, try to make DeVante wanna work with us even more, and not seem like some people just coat-tailing, trying to get in, ya know? Typically you wake up, eat something, shower, get dressed, walk over to the studio a couple of blocks and go in there and try to create. Also go down the hall and see what Timbaland, go upstairs and see what DeVante is doing. Go to the piano and kick it with the other members. It was all a unified mission to become successful. Not just fame and fortune, but what we set out to do which is music and good music, to change the game. We’d be in the studio until the sun came up and then walk to the apartment and sleep a couple of hours and come back and pick up where we left off.
Digital Black (from Playa): It was more so we were most polished entertaining wise. Throughout the whole Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana area, we did a lot of shows before we got with DeVante. When it came to the stage and singing live, that was our forte. At the time, DeVante was working on the last Jodeci album, so when we moved to Rochester, that was the focus. He basically gave us a room with instruments. It was either learn how to do something, or you don’t know when you’ll be able to get your turn to work with him. That’s really where it came from. A lot of stuff comes out of necessity. We just started honing our craft. That’s when Smokey learned how to play the piano. We just continued to hone our craft. How could you not when you’ve got a studio that you’ve got access to 24 hours a day. You got DeVante in a room, you’ve got Mr. Dalvin and Steve J. in a room, you’ve got Timbaland in a room. You’ve also got Suga and Sista floating around, along with Ginuwine and Magoo. In Da Bassment, everyone was floating around going room to room. We always said it was college. I didn’t go to college. I was blessed to go to the college of music. I always appreciate DeVante Swing for that. I actually spoke to him about a month ago for the first time in a long time. It was good to hear my big brother’s voice. He’s doing well. He’s just being him, he likes to be to himself.
Shannon “Big Shan” Miller (VP of Da Bassment): It was an interesting process. Tim would be working on something, DeVante would be working on something, they would give it to Static or Black or those guys, they’d go listen to it, and come up with something hot. It wasn’t just one guy writing. It was always a collective. You had this creative tapestry of all of the guys in the room together sitting and listening to a track and inputting into it. We’d get in probably 1 or 2 o’clock, fire up the music, the guys would start clowning each other to get their heads right. They’d listen to a track to come up with something, go in the room and sing it to DeVante, lay it down. We had three or four studios going on. It wasn’t like you were just in one session, you were in multiple sessions throughout the day.
Stevie J: Actually after I had decided to stay for awhile, I was only an hour away in Buffalo, they had these different condo style apartments or loft apartments. Me and Ginuwine were bunking up, so I recorded his first record with him. Then after I recorded the first record with him, I started working with Playa and then I began to work with Sista and Sugah and Jodeci. So it was like as soon as I got there I began like fraternizing with everyone and working with everybody. I would like to say I played an intricate role in that too, the whole leaving, of everybody leaving, a lot of cats leaving. From Timbaland, to Missy, to Playa, to Ginuwine to everybody.
Shannon “Big Shan” Miller (VP of Da Bassment): We made money, we weren’t really concerned about money, we did what we loved and that brought us the money. That’s for DeVante, when people told him it was crazy to go up and do what he was doing, it wasn’t about that, he could see the long term of it. We just got up everyday and enjoyed our lives. We knew when to work and when to enjoy ourselves. When we partied we had fun and we knew when to kick back and just get your mind off what you’re doing so you could continue to be creative. Our thing was to go to sleep after everyone else, and get up before them. That’s why we were so prolific up there in what we were doing, and the amount of music we were churning out daily. That’s how all of us rolled. It wasn’t really work, it was what we did. On the average, sleeping 5 hours a night was a long time! When you love what you do, it’s easy and fun. Sometimes we’d just go take a day off and go to the lake, jet ski all day, we’d come back and order food, go to the movies. When we realized the artists might have been burned out. One year we had a Halloween party, and I’m sure of them remember that. We turned the live room at Dajhelon into a party hall. We even invited folks who were not part of Da Bassment. DeVante was a very touchable person. They weren’t like these untouchable people who didn’t associate with the public. They’d go out and chill with people. They all did individual albums as well. One thing that helped them get through their albums quicker was everybody helping each other through stuff. It was almost like a focus group of talented musicians together. Everyday, all day we were together. Words can’t express how it was up there.
The Vision of DeVante Swing
DeVante Swing really had something massive in mind with what he had put together. The man is a genius at his craft and really had assembled a roster of talent to really shake up the industry. He cultivated their skills in an environment unlike any other and took their talents to another level. It’s really cool to hear about what he was looking to accomplish.
Mr. Dalvin (from Jodeci): That’s the reason Devante recruited these artists. They were all talented in their own right. It wasn’t like they didn’t have any talent. Devante recognized the talent and I recognized the talent. I worked with everybody in Da Bassment. Even being in the studio long nights, we worked together and I recognized the talent and I knew why he handpicked all these people.
Darryl Pearson: 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!
Digital Black (from Playa): It was like college, like a musical college. What you had was the dopest artists. Everybody in the camp was dope at what they did. You might not be a dope writer and could only sing, but you’d be around a dope writer so you were able to upgrade your skills being around them. You go from one room with DeVante, you got Darryl Pearson in another room, you got Dalvin & Stevie J. You got Timbaland in a room. You also got Missy bouncing around. Ginuwine, Magoo, Sugah, Sistah. It was like college. It’s where we honed our skills at. When we first got with DeVante, we were just writing a little bit. But in Da Bassment, he was working on Jodeci’s last album, he was spending a lot of time working on that. So it gave us a lot of free time to mess around. We learned how to produce and start writing.
Shannon “Big Shan” Miller (VP of Da Bassment): We took the artists around. Madonna’s Maverick Records label was very interested at one time. With Suge Knight, we met with him. There weren’t many black distribution companies, and that’s what DeVante was looking to do, get distributed and have the label and not have to give up so much. DeVante was trying to do smart business. Labels were contacting us day and night, left and right. Any and everybody you could think of made us offers and wanted it. Sony, EMI, Elektra, publishing companies calling in from everywhere. Especially after DeVante would play stuff for folks, they’d come out of the woodworks. The proof is in the pudding. As soon as those guys got out there, everybody blew up. There was some tremendous interest from Jimmy Iovine from Interscope. We decided to put together a presentation DVD to show to him. We brought everybody in, we came up with some questions and I’d ask them and have them answer it. Just to show them for who they are as artists and what they can do and what they are about. It was going to be a tool for us to shop to the highest bidder, that was the business end of it. Instead of having to ship these artists everywhere for meetings, we’d use the DVD. The plan was to give it to Jimmy Iovine first and if he didn’t bite we’d move to the next person.
Shannon “Big Shan” Miller (VP of Da Bassment): Video production was something we had been working on in Da Bassment. What we had envisioned us doing with the record company and a film company together and having those two support each other. That’s what we were looking to do with Da Bassment, that was the long term goal and the primary vision for how we wanted the company to be presented.
Shannon “Big Shan” Miller (VP of Da Bassment): The concept of it was when everybody back in the day used to have these basement parties, and hang around and kick back and just listen to music. It was just music you could get together with everybody and listen to over and over. It would be these timeless pieces. Despite everybody telling us compilation albums don’t ever work, they don’t sell, people don’t buy them, but we had enough belief as a record company and as friends to know that what we were doing wasn’t the status quo. Just because it hasn’t worked doesn’t mean it can’t work. If everybody stayed stagnant then we never innovate, you have to make it work. Our way of operation, we didn’t make excuses, we made it happen. That’s what we were all about. When we decided was to put these guys out there and give them a certain number of cuts on an album, and have everybody on everybody elses’s record. Everyone had their own flavor and style, but they would know us as a record label and a group. We’d have it stand on that than the weight be on one particular artist. Of course all of the success would build off of that.
How It All Fell Apart
Of course the fact that you don’t know more about this story should be a clue that it didn’t work out as planned. While DeVante was not successful in personally taking these artists to the next level, many were able to get there eventually on their own. It’s a sad ending to a truly magnificent story.
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.
Tweet (from Sugah): It just dragged on too long. We would get deals, but the deals would either fall through or we didn’t have that push from the labels. Or DeVante was scared. We had a whole lot of opportunity to make it happen with different labels. It just didn’t work. People got frustrated with the time wasted and spent with nothing happening. People start dwindling off and leaving.
LaShawn Shellman (from Sista): To me, it didn’t bother me in the beginning because I just felt like he was sharing his musical genius with the world and he had an idea of what he wanted his company to be, but it kind of took the focus off of us. The focus was there, we were the first group released off Da Bassment crew, but the attention that was supposed to be put on us wasn’t always there because his attention was spread out so much. It was like “Okay we’re doing Sista’s project but we have to squeeze Ginuwine somewhere.” It was always other people, but I loved it because it was family-oriented. Business-wise, it could have been handled different but I think he had something good, it just didn’t turn out the way he wanted it to. We were young and we had put blood, sweat and tears into our projects. We just got discouraged at the end basically. We all had our own lives before Da Bassment and Jodeci. Some of us stayed back in New York, Missy stayed back doing little things. I went to certain projects with her with Aaliyah, we were on the “If Your Girl Only Knew” video set, I was going to be in that. We tried to do different things and things just didn’t work out. I had kids, I was young. I was the only one with kids, so I decided to come home. Things just didn’t work out, we just got discouraged.
The Lasting Legacy
No matter what the outcome of Da Bassment it cannot be denied that DeVante Swing blessed all of these artists with his gift. He spent time developing them and the ones who did go on to superstardom certainly have a lot to look back on and be thankful for. The sound that artists and producers like Timbaland, Missy Elliott, Playa, Tweet, Stevie J. and Darryl Pearson came out of that situation with and shared with the world and changed the game with all tie back to DeVante Swing.
Tweet (from Sugah): I know it taught me a lot. People would call it a boot camp. I didn’t understand then when I was in Da Bassment, but it kinda created the need to perfect your craft without having the influence from so many things or people in the world. When we were in Da Bassment, we couldn’t watch videos or listen to any other music. We had to really hone in on who we are. Just perfect our craft. I remember a lot of fun, a lot of drinking! *Laughs* We went on tour with Jodeci and Bad Boy, we had great times.
Susan Weems (from Sugah): I can simply relate it to being in a musical boot camp or musical college surrounded by the most talented artists on the planet .. some may be more popular than others but it can’t take away from the artistry that we all had . DeVante literally hand picked each individual because he saw a superstar quality in all of us . With his guidance and selflessness , he paved the way for the success and gave us all the tools and access we needed to become who we all are today . We are all superstars in our own right and family for life . The experience was magical and unmatched . It was and still is a movement in the making . We are still present and appreciate the love and loyalty that you all provide .
Shannon “Big Shan” Miller (VP of Da Bassment): DeVante always chose the cream of the crop talent and that’s evident now. That’s really why we got away and left. The reason you heard that new sound because it was the vision of DeVante go get away so we could come up with something fresh that sounded like nothing else. Sort of like when Teddy Riley came up with New Jack Swing sound. This was the product of Da Bassment. We went up and shut ourselves off from everybody else, wasn’t listening to nobody else’s music, we were just pulling from within. That’s how that sound was birthed up there.
We’ve felt inspired to write this article for many years because quite frankly DeVante Swing never gets the credit he deserves for his contributions to music. Because he is so low key and behind the scenes about his business, he too often flies under the radar when it comes time for tributes. The story of Da Bassment is also one of the most epic situations we have ever heard. There are literally still fans of Da Bassment even though so little has been shared from it and we rarely get to hear any music that was created there. We hope this article brought you closer to knowing about how the whole thing went down and we thank the artists who’ve shared their stories with us. Much respect to DeVante Swing for what he was able to accomplish with Da Bassment.