I2G kicked it with former Aftermath artist Dion for a exclusive interview. We discuss his work with the label, Hi-Tek, upcoming projects and so much more so check it out.
What’s up I am here with Dion, formerly with Aftermath. For those who don’t know, tell me a little bit about yourself.
My name is Dion, I am a R&B artist and a songwriter. Many people may remember me for my work on Game’s Runnin, on his first album, The Documentary. I also was on 50 Cent’s Ryder Music, I worked with Talib Kweli, I work heavily with Hi-Tek for a while.
That lead to the collaborations with Talib Kweli, Lil Brother, just to name a few.
When it comes to artists, who is your main inspiration?
I don’t know, I just try to inspire myself just by…, I mean I am truly blessed. I get up and I sing, and I write songs about what I feel. I am inspired by alot of older cats, Marvin Gaye, Donnie Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, Parliament, Funkadelic, Miles Davis.
Hip Hop has alot of similarites with R&B in the sense that alot of cats get up and go through the same process of creating music as I do and I always gravitated to that. Especially being able to work with Hi-Tek, it just made sense.
How did you start singing professionally?
I originally started out in a group in Cincinnati, a group called Jonc. We did a couple shows around the area and nationally. Ricky Smiley used to have a show on BET called The Way We Do It and we were on that show.
It might still be in their archives, our performance, you might be able to Google it. That was my first taste at professional singing, and that was in high school so that was 1994-1995.
So what ended up linking you with Hi Tek and got you around the mainstream circuit as everyones singer?
I got with Hi Tek in 2003, I was fresh out of college and he was holding a midwest talent showcase. I heard about the contest, got invited to come and audition, and I ended up winning. There was around 400 people in the contest and a total of 15 acts that made the show and I won out of those 15.
So did he bring you over to Aftermath or did you get signed there on your own?
What that was, Dr. Dre had already heard me on Runnin and I guess there was always a interest in my music from Dre. A year or so went back after that song and me and Tek just kept recording together and Dre got a chance to hear more records and he said welcome to the team.
Big ups to Hi Tek for that because without Hi Tek I would not have got a chance to work with Dre. Even though it did not work out, I still got a chance to work with him.
When you recorded Runnin, you did not have a deal in place. So was that song a unreleased song that you already had with Game?
Nah me and Tek put that together. We were listening to records and Tek had a idea to make a song with some vocals on it. The song was not intended for anyone in mind, he just wanted a vocalist on the track and being that I am a vocalist he asked me to do it.
We just ended up stacking a whole bunch of vocals and off of that I wrote the chorus. Shortly before that I actually wrote a verse and Tek chopped it up and made a hook of it. After I finished recording it, I went back to Washington DC and I heard of this new artist called The Game that wanted to use the song for his album.
The rest is history and I ended up being a big record. But originally the track was not intended for any project.
I mean on the final album version of the track, you get replaced with Tony Yayo, which I believe sucks. I mean I know you are a singer but you have more talent in your left pinky then he does in his entire body. How did you feel about basically being reduced to a hook on the track?
For me at the time, I looked at it like it was a opportunity. Whether it was working with Hi Tek, Dr. Dre or a artist that they were high on like The Game, it was a great opportunity. I was just looking to work at the time, and the track was basically done on my part.
Game wanted to use the track so I said cool.
I feel you. So when you got down with Aftermath, did you record a album there or were they basically giving you the back burner treatment?
I recorded a album there, but basically politics got in the way and shit just fell through. The stars and everything just did not line up for that situation to take place for me.
Do you feel that Dre was hesistant to do R&B after Truth Hurts did not sell quite as well as he predicted?
Nah I think Dre was behind the project, it was just like I said everything was not in line like it should have been. One day things were in motion and it seemed like the next it was like oh things are just not working out.
It just became one of those things were you have to go your own way. That is to make a long story short and just being honest.
I remember reading the Billboard magazine article that Hi Tek was talking about you and Govenor were supposed to be the next big artists to come out of Aftermath. He also mentioned he would be working on your album along with Dre, Mike City and Focus. Who did you actually end up working with for that album?
Yeah that is who worked on the album. It would have been a hell of a album if it would have came out.
Were you able to leave the label with all your master recordings?
Nah all that material is still over there.
Wow, I guess it is a learning experience. What to deal with and not to deal with in this terrible industry that we are in. How did you end up working with 50 Cent, Xzibit and some of the other artists in the industry? Because really on the west for a bit you were that stable hook guy for so many artists.
Me and 50 was working together because we jumped on alot of the same beats that Tek was producing. Tek back then was in high demand, especially on the west coast, so alot of the songs would either already have a build in hook from me or artists would request me to work with them.
So how many songs did you end up recording over at Aftermath?
I’m not sure. I know I did 2 with Game, did one with 50. There are a few more, I did alot of work on mixtapes as well, did a song or 2 for Tek’s album. I also did a couple with Xzibit but he was not signed to Aftermath. Bizarre as well.
Well I meant more unreleased music that you did over there.
Now that I don’t know. The majority of stuff that I did, it actually did come out from Aftermath. Whether it was on a mixtape or a album so I consider myself lucky from that standpoint.
You ever considered doing a dedication track for Nate Dogg?
Nah I haven’t. I always thought he was a cool cat and I always liked his hooks. And Nate made actual songs, I don’t care how big the artists were that he worked with, Snoop, Dre, 50, Eminem, Luda, you always remembered Nate’s part in the song.
You just can’t say that about alot of people, and you can’t just say he was just a hook singer, I just say that he was a hell of a artist. You can’t bring anyone to the table that can take his place.
There was also a Detox reference track leak with Nino Bless and you on it. Was it you singing and Hi Tek on the beat?
(plays track for Dion)
Nah I am still unfamiliar of that track.
Ok. I know you mentioned earlier that you are working on a mixtape. What do you have planned for that?
It’s just a project showcasing my vocals and just me having fun with the records and making them as well. Writing to instrumentals that I always wanted to do songs to, basically putting something out there for the fans before my album drops.
Did you already have a album finished for a while or is this album all new material?
The album is basically done, but I ain’t letting nobody hear it until I am ready to drop it. I am putting out these mixtapes to keep everyone in the loop with what I am doing. But yeah the album is basically finished, unless I hear something new that I have done in the studio that I think would fit the album, then I will add it or make changes. I am going to have a couple surprises on the album for everyone but until then I got a mixtape dropping soon so everyone check it out.