Denaun Porter is a Grammy-winning and platinum-selling artist, producer, writer and composer. He also made people listen to Eminem, producing his first records and influencing his style.
Mr. Porter had a long and deep conversation with the “One Step Beyond” podcast host. He shared a very personal and powerful account on growth, accountability and learning to feel comfortable in your own skin. This conversation is worth listening to in full, so give it a go on the podcast page. Denaun also talked about how his friendship with Proof and Eminem had become the place where all of them learned to get better at what they were doing:
We was babies. When I met him, he had a song called “Backstabber”.And I was like, “Yo, that’s dope. But I can’t really hear what you’re saying. If we slowed it down, it would be…” And then we did another version of that song, “Backstabber 2”. And then we did “Infinite”. So people actually heard him. He was a Treach fan, “Boo-boo-boo-boo-boo, zip-zip-zip-zip-zip”. And I was too. But that’s Treach. But you are saying a whole bunch, it’s loaded. I was listening to it, like, “Wait a minute, you are not just rapping fast”. ‘Сause at the time, people would do that just to do that. And it was very rare for people to be able to do it like Treach. He was saying staff while he was doing it. Just like Twista, Twista don’t just rap fast. Or Busta. Tech N9ne. It’s a skill. And Em was able to do it. I was like, “Yo, if you slow it down to people to hear you”. The music that I gave him at the time was like really mood. It was like something you would hear today, a lot of jazz piano, a lot of those things. But those also the only records that I had, soulful records. I didn’t have rock records in the house. I was making beats with what I had. So he got better, and I got better. At that time, I was clashing with my dad, I didn’t have a place to stay. [Em] was like, “Look, I’m gonna let you take the room and make beats in the room, and I’ll sleep on the couch”. I thought that was the craziest thing ever. I’m pretty sure I was a headache, as I was younger than him. I didn’t even know how to keep a job. And then we started working at this place, Gilbert’s Lodge. We were cooks. He took that seriously. I saw how seriously he took things. He’s the man for that shit. He’s way faster than I was on the grill. Proof and he were like big brothers. And I was able to learn a lot of things that I wouldn’t have learned being with my family.
Things changed when Eminem had signed to Aftermath and left Detroit:
It was difficult for me in the beginning. I used to be with him all the time. When he left and went to California or wherever it was happening, I was still in Michigan. I had a house phone in the basement, I moved back with my parents. I was a different person when I moved back, being a grown-up. But also I was searching for something. [Eminem] was out there, and he would call, to I would call him to hit him up, and he would tell me stories. The one thing that I remember. I figured that everybody was grabbing at him at that time. And I was like, “Look, I’mma be there. I’mma get there. I’mma see you out there”. I was never like, “Yo, bring me out!”. ‘Cause I was pretty sure that it was already happening. And I remember I got the phone cut off ‘cause I couldn’t afford to keep it at home. And we didn’t talk for a little bit. But then the girlfriend I had at the time, she actually bought me my first drum machine. So I was like, “Now I’m gonna turn all the way up on the beats”. So Em, when he did come home, he would play me stuff he was working on with Dre. I just couldn’t believe he was working with Dre! I was like, “Now what? This is crazy. But you know what? Dre working with you, that’s a totally different sound for Dre!” So at this time, I’m learning too. I was able to hear stuff before everybody else was able to hear it. So I was influenced a little bit sonically. But not thinking to myself, not knowing how it even happened, Dre heard the music that I was making for him. When I first met Dre, the first thing he said to me was… I was scared to say something to him. I forgot who introduced us… I think that was Marc LaBelle. He was like, “Yo, Denaun did “Just Don’t Give a Fuck”, he did “Low Down, Dirty” [Dre] was, “Yo, that’s my shit! That’s the reason we’re here!” I never thought of it like that.
It took Mr. Porter years to become comfortable with himself and stop hiding behind his projects. His upcoming solo album “Reflections” will be the proof of it.