D'Jon
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D'Jon

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Thu, Feb 1, 2007 (midnight)


..."If you ain't struggle to get it, it probably wasn't worth it/You won't appreciate it, and probably don't deserve it/But fight through the hard times, keep on keeping on/In the face of oppression, you'll learn a valuable lesson/Don't waste your time on the question—Why this? Why that?/Believe me I tried that, just take it as a blessing."


Hold up. Before we proceed any further, I should clarify that "most important" business. The city being a pinprick dot on hip-hop's map, there's probably no such thing as the most important hip-hop tune to ever come out of Vegas. When asked, a handful of local artists certainly couldn't name one.


Of course, pose that question in New York, and you're likely to incite arguments, maybe even fisticuffs. I can hear the conversation now:


"Hands down, son, Public Enemy's 'Rebel Without a Pause.'"


"Naw, yo, it's Rakim's 'Follow the Leader.'"


"Both a y'all's crazy. BDP's 'My Philosophy, without a doubt, B."


It'd go on forever. Which is the point. Vegas doesn't have the hip-hop history other places do. Los Angeles, whose Blood-Crip culture launched a million studio gangsters? Nope. Philly, which gave us Schooly D, The Roots, Beanie Sigel and Eve? Nope. Nor Jersey (Naughty By Nature, Redman, The Fugees) or the Bay Area (Too Short, E-40, Lyrics Born) or Atlanta—hip-hop's reigning mecca—or Chicago, Houston, Memphis ... even hip-hop afterthoughts like Cleveland and Boston get more shine than Vegas.


Hence the importance of the song reverberating through this bedroom studio on a nippy January afternoon. Catchy tune, this. A marriage of bass and adrenaline. There's an earnestness in the emcee's voice, like he's been stung before by hip-hop but ain't about to give up on his dreams of blowing up.


Rapped by 25-year-old Vegas (by way of Texas) emcee D Jon (aka Donald Johnson) and produced by Thomas Marolda, the Grammy-winning writer and producer of "Look Out For Number One," from the movie Staying Alive, and owner of the Summerlin home, "Get Up" landed on the score of Rocky Balboa—probably first time a local emcee has made the score of a big movie. The song beat out submissions by hip-hop thug-o-crats like DMX.


The typical Vegas ending to the story would have D Jon following in the footsteps of a generation of other local rappers—from Doomsday and 420 to The Chapter and Qadeer, King J to X-1—who've crept within a few feet of their 15 minutes of fame, but haven't gotten that major-label deal, that deal that changes lives and tax brackets. Off the microphone, D Jon's laid-back, thick-as-okra Texas drawl makes him sound like he's barely awake. On "Get Up," though, he's energized. The song is personal. He's had songs rejected by America's Next Top Model and several movies on the Lifetime channel, so he has to make something out of this.


Possibly his ticket out this purgatorial rap city, "Get Up" could also be the theme song for Vegas' rickety hip-hop scene. It's a scene that, 18 months ago, looked worse than Vanilla Ice's last comeback. After a series of violent incidents at rap concerts in 2005, then-Sheriff Bill Young urged casinos not to book gangsta rap acts. Targeted at celebrity rappers—the Snoop Doggs and 50 Cents of the world—it impacted local artists, who've struggled to get casino venues, having to settle for small clubs that often lack requisite security. The murders of a handful of rappers in 2005 added to the antirap fire. Shit really got hectic a year ago when budding rapper Amir Crump fatally shot Metro officer Henry Prendes. Crump's occupational goals became the life of the story, not the alleged domestic abuse he engaged in. Soon after, the state Gaming Control Board chimed in, reiterating Young's warning to gaming licensees. As if the bandwagon wasn't already full, university regent Stavros Anthony, a cop by trade, encouraged a similar ban on campuses.


Says Stallone, 'You Did a Good Job'


You can trace Atlanta's current dominance back to the early-'90s with Kris Kross, Chicago's come-up to Twista and Da Brat, St. Louis' steady rise to Nelly. All it takes is one person and a city can blow up, Marolda says. He's fiddling with the sound equipment and running down a mental Rolodex of industry contacts and potential avenues to put D Jon's name at the forefront of the local hip-hop movement. D Jon trusts him to do what other producers couldn't deliver on: getting him to the next step, putting the city on the hip-hop map in much the way The Killers and Panic! At the Disco have done for rock.


Key to their plans is using Marolda's credentials. They're all over his walls. Says one plaque: "National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences presents certificate in nomination for Best Album of Original Score written for a Motion Picture or TV Special for 'Staying Alive." Another notes the platinum status of Staying Alive.


Those bona fides are how he got the hook-up for Rocky Balb - Las Vegas Weekly


...The proof that the Duce Boys isn't all that is that Duce Boy D'Jon's solo offering is all that and way more. The sampling alone is worth the admission. A virtual kaleidoscope of recorded popular music for the last half century. D'Jon takes plenty of ghosts per boasts ranging from Ray Charles to Donovan to Dillan to countless others I am frustrating my brain to ID.

The Dillan reference is crucial since D'Jon also takes a lot from Dillan's upturn phrasing making every statement sound like its a question. With a direct nod to "Subterranean Homesick Blues" he sampled Mike Bloomfield's opening note and Dillan's opening line for Underground Homeboy Blues.

Being from Vegas he co-ops the Killers "Somebody Told Me" for his "February". He sounds like he's having fun throughout but also he has a sense of purpose to get to the top and can't waste a day. I also love how he reminds Diddy that even he has only one life to live and already lost a year playing around with Jay Lo.

This is rap that can change minds and win hearts, and yea, win Grammies too. - Ziazine


Discography

401k
The Underdawg
The Bridge
From Ghetto to the Grammy's
Versitile

"Get Up" - Rocky Balboa soundtrack
"Baila" - Beverly Hill Chihuahua soundtrack

Photos

Bio

From the east side of Austin, Texas, this 27 year old, 6’3” recording artist D Jon has been described as a cross between Kanye West and the Dirty South’s T.I.

In 2006 D Jon landed a track in the upcoming Rocky Balboa which cemented his position as Las Vegas’ rap king. He also recently got a track placed in the 2008 Disney release “Beverly Hills Chihuahua”. Additionally, in the wake of the shooting death of his good friend and fellow Vegas rap cohort D Jon has refocused and redoubled the energy of the Vegas rap scene.

D Jon’s unique blend of rap saw its birth when he began writing songs at age eight. By age eleven, D Jon recorded his first home-made album using two radios and industry instrumentals. By age thirteen, D Jon gained street credibility by free-styling with the older guys in the streets of Tyler, Texas.

After high school, D Jon partnered with fellow southern rapper K Roc and they began recording their own demos in a one bedroom apartment. Soon after, D Jon relocated to Sin City to further pursue his music career.

It would not be long before the Vegas rap scene would coin D Jon one of the city’s greatest. As described in local weekly magazine ‘The Weekly’, D Jon “seems to have a knack for encapsulating the Vegas hip-hop experience.” A track off of his first album, Versitile, by the name of ‘Clap Wit Me’ found its way to Las Vegas’ hip hop station 98.5 KLUC in a weekly MC battle. ‘Clap Wit Me’ won each week for eight weeks until it was retired by the station, and it also caught the ear of Grammy writer-producer Tommy Marolda (Nate Dogg, Kurupt, Bon Jovi, Cher) as well as entertainment attorney Robert Reynolds (The Killers, Louis XIV). Since then D Jon has recorded two albums with Tommy Marolda along with two self produced albums and been interviewed on 98.5 during the Rocky Balboa release.

After starting Duce Family Entertainment, LLC with partner K Roc and New York rapper Mug Shot, the trio released the Duce Boys debut album, From the Ghetto to the Grammy’s’ on March 14th, 2006.
D Jon has become a very coveted Producer in his own right. Several Las Vegas and New York musicians have courted “Mr. Jon” for his production work. Most recently, D Jon produced the majority of Versitile, Versitile-Final Cut and the Duce Boys From the Ghetto to the Grammys, as well as tracks for local rap artist Shadow, and local R&B artist Fella. D Jon finalized his last album ‘Tha Underdawg’ which was released Feb. 20th, 2007, just completed his follow up album titled “401k” with the Track Kingz and is currently working on more new material.