In today’s music industry, most record producers just don’t get the shine they deserve because of controversial industry politics. Deon Evans is among them. Deon Evans is a multi-platinum record producer who is best known for beat-making for the late Tupac Shakur. His claim to fame is producing “Brenda’s Got a Baby” on Tupac’s 1991 debut album, 2Pacalypse Now.
In 1992, 2Pacalypse Now hit No. 34 on the Billboard 200 and No. 13 on the Top R&B / Hip-Hop Albums Chart, while “Brenda’s Got a Baby” made it to No. 23 on the Hot R&B / Hip-Hop Singles Chart and No. 3 on the Hot Rap Singles Chart. Under the moniker “Big D the Impossible,” Deon produced several multi-platinum hit records for Tupac, including “Changes” and “Ghetto Gospel,” which were later remixed and released on Tupac’s posthumous albums.
Deon Evans began making beats at the age of 14 and was trained by DJ and long-time friend, Vernal “Sleepy V” Daudson, Chris “CJ Flash” Jordan and David “DJ Fuze” Elliot. At the age of 17, Deon was introduced to Money B (of Digital Underground) who was also in the early stages of his career. At 19, Deon was making beats at a professional level. Deon’s brother James (Evans), introduced him to Jeffery “Clever Jeff” Jones – in which the pair began making beats together in Berkley, CA. Big D was later acquainted with Greg “Shock G” Jacobs, Atron Gregory and Jimmy “Chopmaster J” Dwight. Deon finally met Tupac Shakur at a Raw Fusion concert which proceeded on to both of them working together throughout Shakur’s short-lived rap career.
Deon sat down with us (originally published in The Beat Liinx Magazine) and discussed the most memorable highlights of his career, including working with the late Tupac Shakur. He spoke about working on the unreleased Tupac tracks “Fadeway” and “Straight Outta Richtown,” where Tupac was a ghost-writer for a female artist by the name of Yanni. Big D also took the time to talk about how he feels about his songs being remixed by other producers on posthumous Tupac albums, as well as the projects he is currently working on and his career plans for the future.
How did you meet Tupac?
Deon Evans: Tupac and I finally got to work with one another after we met at a Raw Fusion concert in Berkeley, CA after I had made a beat tape for Money B to give to Tupac for a show he had to do in Marin City two weeks earlier.
How many versions of “Ghetto Gospel” were recorded by Tupac?
Deon Evans: First off, there are a couple of cuts to a lot of Tupac songs. As far as “Ghetto Gospel” goes, the vocals weren’t lost, they where recorded over because Tupac wanted a different take of the song for a special that was going to air on MTV. He put his kid group on the song as well. I still have a copy of the original vocals for that song.
What song sample was used for the original version of “Black Cotton?”
Deon Evans: This song had different versions cut to it as well. The sample used was “Fragile” by Sting.
What is the name of the singer that is featured on the original version of “Changes,” and is the original title of the song “Changes 92’?”
Deon Evans: The singer on the original version of “Changes” was Poppy. As far as I know, it was the only title to that song.
In the original version of “Black Cotton,” the intro from “Pain” was used. Whose idea was it to use that intro (In reference to the intro: “I couldn’t help but notice your pain. My pain? It runs deep. Share it with me.” – Star Trek V: The Final Frontier)?
Deon Evans: That intro was Pac’s idea. He used to watch Star Trek.
Do you consider Tupac to be an influence to your work?
Deon Evans: Sure I do. When I was around Pac, I never understood why he would always want to be in the studio. That dude had a serious work ethic and it paid off for almost everybody but him. As for me, now I understand that was just that hustle and drive he had for his music and him wanting to share it with his friends to be on his level.
Tell us about a specific recording session you had with Tupac.
Deon Evans: On the session for “Pat Time Mutha,” Tupac had just gotten his wisdom teeth pulled and he came to the studio ready to work. We thought Pac was trying to prove something, but once again it was just his work ethic. He wrote his rap in minutes and then he went in to the booth and began to spit his rap. I mean literally spit his rap with blood and everything on the mic and around it. It was a unique experience. He got it done in three takes.
Talk to us about the unreleased track “Fadeway.”
Deon Evans: It was a song that he had done featuring Sean and Julian, a couple of friends of mine at the time. I don’t quite remember the name of the group, but the song was about people who wrote for the Pop Charts instead of giving you real stories from the heart will eventually disappear.
Speak to us about the unreleased song “Straight Outta Richtown.”
Deon Evans: “Straight Outta Richtown” was a song that was written by Tupac for Yanni – his female artist at the time.
How did you feel when you found out that “Dopefiend’s Diner” and “Resist the Temptation” were going to be remixed on The Best of 2Pac (2007)?
Deon Evans: When those songs were released, I was a little upset because “Dopefiend’s Diner” was a personal favorite of mine and the remix just didn’t do it any justice. In retrospect, I am never mad about remixes because sometimes they shed new light on a song that has never come out.
How did Tupac choose the beats that he wanted to rap over?
Deon Evans: It was a combination of both; if I had beats that Tupac liked, he wrote to them or we would go to the studio and make them there.
Speak to us about the recording session for “Flex.”
Deon Evans: “Flex” was cut in New York, where Majesty of the Live Squad had a sample he wanted to use. I sampled it and began building the beat around it. I wasn’t in the studio when the Outlawz got on the track or when the additional production was done to it.
You are credited for the song “Street Life.” Did you produce that record?
Deon Evans: I know of two different versions of “Street Life.” The one I produced and the other version with Snoop Dogg I didn’t produce.
How would you describe Tupac’s personality while working in the studio?
Deon Evans: I remember Tupac being a tear jerker, but he also took his time to spit his rhymes. I never really got the chance to check Tupac out [while he was] on Tha Row and he wanted it that way from one of my last conversations with him. I figured that he was just looking out for me.
How did you meet Money B and DJ Fuze?
Deon Evans: I met Money B, thru Verndale “Sleepy V” Daudson, a friend of mine that actually got me DeeJaying and producing music. Vern was working with Money B at his house and I stopped by one day and that’s how I met him. I met DJ Fuze thru Chris “CJ Flash” Jordan, another friend of mine that was also a DJ / Producer that got me into the game. Vern and Chris were from the same dance group. Fuze use to dance as well, but I knew him from DeeJaying. He helped me keep my DJ skills up and then when he and Money B formed their group MGM, they sold me my first drum machine and let me hang out and get my game on producing as well.
Have you been asked by Amaru to work on any future Tupac projects?
Deon Evans: Yes, they asked me to work on some of my old material, but due to politics not being right, it never happened.
What is the name of the singer that is featured on the original version of “Ghetto Gospel”?
Deon Evans: It was Poppy.
How was your relationship with Tupac while he was on Death Row Records?
Deon Evans: I didn’t keep in touch with Tupac much when he was on Death Row Records, but we did speak every now and then. The last conversation I had with Tupac was at a Digital Underground video shoot, where he and Marion “Suge” Knight showed up in their black and red Rolls Royce’s.
What was your reaction to Tupac getting shot in a drive-by in Las Vegas of 1996?
Deon Evans: When Pac got shot, I was working at UC Berkeley. I was shocked but didn’t feel like he was going to die. When he finally did die, I was at work again and then I was in tears because no matter what me and Pac went thru on a professional level, I had a lot of brotherly love for Pac. He was my friend and I never wished him dead for any reason.
What is your fondest memory of Tupac?
Deon Evans: One of the fondest memories I had of Pac was the time I had to rescue him from a mob of school kids on the set of Poetic Justice (1993) when Pac got noticed by a couple of kids. It wasn’t long before a whole mob of school kids were trying to get autograph’s and hand shakes and such so I literally had to pick-up Pac over my head and take him back to his trailer.
Being a multi-platinum record producer like your self takes a lot of hard work. What advice would you give someone who would like to follow in your footsteps?
Deon Evans: Honestly, the advice I would like to offer is work hard even when you are thinking you are working hard. Challenge yourself to work harder, also network, don’t just work so hard that you can’t work and make business moves to get some notoriety and connections. If you only wanna make beats, get yourself a manager to handle getting your beats off for you; also get a couple of attorney’s. Have just one and wonder or have two and save thousands.
What is your favorite song that you produced for Tupac?
Deon Evans: My Favorite song I produced by Pac was “Brenda’s Got a Baby” just because I originally made that beat for a girl I liked at the time. Needless to say, she turned me down, but that’s OK because it was my first top ten song I got on Pac (top three to be exact), so it worked out any way. Thank you Pac.
What artists in today’s rap game do you think could come close to having the same work ethic that Tupac had?
Deon Evans: I like Weezy just because he put’s out records every other week, plus m*#@! F*^%# he’s ill.
What can we expect from Deon Evans in the near future?
Deon Evans: You may see me on a couple of new records with Ne-Yo. For those that don’t know, I gave him that name. You will also see me on a couple of projects that my homie Brite Ware is hooking me up with. I am officially on my 2009 hustle at the labels trying to get mine in. I feel I never got any shine off Tupac’s records, so I am really trying to make sure my voice is heard this time around at all costs.
Thank you for taking the time to let us interview you Deon. We wish you the best of luck for the future. Do you have any last words for your fans?
Deon Evans: I would like to thank all of my fans (if any) for supporting Pac’s legacy and anyone else that I worked with. Back in March 2008, I had a conversation with Tupac’s sister, and it actually turned out to be a huge misunderstanding. And yes, since I am very humble, I would like to take the time and apologize to her and Afeni Shakur and everyone who thinks that I don’t got love for Pac. It’s a shame that he had to die for everyone to eat off of him, but I personally am grateful to have had the chance to grace his presence. Pac truly was a smart and talented gifted artist and human being, and a friend that I miss because we had a lot of great times together, along with Mopreme Shakur, Dana “Mouse Man” Smith, Man Man, Mike Cooley, the Outlawz, Ronniece, Poppa and Poppy, Jermamy, and Pee Wee. I will never forget those times. Before I go, I want to say what’s up to my kids, Akira and Kai, and the rest of my family and friends.