Damion Young aka Damizza, is a radio executive and record producer who has worked with the likes of legendary artists such as Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Eminem and Mariah Carey. In addition to his production work, Damion was also the Senior Director of Programming at Power 106 from 1997 to 2004 and also spent time at Hot 97.
Stop The Breaks had the opportunity to talk to Damion about his come up in the music business, working with Dre and Snoop on The Chronic 2001, important business lessons and plenty more!
1) Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I was born in Santa Barbara Ca. Started in Radio at age 12. My mentor Michael Newman, Hired me to be an intern and I slowly learned the radio game. Became the night guy at 14-15, at 15-16 was Music Director then at 19 I was promoted to the Program Director position.
The station was Alternative. I broke artists like Fiona Apple, Garbage and Hootie & the Blowfish. That led to an interview at Power 106. At about 20-21 I was made the Music Director which was my dream job. Put Snoop and Dre back together for 2001, broke acts like Eminem, Ja Rule and Jay-Z.
Went on to produce records in 1999 with my 1st single Mariah, Krayzie Bone and the Brat “I still believe.” That went platinum. I truly am thankful to the good lord above. I’ve been very lucky in my career to have this sorta success. Really a dream come true.
2) What inspired you to get into radio at such a young age?
The Music!! I’m such a fan! I don’t even know how. I just turned that radio on and was hooked (plus being on the air at such a young age made it easy to meet girls for a fat kid).
3) Who would you say were some of your early influences – in music and radio?
I have to give props to Michael Newman and Steve Smith. They gave me my shot and we’re crazy enough to put a 12 year old that sounded like a chip-monk on the radio And music-wise DJ Quik, Dr. Dre, Prince, Nirvana and Michael Jackson. I mean, if it was music I was influenced.
4) In your bio, it says you helped reunited Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg for The Chronic 2001. Can you talk more about this?
Oh man, what a ride. I hired Snoop to do weekends at Power and then met Dre by chance at a video shoot. It just was timing and being a fan. I told them both that the other said they wanted to work together and then I don’t know, it just was right and the Baka Boys had a great idea. Do it in Hawaii and make a crazy promo about it.
I got invited to the studio by Dre, he just started to let me hang out and I just kinda politicked my way in the door thru a crack. It was kinda like livin’ in a dream. Then came Eminem, 50 Cent, Xzibit and so on.
5) What were some early Eminem and Jay-Z records that you broke?
I was actually in the room when they recorded “My Name Is.” Then with Jay, Hard Knock life, H to the Izzo, I mean, really all of them. It was a humbling experience to look back on it now. I still don’t know how it all happened. Just natural momentum I guess. As the ratings got bigger we just kept rolling out the hits.
Radio was much different then. We took chances and made the water run, not, homogenized and over monetized as it is now. We actually lived on the edge and literally lived by the motto “Its better to ask for forgiveness, than permission.”
6) In addition to radio, you also branched out to become a record executive? What was the transition like?
I didn’t put much thought to it. It just came naturally. I was just living by the beat and following my ears. It just all fell into place.
7) What do you think of the music industry in 2015?
It’s defiantly changed a bit. People don’t grab their respective ‘twig and berries’ and take that chance there isn’t the chances too. There are to many corporations’ and no mom and pops left. We need some rebels. I mean like the Young California brand. I love that.
Charisma is REALLY the only one out there DOIN’ IT like that to me. I mean, Mikey and Tino in AZ, a few others, Big Bear (my boss at KCAQ) was nice enough or just plain nuts to let me back on the air, where I’m currently employed on Friday nights.
8) If you were to advise an up-and-coming hip-hop artist, would you say aim for a major label or grind it out independently?
Do what works for you, if the shoe fits try that mudda sukka on and run tip they fall apart! Then go bare-foot!
9) What was the most important business lesson you learnt from the rap game?
The law: Consistency and Repetition breeds familiarity. Familiarity Breeds a relationship. Relationship breeds teamwork.