The Makaveli Book by veteran Death Row Records engineer Tommy D. Daugherty reveals some amazing stories and in-studio moments from the music industry titan. Despite all those juicy details, the most fascinating tales are about the unique relationships artists often form with engineers who help bring their visions to life.
“I would tell Death Row stories at a party and in the studio,” Daugherty tells HipHopDX. “Everyone kept saying, you should write a book, and I thought, shit — they’re right. I figured I’m not disrespecting anyone or putting anyone in jeopardy. These are just fun, cool stories that I think fans would like to read.”
Historically, the engineer is one of the most uncelebrated roles within the music industry — at least publicly. But these unheralded people have been involved in albums that defined an era that many of us hold dear.
Ethan Ryman, for example, was the engineer for both Wu-Tang Clan and Ol Dirty Bastard’s debut albums. Diego Garrido was the engineer for Nas’ holy grail of Hip Hop, Illmatic. That puts them in the studio and behind the boards for some of the most important sessions in the genre.
For Daugherty, his most memorable friendship was the one he struck up with Tupac Shakur. He became Pac’s chief engineer shortly after All Eyez On Me, and, along with associate engineer Lance Pierre, spent a frantic two days (roughly) recording the songs for what would become Pac’s final album, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. Daugherty was never even paid to work on the LP, according to the details of his Kickstarter campaign.
In the book, he shares numerous stories, such as the first session that led him to become Pac’s go-to man. Earlier that evening, he had been with Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine where Dre’s departure from Death Row was finalized. The situation left him in a precarious state of mind, holding on to such a big secret.
— 2Pac Chief Engineer (@tommyddaugherty) June 26, 2017
“I had no idea how fast he was,” Daugherty remembers about his first time working with Pac. “I put a beat on and thought it was a typical Snoop session — that usually involves lots of weed and taking a while for a verse to be ready. I went to use the phone, and one of Pac’s bodyguards came out and got me … ‘Pac is pissed, you better get in there now,’ he told me.”
Pac was ready to go a few minutes after he heard the beat, but after a tense discussion, Daugherty made it through the session. The following night, Pac appointed him as his chief engineer. During the next session, they cranked out 11 songs.
Just before they began to work on the Makaveli project, they were working on what was supposed to be an underground mixtape loaded with diss records.
“Suge gave him an order to make a diss album for the black market,” Daugherty revealed. “One night I got drunk and asked him, ‘Why do we have to make another record about Nas? We might as well just give him a billboard.’ I asked, ‘Why not make something with social or political relevance … something like Gil Scott-Heron would do?’ Pac said, ‘Ok — let’s start this Makaveli album.’ Lance [Pierre] was ecstatic.”
Daugherty also recalled sitting in the studio with Pierre after the first recording session for the album.
“The first session we recorded ‘Blasphemy’ and ‘Hail Mary.’ We told security that we were in there mixing, but the truth is, we had it done. Lance and I just sat there and listened to ‘Hail Mary’ over and over.”
Tommy D has worked with a long list of lost legends, including names like Michael Jackson, Prince and Nate Dogg. He began working with Death Row Records around the time the label was preparing the soundtrack for Above The Rim. He remained there until the label’s downfall.
His tenure at the notorious record label traversed milestones like Dr. Dre’s departure, which he was privy to before Suge, and the escalation of the East Coast/West Coast war. Still, he insists that the book is more lighthearted than it seems. He even describes it as a “comedy.” It’s a collection of fun stories Hip Hop heads will salivate over.
While there exists a romantic concept of your favorite producer and artist in the studio together — there is usually a hard working engineer behind the boards. We can only hope more books like Daugherty’s pop up with behind the scenes insight about some of our favorite albums and artists.
You can check out the Kickstarter campaign, here.