Interview by Nova Browning
No one can deny that Bad Boy and Puff Daddy held a King Kong grip on hip-hop in the 90’s. Since then, a distracting Latina lover, manic multitasking, numerous court cases and a drastically changing industry have contributed to the highs and lows of the man and his music. When Puff claimed “…and we won’t stop!” 15 years ago, he wasn’t joking.
Diddy is now in full throttle on the reality show train by launching Making the Band: Season 4-Part Two. For our viewing pleasure, his Diddyness ensures the drama by housing Danity Kane, the female platinum artists spawned from Season 3, alongside solo artist Donnie J and Day 26, their Season 4 male counterparts. As expected Brian, Will, Robert, Qwanell, Mike and Donnie quickly create chemistry with the girls, deal with pressure and competition while recording their albums and try to adapt to life on camera.
Far from the amateur attitude that plagued the second season (remember Dyylan?) there are no fistfights or Brooklyn cheesecake treks this time around. The talent in MTB4 has real potential and focus, making it good to watch and, people are buying albums (which is really the point). PEACE was able to talk to Will from Day 26 about the groups new name, his first time with Wendy Williams, past industry experience and how he made it this far.
Recently you announced the name of your group, DAY 26! What were other options were entertained and why did DAY 26 describe the group the best?
WILL: First we came up with 8/26 since August 26th was the day that we became a band. We knew that we wanted to stick around the date because that was an important day for us, that was the day that changed our lives, and it was the same feeling for all of us, a milestone. We couldn’t get 8/26, we tried Project 26 but we liked Day 26. Diddy liked 26 Days better, but it wasn’t legal so we stuck to Day 26. With the name, this all feels official now!
How has your perception of Diddy changed through this process? From being a fan, watching him on past seasons of MTB, going through the entire audition process, and now as one of his artists?
W: I’ve always watched him growing up and admired that movement at Bad Boy. I’ve been around a lot of people in the music industry before so meeting him wasn’t something that would make me shake up or anything. That’s why it wasn’t really hard for me to sing in the first season because I was never flustered around him. I think that helped me out a lot. So now, just working with him, he’s cool, he knows what he wants, he’s just ready to work at all times, and he knows how to pull the best out of you. He’s a perfectionist and it’s been a blast working with him on this new project.
You write and arrange for a few other R&B acts.
W: Yeah I did some writing and arranging on Avant’s “Director” and some arranging on Marques Houstons “Naked” album.
Out of the people you worked with in the past, who did you learn the most from and how did it give you an edge throughout the lengthy MTB elimination process?
W: I think I’ve learned the most from Avant. I had more time around him and I got a lot of training from him, a lot of people say that our voices sound similar and he taught me a lot. Avant is a good friend of mine, so his advice really helped me through a lot of situations, especially when he found out that I was even going to do the Making the Band thing. He thought it was a good look with me going in, and said to let them know exactly who I am. But most of what I learned from him was studio related, since that was where we spent most of our time together.
After developing such a close relationship with Mike, Brian, Robert and Que how was the first morning, waking up without everyone around?
W: At first it was cool because I had just left them and I was home with my family and it was so good to see them and to see their reactions, to hear what they had to say and let it all sink in and get back to reality for a minute. But after that, I gave it a week or two and then I was like okay, let’s get back to work!
Where do you find yourself pushing the others to step up? Is it in dance rehearsals, the studio where you have more experience, or do those roles shift at different times?
W: Where ever it can be a help. Sometimes it’s in the studio, due to my experience and sometimes it could be with the dancing. Not that I’m the best dancer in the group but if I step back, I know what it’s supposed to look like. That push comes from every aspect ’cause we all can fall short sometimes, and being a new group we’re allowed to. We try and push each other along so that we can get through this project and be labeled as one of the number one groups in the world instead of a just a reality show group.
Looking back, did you think Diddy was harder on the guys or the girls?
W: Well, I’ve heard them say that he was harder on the girls. I wasn’t in the girls’ situation and I didn’t really watch the girls show, but I do know how hard he was on us!
Who has improved the most since the first round of auditions?
W: Que. Que has always been an amazing singer, Que’s voice is gifted, I think he’s one of the best singers that I’ve heard, but Que has grown so much because he listens so much. He listens, he learns, he knows he’s a great singer but he doesn’t really know exactly what he could be. He’s just learning and learning and he’s like a sponge so I think he’s by far going to be one of the best R&B singers in the world.
I know that some of the other members have had to deal with rumors and gossip and haters, have you had to deal with that?
W: We recently did the Wendy Williams show, and that was a wild experience because I didn’t know who Wendy Williams was until I actually got there. So she came in and the first thing she asks me, is am I gay! That kind of shocked me ’cause I had never, ever heard anything like that before in my life! I took it, I held it in and I answered the question, but it kind of shocked me that people would even start rumors about you in the first place. But I know it comes with the territory. I know that just because I sing, I’m in an R&B group, people will say whatever they want about you and you just gotta know how to take it, so that was definitely a learning experience for me. I’m open now, I got thicker skin now and I’m ready to handle whatever is put on me.
So it’s dealing with how the people around you are responding to the success of the group?
W: Oh yeah, because people expect more out of you once you get into the spotlight. You can be the same to that person as you were before, but with them expecting more from you, they feel like you’ve changed. Back in the days, if you asked me for a dollar, I’d have given it to you, now you ask me for a hundred-thousand dollars and I don’t give it to you and you say I’ve changed. I haven’t changed it’s just I’m not giving you a hundred-thousand dollars!
What personal trials have you had to overcome in order to adapt to your new success?
W: I had to move away from certain neighborhoods because I really try to be low key. I’m home now, I’m away from the guys and sometimes I walk in the house and there will be a lot of people outside so I try to always walk with a hoodie on. I don’t want anybody to know where me or my family are living. If you see me in the street I always say what’s up but at least in this neighborhood I try to be low because I actually live here. (sighs) This grind for me was so long and so deep. Sometimes I was broke, I’d be praying, asking God “Why?” and “Is this for me?”. I want to be clear and tell people that if you believe it in your heart, than you can achieve it. I’m an example of that cause I tried this for a long time. Before you ever saw me on Making the Band, I’ve been trying to be an artist and entertainer/writer so for me to get this opportunity, I’m definitely going to use it to the fullest and let nobody stand in the way of it.
Making the Band: Season 4 Part Two
is on MTV Canada Monday nights at 10pm.
Interview by Jay Swing
Intro by Morgan Gerard
Don’t believe the hype. Yes, the Octagon is finally coming to Canada, and the fastest sell-out in big-time Mixed Martial Arts history is cause for excitement.
But all of the flag-waving over UFC 83, taking place at the Bell Centre in Montreal on April 19? Forget about it.
The match isn’t about Long Island, NY vs. St-Isidore, PQ. It’s got nothing to do with an Italian-American vs. a French-Canadian. And while Van Damme vs. Pesci is a funny concept, it’s just another way to complicate a very simple set of facts:
One world title.
Five scheduled rounds.
Best fighter wins.
Still, history and circumstances make the second meeting between Georges “Rush” St. Pierre and Matt “The Terror” Serra more than one-dimensional. The last time they met, at UFC 69 in Houston, Serra TKO’d GSP in the third minute of the first round and the welterweight title of the world went south. Touted by fans and critics as one of the – if not the – greatest upsets in MMA history, few people (including PEACE in our March 2007 GSP cover story) expected Serra, then a 5-4 fighter in the UFC who earned his title shot by winning season 4 of The Ultimate Fighter reality show, to defeat the 7-1 UFC’s pound-for-pound welterweight poster boy.
So how does it feel after all these years in the Octagon, and then going through the Ultimate Fighter series, to finally have that belt around your waist?
Man, it just feel great. I mean when it happened it just was indescribable. It was just a crazy feeling especially for the fact I was such an underdog against George. That just added to it man – it felt like I was living a Rocky movie. Cinderella Man – you ever see that one? The whole thing just played out perfectly man. It was so much sweeter that I was such a big underdog.
We’ll talk about your fight with GSP in a minute but let’s go back for a second. You’re the first American to get a BJJ Black belt under Renzo Gracie…
Ahh, that is true.
When did you first hook with Renzo and how long did it take you to get your black belt?
First I was Craig who was Renzo’s American business partner and he was a Black belt to I believe under Helio. I started training with him right out of high school when I was 19. A couple of years later Renzo came here so I’ve been with him since the mid 90′s. I got my black belt in 2000. Originally when he got here Renzo was only in Manhattan one day a week so I would just take what he taught me and take it home to my garage with my brother and we used to just rep and drill those moves to death so I had it in my arsenal next time I go to class a week later. Eventually he went to 3 days a week and then I’d drive to New Jersey on Sundays for private lessons – so that was basically my college. That’s what I wanted to do. Man, it seemed to work out huh!
A little bit! And that’s crazy because only one person can say they are the first.
That’s true and I’m very proud of the fact. Renzo is my mentor. He took me under his wing and I did night security and weekend shifts just so I can train jui jitsu. Renzo just said ‘look man, you’re tired on the mat, your training like crap, why don’t you just stop that and work here at the academy’. So I got there and I was teaching classes and I was cleaning bathrooms and I was happy to do it man. It got me out of that guard booth and I’ve been living the dream ever since man.
Where does that rank – talking about the being the first American Black belt under Renzo Gracie – where does that rank on your list of accomplishments? That list is starting to get pretty long…
Man, that’s up there at the top yaknowwhatimean? That’s such an honor. Renzo is family to me, you know, kind of like a big brother. He was my mentor. He took me in the fight game, not just with BJJ, but he took me over to Japan. He set up my stays in Brazil. You know, I know this will sound cheesy but he helped me become champion!
Ha – it only sounds cheesy if you aren’t a champion!
Right! I know man. (laughs)
So now that you have that belt does that take top spot in your list of accomplishments?
It’s not that it’s better than achieving my Black belt under Renzo Gracie because it all goes hand in hand. As far as my greatest sports moment, my great competition moment, my biggest time in the spotlight, the greatest thing I ever achieved in competition? Of course that’s the very highest you know. That’s the top of the top… I mean that’s just… you know, the UFC is the best fighters not in your neighborhood, not in your country but those are the best fighters in the world. I am so honored just to be a UFC fighter. You know, I had some ups and downs in my career and to get that title shot – and people talk ‘you know he got that title shot by not fighting this guy or that guy’. Hey man, I fought everybody under the sun and even the fights I lost you can make cases on but I don’t cry about that. I never complain about a decision, but I’ve proven I can go with the best guys bell to bell and you learn from your mistakes. I think it give hope to guys that have a couple of losses and don’t get into this sport if you don’t think you are going to pick up a couple of losses because sooner or later if you are fighting the right guys it’s just not gonna be your night.
There must have been a time during your first run with the UFC that you thought it might not work out for you as far as the belt goes.
To be honest with you I never said to myself that I gotta do this, that and the other thing to get that belt. I never once said that man. If it came along then great, but I just narrowed it down to I have my 2 jui-jitsu schools, I love teaching, I love fighting so I feel like a winner already. Let me go out there and just test myself in that cage against another guy that has trained specifically to try and take me out. I’m training and working on different strategies, getting in peak condition just to take him out. That’s what I’m in it for. I love that – just the rush of it. You know, how many times in life do you get to test your skills and courage and everything else? Just put it on the line. It’s such a raw feeling and it’s just great man!
How does your back feel after having to pull out of your fight against Matt Hughes?
It feels great man. I’m starting out of the gate nice man. I’m trying to do things the right way. I’m training hard but smart. Two and a half months down the road I’m going to be in phenomenal shape.
How hard for you was it to pull out of that fight?
I know you’re a big fan of Matt Hughes and you guys are good buddies…
Yeah right, of course… Naw, that was brutal and one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. I know it wasn’t the fact of making the right decision because there was only one decision. I couldn’t have competed like that. My wife would have kicked my ass if i did! I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t do anything. It’s amazing what your lower back controls and I never felt anything like that. So I’m taking the proper precautions so nothing like that will ever happen again – at least not for this fight.
So what did you think about the Hughes/GSP fight.
I think it was good for GSP! The problem with Matt Hughes is he doesn’t like being in the danger zone. He doesn’t like to take one to give one that’s for sure. He just wants to take that guy down and lay the hammer on that guy and pound him out with minimum damage. And there is nothing wrong with that if it’s reasonable you know. I would love nothing more than for GSP to go in there and jump guard with me but you got to be realistic about it and you have to take chances. There are some guys you have to take chances with and that means you have to believe in other aspects of your game. The thing that GSP has over Matt Hughes is Hughes isn’t really talented off his back and he’s afraid standing up so what he does he does very well but now he’s going up against a guy who’s younger, more explosive and hard to get down. I don’t think GSP is a way better wrestler than Matt Hughes, I just thought the second Matt Hughes got a hold of GSP he got so stiff he did not want to let him go because he’d have to get back into that striking range so it allowed GSP to take him gown very easy. That’s what went down – he fought with the fear.
Is it any different training for GSP instead of Matt Hughes?
Naw. I mean I was making sure my guard was off the hook because of Matt Hughes, because you know, in case he tried to take me down and dry hump me (laughs). I’m gonna be ready on all fronts bro. Not trying to give away too much strategy but I’ll be ready on all front for GSP. I’m going to have to bring my A game and I’m just looking forward to a nice battle. The first fight went smooth but I think this one is gonna be more of a war but what the hell man – that’s what you’re remembered for – not just the beat downs but for the wars and I don’t mind being part of one.
So let me present this scenario to you. If you beat GSP in April, are you going to give Matt Hughes a title shot even though he just got destroyed by GSP?
You know what man, the question’s a good one and I see where you’re going but I have a rule of thumb where I never ever talk about a fight past the fight that I have right in front of me. I just personally don’t do it and I think it’s bad luck. The first time I was going to fight GSP everybody was talking about how the rematch with Matt Hughes and GSP is going to be in Canada in the summertime and I was like ‘oh that’s nice I DIDN’T EVEN FIGHT HIM YET YOU F….’ – I don’t want to curse but you see where I’m going with this. I’m already hearing people say that first BJ Penn has to clear out the Lightweight Division and then he’ll be able to fight GSP. Now wait a minute. Are you assuming the guy has the belt? I’m getting deja vu all over again! You want to hear something hysterical? I’m watching a clip on ESPN with Brock Lesner talking about the UFC and how he’s the new upcoming fighter and it just struck me as funny man – here we are a year later and I had a good night with GSP and I beat him down and still it’s like it never happened man. It’s hysterical because I’m watching this interview and all of a sudden you see Brock Lesner say how the UFC is the greatest and this is where all the best fighters are and at that moment they put on the screen images of the UFC champions and they show Rampage howling after he knocked out Chuck Liddell, you see Anderson Silva getting the belt put around his waist and they showed one more guy getting his belt put around his waist and that was George St. Pierre! I’m like hey man, not for nothing but you just showed the Light Heavyweight champ, the Middleweight Champ and then you show GSP. The last I heard I beat him! You know what I mean!! He beats my ass next time then show it to death but until then why don’t you show some respect. It’s kinda messed up. So they are already counting me out again man so that great. I love being in the shoes I’m in and i’d have it no other way. Good. You want to go ahead and count some chicken’s then go ahead and count them all you want but get ready to cry yourself to sleep in your GSP underoos man.
Well that brings me to my next question which you kind of just answered, but how do you feel about being listed at a 4-1 underdog?
I’m a 4-1 underdog? Well that’s a lot better than last time – what was I a 14-1 underdog or something? It don’t matter to me. All the hype and all the experts – the so called experts – it all means jack to me. What it boils down to is GSP and myself in the cage. That’s what it come down to and that’s all that it comes down to.
You two have been having a little bit of a war of words – where did that come from?
You know what? It’s funny man. I read an interview where he said he lost all respect for me due to some things I said. Now, you know I have a lot of friends so if you want to become an enemy that cool. That’s fine with me. Now, let’s think about this for a second. After that fight I did the right thing, and he did the right thing in the cage. We were both gentleman after that fight. You know, I’m sitting there saying he is the future of the sport. He’s saying I was the better man and that’s really the way it should be. Then you fast forward 4 or 5 weeks later – and I never said a bad thing about the guy ever, I always liked him – you fast forward 4 or 5 weeks later and here he is saying ‘oh well if it was Matt Hughes I wouldn’t have fought but it was Matt Serra and I figured I’d beat this guy easy and I wasn’t really training’. It’s like hey man, before the fight you were sitting there saying how you got to treat me like the number 1 guy in the world. That you were going to take me very seriously and maybe you were going to submit me. You know, he threw some cliches in there like ‘I’m going to fight like I’m the challenger trying to win the belt’ and you’re saying all this stuff and then you lose. So 5 weeks later you start talking about how you didn’t really prepare and how if it was somebody else you wouldn’t have took the fight but you figured you can beat me easy. How do you expect me not to get insulted? How do you expect me not to feel disrespected and how would you not expect me to retaliate? So I hear that and it’s like game on! Okay, I guess were not cool anymore dude. You’re gonna discredit what I did? Everybody thought I was walking to my doom and I took care of business like I should, then you gotta go that route with it? And the thing is that after I made some remarks back, you know, he’s making a big deal at the fact I said ‘F’ you Frenchy! Whatever dude. Look, I’m a big movie buff and I watch Talladega Nights a lot… if you didn’t see it you should rent it it will change your life. Did you see it?
Yeah – too funny!
Great movie man. Will Ferrell. But in the movie he has that battle with the french driver and he’s always calling him ‘Frenchy’. So that’s why that came flying out of my mouth but dude, do I give a rats ass if the guy is French? Please, oh yeah now I’m against the French. C’mon dude get a life. Here’s the deal. He said he lost all respect for me – I don’t believe him. I think that is what his sports shrink told him to say. His sports shrink laid him down on the couch and said ‘look, this what you need to do to win this fight. You gotta make this guy the enemy’. Basically put Matt Hughes head on my body and if that’s the way he wants to go with is fine, yaknowwhatimean? I’m disappointed in the guy. I used to like him. I don’t think all that was to hype the fight. I believe his sports shrink told him to look at me like the anti-christ so that’s cool.
You see I thought it was just because you made fun of hockey – you know how us canadians like our hockey!
Aw please man! First of all I grew up on Long Island – huge Islanders fan! Second of all, if he told me to eat a meatball hero and go watch Goodfellas I’m not gonna cry myself to sleep, youknowwhati’msaying?!!!
Due to an unfortunate injury suffered by Crystal Castles lead singer Alice Glass in a car accident late last week, the band will have to postpone tour dates while Alice recovers from two cracked ribs. The tour will resume as planned beginning 3/14 in Austin, TX at SXSW. Tourmates HEALTH will continue to play at all scheduled tour dates in their absence.