Growing up in Mt Vernon, Early was right near the heart of where hip hop was born. For those who don’t know, Mt. Vernon is adjacent to the Bronx. Mt. Vernon is the last stop on the subway. If you get off the subway at the very last stop for the Bronx and cross the street, you are in Mt. Vernon.
Born in ‘69, this close to the birthplace of hip hop, he was old enough to experience the birth and development of hip hop from the earliest days, through the golden era of the ‘90s and early 2000’s to today.
The Early Days
In the early days, he started out in his house with just a DJ set (two turntables and a microphone). This was the early ‘80s. He began cutting break beats and then developed into a producer and an MC after adding drum machines, synthesizers, keyboards and making his own break beats for himself. In time he started realizing some of his beats would sound better with other MC’s on it. As he refined his ear for the music he started putting other artists on his beats and the producer in him was born.
His first breakthrough in the actual music business came in high school when Bill Brickell, the manager of KRS One and Boogie Down Productions heard his music and came to his home studio to sign him to a management agreement.
Bill took Early to Teddy Riley (producer for Michael Jackson, Bobby Brown, Keith Sweat, Doug E. Fresh, Heavy D) to see if they could create something together, but eventually Earl would go his own way and wind up signing a deal with Will Sokoloff at Moonroof Records at the same exact time that Will signed Jay Z (Moonroof Records was the label that gave Jay Z his first and only deal before Jay created Roc-a-fella Records).
Under Moonroof Records Earl began producing music for The Trackmasters (producers for Will Smith, R. Kelly, Mary J. Blige, Nas, Jay Z, Cam’ron, Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, Notorious B.I.G., 50 Cent).
The work they were doing was all happening at D&D Studios. At D&D Early was working closely with all the biggest producers and artists out of New York.
At this point Early decided to build his own studio at his house again, now in Yonkers, but this time with more resources.
Uptown Records, Mary J Blige, Diddy, and Heavy D
Living next door to him in Yonkers was Mary J. Blige, and out of this home studio the entire Yonkers/Mt.Vernon sound was born.
Early and Dave Hall would help develop a sound with Mary J. Blige, first in his home studio, and then as she honed her craft Eddie F (Heavy D’s producer) eventually stepped in and helped get her to Uptown Records with the help of Heavy D’s influence on the label.
Meanwhile Diddy was also from Mt. Vernon and had approached Heavy D asking Heavy D to help him set up a meeting with Andre Harrell, the CEO of Uptown Records, for an internship.
While Diddy was interning for Uptown Records, Eddie F was responsible for producing her album and Diddy was assigned to Mary’s project as the A&R.
Early and Dave Hall would develop most of the tracks, Mary would put the vocals on them, and Eddie F would mix and master them and hand them off to Diddy to pick and choose which ones to take to Andre.
To Be Continued......