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DJ Shabazz Talks About Slain Rapper Dolla’s Life, Death & Music [Exclusive Interview]

Posted by Nathan S. on 06/07/10 | Filed under Top Stories, Features, Interviews, Dolla
Dolla Rapper
(Dolla, 1987 – May 18, 2009

On May 18, 2009, Roderick Burton, better known as Atlanta-based rapper Dolla, and 24-year old Aubrey Berry, also from Atlanta, saw each other in a restaurant in Los Angeles' Beverly Center mall. Minutes later Doll lay dead in the Beverly Center parking garage, shot four times, three times in the back, by Berry, who was later acquitted of the murder. Although his life was cut sadly short, those who knew him best are determined his legacy lives on. In an exclusive RefinedHype interview, Dolla's DJ and close friend DJ Shabazz sits down to talk about Dolla's music, life, tragic death, and his new project "The Miseducation of Dolla".

RefinedHype: Can you describe your relationship with Dolla?

DJ Shabazz: Dolla was like my brother. We met and New York and he was like, 'yo, when I get on, I want you to be my DJ', so when that happened we did a lot together. I moved out to Atlanta, started living with him, we did shows and it pretty much took off from there. He was like my little brother. It was more than just a business relationship. Over the last three years, along with his brother, I was with him the most. I was with him almost every single day.

RefinedHype: Where were you when he was shot?

DJ Shabazz: Standing right next to him.

RefinedHype: From your perspective, what happened that day?

DJ Shabazz: We were in L.A. working on a mixtape. We were on our way out of town to do a show and stopped by P.F. Changs [in the Beverly Center] - that's his favorite restaurant. If there's a P.F. Chang's in a city we go there. We all know what happened after that. I guess dude [Berry] was out there working on promotions and I guess there was an altercation between him and Dolla a couple weeks prior, which I just heard about. He was at the same restaurant and, after that, it was just a tragedy.

RefinedHype: So you had never met Berry before that day or heard about him?

DJ Shabazz: No. When that altercation went down I was in Frisco doing a show, I read about it all later on the Internet. I'd never seen dude in my life.

RefinedHype: What was your reaction when Berry was acquitted?

DJ Shabazz: I think the justice system fucked up. It was in court for a year, and for his mom to go through that after already losing a son...I mean Dolla was shot in the back three's just fucked up. The justice system failed.

RefinedHype: The defense argued that Berry had cause to be afraid of Dolla. Was Dolla gang-affiliated, was he engaged in criminal acts?

DJ Shabazz: He didn't have criminal ties, he just made music. He wrote about the things that were happening around him, and some of that happened to be gang activity. You see stuff when you're growing up like Dolla did, but he wasn't involved in gang activity at all. When you grow up where he did you know people who are in gangs, gangs are around, but Dolla was not part of any gang. Apparently [Berry] did some research and thought that he was the biggest gang-banger in Los Angeles. At least that's what I heard he testified.

RefinedHype: Those who listen to Dolla's music know he touched on a wide range of topics. For you, what was his central message? What was the core of his music?

DJ Shabazz: He was real. He just rapped about everyday life. Whether it was Barack Obama becoming the first black president, whether it was gentrification in the black community, whether it was comparing bitches to real women, he's rapping about that. When he would make a heartfelt joints when he would talk try to uplift the black community, when he would tell people to stay off drugs, to go to school, you could hear the passion in his voice. He had an anger that was coming out of him. He was really trying to change the whole outlook of rap. The talent that he has was incredible, and he was only 21, so he was way ahead of his own time.

RefinedHype: What did the future seem to hold for Dolla and you when he was killed? What were you working on?

DJ Shabazz: It's actually crazy. Two or three weeks before the shooting we were given the opportunity to be in the studio with T.I. T.I. was his role model in the rap game. T.I. was working on "Paper Trail" and when we walked into the studio he and Justin Timberlake were working on the "Dead and Gone" track. T.I. When Justin went into the other room to record his part T.I. was like, 'go ahead, play what you want to play me.' Tip literally sat there and listened to 45 minutes of Dolla's work. So after that it was like ok, let's get this shit crackin. After that we were in Alabama for a show and he was listening to 'The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill' and he was like, 'I got the title for the new mixtape. People don't really know who I am, The think I'm one of these one hit wonders, but I can really rap.' That was the last thing we were really working on, the mixtape.

RefinedHype: So that's the project you'll be releasing?

DJ Shabazz: June 8 it's comin out. It's gonna be 26-tracks, 'The Miseducation of Dolla'. Just 26 songs of him going in. Half of it's original beats, half of it's Jay-Z beats, Biggie beats, and he just murders every single track. Hopefully this really shows his true talent. He was almost at that point where he could get past the one-hit wonder, and truly become great, before his life was cut short. All we got is his music left, so I'm gonna pump the shit out of this mixtape. So no one forgets, so the people who never knew who he was will be like 'this kid could really rap.'

RefinedHype: What do you hope people remember about Dolla. What do you hope Dolla's legacy becomes?

DJ Shabazz: I just hope people remember he was a real dude. He was humble at heart, he had a smile from cheek to cheek, he was just a good kid. He was a great storyteller. I don't want to compare him to any other rapper, but people are going to say, "he could have been the next Pac, he could have been one of the next greats." He was only 21, so imagine what he could have done.

Keep it locked to RefinedHype for the release of "The Miseducation of Dolla', dropping tomorrow, June 8.

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