In the early 2000s, Megahertz was producing for Diddy, 50 Cent, and Nas, and was set to be the next rap superproducer, but then he decided he wanted something else entirely...
Fifteen years ago, Dorsey “Megahertz” Wesley was poised to become the music industry’s next big go-to hip-hop producer. He had a signature sound—drums that lagged lazily behind the beat; plucky synthesizer melodies embellished with glittery sci-fi effects—which initially landed him work with the likes of Busta Rhymes, Bilal, De La Soul, and Talib Kweli, among others. His skittering futuristic tracks earned him rave reviews with critics and insiders alike, and it wasn’t long before he made the leap from producing popular album cuts to celebrated singles.
Over the course of two months in 2001, the Willingboro, N.J. native produced Diddy’s anthemic “Bad Boy for Life,” and Nas’ Sopranos-inspired “Got Ur Self a Gun,” respectively. Months later, he’d craft the rollicking title track to Jay Z and R. Kelly’s Best of Both Worlds. A year after that, his chiptune funk would soundtrack 50 Cent’s “Gotta Make It To Heaven,” and G-Unit’s syrupy “Baby U Got.” Even The RZA—one of the most accomplished producers in hip-hop history—felt comfortable enough handing him the reigns for “We Pop,” the bass-heavy lead single from his 2003 LP Birth of a Prince.
One day, on a lark, Megahertz did what many people who feel unsettled think about doing their entire lives—he disappeared.
But while he was busy working with the most dynamic artists hip-hop has ever known, Megahertz’s personal life was floundering. His multi-platinum production career came at the cost of his family, and after his father died, he decided to take a break to care for his mother. It was only then—when he finally found some quiet—that he realized he wasn’t truly happy; that he needed a time out.
One day, on a lark, Megahertz did what many people who feel unsettled think about doing their entire lives—he disappeared. With just the shoes on his feet and the clothes on his back, he fled the American hustle for the European charm of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. In the ensuing years, he’d move to various far-flung tropical locales. And he’s mostly existed there since then, with no radio, television, or Internet to let him know what’s going on in the world, or for the world to know what’s going on with him.
Well, until now, that is. Megahertz is finally coming up for air. While on a recent trip to Los Angeles, he called us and explained why he turned his back on the game right when he was at the top of it, why we shouldn’t close the book on his halted career just yet, and what it’s like to truly live a nomadic lifestyle.
Interview by Paul Cantor (@PaulCantor)
Before we get into the meaty stuff, why don’t you just briefly explain some of your background.
My mom wanted me to become a preacher, [but] I’m an artist. I do all types of art. I was working at a mall doing airbrush. Someone wanted me to just come and draw, be an artist at a local studio. I was already rapping. So I started going to the studio and I was just back there drawing logos. It wasn’t until I seen a full-fledged studio that I was mesmerized. I was in the back room drawing, but when they would leave to go to lunch, I would be going into the studio and start turning shit on, pushing buttons, not really even know what I’m doing. I was like, “Man, I love this. This is what I wanted to do.”
What kind of work did the studio do?
We did jingles for a couple different radio stations, Power 99, Q102, we did some stuff for KMEL out in Cali.
What was the first record you officially produced?
I did a song for [Philadelphia rapper] Larry Larr. I produced the track “Funk Freakers” and this group I was in, Cipher Complete, we all rapped on the track. When it came out none of our names was on it. [Then] Cipher Complete, they did this song called "Bring Hip Hop Back." It was on the Lyricists Lounge Vol. 1 compilation.
Lyricist Lounge had people down with it that went on to blow up. Did you feel a sense of accomplishment about being on that LP?
The only people that I remember who were anything to talk about was kinda, like, De La Soul and, I think, Q-Tip. I know Rah Digga came out of it and a couple other dudes, but I wasn’t really looking at it like, “Man, this is it! We made it!” Cause nobody was really on that album. I was just happy to finally get some credit. It was under my real name, I didn’t have the name Megahertz then.
Busta Rhymes and Flipmode were like “We’re gonna have studio again on this day.” We were like “What a coincidence, we’re gonna be in New York that day!” Lying out of our a**.
Online and in the producer community, there’s confusion about Megahertz. People think it’s actually two producers, a production team. Is there truth to that?
Yeah, it was me and a guy named Dave Halsey who I knew from school. We started out as a team with two of us. But we only produced one track together. It started and ended really quick. The track that we produced together was a song on Rah Digga's Dirty Harriet album called “Clap Your Hands.” Outside of that it’s all me.
What was your big break?
We’d go to the city together, sleep in the car out in front of studios. One day Dave ran into Rampage from Flipmode [Squad]. He told Dave to come to the studio. Busta Rhymes, the whole Flipmode, and everybody was recording there. That was kinda next level. That was the first time being on the inside of what’s actually happening in a real studio, not just a studio recording jingles. Not just like, “This is my little group and we trying to make it.” We were actually with the professionals! They were like, “We’re gonna have studio again on this day.” We were like, “What a coincidence, we’re gonna be in New York that day!” Lying out of our ass.
Why did Megahertz the production team become just one person?
I got an idea because I was making a lot of the music and sharing all the credit, sharing all the proceeds. I was just like, “Look man, let’s do it like this: We work together, we share. You make a track, you get paid for it and you can keep it all. If I make a track, I keep all the bounty.” He was like, “Okay, let’s do it.” Then I went from zero to a 190. I was getting busy, making like three or four tracks a day.
Do you feel like it was confusing?
I was grinding out 15 tracks, 20 tracks a week and I would go in with the manager to go play for people. Everyone who I scored with, just met me. With the exception of maybe Babyface and Bilal. I made the track for Bilal, “For You,” but he actually recorded the vocals. For Babyface [“Baby Mama”] he was at the session but I created the track.
When did stuff start picking up for you?
I owe a lot to [manager] Ablitz. Five dollars worth of gas in his Stanza and we would get in the car and hit all the labels together. I could make the music, but that part...one hundred percent he changed my life. It never really felt like a closed door. It felt like it happened pretty easy. Rah Digga lead to De La Soul. De La Soul lead to Talib Kweli, to Bilal. Then after Bilal was “Bad Boy for Life.”
The connection between some of those artists is obvious, but jumping from Bilal to Diddy seems like a stretch. They’re not even in the same tier.
Puff is a visionary. If there’s tiers, he’s on every tier. He can see into the future. With that specific track, some people say that’s not a track for Puff. I think De La Soul had even picked that track. Them and Puff almost picked it at the same time, but Puff had a vision. It really wasn’t up to me. It wasn’t me who chose like, “Nah, I want the track to go here.” I was trying to get a check, man. I was hungry. I had two cars sitting up in the parking lot that weren’t working that I was paying for, so I just needed a check.
I was trying to get a check. I was hungry. I had two cars sitting up in the parking lot that weren’t working that I was paying for, so I just needed a check. People were like "Diddy was cold, you brought him back."
That was really a big comeback record for Diddy and Bad Boy Records.
I heard that before. People are like “he was cold, you brought him back.” You can’t really make those statements when it comes to Puff because he brought more music and artists forth than a lot of other labels. The reason why that record was huge because he was already that big. The talk of bringing him back, that’s just craziness.
Right after that came Nas' “Got Ur Self a Gun.” How did you two get together?
I went into a meeting with Steve Stoute and he said “I heard some of your brand.” He said he heard the Bilal record and the drums were off to him, this and that. So he was thinking, “This guy is a fluke.” Then he says he heard another one of my records and he thought I wasn’t a fluke; a talented kid. So he told me he had something he wants to do for Nas. Another producer had worked on it, but I don’t think he liked it. He said, “Let me see what you can do with it.”
So I took it home and pondered over it for two or three days and one day while I was cooking chicken, I was like, “I got it!” I made that track in 15 minutes. It was like it dropped from the sky. It came from somewhere else, it was like an out-of-body experience. We sent it back to Stoute, [and] I don’t remember what he said. I assumed that he loved it because it ended up with Nas. That day he asked me how much I charged. Then he said, “Now you’re making more. If you make this much, now you’re making this much.” I gotta send Stoute some flowers or something.
Those two singles being out at the same time must have been crazy for you.
I was still hungry, man. I hadn’t gotten those checks yet. I was excited that things were happening but the other side… you don’t see the other side yet. The other side came like a freight train; I was trying to survive. Between those two records, I had not bought any new equipment or any new clothes. I was broke, living off of the excitement basically.
Then you worked with 50.
I didn’t make the track for 50. Maybe Fat Joe was working on an album, maybe Busta? I don’t know, but I didn’t make it for 50. It just so happened that track got to 50. Theo [Sedlmayr], the hand of God, delivered it. He played me the record. He said, “There’s this new dude 50 Cent and he cut a record to one of your tracks. He’s gonna be big!” I had no idea. Changed my life, man.
At that time you had your own sound. You could tell when a Megahertz record was playing. You were positioned to be that ‘next’ guy. Then you disappeared. What happened? Where did you go?
At the time my father had passed. That was one of the things. In those years, all I did was work non-stop. 20 tracks a week. Just living, breathing music. That was the only time I actually got a chance to slow down. I missed my father and he was a great man. There was an opportunity to feel again, not actually be all about work a million hours a day. To actually take care of my mom, raise my nephews. Just kind of get in touch with a different part of my life after that.
I’m not one of those keep tabs type of people. I didn’t even go to my father’s funeral, because I just....most people, they need to document death. They actually need to see someone in their casket and they need to cry and be all upset. When my father got sick, I went home, I took care of my father. I didn’t have to actually mourn or document a day or be sick about it.
It opened up a different doorway to things that are not music. Music is everything: All 50 doors. There’s one door that is not music, that was the one door for me to actually look away and do different things. Keep my mom company, cook for my mom, love my mom up. I had two little nephews there, I raised my two nephews from when they were babies. I was still doing music, it’s just that that was a different happiness. Just being with my family.
You found comfort in being normal again.
It even changed the music. I found more inspiration in music. Not to sound corny, but it touched a different part of my soul. To me, music comes from outside of me. It comes from the sky.
So then what happened?
People were always calling wanting to hear music, but if I’m not producing that much music, it is what it is. That point gave me a chance to reflect on me, to magnify my own life. After my father, dealing with my mother, raising my nephews, being with my family, it just came down to me. My own personal happiness, that’s when I just….
One day I was driving on the turnpike and I was like, “I need a vacation.” I looked up and saw this ad for Puerto Rico and I just left. I tried to book a ticket that night and it was too late to get the tickets. I left the next morning.
I didn’t even go to my father’s funeral, because I just...When my father got sick, I went home, I took care of my father. I didn’t have to actually mourn or document a day or be sick about it.
What did you take with you?
My girl. I said, “Let’s go.” Dealing with my mother and my father, she was by my side, so that was like a group decision. At the time I was working on a coffee shop [and] a vintage store in Brooklyn. I left a lot of stuff behind. I left [those businesses] with all the equipment in it. When I left, I didn’t even pack a bag. I left with the Timbs I had on and some sweatpants.
You sound like you had a lot on your shoulders and you’d had enough.
When it was happening, I literally was like “I hadn’t had a vacation; I’m gonna go on a vacation.” So I started to go to Canada first. I just wanted to get away; it wasn’t even supposed to be a vacation. I was like, “Yo, let’s go to Canada, anywhere. Let’s just go anywhere for a couple of days and come back." It wasn’t like, “I’m about to die, I’m so stressed out! I gotta get outta here!” But in time being away I realized that I needed that, 'cause when I left I was happy.
I didn’t leave because I was sad or anything was down on me, even with my father. I just wanted to be more happy. Going away was cool. Puerto Rico was awesome. At some point, I came back and grabbed all my equipment because I started being in all these beautiful places and producing. That was just the extra touch to my music. Being in a location and the challenge of producing something new in a new place.
You’ve said you were in Puerto Rico. Where else?
That’s top secret. I will say that they were all beautiful places where the water rolls in and there’s palm trees. I moved probably about 15 different times. Looking up in the sky and being like, “I think I wanna try somewhere new.” Just seeing that water roll in, there’s water and sky everywhere, most of the places I went to. I couldn’t even swim, dude. I’m watching the water roll in and I’m not even getting in the water. It was just different people, different languages, not that I learned any of them. But just being in different places and being around different energies, different connections, without the use of language, it just inspired me to do all types of different music.
How do you deal with people thinking you walked away from the game?
I never stopped doing music so I never looked at it as such. Just the business of it; I’ve always done music.
How come people haven’t been able to get in touch with you all these years?
When I left, I cut my phone off and I didn’t communicate with anyone, even my family members. I didn’t keep in touch with anyone.
Did you know people would be looking for you?
I didn’t really think about it because I didn’t have Internet. I lived without TV. Even now, the last couple of days is the first time I’ve seen TV in 15 years. No TV, no clocks, no radio, none of that. Literally disconnected from the world. Not focusing on the business, I could actually focus on music. In the city, you’re listening to what’s on the radio. You’re going to record shops. Traditional music [is] coming through the air. That’s something totally different. You don’t know until you’re there. You won’t understand until it’s actually happening. Like, there’s an old man dancing right there, families laughing, and people actually playing instruments. Crazy.
Was any part of your experience in music not-Kosher?
No. I personally don’t have any complaints. I had all the best people. I had a hardworking manager, I had an amazing attorney with amazing people working under him. I had an awesome publisher, Manny Edwards. I’ve had access to nothing but hardworking people and people who were respected. It was easy street. If I had one complaint it would be that I did a lot of work and I would have to wait for a check. I would only be complaining about how things are, it’s nothing to even complain about.
The rumor is that you got a big publishing deal and that was why you were okay with disappearing.
I can neither confirm or deny that. [Laughs.] I don’t understand that chatter. I worked hard man.
But Swizz Beats, Just Blaze, Rocwilder, The Neptunes, Timbaland. All these guys became superproducers. You walked away from that. Do you ever think of what could have been?
I think people have regrets when things aren’t in their control. I have no regrets. Everything was in my control, it’s what I wanted to do. This is all the past. What’s important to me is every moment. I really never get a chance to speak on it, but whatever I did in the past, present or future. I’m excited about the future. I got a stockpile of music. I’m going back into my old space, I’ll be back in New York in the summer.
One day I was driving on the turnpike and I was like, “I need a vacation.” I looked up and saw this ad for Puerto Rico and I just left the next morning.
What will you be doing until then?
In a week or so I’ll be headed to South Africa, my mom has a school out there. I’m gonna spend some time out there before getting back into music officially. I feel like giving. You talk about stuff that I worked on, that’s great and all but I’m not walking two miles to school with no shoes on.
When’s the last time you were in your old place?
It’s been some years now. They shot Making The Band in my old spot. It’s 320 Studios on West 37th street. DJ Premier’s up in that building, Nile Rodgers up in that building, it just has a great energy.
Who are you interested in working with now?
The Lox, 50 Cent, Jay Z, Nas. Just go down the line of everybody I worked with already, but I want to fill in the blanks with people I didn’t get a chance to work with.
Have you sent tracks to people back here in the United States over the years?
When I was in Puerto Rico they brought 2Pac’s vocals down to me. So we set up in the villa out there. 2Pac had a bodyguard just for his vocals. Most people can’t get in touch with me because I change my number a lot.
As far as email, I just got up on email. I was still sending CDs out [via] Fedex. When people told me they were sending MP3s out I was like, “You can send that shit through the computer? Whoa! We’re in 2030 already.” I didn’t have the Internet. I couldn’t be contacted. Just people I’d call every couple years, just to check in on them.
Plus, there were spots where the Internet wasn’t worth shit anyway. Puerto Rico is one of the more advanced places, actually. There are other places where you have to wait like three weeks just to get Internet. I lived at places with no postal address. Crazy shit.
How would you find one of these places? Would you just pick a spot on the map?
Just look around and dream a little bit. When I was living in New York, life was heavy there. So much equipment and furniture and shit like that. After I started moving around a lot, all I had was my equipment. Even clothes. Like, I’ll wear the same clothes every day. You can be like that and you’re fitting in with everybody. So it wasn’t like having a lot of clothes and knick-knacks and dumb shit like that. Just my equipment. Taking water planes and ferries.
People think you’re dead.
I’ve heard that before. Like, I must have died somewhere. I did. Not to get all religious, but I’m born again. I feel different and I’m thinking different. I work different and I love different. All different for me.