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.