*Apologies for the delay guys. Rest assured it won’t be happening again. An end the ‘Sam roasting’? LOL*
With all the drama and hysteria surrounding the recent break-up of Danity Kane, many fans and observers have been left wondering what exactly caused the demise of arguably the industry’s most promising group. What’s more, many are keen to know what the future holds for the Danity Kane brand as well former members, who they have come to know and love over the years.
We caught up with former Danity Kane star and friend of That Grape Juice D. Woods, recently, who, as ever, spoke frankly about e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g! The cause of the break-up, Dawn going solo, Bad Boy, her own solo plans, Aubrey’s Playboy spread, the future of the group and so much more. A lengthy, yet really great read. Enjoy!
Interview by: Sam – That Grape Juice // Transcription: Bisi Kade
D. Woods Shouts Out That Grape Juice
Sam: Hey D, how are you? It’s been a while since we last met up, at last year’s MOBO Awards. What have you been up to since then?
D. Woods: I have been doing a lot of revamping and reinventing myself (laughs). (I’ve) been doing a lot of work in the studio, as well as setting up some new business ventures. So that’s been like from last November till now. And of course you know the election, being all excited and going to the events for our new president! Obama. So that’s just been another big part (laughs), I feel like Obama is part of the family now.
Sam: Ok, so this week saw Dawn from the group confirm that Danity Kane is indeed no more, citing the fact only she and Aundrea turned up for the filming of the new season of Making The Band – despite all being invited. What’s your take on what appears to be the official demise of Danity Kane?
D. Woods: Well… I mean, the official split and break up was aired during the last episode of last season. It was on our season finale so that’s been fact for some time now. It was a lot longer than what the general public knew because the split happened about two months before it aired. It’s something that had been in existence since the end of August of 2008.
You know it’s unfortunate. I do believe that we had great potential, but at the same time you know all things do come to an end and I feel like we accomplished a great amount of things as a group. Now it’s just a new season, you know a season of life and just time to support each other in what we’re doing after.
Sam: What would you say led to the issues with the group to begin with? (i.e. trust, commitment, friendship etc)?
D. Woods: Well I even voiced this on that ‘final meeting’ that we had. However you know because of television editing and stuff, it didn’t quite get aired! (Laughs) But I definitely voiced it and it was definitely the general feeling of all 5 of us that the cause was the issues we were dealing with as a group with the structure around us. From the onset, you know almost literally from day one, after our names were called out to be the official 5 members of Danity Kane, we were dealing with a lot of issues – everything from business and structure, team-wise, foundation and just how to function as a group, as well as how to put the right people around us.
We were 5 individuals, with different prior experiences with the music industry and entertainment industry. So when you have all these people who have been doing it on their own and then we’re in a situation where we never had like a team leader or a coach. It’s like on a basketball team, you can’t have all these star players and not have the right coach to utilize everyone’s best assets for the good of the team, and that was something we were struggling with from the jump. And I mean you could probably even attach to knowing that ‘Danity Kane’ was capable of so much more then what you saw, but we just never quite got there, you know what I mean?
All that always goes back to the team (laughs) you know what I’m saying? The team around us. It’s not enough to just be talented, and it’s not enough for us to just work on our friendship. Our individual relationships were the smallest of issues; after all that happens with any group of people, you know what I mean? Your gonna have special relationships, your gonna have a little bit of clashing of personalities just because we hadn’t known each other before we were put into the group. These are things everyone goes through, yet really trying to make it work under such a microscope of that reality show camera (laughs), where every single issue was magnified and dramatised, took its toll, I think.
Sam: There seemed to be sentiments in the last episode that Dawn was being groomed for a solo deal of some sort?
D. Woods: Well, we knew that was happening for almost a year, (laughs) prior to it actually coming to a head at that finale meeting. And it’s just like, to me, you know that is the decision of the record label [Bad Boy]. It is what it is. During the finale meeting (not all of which was aired), I was just like (to Diddy) “I’m happy that you took to her (Dawn), I think she’s a great talent” Everyone’s preference is different, and his was her, you know what I mean? I was like you know “congratulations I hope you guys do great things”’. Unfortunately, I feel it wasn’t really presented in the right way. I feel like it’s about what you do, it’s about how you do it and I don’t feel like they (Diddy and the label) really prepared the whole collective for that particular decision in the most constructive way. That said (laughs,) it’s not really my place to say, I’m not the executive of the company and it’s not my life and my career; that’s Dawn’s decision. So, like I said when I was departing from the meeting at the last part of that episode, I was like “I’m glad he believed in you, I’m glad he saw something you in you and I hope you go far”.
Sam: Ok. Do you feel, in light of the escalating issues you described the group as dealing with, that you would have left the group irrespective of whether or not Diddy had called the meeting or ousted yourself or Aubrey? Or do you think you have probably would have stayed?
D. Woods: I can never really say, because it happened they way it did. I know that I tried many different tactics of making the situation work (laughs). During the 2 year+ span of being of a part of Danity Kane, I know that I offered as many parts of myself – my talent, my intellect, my resources, my relationships. I’m just definitely the type of person where I don’t really through my hands up and walk away. I feel like God had to make an exit for me (laughs), because I probably would have tried whatever otherr tactic I could think of to make it work. I probably would have like just kept trying until I was forced out, and that’s what basically happened (laughs). It was like “get out” and I was like “alright then, fine, I’ll leave” (laughs) you know what I mean. But, you know, when I’m a part of something I believe in I go 110%. I’m a Cancer so loyalty is definitely a prominent personality trait I have, and sometimes loyalty is to my detriment and I’m that’s just a life lesson that I’m learning, how to fine-tune that.
Sam: In our last interview, just before ‘Welcome to The Dollhouse’ dropped, you expressed that management and label issues were staple problems during the release of your first album. Did this change the 2nd go round?
D. Woods: It’s kind of like putting a bandage on a gunshot wound for a little bit, you know (laughs). That’s just the first analogy that I came up with (laughs). It’s like you can stop some of the bleeding, you make it a little bit numb to the pain, but all in all the problems were still there. I was happy that MTV did air and did showcase a little bit of the struggle that we were going through just to kind of like to gain some type of artistic integrity during that ‘Welcome to The Dollhouse’ album. I mean they only showed like the tip of the iceberg, but you know that was one of the times that I know myself and Aubrey we were tag teaming, like “Okay you talk to them (Diddy, the label, producers etc) now”… “alright you say this cause you better at talking to them in those type of ways and you know Rick Ross so why don’t you ask him to get on this song” etc. We were just really putting our heads together as to how to really make the album something that we could genuinely call our own.
But at the same time, we were like “why were we doing that?” We were just the artists, yet we had to play a lot of different roles and wear a lot of different hats, when we really should have been just thinking about being the best artistically and letting our management take those battles for us, you know what I mean? [Sighs] So, yeah experiences… it’s been a learning experience and I’m definitely proud of the album at the end of the day. Sometimes you go on an uphill battle and then you finally get to a Plateau and you’re like ‘Wooo, that was hard I don’t want to do it again like that, but I am glad I did it’ (laughs).
Sam: (laughs). Ok, so with Reality TV a lot if left on the cutting room floor, what didn’t we see that, perhaps would have shed more light on the situation?
D. Woods: Umm… I think you would have seen more of the individual roles that each one of us played, you would have seen a lot more of the creativity that I know I, myself, brought to the table. I think you would have seen a lot more of the passion, (you would have seen) that we weren’t just a bunch of whiny girls wanting it our way. We were trying hard (laughs), you know what I’m saying. We had already gone through the whole issue of proving ourselves initially and there we were proving ourselves once again; so you would have seen just more of a determination which screamed “alright okay we made it through door number 1, but we still have to get through door number 2”. You would have seen how we basically picked ourselves back up, and put ourselves back together from (a predicament of) almost being dropped from the label after the first album; and then putting ourselves back together as well as getting that motivation to not only do it again, but do it better than before.
I also wished they showed more of some of the silliness (laughs), you know what I mean? Like they made it so serious and so dramatised; we had so much fun while we were in Miami and we had some great times also at the ‘Circle House Studio’. I mean I really love those people over there. I built up a lot of good relationships with writers and producers that I probably would not have met had I not gone through that experience. One is producer Kwamѐ. I and he have continued to work together, and we have a really good working relationship. We balance ideas off one another really well. So yeah, more of the fun times.
Sam: In the trailer for the new season of ‘Making the Band’, Dawn is seen speaking to a few members of the Day 26 in one of their bust ups and she was quoted as saying ‘that DK actually thought physically’. Is there any kind of light you can shed on that?
D. Woods: I, myself, have never been in a physical altercation with any of the group members (laughs). I just know that that’s just not the way you solve problems, especially if you expect to come back together and work together. I just knew that, because, as heated as some of our discussions could get, I never wanted it to get to the physical, physical abuse…
Sam: But is it something that did go down in the group, during the time you were together?
D. Woods: I will say that a lot of objects flew (laughs) not from me, and I had to duck a few (laughs). My stature is just bigger than all the rest of girls’ I’m just tallest one, I’m a more muscular shape and everything. So I just knew that I just never wanted to be put in that position (laughs) where I would have to go into any of that. I didn’t want any of that to happen (laughs).
Sam: (Laughs!) Do you feel the direction of the group was restricted due to commitments on Making The Band in terms of International promotion, strengthening the brand as a whole? Many were perplexed when after just one single, the group went on tour, with a 2nd single (‘Bad Girl’) being released so long after.
D. Woods: To be honest, I can’t really say. I know that I wanted us to definitely have a bigger international campaign. That is one of the main arguments I made and fought for with the 2nd album and some of the things I fought for, because I just know that the world is so much bigger than just the U.S market. It’s great to be accepted at home, but there are so many opportunities to tap into and knowing that if our music could relate more to an international market then there would be so many opportunities of touring, of collaborating with other artist etc. Unfortunately, that never happened and I can’t put my finger on the exact cause (budget, etc). They (the label and team behind us) just never really like pushed it for us to travel and nurture our audience Internationally. That said, that’s definitely something I’m aiming to do with my future project; I’ve already started putting work in on that front. That’s why I was there for the MOBO Awards (back in October). I was like “I need to come over here (laughs)… I need to touch this ground because I know it’s there”. I befriended Estelle and she had a lot of things to say in terms of how things work on the UK scene. I have some friends in Amsterdam and West Africa and I’m just like ‘okay ya’ll, I just got to get there, I got to get there’. I’m making preparations for myself to be able to do things I knew that Danity Kane would have been able to do. I’m gonna make sure I do them myself, now that the opportunity is there.
Sam: In last year’s season finale, you stated that everyone hasn’t been happy for long. How long has it been since you where happy in DK and what was your last memory of enjoying moments with everyone of the girls (specific with moments with each one)?
D. Woods: (Sighs) Like I said earlier, we were dealing with problems from the very beginning, yet there were A LOT of good times. I really can’t like pinpoint a month day or anything where I can say ‘yeah this is where like the good out ways the bad’, it was always kind of like a fight between the two. It was a fight to just try to look at the glass as being more half full, (rather) than half empty.
I recently wrote a letter to my fans on MySpace ‘cause I hadn’t really spoken out about anything. But I just wanted to let them know that I was having one of those moments when I was remembering how a lot of the time it was them that kept us (DK) going. ‘Cause we were like “we have some great fans… we have some really like great people who show up to every show”. There’s fans that I know personally; I know their first and last names, their mothers, their little brothers and sisters that they brought, and it’s like they almost became like our family…we called them our ‘fanily’ instead of ‘m’ for family, but we put a ‘n’ because it’s like our fans ‘like ya’ll our fanily’. So like, it really was like those experiences with them… the things they would give us cards, scrapbooks. That, more than anything, kept us pushing because we knew that there was at least you 50 people waiting outside right then, who just want to just hang out (laughs).
Sam: D, could you please elaborate on ‘Swagga like Us’, the Girls Club song
D. Woods: Girls Club! (Laughs). The group (we write and perform together), consists of myself, Meka Means, and Shanell. You know, we are definitely all about the girl power; we will be like U.S, raunchier version of the Spice Girls (laughs).
But (about the song)… we started hearing all the remixes of ‘Swagga like Us’ and we wanted to do one. We love M.I.A (the song’s originator), so we felt we got to represent for her because all these dudes jumping on her song. We wanted to give her something for the females and that’s really it you know…
Sam: People were under the impression that you were kind of taking aim at particular members of the group [DK].
D. Woods: (Pause) well I would just have to say that if you thought (laughs) I was talking about you, maybe you did something. But I really wasn’t, though. That’s an issue one has to take on for them and ask themselves: “Is it me? Did I do that? Did she feel that way?” But generally, it’s boasting that’s all Hip-Hop is. It’s talking junk, it’s playing dozens, it’s doing all of that. It’s making analogies and that’s all that it is. Like ‘Swagga’ you know what I’m saying (laughs).
Sam: I hear you. So, Diddy is quoted as saying that he is not allowing anyone out of their contract? What’s your current contractual obligation to Bad Boy / Making The Band looking like as at now?
D. Woods: (Sighs) Well, umm, someone called me and told me about that. It was on a promo or commercial or something right? (Sighs) yeah I would have to say that (laughs) they do a lot on that show, the creators of that show, and the creators of the promos, and the editors, the producers… they’re wonderful at doing their job…on making content and baiting people to want to watch. On top of that, Puff knows his reputation in the industry and so they play on that. So I think that is that is what that was I mean… yeah….
Sam: Is it one of those things you can’t comment on?
D. Woods: I’m just not gonna (laughs) comment on it.
Sam: Sam: (Laughs). Alrighty. What does the future hold for D. Woods? Will we be seeing you on the next season of Making the Band? Sound we can expect from your solo project etc…
D. Woods: Well you should look forward to definitely seeing me; I know that is a lot of folks’ concern. Like you asked me earlier “What have you been doing since the split?”
I definitely have been taking this time to really like decompress. Especially after being so committed to Danity Kane and what we wanted to create as a group, in terms of image perception and what specifically we wanted to stand for. It’s a case of trying to switch lanes from that.
It’s a process of really getting into myself and what I want to stand for, and what I want to use my talent and my art to do. So that’s what I’ve been doing, generally.
I have a couple things (that I’m working on) that kind of touch a lot of different interests of mine. I’m developing my known profit organisation called ‘Project Girls Club’. My group ‘The Girls Club’ is kinda like our version of a music industry sorority, so Project Girls Club would be like an outreach to younger girls to inspire them to do whatever it is that interest them. Investing in their interests and coming up with different ways to just support and give outlets to the youth. So that’s what I’m currently working on as well as a lot of new music for myself and other people.
And then there’s also finding creative ways to fuse my more artsy theatrical background with my more commercial industry status right now. So one of my professors from New York University we’ve been talking, and he actually is publishing some of his writing and actually quoting some my writing that I did when I was under him (in his writing). So I was like ‘wow so I’m gonna start delving back into that side of myself and developing some stage performance stuff’. I have a degree in theatre in NYU [New York University]. So I’ve been reading scripts and looking into film and television, but also like developing new work specifically for theatre. I love being creative, which is a really great feeling and space to be in mentally. Because after having to wear so many different types of hats (laughs) you kind of forget that you’re an artist. I’m a artist, first, at the end of the day.
Sam: Can we expect a solo deal in the future?
D. Woods: Well you definitely can, yeah.
Sam: So that’s a yes?
D. Woods: Yes… and you can also expect, my mix tape series to start hitting the information airwaves, my mix tape series is entitled ‘Independence Day’ gonna drop the first of the tapes in February, and it’s gonna be a little warm up (laughs) and definitely having fun on records. You can expect ‘Swagga Like Us’ remix to be on there too (laughs).
Sam: Cool. On the season finale of making the band, Diddy insinuated that he may have made a mistake in letting you go, yet continued to defend his decision to get rid of Aubrey. If he approached to rejoin the band sans the 2nd half of ‘D. Breezy’, would you consider a return?
D. Woods: Umm I think that after being fired so publicly (laughs), I think I’m ‘damaged’… to use one of our songs (laughs). Yeah, I’m a little bit damaged. Like, for whatever reason he (Diddy) may use as to why he kicked me out of the group, it was reason enough for him to do it. I don’t believe that the reason was just because of Aubrey. There was a real reason why he decided to terminate me, which I guess only he knows; a reason that will probably come up again, if I was to return.
Sometimes when you break up with someone in a relationship, that’s really where it should end, know what I’m saying? And I wish all of them well, but trying to put it back together usually brings to the forefront why you broke up in the first place.
(Laughs) I broke up with somebody actually! I just keep going back to breaking up with my ex-boyfriend…random…(laughs) so I’m kind of like damaged in that way too…
Sam: Is that a recent occurrence?
D. Woods: Yeah so I didn’t have a Valentine this year…
Sam: Awww (laughs). I’m sure there are plenty of guys queing up for you…
D. Woods: I wish (laughs)…
Sam: Aubrey…what’s your take on her recently released Playboy spread?
D. Woods: She told me she was gonna do it, she called me when she got the offer. We talk about everything that we’re both actually offered. We talked when she was offered ‘Hairspray’ [musical], we talked about when she was offered Playboy. And I just said “You know what? If you don’t have a problem within yourself, then do it! Just make sure that it’s tasteful”. Her main thing was that she wanted to make sure it looked tasteful. She wanted to make sure it was more of an artful photo-shoot, rather than just putting it all out there. So she told me, after she was done with the shoot, that it was done really beautifully and that she was really proud of the pictures. She really loved the photographer and she the loved the stylist and the makeup and the hair. And I could tell that it was something that made her feel good, I feel good for her. You know what I mean?
Sam: Some argue Aubrey changed in comparison to when she first joined the band. What’s your take on this?
D. Woods: It depends on what everyone’s opinion on her ‘change’ is. I will say, though, people change (laughs), people do not stay the same. When she auditioned for ‘Making the Band’, she auditioned a year before I did, so now that’s going on 4 years. People change in 4 years! You know what I mean, so you can’t expect anyone to stay exactly the same.
Sam: Very true. Do you still speak with any of the girls, as well as Diddy? What’s your relationship with each of the ladies like at present?
D. Woods: Umm the relationship that we had before the spilt is basically the same. The same amount of communication that I had with each of the girls then is the same as now now…
Sam: So is it a case of you more closer to Aubrey and the other girls you speak to more sparsely?
D. Woods: Yeah.
Sam: What about Diddy?
D. Woods: Exactly the same (laughs). When it was time to talk to the boss, we talked to him. He is not my boss anymore (laughs).
Sam: Harking back to one of the earlier questions; it was said that all of the girls were invited back to the most recent season. Is there truth to that? Were you invited back but declined?
D. Woods: Because of the situation and the way that it did play out, it was very complicated. It wasn’t as simple as just an invitation to just come back and someone just saying no. It was some other things that are very delicate and we never came to an agreement on the terms of how to come back.
Sam: Ok, what are the chances of reconciliation among all five girls? Is it possible at all for the girls to record under a different label with the same etc?
D. Woods: There’s always possibilities. I think that it always depends on each individual and where they are in their life and definitely how each person conducts themselves in that time span. When we left that finale meeting, I didn’t have any bad blood with anyone. So it just would depend on how each person conducts themselves, from now till whatever reunion or whatever.
Sam: Another question people are kind of keen to pose is if it is possible for the girls to perform under a different label, but with the same name? Is that a possibility at all?
D. Woods: (Sighs) (laughs) People have been wanting to know that since the first album. Again these are all things that music industry 101, take it, read all the books (laughs) and then it’s not just ABC 123 it’s defiantly a business yeah.
Sam: Are you aware of the division the DK split has caused between the fans? Many fans are finger pointing. Any message to the fans to stop hating on one another?
D. Woods: Yeah, I mean I knew that was gonna happen. Especially in the way it was aired and shown, the whole story is never told. So I would just to anyone who may want to choose a side, you know just really… I would say thank you first of all for being so invested and so concerned, that you are emotionally to the point where you want to point a finger and your mad. Because if you didn’t care you wouldn’t be mad, so obviously we made you care enough about all of us as a group or as a individual in a group, that you feel some type of way that the group spilt up. I would say thank you first. Second I would say it was a television show that these people watched at home in their living rooms, we lived it 24/7 all your seeing is about 35 minutes or I don’t know if it’s the 30 minute episode your only really seeing 19 minutes of are 24/7 life. So you don’t know the whole story please just support each person when they do what they gonna do after it. Because you can never understand the full scope of the situation at hand. And we ourselves who lived it we’re still trying to understand what happened.
Sam: Anything else you wish to add?
D. Woods: My website is missdwoods.com, I’m re-launching the site as well this month, to come along with my mix tape ‘Independence Day’ coming soon and stay tuned be excited cause it’s a new phase and I’m always aim to just be inspirational innovative in whatever I do so just be excited for what’s gonna come, cause its gonna be good.
Your thoughts on the interview?