D-Don (aka Diezzle Don) is deeply intertwined in the history of Newark, New Jersey's underground hip-hop scene. Back in the day, he managed Redman and helped him get his deal. He has put out albums with GovnaMattic. He claims that he put out his own label (Lockdown Entertainment) because he hustled a ¼ pound of homegrown. D-Don was also featured on "Close Ya Doorz" and "Bricks II" from Redman's last two albums. Supposedly, he's a hustler in every sense of the word and his debut solo album "Bonafide" provides an in-depth portrait of this Newark underground legend.
The best song on the album is "Ghetto Red Hot (Remix Live 2000)" featuring Redman & Gov-Mattic. Produced by Diezzle Don and Govener, this song ends the LP as the three emcees go back and forth. They have a chemistry that blazes all the way through since they've known each other practically their entire lives. Of course, Redman steals the show with his wild verses. As Erik Sermon's "Ah-Ah!" from his duet with Too Short called "Fat Gold Chain" is sampled in the background, the crew yells "The ghetto red hot!" for the hook. A great track. The title track, "Bonafide" (produced by D-Don) has that "driving money-making anthem feeling" with a slight touch of a Blaxploitation movie theme vibe. D-Don handles the hook as he describes who he is and what he does. The light scratching in the background adds to the track like a well chosen spice. D-Don's personality holds this track together well. "Heaven Or Hell" (also produced by D-Don) is a very energetic track with a guitar-like sample that bounces along as well as it pounds hard. D-Don chants the hook with an intense energy: "…The streets feel like a cell and I'm just trying to make bail / All this weight on my scale / Got me living like a platinum n*gga on the street from weed sales / Is this heaven or hell?..." D-Don's personality and realistic rhymes of hustling in Newark make him more down-to-earth and less like a superstar. He's the guy down the street who is becoming very successful on his own terms. This down-to-earth quality of his rhymes and personality make him easy to relate to and also very likable.
Other good songs add new twists to over-done concepts. Weed is a major theme with D-Don (he's down with Redman, come on!). "Smoke With Us" is a weed-smoking anthem that stands out from the typical weed tracks. It was an anthem for The Million Marijuana March. While even Redman's weed songs are getting generic, D-Don makes a played out song topic very enjoyable. Here, D-Don goes down the list of everyone he has smoked with. People like Redman and Eminem are mentioned as he declares, "…Everywhere we go -they all want to smoke with us…" It's a fun track that adds a new twist to an over-done concept. "Blazin'" (featuring GovnaMattic) is the LP's opening track. D-Don and The Govener have a serious chemistry which makes this track not only entertaining but very energetic. It's a hard-bouncing and smoked out way to kick off the album. "Money" (featuring Sig Not) is another anthem about getting paid but D-Don's personality and honest approach makes this good track. The beat is also cool as D-Don chants the hook in a sinister and deep whisper, the bass line is as funky as can be.
D-Don gets a little introspective about his family life on the album too. "Momma" featuring Nikko is a slow tribute to his mother, who raised him by herself. D-Don is inspired by Notorious BIG's lines from "Juicy" for his hook: "…I never thought it would happen this rapping stuff / I was too busy on the block and stuff / I never thought that a rap cat could make it this far / But look at me now, Momma, your boy is a star…" Nikko just sings in the background. At first, I thought this would be a typical R&B hook-driven song about his mother but it turns out to be unique even though the beat is a little boring. "Good, Bad, Tha Ugly" is another track about bitterness and how he was abandoned by his father.
There are some tracks on this album that fall between average and slightly below average in quality. "A B*tch Want My B*tch" is a raunchy tale about how a lesbian wants his girlfriend and the problems that can occur with that situation. The song is funny during the first listen but the crude hook and average beat make the track just slightly below average. "Funky Me" has a slow rhythm with old school metallic drum beats that chug along as D-Don shouts out Brick City. It's a pure filler track. "Ready Or Not" featuring Fish Grease, Chyna White, & Gov-Mattic is a very generic remake of the George Clinton favorite. Although the electric bass line is cool, the posse cut fails to be interesting. It's not bad but it's not very good either.
Guests play an interesting role in this album. Even though the LP is not filled with guest spots, D-Don is not a deep lyricist and guest collaborations are welcome. "And U Know That" (featuring Redman) feels like a rip-off since Redman does not rock a verse at all. Instead, he acts like hype-man as he yells in the background while D-Don rocks this party joint with its call-response hook. Even though it is a decent track, it leaves the listener yearning for a verse from the Funk Doctor. "What U Git" featuring Noreaga is a hard hitting keyboard-driven track that has a great energy. Noreaga and D-Don work well together. Their similar personalities make this track shine.
"Bonafide" has that dirty-Jersey feel along with that hardcore Newark hustler quality. Some tracks are far better than others but even the weak ones still fall into the decent category. There is not one track that could be considered completely wack. While most Newark emcees like The Outsidaz, Redman, Artifacts and Lordz Of The Underground are extremely wild and rowdy, D-Don is a little mellower and very cool. D-Don must be respected because he has done everything by himself. All the production, his clothing line, his lyrics, and his style are all his own. He is determined and nothing is going to stop him. He also has a cool personality and a different approach to generic topics which makes him unique. Since almost every track was produced by D-Don, the album possesses fluidity from one track to the next without sounding redundant. The album flows well and that is an amazing accomplishment since most albums completely produced by the emcee tend to fall flat. (i.e. Fredro Starr or Grand Puba). "Bonafide: Portrait Of A Hustler" is a well done portrait of the NJ resident. Like a portrait, it shows many different sides to the man. D-Don is a cool cat who is down-to-earth and fueled by money and weed. The bitter and introspective lyrics about his family show a vulnerability that most emcees do not display. This gives a soul to the album. Overall, "Bonafide" is a good album for anyone who likes hustler rhymes over fat modern funked-out beats.