Less than a year after the death of legendary hip-hop producer J Dilla, Detroit lost another one of its prodigal sons Tuesday. David Shayman, Business alum and ghetto-tech innovator, committed suicide at his parents’ home in Washington D.C. He was 27.
Under the moniker Disco D, Shayman produced songs on two Grammy-nominated albums that sold nearly 17 million copies combined. At the University, Shayman put a name on frenetic, ass-shaking party music that he, DJ Assault and DJ Godfather pioneered at Detroit parties and world tours. Before he graduated with honors in 2002, he started his own record label and secured himself as one of hip hop’s most promising DJs.
Ghostly International’s founder, Sam Valenti IV, first met Shayman during their freshman year when he interviewed the “DJ prodigy” for The Michigan Independent. Valenti turned to him for business expertise when he founded Ghostly, and Shayman co-produced Matthew Dear’s “Hands Up For Detroit,” which catapulted the label to electronic music’s forefront.
“As a business counsel, as an adviser, as a friend and with his spark and enthusiasm, he definitely helped,” Valenti said. “Being from Ann Arbor and having the international experience, he was like a linchpin and is part of the story.”
After releasing 2003’s ghetto-tech classic “Night at the Booty Bar,” Shayman left for New York to delve into the hip-hop industry, where he provided remixes for a litany of artists. His biggest commercial success was his production of “Ski Mask Way” off of 50 Cent’s The Massacre. He recently finished work on Trick Daddy’s upcoming single “I Pop.”
Shayman also delved into Brazilian influences, importing many of the favela beats found in Rio de Janeiro’s poorest slums. Songs he produced appeared on a variety of video games and TV shows, including the much-derided Kevin Federline single “Popozao.” He spun the criticism in interviews and message-board postings as an interesting risk and viable business opportunity. The increased visibility opened up new markets for Shayman, who branched out into scoring awards shows and creating ringtones.
The success, however, couldn’t overshadow a longstanding battle with bipolar disorder. On the Low Budget message board, typically reserved for posting remixes and upcoming DJ shows, a posting on depression last July led Shayman to open up about his condition.
“I suffer from very extreme manic-depression,” Shayman wrote. “My Grandfather killed himself when I was 11 and I’ve already tried twice. It’s really no joke man. I would never take Prozac but I’ve tried 5 different perscript meds (sic) and 5 different docs and right now I’m not on anything. “
Valenti said the medications hindered Shayman’s creativity and productivity.
“He felt his sole purpose was to be an artist and that just didn’t make it possible,” he said. “You live in danger, or if you take the medication, you live half a life. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of disorder.”
The memorial services are open and will be held today at 11 a.m. at Temple Beth Emeth (2309 Packard Road). In lieu of gifts or flowers, Shayman’s parents request that donations be made to the Neutral Zone.