A quick glance at Bigg D's Wikipedia page shows an impressive resumé. He wrote songs for Mariah Carey and produced music for Rick Ross, Jamie Foxx, and Jennifer Lopez. But midway through an interview with New Times, he dropped a bomb revealing his Miami musical bona fides.
"You know that Miami Heat song 'Can You Feel the Heat'? I produced and wrote that."
Any local basketball fan old enough to remember going to Heat games at the old Miami Arena will feel a heavy dose of nostalgia hearing that hip-hop-infused Caribbean theme. "The Miami Heat had a challenge back in 1996 looking for a theme song. People all over the world tried out," Bigg D recalls. "Mine was the one they picked."
The Carol City native born Derrick Baker was already a musical veteran at that point: "From 5 I was playing guitar in church with my brother." As a teenager, he was touring America playing with gospel artists. "This was before Trick Daddy or Rick Ross. The only artist to look up to in Miami was 2 Live Crew and Betty Wright," he says. "But that Miami music wasn't like New York or West Coast. We had booty-shaking music. People in other cities respected Miami because of that style of music."
Bigg D would later help shape what people thought of the Miami sound, but before he transitioned from performer to producer, tragedy struck. "My brother, who was 2 years younger [and] who I always played with, was on that ValuJet plane crash in the Everglades. The Miami Heat song was the first project I did after his death."
Bigg D kept busy in the studio. Production, he said, was always at the forefront of his mind when he was a kid. "When I listened to songs to try to learn how to play them, I fell in love with the sound. The way the drum was, how the bass was. I'd listen to Earth, Wind & Fire or Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis with Janet Jackson. I'd sit behind the console and try to make music as big and rich."
The first big record he worked on was with Pitbull. "I grew up with him. Mr. 305. We're like family." Bigg D credits Lil Wayne for his breakthrough. "He's a real down-to-earth cat. Always treated me with respect. He believed in my sound and was very easy and creative." But he counts Trick Daddy as his most fun collaborator. "He's crazy. He'll just stop a session and start cooking conch fritters."
In perhaps the craziest example of how things work behind the scenes in the 21st-century music business, Bigg D got a production credit for a Jay-Z track without ever meeting the man. "I recorded 'Hello Brooklyn' with Lil Wayne. When Jay-Z heard it, he wanted it on the American Gangster soundtrack. That was the first time he and Lil Wayne worked together. Later I met Jay-Z in New York in an elevator. I told him I produced that record. He was like, 'What's up, Bigg D?' That's how we first met."
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After making all these connections while producing, Bigg D is back to his first love — performing. Bigg D & Da Band will open Jazz in the Gardens this Saturday, March 9. He'll lead a six-person band with drums, two keyboards, bass, and trombone. "I feel comfortable onstage," he says. "I love seeing the crowd feeling good. I always tell artists to play onstage with a band. I made Flo Rida get a band. Now he won't perform without a band because it makes the songs bigger."
It's impossible to get a hint of what Bigg D and Da Band will sound like Saturday because they've yet to record any material. Bigg D hopes to remedy that soon by getting in the studio with some original sounds. He says audiences this weekend can expect some Top 40 covers, jazz, pop, and soul. "We play good music with some up-and-coming artists you'll be on the lookout for, like Final Draft," he says.
But he's hesitant to say much more about the show — because there will be some surprises. "Some big names," he promises, as though a man who calls himself Bigg with two g's would have it any other way.
Jazz in the Gardens. 3 p.m. Saturday, March 9, and Sunday, March 10, at Hard Rock Stadium, 347 Don Shula Dr., Miami Gardens; hardrockstadium.com. 305-943-8000; Tickets cost $72-$89 via ticketmaster.com.