Artists never know what or who is going to inspire them so they move like sharks, always searching for the next thing. But they always circle back to the first thing, never forgetting who had the biggest impact.
For D'Angelo Hardy, that was Lionel Hogan, who passed away in November from the effects of COVID-19. For four decades Hogan, also known as D.J. Jammin' L, played venues all over the city, inspiring a dozen protegés, including Hardy, 54, who is also known as D.J. 2 Tuff and has been working in the city for 35 years.
Hogan's death told Hardy something about himself. He'd been talking for years about publishing some of his own original music, but now Hardy knew he had to either sit down in his home studio (called The Laboratory) and actually put music to CDs or forget about it.
“We grew up together,” Hardy said.
“We have a 50-years-plus friendship so that really crushed me when he passed. It was put up or shut up time.”
Hardy recently dropped “Beats to Bump To Vol. 1 and Vol. 2,” which are dedicated to Hogan. The mix tapes of hip hop, R&B, dance music, slow jams are available at Wooden Nickel or by download or stream at iTunes, Spotify and Distro Kit. They are also available through Hardy's DJ2Tuffsoundzbumpinproductionz page on Facebook.
“I feel great because I can remember sitting back here for hours and hours after I got off work and putting beats and sounds together and tweaking and adding effects to them,” he said. “I put my time in and I have a lot of songs I still have to get mastered. I feel really good. I get goosebumps sometimes thinking about this.”
He's enjoyed it so much, he's already at work producing on a third volume, “The Gemini Experience,” which he hopes to have on sale in February.
Hardy's musical history started early. He used to have the biggest boom box at Harding High School, a 90-watt, four-speaker monster that required 12 batteries and was so heavy he needed a guitar strap to help carry it. After graduating in 1985, Hardy joined the Air Force for a 10-year stretch. He supplemented his income by playing music on the bases and creating and selling mix tapes.
“When I was stationed in Michigan, MTV and BET came out,” Hardy recalled. “I would sit up there and watch all the videos and write them down. Billboard Magazine had the Top 100, and what I would do is go down to the record store and order on Monday so they would be in on Friday so I could play them. It was nothing for me to spend $200 on records.”
He'd also make mix tapes and sell them for $10, making between $200 and $300 each weekend. When CDs started getting popular around 2000, he bought a burner from Sweetwater and then designed covers and labels and playlists, making sure everything looked professional.
“I loved it because to this day I run into people who say they still have this tape or that CD,” Hardy said. “That drives me and makes me feel good.”
In 1996, Hardy came home to go to school and help support his family. He's been performing at area clubs ever since, though the pandemic has given him more time to work in the studio. He still hosts a show from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturdays on the Allen County Public Library's station, WELT 95.7. He plays his mix music during the first hour and then slows it down for slow jams, which he calls the Lovers Hour. He's been producing the show since 2016.
For the last 10 years, he's been concentrating on producing, learning the business side of the music. He's been learning recording techniques from DJ Polaris and getting pointers from DJ Julio Rankin, Rocko Blanco, Reggie Allen and Sweetwater's Chuck Surack.
Sometimes, just like now, it's been tough to earn steady money simply with the music, but Hardy went to school to learn HVAC and construction, worked for Coca-Cola and Pepsi and has been an apartment maintenance supervisor for 18 years. As he said, he can do a little bit of everything to earn money.
But Hardy still loves the music every bit as much as he did 30 years ago. It keeps him young and dreaming.
“I got some buddies who gave it up and that's fine, but I just love music,” he said. “I just pull from what's inside, man. If I hear a sound, I'll be that sounds good and I'm already thinking what's going to come with it? It's music, which is a universal language.”