D-Nice secured his place in music history as a member of Boogie Down Productions, the venerable hip-hop group featuring mentor Scott La Rock and KRS-One. Repurposing his verses from the early BDP track “D-Nice Rocks the House,” the DJ, producer, and rapper scored an indisputable rap classic of his own with the suave, funky, self-produced “Call Me D-Nice” (1990), a Top 20 hit on Billboard’s Hot Black Singles chart that was soon swiped for Ice Cube’s “Jackin’ for Beats.” After two albums for Jive and assorted side work with production, remixing, and featured appearances, D-Nice ceased recording in the mid-’90s and has since become known as a highly sought photographer and DJ.
Born and raised in Harlem before he moved to the Bronx as a youngster, Derrick “D-Nice” Jones was only 15 when he met DJ Scott La Rock and joined Boogie Down Productions. Formed in 1986, the group debuted the same year with “South Bronx,” co-billing La Rock, Blastmaster KRS-One, and D-Nice. While the significantly younger D-Nice didn’t receive formal credit for his early contributions to BDP — not for nothing was he nicknamed “the Human TR-808” and “the 808,” among other variations, after the popular drum machine manufactured by Roland — his stature grew significantly when he and KRS-One produced the the Stop the Violence Movement’s “Self-Destruction.” A consciousness-raising benefit recording for the National Urban League, the track featured an all-star cast of New York MCs and reached number 30 on Billboard’s Hot Black Singles chart in 1989. By then, D-Nice had signed a solo deal with Jive, the label supporting BDP and the Stop the Violence Movement, and even helped fledgling BDP opener Kid Rock land a contract of his own.
Just out of his teens, D-Nice made his solo debut in 1990 with Call Me D-Nice. He produced or co-produced each song, including the signature title track, which entered the Black Singles chart in August and peaked at number 19, while the parent release reached number 75 on Top Pop Albums (number 12 on Top Black Albums). BDP’s Edutainment was issued around the same time and was the group’s last studio LP to feature D-Nice. In 1991, he followed up with To tha Rescue (number 137 pop, number 27 R&B), a tougher album with more live instrumentation and KRS, Naughty by Nature, and Too $hort among the collaborators. Over the next few years, tracks by the likes of Shabba Ranks and Queen Latifah, the Flavor Unit MCs, Hi-Five, and Nuttin’ Nyce involved D-Nice in a role or two.
Having clashed with Jive over his stylistic direction and ventured into operating a short-term label of his own, D-Nice opted to cease relations with the commercial music industry, at least as a recording artist. He regained his footing as a web developer later in the ’90s, started a creative services company in 2000, and thereafter became a high-profile photographer (with album covers for Pharoahe Monch and Kenny Lattimore in his varied portfolio). Additionally, he picked up major gigs as a DJ emphasizing classic R&B and hip-hop, working private parties, President Barack Obama’s 2012 inaugural ball, Oscar galas, and the Essence Festival. During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, his “Club Quarantine” party on Instagram Live attracted over 100,000 simultaneous viewers.