Twenty years after Of the Heart, of the Soul, and of the Cross: The Utopian Experience, P.M. Dawn is a fundamentally different beast than the duo that produced that classic. In early 2005, Attrell "Prince Be" Cordes suffered a massive stroke that left him partially paralyzed. Despite the physical setback, in June of 2005, P.M. Dawn appeared on the NBC reality program Hit Me, Baby, One More Time, in which hit makers of yesteryear compete in an on-air talent show for charity. P.M. Dawn trounced the competition—including Missing Persons, Juice Newton, and Shannon—to claim the $20,000 prize for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Following P.M. Dawn's reality-TV triumph, Jarrett "DJ Minutemix" Cordes left the band to pursue a solo career. Filling the void: Doc G, also known as the Doc of the Dawn and the Cordes brothers' first cousin. With Prince Be's blessing, Doc G carries on the P.M. Dawn flame, touring a show of P.M. Dawn classics and his own material around the world. (Doc G's solo album, The Purr-Script-Shun, is available on iTunes and at his website www .docofthedawn.com.) Reached by phone in Queens, New York, Doc G filled me in on the state of the P.M. Dawnosphere.
How are you?
I'm gonna tell you—it's been hard. Prince Be has not been well lately. It's been tough.
His heath is significantly compromised, correct?
Yes, significantly. He's had about, maybe, three strokes, and one of his legs became gangrenous, and they had to amputate it below the kneecap. He's in Jersey doing physical therapy. It's tough. I pretty much control everything [related to P.M. Dawn] right now.
How did you first come to be involved with the group?
Before the group came to form, Prince Be and I had a conversation—he may have been 17 and I was 15—and he came up with the idea to make a group. Originally, he and his brother were DJs—they were Courageous Cut and Minutemix—and I always rhymed. But I was growing up in Queens and I was a victim of bullying, and I finally had my "rise up" moment where I beat up the local bully/drug dealer, and he put out some type of weird... I don't want to say "contract," but the word on the street was that somebody was going to attack me for, I think, $4,000. So I went into the navy. It totally blew Prince Be away. He was like, "What about this group?" And I said, "I have to do this. I have to think of my family."
Your stint in the navy coincided with the Gulf War, right?
Yes. I was swabbing a deck aboard the USS Orion, and I hear over the radio, "Duh DAH-dah-dah-dah...." [the opening to "Set Adrift on Memory Bliss"] and I go, "That's my squad!" After P.M. Dawn blew up, Prince Be and Minutemix tried using their new resources and finances to get me out of the navy. They were trying to get me to go AWOL. I finally got myself out after my mother sent me a valentine in February 1992. Inside the card was the Daily News clipping of when KRS-One attacked P.M. Dawn. She said, "Look what they did to your cousins." I thought, "I gotta come back. I gotta be there for them." I stayed a year in a transit personnel unit, got out on August 23, 1993, and Prince Be drove down and scooped me up. We've been inseparable ever since.
Do you know what DJ Minutemix is up to now?
He's trying to manufacture a solo career. In the beginning, we used to lie and say he left the group—but in all actuality, he was terminated for what I like to call conduct detrimental to the bliss. I'm pretty sure you remember the rape case. [In 1995, Jarrett "DJ Minutemix" Cordes was arrested on charges of aggravated sexual assault after allegedly having sex with a 14-year-old relative. Charges were eventually dropped due to lack of evidence.] Prince Be and I are Christian, fun-loving people who do the right thing, and DJ Minutemix, whatever he calls himself, we don't affiliate ourselves with him... I don't come at anybody with anger. I actually saw KRS-One at a party in Queens, and for a hot second I wanted to retaliate. It just wasn't the thing to do. It wasn't smart in any way. I remember telling Prince Be about it, and he said, "Doc, leave it alone. That's not what we are. It's never been what we are." And he's right. We're better than that. We've always been above it, so why break the system now?
Does Prince Be know about and enjoy P.M. Dawn's influence on the contemporary rap scene?
Yes. Kanye West, T-Pain, Outkast... but you can't mention P.M. Dawn without mentioning De La Soul, and you can't mention Arrested Development without mentioning P.M. Dawn. Everybody begets somebody. We had the weirdness. Now it's okay to be weird; it's okay to wear bizarre things. It's kind of like how Big Daddy Kane talked about being a pimp and macking the girls, and he was criticized for it—it was called selling out—then Biggie does the same thing, and it's gangsta and he's the dopest lyricist of all time. Hiphop is unapologetically contradictive. That's just the way it goes.
When do you think Prince Be will be able to join you onstage again?
I wish it could be the way it was. I don't know if he'll ever be able to join me again. Prince Be is doing his best to try and get back his health. I think the death of Nate Dogg woke him up. He was slacking a bit. I don't know if Nate had diabetes, but, you know, the strokes... Prince Be can still sing a bit, but he has paralysis in his right hand and it's a little tough. I wish I had the funds for a portable dialysis machine. We'd go on the road. I have this whole vision to get him back out there. I actually had an idea of putting him in a wheelchair and dressing him up like a Utopian Professor X. So people don't see the amputated leg, I'd drape a cape over his legs, with, like, a rhinestone infinity sign. We talk about these things, and he's like, "You know what? That'll work!"