One night in January 2007, D'Angelo Porter left his home in Oakland and drove to his mom's house in Modesto. After he arrived, he spent five hours straight in the home studio her boyfriend had installed. Toying with the music production program FruityLoops, he settled on a sparse, thumping drum beat embellished with a recurring keyboard refrain only one step removed from the sound of a whistling kettle. To this he added a rhyme about "not giving a fuck about no hoe" — a sentiment he enjoyed so much he christened his creation "No Hoe." At this point Porter, who raps as D-Lo, seemed to have achieved little more than adding a footnote to the library of Bay Area rap music.
But thanks to a mix of faith and fate, something exceptional happened. Over a three-year period, the song snowballed and started to take on a life of its own, culminating in the high priest of misogynistic-hued rap himself, Snoop Dogg, taking it upon himself to record a remix of it, released last month.
Getting to that point wasn't easy, though. When D-Lo began an 18-month jail sentence for attempted robbery just two weeks after the track's release in 2007, his brother, Sleepy D, took over the promotional push, pitching CDRs to kids outside high schools and keeping up an online assault. "He'd print off all the MySpace comments and send them to me in jail," D-Lo recalls. To give the track a second wind, Sleepy put the wheels in motion for a local remix, and E-40, the Jacka, and Beeda Weeda came on board. When the song's cursing and content prevented it from receiving radio play, D-Lo went through what he calls "hell and high water" to edit a clean version, which he and Beeda Weeda delivered to KMEL music director Big Von Johnson in person late in 2008.
Slowly, things escalated to the stage where, as D-Lo says, "Everybody knew the song." Its reach spread beyond the Bay. D-Lo and Sleepy's belief in its staying power was rewarded when Snoop's remix officially became version three of "No Hoe" — a move that helped the song in all its incarnations stack up an estimated eight million YouTube views. D-Lo had become Mr. No Hoe. He was defined by the song.
There's no guaranteed science to breaking a hit record. D-Lo puts the success of "No Hoe" down to intuition. As he tells it, he was "just fuckin' around" when he created the song, but had a hunch it was "something people would like." The single benefits from a catchy hook, which in its original form is helped by the rapper's name rhyming with the title, and in the edited version comes off like a stream of crazy, yapping gibberish. But it really seems the sheer, unceasing power of repetition won out for D-Lo: Play something for everyone enough times, and it'll eventually stick in people's heads.
The three-year campaign D-Lo and Sleepy D waged for one song is looking like a more effective way to establish an artist's profile and conjure up a buzz about future releases than, say, Atlanta rapper Gorilla Zoe's plans to swamp the world's ears by releasing a mixtape every day this month (a move that should presumably come with a free hard drive for each listener). While recognized stars like 50 Cent see their album releases pushed back when lead singles don't instantly stick, D-Lo's slow-burning triumph with "No Hoe" resonates like a sober reminder of the value of taking the time and effort to work a single.
With the song's life finally winding down, D-Lo's next phase is to assert himself as more than a one-hit wonder. With his album, Undeniable Talent, out later this year, he's looking to translate a heap of hype and YouTube views into tangible sales and money in the bank. He sees "No Hoe" as an advantageous jump-off point, rightly boasting, "I have a legitimate hit single — how many other new rappers can say that?"