Some defense attorneys bristle at the idea that they keep criminals out of jail for a living. Pittsburgh lawyer Daniel Muessig clearly gives zero fucks about such concerns. In a commercial titled "Thanks Dan!" currently blazing its way across the internet, a variety of low-lifes show their gratitude to Mr. Muessig for helping them go about their shady, shady business. His promise is simple: “If you keep your trap shut, I’ll keep your trap open.” It’s the American way.
But Dan isn’t just Pittsburgh’s Maurice Levy. He’s also Dos Noun: an accomplished battle rapper and a respected veteran of the city’s hip-hop scene. He and I are also old friends and I once spent an entire summer working on an album with him in a studio in a converted dentist office in Grove City, PA.
Anyway, we talked about the commercial, legal issues, rap, and the Rust Belt.
Noisey: OK so just to make this clear, you are in fact a lawyer and this commercial is 100% serious right?
Daniel Muessig: Yes. I am real.
Why did you decide to take a pro-criminal approach to your commercial?
I wouldn’t call my approach pro-criminal per se... I would deem it be realistic in terms of who I am trying to speak with and what my potential client would need. That said, I came to it because I saw there was a dearth of criminal defense attorneys who understood what their client would actually be looking for and needing in an attorney.
So this is for a music-focused site, let’s talk about your rap career. Why do you list your Scribble Jam experience on your AVVO page? [Ed: AVVO is like Yelp for lawyers]
Because I saw all of these other lawyers touting their kinda staid legal accomplishments about papers they’ve written and certificates they’ve accrued and I thought that if I am attempting to tell people who I am and what I am about (which is so much of what it is to do criminal defense) then I should show them that.
Also I think there’s a strong connection between battle rap and advocacy.
What’s the connection?
Being able to think quickly in an intellectually and verbally combative situation in order to prevail.
Rattle off your accomplishments as a battle rapper.
I won two major battles in Pittsburgh in 1999 and 2000, then I had my well-noted face offs against Mac Lethal and Juice at Scribble Jam. I was never really a hardware accumulator though, I was more an ultimate warrior type.
And you say you were the first rapper to perform in Greece?
I was among them, ha. There’s definitely been a few places I went where I was one of the first. Certainly the first from my subgenre, especially once I started to get out there to places not in the “first world” as people here like to call it.
People don’t realize that that’s where the money is for battle rappers that came up when you did.
Absolutely. When I was out there in Hungary and Poland they were begging for the dudes from Group Home, etc.
Europe is still kinda like that isn’t it? Like Showbiz and AG are still selling out clubs in Munich.
Yeah for sure. It’s like an alternate universe where the good guys won.
Let’s talk about Pittsburgh rap. How do you feel about Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller?
Super happy they got on. They are deserving of where they’re at and they have looked out for a lot of people back here. Me and BZE actually just laid down verses for a joint with Mac. I chill with a lot of the Taylor Gang dudes regularly. Lonnie, Poose, Breezo, all my dudes. Sledgren comes by at times too. Lonnie and Poose were the armed robbers in the commercial.
Pittsburgh has a reputation for being this somewhat gentrified, healthy city (as opposed to, say, Cleveland). How much crime is there really in Pittsburgh?
A lot. Pittsburgh is rife with narcotics activity and it has a low standard of living in a lot of areas.
How much work do you get in counties further out?
A lot. We do mad work in Beaver and Fayette [County], to name a few. The outlying post-industrial areas have been devastated and inundated with drugs.
What’s the rap scene like in the shittier parts of Western Pennsylvania?
Yeah. Pittsburgh has so much street shit popping, rap-wise. 58’s, Teff (RIP), , Boaz to name a few. Pyrex Press goes pretty hard too.
What about national acts?
Jeezy, Boosie, etc. Lotta Juicy J. Some heads fuck with Starlito too.
Going back to your “the good guys won” comment … Pittsburgh still rides heavy for golden age '90s shit in a real way. You see it with Mac Miller, Boaz, and the 58’s especially. Why is that?
I think we are a combination of being 15 years behind and then that people here are not easily swayed. It's not acceptable here to modify yourself to be on the cutting edge the way it is in bigger cities. People still whip '90s Fords with DJ Clue tapes in the deck. So street dudes like the 58’s and Joey Fattz have a lot of room to be themselves and come hard.
Whoa, Joey Fatts? I was not expecting that.
Nah, Joey Fattz, aka Bazooka. From the northside aka the Bronx of Pittsburgh.
Not Joey Fatts from LA.
Nah. Our Fattz.
Have you represented any rappers in court and had to deal with someone trying to bring in lyrics or videos as evidence?
Yup. We’re appealing the Jamal Knox case. He caught state prison time for a video he made about Pittsburgh Police. Just got off the phone with him yesterday actually.
What happened there?
He made a song and a video about him and his friends distaste for task force. Video made its way to cops and he got jammed for terroristic threats.
We find it constitutionally repugnant.
Did you see the article in the New York Times about NYPD using tweets and videos to sort out gang affiliations?
Yeah. Twitter cops are real. I tell people that all the time. They link members and other participants via social media and then crush them.
I’m assuming you would also advise against selling lean on Instagram.
Yes. That is not the right way to sell lean. There’s a right and a wrong way.And that is the wrong way.
Have you defended anybody on any old-timey crimes yet?
No I have not.
Are you in trouble with the law? Call Dan at 412-454-5582 or
Skinny Friedman never breaks the law. He's on Twitter — @skinny412