New York City, the birthplace of this musical and cultural monster we call hip-hop, has been enjoying a renaissance of late.
At just 20-years-old, the Brooklyn native already boasts an impressive resume: he was signed to Warner Bros. in late 2011 (a major label deal that was later switched to Atlantic Records), fronts the nine-piece collective Phony Ppl, and recently released 'A Portrait Of Donnovan', a distinguished free solo project which yielded underground hits and earned placement on near enough every major rap blog.
Oh, and he puts on a pretty good show, too.
Despite the modest turn out, DyMe brought the energy and emotion of a Hot 97 Summer Jam performance to his gig at Camden’s Barfly in mid-April – the gig was his second on his first-ever European tour proper.
His exuberance carried the crowd during cuts like ‘Gettin $$$’, while his performance of ‘Father's Day’, one of the most personal records on his aforementioned mixtape, prompted a tender round of applause. It was a successful introduction to his fans on this side of the pond.
Once the dust settled on stage, DyMe spoke to Clash about the warm reception to 'A Portrait Of Donnovan', bumping Jay-Z as a toddler and carrying the torch for hip-hop's next generation…
– – –
DyMe-A-DuZiN – ‘Swank Sinatra’ (from ‘A Portrait Of Donnovan’)
– – –
You’re freshly landed in the UK. How's it been so far?
I haven't been keeping track of the days; I've just been working. It's been great, though. It's inspiring. It's like a whole new world out here.
Been to Nando’s yet?
(Laughs) No, I’ve not – but I will soon. Right now I’m very full. I had a meal before the show, which is a bad idea. I may have to force (a Nando’s) down, though. I hear that it’s really good. (Laughs)
You were in London back in 2011. What’s changed for you since then?
I’ve put out a few tapes. First I put out ‘20=X’, and that did its thing. Me and Plain Pat got the Warner Bros. deal, which is now an Atlantic deal, as urban artists were moved from one place to another. It’s very different to 2011, because now I have the music out there. ‘A Portrait Of Donnovan’ dropped in January (2013), and a lot of people have accepted it well. As you can see today, people came out and supported, and knew the songs. It’s dope.
The reception to ‘A Portrait…’ has been great. Is there a standout response to it that you’ve seen?
Oh, I had a few four-out-of-five reviews on hip-hop sites. And people have told me that it’s really dope and refreshing, and that I have a lot of potential. Four-out-of-five for a mixtape I did when I was 19… It took a year to do, and we really put a lot of effort into it. But I feel like I can still do a lot more.
The mixtape has a lot of personal songs on it, like ‘Memories’ and ‘Father’s Day’. Which track was the hardest, emotionally, to write?
The emotional songs are actually the easiest to write, because they’re raw. This is how I feel, and this is how I’m going to write. It’s never hard for me to put out my feelings – it’s actually therapy for me. I feel better when I do it. It’s important to put this emotion into my music – it’s a relatable aspect for my fans, and it really helps me get things off my chest. It’s what I do. It’s poetry.
For readers not up to speed on what’s happening in New York, you’re part of the Beast Coast movement – which also included Joey Bada$$ and Pro Era, Flatbush Zombies and The Underachievers. How did you guys all link up?
We all came together – me, Joey, (Capital) STEEZ and CJ (Fly) – at the same high school. We would all be in rap cyphers and stuff. I would see Zombies (Clash interview here) around at parties, and I was a fan of their music and we shared mutual friends. The Underachievers (interview), they’re really great guys. Before I even heard their raps, they were just cool guys from around the neighbourhood. So it’s really dope to see guys that you came up with actually coming up with you and becoming the new guys, the new rappers of this generation.
Can you define the Beast Coast movement?
The Beast Coast movement is very diverse, very rugged. We’re the future, man! The future, baby! (Laughs)
And what about the ‘90s flavour in the beats? There are shades of Ma$e and Dynasty-era Jay-Z in there. Where did this golden-age influence come from?
Woo, Ma$e! That was some classic material. But yeah, coming up, as you said, we’d hear Dipset, Jay-Z – from ‘Streets Is Watching’ to ‘The Blueprint 2’ – and we grew up on that. I was born in 1992, and Jay came out in 1996, so we were sneaking in, listening to those records.
So you were listening to Jay-Z as a really small child?
I mean, you can’t understand everything you hear when you’re that small – but you grow up and you go back to the music that you remember from back then, and you understand it more. So you become like those rappers and understand where they are coming from. That music really raised us, and continues to raise us to this day, because some of those artists are still doing their thing.
What era do you think the next wave of rappers might draw influence from?
I look at it like this: we are the new generation, so it’s wherever we want to take it. We can continue to be like the 1990s; or we can gather inspiration from different places and create our own, original sound for the next generation to be influenced by.
There’s been suggestions of a Beast Coast mixtape. Any details on that?
No, not at all. I just can’t talk about it. (Laughs) I won’t talk about it… I’ll just let you hear it.
And what’s next for you, on a solo front?
I’m just out here, gathering inspiration in the UK on this tour. I really needed to get out of New York and become more experienced, to become smarter, and deal with new situations. All of these experiences are already playing into my new material. These moments – everything that’s happening now – is going to come to life. My next project will be based on what I’m experiencing now.
– – –
Download DyMe-A-DuZiN’s ‘A Portrait Of Donnovan’ for free here.
Words: Andy Bustard
– – –
Get the best of Clash on your iPhone – download the app here