Deante’ Hitchcock talks his debut album “BETTER,” his penchant for freestyling, Dogecoin, and his bright future in the latest episode of HNHH’s “On The Come Up.”
In 2015, Kendrick Lamar rapped, “Critics want to mention that they miss when hip-hop was rappin’/Motherfucker, if you did, then Killer Mike‘d be platinum.” Six years later, that sentiment holds true for a rising class of gifted lyricists and songwriters and namely, Atlanta’s own Deante’ Hitchcock.
The Bystorm Entertainment and RCA Records artist has been steadily on the rise for years, as evidenced by his participation in the Revenge of the Dreamers III sessions held in Atlanta in 2019, his impeccably crafted debut album BETTER in 2020, and most recently, his blazing New Atlanta Tuesdays freestyle run this year. As an artist who landed a major label record deal off the strength of car freestyles, Hitchcock has long held the reputation of being an exceptionally skilled rapper, and with the release of his album last year, he also proved himself to be an artist who is capable of creating music that touches fans on deep emotional and spiritual levels, too. Despite favorable reviews, BETTER somehow managed to fly under the radar upon its release, but that didn’t diminish Deante’ Hitchcock’s hunger in the slightest.
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This spring, Deante’ Hitchcock returned to his roots and unleashed a flood of incredible freestyles that saw him hopping on everything from classics like Lil Wayne’s “Let The Beat Build” to OutKast’s “Roses” to newer tracks like EarthGang’s “Baptize” and Drake’s “What’s Next.” Now, as 2021 comes to a close, the Atlanta artist has caught up with HNHH for the latest episode of On The Come Up, and during his interview, he discusses his come-up, his family’s unique musical history, the creation process of his debut album, freestyling, Dogecoin, and so much more.
Read the unabridged editorial version of the interview below, edited for clarity.
WATCH: Deante’ Hitchock “On the Come Up”
HNHH: Tell me about where are you from?
Deante’ Hitchcock: I’m from Atlanta man. I was born in Grady Memorial Hospital. I don’t know if anyone who’s not from Atlanta is too familiar with it, but it’s like one of the most famous hospitals around here. Born in Grady, lived in South West Atlanta for the first half of my life. Then I moved over to the Southside and Clayton County, with Riverdale and College Park and all that. So yeah, I’m from Georgia.
What was it like growing up in Riverdale and the different parts of Atlanta you were from?
Personal life is pretty much the same for a lot of my patnas and a lot of my homeboys. We had my Dad around for maybe five or six years in tge house. Then after that, it was mostly just me and my mom, and my little brother after he was born. I grew up like that man, pretty much the same as everybody else’s story. That seems to be the case for most of us.
But Atlanta is just different dawg. Growing up there, it’s like a melting pot for real for real, for everything. You got the hoods right here and then five minutes up the road, literally the neighborhood over you got mansions. So it was never just one perspective that we got. Even growing up here with the music scene. You had folks that was rapping on some real street shit. Then you had the folks that was rappin’ on they real eclectic shit. Then you had folks that was doing rock. Then you had folks that was singing BlueGrass music. We have so many different styles around here, it’s a lot to pull from.
Speaking specifically about Clayton County, some of the people who have come out of there are Ciara, Waka Flocka, and Latto. Did anyone on that side of town influence you musically?
If I said anybody that influenced me for real from my side, it would really be 2 Chainz. Not necessarily in style, but just wanting to do it. Just seeing it for real and being like, “Okay, I like that. He’s from here. He made it out of here. I can do this same thing.”
“If I said anybody that influenced me for real from my side, it would really be 2 Chainz. Not necessarily in style, but just wanting to do it. Just seeing it for real and being like, ‘Okay, I like that. He’s from here. He made it out of here. I can do this same thing.’”
I been doing music since I was about 12 years old but I didn’t take it seriously until I was twenty or twenty-one. That was when 2 Chainz had his resurgence when he came out with the T.R.U. mixtape and all of that, so I was like, “Yeah, I can do this too.” So yeah, 2 Chainz fasho.
You’ve got a lot of recognizable samples in your music, from Minnie Ripperton to Splack Pack, so it begs the question — what music was playing in your house when you were growing up?
Crazy enough, it wasn’t none of that. My dad was a real big prince fan. I’m talm ‘bout loved Prince. Purple is his favorite color because of Prince. It got to the point where it was a little weird [laughs], but Prince makes great music so I can’t be mad at that. So Prince was playing in the crib. Anita Baker. You know how your folks wake you up on Sunday to clean or Saturday to clean and they play music all around the house? It was that type of old-school flavor.
My uncle Marlon, the one that got me started on rapping, he had lived with us at one point — he used to play more of the rap music around the house. That’s how I got into Outkast and even the up North folk like Jay-Z and everybody else. My uncle put me on rap for real. My parents was just listening to classic music, real soulful, real feel-good songs.
That actually brings me to my next question. I was watching your Sway interview from last year and he mentioned that you come from a royal bloodline of Black music, so is that uncle who co-wrote TLC’s “No Scrubs?”
Yeah, that is him. His name is Marlon Hitchcock.
What was that relationship like with him? How did he get you into rap?
My uncle used to rap. He had a group. I can’t remember the name of the group, but he rapped around the same age that he started me up, like 13 or 14 years old. He rapped with some of his homeboys, but things didn’t pan out how they wanted it to pan out. As he got older, he never lost his love for music. When I was 11 and 12, I had another patna that was real close to the family that was already rapping. My uncle was managing him, and he wanted to make another group. But he didn’t have anybody else to do it with, so he pulled me in. He used to write my raps and everything. Rapping was not something I picked up on my own. Music was not something I picked up on my own. I was at the skating rink, I was playing football, I was doing regular-degular kid shit, y’mean? He put me onto it,and I was, “Dang I actually kinda like this, shawty.” But more so, I wanted to prove to him that I could do it. That’s why I started writing my own. One day I was like, “I don’t need it, just let me write my own and I’ll figure it out.” I started to put my own stuff out, and it just went from there.
How did your family react to you finally deciding that you were going to take music seriously?
Boy, my family was pissed when I said I wanted to do this shit for real. If you wanna be a teacher, a lawyer, or a doctor, there’s a set path for you to do it. You graduate high school, you go to college and get your degree for X, Y, Z. But with a path like music or being an artist or a painter or something like that, there’s not really a roadmap for it. Your parents and your parents want you to be safe in life. They want you to be stable and be able to take care of yourself, and with this, there’s always a chance that you can’t. No matter how talented you are, no matter how far you get, there’s always a chance that something can go wrong, and there’s no real safety net for it. It wasn’t a case where it was like, “Nah we just don’t believe in you” or “Don’t follow your heart,” but “We want this for you. There’s always a chance that it won’t pan out, and we don’t want to see you hurt about it.” So it’s understandable, but they was on my head. It was bad.
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What would you have done if you hadn’t pursued music? What were you in school for?
I was actually there for Pre-Med. My mom’s a nurse. My girl’s a nurse. I was going down that path. I was actually doing pretty good, I had one more year ‘til I graduated. Literally. Then I was like, “Nah, i’m straight.” They were hot at me about that too because I still owe some student loans, but they gon’ have to get that back in blood. We gon’ see about it.
You dropped your first project at Georgia Southern. Tell me about your experience.
Georgia Southern was cool. That time was a real blur. I highly suggest folks go to college. Even if it’s not something you see yourself panning out or finishing, I highly suggest folks go to it for the experience, if you have the money to do it. Them students loans almost deter me from making that statement, but college might have been the greatest experience of my life. It was the first time I was really out of the house. I met lifelong friends. Some of the folks who shoot the videos for me now, some of the folks I still do music with to this day, I met down there. It’s just a different experience from being under your parents’ roof. A lot of liquor, a lot of drugs, a lot of partying. But at the same time, a lot of lifelong friendships and a lot of bonds that still aren’t broken to this day. One of the greatest three-year experiences of my life man, for real.
On “I Remember,” you referenced working at Georgia Southern’s Lakeside Dining Commons, tell me what that experience was like.
Man, fuck them folks. They fired me, dawg. Landrum and Lakeside were basically like all-you-can-eat places on campus. I was working there at the omelet station. I used to go back and forth between both of them because they were short-staffed. I used to flip the omelets and me and another one of my patnas who used to work right next to me used to go at it, like it’s a competition. We flipping the omelets, putting the toppings on the outside of the omelets, getting them sauced up and everything. Then at one point, I had a tip jar. I just set it on the table. Bro, them folks fired me because of the tip jar. They said it was because I didn’t clock in, but they fired me one day after I had got in trouble for the tip jar. It was a good experience though — I learned how to make a good omelet.
You dropped 19 Summers while you were in college, but let’s jump to the next stage in your career. The next big project that you dropped was Good. Run me through that transformative four years for you.
After I dropped out, I went to Minnesota for about five or six months. I was up there in the cold, and I was there building snowmobiles. It was random as hell. But before I left, one of my patnas who was my roommate down there, had a sister that was still in Atlanta and she was working on music with this guy named Brandon. My patna used to send his sister the music, and his sister put Brandon onto the music. He hit me before I left like, “Bro I really work with you.” At this time, I was like, “I can’t do it,” ‘cause I’m finna disappear for a few months to go up to west bumblefuck and make snowmobiles. When I got back though, me and Brandon started linking up. And that’s the same guy that produced all of that whole record: Brandon Phillips Taylor. That’s my brother, that’s my roommate now and everything. That period of dropping out and making the leap of faith kinda put everything in position for everything that’s happening now. I just had to be like, “Okay, this is what I’m doing.” I had to actually make the decision. Then all of the people who needed to be in my life and all the situations that I need to be in just started happening.
Along that journey, you became known for your freestyles. Do you remember the first freestyle that you ever recorded?
The first freestyle I ever recorded was a 2 Chainz song. I want to say it was “I’m Different.” But I had got into a car accident. I was driving one of them old Dodge Magnums. I got into an accident in Stone Mountain, headed to work. I ended up getting a real nice car through bruh’s insurance, so I had a drop-top Mustang for probably about two weeks. I just really wanted to flex in the Mustang, so I hopped out there and had my little brother on the camera. That’s how it all started — I just wanted to pop my shit while I had a drop-top. I think within a week, the first person to hit me up about them was Wale. I think the next week or the next two weeks, Charlamagne Tha God hit me. Then everything kept going from there. We got on the Shade Room, and it was just a whole bunch of shit man. All from just wanting to pop some shit. It’s wild.
You mentioned Wale and Charlamagne, but what was the freestyle that got Mark Pitts’ attention?
The freestyle that got Mark Pitts’ and the whole label’s attention was Kendrick Lamar’s “good kid, M.A.A.D. City” joint. It was the “Black Lives Matter Freestyle.” That’s the one that Shade Room picked up. Once they posted that mug, I probably got 30,000 followers in a single night. I was sitting there watching my phone like, “This shit is insane.” My phone was overheating, I’m talking about cutting off at random. I would turn it back on, and it’s a whole nother 200 people in the follow list. The comments going crazy, everything. It was that freestyle, then he hit me up and I was like, “Bruh, it’s a spam page.” I aint even answer it. Then I dropped another freestyle, the So Gone challenge, the one Chance The Rapper did and everybody started doing it. I did that one too, and then bruh hit me back up. We talked and he flew us out, I think that next week, to New York. They ain’t heard no music. No nothing. They just heard them two freestyles. That’s it.
Just working with someone who is a legendary music industry veteran — How does it feel to work with someone who managed Biggie?
It’s amazing dawg. Mark is a legend in a couple rights. Whether it’s on the business side or whether it’s on the music side, that man is a legend. Even beyond Biggie, he worked with some other folks too, from Chris Brown, J. Cole, all them folks. A lot of our favorites today, a lot of our favorites of yesterday, bruh done had a hand in their careers. I get to go through the same type of ‘passing of the torch’ right now so it’s real cool.
“Mark [Pitts] is a legend in a couple rights. Whether it’s on the business side or whether it’s on the music side, that man is a legend. Even beyond Biggie, he worked with some other folks too, from Chris Brown, J. Cole, all them folks. A lot of our favorites today, a lot of our favorites of yesterday, bruh done had a hand in their careers.”
Other than Pitts who else have you received your biggest co-signs from?
Touring-wise, we went out with Rapsody, went out with 6lack, JID, Wale, and Jidenna. They definitely played a role in propelling us far as we are. Of course, the Dreamville joint. That was really the biggest one. I got the plaque sitting right there on that wall as soon as you come in. First plaque ever, first number one ever. I didn’t see something like that happening ‘til at least four or five years into this career. Dawg, Cole and the whole Dreamville really set up a lot of us for a different kind of trajectory. So yeah, Cole and all them other folks I just named. Fasho.
Tell me about the moment you got the invitation for the sessions?
So at first, I didn’t get the invitation for the first day. So everybody dropping their golden tickets. It’s like Cozz, JID, EarthGang, all the Dreamville folk, and then it’s like a couple of extra folk that weren’t in Dreamville. I’m mad, I’m pissed off. I had just met Cole for the first time probably like three or four months prior to that. I had already known Earth Gang, I had already knew JID. I think I had met Bas right before that, and we had just got off tour with 6lack and Ari Lennox. So I’m sitting here like, “Damn they in Atlanta.” That’s what really had me hot. Niggas in Atlanta. Ain’t Nobody said nothing. Ain’t Nobody hit me up and said shit. I was like, Okay. Cool. I was talking to my manager that same night and I was like, “Aite, I really just gotta turn up. I can’t be mad.” I can be mad because I guess that’s going to fuel me to do more but at the same time I gotta make it so whenever something like that happens again, they not gone overlook me, especially if they in my backyard.
That night I remember writing. It was like six or seven verses. It might have been more than that for real for real, but I was on a tear. I knew I just had to work harder. The next day I got my invitation. Literally the next day. So it’s like, “Okay, alright I see what’s going on, know what I’m saying?” Somebody always told me, “If you put in that work and everything else is going to happen around you. All you gotta do is keep yo’ head down and do the work. You ain’t even gone notice but everything is gone come full circle around you.” That’s a testament to it.
That’s really inspiring, and then you went on to have a scene-stealing performance on“PTSD.”What went into the making of that verse?
It’s crazy dawg. The making of that verse wasn’t anything grandiose, it wasn’t anything special, it wasn’t nothing crazy. I think we was sitting in the smallest room in Tree Sound. There’s the A room, which is the biggest room in there. As soon as you come out of the A room there’s this room right behind the door. It’s like maybe as big as the kitchen I’m sitting in right now. We in there hot as hell. We got a lil fan going. We passing it around while we recording. It’s probably like seven of us in there. It’s me, Mereba, Cam O’bi, Masego, and I think Alex from St. Beauty was in there. Omen might have been in there that day, I don’t remember. Mez was in there, too. It was a lot of us to be in that small ass room. I think that might have been the last verse that I did as far as out of our whole entire process. What’s crazy is — it was my least favorite verse out of everything that I put down. That’s why it was so wild to me. Everybody who I talked to about that verse. Everybody who has talked to me about that verse says, “It hit ‘em in a different type of way.” And folks would be like, “Dawg this is the best verse on the whole entire project, best verse on the whole album.” And I’m like, “That’s so crazy.” It really made me just sit down and think, “Damn, all of this is perspective.” Ya’mean? ‘Cause the verse that I thought was my least favorite performance might have been the most touching one out of all of them, and it resonated with people in a whole different way. So it’s like damn, sometimes you gotta get out of your own way and just let God do whatever God does. Cause if I had the choice, I wouldn’t have picked that one. And it was the last song, I think, to make the whole project.
After the Dreamville Sessions, that’s when we went on tour with JID. Around that time they were picking all the songs for the album. There were two songs that dropped before the album. “Down Bad” and “Got Me”dropped. I was on “Got Me”originally. I wrote on it, and I had a verse on it. My verse got took off, and personally, that was my favorite verse out of all of ‘em. When that one didn’t come on, I was like, “Shit, I might not have made anything. If that one didn’t go, I might not have made shit.” That was my mindset. So I was like, damn that’s kinda fucked up, I was real hard on myself about it, and I was kind of down on myself for the rest of the tour. But then we got to Atlanta for the last show on the tour, and Ib [Ibrahim Hamad] was there. He was telling me, he was like, “Yo, we got like three records we choosing from for the last record to be on the project.” “PTSD” was one of them. And in my head, I was still like, “That one? What the f*ck? Why that one? That’s my least favorite!” But it ended up coming out, and the reception on it was nuts. It was wild. So I don’t know. I’m just gonna make the music and get out of the way of it from now on dawg.
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That’s wild to hear. What other songs did you make during the Dreamville sessions that fans still haven’t heard that you’re really excited about?
Man, all together I was on eighteen songs. Somewhere between fifteen and eighteen songs, I know that fasho. I got a joint with Cozz. I got two with Cozz, now that I think about it — that I really like. It’s one with me, Childish Major, Doc, and I believe Lute. Then I got one with Tay Keith that I ain’t heard since. And I have been trying to get that record off of Ib for the longest. Them niggas will not send me that record like, that joint so crazy. And “Got Me,”but I ended up putting that verse on something else that ain’t come out now. ‘Cause I was like bruh, I can’t not use that verse. That shit was fye.
After the dust settled from Revenge Of The Dreamers III, you finally released your debut album BETTER. Run me through everything that went into that.
Making BETTER —I feel like we had maybe 30% of it done before we went on tour with JID. But when we came home, the experience of being on tour, seeing the crowd react to certain songs, and seeing how they reacted to certain moments really made us take a different approach to the rest of the album. I think when we came home we made “Got Money Now,” “Attitude,” “Growing Up/Mother God,”and something else crazy. It might have been Angels. But everything that was more so hype on the album, we started making those. The songs that we went on tour with, they were hype, but it was a different type of vibe. We weren’t specifically aiming for certain moments in songs for the crowd to react to. Seeing how JID’s crowd control was — the tours that we have been on have been so different. 6lack is more melodic. He’s more smooth, he’s a singer, ya’mean? A lot of the songs we put out before then were more so catered to women, so we were good there. JID is more energy, energy, energy, energy — real hype. So we got to see it from a different perspective, and it was like, “Okay, I want that too.” We did great on the 6lack tour. We did good on the JID tour too, but I wanted those moments. So we just approached it like that when we got home, so it was just a whole different album at the end.
The title is BETTER, and as we previously discussed, the title of your mixtape was called GOOD. So for those who aren’t familiar with the series, tell me about the inspiration behind the titles for those projects.
GOOD, BETTER, BEST. It started before I met B [Brandon Phillips-Taylor]. It was like right around that time when I was coming back from Minnesota. I wanted to put some stuff together, and I always loved trilogy albums, whether it be Tha Carter Trilogy or whether it be any of those. I didn’t necessarily want to go with the name [numerals], but I still wanted to have this attachment, this package that’s like this is where I was, this is where I’m at, and this is where I’m going to be. That’s where GOOD, BETTER, BEST comes from. I feel like BEST is going to end up being the last thing I ever drop. Then I’mma be done. I’mma be out because it’s like what can you do after BEST?
GOOD in 2016, that was kinda like the introduction. I know we had 19 Summers, and I know we had Wishful Thinking before that. But GOOD,I felt like was my introduction for real. That’s when we started doing the car freestyles, and that’s when things started bubbling.
BETTER (2020) is just a different league. It’s just another level. Y’know what I’m saying. When BEST comes out, I’mma be at the top. That’s how it gotta be.
Musically, some of the biggest things that stood out to me in BETTER was just the concept of struggling, being a struggling artist, religion, and manifestation. So what does your debut mean to you?
It feels like you have so much to put into a debut. It feels like it’s supposed to be your whole life, almost. I mean, up to this point nobody knows you, so this is your first real introduction to the world. It’s a lot of pressure to get your whole story into it, or as much as you can put into it. So I did want to focus on the leaps of faith, the dropping out of school. I did want to focus on my childhood and the come-up from there on “I Got Money Now.” I did want to focus on the religious aspects, as far as where my mental is, as far as spiritually on “Flashbacks.” I did want to focus on how much women mean to me in my life on “Growing Up/Mother God.”It’s a lot of key points that I wanted to hit, so songs like “Growing Up/Mother God,” “Flashbacks,” “How TF” — a lot of those songs are real personal to me because they felt like a culmination of all those years and every woman relationship that I have, from aunties, to mom, to my girlfriend, to my homegirls. “Angels”felt like all the struggles that I’ve ever been through. “I Got Money Now”feels like, “Dang we finally got it to this point.” Growing up we never had anything, and now we damn near have everything, perspective-wise. But yeah man, it’s just a whole bunch of key points in life that I tried to put in there. Now, I gotta figure out what else we finna talk about. ‘Cause it feels like you talk about your life up until that point then you gotta go refill the well. Go live again, and figure out something else.
What would you say would be the essential tracks for people who may not feel like sitting down for a whole album?
The essential tracks to get to know me the most are “No Secret,” “Growing Up/Mother God,” “How TF,” “Talking to God Pt. 2,” and “Too Special.”I think those five will get you right. I think you’ll be able to see where I’m at as an artist, who I am as a person, and go from there.
You said BEST will be probably your last album. With that said, what are your thoughts about retirement as a rapper? Oftentimes, rappers say they’re retiring or putting out their last album, and then lo and behold, they come back.
Two things — I think fame is one of the most addictive drugs there is on the planet. Whether that be music, whether that be sports. You always want that same love, and as time passes by, you won’t always get that same love because there’s always somebody new in that spotlight. It just is what it is, but you just have to be cool with that.
“I don’t want to be in this that long. I think 10 years tops for me. I want to raise my kids, I want to experience other things. I think as a person, not only as an artist, especially as an artist though — you have to grow.”
Secondly, I don’t want to be in this that long. I think 10 years tops for me. I want to raise my kids, I want to experience other things. I think as a person, not only as an artist, especially as an artist though — you have to grow. Whether that’s in the same field or whether that’s in something else is your choice. But for me personally, I think it’ll be on to something else. I’ve checked this box now. I might want to farm. I might want to live off the land. I don’t know, but I’ll figure it out when the time comes.
Getting into the people behind BETTER — Christopher Patterson and Brandon Phillips-Taylor both played a big role in the album. How has working with them helped develop your craft?
Them my brothers man. Like I said, Brandon is the one that I met first after I came back from Minnesota. That’s my producer. He made every track on the album. That’s all B. Being able to sit with someone and have the comfort to not only make music but to also just talk about things that we’re actually going through and for that to bleed over into the songs. I feel like a lot of the songs on the album were real personal only because me and bruh are able to have real personal conversations. Like, those songs wouldn’t have come out if I was just pulling up on somebody and was like, “Aite put on some beats, leggo.” I wouldn’t have been able to be as vulnerable, and the instrumentation wouldn’t have been as vulnerable either.
Same for Chris. Chris’ ear is a lot more meticulous than mine. It’s a lot more intricate than mine. Sequencing-wise, that’s all him. Once I make the songs, I’m slick out of it, I’ll vote, I’ll sit down and listen to it. He’ll have like three different versions, and we’ll see which one feels better. But as far as putting them together, that’s not my thing.
Without both of them BETTER wouldn’t have been what it was.
Chris is a guy that gives great behind-the-scenes insight on the music industry on Twitter, and in one of his tweets, he said that the sequencing for BETTER was modeled after Common’s Be. Both albums even share visual similarities too, so did Be have a heavy influence on you?
What’s crazy is — no disrespect to Common — I’ve never heard Be all the way through. Ever. Me and Chris will talk about music all day. I don’t think I’m as versed in music as a lot of people think that I am. In the same way that I said I didn’t pick up rap on my own, I just discovered that this is something that I’m really good at. I’ve never been like a student of Hip-Hop or a student of the game, that wasn’t my thing. I would listen to music, and I would just go from there.
That’s wild, but it’s honest though. Well, you went on to put out the deluxe version of BETTER, and you approached the “deluxe” kind of differently. Instead of just adding five tracks to the beginning or the end, the whole sequence was rearranged, so tell me about that process.
One thing I do enjoy is making experiences. I don’t necessarily want things to be the exact same, so in whatever capacity we can make that happen, we do it. We ain’t got the biggest budget in the world, so we can’t do x, y, and z. But we know we can pay special attention to the details and figure it out. So we wanted to find ways to make the story greater instead of throwing five new songs on the beginning of the album like everybody does. No disrespect to anybody who’s doing that but we are trying to do it differently. Not to toot my own horn, but I think BETTER is one of the best deluxes that’s come out in a long time.
What are your thoughts on the deluxe album trend as a whole?
I like it. I like deluxes, I ain’t gonna lie. I think it gives albums a longer shelf life. You can come back to it, and if something off the deluxe pops it opens you up to a whole new set of ears that will go back and listen to the original project.
I know you mentioned Chris was really taking off all the fat from the original release, so which version of BETTER do you honestly prefer?
I like the Deluxe version. It’s a couple songs on there that I wanted to make the original, but didn’t. For instance, “Déjà Vu”was going to be on the original version, but we had to choose between “Déjà Vu” and “How TF.” But I’m glad all of the songs we wanted to put on the original made it on to the deluxe of them, so I’m a fan of the deluxe. All my kids got to see the light of day.
Brandon Phillips Taylor was the executive producer on BETTER. Since he did GOOD and BETTER, I’m assuming he’s going to be on BEST. Going forward, is he going to be your executive producer from here on out?
B for me is like Drake and 40. Ya’mean? That’s my dog. Of course I’m going to branch out and I’m going to experiment and make songs with other people, fasho. And he’s going to branch out, and make songs with other people and make songs fasho. But when it comes down to crafting a whole album and crafting a whole story — somebody I feel comfortable with and helping me do that is B.
Earlier you were telling me you noticed a lot of full-circle moments. One of those full-circle moments that fans might notice is, after your debut album you’re back on the freestyles. That’s what got you popping in the first place, so talk to me about New Atlanta Tuesdays?
New Atlanta Tuesdays has a real, real special place in my heart. It’s partly the reason why we’re having this conversation right now. That’s what got me to Mark [Pitts]. That’s what got me the deal. That’s what got me all those things. It’s a real bittersweet thing. I love it because it got me here, but as an artist, I want to be more than that. And I am more than that. I’m just trying to find that balance.
Of all the freestyles that you bodied this year, what beat you did you find most challenging?
I wouldn’t say any of them are challenging. That’s really the fun part. Beyond it being the thing that gets the most attention, I actually like doing it. That’s why I’m doing it now. I still fuck with the freestyles.
This year, one of the ones that stuck out to me especially was “Roses.” It made me wonder if there are any classic beats you don’t want any smoke with?
Nah. Ain’t nothing that I would run away from. I could rap on anything. It could be a Jay-Z beat, it could be a Johnny Cash beat — it don’t matter. I ain’t running from no beats. None of them.
You also freestyled for seven minutes on Bars on I-95. How do you mentally and physically prepare to freestyle for seven minutes straight?
Freestyling for me is about both coming off the top and pulling from things that are not necessarily a whole written verse, but maybe just certain phrases that I can come back to. Like when you get to a certain point it’s like, “Damn I don’t know what to say…uh uh uh.” Let me pull from here. Then it’ll spill me and keep me going into something else. So it’s like having certain parts of the rap so where if I do need help, I can pull this out. Maybe some people do go all the way through [off the top], but for me, it’s like having check-points that I can depend on if I do need to go to them.
Makes sense. Well, this is your opportunity to talk shit. Are there any other rappers that can compete with you in terms of freestyling?
Hmm.. Is there any rappers that can compete with — hell nah, fuck is you talm bout! Nigga, no. Nobody.
Nah I’m fucking with you. It is some other guys that I really like. Some guys from the city too. I really enjoy Kenny Mason. I don’t know how much he actually freestyles, but I love his cadences a lot, I love his flows, I love the subject matter, how he paints certain pictures man. The same for JID, Smino, Mick Jenkins, and GRIP. A lot of those guys man, the city has a lot of folks who can actually rap, shawty. I think the thing is for most of us we’ve rapped for a long time, and now we’re trying to break into the other side [of the music industry]. Niggas is actually trying to make those songs, and make those hits and trying to expand their repertoire, you ’feel me? Just expand our palette and figure out the rest of what we can do. I wanna make music that lasts while actually still rapping, so I’m tryna work on my songwriting a little bit more.
Image provided by the artist
At the end of last month, you teased Just A Sample III on Twitter. Can you give us any insight on that project?
Man look, I’m working on four projects right now. I don’t know which one is coming first. All of them are pretty much done, and we just gon’ decide from there. We’re ‘bout to get some stuff mixed and then go from there. I can’t tell you which one is coming first. Just know something is on the way. A lot’s on the way. You remember Future was dropping Monster, DS2, 56 nights? We finna go on some shit like that.
“I’m working on four projects right now. I don’t know which one is coming first. All of them are pretty much done, and we just gon’ decide from there. We’re ‘bout to get some stuff mixed and then go from there. I can’t tell you which one is coming first.”
In addition to Just A Sample III, are there any of those four titles you can give away or are they all under wraps?
They slick under wraps. There’s one I want to give away, but I really can’t give that one away yet. It’s my favorite one right now, and it’s the most important one to me. I want to talk about it though.
You kind of just touched on this, but as someone who has already proven themselves to be an excellent rapper and a really great songwriter as well, what do you think is more important when it comes to crafting songs, is it the bars or the message?
If you would’ve asked me that question maybe three or four years ago, I would’ve said the bars because that’s just where I was at as an artist. Now, I feel like the message is more important than anything for real. ‘Cause the whole point of the song is to communicate a certain feeling or emotion. We got some folks who are really, really clear communicators, and I feel like those are the songs that resonate the most. Being able to rap really, really good is amazing. It’s impressive. But I feel like that’s where the buck usually stops. Once you move past being impressed, what does it make you feel? I feel like those are the artists and the careers that last the longest. Even though Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and Kanye can rap extremely well, the message is still there. They make you feel something. We gotta pull from a real place. A technical skill is amazing, and I don’t want to take anything away from that because that’s something that I strive to get better at every day.
If you saw somebody jump through a ring of fire, it’s like damn, that shit’s fye as hell. If you see that nigga do that shit 20 times, it’s like…aite. That’s straight. But if somebody pulls on your heartstrings one time, twenty-times, it’s gone resonate with you. I don’t know, I may just be getting old.
Random Question — you posted a Tik-Tok about DogeCoin, crypto, and the stock market? Have you really gotten into it and invested in it? Or was it more of just a joke?
It was a joke, and it wasn’t. I did get into it. I actually have some money invested in Dogecoin, and I was tryna tell everybody ‘cause it was really going up. I’m all still not all the way privy to exactly how crypto works, but I know when I see something going up. At the time, I was tryna get everybody that I know into it, and after I got some folks into it, it started going down. I was like, “What the fuck.” Dawg, my girlfriend was mad as hell at me. I had told all these folks about this shit, and I didn’t even know too much about it.
But yeah, crypto is something we do need to understand. The world is changing too. You can either sit back and try to hold onto the old institutions you grew up with or you can adapt and learn the new shit and teach your kids so they can teach somebody else. ‘Cause it’s gone change — with or without you.
Last question I got for you — What does the rest of 2021 look like for you, on a personal level or on a musical level?
Man, I think 2021 is gon’ teach me a lot that I need to know — whether it’s about myself, whether it’s about the things that I’m doing musically, whether it’s about my relationships, all of that.
I’m actually about to go on a fast next Monday. This is my second time fasting but it’s the first time I’m fasting from everything. The first time I fasted from social media and alcohol. But I didn’t do food. I didn’t pray. I’m trying to get back in tune with my spirituality so we gone see how it goes. I feel like it’s a real checkpoint in my life. It’s a new time. It’s a new phase. It’s a new chapter. So we gone see how it goes. I’m just hoping for the best.
Music-wise — when I pop out, y’all gone have to deal with me for a long time. A very long time. ‘Cause once I pop out again, I’m not going back in the house for another at least year and a half. Fasho. So expect a lot. A lot.