On Monday (December 5), Dae Dae’s evening included a visit to Atlanta’s beloved Stankonia Studios where the Coalition DJs were holding their weekly New Music Monday meeting. “I been dropping a lot of singles,” he said, plopping onto the edge of the stage, facing the crew of influencers. “On my second tour this year... A lot of late nights and early mornings.” It’s work. Just looks different.
For instance, Dae Dae was at work a year ago when he thought of the opening line to his breakout smash “What U Mean.” He was handling a concrete grinder — which, incidentally, is loud enough to discourage anyone from thinking creative thoughts for hours on end — and the idea popped in: “Racks on me like a piñata/F-ck you, blue Balenciaga...”
The burgeoning rapper clocked in at that day’s site and left with bars that would echo through clubs and car speakers for months — all throughout the summer and into the fall. Later that evening in the A Room at 11th St Studios, Dae leaned back in a chair and explained how one could dream of racks and Balenciaga when their reality couldn’t be farther away. “Every young person has that money mentality, even if you broke,” he said, resting his Retro 3's on the couch across from him. “You can say you have money and not really have any. There’s a lot of people out here who say they have money but they don’t.”
“It was more of a motivational thing," he continued. "I’m speaking it into existence like I already know.”
Not only did he speak it into existence, but the same amount of work he put into his job as a laborer, Dae Dae, 24-year-old father of five, is still putting in after the success of his debut project 4 Reasons. A few months later in the spring, he was on the Hi-Tunes Tour with Young Thug, followed by the Birth of a New Nation Tour in the fall. In November, his collaborative effort with London On Da Track, The DefAnition, was released, and Dae Dae says that his next solo project 5 Reasons is already prepped to go. There’s a feature from Lloyd, and Dae teams up with producer Mercy (“What U Mean?”) again behind the boards. Before he sets his sights on a 2017 takeover, Revolt TV had the opportunity to talk with the Atlanta native about his family, his career, and what it means to “come out of nowhere.”
What made you and London on Da Track want to do a project together?
DD: London [On Da Track] is managed by Kevin Liles and he’s one of the owners of 300 [Entertainment]. So I was doing my first of three versions of the “Spend It” video and Kevin came out to support the shoot and he asked London to come out and meet me. He came out and on one of the breaks he met with me and we chopped it up with each other. He said that he liked the _4 tape and he felt like I was hard. I told him, "Man, I feel like your beats hard." So I was like, "Let’s do a tape, man." And as soon as we agreed on it, the next day we were doing the tape. I got a studio at my house and so he came right to my house and we went to work.
You and 21 Savage have a track together, but your affiliations oppose each other. You’re blue and he’s red; how does that work?
DD: It’s all love. Before the rap, me and 21 was grinding. It was one of those things where we would see each other in the hood. He’d be in my hood chilling, or I’d pull up on him. We’d both be promoting our music. Caught each other’s eye as far as grinding. Like, I saw him come up and as I was watching his career grow, I was still grinding. Then my name started going crazy. For us to be where we are right now, it’s crazy.
2016 went extremely fast for you...
DD: Yes, very fast. Very, very fast. But I’ve still continued to work. I feel like my career still rising. I think people look at me like I’m famous like some big artist, but I still have something to prove. I still have stories in my life that need to be heard and situations... Everybody knows I’m young with five kids. Everybody knows I got a family to feed so that was a part of my story and they know that with “Spend It” that was a motivational record to motivate any generation of people to go work and get them some money and feel comfortable spending some money and feeling good about going to work and getting it back. I’m trying to make songs that make people feel good, songs that’ll change your mood. There are some songs that my grandma will hear and as soon as she hears the first [tone] it hits her body and she’s like, "Oh!"
What’s 2017 look like for Dae Dae?
DD: We hitting harder next year with my 5 Reasons mixtape. We did 4 Seasons — that had all the singles — then DefAnition with London and next 5 Reasons. That’s gonna be my most personal project where people will really get to know me. I’m just speaking on a lot of situations, my life, and why I feel how I feel about things. When I listen to it, it hits me every time. We can’t wait for y’all to listen to it.
Is 5 Reasons finished?
DD: It’s done but it’s not. I wanna put two more songs on there. I got the tape and it’s ready, the label ready, and my management ready, but I don’t wanna just throw it out there like that. We’re gonna put it together like a project. Have the songs together so it plays like an album.
How did the deal with 300 Entertainment go down?
DD: I was signed with Nitti [Beatz] at the time but I was already getting calls from every other label. But we were trying to see what the best deal was and the best situation for us to be in. I didn’t care about the whole “grind yaself, sign yaself”... I didn’t care about the whole hustle at the time. I was going through not having money. I had to sign to get myself in a position where I could take care of my kids to where my career could expand. Instead of being “hood hot” I want to be hot, worldwide.
You didn’t even want to go public with the music, really.
DD: At that time I was working though so I was making pretty good money working with concrete — about $12 an hour, my check was looking pretty good — $600 a week. I started off as a laborer then after two months I was catching on so quick and doing the job so well, they made me a supervisor. I was always rapping in my head.
I was basically just making music and going to the club, trying the record out and hoping we get a reaction. But it got to a point where I was just spending money making music. I was working doing concrete then so I was spending my concrete money on studio time and going to the club putting on this image. I had this record one time and I felt like it was good, but I felt like I was too cute to do an open mic. Every artist right now think they’re the hottest and they don’t wanna do open mics or even just go work. Foot to ground. They think they can just put a tape online and it’s just gon’ blow up. You gotta work. You gotta promote. You gotta get your single out there, work your movement. You gotta know DJs. There are a lot of steps.
So you were talked into doing open mics, but you weren’t necessarily trying to be a star?
DD: I was just having fun. It just felt good, but at the same time I ain’t think about it like people were actually noticing me and feeling my music. I was in there having fun and getting used to the feeling. So it went from doing open mics on Wednesdays to Thursdays with the hood crowd to Fridays with the college kids and Saturdays. So I was getting hood hot and college kids was feeling me, all at the same time.
The other day you brought your kids out onstage, here in Atlanta, and the little girl was the only one that seemed to understand what was happening. The babies looked a little overwhelmed.
DD: My little girl is 8 right now. And eight years ago, I wasn’t on the right path. I was still breaking in houses, robbing, stealing... Whatever I had to do to feed my little girl. At the time I was in situations. When her mother was pregnant I wasn’t claiming her. I was young and I was like, “That ain’t my baby.” You know how boys are when they’re young. And my dad pulled me to the side after a while and said, “Well, you know Dae Dae, this child... I can’t let you just sit here and not take care of her ‘cause I took care of you and your brother.” He said he didn’t want that going on in his household, where someone young like myself wasn’t taking care of his child. He told me to buckle down and get my stuff together. My dad reached out to my baby mother and told her, “Bring the child over.” I was trippin’.
Do you regret all that?
DD: I don’t regret it. It was a learning situation. Any mistakes I’ve made in life, I feel like they’re all just lessons. I love the bumps in the road because it makes you feel good when you go back to that bump and you can just go around it.
What are you most excited for your kids to experience this year?
DD: This year will probably be the best Christmas they’ve seen. The past ones haven’t been as exciting because I was trying to get what they want. I couldn’t get everything they wanted then, but now I can. But they don’t know that though. I dedicate this year to my kids.
Do they understand what’s happening?
DD: I don’t think they know really. When I come in the house, they greet me... It’s like, they know that I’m a known rapper, like they know the kids love me, because their friends love me and any kid they know, they know that they know me. That makes them feel good.
What’s been your worst experience over the past year?
DD: I don’t think I had one of those yet. I’m still building, turning up shows, and meeting fans. It’s only been a year so I haven’t reached the worst yet.