In anticipation of tomorrow’s performance on the East Campus Quadrangle (7 p.m.) with J. Cole and Wale, recess’ Kevin Lincoln took some time to talk to the D.C. rapper. Here’s the full transcript of the interview that ran in today’s paper.
Do you play a lot of concerts at colleges?
Last spring we did about 20 schools.
So, a decent amount. It’s got to be different than playing the smaller clubs, right? Because I saw you at Cat’s Cradle [in Carrboro] last year.
I mean, it’s different shows, but we kind of do it like—we know colleges, the way you structure a college show is different than a club show, you know?
Right. So you use a lot of sports references in your lyrics. How big of a sports fan are you?
Ahh… (laughs), I think I’m probably one of the biggest sports fans in the music business. You know, diehard sports fan: football, basketball, pretty good track fan—
Mostly D.C. teams?
Nah, nah, not at all. When it comes to football, I’m a diehard Redskins fan, but I’m enough of a football fan that I can appreciate a good game and root for a—I always have a team I’m rooting for in every game, or a player I’m rooting for in every game. I can’t stand homers. They don’t watch football enough that their opinion, like they’re not—they’re stupid.
That makes sense. Would you be interested in doing something like Lil Wayne did last year for ESPN, writing a column or something about sports?
Yeah, I’m kind of trying to do that with ESPN now. I think I’m supposed to be interviewing some of the Redskins tomorrow, so that’s something I’m doing.
That’d be great. Alright, so I know you come mainly from the DMV, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia, so how is your status there and how you do there, how does that compare in terms of importance to how your national status is?
My D.C. appeal, my D.C. local appeal is way behind my national. Locally I don’t get radios to play at all here, I get a lot of New York and California and like, Chicago, stuff like that. Here there’s just some sort of weird, inner… hatred or something, I don’t know (laughs).
So you haven’t been getting that much support from D.C. radio stations?
Nah. But the people riding with me. I can sell out a 2500 capacity club with six days promotion nowadays.
Gotcha. So it’s the people in the D.C. area that’s supporting you, but the media isn’t supporting you.
Yeah… I mean, the media is, like the [Washington] Post does something on me once in a while. Everybody pretty much but the radio. I kinda took on the role of the rap version of like Erykah Badu.
So is it important for you to be the mouthpiece of D.C. area hip-hop?
Nah, mhm mhm. I’m just trying to make good music for people who like good music. I’m not really trying to assume the role of, you know, the ultimate mouthpiece of D.C. because I speak for such a small piece of D.C.—D.C.’s huge.
You don’t pretend to be for everbody.
Right, everybody’s—there’s so much different subculture within D.C.
I knew you grew up and went to a lot of different schools. How did growing up and moving around like that affect your development as a person and as a musician?
I just learned how to deal with different environments and different kinds of people. I wasn’t only around black kids or only around white kids, so it was a pretty good balance.
You think you’ve been influenced by a lot of different music types then?
That was more because of my father who drove D.C. cabs, he would listen to different things throughout the day.
What would your father listen to when you were younger?
Everything, every genre. Reggae, hip-hop, rock, African music, anything.
And do you think your music shows a lot of different genres?
Yeah… I mean, I’m definitely influenced more on music with, like, heavy percussion because of the go-go influence, just the direct influence on me musically. I definitely take a lot from the go-go culture.
Are you going to bring a go-go band to Duke when you perform here?
Yeah. Well, we travel, that’s my show.
So they’re always with you?
Well that’s good to hear. So, how do you think coming up with close ties to a lot of other young rappers—you and Kid Cudi and Drake and J.Cole and guys like that are talked about at the same time a lot. How do you think that affects your rise as a rapper versus if you were talked about mostly, if you didn’t have those other guys to compare yourself with and challenge you?
It’s interesting to me because I don’t really remember any time in history that there’s been a buzz for like, four or more artists at the same time without an album, you know? So it’s definitely interesting. It could play out a lot of different ways, but as long as the energy’s good in the genre. And we’re all very competitive, those are three of my friends, you know, Cudi, J. and Drake, all of these guys are people that I’m cool with. So, it’s very competitive, but at the same time everybody’s making good music, so you’ve got to be happy about that—the hip-hop community—and I’m just hoping that the fans come out and support, you know?
Right, that’s the important thing. So, what resonates with you so strongly about Seinfeld, with The Mixtape About Nothing?
I think there’s a lot of reality in a show that’s about nothing. And I just played off the whole topic of nothing. Most, most fans have been forced to appreciate nothing: music with no substance, so to speak, they’ve been forced to appreciate it or like it—forced to take nothing music, know what I’m saying? So let me make a mixtape about a show about nothing.
Ok. Would you say your first big mixtape was 100 Miles & Running?
Yeah, I think that was the first one that got a lot of attention.
How do you think you’ve evolved since then, through The Mixtape About Nothing and Back to the Feature, and now Attention: Deficit [Wale’s debut LP], which is coming out in a couple of months?
I feel like I just continue to reinvent, you know? I have a mission and I know what I want to do sonically, and I just kind of stick to that. And I don’t rush it, I just do what I’m doing.
I know you’ve worked with a lot of big-time artists so far, like Black Thought and you just collaborated with Lady Gaga. Is there anybody else you have in mind that you really want to work with at this point?
Nah, I’m just inspired by people who love to make good music.
Well, we’re looking forward to having you on Friday.
I’m glad to be there, we’re gonna tear it down.
Anything you want to add?
Nah man, thanks for having me at Duke, I look forward to coming there—this is gonna be the biggest event at Duke since Trajan Langdon.