In this new age of hip-hop where style is as important as substance, DP is going against the grain in more ways than one. The Virginia rapper is an up-and-comer, but with last year’s ‘Designer Casket’ project, released in November, he has already displayed a strong head on some young shoulders. Divulging into the mixtape, you uncover the mind-set of a young man who has seen a lot in his 22 years of life as ominous basslines, eerie synths and haunting drum sequences make up the musical background.
Choosing such a dark backdrop to rap over is a bold move, but one that DP makes simple and effective in a fiery combination. On top of some powerful music, his relationship with D.R.A.M. has resulted in a number of collaborations and further attention. But despite being new in the game, DP has grand visions for the future.
We caught up with the 22-year-old to chat about his most recent project, Virginia hip-hop, and which era of the game he would most love to go back to.
What have you been up to recently?
I’ve just been working on my next project, which will be out as soon as possible. I’ve been working on it ever since we dropped Designer Casket, so, like, November 2015. I’m hoping to get it out by June but I’m definitely not trying to rush it, or take too much time off.
How would you describe your music?
I would say my music is dark, and I’m trying to make you think with my bars. I hope it’s enticing people but, despite how dark it may sound, I hope people can find the light in it.
I definitely get that feel of darkness all over Designer Casket, is that something that happened organically?
It was definitely and it was due to the space that I was in at the time. I had been working on the tape for about two years and found myself in different situations as time went by and that’s why it took so long to finish. I was in a dark place and that’s why the music sounds so organic.
So you were speaking from experience when relaying the stories of the project.
Yeah, I can’t make that shit up.
Your ear for production is very interesting, especially on songs like ‘Jabar’. How did you come across this particular sound?
Those were sounds that me and my brothers came up with. I don’t want to say we created it but we were just rapping in the studio one day, listening to some old Clipse and jamming, then we just started to blend in all of our influences.
When did you first start rapping and who are your main musical influences?
I probably first started rapping when I was seven or eight, but that’s when everyone was starting out. I started taking it seriously when I was 14; my father came back from prison and he bought me a beat machine, an AKAI MPD32 and I started making beats. Then I started putting some of my shit on MySpace, back in seventh or eighth grade.
I’d say Weezy was my biggest influence, but also Clipse, Pharrell, the Neptunes, those were the main guys for me. Growing up in Virginia, people like Clipse and Pharrell were definitely a big influence. Shout out to FamLay too. Virginia hip-hop was just such a different sound and I could appreciate the uniqueness of their styles. Like, nothing sounded like the Neptunes’ beats.
Do you remember your first rap name?
Wow, niggas are gonna fry me for this shit, but my first rap name was Dave McFly, from about 2006, my sixth grade year. I wish it was a cooler name! I stopped rapping when I was 15 and became heavy in the streets and shit, and everyone just called me DP, cos those are my initials. So when I started rapping again, I just went by what everybody was calling me, and it just stuck.
What was it like growing up in Virginia and how much does that affect your music?
Virginia’s like a lot of places; its like New York or LA, these places aren’t that different. It was hard though – I didn’t grow up with my pops, this nigga was in jail – and I had a single mom who was fucking around with drugs. It was just a typical black youth story, I hate to sound cliché but that’s what it was.
My aunt took me to a Cash Money show in like 2003 and seeing these niggas with all these chains, I said to myself that I gotta be like these niggas. Like no playing basketball or football, I wanted to be a rapper. Just another black youth story; either rapping, basketball or football, those were the goals.
You released Designer Casket a few months ago, was there an overall message you were trying to convey with the project?
At the time, when we first started the project, there was, but now that I think about it there really wasn’t. I was just trying to tell my story and my perception of life and, hopefully, people could relate to that shit.
You and DRAM collaborate a lot, what is it like to work with him?
That’s my fucking brother, that nigga’s work ethic is crazy and he inspires me every time we get into the studio and I don’t do a lot of writing most of the time. This nigga really inspires me to go into the studio and just rap, and a lot of people don’t even know this, but he really raps. We have a lot of tracks together and hopefully we can get some of them out. I’ll come clean, this nigga really has me stepping my bars up sometimes.
Any chance of a collaboration with him on an entire project?
We spoke about that in the beginning of 2015 but we only want to do it when it makes sense. We’ll think of something but both of us are mad busy now. We don’t want to do it just for the sake of doing it, I would want to do the unexpected. There was definitely a serious discussion at one point between both of us but both of our shits get going really quick and we got busier. But if it makes sense.
Virginia has produced some of hip-hop’s all-time greats, does that place any pressure on you as an artist or are you not really thinking about that?
When I think about it, it’s not that many people; I can’t even count all of Virginia’s greatest hip-hop artists on both of my hands but I want to be part of that shit. I can remember being three years old and my dad taking me to the studio and kicking it with Teddy Riley and Blackstreet so since a younger, I knew I was around legendary shit and I want to carry on that torch.
What are your plans for the rest of 2016?
Getting this new project out, getting on the road, and that’s pretty much it.
If you could work with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Man, that would either be Michael Jackson or Kurt Cobain, or just Nirvana in, like, 1993 in general. They are a tremendous influence on me, and taught me to not give a fuck and to put everything you have, all of your emotions, into the music. Through my music, I think I kinda know how Kurt was feeling back then and his emotions.
If you could be transported back to any era of hip-hop, which one would that be?
Probably back to the Weezy era, of like 2006-2009, just because I’ve never witnessed that amount of consistency and because of the feeling it gave me at the time as a kid. I would just listen to Lil Wayne 24/7. That was one of the best times of my life.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I just want to be remembered as one of the best literary thinkers of my time, like Robert Frost, and to transcend hip-hop so that I’m known in the consciousness of everybody. I want to be known throughout all of culture, popular or otherwise.
Interview by Yemi Abiade.