HDBeenDope is no stranger to rap. He’s been on my radar since 2014 when he dropped his flip of Herbie Hancock, Petro. Even back then it was clear that HD was a lyrical wiz. Like many great rappers before him, HD reigns from Brooklyn, New York. In 2017 he went on a big tour with Portugal. The Man where he started working on his album. On May 1st, HD dropped his album BrokeN Dreams. In a world of trap, HD is bringing boom bap back. Read what we talked about below!
Tell me who HD is?
I would just consider myself a person that tells a story through music. That’s how I get through everything. The most important thing to me is living life, but being able to make sense of it through the music. In order for me to write a song, I have to go through an experience and then I analyze it from different perspectives, in order to create a message for the song that’s in the sense of being human. Being able to show all sides of things and I try to do that.
What does LABB mean?
LABB is Learn And Become Better. I came up with it a couple years back. The whole thing is LABB rat right. Everyday you’re going to learn something, even if its the most mundane thing or the most complex thing, but if you don’t use it to make yourself a better person or if you’re not applying the things that you’re learning, its like what are you really doing? and then receive and think is based on the fact that we get so much information now, every day you pick up your phone and there’s so much info sent to you daily, we should think about what the information is before we put it back into the world, i think that’s super important.
So tell me about this project BrokeN Dreams?
Most of it was recorded here. I started working on the project in 2017, I got off the road with Portugal the Man, which was a big moment for me. That tour was eye opening in so many ways. So being on that tour I was living this dream, they didn’t treat me like just the opener. They paid me way more than I was supposed to be paid for that tour so I was actually able to make it a show. I brought lights, I had my homie Dereck he was drumming, like it was a SHOW ya know what I mean? Not just, this rapper goes on and then Portugal the man, it actually felt like two shows that you went to. I got off the road with them, and I remember being in Key Food getting pancake mix and Feel It Still was playing on the radio and I’m like “yo this song is everywhere!” but i’m dealing with the reality like, these are my guys like I can go call them right now, but I’m in Key Food buying pancake mix ya know, dealing with that duality. The whole project is me balancing those two worlds. Feeling like I’m almost there, and then dealing with the reality.
What’s the story behind Hollywood?
It’s like I was saying, feeling like I’m out doing all this stuff and then you get back home and its always that one thing to remind you, wether its my moms saying “take out the trash” or whatever it maybe. Theres always something to remind you. It also deals with feeling like as you’re doing more and gain more experiences I think people kinda have a different perception of you. Its like okay cool, now you’re around these certain people, you’re doing this certain thing, and people just expect you to be acting differently. Like oh he knows them now he must feel that he’s better or whatever it may be. Hollywood is essentially me going, Yo I want to tell you about my experiences, but I’m the same person, like I’m just trying to share this with you. Dealing with that reality is what Hollywood is for me.
As a producer yourself, what’s your production process like and your go to DAW?
FL Studio to make the beats, and then I’ll go into Logic to track it out and mix everything, I record in Logic as well. I was rapping before I was producing. I started writing stuff when I was around 9, and started telling my homies I was going to rap around 11. Then I turned 13, I was going into high school, and I found some shit called Trackpad, It’s like a PSP game that you can make beats on, so that was my introduction to producing.
What does BrokeN Dreams mean?
There’s three breakdowns for BrokeN Dreams. Theres “Broken” and “Dream” separately. “Broken” which comes from growing up. You realize that certain ideologies that you held on too, weren’t necessarily the right way of thinking. You realize that you’re almost this broken person cause you had these broken ideologies. And then “Dream” because I’m on this journey of my dream. “Broke and Dreams” which is essentially the story of Portugal, The Man. Being that close and just being in both worlds. They paid me well on that tour, but then I came home and, no money. “Broken Dream” because as I got older, so many people that I was either rapping with at one point, or people that more unconventional dreams/aspirations/jobs; as they get older they realize okay maybe I have to go get that degree or go get that regular job or whatever and I’m realizing so many peoples dreams are becoming broken. With this process of me working on the album. 2018 I sort of found a groove, I was getting money consistently, and that was probably the first time ever that I was in a place of like ‘I might be good” ya know what I’m sayin? Clearly this is still what I wanted to do, but that need for the money wasn’t in it anymore. Once you take the money aside, you look at yourself like “Alright dude this is really what you want to do”. I went through that and that’s how I know this music shit is really what I’m doing ya know?
What’s your favorite story from touring?
Alright this is a very human moment I would say. We were in Philly. Normally I’m super interactive at shows, It’s not just me on stage It’s us in this building. So I just speak to everybody and shit like that. Obviously I’m the opener, people didn’t come here to see me. So a song was playing and afterward I realized there was this girl that was in the front row and like she didn’t move at all. So naturally I was like alright like whats up with you? like “alright you in the front, my guys are about to come out, they can’t see this type of energy”, just joking though. I wasn’t trying to be rude about it. After the show she ended up messaging me and she was like “Yo this is the first time I built up the courage to go to a show by myself, and I was in the front like I was there waiting all day, and you pointed me out when I was just trying to enjoy the concert like I’m already an awkward person”. I was like FUCK, like I felt shitty about that. So we had two nights in Philly, and that happened on the first night. So the second night I brought her through and let her meet the band and everything. Hopefully, I made it up a little bit but I felt shitty about that.
I kind of enjoy people reacting like that [not moving in the crowd] because it brings a challenge for me. It’s like alright now I got to give a little more. Especially if it’s only one or two people. I can get most of the crowd, and there’s some people in a pocket that’s just chillen, then it’s a little easier to get them out of their shell. Normally it goes over well but that show *laughs* I felt so bad.
Tell me about Inizio! What’s your process for more auto tune/lyrical tracks?
So Inizio, it was either the first or the second song I worked on the tape. Once I heard the piano, I was like okay this is the direction I’m going with this record. I wanted this to be an overview of where I was mentally. That song is just a mental battle. This idea of, I need help, but I’m not asking for help, because I can figure all this shit out I can do it myself. Its a person that feels very self efficient, but someone that’s dealing with bouts of depression in that. I wanted it to be a song that, someone who’s going through that can hear it and be like “Oh shit, this is ME saying this”. I’m very big on that. I don’t like to use buzz words when I’m describing feelings and things like that. Like obviously I could’ve said “Song about depression”, but I wanted it to feel real of course. It’s somebody that needs help but doesn’t ask for it.
Whats your songwriting process like?
For me, I write the track list before I make any music. I go through whatever I go through in life, and then when I’m ready to make a project, I write down everything I went through in that time period. From that list, I’ll start sketching out the track list. Once I have the track list I’m looking at the intro and what I want it to sound like. I wanted it to be emotional because I knew 20k was coming right after. FDR and 20k were actually the same song, so I knew I was coming in with this rapping ass intro, so I wanted this one to be a little more emotional.
Do you miss performing?
Oh 1000% percent, that’s my favorite part of all of this. For me, It’s coming up with the idea for a song, that’s a moment I love, and then performing it. Everything in-between is just a tease I’m not gonna hold you. It’s always worth it.
With the current live music climate, do you see yourself doing an instagram live show or something like that?
In a perfect world I’m holding out. However, to be realistic, understanding what the climate is, I’m sure i’ll indulge. It makes sense ya know? You don’t want to put everything on pause just because the world is on pause, because actually shit is still moving. Everybody is not about to just stand still. I do see myself indulging a little bit but, I just really enjoy that personal connection.
What do you think of the state of New York hip hop?
I feel very good about the current state. We’re in a place where New York has an identity, and I think we went through a time where we were wondering what NYC really sounds like, and I think we’re finally in a place where you can here certain shit and be like “Oh yeah, that’s New York”. When I’m riding around and I’m hearing people playing Fivio or Pop Smoke or some of these local guys like Bizzy Banks. Whoever it may be, even out the window, it feels like new york. I love where it’s at. and even the singing people like Lil Tecca, A Boogie, I enjoy that shit just as much. I’m really happy with New York as a whole and this sound that’s developed.
What’s your plan for the rest of quarantine, what have you been up to?
It’s been a little bit of everything. A lot of content stuff, like I did this acoustic series and I did stripped down versions of some songs of the project. I’ve been working on that, editing some of that stuff, the Been Dope Eats series, and I got a little “Behind the Beat” series as well where I walk people through how I made some of these beats and things like that. So a lot of that ya know? As well as working on stuff for videos, I think with the quarantine it did dilute some of the ideas for the videos and it has been a struggle. Still working around that and making sure I can still carry out the vision for some of these songs.