Daps Flex God Daps Flex God
Laetitia Rumford

Flexin' On 'Em: Behind The Lens With Migos' "Bad And Boujee" Director Daps, The Flex God

Director Daps the Flex God talks the making of Migos' "Bad and Boujee" video and more.

A number one song like “Bad & Boujee” needs a hit video to go right along with it and most times, the release of the video pushes the song over the top of the success mountain. This is certainly the case when Atlanta’s hit-making trio Migos needs to get visuals to the people, and the person they call is music director Daps “The Flex God.” Born in Nigeria and raised in London, Oladapo Fagbenle (aka Daps) tries to explain what happens when your vivid visuals start to become popular. “It’s funny. People are comparing Migo’s ‘T-Shirt’ video to ‘The Revenant,’” he said. “Someone really went on IMDB and changed the director’s name to mine.” Fagbenle sports a flawless smile, which produces a very prominent English accent when he speaks. Although African in origin and spending his youth in London, Daps found himself in the U.S., playing high school and college basketball. The competitive nature helped mature a tireless work ethic which fuels his creative projects. “I’m just appreciative of everyone paying attention, and appreciating the hard work, because a lot goes into it.”

So, who is the man behind the lens? Well, his resume includes working with the legendary music video master, Director (Little) X, and artists like Iggy Azalea, T.I, Kendrick Lamar, Rita Ora, Jordin Sparks and 2 Chainz, just to name a few. Here, we find out the source of his success.

VIBE: What inspired you to become a director?
Daps: I started producing music videos for my brother’s company, Luti Media. I was living in New Jersey for eight months after I got my Masters degree in Communications and Bachelors in Business. I was running around wild. Didn’t get caught for anything, but I was doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I can literally write a memoir called “New Jersey Nights.” Stressful times. He saved me, my brother, because sh*t was getting real deep, and one day he was like, “Hey, there’s a video in New York, do you wanna produce it?” And I was like, what does that mean? He said, “I’m transferring money the into your account. Google it and figure it out.” I was just thrown in with no training, no nothing, just had no clue what I was doing. But after producing for a while I got a little disgruntled. I realized it wasn’t really creative enough for me. So while I was producing for other directors, I learned how to direct.

What was it like mentoring under (or shadowing) Director X, and how did that come about?
In 2012, I was back home in London and we did a documentary for Kanye West called “60 Days to Paris” when he was doing his Paris fashion show. I was one of the main producers on that. I was with Kanye everyday for two months, and I’m just soaking in all the creatives around him: photographers, creative directors, stylists...Kanye himself. That same year I stopped working full time for my brother at Luti Media, and I started producing freelance for him while I was working on a clothing line that I started by myself and with my own money called BIFLI (Because I Feel Like It). I was working on that in London and it didn’t really take off, but I learned a lot by the failure. After I was done with my clothing line, I started trying to direct, but your first job directing is just so hard to get because to book a job you need a job to show you can do the job. But how can you do a job if you don’t have a job? It’s like a catch 22, and no one is looking at me. Unbeknownst to you, before basketball, before directing, before anything I was always making music the whole time when I was young. Even throughout college and high school, always music. So I was like f**k it, I’m going to start rapping again. I started making music to create my own videos for myself. I made my own video for myself that I directed called “Ian Wright”. Ian Wright is a big soccer player back home in London. Thereafter, I directed a few more videos for myself while I was pitching on different artist stuff. I was literally pitching like 30 to 40 videos in a row [with] no one booking me. Not one. I don’t think you know how hard it is to pitch 30 to 40 things in a row and no one saying, “Yea let’s use you!”

Director X is signed to Luti Media. My brother is his European rep. He was geared up to do Iggy Azalea's “Fancy” video and I wrote the concept for it. My brother came to L.A. to produce the video for Director X, I came with him. X said, “I love your videos. From now on you should start working with me.” I started writing different video concepts for him. Then I wrote the concept for the “Black Widow” video. We shot it in L.A. back in 2014. Big three-day shoot. Huge budget. The whole time I was just on set chillin’. Then on day three, it’s coming to the end of the shoot. We have no performance of Iggy whatsoever. We were running out of time. We happened to have two camera units, and there was a huddle on the side with all the producers and the client. They were like, “Listen, X needs to go shoot Iggy’s performance. Who’s going to go direct the scene with Rita Ora and TI?” and X said, “Oh, Daps will do it.” It was really cool. I wasn’t really nervous because him having that much faith in me made me comfortable to do it.

How do you come up with your video concepts? What’s your creative ritual?
The song dictates everything I think, depending on the tempo, depending on content. Is it angry, is it sad, is it about love, or is it street sh*t? That normally determines the vibe of the video. Then I usually ask people's opinion about a song like, “When you hear this what do you think?” Sometimes all I need is someone to give me an idea and then I know that that’s what I don’t want to do, and that helps me think of what I do want to do. But just in general, I’m into making cool looking sh*t, even if it doesn’t make sense. I just play the song over and over again. Put the song on repeat and just think about it. It sounds weird, but what do the sounds look like? Certain sounds and instruments mean something to me visually.

Are you completely hands-on with the whole process of creating the video?
I see over everything in general and give the final thumbs up about everything. But what I try to do now is have everyone from each department bring their own wave forward. That’s when you get the best final content. There’s no point in hiring someone for the job if you’re going to tell them what to do every step of the way. For example, for the Migos “T-Shirt” video, the art director brought certain things forward that I didn’t think about. All I need to do is give them the template and say, this is what we are trying to achieve in the end. Go off then come back to me and tell me how you’re going to help us achieve that and bring your own wave to that.

What’s the hardest part about directing a video for you?
There are just so many moving cogs. You have like 20 to 30 people on set. If one person messes up, it just disrupts the whole process. It could be the smallest person or the biggest person. So synergy, smoothness and timeliness is always a huge problem.

Are you particular with who you have on your team?
Oh yea, I’m very particular. I don’t necessarily have the same people on every set, but for example, I try to keep the same core people for certain clients now. Like if something went wrong with one client I won’t use that core person again. But if something goes right with a core person I try to keep them for that client. Like for Migos the “Bad and Boujee” video wasn’t a smooth experience for me because some things were missing, some things were late. So I told myself I’m not going to use certain people again. And not that I wouldn’t use them ever again in life, but they didn’t necessarily merge well for this client. So moving forward I know what kind of client or producer to use for them. With that being said, the Director of Photography on “Bad and Boujee” did a good job, so I have other DOPs that I could use but I just kept him on for all the other Migos [“T-Shirt,” “Deadz,” “What’s The Price”] videos because he did a good job on the “Bad and Boujee” video.

How did you get connected with Migos?
I did a video last year for a singer, Niykee Heaton, and they were featured on the song. We were all in LA. My first time meeting them, and I guess they liked how I worked, so while we’re on set they were like, “Listen, our next video you’re going to shoot it.” I just thought that was just Hollywood industry talk. Everyone says that. Then they happened to be on tour in Europe and I was in London. I can’t remember what I was doing there at the same time. I direct messaged Takeoff, because I realized they were coming to London for some shows. But I DM’d him on some regular, like what’s up bro? What’s good? He hit me back like, “Oh you’re in London.” I’m like, yea. Then their manager Rel hit me up like listen, let’s shoot a video. Like two days notice. Wrote the treatment for the song called “Cocoon” and then that’s it. They sent me the budget, I sent them the treatment. They came from Spain from the airport straight to set. Long drive, they went to the wrong airport. The promoter booked them for some far away airport. They had to drive like two hours to set. Got to set, and they were on set for like two and a half hours. Knocked the video out. Put it out. Crazy. Then after that, came back to L.A. and they were like listen we got this song called “Bad and Boujee”, let’s do it.

Out of all the artists you have worked with so far, who is your favorite to work with?
The overall easiest experience maybe Stormzy. He’s back in London. But in terms of just like pure performance with cameras on and I don’t have to say much, Migos. They could be having a great day, slow day, sh*tty day, high day, whatever it is once you press record it’s on. It’s show time.

Who do you want to work with? Top 3?
I need to do a video for Beyoncé. I need to do a video for Taylor Swift, she does some really cool videos. And then maybe Drake. Other than that, a lot of rappers. I’m a rap head, so I have a lot of rap people that I always listen to.

On your IG account your name is @FlexGodDaps. Where did the name Flex God come from?
Me and my boy back home. We started doing this whole thing like regal royalty thing while keeping it street. And because we were in England we made up these old English names and sh*t, and I was the Duke of Flexfordshire and he was like Lord Flexington. We just liked flexin. We did this whole flex thing with this whole godliness. We came up with Godric Von Flex. Then someone said Malcolm Flex. So we had all these silly flex names. So were all like, flex flex flex, and the epitome of flexing is if you’re a flex god. So one day I just changed my name to Flex God.

Do you have a quote or motto that you live by?
“You live once, then you die forever.” So basically what that means to me is you only got one shot. Do what you want to do. There is no one living your life for you. You’re living it. Doesn’t matter who’s against you, or who’s looking down on you. I don’t give a sh*t if my own family doesn’t like, they better get with the program. ‘Cause I will go out on a limb by myself. You ain’t living my life. I live my life for me. Do what you want to do and do it well because there is no second chances. When you die that’s it.

Are you still rapping?
Not really. I write a little bit for fun, but not really.

So what’s next?
Rap was a stepping stone for me. Music videos is a stepping stone. You have to keep on moving. Keep on reinventing yourself. Keep doing things you are interested in. Keep challenging yourself. Me, personally, I just like creating stuff in general. I got a fashion project that I’m working on. That’s coming soon. I’m trying to do TV. I’m trying to write TV, I’m trying to direct and write movies. So in terms of what’s next. Just look out, really. That’s it. Keep a look out for Daps.

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Errol Spence Jr. On His Return To The Ring, The Hip-Hop Community's Embrace And More

Having your life flash before your eyes in the blink of a second can shake a person to the core, but on the backend, survivors of that experience often bounce back with a renewed fervor and zest for life. Errol Spence Jr. falls in the latter category, as he's been able to bounce back physically and mentally, from the horrific car accident that could've potentially taken his life in October 2019. Eager to prove his sustained injuries haven't made his claim of being the best pound for pound fighter in the game any less valid, the 30-year-old boxing sensation is set to face fellow welterweight Danny Garcia in a title bout on December 5, 2020, at the AT&T Stadium in his home state, Texas.

A unified champion, having held the IBF title since 2017 and the WBC title since 2019, Spence Jr.—who is currently undefeated, with twenty-six wins on his professional resume—is regarded as one of the most exciting fighters in boxing, with a knockout-to-win ratio of 80.8%. Having garnered comparisons to boxing legend Floyd Mayweather and victories over tough competitors like Kell Brook and Sean Porter, Spence Jr. is highly regarded and battle-tested. However, there have been concerns if he can recover to his previous form, even within his own camp. According to Spence Jr., any doubt was quelled once he got back to what he loves best: letting his intense preparation work its magic in the ring.

"I mean, you have little small doubts when it first happened, things like that," Spence Jr. admits to VIBE via phone. “But I'm very mentally strong, I stay focused. I just got back in the gym and kept working and kept focusing on my skills in boxing. I think my dad and my coach probably had more thoughts of, 'Can I take a punch? Is my reaction time still the same?', and things like that. But once I sparred, it was all basically back to normal. So I just feel like stuff happens for a reason. It happened in my life for a reason and I feel like it refocused me back on the main mission, on the main goal." And that main goal is continuing on his path to boxing supremacy, which could include a road-block in the form of a potential showdown with rival and WBO welterweight champion Terrance Crawford. However, Spence Jr.'s attention is fixated squarely on his upcoming fight, where he'll face Garcia and remind the world of why Texas ain't nothing to play with.

VIBE spoke with Errol Spence Jr. about his return to the ring, earning respect within the hip-hop community, fatherhood, and what fans can expect come Saturday night’s matchup.

"It's the biggest comeback in professional sports." — Derrick James has been amazed with @ErrolSpenceJr's return back to form 😤 #SpenceGarcia #ManDown pic.twitter.com/MMmsnvlUxZ

— FOX Sports: PBC (@PBConFOX) December 1, 2020

VIBE: It's been over one year since your last title fight, in which you defeated Sean Porter. How does it feel to be getting back into the ring?

Errol Spence Jr.: Man, it feels great, really, indescribable. It's a blessing that I can come back in a little over a year and fight at the top level, fight a top opponent like Danny Garcia, and defend my titles. Especially fighting at home at the AT&T Stadium. I don't think it can get any bigger than that, so it's great. I'm very thankful for the opportunity to be doing this at this type of level coming out of my accident, and it's good. It's definitely a blessing.

Shortly after your last fight, you were involved in a single-vehicle accident in the early hours of October 10, 2019, and hospitalized in the intensive care unit. You sustained facial lacerations, but no broken bones. What impact did that experience have on you?

For me, I just feel like it was an unfortunate accident, but it brought me back down to reality. To take care of stuff that's really important in my life and means something in my life and not take things for granted with life and boxing. For me, it made me feel like it got me back on track and focused, and made me hungry for what I really wanted to accomplish in boxing and in life.

What would you say have been the biggest challenges on your journey back from injury?

I would say my biggest challenge was both mental and physical. There were days where I was hurting physically, but I mentally pushed myself or did something to better myself every day. Whether it was training or stretching or doing some type of work that was positive in my life. Whether it was staying focused and rededicated to the work and not slack off. When I had a bad week or bad day, I didn't let it put me down. I went harder the next day, so I would say mentally and physically.

Who are your biggest influences as a boxer and why?

I take stuff from everybody. A lot of people watch boxers just to watch the fighting, but I'm watching footwork. I'm watching how they react to punches, which way they slip, how they block, their counterpunching, everything. I grew up watching guys like Terry Norris, Lennox Lewis, Floyd Mayweather, Roy Jones, and Vernon Forrest. All of these great fighters that as you grow up, you're watching their skillset and you know how they throw their punches and how they react to punches. For me, it was a wide variety of different fighters I was watching.

In addition to surviving the accident, another moment that's impacted your life is the birth of your son. How has that changed your outlook on life and how you approach your craft as a boxer? 

I don't think it changes my life as a boxer and how I approach boxing. But it gave me a different perspective 'cause if I didn't survive the accident or something drastic happened, he would've never have been born or I probably never would've had him. I feel like he's a new blessing in my life, definitely a breath of fresh air. I always wanted a son, too. I've got two daughters and this is my first son. It was definitely a blessing to have a III 'cause my dad's name's Errol, too. It's really a blessing to have somebody else who's gonna look up to me and try to do things I do. It's all about setting the example and setting the table up right for him so he can eat, too, when it's his time.

A Texan at heart, you recently bought a sixty-acre ranch in Dallas and even learned how to ride horses. How would you say the culture of Texas impacted you and helped form who you are as a fighter and a person?

I think the culture of Texas impacted me a lot just because of being outside. It's wide open in Texas, everybody's outside. Owning the land basically gives me something to do with the cattle and the horses and all different types of things. I think it's a peace of mind to ride horses that I never had before. I've never been on a horse and I've never even petted a horse prior to me buying land. I feel like it's a positive in my life and it's something that I can pass down to my daughters and son, or they can grow up on a ranch and ride horses. I'm putting their mind into other activities rather than doing the other stuff that's not gonna benefit them.

A large segment of the hip-hop community are boxing fans, with many artists and listeners listing you as one of, if not, their favorite fighter in the game right now. How has it felt to be embraced by the hip-hop community and get that street cred and tag of approval?

I mean, it feels great. Rap culture is hip-hop culture. Period. That's what kids like me grew up on, watching BET and 106th & Park, and all the rappers' videos as a kid. That's basically who we idolized when we saw them get cars and jewelry and girls and money and things like that. Naturally, that's who we were drawn to. So that means a lot to see them embrace me and support me.

What are some songs or artists you usually listen to that get you hyped up while training or before a fight?

Artist-wise, I listen to Lil Baby. I listen to Yella Beezy. Jay-Z, Nas, those type of people when I'm in chill mode. Yo Gotti, Moneybagg Yo. Yeah, that's about it.

You're currently signed with Premier Boxing Champions, one of the best boxing teams in the game. How has it been working with PBC?

It's been great. That's really all I know so it's been great. I haven't had any complaints, never had any issues, everything's been going well. Everything's been going great, it's been a smooth ride.

Your fight with Sean Porter was billed as one of the best fights of 2019. With him being such a respected fighter, what did you learn or take away from that particular matchup that you'll be using moving forward?

Sean Porter, he's a different fighter. He's basically gonna go out and give his all and brawl and fight. For me, I didn't really learn anything going forward. Everybody just realized that if I have to fight, I can fight. I think I really showed that I can stand there and beat somebody at their own game and really buckle down and be really gritty with opponents if I really have to. I think that's the main thing I learned: that I can fight in the trenches.

Would you say that's been your toughest fight thus far? If not, who would you say presented the biggest challenge thus far and why?

I'd say my toughest matchups so far was...well, I think Sean Porter wasn't my toughest matchup 'cause I feel like it wasn't as mentally tough as Kell Brook. Taking a ten-month layoff and basically fighting someone in their hometown. Going overseas and having to train two weeks before the fight and all the different types of things you have to go through. Training somewhere different, different food and things like that. I would say Kell Brook. The mental preparation was very hard, especially fighting in front of 30,000 of his hometown crowd. That was mentally tough in itself.

On December 5, you'll be fighting Danny García, one of the more imposing boxers in the welterweight division. What do you feel sets Garcia apart from the other boxers you've faced?

I feel like Danny Garcia has great timing. He's very tough, packs a great punch, and he's a guy that's gonna fight. He has a great chin and he'll fight if he has to.

The fight will be taking place at the AT&T Stadium in Dallas. How does it feel to make your return in front of your hometown fans, where it all started?

For me, it feels great. It's a blessing just to fight in my hometown, in front of family and friends. I'm able to get tickets to a lot of family and friends who aren't able to travel to L.A. and New York to come to watch me fight. Just to get that hometown love. They're the people that supported me since day one since I was an amateur. And I feel like it's just a blessing to be able to do that and draw that many fans to really come to support me.

What can fans expect from you once you step in that ring on December 5?

They can expect from me what they get from every fight: an action-packed, one-sided beating. I want everyone tuned in on FOX Sports and Pay-Per-View. It's gonna be exciting. I've never been in a boring fight, Danny Garcia's never been in a boring fight, so [they'll see] an action-packed, electrifying fight.

One name you're constantly mentioned with is Terence Crawford, who many feel is the best pound for pound fighter in the game. What are your thoughts on Crawford as a boxer and are you looking forward to stepping in the ring with him one day to prove you're the undisputed champion of the welterweight division?

Right now, I ain't got no thoughts on Terence Crawford. I feel like l gotta get past Danny Garcia for that fight to even happen. So if I don't focus 100% on Danny Garcia, he's a real spoiler and he spoils the apple cart. My 100% focus is on Danny Garcia right now.

People often speak about the politics of boxing and how it prevents certain fights that the fans are clamoring for. What would be your message to the fans about how the business side of boxing matches up with the entertainment aspect?

I'd tell them to be patient. The fights worth happening are definitely gonna happen, especially if the two fighters want it. But at the end of the day, there's a business side of entertainment. You've got managers, promoters. You've got TV networks involved, things like that, and everybody wants to get paid. It's like you can have a great fighter. If he's not having any draws on TV and nobody likes to watch him and he's boring, he's gonna get shut out. Just like guys like [Guillermo] Rigondeaux. He's a great fighter, but nobody wanted to fight him. He wasn't a crowd-pleaser, so he basically got shut out. You gotta be patient, at the end of the day. Yes, we fight. We take punches and things like that, but we also wanna get paid for what we do. And we wanna get paid righteously just like the manager is gonna get paid righteously and the TV people are gonna get paid righteously, too. We wanna get a fair shake and get paid the same way.

What's next for Errol Spence Jr.?

I just wanna tell everybody that after this fight, I'm gonna go back to the gym and keep working and stay focused. I want everybody to go order the merch. Esjthetruth.com—get your fight merch there. And basically, for me, just like every fight, stay focused, stay dedicated, and stay ready for a call.

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Mark Barboy

Interview: Suave House Founder Tony Draper Links With Celebs Like 2 Chainz, G Herbo and Nick Cannon To Feed Their Cities

The harrowing COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately disrupted Black communities across the United States with cities like Chicago being among the hardest hit. Throughout the year, artists from the city have stepped up and held socially distanced food drives and PPE donations across the city’s South and West sides. With his deep ties to Chicago since the early 90s, Suave House Records founder/entrepreneur Tony Draper, alongside NBA veteran Ricky Davis, made the Chi’ their next stop as part of the nationwide Feed Your City Challenge this past October 17th at the Pullman Park Community Center.

The chilly, yet bright and sunny Saturday saw hundreds of people drive through the parking lot of the complex, receiving groceries from the many volunteers, gathered from across the city. Masked up with PPE in the trenches with the civilians were local natives and celebrity supporters like Chitown’s Grammy winning producer/music executive No ID, rap star G-Herbo, new rapper Queen Key, NBA star Jabari Parker to media/music entertainer Nick Cannon. Draper and Davis were handing off items and loading boxes of farm-fresh produce and meats in the trunk of cars, and offloading the 95,000 pounds of food to feed 7,000 residents. While they were not in attendance, Common with Jhene Aiko and Social Justice Collective donated funds for the free groceries.

“You can’t lead the people until you feed the people. We’re out here in the community in a real way. People always talk about what’s going on in Chicago and these are the things going on in Chicago. Positive things for the community during a time like this. People coming together and it’s a wonderful event,” said Cannon.

For Draper, bringing the Feed Your City Challenge to Chicago and being able to pull it off successfully was crucial because October 17th, marks the 24th anniversary of the death of one of Chi’s most influential DJs, Rapmaster Pinkhouse, who passed away in 1996. “It feels like myself and my partner [Ricky] Davis coming to Chicago and partnering with Common, No ID, Jhene Aiko, Nick Cannon, G-Herbo, Jay Allen, [local FM radio] Power 92 and Pat Edwards was a sign from God that it’s meant to happen on this day. Even though Pinkhouse is gone, he’s still influencing the south side of Chicago and he’s still sending us blessings. We had to pull it off, we had to,” Draper said with conviction. 

Meanwhile, Power 92.3’s DJ Pharris, DJ Nehpets, DJ Commando, DJ Amaris and Hot Rod were on the 1s and 2s while Parker, Hot Rod, G-Herbo, and community activists Joey G and Nico Naismith played basketball with the kids. A nonprofit Hoop Bus was set up with a small hoop with Black Lives Matter symbols and the names of victims who were killed by police officers. 

G-Herbo, who has been volunteering his time to the kids of Chicago throughout 2020 says that events like this are important to build and strengthen Black unity across the city. “It’s beyond just being able to feed and provide, it’s allowing people to feel unity in the city. This is the city coming together and a lot of important and powerful people coming from the city, all walks of life coming together for a positive reason and that’s what it’s all about.” When asked if this event defied the stigma of Chicagoans not being unified, Herbo exclaimed, “Absolutely! We unified right now and it’s only gon’ get better, so we’re just trying to lead by example and make this normal. This is not just an event, this gotta be the normal for guys like myself and for the city.”

And the people who showed up to receive their free groceries were more than appreciative. Takara, a mother from the Southside of Chicago says that while she found out about the food drive at the last minute,“It’s a lot of food out here, a lot of good people out here and it’s something that we need. Events like this are very necessary and it’s filling the need for families who can’t feed their children during these times. I wish I could have volunteered and done something more, but we need this.”

In a one-on-one with VIBE, the legendary Tony Draper talks about his connections to Chicago, the importance and impact of the Feed Your City Challenge, the role celebrities play in activism, and more. 

VIBE: Earlier you shared that Oct. 17th was also the day that Rapmaster Pinkhouse passed away. For the younger readers who might not know who Rapmaster Pinkhouse is, could you share who he was and why he was so important to Chicago?

Draper: For young people that don't understand how music was heard back then, there was no social media [in the early 90s], there was no Instagram, so you had to get your record to the hottest person in the city. That person had to make a decision about whether it was good or not. And if that person touched your record in Chicago, that person would spread, it was automatic. That’s what happened to a young Tony Draper with 8Ball & MJG’s first albums. He put his hands around it and he exposed it to the Chicago market. Every time I think about Chicago, I always think about Pinkhouse. Pinkhouse was the main reason why I even came to Chicago.

Talk about that. What was Chicago like for you when you first came here?

Coming to Chicago was a very interesting moment for me because when I came, I had my hat cocked a certain type of way and I didn’t know the rules and regulations. And he told me, “Tony, man you gotta keep that hat straight (laughs). And I kept it straight ever since. So, for me, doing my journey as a young Black man from the inner city, raised by a single parent, establishing Suave House at 16 years old, seeing what I went through to establish [the company], and make it a force to be reckoned with. That was an accomplishment, but also I wanted to touch people I knew understood the music and understood where I was coming from and the importance of a young Black man that was a true, independent CEO and giving me the avenue to get my music heard. I’m from Memphis, raised in Houston, but Chicago is Suave House’s biggest market to this date. They supported everything Suave House did and I wanted to bless them [with the Feed Your City Challenge], the same way they blessed me.

With the conversation within the music business revolving around Black Lives Matter and supporting Black communities, what do you think it’ll take to get many of these CEO and executives from the major labels to support these communities like what you and many of the artists have been doing across the country?

I think they have to be involved with people they’re not comfortable with. Stop giving money to these organizations you think is giving the money to Black people, because they’re not. Nobody is holding these organizations accountable. Do business with somebody that has their finger on the pulse. A person that you know is in the music business that has been very successful in the business. Like right now, the Feed Your City Challenge, we’re in our ninth city. We’ve had eight of the top music artists host these cities without funding from the parent companies. [The artists] are giving the money themselves. Jhene Aiko gave money herself. Nick Cannon, himself. Rick Ross, 2 Chainz…Pee from Quality Control. 

Pee was on vacation in Mexico and he took a private jet back to Atlanta just to attend Feed Your City in Atlanta. He didn’t have to do that, but he did because he cares about where he’s from. He cares about the area. He wants to take [talent] from the area, but he also wants to give back to that community. See, white people want to come and exploit your community, but don’t want to build a library over there, never build a basketball court, never build anything. When an artist is dead, they say ahhh aahh ummm. If you wanted to demonstrate good character, you would have said, ‘I made a lot of money off that artist. Let me do something for that community as a token of appreciation for birthing that particular artist.’

I don’t think we’ve ever seen that before.

And you’ll never see it unless I do it and I am going to do it. That’s why I’m in Chicago. I’m going to every city that has blessed me and fed my family because every time I feed myself, I feed my family, my loved ones, it comes from my fans. My fans gave me the opportunity by buying my records. I had a dream, I had a drive, but without the opportunity, you might not have heard of Tony Draper. So, I’m always appreciative of people that have helped me, that’s why I want to help them. I’m in the best place I could ever be in my life. I’m 49 years old, I’m successful, I’m good. Bro, you want to know what makes me happy? Giving to somebody else. There’s another star out there that’s hoping and praying that they could get an opportunity and if I could give them that opportunity, I’ll give it to them. I don’t relish in the attention; I relish in the accomplishment. Let me help somebody. And if I help them and they become successful, they don’t owe me a quarter. I won’t sign them to a management deal or nothing. I just want you to acknowledge it and pass it on. See, we got to learn how to pass it on.

With the timing of this event brought on by the pandemic, how do you feel about it all?

I think it was God’s mission. With COVID that’s really unfortunate, a lot of people lost their lives during this pandemic. A lot of people have lost their jobs, their homes, their properties. My heart goes out to them. But if me and Ricky Davis can put a smile on a mother’s face, a father’s face and feed their children, that’s all I need. I remember me and my mother going to churches and food banks, walking with free government cheese, powdered eggs and we was happy. We were so happy, smiling and grateful. I think without that, I don’t think we would have made it to the following week. So, I’m always thankful for everything God blessed me with. I don’t think I’m special. I think that I had a plan and I stuck to my plan and made it happen.

Suave House has had a lot of artists who have always been outspoken about social and political issues, [similar to like an] Ice Cube recently. Considering that, and what you’re doing with these artists for the Feed Your City Challenge, do you think that the role of the celebrity today is to get in front of these issues or to fall back and support the people who're already doing the work?

I think it’s a choice. For me, I’m not a city official, I’m not a politician. I’m more comfortable with doing and getting my hands dirty on the ground. If I was in Chicago building houses for people, I would actually be there. I wouldn’t [just] send no money or send a crew there. I would be there. That’s how I feel blessed. I feel blessed by actually talking to the people and them seeing me out there distributing groceries. I feel good when a person drives up in their car and they pop their trunk and say ‘Draper?! You putting groceries in my car?!’ And they may be happy about ‘Space Age Pimpin’’ or ‘I’m So Tired of Ballin’’ or whatever, but just the mere fact that they were happy about me putting groceries in their car meant more to me than anything else. I think it’s a choice you make as an individual.

For a lot of people, some celebrities end up causing harm because their celebrity and actions might overshadow the actual issue.

You know what though? Without you being a celebrity, you might not be heard. So why not use that platform to be heard? I think LeBron James is phenomenal. I think Ice Cube is phenomenal. You don’t have to agree with him, but you have to respect him for speaking his mind and trying to get something for Black people. Nobody else did it! Nobody else took the initiative to write a Black America contract and present it to both [Biden and Trump] camps. So, I think that was a phenomenal move, whether I agree with it or not, it was still a phenomenal move. We got to stop with all this goddamn talking and do some action.

Draper and Davis’s Feed Your City Challenge will be arriving in Compton, California as their next stop on November 21.

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T.I.

Interview: T.I. Talks Activism, Verzuz Battle, And His Desire To Produce A Biopic On His Life Before Fame

Although Tip "T.I." Harris has earned some very respectable stripes as an emcee for his successful rap career, the self-proclaimed “King of the South” moniker really began to take true form once he stepped into his community activism calling. He’s acted in blockbuster films opposite Denzel Washington, Paul Rudd and Kevin Hart, but his willingness to speak truth to power has shown an unwavering commitment to being on the good side of history, as opposed to choosing silence to secure a spot on the good side of Hollywood.

During this recent conversation, Tip talks about his upcoming Verzuz battle with Jeezy, politics, the Trap Music Museum, and his desire to make his TV/film directorial debut.

Be sure to check out his newest album, L.I.B.R.A available on all streaming platforms.

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