Da$H Is The Kid Your Mother Didn't Want You To Hang With

After some life-changing setbacks, the Jersey rapper is looking forward to the future. 

"Being from Jersey, you got to understand, there's not too many motherf*ckers that are going to support what we're doing," says Da$H about the Garden State. Though, the 24-year old has spent the last decade of his life obsessed with music, his current occupation in rap wasn't his childhood hoop dream.

LINK: Da$H's "Seymour" Music Video

"If it wasn't for my younger brother, I wouldn't be rapping right now," admits Da$H between pulls of his endless supply of Newports. "I didn't take this shit seriously until he was like 'this [music] is tight, here's some more beats, see what you come up with.' This is me at like age 15, making songs in my man Flea's spot. He had the mic hooked up to the desktop computer, and all that."

Raised in the small North Jersey town of Hackensack (Fetty Wap is from the next town over Paterson), the troubled kid always had an ear for hip-hop, but just viewed the culture as a passion---not a career choice. With a close knit crew of his brothers and closest friends, Da$H was making mixtapes with his group G.F.B.(Muggs, Stevie, Retch, Kash, Keefy), and feeding the material straight to Myspace. He recalls having to smoke Black & Milds to cover up the smell of their blunts from parental units---and cutting the air conditioner off in his friend's home-studio to prevent the power from going out. "I didn't used to say as a kid 'I want to be a rapper,' he tells VIBE with seriousness.

READ: Introducing New Jersey's New Rap Rookies Da$H & RetcH (2014)

Da$H found himself getting kicked out of countless schools before he even entered high school. Even his oldest sandbox buddies say he was always had a good heart, however,
as an adolescent, his mischievous mind always lead him to find trouble one way or another. Admittedly, he says his love for substances also has had some affect on his life. One year on his high school's football team remains as his greatest accomplishment when it comes to institutions of education.

(video produced by WeMadeItNYC & DreamButDontSleep)

With the music of rappers like Stack Bundles, Dipset, Max B and early Meek Mill fueling his desire to rhyme, Da$H released his first official mixtape, The Script to My Instrumental, in 2010. The reckless release contains beats that his team strong-armed from other producers and a bunch of other f*ckery. However, when he fell back in touch with a family member known to the music world as Dame Da$H, his world was re-opened to all that downtown Manhattan has to offer. For a while the then rookie even called the basement floor of Dame's infamous art space/studio, DD172, home---after he was kicked out of his mother's apartment.

LINK: Da$H's 17 More Minutes Mixtape (2015)

"You had everything in [DD172]," remembers Da$H about his teenage years. "It was like when Dame started bringing around The Black Keys, Curren$y and Wiz. When he asked me who they should be working with on some rap sh*t----I said them because I was listening to nothing but Curren$y at that point in high school."

The opportunity also lead him back to Ski Beatz, an influential producer in JAY Z's career, who had not seen Da$H since he was just a young child. "I got the chance to actually be around these niggas, and they're telling me 'aye, this sh*t is hard," says Da$H about meeting his rap heroes at a young age. "Having them at some of my first shows and sessions, where I sat in a real studio, it pushed me to go a little bit harder."

For a time, certain critics even thought the Jersey-bred rapper was somehow just a rich kid mooching off the Roc co-founder, but this was far from the truth. Everything was not peaches and cream in the Dash household during his early years.

"I grew up with a single mother who was raising 3 kids, with her sister raising 3 kids and we living 6 kids in a 2 bedroom apartment," he tells VIBE. "We were all taking care of each other. People can think what they want, that's fine. I grew up not giving a fuck about nobody's feelings. I wasn't no super popular kid, I got respect where I was from, but I wasn't no super cool kid."

Luckily, the lyricist never bought into rap's popularity contest either, and earned a solid fanbase solely from his independent projects. He has a number of double A-sides, EPs, mixtapes and guest appearances embeded onto your favorite rap blogs. Skrewface, 17 More Minutes and his undeniable collaboration with Playboi Carti and Maxo Kream, "Fetti," have proven to be his most memorable releases to date.

"A lot of motherf*ckers think it was easy," says Da$H. "And don't get me wrong, I've had a lot of opportunities that I know niggas would kill for, and I definitely appreciate all of them. But you really get what the fuck you put out, so nobody is ever going to be able to say I didn't work for what I got, or that I don't deserve to be where I'm at. They didn't sleep on the couches and floors that I did. They didn't sit there and go hungry for days at a time, taking responsibility and caring for other people like I did. I've sacrificed a lot. I've watched some of my best friends die. It's easy for them to say whatever. Just say it to my face, but I come at everybody with respect."

After not believing in himself for years, it was the love and belief of his inner circle that pushed Da$H to focus in on his true talent. With a few major setbacks taken care of, the underrated emcee is looking to reclaim his stake in music during the second half of 2017. Quiet at kept, he has an arsenal of new material ready to touch the streets.

"I saw the potential in what I was doing," Da$H reveals. "I had faith in what my best friends and my brothers started, and that's when I started taking sh*t seriously."

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These pillars and many more have allowed the next generation of emcees to be unapologetically brash, truthful and confident in their music. Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy and Nicki Minaj's Queen might've been the most mainstream albums by womxn in rap this year, but there was a long list of creatives who brought the noise like Rico Nasty, Tierra Whack, Noname and Bbymutha. Blame laziness or the heavy onslaught of music hitting streaming sites this year, but many of the artists on this list have hibernated under the radar for far too long.

VIBE decided to switch things up but also highlighting rap albums by womxn who came strong in their respectively debut albums, mixtapes, EPs. We also had to give props to those who dropped standout singles, leaving us wanting more.

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10 Most Important Hip-Hop Artists Of 2018

We’ve reached another end to an eventful year in hip-hop. From rap beefs to new music releases and milestones, 2018 has been forged in the history books as a year to remember. But more important than the events that happened over the span of 12 months are the people who made them happen.

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NEXT: Intent On Impact, Kiana Lede Is Ready To Leave Her Mark

After learning The Alphabet Song as a little girl, Kiana Lede would always “get in trouble” for singing during class. “My mom was like, ‘why can't you focus?’” she laughs while reminiscing on her career’s formative years. “I was like, ‘I don’t know! Songs are just playing in my head all the time!’”

Whilst sitting in a shoebox-sized room at Midtown Manhattan’s Moxy Hotel on a humid September day, the now- 21-year-old Arizona-bred R&B songbird, actress and pianist speculates that she “may have had ADD.” However, she settles down after taking off her white cowboy boots and flops down on the ivory-clothed bed, demonstrating that her fiery Aries energy can be contained. Cool as a cucumber, Lede shuffles between chewing on banana candies and blowing smoke rings after taking drags from a pen, all while musing about her journey to becoming a Republic Records signee.

“I just grew up singing and doing musical theater, and reading a lot of books, and playing piano way too much in my room by myself,” she says, pushing her big, curly brown hair out of her face. Her expressive green eyes widen as she grins. “It was my thing. Nobody in my family does music, just me.”

After winning Kidz Bop’s 2011 KIDZ Star USA talent contest at 14 (which her mother secretly entered her into), Lede was signed to RCA Records. She was released from her contract and dropped from the label three years later. However, thanks to guidance and friendship from the Grammy-winning production duo Rice N’ Peas, (who’ve worked with G-Eazy, Trevor Jackson, and Bazzi), she released covers of songs such as Drake’s “Hotline Bling” while working to get her groove back. The latter rendition resulted in Republic Record’s Chairman and CEO Monte Lipman flying her out and signing her to his label.

“I got a second chance, which a lot of people don't get,” she reveals. “So I'm really happy that that all happened. I wouldn't be here right now in this room if that didn't happen.”

Thanks to the new opportunity she was given, Lede’s sound has evolved into something she’s proud of—equal parts soul, R&B and bohemian. As evidenced by the aforementioned ensemble, glimmers of each aesthetic can be found when observing her personal style as well. She released her seven-song EP Selfless in July, which features the bedroom-ready “Show Love” and “Fairplay,” which manages to fit in the mainstream R&B vein while also showcasing her goosebump-inducing vocals. The remix of the latter features MC A$AP Ferg. What pleases her most is that it not only garnered a favorable response from fans, but that those listeners found it so relatable.

“As an artist, it's really nerve-wracking for someone who writes about such personal things all the time,” she says. “Just the fact that it is my story… It's good to know that other people know that there's somebody on their side, and they're not the only ones going through it. A lot of people obviously feel this way, and have been through this same thing that I've been through. So I think that's cool.”

Although she moved to various places as a Navy serviceman’s daughter, Lede claims Phoenix as home. This means she hails from the same stomping grounds as rockers Alice Cooper, Stevie Nicks and the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. However, growing up in a mixed race household gave way to tons of sonic exploration outside of the rock-heavy scene.

“My dad's black, and both of my parents are from the East Coast,” she says of her musical and ethnic upbringing (she’s black, Latina and Native American). “[My parents] listened to a lot of R&B. My mom listened to a lot of SWV, TLC, Boyz II Men. I didn't realize I knew the songs until I got older. I played a charity show with T-Boz, and I was like 'why do I know these songs?'” Lede also says her father was a fan of neo-soul and gangsta rap, but she personally believes the early-2000s was the best time for music.

“[That era] influences a lot of my music subconsciously, and also, singer-songwriter stuff,” she continues. “I listen to a lot of early-2000s music because I played piano most of my life. I listened to Sara Bareilles, John Mayer.”

An open book, Lede details some of her struggles with anxiety and depression with the utmost candor. After being dropped from RCA, her trust in people diminished, and she experienced long bouts of depression after being sexually assaulted by someone in the industry. The track that she feels most deeply about is “One Of Them Days,” which tackles these issues head-on.

“When I'm anxious and depressed, it's really hard to be happy,” Lede says. “Most of the time, I can do it, but there are just some days where I literally can't separate the anxiety, and I can't tell anybody why, because I don't really know why myself… I was feeling very odd that day, didn't even know if I could write a song. Hue [Strother], the guy who I wrote the song with, he was like 'I totally get you. Lots of people go through this.’’’

As we’ve observed in headlines recently, mental health and being honest about life’s trickier situations can help someone going through the same thing, and Lede hopes her music provides encouragement to those who are struggling. As for how she’s learning to push through her mental health roadblocks, she meditates, runs, and is an advocate for therapy, especially in Trump’s America, where harrowing news reports dominate the cycle.

Another hallmark of Kiana Lede’s personality is her bleeding heart for others. She cites women of color, sexual assault victims and the homeless youth specifically as individuals she feels most responsible to help, since she is personally connected to all three. While she’s aiming to create a project that helps homeless youth specifically, she’s working hard this holiday season to ensure that they have a place to stay “at least for the night” after horrific wildfires displaced many individuals in California.

“My passion is really people. Music is just a way that I can get to helping people,” she says with a grin. “Helping people emotionally and physically are both very important. I never want to stop helping people. I feel if other people can respect me, and I can respect myself, then I'll be happy. Happiness is all that we strive for.”

Recently, Lede played her first headlining solo show, a one-night event at The Mint in Los Angeles. While she was thrilled to see that the show sold-out, she was even happier to see the faces of her audience members, who she said ‘looked like [her].’ “Mixed girls, brown girls, black girls, gay boys,” she explains over-the-phone. Even though she wasn’t in person to discuss her latest huge accomplishment, you could hear the pride and joy through her voice.

As for the future of her career, she’s looking forward to more acting roles. You may recognize her from the first season of MTV’s Scream, and after her recent Netflix series All About The Washingtons with legendary MC Rev Run was cancelled, she has been “reading for auditions” and is “negotiating” for a role in a film set to shoot in NYC. While her time with the Run-DMC frontman was brief, she says he taught her about the importance of “not compromising your art for money.”

What Kiana Lede is most excited about, of course, is making music. She hopes to work on a new EP and then release an album after that. The ultimate goal is to fully realize the dreams in her personal and professional life, and she assures she’s just getting started.

“I want to be able to look back on my career and think 'man, I really poured my heart into this music, and made music that mattered, and made music that made people feel a certain way, whether it's bad, good, sad, anxious, whatever it may be.’”

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