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Stacy-Ann Ellis

NEXT: Behind The Extraterrestrial Voice, Jessie Reyez Is Human Like The Rest Of Us

"You only give people the power to judge you when you care about what they say. So, f**k them."

The hazy orange sky of the last days of summer serves as a backdrop for our quick photo shoot with Jessie Reyez. As we spot a few spaces on the Midtown streets of New York, two regally aged women spot her striking a pose. “It’s Jessie!” one of the women say with glee as her pal smiles at the Canadian-Colombian songstress.

At first, they hesitate to stop, but Reyez’s warm aura allows them to have a quick exchange. The women point out how they saw her performance the night before during the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards. “¿Tú eres Colombiana?” one says as the singer responds politely, “Sí.” After a few giggles, the ladies head down Madison Avenue while Reyez leans against a marble building for a few more shots, tickled by the moment.

Just the night before, the 2018 MTV VMA Push Artist nominee sat below a glowing moon man to deliver a can't-turn-away TV performance of “Apple Juice.” The single follows Reyez’s critically-acclaimed EP, Kiddo, and leads fans into her second offering, Being Human in Public. Although she belted the vulnerable tune, the first-generation Toronto native appeared to stand confidently in her many “Apple Juice” truths. Donning her signature half-up messy bun and overalls, which read "NO ONE CAN BE ILLEGAL ON STOLEN LAND" and "THE #METOO MOVEMENT IS NOT F**KING NEW," Reyez captivated her onlookers. Even Aerosmith rockstar Steve Tyler had to give her props for her vocal prowess.

 

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Happiness because in 2017 my team and I finally got to see some fruits of our labour - labour I been putting in since I can remember Fear because I’ve watched others squander it and I don’t want to do the same Happiness because I get reaffirmed daily when I hear that my music has helped someone through a difficult time Fear because I don’t ever want to be a hypocrite but sometimes I can’t even pull myself out of my own darkness Happiness because I get to share this with my folks Fear because I don’t get to spend as much time with family as I used to and I’m scared of getting my priorities mixed up Happiness because people tell my mom I’ll be fine in this industry because my roots are strong Fear because I feel myself getting more and more paranoid Happiness because the dream is growing Fear because the dream is growing I’m not going to lie for the sake of being positive 2017 was unreal and beautiful but there are two very real sides to this and I’m just a rookie I want Grammy(s) and I want to die a legend But I want to remain humble I want to leave a massive positive mark on this world and do great things But I also want to find a partner I can trust that understands my priorities I want to sell out stadiums I want to build orphanages I want to sell out the ACC And I want to sell out BARCLAYS But I want to do all this with my soul in tact I need to I never want to lose sight of how sacred music is to me and how many times it’s saved me In the last 360 days I grew a bigger smile but it also forced me to grow a thicker skin. I’ve always been paro - this year it got amplified. Lost my phone so much I finally realized maybe it’s my subconscious doing it on purpose. One of my saving graces has been being around people who care without any hidden motives. Creatives who care. I find solace in knowing that other people find comfort in a window to my battles and my demons I’ve been fortunate enough to watch others do the same and one of those open books I respect nuff is @bryanespiritu Thank you for contributing your genius and collaborating on this @rootscanada jacket And to the visual savant 📸 @pharrisdesigns for making me look decent lol 🙏🏽❤️

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While passing her offstage, the legend whispered "You're great" to the uber-emotional starlet and kissed her hand for confirmation, causing a viral stir. "That sh*t was nuts. Steven Tyler came up to me, and it was just so unexpected. Dude, I can't even," Reyez laughs, now settled on a piano bench at the VIBE office. She unravels her bun and kicks a pair of white Under Armour slides towards me, to better seat herself with her legs crossed. A dense crown of waves tumbles from atop her thickly arched brows to below the waistline of her cutoff Wrangler shorts. One thing is clear: Reyez's beauty is as effortless as the likely success of her soon-to-release EP, Being Human in Public and its 29-date North American tour.

Her forthcoming compilation is a continuation of the unabashed truthfulness penned over the seven tracks which garnered Kiddo loyalists globally. The video for the poetic guitar-smashing breakthrough, "Figures," features both Reyez’s tears and the lyrical consideration of those persuading her to play for the other team. Still, the raw pain waxed on the lovesick hit is what pierced the core of an upward of 48 million listeners on Spotify alone. Reyez's audience clearly identifies with placing receipts in front of a lover, as a result of their allegiance being made a mockery of—a scenario many can relate to.

"Sh*t, receipts, man! I love that. That's lit. That's a beautiful thing to say. Thank you," she agrees with a chuckle. "Man, I think life would be a lot easier if people were able to stand in their mistakes and not backtrack. If you did something wrong, own it. Like, hold your own."

Another gripping Kiddo offering manifested in “Gatekeeper,” which fearlessly laid bare the unsavory work relationship she had with the alleged rapist and "Drunk In Love" producer, Noel “Detail” Fisher. The song’s chilling short film visual, Gatekeeper: A True Story, which was nominated for the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards Video with a Message, depicted his sexual misconduct towards her during the early stages of her career.

Today, at 27, beyond musically forging a path of her own, the crooner is advocating for sisterhood in a male-centric industry. "Sisterhood represents change and solidarity. [There is] power in numbers. I feel like it's a long way to go, to see a change that's gonna last [longer] than when the headlines start getting old," she says.

Consequently, Reyez responded to the TMZ article (which read “Detail Music Producer Accused of Raping, Abusing 2 Female Artists”) with a tweet: "One night, over 6 years ago Noel ‘Detail’ Fisher tried this on me. I was lucky, and I got out before it got to this. I didn’t know what to say or who to tell. I was scared. Fear is a real thing. The girls that came out are brave as hell." While she applauded the bravery of the two on-the-rise artists, who documented the rape claims, two well-known singers, Tinashe and Bebe Rexha, co-signed sexist maltreatment from Detail on social media, too. The internet was sent abuzz with the raised voices of upset fans and survivors of all backgrounds.

Many exchanged their personal experiences with predators, in hopes of abolishing the frequency of similar occurrences in the future. A week after Reyez's cyberspace revelation, she visually deconstructed shame imposed upon women for governing their bodies. The video for her 2018 radio favorite, "Body Count," depicted a community resembling that of the Salem witch trials burning the troubadour at stake for confessing, "I dodge d**k on the daily."

"Your body's your body. Do you! Sh*t has not been fair for women for a long goddamn time," Reyez says of the record's lyrical content. "You only give people the power to judge you when you care about what they say, so f**k them. If someone's not your parent, it's different. 'Cause if you talk to me about my dad, [these] conversations are common at dinner." The transparent dialogue within her immigrant household has long served as a pillar throughout her ascension to stardom, especially when it comes to work ethic.

"My dad [spent] 20 years working for one company. I saw him go to work sick as f**k just to make money for us," she says, expressing deep gratitude. Navigating around language barriers on foreign land, Reyez recalls witnessing her Colombian family hustling to make ends meet as her mother and aunt co-existed with matriarchal guidance. Drawing upon the rich complexities of her Latinidad, Reyez takes pride in her blood, traditional values, and the music which was rooted in her as a tyke. So much so that she and her guitar gifted listeners the Spanish-language lullaby, "Sola," in a moment where she merely scratched the surface of mainstream acceptance.

The introspective Latin record is lyrically etched with Reyez's need to break free from societally imposed gender-normative roles. This unwillingness to assemble herself in ways that feel unnatural is taking shape throughout Being Human in Public. The vocalist's take-it-or-leave-it approach towards sexuality on anthems "F**k Being Friends" and "Imported" champions for alpha women who do not crave attachment. Her flourishing self-awareness and ambition position themselves on earworms "Saint Nobody" and "Dear Yessie" further amplifying Reyez’s love for her journey and culture.

Having already laid verses on the icon Romeo Santos' retro bop, "Un Vuelo A La," Reyez admits, "Anytime I see a Latinx winning, [I] can’t help but feel happy, too," and unapologetically owning her identity has proven to serve her exceptionally. Reyez snatched the crown on her stomping grounds at the 2018 Juno Awards for Breakthrough Artist, and the serenader remains enthusiastic about vibrantly representing women of color. "I see [growing] representation. It's so important for that to be [visible] 'cause that's the only time little kids can [view and think,] 'It's not so f**king rare, or different. I don't feel alone,’" she says.

This innate responsibility carries over musically as it relates to being an LGBTQIA ally. Reyez joins forces in the studio with openly queer artists, including Sam Smith and Kehlani. "That's important [to see] not just [within] queer [spaces] but [alongside] black or Latina creatives. The second you see something that looks like you, for example, on an award show, and that's the dream that you've desired... it makes getting there a reality," she says. Living by her words, Reyez recently released the "Body Count [Remix]," featuring Normani and Kehlani. The feminist anthem puts on for independent women by chin-checking men who expect explanations beyond reason.

In this way, credible badassery has carried Reyez against all the odds from her girl wonder days within the Toronto-based at-risk youth program, The Remix Project, to two raspy features on Eminem's Kamikaze. After supporting separate North American and European tours, the artist pours her one-of-one intonation into each melodic remittance, echoing that of her idol's, Amy Winehouse. "Authenticity is hella important,” Reyez says. “I feel like people can hear bullsh*t. I feel like truth resonates and you can taste when something is synthetic."

With pure-soul momentum, Reyez’s global devotees are wrapped in her acoustic mystery, fixated on the rare indulgences of live singing, and the songbird's aspirations of philanthropy. "Before I pass, I want to start an orphanage and name it after my mother. She worked with kids all her life. So, I'd love a way to introduce mentors into areas, like Colombia, in barrios, where [advisorship is] so far removed," Reyez says. Thusly, if the next chapter resembles her prior manifestations, Jessie Reyez is sure to touch the world with an astounding legacy.

READ MORE: Allow Jessie Reyez To Give It To You Straight, No Chaser

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Courtesy of Netflix

Meet D Smoke, Inglewood And Hip-Hop's Next Hometown Hero

D Smoke is humble. The Inglewood native exudes an aura of maturation, needed for his quick ascension into popular culture as the first winner of Rhythm + Flow, Netflix’s hip-hop reality competition centered on the discovery of hip-hop’s next star. His signature authenticity shone throughout the 10-episode series and international audiences were drawn to his charisma as he proudly rapped about his lived experiences as a young black man in Inglewood.

“There’s such a rich history,” he says about his hometown, the inspiration for his forthcoming EP, over the phone. “I feel like it’s a beautiful but brief journey through my mind, my lived experiences, and the place that I’m extremely fond of.”

His musical confidence was displayed on the three-week series as he incorporated Spanish and live instrumentation to uplift the community-centered messaging embedded within his raps. Inspired by his childhood friends in Inglewood’s Latinx community, Smoke found music as unifier and way to remove barriers between Latinx and Black communities in his hometown. Demographics reflected in his students as a bilingual and music teacher at Inglewood High where he invests in the next generation of leaders.

He’s won an American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) award with his older brother, Sir Darryl Farris aka SiR, for “Never,” a Billboard-charting song from Jaheim in 2007, and received songwriting credits for Ginuwine and The Pussy Cat Dolls projects.

As the show’s first winner, there’s an added level of pressure for the rapper who has completed three music videos and started work on a 15-track mixtape since the show’s release. In the midst of press runs, D Smoke opened up about his experience on Rhythm + Flow, his Inglewood High EP, and his next steps as an independent artist.

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VIBE: Tell me about Inglewood High, your latest EP.

D Smoke: Inglewood High is an EP about my experience coming up on Inglewood, going to Inglewood High, and teaching at the high school after I graduated from UCLA. It’s an important project for me because Inglewood High School holds stories for me as a student and teacher. There are so many youngsters that I had the privilege of teaching that still walk those hallways and are walking the same path I did. I thought it was only right to start with this project first; some of the songs are about my experience, while others are about trends or stories that I often heard growing up in Inglewood. I took a third person approach to tell these stories; some bright, some dark, but they really capture what’s going on in the city.

In a Time interview, you stated Rhythm + Flow’s authenticity around cyphers and battles undid your skepticism. Could you speak about your transition process from being a bilingual teacher into a contestant on the show?

As a teacher, you’re performing every single day, right? Your students are your harshest critics, so performing wasn’t nerve-wracking for me. It was more that I didn’t want to subject myself to the critique of another artist. In the later rounds, I was unsure that their biases would either serve in my favor or to my detriment. So it wasn’t the nerves of performing, but how would they receive and understand my art? Because I believe the audience...before I went on the show, I knew that there’s a large audience for what I do. Submitting to three judges is very different, but by the time we had gotten into the later rounds, I felt like they appreciated what I was doing artistically and creatively. By the end of it, they thought of me as a peer.

Towards the later episodes, you incorporated live instrumentation into your performances which won over Cardi, T.I., and Chance. Is the next direction for your artistry going to implement live band performances?

Going into the show, my goal was to do that before I left. [With] the last round’s challenge of making a live performance, I was like, “Okay, this is the time where we’re going to pull that rabbit out of the hat, so to speak, and show them my musicianship side.” To be honest, I’m a musician first. My first love was playing piano. My mom is a music instructor and minister of music. Since the age of six, I’ve been playing the piano. That’s going to be a huge part of my artistry; to the same extent that playing the drums, singing, and rapping. It speaks to me authenticity as an artist, creative, and musician.

Being on the show has developed your relationship with the audience, in addition to your original support system of Inglewood. How do you feel about having fans around the world who have fallen in love with your music during your time on Rhythm + Flow?

To keep it completely honest, the reception has been amazing. I’m getting messages from all over the world. People love what I did and represented on the show while being entertained by it at the same time. I think when you combine somebody believing in your message, but being thoroughly entertained by your presence, I feel like that’s a true impact on the audience. I’m really overwhelmed by how much love people are pouring out and the messages. I’m trying to read as many as possible, but I’m only one guy. My following grew from 7,000 followers prior to the show to 700,000 and counting, and that’s in less than a month.

 

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We climbing the Charts!!! Let’s push it to #1 #share #tellafriend #GodisGreat

A post shared by Supa Good (@dsmoke7) on Nov 9, 2019 at 12:31am PST

Some viewers waited until all episodes of Rhythm + Flow were on Netflix to binge-watch. Why do you think people should've watched and witnessed your evolution as an artist to step into confidence?

I think people should watch the entire journey; go back and do their detailed research because we aren’t necessarily doing different things than we were already doing. I speak in “we” because I have a strong team of people that were working with me to prepare for being on the show. When the audience watches my performance, it’s not like this is something that I haven’t already been doing. I look forward to seeing the growth in numbers of my previous works, whether it be Subtitles - the series that I did demonstrating my rapping ability in both languages and having fun over beats that I loved and influenced me. It’s super vital to go back and see the whole story because although I’m new to a lot of people, I’m not new to music by any means.

On Rhythm + Flow, Cardi referenced Kendrick Lamar in relation to your music. You have close affiliations with Top Dawg Entertainment, your brother SiR is Kendrick’s labelmate, and you’ve opened for the Pulitzer Prize winner in 2011 at the Whiskey A Go Go. Do you see yourself continuing your relationship with TDE?

 

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Today is my younger brother’s birthday. Same mom, same dad, same blood, same schools, same hair, same goals, but @InglewoodSiR is and will always be his OWN MAN. My younger bro opened doors for me that he may not even be aware of. He’s fearless and original. His music is DOPE as Fuck and he’s as real as they come. Go wish my lil bro @inglewoodsir of TDE a happy Birthday! LOVE YOU BRO! 7

A post shared by Supa Good (@dsmoke7) on Nov 5, 2019 at 7:42am PST

I like the way you put it..continuing that relationship. We’re neighbors; they’re less than 10 miles from me. I was my brother’s keyboard player and musical director while he went on tour with Miguel. For a couple of years, Top Dawg Entertainment has been somewhat of a home base in the sense that I’m supporting their works indirectly. What TDE is to my brother or was to my brothers in terms of the platform to allow his following to grow exponentially. It’ll be more of a partnership where there’s an open dialogue about best practices to collaborate with artists, how we can plan community events, and coordinating impactful things. It’s opening the door for me to collaborate with my brother, similar to how we started off, and have the full support of TDE. That’s something I’m excited about and look forward to sharing.

Are you hoping to bring the spotlight to Inglewood similar to TDE’s upliftment of Compton? On Rhythm + Flow, you rapped about the familiarity of victims of fatal police shootings, because everyone in Inglewood knows each other.

I’m certainly looking to put Inglewood on the map. A lot of things are happening on the business development side with the stadium being built and the rise in property values. I’m looking to make investments in property and building connections within the city to continue education and community development work. My background is in mentorship, so being a visible face in the public, championing youth-driven programs is something I look forward to doing.

Do you plan on using your cash prize to start educational programs at Inglewood High and give back to your students who inspired your performances in the competition?

I’m looking forward to doing the scholarship. I’ve initiated the conversations with the city of Inglewood and Inglewood High School. We’re going to have an event to celebrate. I want to see the marching band come out and play the same cadences they played when I was there. I want to drive the energy back towards competitive academics because that’s what Inglewood was for me. It may not have that reputation but I can go back and name all of the teachers who had that impact and pushed me into being an academically competitive student.

Since winning Rhythm + Flow, you’ve gained a greater following and secured a series of upcoming collaborations. Are you aiming to remain independent, reflective of your underground spirit?

I haven’t altered how I move through the world since winning Rhythm + Flow. I’m always seeing my family, eating healthy, getting my workouts in, and connecting with people that I love, admire or respect. Engaging in different texts and conversations that really keep me sharp. Those things aren’t going to change. We also got business endeavors that keep me sharp and very grounded in conversation. I’m not concerned with the about of new publicity, altering how I operate. It’s cool and flattering, but prior to this, I knew exactly what I’m here to do and those things are still in motion.

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Nic Harcourt hands Quincy Jones the AKG Lifetime Achievement Award.
Courtesy of AKG

A Night Of Timeless Moments: AKG Honors Quincy Jones At 'History of Making History' Event

Quincy Jones can hang.

As AKG Audio's special event honoring the legendary composer in Hollywood came to an end just before midnight on Tuesday (Nov. 12), the 86-year-old was in the third hour of meeting guests. Sitting on a piano bench with a wide smile, Jones showed genuine love, laughs and hugs with every fan who had their own special story of how his work changed their lives.

Jones and innovative sound leaders AKG Audio have a lot in common. For the last seven decades, both have commanded the world to open their ears to new styles of technology, music, and production. It's a bond that brought the two to the Capitol Records Tower for "A History of Making History: Celebrating 70 Years of AKG," an event honoring the massive brand while tipping its hat off to one of the most important music composers of all time.

Jones accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award in front of an intimate crowd that included guests like singer-songwriter Daley, Maejor, Bobby Brackins, Jones' protege Jacob Collier, longtime friend and host Nic Harcourt, and many more captivated by the musician.

 

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Quincy Jones, the legendary composer, producer and founder of @VIBEMagazine, was honored last night in Hollywood by @akgaudio with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to music for over the last 7 decades. Check out our stories for more with Mr. Jones and AKG’s legendary role in the history of headphones! #AKGX70

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"Thank you from the bottom of my soul," Jones said. "This is as good as it gets for an 86-year-old bald-headed beep bopper (Laughs). Seven kids, eight grandkids; life is great. I hope you all experience a long, long life filled with love to share, health to spare, and most importantly, friends who care."

“Throughout his legendary career, Quincy Jones has created some of the most iconic records in the history of the recording industry and we are honored to present him with a Lifetime Achievement Award,” Erik Tarkiainen, Vice President of Global Marketing, HARMAN Professional Solutions tells VIBE. “For 70 years, AKG has been creating headphones and microphones that empower the spirit of creativity and innovation, and no one embodies that spirit more than Quincy.”

Some of AKG's classic mics were on display like the model Beyonce used for the album 4 and another used by both the late 2Pac and Luther Vandross. Jones even shared how he's used their products over the years.

"For almost seven decades in this business as a musician, composer, arranger, conductor and producer, I have always gone for the music that gives me goosebumps. And whether it was Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Sinatra and the Count Basie Orchestra, the Brothers Johnson, Michael Jackson, the artists who contributed to the recordings of "We Are The World", right up until today, without fail that music was delivered through AKG audio products,” Jones said. “As you celebrate your 70th anniversary, I have no doubt in my mind that AKG will continue to be an essential part of the music recording and listening experience for many, many more decades to come."

Collier's covers revealed just how sharp Jones' ears remain over the years. Collier's jazz-tinged covers of Jones' compositions like "Human Nature" (Michael Jackson), "Fly Me To The Moon" (Frank Sinatra) and "Give Me The Night" (George Benson) included jazz and R&B blends with the multi-instrumentalist using his voice as the most powerful card in the deck. The Grammy-winning artist's performance was a gift to the audience and to Jones, as he sat front and center enjoying an icicle and while tapping his shoe to the new-wave rhythms.

Just before Collier united the room, several studios at Capitol Records acted as classrooms. One studio featured a conversation between Harcourt and acoustics expert Dr. Sean Olive where they touched on the history of AKG's role in the headphone industry, dating back to 1949's AKG DYN Series. Another room included the stems of Quincy's most iconic production—Michael Jackson's "Thriller"—available on laptops for guests to mix while AKG's latest releases like the AKG K361 and K371 were on display. In the Crow's Nest studio rested with elation is Ramzoid, who offered his own remix to Jones' music.

One of the main studios featured a DJ set by Austin Millz, one of the creatives behind D’USSE Palooza and admirer of Jones. "It was an honor to play for the Quincy Jones/AKG event," he tells VIBE. "Quincy is one of my biggest influences in music. His path, journey and all his contributions in music is countless and is a great example of setting the tone for what is an extraordinary career. His accolades and what he stands for is exemplary. Last night was a night that I will never forget."

The bubble with Jones and AKG was a music lover's paradise. As the legendary composer continues to receive his flowers, new and old friends are learning more about him each and every day. "It's the left brain and science," he said of the intersection between God-given instrumental talent and technology. "You have to master the rules before you can break them, so you better know what you're doing."

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Duane Prokop

Big Baby DRAM Is Prepping For A Big Comeback

In 2016, music connoisseurs were graced with the introduction of acts who injected fun back into hip-hop . These new rappers like Aminé, Lil Yachty and DRAM steered clear of hardcore trap beats, and instead supplied the industry with exultant, infectious records. DRAM stood out with multiple hits that year, including “Cha Cha,” “Broccoli,” and “Cute.” But as much as the Hampton, Virginia native and his fans hold his debut album Big Baby D.R.A.M in high regard, he is now ready to flip the switch and show a different side of his musicality with his upcoming sophomore album.

“For the whole history of me releasing music ever since my first mixtapes in 2014, I've had a couple of records that were so jubilant, uplifting and uptempo, just automatic feel good,” the 31-year-old shared. “There's no denying that those records in the past have been phenomenal, but that was for that moment.”

Although no physical sit down occurred with DRAM for his conversation with VIBE, it was easy to envision his signature smile on his face through the phone as he shared his album-making process from over the last three years, as well as his endless side hustles. From delving deep into songwriting, to partnering with Sprite and LeBron James, he has kept busy and obviously music has consistently stayed on his mind. But he's taking a new direction musically.

An illustration of this is “The Lay Down.” DRAM's latest single shows him shifting from his jovial, happy-go-lucky persona into a passionate, seductive lover. The bedroom jam shows off his vocal chops as he shares vocal harmonies with H.E.R. over a beautiful, soulful production by WATT that's highlighted by a soaring guitar solo at the song's climax. It's one of the greatest songs of 2019, and it shows just how comfortable DRAM is with his versatility.

Although his sophomore album has no specific release date, nor a title available to the public (he apologized for the vagueness), DRAM is ready to welcome his fans into a new, previously slightly hidden chapter of his music career.

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VIBE: I know you're currently working on your second album, but you've also kept yourself busy this past year with things outside the album making process. Last year you worked with LeBron James and Sprite, recently you worked with them again for a remake of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" for the upcoming holiday season. What has it been like to collaborate with King James on your Sprite partnership?

DRAM: It's just really dope how, it places us in the same vicinity. I don't know, it makes me chuckle because he throws me a can of Sprite every time I see it. I got on these glasses, looking happy as hell. It makes me happy to see it.

In working with Lebron and Sprite do you feel like you learned something from him? What did you admire working with him?

I just admired how the whole thing went down to be honest. That everybody agreed to do it. I think what I took from that is that you can rub shoulders with just about anybody as long as you be about yours and do what you came to do.

Getting into your music, it's been a minute since you've released a project, three years to be exact. You recently just celebrated the three-year anniversary of Big Baby D.R.A.M. In these three years how much have you changed artistically and as a person?

I think it's more so about growing up. Growing up into what this has become. I can think about it as me putting out a merch project, like a newborn baby. And now I'm at the age of like a toddler, like preschool. No longer having the spoon or the bottle, maybe even have a sippy cup and a bag of chips. It's just more mature. Things that would excite me and things that I would be eager or nervous about, it's almost second nature now.

You become accustomed to the lifestyle that comes with putting out an album or doing the things of album mode. Going out and doing shows, and now it's no better time. It's so time for the next effort. The question is, what's going to be next for me and it's really just growth. Evolution, a slight change of perspective in a sense.

For sure. And then back in 2016, you were releasing records like “Broccoli” which was more feel good and kind of poppy. Now, you just released “The Lay Down” with H.E.R. and Watt, which is more soulful. Why have you decided to go that route? Was it a smooth process for you to go from making records like “Broccoli” and “Cute” to “The Lay Down?”

For the whole history of me releasing music ever since my first mixtapes in 2014, I've had a couple of records that were so jubilant, uplifting and uptempo, just automatic feel good. But then as a body of work, its majority is sensual, thought-provoking, emotion-provoking records, such as “Caretaker,” “Wi-Fi,” “Sweet Virginia Breeze,” which was centered on the first Sprite campaign that I was on. These records are really what the core, diehard DRAM fanbase, that's where, in the grand scheme of things, the whole scale. As the years went on, you aim to grow towards what you really want. There's no denying that those records in the past have been phenomenal, but that was for that moment. That was what it was.

Now what's leading the way, it's the records that’s still with the substance, that keeps the actual diehard fans here and there. It's like for the outsider, it's such a sudden change because if you haven't really delved into the world of "Big Babes" then you wouldn't get it. To the point where the fans that's been there for quite some time, they're right on key. Anyone else who comes just there for that, the instantaneous party, you might stick around or wanna kick back with a Daiquiri, or go back and drink your drink somewhere else.

Getting more into your track with H.E.R. and WATT, what was it like working on “The Lay Down” with them? Was the process of making that song different from any of your other songs?

Oh no! Like I said, it's second nature. It really just comes. I'd like to say, I can't really think of myself just off of one lane, I know that I concentrate more toward the sensual, what I was saying previously. There's no box to put me in. Just last week I was in a session helping a very prominent rapper. I'm coming up with lines for somebody else in a rap song. This whole campaign, it's really just whatever I put my energy towards, and I'm just very thankful that I have the strength and the feeling that I can do it.

Do you feel like the industry tries to box artists into the specific genre that they first come out with?

I'm not gonna sit here and be the one that's going to give you a huge leftist, huge rightist position. I think it's all on what that person that's there, is the entity, the artist. So no matter who else is behind them, no matter how much shit is going on behind them, it's all on that person and what they choose to do with their craft. Somebody can go into the game and really be in it for the heart and once the money starts, and then it's like all right boom, boom, boom, and then they say they want to change, and they're like "well let me go back to that thing" because the coin is good, everybody wants to get that coin back. Make sure you invest and save, you're not watching them do enough of that, you still want to keep it around. Some people will go into the trash can, before they compromise their brain.

I think it's all about balance and knowing your fan base may be slightly different from your true desires that you want to get out there. The thing is lace up and weather the storm if that's what you want to do or sit back and chill in the breeze if that's what you want to do. Don't be mad when the clouds start coming.

You recently said in a Twitter post that you feel that no one really sings anymore and that there aren't any "true sangers" out there. Why do you think that is?

You know, it's very croonery, very “monotone-y,” it's not daring, it doesn't sound like anyone is willing to jump off of a cliff and see if that parachute thing comes up with hope and a prayer. Trust me, some hope and a prayer gets you down there if you really believe. Nobody's channeling, I feel like in the correct manner. There's some people that are really killing it and making phenomenal music in what they do. What I'm saying is that there's a certain type of energy, a certain type of presence that is no longer being made, being honored. I'm just here to let that continue to live on, and it never die.

Do you feel like there are still singers that are out today that give you goosebumps, that you feel aren't monotone-ish or anything like that?

When I hear that girl named Yebba Smith... it's this girl named Yebba. She's like low-key, but she's probably a lot of people's favorite singers’ favorite singer. She's gonna f**k up a lot of sh*t. Her sh*t is fire. I stumbled across her at a session at my publisher house, we have the same publisher and she was in the other room and I was like damn bro. They played me her sh*t, I had to walk over to the other room and meet her. When I hear her sing that sh*t f***ing....damn! And that's what we need, that's what I'm talking about. All that other sh*t, it's cool, but c'mon now we need that energy.

I know you also mentioned in your tweet that you've also been focusing a lot on songwriting, I wanted to know what your songwriting method is like and if it's always come easy to you?

Anything can inspire to do something musically. I can hear a door shut funny and have a note and be like oh sh*t. Or something like the phrase “gotta be quicker than that” or something. I like to just use the things that I really feel inside. When I hear it and then when I say it, it's gotta match. It's like a secret language that I'm speaking with the beat. I just want to make it feel right.

What more can your fans expect from your second album? What do you hope that they take away from it?

Take away the growth of where I am mentally, where I am musically and to kind of get a better understanding of why I've been in kind of a recluse type of state in these years and the things that I've been going through in regular life.

Why the three-year wait for your sophomore album?

It needed that you know. I don't want to sound like that, by saying I don't want to sound like that of course it's probably going to sound like that, but it takes time for these type of things. I believe that the bodies of work that I've been putting out and more specifically, the first mixtape and then the first album, that really changed a lot of today's music, to be honest. You gotta give them some time to really cycle out so you can really see how much you've influenced music. I promise to God the three-year wait was worth it.

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