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Reuben Chapman

Tiffany Evans, Her Cross To Bear, And Being 'Open Even If It Hurts'

Evans offers an intimate look into a bad situation she had been shamed into covering and how she has turned her dark clouds into a new chapter in her career. 

Reading as a success story, Tiffany Evans’ early fable follows a young girl propelled into the spotlight after becoming the first contestant to earn a perfect score in Star Search history. Later signing with Columbia Records in 2004, the singer released her self-titled debut album with the LP's frontrunner "Promise Ring" before taking a leave of absence to pursue parenthood. For the next few years, the South Bronx beauty popped in and out of music to drop jewels for her loyal fans. Now, nearly 10 years later, the 26-year-old is making her return to music with a bold new EP.

Last heard on 2015’s All Me EP, the mother-of-two’s forthcoming project ushers a change of pace, specifically Evans being a victim of domestic violence by her former husband. In an Instagram post, which has since been deleted, the songstress opened up about the physical and emotional disputes with her ex.

 

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#TiffanyEvans opens up about her abusive relationship. #Roommates, let’s keep her in our prayers!

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Championing a campaign against victim-blaming, the R&B veteran has placed an emphasis on helping victims heal.

"We’re worried to open up because we’re not really sure we’re going to get the support we need to get through this thing because not only is it physical, it's mental and emotional,” Evans says over the phone from Atlanta. “I just want women to start saying f**k you, you did this. If it's going to heal me and I’m ready to talk about it, I’m going to open up. F**k you, f**k you. Don't have your mom call me, don't have your sister call me, don't have anybody call me for some sh*t that you could have avoided, you could have controlled."

Here, the singer/songwriter opens up about her journey back to music, her upcoming EP, and her struggles with domestic violence and victim-blaming.

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VIBE: How does it feel to be back in the game?
Tiffany Evans: It's a little nerve-racking because you sit with music that you have been working on for so long. I speak about my experiences a lot and I love for my music to tell stories. When you sit with this music and you're not releasing anything, and only you know about it, you kind of get nervous when it’s released, because you don't know what the response may be. You know that you're allowing people to kind of see into your life, personally and everything that is going on. So that was the most nerve-racking part for me. Knowing that this record is not like... it's a true story. And it is something that I have been going through for a while and letting people know that it kind of made me nervous, but to see the response from all the women and the guys too, the guys love the record, it made me very happy. I'm like okay, back like I never left.

The last time you put out an EP was All Me in 2015. What do you think is really different between how you were making music then and how you work on music now?
When I dropped the All Me EP, my head was in a totally different space. I was going through things in my relationship but I was not ready to speak about it. By the time I started working on this new project I am going to be dropping soon—I started working on that around early last year—I just got to the point where I was ready to speak on what the f**k was going on with me and everything I have been dealing with. I'm going to be transparent, be vulnerable. I'm going to be open even if it hurts. Because this is going to help me begin my healing process. One of the reasons why I have not been healing is because I haven't spoken about it. I haven't said anything about it. So my music back then, I was just doing songs that I thought were really dope but they didn't come from my heart. I wasn't... Like I said, I like to really tell stories and be able to say what's on my mind and say, ‘Hey, I have experienced this and I want you to listen to what I am singing about.’ I was not ready to do that then, but I am so ready now. And that is the major difference, my energy toward that is a major “f**k what anybody has to say, f**k whose feelings I'm going to get hurt.” When I released the All Me EP, it was still on the clean side, still on the ‘I'm not going to say much, I'm not going to talk about much, I'm just going to do songs that I think are cool, but they aren't going to touch on my situation.’ I really wanted to make that a goal to open up this time.

Will this EP explore a more vulnerable and insightful look into what has been happening in your personal life?
Yes, and more honestly. I'm a little angry and I want to be transparent. Sometimes it can come off as "don't be bitter," "don't be." But, you know, sometimes you do get bitter and sometimes you do get angry and I want to let people know that it's okay to feel those very human emotions. When you go through so much sh*t and it hurts you, it can change you. I have definitely been changed. I want to start healing but I am angry.

Since you’re saying right now you’re in this stage where you’re angry, and you’re completely allowed to be angry, do you think that you will touch on getting to a point of forgiveness?
I definitely believe that it will lead to forgiveness. I know that I am still dealing with a lot right now, and I'm still angry. I do believe I have tasted bitterness on my tongue and the first part of my healing is me admitting to that truth and not being afraid to say, “this is where I am.” I never want to hate anybody and I never wanted to hurt anybody, regardless of what they have done to me. I just know that it definitely changed me and I do believe that eventually if I distance myself the way that I'm doing and I stay to myself and continue to do what I need to do for my healing, then it will end in forgiveness, but that does not mean that those same people or that same person has to be in my life for me to forgive them.

When you were in the studio recording “Switch Up,” were you in a home studio or was there anything interesting that happened while you were recording?
I was recording at home. I was recording at a setup that me and my writing partner go to and our engineer. We set this studio in the living room, in their apartment. I started to talk about the sh*t that I was going through and I was like, "You know what, I'm f**king done, I'm ready to open up, I'm ready to go off.” I drank some wine, and we all just started drinking and talking. The more that we talked, the more we started getting into the actual track. Then eventually it turned into a freestyle. I started going over the record over and just laying sh*t down—one line here, one line there. We didn't write one thing down, everything was popping up in our heads. It was like, "You know what, I want to say this." I kept up with the melody and it turned into "Switch Up." It's strange how it all came about, but it was a big a** freestyle.

Do you know what wine you were drinking? I need to try it.
Yes. It's the best. Sutter Home, sweet red. I'm a fan of it, I really do like bitter tasting wine, but I also love sweet red wine as well. I just grabbed a bottle from Quick Trip. They sell the Sutter Home wine products at the store. Then I grabbed one and went to their apartment and we started drinking and working. It definitely got us in the mood. They didn't think it would work for them, but it works for everyone. You should try it. I don't know if you've had it before but it's one of my favorite wines.

You said it started over a bottle of wine and here we are now. That's amazing.
Yeah, a little wine, and the inspiration was "ni**as ain't sh*t."

Speaking of, because you needed a glass of wine for this, is there anything you usually have with you when you are recording in the studio?
That's a good question. I sit with a cover, like a blanket. Oh, flip-flops. I know it's strange and it sounds like it has nothing to do with music, but I'm very much a person that needs to feel right before I open up my mouth. So I had some comfy, fuzzy flip-flops and a blanket. Normally that's what I like to record with unless like I'm going to a studio or a public studio and everybody is there. I might dress up in a track suit or whatever, but at the home studio I have flip-flops and a blanket and I was in my own zone with my glass of wine.

What can you share about your upcoming project? Do you have any collaborations in the works? Is there a title or a date?
I know that we are aiming for the first quarter. And it is very, like I said, it's very aggressive. I know you heard vulnerable and open, but it's very aggressive. A lot of times women get looked down upon for being assertive and knowing what we want, and what we want to say and sometimes we get looked at as crazy. The lyrical content is definitely something to focus on when listening to this project when everyone hears it. It’s not just the track but the words and what we say and how we say it. It's just different from anything I have ever done before. I definitely do have some features and I don't want to say anything about them yet.

No, come on, we are in a sharing zone.
I know, I know, but just know this, you guys are in for a major treat. I’m very excited about what I’m doing and who I’m doing it with. I just can't say anything yet. I’m not allowed to. It's just like every day I am like, Lord, when am I going to be able to say anything? Just know that I do have a couple of features and it's going to be lit. It's going to be something a lot of women are going to feel empowered by and the guys will even f**k with it, too. But I'm doing it for my ladies, we go through so much. This whole project is for women and me being a voice for the women and the issues we go through on the daily, and how we hold these ni**as down. And it's not that I'm trying to bash a man or anything like that or doing any male bashing. It's just that we need to be okay with telling our truth without feeling like we did a bad thing by exposing what’s wrong in a relationship or what's wrong with you, and what is going on with you. We shouldn't feel bad about that and too many times we do. I just want this to be the project that women listen to and they are like damn you know what, I’m better than that, and I do deserve more than that. I don't care this guy can be cute, he can sex me right, we can have the best sex, we can have whatever, but if he is not truly right, then I want to say that I love myself enough to say I don't care how cute you are or how handsome you are, how you know how much swag you got, or money. I can walk away cause I know I deserve better.

A lot of what resonates with me is you’re really trying to help fight this stigma of victim blaming. We now live in this era where people blame victims for things that are not their fault.
It's so crazy, I just don't understand. This person obviously went through something, and the only thing you can say is “what did they do? What did they do to get punched in the face?” If I am not putting my hands on you, you're not putting your hands on me. That's how it should be.

That is exactly how it should be.
It's just as simple as that. If I’m not doing that to you, don't do that to me. I don't understand how it goes, or how many people are so quick to throw stones at the victim for opening up. This is why we are afraid to open up. We’re worried to open up because we’re not really sure we’re going to get the support we need to get to through this thing because not only is it physical, it's mental and emotional. I just want women to start saying f**k you. Like, ‘No, you did this.’ If it's going to heal me and I am ready to talk about it, I am going to open up. Like f**k you, f**k you. Don't have your mom call me, don't have your sister call me. Don't have anybody call me for some sh*t that you could have avoided, you could have controlled. It's like everybody always wants to call and say why did you have to do that or why did you have to say that about this person or why did you have to put this out for the public to know? Well, what do you mean? So you knew that this has been going on for years? And the only time you are worried is when I say something?

Do you think that experiencing domestic violence has affected your music and your journey away from and back to music?
Absolutely yes. It affects everything about you because you blame yourself for why things are going the way they are going. You don't feel like you are worthy, like you are deserving of respect and then overall it breaks down your self-esteem but you don't have the confidence for things that you should have the confidence for. My case with music, I was always concerned about not being good enough and that started with number one. I had a lot of family issues. I come from a broken home but when you get in a relationship that is not any better, that only enhances everything at once. I didn't really believe that I was good enough to do music. I was always questioning things and always insecure about sh*t and always in my head about sh*t. One of the things I don't regret, but I just wish that I was strong enough to not let it affect me. And the very thing that I was born to do. I probably could have been in a different place, I don't know. But I’m not trying to put that on anybody or blame anybody. I’m not trying to blame that on the next person. But I’m just being totally honest, if I was in a different headspace and I believed in myself maybe things could have panned out a little differently when it came to my music.

Where do you think you have found your strength in all of this?
I have definitely found my strength in God. I have been leaning on prayer and meditation and, at times, it just really wasn't easy at all. You have those days when you're like, "I'm trying to encourage myself, speak to myself, speak life into myself," and sometimes you just don't believe it, sometimes you just don't have faith. Sometimes you're really affected by things that you go through and you're really stuck, you feel stuck and stagnant. But I've started to pray because there was a time that I stopped praying and I stopped meditating and I really couldn't wrap my head around anything. I started praying and asking God to reveal my own heart to me, the things that I need to change about myself. I started with myself. Things that I needed to be honest about with myself I asked God to start revealing those things with me and allow me to have the strength to build myself up and move on in my life without.

I started praying a lot more and asking God to give me the strength to make a decision to choose. Not to make a decision but to choose. To choose to do what I needed to do. That is where I started to come up a little bit in my spirit, but it's easier said than done. Sometimes you run across good genuine people who genuinely care and want to see you do better and want to see you okay. I thank God for those people. I call them guardian angels. They come into your life, and he sends them to be a light in a dark time, so I have definitely had a lot of that. I didn't even realize it at one point, but I have started to realize it and it definitely made a huge difference.

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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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