Time waits for no man, but if you were to ask Dub Aura, the best way to pass it is by preparing yourself for the bigger moments where it feels as if its standing still. And at this moment, his movement has grown exponentially from when he dropped his first full-length release, Fate: All I Know, nearly a decade ago. Currently making noise with his latest offering, This One Is On Me, a project that’s not only indicative of his talent, but the road traveled, the Harlem native is too focused on capitalizing on his present buzz than focusing on yesteryear. Comprised of 12 selections, This One Is On Me doubles as a proving ground for Dub, as he showcases his buttery-smooth delivery atop an array of tracks that demonstrates his knack for conveying the appropriate mood for the specific occasion. With a tracklist that includes features from Jim Jones, Dave East, Lady London, Remo the Hitmaker, and others, This One Is On Me is an offering we’ll gladly except, as it’s impressive enough to have us confident we’ll be looking forward to the next one that’s on the table.
VIBE spoke with Dub Aura about his new album, carrying the torch for Harlem, and why he’s got NEXT.
VIBE: Tell us a little bit about your backstory?
Dub Aura: My name is Dub Aura, I’m from Harlem. I’m Chinese, Puerto Rican and Black, I’ve been making music my whole life. I was raised in a household where music was the predominant thing that attracted me. My dad was DJing the house parties in the neighborhood, my older cousin, he was signed to an independent label when I was younger. So I would just see him coming in and out of the house in the wee hours of the night and I kind of just picked up on it. I took a stab at it when I was young and it morphed into something much more powerful. I started looking at creating music as an outlet and a way to be expressive. You know, the areas in the neighborhood that I’m from, there’s things going on, but I always stood away from it because I understood that it was a big a bigger picture. My family, they were in and out of jail and the scale was tipping. So I stayed away and they always encouraged me to stay away from that, but I’ve always been the voice box for the people around me that have no voice. And with that being said, it became a form of expression, it became a form of therapy and the music is very much in line with my day-to-day life.
You’re from Harlem, which has a rich cultural history. How would you say growing up in that environment has bled into your approach to creating music and the content of your songs?
You know, Harlem is like a big melting pot. You can walk up a block and it be a block full of African women and you go up another avenue it’s Hispanic people and now there’s white people moving in. It’s a big melting pot and all that taught me is how to be versatile and how to adapt and it definitely help me understand the world a little more. It’s a very cultural area so it just helped me become who I am. It taught me about the hustle, it gave me my confidence to be who I am. It’s everything for me.
Who are some of the artists you were most influenced by coming up?
Coming up, it was definitely Dipset. I was in high school at the time when they were at their peak and the Queens people were like, ‘Yeah, we got G-Unit,’ and Brooklyn was like, ‘We got Jay, we got Roc-A-Fella.’ And I was happy to say, ‘We got Dipset,’ because I felt that they were a clear depiction and a clear reflection of Harlem. What was going on, how we dressed, how we talked. So, they definitely were a group of people that inspired me. Even Ma$e. Ma$e was a big influence on me as well, but a bunch of them, you know. Big L, Black Rob. I just loved that the world was able to hear the stories about where I’m from.
How would you describe your style and what someone listening to you for the first time can expect from your music?
I think my style is very, New York. Very traditional New York City. I would say like the “Golden Era” sound that people are familiar with. But I think what you would take from my music is inspiration, what you would take from it is life experiences…flamboyance, confidence. It’s a texture of fashion in there. So I think there’s a diverse palate, there’s so many things because I’m not always happy. I’m not always sad. Whatever aligns with what’s going on in my life on this particular day is how I express. So it’s just a bunch of everything.
You recently released your new project, This One Is On Me, which is your debut album. How does it feel to get this body of work to the people?
I mean, it’s definitely a slight release. And I say slight because the work’s done, but just to see the response from the people [is great]. I think as an artist, you get so caught up in the creative aspect of it that you don’t really think about how the music will be received. Well, at least I don’t. I create from a real place and hope that the world receive it the way that it’s intended. But just seeing the reaction and seeing people riding through, playing the music in their cars and just the messages that I get, it’s definitely surreal. And it’s uplifting and it’s true to keep me going.
What inspired the title?
I didn’t put out a project in a while, it’s maybe been 10 years since my last project. The name of my last project was Fate: All I Know and that just spoke to things happening when they were supposed to happen and I think this walks along the same lines. So with This One Is On Me, it’s an appreciation to my supporters and my fans and the people around me. The people that I’ve learned from and the people that helped me become the person that I am today. You know, it’s pretty much a project that just gives back and shows my appreciation. This one is on me. You take someone to a restaurant or wherever and the bill comes, you say, ‘I got it. This one is on me.’ So it’s pretty much on my behalf.
Who are some of the producers that you locked in with for this album?
I worked with AraabMuzik, he’s got about three records on there. A producer named Jimmy Dukes, he’s from Buffalo. Automatik [beatz], I’m not sure when he’s from exactly, but somewhere overseas. There’s a producer named KXVI, he’s from Colorado. So I worked with a bunch of different producers. I usually work with the same producers, because there’s a chemistry that we have and sonically there’s a texture that meshes well, but yeah, it’s about five or six producers on there.
On the intro, you’ve got Dapper Dan, who is a Harlem and fashion icon. How did Dapper Dan come into the fold for this project and what was the significance of it?
So the record intro, “Rap Royalty,” was produced by Jimmy Dukes. And when he sent me the beat, the title of the beat was “Royalty” and it just sparked something. I started writing and it took me to a place, so I laid the first verse. I laid the second verse and I’m trying to figure out, “What am I going to do for the hook? What can I do for the intro?” And Dap is a friend of my family, I actually modeled for Gucci through Dap. Dap is an O.G., he’s super cool, so, we’ve got a dope relationship. The conversation that is being had on the intro of the project, those are the conversations that I have with him when the cameras are off. So when I thought about “Royalty,” I thought about rap royalty and especially representing Harlem and I thought, ‘Who would be a better person to express the trials and tribulations and what made us the way that we are?’
This album has a heavy Harlem presence, as you worked with multiple artists from the area on This One Is On Me. Was that a conscious decision or was that more organic and just how things fell into place?
Well, it was super organic. I don’t go around fishing for features, I usually work with people that I have personal relationships with. Like Dave East, that’s one of my close friends. I knew Dave for a countless amount of years, we have a bunch of records. And it was just something about that particular record that stood out to me. It was a strong record, I loved the chemistry, the back and forth. It just felt good. Even with Jim [Jones], the record “New Waves” was released prior to him getting on it. I just sent him the record one day just for him to listen to it because I mentioned his name. And he texts me back and he was like, ‘You want me to get on this?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah. I mean I sent it to you just for you to hear it, but yeah, why not?’ And this turned into the new version of “New Waves.” It’s like a resurgence of the record that the people already got. Even with Remo the Hitmaker. I got a record on their called “Ain’t a Thing” and a lot of people don’t know, Remo the Hitmaker is actually Sunny from Paid in Full. So this is like a whole Harlem conglomerate situation here on this project. And it wasn’t intentional, it wasn’t done on purpose, it kind of just happened. It was very organic and I love the way that it came out.
If you could pick out three songs from This Is On Me you’re especially excited for listeners to hear, which tracks would they be?
Definitely “Mase on Sunday.” I think sonically, it’s a pocket that people never really heard from me. I think it’s something different. I think even creating the record, it was a challenge to myself, just finding a flow that I never used, a tone, a cadence. I think that sonically, it just feels great and that’s what I’m about. I want to raise the bar every time, I want to elevate musically every time. So definitely “Mase on Sunday,” that’s one of my favorites. I have the title track, “This One Is On Me” and I feel like it’s a super rap record. It’s just bars, there’s no chorus, there’s nothing glamorous or shiny about it, it’s just hard rugged rap. That’s one of my favorites as well. And I would say “I Don’t Like You,” featuring Lady London. That record was just a fun record. You know, us just creating music, having a good time, bugging out. We recorded in LA and I love how it came out. So I definitely would say those three.
What can the public expect from Dub Aura moving forward?
I mean, definitely a bunch of more music. More consistency. I have this thing where I know the level that I could perform at and prior to these days, I would let it get in the way of being productive. But definitely more consistency, more modeling. A bunch of different things. I want to take on clothing and creating a brand, so a bunch of different things. There’s really no ceilings for me, so I can’t tell you. I could wakeup tomorrow and wanna try something that I never thought about. So just stay tuned and stay on the look out and let’s keep it going.