Life in general is hard but I think you will understand there is a very unique hardship when navigating the world of music. Everyone looks to “blow up” but the act is harder than the modern day success story would lead one to believe. Knowing that it takes a high level of commitment and passion to level up as an indie artist, it is always good to appreciate the wins an artist attains on the path. It’s easy to only focus on the end goal but the journey itself can sometimes mean much more to shaping the character of a man.
Dolla Black is a rapper we’ve long held a relationship with here at 1DF, and to say that he has been on an upward swing with wins as of late would be an understatement. The Jackson, Mississippi MC was already one of the more professional individuals we’ve dealt with in the industry, but that continues to grow with his new partnership with LyfeStyle Entertainment. This led to his latest project, the recently released “Still Black” EP, to be distributed through Universal and Bungalo records. With such an accomplishment under his belt and the new music settled into the minds of new listeners, what better time to get some details on how it all went down right? Follow along for our Q&A with Dolla Black below.
So to start things off, tell us about your train of thought going into creating Still Black? What message did you aim to convey?
My mindset was to wake up. It was me starting the engine up again and letting it run for a minute. Trying to work the kinks out. At a time when I was second guessing my abilities to deliver, if I wanted to continue attempting to give my attention, energy, and finances to something that wasn’t giving me enough in return, I let go of my fears and decided to just create. Took some down time with God and it felt like once I let go things started falling into place, opportunities started opening up, so it’s safe to say my train of thought was to get back. Everything I lost over time and then some. And I hoped to convey to not only my #BDEFamily but to people who may have never heard of me that I’m a problem. I’m a force. I’m here to stay.
One thing that is pretty obvious upon listening is the heaviness of your subject matter. Aside from “Money”, it’s pretty much all built around the things that you think about and what has been troubling you. Did you have the intent of making it such a personal project?
I think I let go of my intentions period, and just made music. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t think about the direction, content, subject matter, I just did what I felt. Just so happened that it was all real and personal. My slowing down or lack of presence and music was pretty much due to trying to figure out how to provide whatever is needed to make it to the next level, and that tainted my creativity and my flow. I had a lot on my chest and shoulders and it was time for me to lighten my load and put it out. That’s exactly what I accomplished, and I think that’s the only intention I had when it came down to closing out this project.
You are an artist that has certainly reached heights not every indie artist ever will. That being said you’re still not what most would consider a “successful” artist as far as mainstream success. How frustrating is it to have such progress but still not be where you aim to? You kind of go into this on “Venting”.
At times, I think mostly due to social media, it’s very frustrating you know. Because it’s possible to fabricate EVERY post, video, etc. I had to remember that, because at times it would seem like I was watching other people elevate and getting to the level that I see myself being at and no matter how hard I swung at being the most professional, going through all the right channels, going through any and everything needed and sacrificing so much time to be productive and progress, others were going a lot faster and reaching higher heights doing half of what I was. Once I let go of it though and said you know, Imma just do me, and let everything else be what it is, the moves that I could make and plays I could create felt MORE like elevation. That’s what’s important … I celebrate me more now than ever.
You incorporated your family into this project with your son helping the intro. Also with he and your wife featuring on a track. Some people in the music business can be more secretive when it comes to their family, what made you want to do that? What was the experience like doing those recordings?
I’m not ashamed, nor afraid of the products of my decisions and my path in life. Not saying that others are, but saying I’m not. I’m proud to be able to consider my biggest blessing being a father. I’m proud to be able to acknowledge my wife as the biggest battery in my back. It’s no secret. They ARE my drive to be creative and to continue to be able to chase my goals and dreams, because we ALL need an example of somebody who stuck with what it is that they WANT to do with their lives as opposed to letting what you want to do go to try to survive or maintain your way through life. Creatively, things just happened that way. I was recording Better Days and my son walked in when I was mixing the hook and said he wanted to sing. He listened to it once and what’s on the record is what came out of him surprisingly. It was special. Once I had him, it only made sense to put Kiara on the hook as well. The ad libs she placed at the end made the record to me. And I cried listening to my final mix of that record. With the content and direction, adding them was like placing my support and their confirmation behind what I’m speaking about. Also, showing how they are in real life. They support and stand with me through every struggle and decision I face in life. That was a deep moment for me. And as far as the intro, my homie J. White wrote and performed the spoken word elements at the end of the record King Done Come, Kiara gave me the idea to put something in motion with King at the beginning, he walked in and I stopped the music and he asked, “Daddy, what happened to the music?” I made him say it a couple more times into the mic and the rest is pressed up and delivered! It just happened!
Speaking of guest appearances, Merc B. Williams is certainly a co-star of Still Black. He was hilarious with his skits. How did that come about? Did you kind of guide him on what to say or did it all just flow out that way?
Ah man, I can’t thank the homie enough for coming through for me. When it came down to listening to the project as a whole, hearing the records, it was almost immediately that I knew I didn’t want the project to just be songs put together and I needed a glue element. Something that made it seem as though it’s a full project, something that completes the transitions. Me and Merc been cool for some years now and it’s been times when homie really spoke life into me … very detrimental times in my career, and he had no idea. Me knowing what I knew about the project and feeling how I felt about it, I knew I needed somebody who would take the same care and put the same energy into making the project it’s best. All I had to do was reach out to him, send him the records, and when he came, he was more than prepared. We agreed on the voicemail aspect and homie knocked it down in no more than 3 takes. Whole project. Dude is a GENIUS! I thank him for it often.
6) One thing I notice about the project is you didn’t really do a lot of your own hooks. Now I think its safe to say you’ve been recognized as a strong hook-man, so what made you lean towards other people this time?
Simply insecurities. Me rebounding and feeling like I lost my pen. Feeling like I might not have been able to provide what was needed to capture the audience’s attention genuinely this soon. I didn’t feel the hooks I did … I was really on the cusp of putting this shit down for a minute, because it was too confusing, I had been hurt with music too much, and people were letting me down, PLUS music that wasn’t getting as much love and care when creating it as I was looking to give my music was winning way beyond mine … in that process I lost my pen … I couldn’t write, hooks, verses, nothing, unless it was in spurts … so when I finally got off my ass and started writing again, hooks didn’t come, just verses. So, I had to think business and be selfless. Delegate some of the hook duties to my people as well as focus on my verses and getting the message off. Which is why “King Done Come” didn’t get the hook I wrote for it, “AMB” didn’t get a hook just my idea for it for performances, or “Venting” just stayed with the bridge to the outro. Those records I played more to the feeling of them instead of traditional song format. I had to adapt to my current creativity level.
With you aligning yourself with LyfeStyle Entertainment this is the most assistance you’ve had with the release of a project. What has that partnership been like and what have you been able to learn from the experience thus far?
I think this alignment has been one of my biggest and best decisions in my career. The type of relationship that I share with the guys at LyfeStyle has been one of the best learning experiences for me as far as being a business man and growing and dealing with people from different backgrounds and higher knowledge in different areas. With that being a situation that I was brought into and basically bonded and grew the relationship and negotiations myself with no outside help, outside of my wife at the initial meeting, it’s been one of my proudest moments. Probably the biggest one since BDE. They treat me like family and with our partnership they trust my creativity, leadership, and most importantly, believe in my music and brand enough to allow me to do what I’m doing with LyfeStyle. We have A LOT of exciting things coming down the hatch that I won’t go into detail about because I’m a “show and prove” kind of guy as opposed to the hype, but just know we got some powerful things coming, and that’s not just in music. The most important thing that I’ve learned in the time that I’ve spent with them is that I’ve always been on the right path. Me taking the time to do the knowledge and understand the workings and things needed to grow an artist or brand was exactly what I needed to be doing, and that confirmation came from speaking with execs at Universal and Bungalo Records personally and bouncing ideas, hearing that I’m definitely in the ball park and playing ball, I just got to get them off and running. They initiated a monumental change in my mind.
I think a lot of your fans would like to know how the deal came about in the first place? From the outside looking in it seemed to be an overnight thing.
Well, rest assured it wasn’t overnight. I’ve been talking with LyfeStyle and building with them since about May 2017. Throughout the time of us building and trying to get our feet grounded as a whole, we’ve just been patiently taking our time to make sure that everything is where it needs to be to be fruitful and make sense. We all agree and understand that the only thing more important that money is time these days. So, we wanted to ensure that whatever seeds we plant are in the healthiest of soils, with the purest of rain, and greatest of intentions. So, once we’re past the building stages we don’t have to look back, we only have to bask in the fruits of our labor, and help other people the whole way through.
Now that we have that understanding, let’s talk a bit about your single “Money”. It’s really been catching on as one of your album standouts, garnering attention from seemingly every avenue. Did you expect it to have such an impact?
Oh, most definitely! That was one of the records that soon as it was cut I knew that it had the potential to be a stand out record even if it didn’t make the EP. I knew that it would be what it’s growing into because of the content, the vibe, and our delivery.
What was the experience like working with Fred Nice? For this to be your first time collaborating there is an obvious chemistry musically.
Fred is an incredibly gifted talent. Unfortunately, this wasn’t one of those things where we got to sit down and really come up with the product, but it was the one out of the pack that he sent me that grabbed my attention immediately. Once I let it simmer and came up with my cadence and direction we were off the races. I think the next couple opportunities that we get will be special. I look forward to what else we can accomplish.
Do you have any idea of what may be the next single to come after “Money”? Or is it still too early to tell.
It’s still too early to tell. We have our eyes on different ways that we can market certain records individually, but to be honest I’m so focused on making sure that I can get “Money” it’s full push I’m not really concerned about what’s next. Only focused on raising the bar as high as possible with this one.
In what ways do you feel “Still Black” separates itself from the rest of your work?
I feel like Still Black competes. What I mean by that is, it’s a lot of quality music that’s being produced by a lot of the big dogs in the industry, along with the underground and independent artists. I think that it competes on all levels. With the right push, it can be a successful independent project as well as a successful major project. I feel like it embodies my growth creatively, but also the growth in me as a man. The struggles of a man who really wants to live and breathe this music business and culture, but won’t do it at the expense of his family or morals. I feel like, when it comes to my other projects, the only one that it can be placed beside is Let Me Work. Solely because LMW was the only full body of work that was intended to be received as a project in album format. Everything else was presented as good music. So really, this is like my second album. I’m proud of it just as much, if not, MORE than Let Me Work because my hands were the only hands in it as far as the creation, recording, and mixing.
If there is one thing you could have changed on the project after it now resonating with fans what would it be? I know a lot of times artists can notice things they would have tweaked after the fact.
As far as the project, not a thing! I honestly know that I put my best foot forward with that I presented. Now I probably would have planned a couple more events for the roll out, had things lined up and ready from the jump, but as far as changing, nah. I’m 1000% proud of the product in its presented condition.
What is the most interesting story you have about the creation of the project?
I got two of them! When me and J. Skyy linked up at the studio that I had, we knew we was linking to work, but we didn’t know for what. We hadn’t set no direction prior to, we just linked up and said we not leaving empty handed. Skyy pulled up and I played a couple joints, then we got to the Switch beat, and what made that joint so special, was that I already had the first verse, I rapped that to him, he went in his phone, had something that fit the hook, jumped right into it, same for his verse at the end. Everything just fell into place. No pressure. That was amazing to me. As well as how Roc was just in town, and I was over at Blue Concrete wit Lil Bruh just running vocals, and Roc just so happened to be in town and I was laying the vocals for Pray For My City. It was amazing to me how his vocals and adding Hollywood Luck to the texture for harmonies made that song exceed the feelings that I was looking to tap into. God was working on this project for real!
Your closing track on “Still Black” is “Pray For My City”. With that city focusing on so much of the hardships Jackson is facing I’m interested to know what you feel is the main thing needed to help make it a better place?
I don’t know bro. And that’s me being 1000% honest with not only you, but myself. And I think if more people took that approach, saying I don’t know what exactly it is that needs to happen, but I know that it’s something wrong, and if anybody got a plan or a play that can be put in motion, I’ll support it to the fullest, we would probably be able to progress MORE than we have. I trust in God before I trust in my fellow man. To some people my answer or the record may be too passive, but what I try to do is project my energy towards the situations mentioned and my opinions towards the things that have happened like this, these are the things that we should be willing to protect, these are the things where our opinions really are invalid. Our judgements are invalid. Our comments are useless, because people are losing their lives, our communities are dying, and the systems are stronger than ever. We should pay attention to that. And we should figure out are we going to be progressive and put the energy where it can be productive for solutions or are we going to continue to be Facebook warriors with agendas that “help the people” but truly only solidify our individual legacies or names, and line our individual pockets. If any of this makes sense as a response … if not, then refer to the first sentence.
Has the response been what you were expecting to the music so far? What is the most interesting feedback you have received?
It’s been amazing! It’s been an abundance of love for the project and that’s what I love the most because I like putting projects together and painting a whole picture. I know that may be backwards to most, but it is what it is. It’s what I like to do. And the most interesting feedback has been being compared to early Eazy-E by someone who worked with him in those early stages of his career and consistently hearing the project in the same sentence with the word “Gold”.
Is there anything else you would like to share before we conclude?
As always man, I thank 1stDayFresh.com for playing a big part of the culture and the premiere site for all independent artists from all over. I’m proud of the work we’ve done and will continue to do. Make sure to follow me everywhere and purchase the EP where ever you shop your music. We need all them! “Money” video coming soon by the way! And then some! Stay tuned!
Follow Dolla Black on social media at @Dolla_Black_ on Twitter and @Dolla.Black on Instagram. His “Still Black” EP is available for purchase on all major online stores as well as http://www.DollaBlackBDE.com.