D Smoke Talks Kendrick Lamar Comparisons & Dangers Of Addiction | For The Record

Rob Markman:
What’s up geniuses? Welcome back to For the Record. I’m your host Rob Markman. Now today’s guest is the first-ever winner
of the Netflix show, Rhythm + Flow. All right. He’s known for his wordplay, his storytelling,
his melody. Does it in Spanish too. It’s an introduction for a lot of people,
but actually he’s been doing this for a long time. His roots in this music runs deep. He just released his latest album, “Black
Habits.” I want to welcome Inglewood’s own Supa Good. D Smoke. D Smoke:
Thanks for having me. Yes sir. Rob Markman:
Thank you for coming, man. How you doing today? D Smoke:
Man, I’m doing well, having a blessed day. How you doing? Rob Markman:
I’m doing good, man. I’ve been really looking forward to this interview,
to this moment. You’ve done Verified a couple of times with
Genius, with our boy Andres out there in LA. D Smoke:
Andres, my man. Rob Markman:
Yeah man. So he speaks really good of youm really highly
and I think your art and your work speaks for itself. So I was like, it’d be dope to chop it up
and kind of dissect what’s going on. D Smoke:
Absolutely. And I’m here for it, man. Rob Markman:
That’s what’s up. All right. So for most people, your introduction came
for Rhythm + Flow, is when you landed on a lot of people’s radars. But music has been a part of you and you’ve
been on this musical journey for a long time and you come from a real musical family. We’re going to get into that a bit. I’m start comparing y’all to the Jacksons. Because I don’t know nobody in your family
who don’t do music. D Smoke:
That’s a high compliment man, so. Rob Markman:
When did you first realize that you wanted to be a musician though, man? When did that first materialize for you? D Smoke:
Because it was in the home, it was very early. So mom started teaching us music at like three,
four and five. So by the time I was six years old, I was
like, “Oh, I want to play the piano.” And that was first. That was before I was like, “I want to rap,
produce, all of that.” And it was just as I continue to be exposed
to the different elements of creating music, I just wanted to do some of all of it. D Smoke:
So at 10 years old, my uncle took me to his house and he had a studio set up in his house
and I saw him make music right there and then transfer it to tape. And then I was like, “I want to do that. So then I was like, okay, “I’m going to be
a producer.” I started saying that at 10. And in elementary they always say, “What do
you want to be?” “A firefighter.” Or you know what I’m saying? And then I’m in elementary, like “a producer.” And you’re like, “What is that?” Rob Markman:
Wow. D Smoke:
But it started that early because the people in my family did it. So, and then by the time I started paying
attention to the music game and I saw the Puffys and I saw the Master Ps and I was like,
“Okay, I want to run an independent label.” And that’s where probably in like 2004 we
started our own company. And it was me and my family who kind of just,
we started, we built our own studio, converting my parents’ garage into a studio. And from that got signed to a publishing deal
and were writing songs for other major artists and then it goes on from there. Rob Markman:
So this is WoodWorks that you’re talking about. Rob Markman:
So WoodWorks is, it was you, your brother SiR. Everybody knows your brother SiR. The other brother. Davion, your cousin works with WoodWorks also, Tiffany. D Smoke:
Tiffany Gouche. Rob Markman:
Tiffany Gouche. And she’s worked on her own also with Terrace
Martin and Lalah Hathaway and stuff like that. You guys was really writing songs, like 2009,
you wrote a single for Jaheim, “Never” D Smoke:
Yeah, I did. I actually wrote it in 2000 … I want to
say 4 or 5. Rob Markman:
Oh wow. D Smoke:
Yeah, because I wrote it when I was a student at UCLA. So I was sneaking in the practice rooms. I wasn’t a music major. I majored in Spanish, so I didn’t really have
access to the music room. But I would just go walk through the hallway
because it’s just like practice room after practice room. And most of them are locked, but it’s always
one with probably the old busted piano that they leave unlocked and I would just go in
there and shed and write and whatnot. And so that’s where that came from. And then it was years later that it got picked
up and recorded and did what it did and surprised all of us. So. But yeah, that happened around that time. Rob Markman:
That’s dope. So being behind the scenes as a writer and
a producer, did you always have dreams of being in the forefront. Was that always your goal? 10 years old, “I want to be a producer.” You accomplish that man writing and producing
for Jaheim. Jaheim, legendary well-respected R&B singer. And I think it was the first single off of
that album. D Smoke:
“The Makings of a Man.” It was really the only single off of that
album and the album did gold. You know what I’m saying? I mean if there were other singles, they didn’t
make as much noise as that song did. But yeah, I used to look up to all the reason
I wanted to be a producer primarily is because I follow producers, the Dark Childs, the Timbalands,
the Battle Cats. And to me that always seemed like the mastermind,
you know what I’m saying, behind the music. And so to answer your question, it wasn’t
so much that I started off being like, “Oh, I want to be the one in the forefront,” like
to keep it 100, fame wasn’t something that I really aspired to have. D Smoke:
But it was more so ownership that was like, okay. I think after we play songs with major artists
and then we didn’t always get those calls to go back in when they’re working again. I was like, “Okay, we’re still at somebody’s
mercy or at the mercy of whoever’s deciding what’s going to be placed.” And so I was like, “You know what, if we put
out our own music, we decide what gets put on it.” You know what I’m saying? So that’s when we kind of shifted directions
from writing for other people to be like, “All right, we’re going to start releasing
our own. And SiR took it and ran with it. Rob Markman:
Boy did he. So how did the show come about, how did “Rhythm
+ Flow,” because you built a reputation for yourself within the industry. And you have credits under your belt and you
have work and real tangible things to show for your work under your belt. Rob Markman:
And there’s also a community in LA, I mentioned Terrace Martin earlier. I’m sure you’re running in and out of studios
and you’re running into guys that are bubbling at the same time. How did the show come about, man? D Smoke:
Yeah, so a lot of, so we just released “Black Habits,” right? “Black Habits” as a project was probably at
least 50% done before the show, the opportunity to be on Rhythm + Flow came about. So I had been strategizing with my team. At the time I had what, like 7,000 followers
on Instagram and a couple hundred on YouTube. And it was like I had been in this place where
I knew the quality of the music was high, but the movement, I felt like we needed it
at a higher platform. So we strategized on how to organically grow
that following before we dropped the project. Because we knew it was a body of work that
deserves to be heard. D Smoke:
So what we decided to do was do a series, a promotional series called “Run the Subtitles”
where we just did freestyles in English and Spanish over popular beats, “Xxplosive”
or “Next Episode,” stuff that as soon as it dropped, people would recognize and
be like, “Okay.” And then, but then the twist to it or the
hook to it was that when I’m rapping in English, I got Spanish subtitles. When I’m rapping in Spanish, I’ve got English
subtitles. So it caught wind. Jill Scott saw one, it was like, “This is
crazy.” Re posted. it Tyrese saw it, reposted like, “What did
I just see? This dude’s crazy.” DJ Battlecat posted it. D Smoke:
And then so it was when DJ Battlecat posted it that some of the producers, who were at
the time looking for talent for the show, saw what I was doing. It was like, it would be super dope if he
did exactly that on the show. So they reached out to me and said, “Look,
fill out this application. Go on this audition in front of the, not the
judges on television, but the producers, so that you can have an opportunity in front
of the judges, Chance T.I., Cardi and then Snoop.” D Smoke:
It wasn’t until that first day that I realized Snoop was there. And of course I had to go through the same
process as everybody else, but they were like, “Look, if you do what it is that we saw you
do on your campaign, we imagine that you will go far in this.” And right before that first day we filmed,
I was like, “Man, I don’t know what this is. There’s no precedent set. I don’t know what the producer’s intentions
are.” And then when they send the contract over,
the plus side of it was, you just win a cash prize. You’re not locked into a contract. Rob Markman:
And you being about your business early and thinking about ownership at a young age, that’s
important to you, right there. That stands out. D Smoke:
Absolutely. So I don’t have to get committed to some crazy-ass
contract. There is a cash prize. Of course, there’s a certain amount of visibility
from being on Netflix. And then I also considered that with these
judges being active artists, perhaps with their reputation on the line, they would defend
what they felt like was the best quality artists. So I felt like I had a chance. Chance would somehow defend like, “Okay, the
lyrics have depth to them and have real meaning.” T.I. will be able to say, “Okay, I can sense
authenticity when I see it.” Cardi would be able to be like, “Oh, when
he rap in Spanish, he’s for real.” You know what I’m saying? So I felt like I could appeal to the judges. D Smoke:
On a negative side, we were like, “We don’t know what the producers want out of this show. If they’re looking for a young artist. We don’t know if it’s going to be more reality
TV than it is performance and documentary moments.” And so it still read, the contract still read,
standard reality-TV language, where anything you use can be used on the show, whether or
not it reflects, and it’s verbatim, whether or not it reflects poorly on your artistry. So I was like, “Man, last thing we need is
a bad moment in front of the whole world, because we got a great project.” So I actually called the producers the day
before, I was like, “We not going to do it.” D Smoke:
And they were like, “Hold on, I’m going to call you right back.” They called a couple people and then call
back like please reconsider. Like, “I get what you saying, but there’s
no boogie man. Do it. Whatever you give us,” this is my friend Bianca
Bibs, she said verbatim, “Whatever you give us is what we going to use. Nobody’s trying to manipulate your moments
into something else.” So that’s when I talked to my team again,
we had that pow wow and we were like, “All right, we’re going to go in strategically,
focus on giving them killer performances. Any moment that’s not that, we falling back,
staying in the cut, so that when we do show up it’s meaningful.” So that’s how we approached it. Rob Markman:
That’s dope. That’s dope. Presence of mind. And I think a good lesson for young artists
who were leaving because the attraction is big. Especially when you’re looking to, like you
said, you had quality music that you believed in. You didn’t have such a big audience. When you’re looking to grow your audience,
that’s a major way to do that. But at what cost? So to have that presence of mind. Nah man, I tip my hat to that. Bravo. D Smoke:
Thank you. Rob Markman:
What were you feeling? I know as the show started progressing on,
people started recognizing you. Like you start seeing, “Yo man he looks like
…” it started with like, “Yo he looked like SiR. Yo. Nah that’s his brother. Yo. I seen him perform.” Rob Markman:
Was that something that you were trying to hide from the show? What was the … or was it just you trying
to tell your story? What were you feeling when people started
piecing together how deep your roots really run? D Smoke:
I think what I was doing on the show or what I do in my artistry, it doesn’t necessarily
require the SiR plug. I think it’s a dope moment that we’re now
in this project given, we tapping into it. All right, “Now, let’s tell you the brothers’
story on our times.” Not so much like, “SiR, I need a plug from
you or I need you to build me up.” Now it’s a moment where it’s mutually beneficial. D Smoke:
So it was very intentional to not lead with that. I could’ve walked up first episode and be
like, “What’s up my name D Smoke and I’m SiR’s brother and I’m about to perform for you.” That shit would have been whack. You know what I’m saying? So, and we weren’t that way as kids. It was always, because we’re competitive,
it’s always, “Okay, this is my lane.” “Oh you’re going to do that? All right, I’m going to do this.” You know what I’m saying? So our music is different enough, but I think
people can see that common vein in the content, and in the character behind the music. Rob Markman:
It’s dope. And I liked the way it played out, because
it does all really come together- D Smoke:
Absolutely. Rob Markman:
… on the album. “Black Habits,” to me, and this is just
kind of the fit. I’ve been listening since Friday, kind of
has been really the only album I’ve been listening to since Friday. D Smoke:
Dope. Rob Markman:
A) in preparation to this, but also there’s a hold that it has on you. And to me it’s just this love story that’s
filled with tragedy. D Smoke:
Yeah. Rob Markman:
And there’s triumph, at the end. And it’s a story where, if you’ve been following
D Smoke, you plant the seeds on previous projects. For example, “When The Kids Pull Up,”
that first verse- D Smoke:
Yeah. Rob Markman:
Is that written from your dad’s perspective? D Smoke:
Yes. Absolutely. Rob Markman:
So you’re writing as if you’re your father? D Smoke:
Absolutely. Yeah. Rob Markman:
Okay. So one of the lyrics, “I got babies at home
and they ain’t feeding theyself. Bank ain’t making no loans to a black man. It’s 1987, so that crack jam. So my habit, make the cash do a tap dance.” D Smoke:
“Make my cash do a tap dance. Hand-to-hand exchanges got me high as fuck. Now I’m eager and dangerous. I could stack it up. If I just hit a couple of licks, I ain’t no
bitch. But if I get caught him show going to miss
it, when the kids pull up.” So yeah, that was his perspective. It’s this self-proclaimed king, that kind
of twisted mentality of an addict. It’s like, I can convince myself to do this
because I’m willing to risk so much just for that next, whatever that next moment is. Whether it’s the next fix or getting a little
bit of money so you could make something happen. But yeah, that was that kind of a… Both versus are from two different perspectives. Rob Markman:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). D Smoke:
There’s Pops, then it’s the kids perspective. And even when we go deep with the lyrics,
it’s like, we try to make it entertaining. You know what I’m saying? In a sense that a kid is innocent. They don’t even know that they’re not… Everything, the ghetto is heaven to a kid. You know what I’m saying? Bust open the fire hydrant and play in it. Rob Markman:
That’s it. D Smoke:
You know what I’m saying? Like, play football on the concrete. Rob Markman:
Yeah. D Smoke:
Two hand touch. They don’t know. Rob Markman:
Hopping on the mattress. D Smoke:
Exactly. Rob Markman:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. D Smoke:
So, if I tell my story to somebody who was well off, or had a silver spoon, they’re like,
“Oh my God, how’d you do it?” Rob Markman:
Right. D Smoke:
But then everybody else who kind of shared those common experiences, they know the celebration
woven through it. Rob Markman:
Well that’s what drew me, because I faced a bit of that. D Smoke:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Rob Markman:
A lot of that in my youth when I seen my parents be addicts. And I used to go to NA meetings with my dad. D Smoke:
Wow. Rob Markman:
And seeing him go to rehab and shit like that. And I can’t believe I just said it on camera,
because we’re taught, we keep family business. D Smoke:
Yeah. Rob Markman:
They’re like, “Well that’s family business. Don’t go talking about that.” D Smoke:
Yeah, yeah. Rob Markman:
Did you have to have a conversation with your folks before you start sprinkling this story
or laying it out? D Smoke:
You know what? Not explicitly. Rob Markman:
Okay. D Smoke:
I mean they’re so much a part of the process that they know what comes out before it comes
out. But my parents are ministers, so I’ve seen
them stand up in front of crowds of people and tell that story- Rob Markman:
Own their truth? D Smoke:
… with the aims of reaching somebody that might be going through it, and thinking that
they’re alone in that. So my parents are this beautiful example of
the other side of all of that turmoil, you know what I’m saying? So I really didn’t have to ask permission,
because it’s not something they’re ashamed of or they really hide. Rob Markman:
Right. Yeah, so I never even asked my dad if he’s
ashamed of that shit. D Smoke:
Yeah, yeah. Rob Markman:
It’s just funny, it’s just something we don’t talk about. But like that’s why these albums, or this
album in particular, I think is therapeutic, at least for me. And, I can imagine, to a lot of people that
it touches. For those who just haven’t listened yet, if
you haven’t, what’s wrong with you? I’m looking at you. D Smoke:
Is this the camera I look at to ask the same? Rob Markman:
Yeah. D Smoke:
What’s wrong with you? Rob Markman:
But for those who haven’t listened yet, explain the premise of “Black Habits.” Because it starts with a prayer, right? D Smoke:
Yes. Rob Markman:
And there’s a very important child prayer. D Smoke:
Yes. Rob Markman:
For his daddy at the beginning. D Smoke:
Yeah, so until the end of the prayer you think is just a happy moment or a simple happy moment. It is a happy moment, you know what I’m saying? But it’s never simple. And I think that’s the common thread throughout
the project. It’s all enjoyable, but it’s never just surface
level. You can go back and be like, “Wait. There’s something to that.” So it starts off with the morning prayer,
which is mom getting the three boys ready for school, leading them in the affirmations. Like, “I’m smart, and I’m strong, and I’m
beautiful.” And then having a prayer. At the end of the prayer, one of them is like,
even after the affirmation, it’s like if somebody puts their hands on you, what do you do? Rob Markman:
“Sock them in the face.” D Smoke:
Make a wish they didn’t. And then the kid is on the side, like, “Sock
them in the face.” And these are literal memories, because fighting
wasn’t something we would get in trouble for. Rob Markman:
Right. D Smoke:
We were never bullies. We didn’t have to be, we had brothers. But you would get in trouble for not standing
up for what was right or defending yourself. So that’s where it starts off, and then it
goes on this journey through that bully mentality, and we use it as a metaphor in “No Commas,”
to go ahead and be like, “Man, we bullies in this rap shit.” Where it’s like, all right, I’m going to give
you that energy. Where it’s like, I’m here, I’m the one… Excuse me. I’m the one for the job, “No Commas.” D Smoke:
And just to set the tone, and then take them through that story from “Top of the Morning,”
“Sunkissed Child.” “Sunkissed Child” is the transition to
where it’s like, okay, let’s talk about what this family dynamic is. Rob Markman:
That’s an important record, “Sunkissed Child.” D Smoke:
Yes. Rob Markman:
And the second verse probably stuck out to me the most. Again, where you describe the relationship
between husband… And in speaking to you now, one of the questions
was like, how much of this is metaphorical? And how much of it is lyrical? D Smoke:
Yeah. Rob Markman:
But between husband and wife, where the husband introduces the wife to drugs and addiction
via crack. So that was your parents dynamic? D Smoke:
Yeah. So a lot of the second versus is just straight
down the pipe, literal. Rob Markman:
Right. D Smoke:
You know what I’m saying? It’s really how things happened. And me and your story is a little bit different
in that you watched your parents transition from addicts, out of that into sober people. But for me, it was the moment right where
my memories start, was right when the addiction ended. And I think that was a conscious decision
on the part of my mom to be like, my kids can’t know me as this person. Rob Markman:
Right. D Smoke:
Pops was locked up. So we knew what it was, but I never knew her
in that state. So when I tell those stories, it’s third person. Its like I’ve had those sit downs, and learned
how that came about. Rob Markman:
Word man. Man, I think it says so much. “Like My Daddy” is a lyric… What do you say? “Calm off the ganja, but in the 80s they gave
us drugs and a gun meant to spawn our…” D Smoke:
Destruction. Rob Markman:
Ganja rhymed with destruction. D Smoke:
Yeah. Rob Markman:
Like that shit was hard. D Smoke:
Yeah. Rob Markman:
But the crack era, really fucked up a community, fucked up families. And often I think when we think of the term
“crack head,” we see the broken down, we see the ill effects. Rarely do we hear… Like, it was a common thing. I try to explain to people, people didn’t
know what crack was. D Smoke:
Right. Rob Markman:
You didn’t know that the effects of crack until- D Smoke:
Right, when it hit. Rob Markman:
… when it hit. D Smoke:
Right. Rob Markman:
It was just another way to get high. D Smoke:
Right. Rob Markman:
And then you start to see the effects. But there’s people who survive that era. D Smoke:
Absolutely. Rob Markman:
And there’s plenty of families who are destroyed, and there’s plenty of families who survived
that era and came out okay. So that’s why I think your story is an important
story, because most of the times we hear about the ones that didn’t make it. D Smoke:
Right. And it’s easy. “Crack head” is one of them terms, you
just dismissed somebody. Rob Markman:
Right. D Smoke:
Like, that’s no longer a person that’s a zombie. Rob Markman:
Right. D Smoke:
You know what I’m saying? But there’s so many people who have addicts
in their family. Rob Markman:
Right. D Smoke:
And now it’s like we still talk about what an addict is. There’s motherfuckers that addicted to sugar. Rob Markman:
Right. D Smoke:
You know what I’m saying? But that’s neither here nor there. Rob Markman:
No, but how do you think? Okay look, because a lot of what you did… Look, you got another song, “Closer To God.” D Smoke:
Yeah. Rob Markman:
A track that you did with SiR. D Smoke:
Yup. Rob Markman:
It kind of talks about addiction, almost like, “I get high to get closer to God.” D Smoke:
Yeah, yeah yeah. Rob Markman:
As a simplification of what the song is actually saying. D Smoke:
Mm-hmm Rob Markman:
But as an educator, as a teacher, you spend time teaching in Inglewood High. D Smoke:
Yup. Rob Markman:
You’re around the youth a lot. D Smoke:
Yeah. Rob Markman:
You’re around a lot of kids. So there’s a big fear about the drugs that’s
going on for this generation. D Smoke:
Mm-hmm Rob Markman:
And it’s not crack anymore. D Smoke:
It’s not. Rob Markman:
But it’s the pills, it’s the lean. D Smoke:
Yeah. Rob Markman:
What’s your take on what’s going on? Now, since you lived through it, survived,
and I think, came out triumphant as your family. D Smoke:
Got you. Rob Markman:
What do you see? What’s going on now with this generation? D Smoke:
I’m going to just go ahead and say it straight forward, I don’t fuck with the shit that niggas
be on these days. Like the pills, the lean, that shit. It kind of upsets me that somebody let that
get popularized. Like, how do we do that? Because, lean, it’s so artificial. Like weed, okay it grows, it’s a plant. We can trace that back. But then you have this artificial substance
that we don’t really know its full effect on somebody, and it’s in music and it’s perpetuated. So as an artist you want to be like, to each
his own. What they do is what… I don’t really fuck with that. We got rappers dying and shit, and niggas
still putting it in songs as if it’s cool. So fuck that shit. D Smoke:
But I feel like people… I know that people do certain things for a
reason, right? These are symptoms of their experience. Rob Markman:
Right. D Smoke:
So for me personally, I try to make music that gives people other outlets. You know what I’m saying? The highest compliment I’ve gotten on a project
is that is healing. You said that. Rob Markman:
Mm-hmm D Smoke:
It’s soul food, something that is both enjoyable and nourishing. And I think music for generations has been
that, it’s played that role. So that’s my antidote to it. But all the pills and all that shit, I don’t
fuck with it. Rob Markman:
On the album, you say, “I don’t need trees to get a fade. I get up like I saw police, I hit the gate.” D Smoke:
Yeah. Rob Markman:
What made you quit smoking? Because you don’t smoke no more. D Smoke:
I don’t smoke no more. Rob Markman:
Yeah. D Smoke:
You know what? I kind of stopped enjoying being high. Smoking… I’ve always liked partaking with family. It’s like breaking bread, you know what I’m
saying? I got my loved ones around, I got other artists. It’s like, match up, you know what I’m saying? Run it. I’m with that. I’m with engaging with my folks, having a
moment, but then afterwards my state of mind is altered. And for me, I enjoy my natural state of mind. I invest in making sure I got a healthy state
of mind. I’m an avid reader. I have conversations with dope-ass intellectuals,
and loving people, artists, you know what I’m saying? So my natural state of mind is an enjoyable
state. So when I started realizing like, okay, even
when I get high, I’m trying to get back to that place where I’m like, all right. I know where I’m at right now. So I just stopped enjoying being high. I never really stopped and I’m not going to
front with you. I never stopped enjoying smoking with folks. You know what I’m saying? That was cool to me. Pass it, go. But when I was like, okay, what’s the alternative
to smoking with motherfuckers? If we want to create this bond, this moment
that we share without being faded. Rob Markman:
Right. D Smoke:
I don’t need to be faded. Rob Markman:
That’s dope, man. Nah, I definitely wanted to touch on. That’s something else I can relate to too,
I stopped smoking weed. D Smoke:
Yeah. Rob Markman:
It was one day that it happened, and somebody just passed me the blunt. I was with a bunch of rappers, and I was like,
“Yo, I really don’t have to do that. I don’t feel like getting high.” D Smoke:
Yeah. Rob Markman:
Shout to Busta. Busta to passed me the blunt, but I’m like,
“you know what? I’m cool.” D Smoke:
I saw Busta yesterday outside the studio. Rob Markman:
Good dude. D Smoke:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Rob Markman:
Great dude. D Smoke:
Yeah, solid. Rob Markman:
Going back to your days teaching at Inglewood. D Smoke:
And I taught at other schools. Rob Markman:
At other? D Smoke:
Yeah. Rob Markman:
Okay. D Smoke:
Viewpark across the street from a nip shop. You know what I’m saying? I was there for a year. Rob Markman:
Okay. D Smoke:
I taught at Hawkins High School, you know Westchester, so I’ve been at a couple schools. Rob Markman:
You was like the cool teacher though? D Smoke:
Yeah. Rob Markman:
I heard a story, you actually did an interview with MTV, I didn’t know this before, so I
want to shout out my man Dometi. D Smoke:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Dometi Pongo. Rob Markman:
Yeah man, he’s fucking dope. Casey Veggies was one of your students at
one of them? D Smoke:
He was one of my students, for his entire 11th grade year he was in my Spanish class. Rob Markman:
That’s crazy. D Smoke:
Yeah. Rob Markman:
So he just passed you, just like you was the cool teacher that they just passed mixed tapes
to? D Smoke:
Yes, because I used to play my music in class. Rob Markman:
Yeah. D Smoke:
And I wouldn’t tell them what it was. D Smoke:
Right. Because I used to play my music in the class
and I wouldn’t tell them what it was. They just knew they had never heard it. Say I would do my introduction, get them started
on an activity, and I’m like, “All right, you all got 15 minutes for activity.” To me I’m like, okay, that’s about four or
five songs. You know what I’m saying? Press play, put it on low enough to where
it’s like okay, it’s not jazz, it’s not cloud. Oh, this is hip hop? What’s this? And the students’ like, “Hey, what is this
you’re listening to?” And only the ones I that asked I would let
them know, “This is a project, just something I’m working on.” So he was one of those. Once he found out I do music, the very next
day he came in with a fully packaged CD shrink wrapped. You know what I’m saying? What 11th grader does that You know what I’m
saying? So yeah, that’s a real experience. We had grown-man ass conversations early because
he knew exactly what he wanted to do and was already in motion. Rob Markman:
You tapped in, though. Is there somebody else we need to look out
for that came from one of your classes? D Smoke:
From one of my class? Oh, it’s plenty, man. Rob Markman:
It might be the blood. D Smoke:
It’s plenty. The talent is there. I learned a lot of the lessons late to get
from just being talented, being dope, to knowing how to follow those steps to get in front
of the right people. So yeah, there’s no shortage of talent by
any means. Rob Markman:
That’s dope. And Spanish was one of the classes that you
taught. D Smoke:
Yes, the main one. Rob Markman:
You talked about the subtitles series that you did. What made you want to incorporate Spanish
into your rhymes? Was a song that just came naturally to you
or was it a strategy? Because it is something that gets people talking,
man. And look, I’m Puerto Rican, your Spanish is
better than mine. D Smoke:
Oh, man. Rob Markman:
You know what I’m saying? The running joke with Puerto Ricans is that
we don’t speak Spanish, you was born in the States. You know what I’m saying? It’s dope. When you just break down, it’s so seamless. D Smoke:
Thank you. Rob Markman:
It’s ill, man. What inspired that? D Smoke:
The first time I rapped in Spanish, I looked up and I was already flowing. I was like, I’m writing raps, let me switch. You know what I’m saying? It was happenstance. And then I did it a couple times and there
was a show. It’s actually in 2011 we opened up for Kendrick
Lamar at Whiskey a Go Go, which is a club that it’s like a 400 cap, small club, but
he packed it out. His crowd wasn’t really fucking with no openers
except for us. Talking over everybody’s performance. When we went up we started off our shit and
the crowd got silent. It’s like, okay, we don’t know this, but this
shit is dope. So they start paying attention. D Smoke:
And then I did a verse to the song called Overkill. The second verse, the band dropped out, beat
dropped, and I was like [raps in spanish]. Crowd went nuts. Like “what the fuck?” Right? Lost their shit. And I probably had maybe four or five Spanish
verses in the bag, but I didn’t dive in at the length that I have now. But I think that moment told me oh shit. Not only is this something that I can do,
but they don’t expect it, and it’s so memorable. So I just dove a little more into that. D Smoke:
My major in college was Spanish literature. I had done so much writing that my approach
to putting verses together is not so much from here’s some of the things that they say
a lot in Spanish music, it was more so I can tell full stories, I can express my mind as
if it were more of an essay. That’s what I think the Spanish crowd appreciates
because they hear Spanish music but they don’t hear it with this approach. Rob Markman:
Yeah. It doesn’t seem like pandering. D Smoke:
Right. Rob Markman:
Or just like a parlor trick. Like “yo, I could rap this.” There’s a meaning when you switch still. Even the song like “Gaspar Yanga,” which
is for those who don’t know a African who led a colony of slaves against Spaniards in
Mexico. D Smoke:
Absolutely. Rob Markman:
And I think especially in Cali, right, it’s important between black and brown people,
the unity, because there’s so much made about the differences and the unity. So when I heard “Gaspar Yanga” I was like,
oh shit, that’s dope. You’re tying it together in a real historical
way. D Smoke:
And never say his name. Yeah, exactly. Shout out to Snoop. I never say his name in the song, and that’s
intentional. It’s just more so summoning that energy, because
he was a general, he led a revolution. You know what I’m saying? The line you was talking about… I don’t know you mentioned it, but my favorite
line off that one is [raps in Spanish]. It was just like, even though I’m good, I
can’t say the same about the folks that I run with if you all acting up you know, turn
you into chorizo. That’s that moment where we had to demonstrate
a little bit. Rob Markman:
That’s dope. Did you and Snoop, did you all have that? Because you all had that moment on Rhythm
+ Flow. It’s like “where are you from? Inglewood.” You know what I’m saying? D Smoke:
Where you from? Yeah. Rob Markman:
Was the song already in play or was the song inspired by that moment on Rhythm + Flow? D Smoke:
Yes. No, absolutely. It was definitely inspired by that moment. It was one of those last minute additions
to the project. We had had several finished drafts of “Black
Habits” that didn’t have that song on it. And then once we got hold of that beat and
I started writing to the beat and the hook came about, I realized I didn’t have a song
that explicitly was like where are you from? Inglewood. You know what I’m saying? And you got to do that. Demani, shout out to Demani from Inglewood. He had a huge song. “Tell them where I’m from. Inglewood. Inglewood.” Just the ring of the city when you hear it,
it’s dope. And I knew I wanted to do that, so when the
hook came about I was like, it would be crazy if we had Snoop do it because the world saw
that moment and that’s their first taste of some West coast shit coming off of Rhythm
+ Flow. They was like, that’s a LA ass moment. Rob Markman:
Nah, that’s super dope, man. I love that track, too. You mentioned opening for Kendrick earlier. You’ve drawn a lot of comparisons to him. A lot of people compare you to Kendrick with
the way the music sounds. Do you hear what everybody else is hearing
on the surface or does that bug you out? Does it bother you? What’s your take on that? D Smoke:
It doesn’t bother me. I think there’s not so much of a precedent
of somebody who is both entertaining and really saying some stuff that causes you to listen
more than once, to really dig deep into the meaning behind it. If it were some turn up shit, if it were some
club shit, then it’s a movement, it’s a sound. You know what I’m saying? It’s regional. But because there are so few people in that
lane that he walks brilliantly, that Cole walks brilliantly, it’s that box. Early in his career, he had to deal with the
comparisons, too. “All the shooters be calling me Common or
calling me Kwele and Common proves ignorance is bliss.” It’s just that when you don’t have that amount
of… That your bodies of work that you’ve put out
aren’t in depth yet, they only have that way of understanding you. As you move along people start to understand
that you more for who you are. Rob Markman:
Right. Man, I had did a Rhythm + Flow after show
and that topic had came up, Scottie Beam was hosting. Shout out to Scottie Beam. D Smoke:
Shout out to Scottie Beam. Rob Markman:
I think me, Ebro and Karen Civil were on it. And that question that came up, “Well, do
you think he sounds like Kendrick?” I can honestly hear similarities in it. You know what I’m saying? My point had been there’s certain people that
come and they just kind of change the sound of hip hop. We get Lil Uzi Vert and there’s a 1,000
cats that sounded like Lil Uzi and nobody cares. And the minute we get one that may sound something
like a Kendrick or a Cole or somebody of that substance that you talk about, we’d be quick
to cut them down. And it’s like, well, let’s just see how this
play out real quick. And that was my comment then. That was maybe immediately after you won the
show. D Smoke:
Right. And you definitely didn’t have much to… Just staying in your stance. Rob Markman:
I didn’t have much to go on. But I’m like, man, I got a feeling, let’s
see how this play out. I say all that to say with “Black Habits,”
again, as I’m listening, I started at the top of the show saying how much I connected
to this album. And maybe it’s just me personally because
a lot of your experience, a lot of what you’re talking about is things that I went through. So then right there that automatically… Oh, this is another thing. When I’m feeling this, this is what I put
on. And I can only put on D Smoke “Black Habits”
when I need to feel this. You know what I’m saying? I wish you luck. You know what I’m saying? On your journey. I look forward to more music from you and
a long career that we could dive into different stories, different topics, and different conversations,
and really find out who D Smoke is, the totality of him. You know what I mean? D Smoke:
Man, I appreciate that, man. Rob Markman:
Nah, for sure, man. We always end the show with this one thing,
man. I’m going to ask you to rap a verse acapella,
right? D Smoke:
Okay. Rob Markman:
But not one of yours because I know you got all that. I know you just came off of Good Morning America. You got verses for days. Just rapping on Good Morning America. That’s crazy. A verse of somebody that inspires you. Something that just moved you on your come
up, man. You got any of those? D Smoke:
okay. Yes I do. Let me see. All right. And we’ll go with this one. You let me know if you recognize it. D Smoke:
Me and everything around me is unstable like Chernobyl. Ready to blow at any moment, jumping like
a Pogo stick. Life never lived up to my expectations, so
I accept the patience. Expect the worst, but now I’m pacing back
and forth inside. I’m going to end like water on wicked witches. A monster truck then came and ran over my
picket fences. I had the best of life in my clenches, but
monkey wrenches was strong like chairs King sit on. My prayers seem too long. I fall asleep before they ended. Don’t even get to say amen. I hope he understand. I’d be on bended knees. At times I think I’m crazy. Then I say forget it. Or maybe it’s the devil infiltrating. And like Riddick Bowe I’ve been fighting this
since them fetus days. I count from one to 20 when I’m through. Repeat the phrase. It’s just a phase. It’s going out past, but that gets old too. I’m weakening like a deacon doing dirt. What am I supposed to do? Rob Markman:
Definitely Andre 3000. Yeah. D Smoke:
That’s my shit. Rob Markman:
ATLiens album. Yeah, man. D Smoke:
For sure. Rob Markman:
Super hard, man. That’s dope, man. D Smoke:
Mad respect. Rob Markman:
D Smoke, man, you’re welcome anytime to Genius, man. Definitely look forward to what you got coming
next, man. You know we wish you well. D Smoke:
Thank you, man. Respect. And I’ll definitely be back. Rob Markman:
Love, no doubt. And to the rest of you all, check out “Black
Habits.” I want to have a conversation with you all
in the comments, man. So you all know I’ll be in the comments every
week. What’s your favorite bar? What’s your favorite joint? What’d you think of the interview? I respond right back. It’s For the Record. Peace.

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