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[courtesy Bryant Dope] Bryant Dope Interview - Pt. 2
Author: Adam Bernard

In part one of our interview with Bryant Dope he discussed his upcoming project, the emotions behind it, and what led up to it. In part two he dives into his personal history, opens up about what he feels hip-hop is missing, and reveals where he hopes the culture goes next.

Adam Bernard: Getting a little deeper into your history, I know you're from Queens, and you mentioned going to SUNY Purchase, but what were some of the experiences you had, and who were some of the people you knew, that helped shape your world view?

Bryant Dope: I was born in Springfield Gardens, Queens, which is considered south side Jamaica, Queens. It's a middle class neighborhood but it's not a good neighborhood. It was like the heart of the drug trade in the 80s. When I was about ten or 11 years old my mom moved to Bellerose, Queens, which is a few neighborhoods over in a nicer neighborhood. I was able to go to the park and meet kids from different backgrounds.

From age one to ten I was in a strictly black neighborhood, I was in the hood, and then when I moved to Bellerose I was meeting kids from all different walks of life, and I just got a different world view.

I was raised by a single mother who pushed education to me. It was really important in my household that we all went to college. I never saw college as a way for me to succeed, (though), I always thought it would be a roadblock, but I found this school, SUNY Purchase, which is basically a school full of artists. You have famous actors coming from there, directors, dancers, it's just an eclectic place, so I was like this is the perfect place for me to go, and seriously, the only reason I ever went to college is because my college had free studio time.

At the time I was 17, 18, I couldn't afford studio time, so I was like, if I go to this school then I can be in a world renowned studio every day working with people. That's how I met my engineer, my producer, my manager, all through SUNY Purchase, so I really appreciate that experience.

In Queens I started making mixtapes, just doing music, when I was like 15, but before that I started doing Urban Word, which is spoken word poetry. I was doing it for a while, but I wasn't getting the emotional release that I wanted from it. I knew that I was a hip-hop head, I've loved hip-hop since I can remember. One of my best friends in high school, his name was Mark, he knew how to make beats, and I was like, "You know how to make beats? I want to rap, let's make this happen."

I saved up all my money from my little job at Bed Bath & Beyond and I bought studio equipment. I was trying to get fresh and impress girls, but most of my money was going to buying a mic, and buying cords, and stuff like that. We set up a little studio in his room. I was horrible at first. I was just getting started, but two years later when I got to college, and I was in an official studio, I was ready for it. I was comfortable in my voice, and in my tone, and in my words, and I was ready to go.

AB: Did you say you were working at Bed Bath & Beyond?

BD: Yeah, I worked at Bed Bath & Beyond when I was 16, and 17 years old. I quit the day after I finished my first mixtape. I was like alright, I found what I really want to do, I'm never working a job like this again, so I quit.

AB: Where'd you find money afterwards?

BD: You can find money in this world. It's possible. I work at a skate shop in Queens called Belief. It's a skate shop and clothing line. I'm really into street wear. When I was a teenager I spent all my time downtown in SOHO going to different street wear shops like Sugar Headquarters, and Clientele, just to get fresh. I really enjoyed the style of it, and I wanted to, low key, design clothes and stuff like that, but nothing serious.

My freshman year of college I went to Belief and I was like, "Yo, you guys are a street wear store in Queens. This has never happened. Can I get a job?" They were like, "We've heard of you, we've heard of your music, but we're just not ready yet." I was persistent. I kept going, like every time I came back from school, which was like every other day, and we built a relationship, and they hired me. Now I buy for the store, and stuff like that. So they basically funded my music career for like the last few years, and the small label I was signed to took care of everything for like two and a half years.

AB: You are only 21, but your work features a level of maturity that is way beyond your years. Do you consider yourself an old soul, or do we simply underestimate the youth based on what we normally hear?

BD: I appreciate that. I've actually heard that my whole life. People have always called me an old soul because I love soul music, and I'm really into intellectual things, I like reading, and stuff like that, but I just feel like I'm a youth like everybody else, I just have a different view of the world. I view things differently. I was raised differently. I've seen a lot of different things, and I analyze things differently, so my heart is in different places.

I'm not listening to trap all day, but I'll play Erykah Badu for like three hours straight when I'm chilling with my girl.

I enjoy great music, I don't enjoy just noise. I love all hip-hop, from trap to super super boom bap in a crate somewhere, but my heart is any type of artist that can express emotional depth. That's where my heart is. I guess in that way I'm an old soul, because I guess older music used to have more of that, and newer music has less of that, so in that sense I guess I'm an old soul.

AB: I know this is a loaded question, but with all that in mind, in what ways do you feel hip-hop can do better?

BD: I feel like the people who control hip-hop, the tastemakers, and people like that, I feel like they could do a better job of putting out music, and sharing music, and just championing music that has emotional depth, that can put forward the culture. You saw what happened to rock in the 80s with the hair rock bands, and everything was so commercialized, and then you had grunge coming in the early 90s, it was like rebelling against everything. I feel like hip-hop has to go through that stage.

Hip-hop is popular music right now, but at the end of the day you have to understand we need this culture to last forever, and the only way to make that happen is if the people who control the culture put forward, and push positive music, and music that expands the culture to different places, instead of playing the same song on the radio, or a song that has the same type of beat, over and over again. Let's expand. Let's see what other people are doing, and let's be open. That's all I want.

For hip-hop to be better it has to be open to more stuff.

A lot of the older people in hip-hop, no knock to any old heads, but a lot of people in hip-hop like what they used to like when they were younger, so a lot of it is, "I like this because it has nostalgic purposes to me," but you have to understand hip-hop belongs to whoever is making it at the time, so I feel like hip-hop, as a culture, just has to embrace what's going on in the youth, what's going on in the underground. Even if you don't get it, try to understand it, or try to share it with somebody, so whoever is making the music can be in a better place.

AB: Would you want to be considered a leader of the next generation of emcees?

BD: I do want to be one of the leaders. I feel like I have something really important to say, but I feel like in hip-hop we should all come together, we should all be one. We're all fighting for the same cause. Of course there needs to be competition. Of course when I hear a song I want to be better than that guy, but that should always be in the sense of, "Let's do this to evolve the culture," instead of being, "I'm doing this out of malicious intent."

You should only make records to advance the culture, never to advance yourself, because at the end of the day there's someone out there that's gonna benefit from what you're saying.

So if I have a message that some people might not understand, if it's too deep, or too dark, or even too light, and too happy, there's someone out there that's gonna listen to that song and it's gonna probably spark something in their mind. It's like what Tupac said, I'm not gonna change the world, but I'll be the spark that changes the world. That's exactly what I wanna be. I want to be the spark for somebody that has an idea, or somebody that wants to change something, or even somebody that wants to make music. If you want to make music, (but) you don't know how to, I hope a song that I've made can motivate you, or help you get to the place where you want to be.

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Originally posted: October 7th, 2014

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