words and photos by: Le’Deana Brown
Tell me about the location where we had your photo shoot and why it is significant to you. Did you grow up in Lamplighter Apartments by Roselawn Park? I grew up in a house right on 38th an Emerson right behind the gas station. Roselawn and Lamplighter is where all my friends were from. I went to [school] #83 on 42nd and Emerson. This is a true story, which it seems weird now that I think about it but back then it was normal, I was in first grade and I used to walk from 38th and Emerson to 42nd and Emerson to get to school by myself. Then after school I would walk back home. That’s how I met all the kids from Lamplighter. A lot of my firsts were over there, like my first time smoking weed was in that hallway. My first time doing a sexual act was in that building. It was crazy because it was like my first crack house. It was always something coming back to that building. A lot of special stuff happened to me there. That building was where I first met Yap too. As far as the building, 5060, that was my best friend Lo Low’s building.
How did you and Lo Low become best friends? In first grade I had the new Tim Hardaways with the staps and peace signs and the colorful bottoms. Lo Low walked up on me and said “Give me them shoes!” and I was like “I ain’t giving you nothing!” and we got cool after that. He tried to rob me in first grade! He was a bully! After that he was like my big brother. I was real skinny and I wasn’t the best fighter. I would go though but I would probably lose. Any problem anybody had with me they had to deal with him too. I was on the basketball route and he was thuggin in elementary school. I said I was going to the NBA and he was like “You better get this sack! Let’s get this money.” He had a car by the end of 6th grade. He looked at me like his square buddy up until a situation went on where one of his older buddies ended up telling on him. Dude went to court and testified and everything and I didn’t say anything. He beat the case anyway. We ended up both being in and out of jail and barely ever on the streets at the same time. The last time I talked to him I told him he should go see the girl that had been holding him down while he was away. I wish I didn’t tell him to go over there because he went there that night and that’s where he died at.
These things that happened to you growing up, did it shape your mentality about certain things like the strong anti-snitching message you preach? The anti-snitching thing I don’t even know where I got it from I just knew it was wrong from a little kid. No one really installed that in me, there ain’t no gangsters in my family. I just always knew. If you were to line three of us up out of my friends you would have thought that I would be the one telling, the basketball dude. Then a lot of stuff I’m not ashamed to say I learned from movies. Like in Juice, how they tried to turn them all against each other, these types of things really happen.
Did your mother know what was going on and that you were spending every day in Lamplighter? Yeah. I didn’t have a big brother so I would come home and tell my mother stuff. This is how I learned not to tell her everything. I’d come home dirty and stuff and tell her I just got into a fight with such and such. She would get upset and put me in the car and take me down there. That was so embarrassing. I wasn’t telling her so she could defend me I was telling her to let her know I survived! Everyone was older than me, so at first I was scared and crying. We would get in our little scuffle and work it out. Later she used to hear stuff but didn’t really trip about it. She was more supportive of whatever route I decided to take.
You went from wanting to be a basketball star to trapping. When did the rap come into play and how do they relate? I could rap as a kid. I’d do freestyles and all that. I don’t ever want to hear people say rap doesn’t influence [our daily lives]. It really does influence things and people just like movies. I try to put the morals and values in my music and lead by example. I advise people not to get into the street life, but if they out here I try to tell them you have to have morals and values if you are.
How did you develop your style and how did people respond when you introduced your newest talent? I used to freestyle at school and stuff but didn’t write my first rap until I was 15 on house arrest. I didn’t have anything else to do so I was just listening to instrumentals and wrote my first rap. My uncle had some DJ equipment, and on my pass out I went over there and recorded it to Nas “If I Ruled the World” beat. We recorded it on a tape and I was playing it for everybody. They said it wasn’t regular and they liked it. I liked how the New York rappers flowed and used metaphors, but I also like the west coast gangster rap and the beats from down south. I was trying to find a way to combine all three.
As far as Bird in A Drought 2, the title of your mixtape, you considered it as the city being in a drought and you’re the bird? Yeah, more musically, or in rap period. It was a lot of rappers, but no one was really rapping like this.
I’ve always been heavy on lyricism. I wanted to make something people could jam to and play all the way through from beginning to end. I just found a way over the years to combine jams with lyricism. That makes The Bird in the Drought unique. That’s why I originally named it that it was like I was the original and unique one. It also made the title relatable, most people know what that means. [The streets] thinking one thing when I say that. They can understand the concept I came with too.
Your style seems like you are into story telling. How do you decide which stories you want to share? Whatever stories aren’t too incriminating I will share. Whatever you can’t be prosecuted for, I’ll share it.
When you say that the stories you are telling are chosen based off which ones are least incriminating, do you ever have people that approach you and wonder if you were talking about them? Nope not that I can recall. No guys ever reached out to me. It’s really like my story and people I met along the way may have influenced me or a story they told me. Maybe sometimes it could be a mistake someone else made that I learned from and I know I don’t want to make that same mistake. It’s all kind of stuff, that I may have seen or went through. A female may ask who I was talking about in a song. Usually when I do a song about a female, I’ll combine like three or four females I know in one verse. My single “Slow” with Kittii Red and Playbwoi is like that. I wrote the hook that Playbwoi is singing and it’s about someone who has stood with you through good and bad times, ups and downs. You know, never really looked down on you or left you.
What’s the most influential story that you are telling that’s had an influence on your life? When I talk about being in jail and facing life, then getting a second chance in life. That’s probably had the most influence on me, I don’t take anything for granted. I cherish every day. I got a little better discipline now. I don’t always have to be out and about all the time. I don’t be bored and just roaming. I’m cool with sitting in the house doing nothing, because that’s another day free. You will never catch me saying I’m bored. I know what real boredom is. Sitting in a cell all day is real boredom. I try to put myself in certain situations because I don’t want to have no encounters with law enforcement. If I know it’s a chance that a house might get ran in then I’m not about to just be sitting over there and kicking it.
The people that are still away, do you look out for them? Yeah. Even if I’m not involved in their day to day life I gotta get their feedback. They love the CD. They feel like I’m speaking for them. They know I’ve been right there beside them and they feel like I’m speaking for them Even if I didn’t send no pictures this month, I still dropped my CD. I’m their voice.
Listen to Bird in A Drought 2 now on Soundcloud.com/DTFarrelli.