Brooklyn rapper takes his neighborhood to new heights in rhyme.
In the opening bars of the song "That Chicken," rapper Dyme-A-Duzin repeats the street name "Utica" over a lush beat in tribute to Crown Heights, the Brooklyn neighborhood it runs through and that he calls home. He's yet another protege of a neighborhood that has spawned a host of well-known names in music from rapper Nas to record executive and legend Clive Davis and even Matisyahu. Crown Heights is a melting pot — a hub of culture as well as struggle. Though the neighborhood is rapidly gentrifying, fried chicken and waffle joints still dot most corners, while jerk chicken and fried plantains seem to always be but a few steps away. The Brooklyn-bred MC aims to tell his story in verse, and Crown Heights serves as the backdrop in the tales he spits.
During his childhood, he lent his vocal talents to church choirs before breaking out on his own with rhymes. Since then, he's gone on to open for greats like the Roots and Erykah Badu, while also clocking collaborations with Joey BadA$$ and Fabolous. He's presently at work on his upcoming Crown Fried EP, which is slated to drop early in the New Year. We chatted with him about his upbringing, the influence of Crown Heights in his artistry, his song-writing process and how Michael Jackson factors in.
Hometown/Homebase: Brooklyn, NY
How did you first start rapping?
The first rap performance I ever saw was at a church benefit concert. I was probably 10 or 11 years old. A gospel rapper by the name of Q The Prophet took the stage and immediately inspired me. I began to grow under his mentorship and started rapping at school talent shows, lunch tables, etc.
How does a rap take shape for you? What sparks your ideas and how long does it take to finish a verse or a whole song?
My creativity sparks at random. The simplest phrases, noises and conversations can become an idea for a song. Really no time limit on the creation process either. I could be inspired at a session and write/record a song in a night. As well as gradually gather ideas and build songs in time. I take the craft very seriously. I'm all about the quality.
What's one of your earliest musical memories?
I grew up on Michael Jackson. I remember watching his legendary career highlights and movies as a kid and wanting to perform and make music. At seven to eight years old, I attempted to write my first song. Every idea in my head had the "Billie Jean" drums under it.
Since gospel and church choirs are a part of your musical history. Do you see that weaving its way into your output?
Definitely. I think that my background with gospel really adds a soulful element to my music. It's a part of me and as I continue to express myself my fans will get more of a sonic understanding of where I come from.
How did you end up linking up with Fabolous?
I started a little campaign after hearing a few people say that Fab would sound dope on my Crown Fried album single "That Chicken." I called it #TagFab. I asked the fans to tag Fabolous on a Instagram video of the track to bring it to his attention. He eventually caught wind and reached out to do the remix. As an up-and-coming Brooklyn artist, it's an honor to be acknowledged by a Brooklyn Legend.
You also have a track with up-and-coming MC Wati Heru. What can you say about that collaboration?
Wati has been my homie for a few years now. We have a great chemistry. I respect his talent. Great artist, emcee and writer with unmatched energy.
You give shout outs to Utica and Crown Heights in your songs. How would you describe the neighborhood? What are your main haunts?
A cultural melting pot of mostly African Americans, Caribbeans and Jews. Fast food on every corner. Cops on patrol. People struggling. The price of living increasing. Crown Heights is a beautiful place with a rich history and present that I will continue to convey musically.
Given that you rep your neighborhood, how important is that to you to represent where you are from? How much of an impact does being from Brooklyn have on you as an artist?
Brooklyn raised me. My parents, family, friends & everyone else who taught me how to be me are from Brooklyn. I feel obligated to represent BK for that reason. There would be no me without the goods, the bads and the uglies of these parts.
What's one of the best pieces of advice you've been given that you apply to your approach?
Be like water. Bruce Lee.
What do you want a listener to take away from your music?
I want them to feel encouraged, confident and royal through any circumstance. I want them to feel the passion and soul I spread through the music.