“Know Where You Want to Be in a Year,” Advises Hip Hop Crew, Dope D.O.D.

We’re filling the void left behind by the concert deficiency of the last month with sugar, spice and everything nice – well, with beats, rhymes and some seriously good vibes. We filmed our interview with the Dutch Hip Hop crew right before having to temporarily retire our outside world attire. We sat down with MCs Skits Vicious and Jay Reaper and DJ Chubeats ahead of their show in Ljubljana to discuss their new project “Sick6Six”, creative process, and the technological evolution of music.
Dope D.O.D.: Know Where You Want to Be in a Year [Interview]
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Urska Jaksa

“We’re going into a future where we aren’t even wearing clothes anymore, because we’re just in virtual reality somewhere,” says Skits Vicious of Dope D.O.D., discussing where technology will take us, during our interview in the backstage of Orto Bar in Ljubljana (see the whole video below + a big shoutout to concert promoters Dirty Skunks for making it happen). 

We’ve all been bound to the digital world in recent weeks, so this rings oddly prophetic. It's also come a lot sooner than he had projected, so obviously we had to follow up: “Yes, it's quite crazy that a lot of things related to the topics in our interview are now taking place. Hope everyone out there is safe, we’re still very puzzled as to what is true, what’s going on and when this will end. Hopefully soon.”

 

Love it or hate it – the industry’s changing

Talking about the big transitions in the music industry, going from physical formats to digitalization and now streaming, there’s a love/hate relationship. As Skits Vicious puts it: “As far as the physical aspect being lost, I think that’s a big shame, but that goes with a lot of things. You see independent stores are closing down, whether it’s for clothing or records or comic books. Everything is digital now. You can’t really convince me that anything being physically lost all the way is a good thing. You shouldn’t be against the evolution or the betterment of certain conveniences, but if I had the ultimate choice, I would love to have both.” 

There is an element of freedom in being able to play anything at any time, says Jay Reaper: It has its good sides and its bad sides. We can’t really talk about how it used to be so much better with video stores, while we’re on Netflix every day. It takes away a little bit of the magic. It used to be like, ‘An artist is dropping a CD or a new game is coming out or a new movie, and I got to wait to get it.' At the same time, it gives you freedom, ‘I want to listen to that right now, I don’t feel like going to the store right now, waiting in line and driving there for 30 minutes.’ You can just go online and get it.”

“Back in the day, it was tough – if you didn’t have a label, if you didn’t have promotion behind you, if you didn’t have 'the machine', how would you ever get your shit out there?”

Social media is a whole new gateway

Shifting the conversation to the benefits of social media for musicians, there’s no dilemma. “Considering all the things I just complained about – we are the birth of all the benefits of that: YouTube, viral [videos], social media. You don’t need a label if you have a movement strong enough and it snowballs on its own. I’m pro that, it’s great,” explains Skits Vicious, and Jay Reaper goes further: “That was my point. Sometimes it’s kind of ironic – of course, we’re Dope D.O.D., we’re anti-mainstream, while we also blew up on the internet. We didn’t get the physical [copies] out there when we dropped 'What Happened', but we certainly got 30M views on YouTube. We are a part of that and we were also one of the first ones to actually do that.”

What happened? Among other things, loads of views. In fact, their 2011 track has over 35M of them. It’s their most viewed video to date, with 43,000 views just last week.

Skits Vicious continues: “There’s a pro and con to that as well. Back in the day, it was tough – if you didn’t have a label, if you didn’t have promotion behind you, if you didn’t have 'the machine', how would you ever get your shit out there? It was mostly physical, word-of-mouth, visiting radio shows. But apart from the fact that there’s now a great opportunity for millions of sick artists to go viral overnight and be discovered, there’s also an opportunity for millions of [doofuses] to go viral. That’s the annoying part. And there’s little filtering, too. Now you also got that viral ‘I’m hot on Instagram, I have one hit’ act and they don’t even know how to do a live show. That goes back to living real life. Sometimes you have to do real stuff and it’s not all about your internet picture and your stupid autotune track. Become a real artist. And I’m not hating on autotune. If you know how to sing with autotune live, that’s dope.”

 

Experiment, but stick to your guns

“It’s all about not getting put into a box,” says Skit Vicious about experimenting: “A lot of fans would complain, ‘Hey, this sounds like some Trap, man.’ But Hip Hop rhythms have always varied from boom bap to more double time drum, and as a rapper, you love the challenge to fuck with different flows. When the Trap wave came, instead of it being a hype to jump on some Trap, it’s now the more general sound of Hip Hop. So why would you not fuck with the new age and say, ‘This is some Dope D.O.D. on some Trap.’ Obviously not to come up with some skrrt skrrt that wouldn’t fit us. But obviously, we’re always trying to make different music. As an artist, whatever style you’ve got, it’s always important to know where to draw the line on how you would experiment or do something out of the box. But of course, if you’re gonna do something that alienates your entire fan base in the hopes that another fan base will appreciate this – it’s not how shit works. You always got to stick to your guns.”

“Be yourself, work hard, and know where you want to go. Know who you are, and what you want to represent. If you got these things on lock and you’ve got a clear vision on where you want to go in the next six to 12 months, I think you’re doing very well if you just keep that lane.”

Create a clear vision for the next six to 12 months

Just before they jumped onstage, this was Jay Reaper’s advice for other artists trying to break through: “Be yourself, work hard, and know where you want to go. Know who you are, and what you want to represent. If you got these things on lock and you’ve got a clear vision on where you want to go in the next six to 12 months, I think you’re doing very well if you just keep that lane.” Skits Vicious adds: “Work from the space of your instinct and your feeling. Don’t try to approach it by thinking, 'If I do this, these people might like me because of that, or if I try this sound, it might become a hit sooner.' Come from a genuine place.” 

 

This is just a taste of the whole interview. See it below, raw and uncut:

To help you navigate, here are the topics covered:

  1. Collabs: how their first track with the Polish rapper Słoń was born, and how it led to their joined project – the EP “Sick6Six” (00:00).
  2. The art of reinventing themselves (enter David Bowie and the Rock gods), finding inspiration, tapping into Trap, and experimenting outside of the genre (3:24).
  3. Their collaboration with Noisia, and creating Hip Hop music that even metalheads dig (5:53).
  4. The difference between the US and European Hip Hop scenes, including finding a gem of a club with a Big Poppa vibe in Berlin (9:13).
  5. The transition from physical formats to digitalization and streaming (11:56)
  6. Social media: the good and the bad (20:13).
  7. Two different approaches to recording process (25:20).
  8. Advice for up-and-coming artists (26:24).

 

If you've gotten the impression that Dope D.O.D. shy away from the internet, that's not true at all. They’re gamers who like to share their hobby with the fans on Twitch, so we were curious if they plan to use the channel for streams of another kind: “We're on Twitch a lot indeed, and we're spending a lot of time in the studio. Since music livestreams are now becoming a thing, who knows. If things don’t get back to normal soon, we might do a music livestream as well!”

Artists nowadays can set up their own studios easily and find a lot of information they need online. Chubeats, who also produces their music, said he probably wouldn’t even be producing if it weren’t for that, because he was introduced to Acid when his big brother downloaded it and made him go: “Hey, what is this?” Their answer to the question whether now is the time to be more productive is therefore a resounding “HELL YEAH!” As far as their other message for the home-bound artists right now (khm, PornHub), we’ll let you decide on your own.

 

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Cover photo: Artist's archive

 

So, find your own lane, stay dope, ask yourself “What would David Bowie do?”, and if you’re an artist, don’t forget to check your profile on Viberate and sign-up to claim it. You can send it to promoters, talent scouts, and A&Rs, and use the time you'd otherwise spend updating your onepager on making music.

 

 

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Urska Jaksa

Urska Jaksa

Managing Editor at Viberate
Storyteller with a nerd eye for music data. Believes in the healing power of group singing, while her ultimate cure are live shows.