Exclusive: A Conversation With Chicago Rapper Doa Beezy

0
453

Doa Beezy moves with a purpose. Since dropping his breakout single “Streetz Done” in 2019, the 25-year-old has made it his mission to capture his side of Chicago in clear-eyed, elegiac anthems. On his latest LP Trauma Child 2, Beezy’s conceptual songwriting conveys both the emotional weight of his experiences and the complex forces that shaped those experiences. Whether he’s analyzing gang conflict (“Different Sides”), mourning his fallen friends (“Casket Top”), or tracing the traumas of his childhood (“Distant Emotions”), his music conjures the bigger picture in exacting detail.

Beezy’s strong authorial voice has resonated in his hometown and beyond. Trauma Child 2 boasts a feature from G Herbo – a coveted co-sign for any upcoming Chicago rapper – and Beezy sounds genuinely thrilled when discussing the support he’s received from all corners of the city. As his career trends upwards, he remains committed to excavating painful memories and making sense of ongoing struggles. There are no chart-chasing “hits” on Trauma Child 2, just heartfelt stories told through auto-tuned warbles.

I spoke to Doa Beezy over the phone about his new mixtape, his artistic philosophies, and his complicated relationship with the Windy City. The below excerpts of our conversation have been lightly edited for clarity.

Trauma Child 2 is your third full-length project. What was different about your mindset and creative approach this time around?

Really this time I was just trying to come with a different sound. Not too much different, but a more uptempo sound. More…I don’t wanna say turnt, but really yeah, more turnt. On the first Trauma Child, I got a little more personal. This one, I was gon’ still get personal, but I wanted to tap into the other side that the fans ain’t really know about. Or they knew about it, but I ain’t really tap into it. Like the street side and everything that’s going on. That was really the focus of this one. If you listen to it, you can tell a little bit more about me, about where I’m from, where I grew up at, certain things like that. On the first one, you heard about my personal life, but you really ain’t know everything else that came behind it.

Did you hunker down and record Trauma Child 2 all at once? Or did it come together in bits and pieces?

I record all the time. But when it’s time for a project to come out, it’s best for me to just record everything in a timely manner, like a one or two week span. That way, the energy you got, the writing process that you’re doing, all of that can coexist. So that was the way I wanted to do it. I really do all my projects like that. To be honest, I really made that project in like five or six days. But it took longer to put together, mix, master, and put out. A couple songs already was out, and we just threw ‘em on the tape, but I made the majority of that tape in about five or six days.

When I get in that mindset, it’s like writing a song. When you know the topic of a song, you know like, ‘this what I’mma say in the song.’ I automatically know. So when I found out the topic of the tape – I already knew it was Trauma Child 2 – but when I found another topic to rap about, and experienced life a little bit more over the last couple of months, it just clicked. Like, okay, this is what the topic of the tape is gonna be about. I need to open up more as far as my street life, then I gotta mix in some personal stuff. That’s how you get Trauma Child 2.

It’s wild to me that you put together such a deep project so quickly.

All my tapes get put together that fast. When it’s time for another project, I like all my stuff to be fresh and new to me, so I can enjoy it with the fans too. I don’t really wanna listen to old music that I made months ago. That’s not how I like to work. So if it’s time for a project, it’ll be mostly new songs that I just wrote. Anything that I had done before, I’ll release those as singles, because they’re still hot, they’re just old to me.

Was it important for you to bring back producers like Stacc Da Greatest and JTK, who helped you shape your sound on previous projects?

That’s a very, very important thing to me. Because they know how my sound sounds. I get a lot of beats from these producers, but they don’t really be making ‘em how I wanna make ‘em. I could rap to anything, but like you said, I want to stick to my specific sound. So it’s definitely important to bring the producers who helped me build my sound around. Because as I’m getting better with my sound, they’re getting better with my sound, and both of us knowing how everything is supposed to sound just makes everything better.

One thing I love about the way you write is your ability to recognize complexity and see things from multiple angles. On “Different Sides” for example, you talk about how some of your enemies are actually cool guys, but there are larger forces at work that make it hard to call a truce. What makes you want to explore those gray areas?

I know everybody feels that way. People don’t like to speak on that. Everybody wants to look like something for somebody, or they don’t want to piss off this side or these friends. I don’t really care about that, because I’m my own person. I’m always gon’ be my own person, and what everybody knows me for speaks for itself. So I can speak on stuff like that. I don’t have to sugarcoat anything. I can make a song like that without somebody trying to come at me and question me about it.

But to be honest, like I said, I know cool guys from over there. It’s guys that you really grew up with. Guys that know my whole family, from my momma to my granddaddy. Now, it’s just like, they’re enemies. I don’t want to say it like this, but I don’t care if something happens to him. If it did, I’d be like ‘damn, that’s fucked up.’ ‘Cause I grew up with him. But I don’t give a fuck anyway, because he wanna see me dead. So it is what it is at that point. If you listen to other lyrics on that song, I’m not just saying it’s a truce. I’m saying, you know what happens if we catch you, and I know what happens if you catch me.

If you’re a real one, you’re a real one. But when it’s war, it’s war. It’s just like the United States going to war. It’s the same thing. They go to war every day and do the same thing. There could be cool people over there, but they have to do what they gotta do. When the United States hits, what do the other countries do? They retaliate. That’s just how I look at it.

You have that lyric on “Different Sides” where you say, “Street war, U.S. war, shit what’s the difference? / They just make it look bad ‘cause we in the trenches.” Can you elaborate on that?

That’s how I feel about the world we live in. Period. The U.S. goes to war, and they kill, and they do all this. But when we do it, they make it look a certain type of way. If the U.S. feels like they’re protecting the country and they have to kill, it’s the same thing with us. We’re protecting ourselves from enemies, just like other people would protect themselves. It’s the same exact thing. And sometimes, as you know and you’ve seen, the U.S. will go war first. They find it okay for Trump or whoever to pull the trigger the first, so I’m saying like, what’s the difference? If we’re all people as one, nobody should be going to war. You see what I’m saying? If one person is wrong, everybody should be wrong. There shouldn’t be no fingers being pointed. That’s how I look at it.

That’s deep. There are certain types of violent conflict that get dressed up as proper and patriotic, but it’s still violence at the end of the day.

Everybody’s just killing, they’re just going to war. It’s the same thing. Even if you’re protecting the country. It’s the same thing as someone protecting their neighborhood or whatever. Now don’t get me wrong, there are definitely people who are just wild. Loose screws. But like I said, the U.S. does the same thing too. If they feel disrespected by a country, they’re gonna strike first. Both are wrong. Nobody should be going to war killing nobody else. But it’s happening, so you can’t act like it’s not happening.

Trauma Child 2 tells a very specific story about your upbringing and the neighborhood you grew up in. Why is it such a priority for you to bring the listener to your side of Chicago, even as your music spreads beyond local audiences?

Because I was one of them people who was silent before. Not silent, but silenced. They can’t hear me. When I wanted to speak out, I didn’t have a voice. If I spoke, it wasn’t gonna be loud enough because I didn’t have a voice. I wasn’t a public figure or anything. So that’s just something I always said I would do. I would never steer away from that or chase Billboard records. I just wanna keep it to the people who don’t have a voice where I’m from. Because it gives people where I’m from hope, and I feel like I can paint a picture differently than everybody else who’s trying to do it. Like, I really want to paint the picture to let people see how it is where we from. Even though everybody tries to do it, and people think, ‘oh, it’s just the ghetto.’ It’s way deeper than that. It’s very much deeper than that. 

Everybody dies everywhere, but where I’m from, when you go outside, you can’t just stand out there. Soon as you walk out the door, you gotta look and see if there’s a car on this corner that you ain’t familiar with. You gotta see if there’s somebody standing on the other corner. You gotta look everywhere. You even gotta look for the police coming, all that. In other neighborhoods, they can go outside and somebody’s probably selling lemonade or something. That’s not the same, and it’s not normal, but we make it look like it’s normal. So I feel like I gotta always speak on that, because when they try to judge where we’re from, they don’t understand everything that’s really going on behind the scenes that makes us act like we act. It’s not normal where we grew up. It’s not normal at all.

There’s that line on “1000 Tears”, where you talk about waking up prepared to die.

Because that was the truth. I don’t feel like that right now, but I still move like that. I don’t feel like that no more. But before, it was just like, I didn’t care. My homie died, my other homie died, I’mma go out the same way. That’s how I was feeling about it. I went to this funeral, this one, this one. Why wouldn’t the same thing happen to me? I ain’t nobody special. That’s how I felt about it. If something happens, it happens.

That’s the mindset that a lot of people got right now, but I’m glad I got out of that mindset. Because it was always something bigger for me. It’s not even the biggest it’s gonna get yet. It’s gon’ get way bigger than this.

There’s a lot of distraction and temptation that comes with the music industry, but you seem to operate with a clear sense of purpose. How do you stay focused?

Because once I see the music is touching the neighborhoods that I want it to touch, once I see it’s touching certain neighborhoods and the reaction of the fans, it makes me know I’m doing everything I wanted to do the right way. If they’re reacting like this, and they’re motivated like this, I know I’m doing the right thing. If the fans wasn’t doing that, then I probably would’ve changed. But the way they’ve been acting, I know for a fact I’m doing right. Not even just regular civilians, people who got a name out here that I know on some street shit, they rock with me. They know the lyrics and say the music motivates them.

I’m from Chicago. I’m pretty sure everybody’s familiar with the BD and the GD war, right? So, when you’re a rapper, you gotta be on this side or you gotta be on this side. I don’t be on any side. I get love from both sides. So when I’m getting love from both sides of the playing field, that just lets me know I’m doing exactly right. It’s very hard, coming from Chicago, to get love from both sides. The only other person that probably did it was Polo G. But it don’t happen that much. That’s why he’s a special talent too. ‘Cause it’s hard, it’s kinda impossible, coming from here, to get love from both sides. So that’s what keeps me focused and makes me want to keep doing it. Because that’s something that’s one in a million to do, and I’m doing it. 

You have this deep loyalty for Chicago, but it’s also the place where you experienced a lot of hardship. Do you feel like you have a love-hate relationship with your city?

It’s definitely a love-hate relationship. Like I said, I’mma always love my city and where I’m from. The food, the lingo, the style of clothes, everything it taught me. But what I hate about it is the way it made me, like personally, in my head. Even if I’m in LA or whatever, I always have that mindset like something’s going on, or something ain’t right. I can’t really enjoy life enough, because I’m always thinking of something else in the back of my head. I’m always on alert, and that’s what I hate about it. Sometimes I be wanting to be free, but I can’t. I’m so used to it. I went through it, 25 years of my life. So I’m way too used to checking everything and, like I said, being over alert, and I don’t think that’ll ever change.

I gotta say, “Casket Top” brought tears to my eyes when I first heard it. Was that a difficult song for you to write?

To be honest, it really wasn’t too difficult to write. I went through the process already where I grieved, a long time ago. The person I’m talking about on that song, it’s nothing new. It’s something that already happened. I haven’t lost a homie in a long time. Of course I got a little sentimental and sad on the song, but it didn’t make me cry, and it wasn’t hard to write. It was more like, “I got you. It’s gon’ be good.” That’s the vibe I was tryna go for. I was really tryna tell them like, it’s okay. It’s good. They closed the casket top, everything gon’ be ok. We got y’all down here. Yeah it messed me up, but it ain’t gon’ break me. That’s basically what I was talking about on that song.

The themes of trust and betrayal are all over Trauma Child 2. Has finding some success in music made it harder to trust people?

Most definitely. It’s gon’ always be hard to trust people. The world we live in, everybody thinks backdoor is cool, snake shit is cool. Everything that’s going on right now with the world is different. Because they’re making it harder for people to get what they get, so some people are just like, ‘fuck it. I’mma snake my way to the top.’ That’s all you hear. Backdooring, snaking, shiesty shit. I fuck with with Pooh Shiesty, but I’m just saying, that’s the world we live in. Everybody snakes. So if everybody snakes, you gotta adapt to it. If you don’t adapt to it, you gon’ be a meal. That’s why I can’t trust people at all.

Do you have a personal favorite song on Trauma Child 2, or a song that you hope doesn’t get overlooked?

The one I don’t want to get overlooked is “Different Sides”. I really want people to hear that. I’mma come with a video for that one real soon. But my favorite song on the tape is “Phase”. That’s my favorite one. Like how you said you got emotional over “Casket Top”, that’s the one I got emotional on. Because that’s the one I got the most personal on. I was talking about my immediate family, dealing with regular shit that every family goes through. But that one really touched me and had me feeling some type of way.

That song really shows the current Doa Beezy. What you’re going through right now, rather than your past. 

That’s exactly what I wanted to do. People start seeing the success, and they think everything is just cool, but it’s not. That’s the real reason I wanted to come back to the Trauma Child series. To let them know, I’m still going through trauma every day. Homies still getting lost. It’s still happening. Everybody ain’t out the hood. It’s still happening. Ain’t nothing changed but the number. 

You have a rags-to-riches type of story, but you don’t try to sell people a happy ending. 

I wouldn’t even feel comfortable with trying to act like it’s a happy ending, because it’s not. I don’t think it’ll ever be a happy ending. If my homies can’t come back to life, it will never be a happy ending. I used to talk about this with some of my homies, most of them are dead. We used to have conversations about right now, about this happening and them being around. But they’re not here to see it, so it’ll never be a happy ending for me. 

Of course, I’mma be proud of myself and my success, and proud of putting smiles on other people’s faces. But it will never be a happy ending. Not saying I’mma be on some sad shit, but it’s not gonna be a happy ending. The people I talk about, I think about them every day, so that’s gonna always be a problem with me.

I have to ask about “Chiraq Baby” with G Herbo. Can you tell me about how that song came together?

I done ran into Herb a couple times. When I first started dropping, like 2019, he had reposted one of my videos. Then he had me come to his birthday party and perform. So that’s really how the relationship started. We should’ve been done a song, but we never got in the same studio together. One day I came to LA for a feature. I had to go out there for a paid feature and shoot a video. He saw me out there and said let’s get a session tonight. We got the session, I pulled up, and we did the song. The song was already done on my end. He just had to put the verse on it. He recorded it, we listened to it and vibed to it, and the rest is history. 

I really dig that song. I feel like it was a change of pace for your sound.

As an artist, when I make a song with somebody, I want them to be comfortable. I don’t wanna just give them a song that they’re not gonna be comfortable on. I feel like I can make any type of music, so I didn’t want to give him too much of a singy song. He’s not a singer. So I’m like ok, let me mix it up a little bit. If I did something with Durk, it’d be different. I would give him a singy song, because he’s a singy person. If I did something with Polo, I’d give him a singy song, but it wouldn’t be a high-pitched song. It would be more chill, because he’s a more chill rapper. Like I said, I pay attention to stuff like that.

We touched on this earlier, but what type of feedback have you gotten from fans on the new tape?

This is the best feedback I’ve gotten out of any tape, and I won’t even say that just to say it. I really feel good about this tape. Like I said, it makes me smile, because I know what I put in. I knew what I was tryna go for. I wasn’t scared, but you know how fans are, they want you to stick to the same sound. I wanted to switch it up just a little bit, not a lot, and I was skeptical about how they would react to the sound. But when it came out, and I seen the reaction and the love it’s getting, it’s like now I know. I can go full throttle with this sound because they’re fucking with it too much.

Does that give you some reassurance that you’re on the right track?

It’s definitely reassurance. It reassured me a whole lot. Even though I didn’t have any type of doubts about it. Sometimes reassurance is needed for an artist, so you can know you’re on the right track and the right path. Just looking at the streaming numbers from certain songs, I know which ones they’re fucking with the most. Now I can really really tap into that level. So the next project’s gonna be crazy.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *