October 14, 2012 by mepstein31
Written by: Mike Epstein (@MikeENJ)
You’ve probably heard it on the radio, in a club, or on your friend’s speakers and with “Snapbacks and Tattoos” going certified gold last month, it’s easy to understand why. 19 year old rapper Driicky Graham has made quite some noise over the past year with his single “Snapbacks and Tattoos”, which has had the likes of Roscoe Dash, French Montana, and Tyga hopping on remixes. After releasing his DJ Ill Will hosted Ya Gotta Start Somewhere mixtape this past June, Driicky Graham is now focusing his attention on his album, Success by the Graham. I had the opportunity to speak with the incredibly humble Driicky over the phone and learn about his appearance in this year’s BET Hip Hop Awards cyphers, growing up in Newark, NJ, women, and much more.
You were part of the BET Hip Hop Awards “The Man with the Iron Fists” cypher that premiered last Tuesday. What was it like being involved in that and looking around and seeing A$AP Rocky, Joey Bada$$, Childish Gambino, and Angel Haze?
“Being at the BET hip hop awards my first time ever this year was amazing. The feeling of it was surreal, it went from being on my mother’s house and chillin on the couch to actually being here this year. The fact that I was nominated this year and on top of that, being on the cypher was almost overwhelming but I really appreciate it. Of course I always looked up to RZA, the whole Wu Tung Clan, but for him to even want me to be a part of the cypher was just really really dope. I mean, salute to A$AP Rocky, Joey Bada$$, Angel Haze, and Childish Gambino. They all came and did their thing and I feel like I came out there and did my thing, and I just appreciated BET for having me”.
Many artists nowadays are choosing the indie route over signing with a major record label. You went down this road also, signing with the independent E1 Music over the major labels that chased you. Why’d you decide to go the indie route?
“My decision to choose who I wanted to be with was after I just released “Snapbacks and Tattoos” and I wasn’t sure if I was going to release an album. I wanted somebody that was going to build with me from the ground up and not going to be stuck on another label where they have so many artists to work with that they’re not going to take the time to care about what I’m doing because I’m a new project. I understand that and I respect that you have to wait your time once the major record labels put all that time and money into you, but it wasn’t just the waiting process, it was the work ethic. I think that with E1, they actually kind of chose to hit the ground running. As soon as I signed with them they said, we’re doing everything we can to be behind you.”
Growing up you lived in Newark for a while. Can you talk about how living in that tough area shaped you as a person as well as your music?
(Laughs) “Yeah, everybody knows that Newark is definitely not one of those cities where it’s fun and games. Everybody knows what that life is about, I’m pretty sure it’s relatable to growing up in Detroit or Chicago. Growing up in Newark is like surviving, it puts you in survival mode where you know that there’s a lot of stuff to be on alert for, so it’s a lot of stuff that makes you street-wise and street smart. At a young age my mother decided to transfer and go to North Carolina but I always decided to go back up. I had the best of both worlds, going from the city life to the country life and it kind of molded me as a person to understand how to get yourself out of certain situations while the country is more laid back”.
Why did you decide to remix “Letter to My Son”? Is it difficult for you to talk about such personal topics?
“That actually came about in a freestyle I had because I was predominantly raised by mother and even though I love my father, growing up without him, I had that built up inside of me and I just wanted to touch bases on that and get that off my chest. Also to relate to all the other kids out there that are in similar situations with their father; anything that anybody ever wanted to get a chance to say and to also let the fathers know how important it is to be in their kids lives.”
Your new project, Ya Gotta Start Somewhere, has a lot of different types of songs. It’s got the deep songs, the bangers, the party songs…Can you tell me what your writing process is like? Do you hear a beat and then just instantly write, do you think of a concept first, ect.
“It’s kind of almost like whatever pops into my head. If something comes to me, it could be a freestyle line, it could be a random crazy bar like ohh this could go in something one day. I hear a beat and a song could be made instantly so it all depends on how I feel”.
Do you actually write your lyrics down? I know some artists like Lil Wayne just memorize their verses.
“It’s possible for me to memorize it. I actually practice it out of fun but I do write them down.”
What artists do you have your sights set on working with?
“I would be real excited to work with Wiz Khalifa, Eminem, Drake, and J. Cole”.
Any moment where you realized that this is possible?
“Even the aspect that I’m in an interview just talking about this right now is crazy to me. Before all this happened I just honestly believed in this so much. I believed in what I was working on and believed in myself so I actually envisioned myself doing the things I’m doing but to actually be here and it’s happening is just like wow. For it to happen in such a short time, like I’ve only really been professionally doing this for four years, it’s really just crazy to me. It’s exciting, it’s a lot of fun, and I’m just thankful to God and all the fans that are supporting me.”
You’re on tour right now, and with touring comes partying and women. What’s the Driicky Graham women situation like?
(Laughs) “I’m single right now. Everybody encourages that in this game so nobody serious as of right now. I like women of all races, I don’t discriminate. I’m attracted to gorgeous faces and personality but for the most part I’m just having fun. I’m focused on my career but I’m still having fun.”
What’s it like being named Nasir? Did you get a lot of references to Nas as a kid and the fact that you’re a rapper and named Nas, did that motivate you?
“My parents informed me that the name Nasir meant victorious, so growing up they told me that I could overcome anything and remain the victor in any situation. It’s an honor to share the first name with one of the pioneers of rap and hip-hop. He’s definitely one of my favorite artists to ever pick up a microphone. He’s one of the greatest to do it. A lot of people ask me where I get the name Driicky from and I think if I would’ve went with Nas, I would’ve dealt with more scrutiny and if I would’ve been Nas and not even come close to his bars, it would’ve been way worse. My middle name is Frederick so I took the ‘drick’ out and put into Driicky. Everyone that knows me calls me Nas and Nasir still to this day.”
You can follow Driicky Graham here
Download “Ya Gotta Start Somewhere” here
Be on the lookout for his album Success by the Graham!