Big Pun, Lil Wayne, Slick Rick; all monikers that capture the sound, style or even stature of an MC. Bryant Dope is a name you can add to that list. While not always mentioned in the same breath as a Joey Bada$$ or an Action Bronson, the 20-year-old Queens native represents the “new New York” movement to the core: engaging lyrical topics, thumping, throwback beats and a cadence that screams authenticity. All these were on display on his 2012 mixtape, Queens Kids, which garnered the attention of powerhouse outlets like 2DopeBoyz, The Source and HYPETRAK.
These co-signs (which grow in number with every release) have carried Bryant with his recent single releases (“QB,” “Champion Sound“) and earned the nostalgic MC performance slots at SXSW and SOB’s this year. With his buzz continuing to build, we caught up with Bryant Dope to discuss NYC’s new hip-hop movement, his lofty ambitions as an artist and his upcoming project, New New York.
I won’t ever be satisfied and I won’t ever be complacent. The second I get comfortable musically, I know it’s time to switch it up and try to make something new. That’s what hip-hop is all about: being fresh.
Interview by @aboynamedandy
You released your Queens Kids mixtape almost exactly a year ago, and that seemed to help you land on a lot of radars. How have things changed since then?
Since we dropped the Queens Kids tape, I gained a lot more fans and people who believe in what I’m doing. I’ve also done way more shows since there and I’ve just grown as an artist. I’m more confident in my music now more than ever.
You played at SXSW and opened for ScHoolboy Q at SOBs last month. How were they?
SXSW was an experience that I’ve wanted to have about since I started doing music. Finally getting down there with my homies and rocking shows all over Austin was dope and an experience I wouldn’t change for the world. I met a few dope artists and had the time of my life. I’m only 20 so for me to get down there already shows me I’m doing something right. The ScHoolboy Q show was the first show I did in NY after SXSW. He’s one of my favorite new artists, so for me to rock the same stage as him was a sick experience.
Your sound has a distinct ’90s flavor to it, but with a fresh twist. Who are your musical influences?
I had my childhood in the ’90s and when I was growing up all I heard was the hip-hop my aunts and people around me would play. My parents are Haitian so they weren’t really into hip-hop but my aunts and my sister surrounded it with me as a kid. I guess that sound stuck with me as I got older so when I decided to start making music that’s where I went musically.
You’re upcoming project is called New New York, which obviously implies you have high aspirations with it. Is it intended to be a mission statement for this new movement of New York hip-hop?
I have very high aspirations for New New York. It’s a great project but in no way is it a mission statement; it’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do. As I get older I see NY in a whole different light. All of my homies are grown worried about money and their future all while trying to enjoy their youth. That’s what New New York is about: a generation of kids from my city trying to figure life out all while living with no limits.
All three tracks that have been released from New New York have been produced by Hannibal King. Is he producing all of the tape?
Yeah, Hannibal King is producing the whole project. New New York is a collaboration project from me and him. He’s a dope producer who’s worked with a lot of artists and he deserves more shine. I hope that this project will get his name out there as much as it does mine. He makes the type of music that I’m making right now so New New York is the manifestation of that.
It’d be interesting for you guys to form an official producer/MC duo, like Gang Starr or Showbiz & AG. It seems like that’s the only thing missing in New York hip-hop right now.
That would be dope. [Laughs] I could actually see that. Me and Hannibal are just two artists with a mutual respect for each others’ music. I don’t see us becoming an official group but expect more from us after New New York drops.
Do you have any guest appearances on New New York?
I just worked with the homies and people who were around me for New New York. My homie Bub Styles who I met from Hannibal is featured on the project. He’s a dope artist from Brooklyn and he’s actually working on a project with Hannibal as well. Since we were working with Hannibal at the same time, it was only right to have him on a track. Also I have ANTHM on New New York, he’s a real talented MC who did a project with Blu that I was a fan of. I opened up for him last summer at SOB’s in Manhattan and he was a real cool guy. Those are the type of people I collaborate with; real cool people who just want to make dope music.
In your interview with XXL last year, you said your aspiration is to become a hip-hop legend. It definitely feels like there’s a shift in hip-hop, with guys like Kendrick Lamar and Joey Bada$$ championing quote-on-quote “real hip-hop” while achieving popularity. Would you say it’s the best time to aim for the top without feeling the need to compromise your sound?
I feel like you shouldn’t enter hip-hop unless you are determined to be the best. That hunger keeps artists alive and you can tell when an artist has lost that. I won’t ever be satisfied and I won’t ever be complacent. The second I get comfortable musically, I know it’s time to switch it up and try to make something new. That’s what hip-hop is all about: being fresh.
It must give you confidence when sites like Complex, FADER and especially Rap Radar’s B.Dot (who’s a hard guy to win over) are all co-signing you.
It means a lot to me that people are riding with me heavy in the early stages of my career. To have them by my side is really important to me and the fact that they see something in me gives me confidence. There’s a million rappers out there so for me to be the one they’re betting on means the world to me and my team.
What do you make of this year’s XXL Freshman cover?
I thought it was dope. Everyone on that cover deserved to be there.
Is the 2014 cover in your sights?
The 2014 cover is something that I for sure see myself on, and I’m going to work hard to make that a reality.
And finally, can you give us a release date for New New York?
Sooner than later.
STREAM: Bryant Dope – Queens Kids