ALL PHOTOS BY JOE CRUZ
OG Dutch Master has been creating since he was 15 years old. He’s directed videos, tried his hand at photography, designed clothes, and even tattooed. Five years later, he’s venturing into the musical world to see how he fares through the wire. With this new medium, he aims to explore the fabric of his musical attire, collaborating and conceptualizing with an assorted group of creators, whom he cautiously surrounds himself with. No matter where he’ll wind up, he’ll carry his Baltimore-bred hometown bravado with him.
Over a game of Spades in Queens, we spoke about the relationship he had with his father, yelled at a deli employee (‘I’m old enough to buy this Dutch!’), and explored some of the more obscure questions behind HIV/AIDS transmission. The layered darkness of his work is embedded in the reciprocal darkness of his life, which he does little more than suggest as the strength behind his work. Not entirely trusting those he’s speaking with at any time, he doesn’t even give his government name off the record. His guarded demeanor began to fade away slowly, though, as we joked about youthful indiscretions. But his abrupt reticence reminded me of the lines he’s drawn around himself. Through his art and the tired bags fixed to his eyes, his entire persona carries the pains that have garnished his life.
But he’s changing. He’s emerging as an individual who wants to “…live to be happy.” He’s got a rock album in the works, meant to set him apart even from the idea of being a rap artist. In fact, he wants to be seen as just an artist , not essentialized as solely a musician. As the CEO of the DaCornerStore subgenre, he constantly ventures into new sounds, new alcoves of possibility that will help him participate in any musical dialogue despite being a rapper.
Discover the creative broadcaster of a guarded, meticulously arranged vision of art, and download his latest tape Blue Light District.
RESPECT: The first time we were supposed to do an interview, you got caught up with the law. You wanna speak on that?
OG: Yeah, I got arrested for some shit, you feel me? I ain’t tryna speak on that, though. It was some drug shit, but I’m good though.
I just wanted get that out of the way. When did you start making music?
Ah. It depends on what you mean by “making music”. When you say that, do you mean when I got in the studio, or when I was just freestylin?
I mean whatever you mean by “making music.”
Aight, I would say that I started about seven or eight months ago, when I first dropped “PSA”. Cuz I mean with this whole music thing, it’s more than just writing, there’s a whole lot more to it, feel me? Eight months ago, even though niggas been writin before that point, but, it’s like I said, it’s more than writing for me.
When you were just writing, was it intended to become music, or was it just gonna stay on paper?
Back in the day forreal, I was on some shit. When you’re young, you always tend to talk out the side of ya neck a little bit. So I would write some shit, and then I would call these studios and be like “Imma hit the studio with my friends”, and then never hit the studio. it was just on some shit just like…I don’t know, I’d call it a lyrical exercise I guess you could call it. It was me workin on talent.
And how’d you get your name?
I got it from rollin blunts, but not just that. I’m influenced by that OG hip hop. So I listen to Grandmaster Flash, Jam Master Jay and shit like that. And through them, I heard the word “Master” being said a whole lot, so it’s like, I think I’m a master at my craft as well, I do the “Dutch” thing because I’m a big smoker, feel me?
So what’s it mean to be a “master” to you?
I mean, it’s like, you have to have your craft, and always be workin’ to perfect your craft. That’s what it is. You don’t have to be perfect from the jump, it’s something that you put the effort into.
So it’s a process thing?
Yeah, not just the creation process, but WHAT you work at. Like you gotta have some credentials behind yourself to become a master. I have my credentials to prove it for me.
I mean, like, I really stepped out as a rapper about eight months ago. And since then, even before then, I Iooked at myself as a master even with the whole fashion/art scene, and being creative in general, yo. Like I really changed up my lifestyle, and I mastered what I live now. I can tie that in as well. And before I came out as a rapper, I came out on 2 dopeboys, and that was some shit I didn’t even expect then. So for me it’s a growing process, like, I got people reaching out to me. Or, I reach out to a muthafukka and he already know who I am. I don’t wanna be statin all the shit I been featured on just to state my credentials, feel me? But niggas got some credentials, believe that. They show, I think. Whenever I do a show, or a spot or whatever, that’s another new credential….This right here is a good look. [Laughs]
So you’ve been creating for a while, but what’s your history with art, and creating in general?
In general, like… Forreal, I’ve always been on some creative shit. Even though I changed up my lifestyle. When I was on my other shit, I would be around niggas, niggas that trap. But trap for clothing, and that’s like, what I got brought up on. Trap, and stay fresh. It’s always been true for me. So the niggas I used to be around when I did my dirty, they used to make clothes, and that shit was ill. And from that point, I was attracted to that shit. Other than trappin. That shit’s like, creative as fuck. You know that you step out the house, and you won’t see no one else with that. So that being said, once I changed up my lifestyle, I started my own clothing line, at the age of 15. And I had it in two stores, and then from that, I became a manager at a local boutique in Baltimore. And that was by the age of 17. Creating-wise, it’s always been clothes, and if not that, I did the graffiti thing, um, other than that, I tried out some photography, videos, and I did some tattoos. Anything that’s related to art, or being creative in general… I’m a talented muthafucka like that.
Do you think of those as “credentials?”
Yeah, but with what I do now, that shit don’t matter to people. I push music, so I can’t talk to an A&R, and be like “Well, I used to have a clothing line.” They don’t give a shit. They wanna know how much money they can make off of you.
Well what made you wanna create, in a general sense? Was there a person, or an event in your life?
I mean, I’ll keep in one hundred. I’m not the most righteous muthafucka in the world, feel me? But I do read a whole lot of spiritual, Zodiac process shit, and me, I’m an Aquarius. It’s been known the Aquarius signs are creative in general. Once I saw the line about that, I guessed that might’ve been why. I can’t really say why I am the way I am, but it’s natural. It wasn’t on some shit where I was a follower, like a lot of these people out here. Niggas will see someone doing some shit, and just fall in line. I was never, like, one to do some shit like that. It was always those cats doing that shit to me. Feel me. I don’t really know, it might be meant, it was in the stars. I just feel like it might just be meant to be.
This one’s a little random, but you once tweeted, “1 small thought of mines can fuck me up in the most negative way. its like i get submerged in the dark”. I looked through one day after we first started talking about an interview. How does that darkness play into your creative process?
[Quickly responds] To be honest with you, like, that, I been through a whole lot of shit through my life. It’s hard to get into that. I got hella songs that I wrote when I’m in that state of mind, but I’m on some shit where like I’m marketing as well. When you’re a rapper, you’re more than a rapper. You’re a brand yourself. So, me being a brand, I don’t try to put that shit out there. Like, I get mad at myself (and it’s crazy that you brought that up), but Baltimore ain’t the easiest place, feel me, it’s a whole, like, “black matter.” When I talk on that shit, I get deep on that shit. I’mma keep it real. It’s like when you listen to Kid Cudi‘s Man On The Moon. Or 808s and Heartbreak. It just gives you a vibe, like that empty vibe.
Cudi had some isolated imagery.
Right? I just don’t wanna give people that vibe, because music is life changing. And when they listen to your shit, whatever you say can change somebody’s life. So I don’t wanna put out something and the results are that somebody killed themselves. Sometimes people connect to shit like that. There’s a whole lotta power behind the shit that we say. I don’t think that a lot of people think that, but we have power. Niggas might not realize it, but this shit can be life-changing.
Did you life ever change due to a song or album in particular?
It took effect after I lost my pops. Probably Cudi‘s “This is My World”. It’s how he was talking about losing his pops on that too. There’s a few others that made me think like that. That’s why I answered the last question like that, music can really change how you feel. Before I’m a rapper or whatever, I’m a listener. So I know what it’s like to be in that position. I like to apply what I do as if I was a fan, especially as a fan of my own music.
You feel comfortable discussing your father’s passing?
In a past interview, I saw you quoted as saying that his passing “opened your eyes.” How so, and to what?
It really opened my eyes to the world. It was on some shit like… well, my pops, he was like my best friend. So when he died, I lost a part of me. It opened my eyes to be like, you gotta live to be happy. You have to make yourself happy. You can’t just be out here living for other people. It’s just crazy. It happened so unexpectedly, that it had me thinkin like, “Niggas could die TOMORROW.” I can die right now. It’s just that, I need to be remembered. I’m the last of my kind. I’m the last of the bloodline, after me, who else? Also (and this is somewhat personal) , but the last conversation that I had with my pops, he said that he made a deal with God that he wouldn’t die until he saw me become a man. And then he died, like two weeks later… It was the same day that I got a job at Macy’s, but that was just a holiday spot for me. Once that shit was over, I didn’t know what to do. I’m still fucked up in the head. And mind you, my father died the same day I got the job. So I started working, but the whole time that I was in there, I was just thinkin about gettin cake. So when I got away from work, that shit hit me, it was really piercing. It was at the point where the only thing that I can do is music now. That’s the only thing that I felt that I could use. So I watched how this whole industry works, and that’s why I feel like I have a good chance of “makin it.” It’s like, this was meant to be because of what he said to me.
Back into your music, is what you do a response to anything, socially or musically?
You mean like a reflection, or like me fixin something? I mean sheit man, EVERYTHING is wrong. What isn’t wrong with music these days? Like it’s very hard to explain it yo. I hear all these rappers comin out, wantin a little bit of bread from one video on TV, and then get hella gold. That’s what they want these days. No one wants to be remembered. Like you really have to think about this shit. Let’s look at music as a whole. How much has this shit changed? And then think about the artists that’ve changed their image around with it. C’mon man, how does the dancing scene break you in. Like, the whole “Lean widdit rock widdit”, and “Superman” shit. Like, niggas is gettin signed off of dances. It’s not music no more. Then it switched over to fuckin jerkin. After that? What? Like I can respect the shit that we gettin into now. This whole, uh, let’s see… This whole current time-period that we makin music in right now. Feel me? I can respect the Odd Futures, the A$AP Ants, the A$AP MOBs, the 2.7.5. I can respect all that, because it’s a reflection of what’s been good. It’s a reflection of what used to be good. And I don’t give a fuck what nobody say, I pay homage to the niggas that I fucked with when I was comin up. So it’s like, we young. We young as shit, so it’s crazy how we’re gettin to the real feel again. When I was in middle school, high school shit was not poppin. It wasn’t real. This is how you know. Niggas is just gettin put on to Mikey Rocks. I been bumpin him for the longest, since middle school. That’s the shit that I fuck with. When everybody else was just bumpin that bullshit. It’s just not the same no more. It’s the people who’s behind the industry’s fault. You got the people who choose who they want to be on TV, that’s the ones in general, and then there’s the ones that’s behind the desk. Feel me? So, think about who’s behind the desk? So I wanna come in, and be on some shit like, you can’t fuck this up. I want them to know that it’s some genuine shit. Like look at where I’m comin from. My music is a product of my environment. Like this is real shit, this basement rap that we push, it’s real. This ain’t mixed-down, wannabe bullshit. This isn’t just for a few bills. We wanna be remembered. Niggas said that basement rap is a genre. Genres do not die.
What makes the Baltimore sound right now?
It’s more diverse. Compared to the old shit that used to come out. But I’m not gonna lie, the OGs from Baltimore, they used to put out some good shit. Like for real. You ever Heard of Tim Trees? You got your Julio… It’s crazy how like “here” it is. It’s tough to describe. Like, there’s an ATL, LA, NYC sound, but now we got our own. It’s here. We got it being developed right now. It’s because of us. I was a listener first, like I said, so I’ve watched muthafuckas that’s from here try this shit already. Feel me? Even the shit they used to cut out had the sound but it wasn’t completely there yet.
Well you don’t have a ton of tracks out, but what you do have, there’s no throwaways. The biggest thing that I see is that up and comers do a lot of like, “flooding the market”. Why are you guarding your material in an era where volume is success?
I guard my material because of the fact that it’s been a long process for me. When I first got involved, like I be readin books about this music shit, like I put in work. And Imma keep it one hundered dog. Yo, with this music shit my nigga, this music shit is not just about that music. Forreal. I’m here to make a name for myself. It’s crazy how fucked up this game is. These niggas can keep puttin out hella videos and singles, and you stay in the same position you started from. I’m takin a whole different route now. To keep it one hundred, I was suppose to drop a mixtape before I even dropped the video for “PSA.” I didn’t feel comfortable. You got artists that hit the studio that just do hella tracks, but have no direction with this shit. Like, I be tryna, I wanna do some different shit. I’m not someone regular. Like, I’m busy now, without the mixtape. I been busy. [Raising his voice] Like I’m not pleased with where I’m at yet! Why would I drop a tape and then get slept on? Then I’mma feel like I wasted hella time. I have so many songs I could drop a tape right now. I weed the others out. Like if they not what I’m goin for. Even with that dark shit we talked about, I gotta get rid of it sometimes. I make music based off of emotions, so I can’t be puttin out a project if I just feel happy and shit, and then not have it in collaboration with songs that I make when I’m on the brink of suicide. Feel me? That shit won’t mix. Niggas go through shit in Baltimore. I’d rather take my time with it. You got muthafuckas comin out with a deal and no mixtape. And what’s on that contract? You need at least one album, nah, at least two. And then what? Like if I did that, I already have a catalogue for that. Why sit on it till I get a good offer? But you know what, I’m not even gonna do that. I’mma put something out soon because I know niggas want it, and then I’m steppin out of this regular genre. Even though we do basement rap, I wanna do more than that. I wanna do some good shit. I want it to be one some shit where niggas can’t call me a rapper no more. I want them to call me an artist.
Speak on that a little more.
I wanna get on some rock shit. I’mma pay homage to all the niggas I came up on, and two of them is Jim Jones and Mos Def. When they came out with the Blakroc project with Dame Dash, that was some classic shit and niggas looked past that. There may be muthafuckas that read this shit here and don’t know what I’m talkin about, but yo, that shit was classic. When you can step out the box and make some wild good music, that shit is timeless.
Who would you collab with, maybe even to make the rock tape?
Well, I have a few collabs so I can already mention. I got one with Chase N Cashe that I’m doin, then I did something with that dude XXYYXX. That’s what I mean when I talk about gettin up out that box, because I love that different shit. Others, yo, there’s this nigga over in the UK named Loui The Zu that released this track “Fake Friends.” I would love to fuck with his shit. I also really fuck with this dude Ibn Inglore, this lil nigga from Chicago, um, let’s see, also Carter from Texas, or LA, that would be mad ill too. I’m not gonna lie, I wanna fuck with Curt@!n$ from Black Scale, cuz I was around a few days ago when I was in NY. I really fuck with them because I can get really political with this shit too. Niggas is ignorant, and they don’t wanna hear shit that’s real though, right now.
Who would you resurrect for a collab?
OOOOOOh. I would have to resurrect-my god you, I’m bout to go in. I would resurrect everybody! Foreal, I came up on Eazy E, like I’m a big Eazy-E fan, and Big Pun, too.
What’s your favorite Eazy-E song?
“Boyz in the Hood”. I know all his shit off top, but for like two years, he was the only shit. Yo, but one thing that I wanna know though, is that since Eazy-E had AIDS, wouldn’t his son have it too?
Only if it got passed.
This is completely off topic, but, um, I be thinkin of weird shit…Answer this question, speaking of AIDS. Females be foul these days. Let’s say you had a cut on your fingers, and you finger a chick who got AIDS, and she on her period, would it get passed?
Alright, this is how I’ll answer that: why am I finger bangin a chick with AIDS?
Because they foul these days!
Nah, I’m, playin. I don’t really give a fuck, I’ll go in regardless of her being on her period or not.
I feel you dog that’s some real nigga shit!
But you would definitely catch the germ if you had a cut and she had AIDS.
I needed the public to know that I’m on some real shit. Imma start asking questions in interviews from now on, that’s some funny shit.
Back to it. Are there any other professions that you think you’d be good at?
Definitely designing. Anything like that. Websites, ideas, graphics. I can market well, I mean, I been doin it for myself since I’m self-managed. Everything that done came to me so far, that’s all me. Um, other than that, sellin weed, feel me? Ain’t too much that I can do. The shit I done did in my past fucked me up. Niggas don’t try to be fuckin with me.
You also gave us a little short clip of your process in the “making of” video for “Raw Dope”. What’d that video leave out? What else goes on behind the scenes?
Forreal, it’s just niggas smokin weed, and playin Tekken. Everything in the video is what we do. I made two extra tracks that day that won’t go on the tape. That was just that session, but there might be some times when we go over Butch’s (Dawson) beat, just to see what he’s comin with. We get automatic inspiration when Jujuan (Butch) put a beat on.
What about live performances, what do those do for you music, what does that bring out?
That’s my favorite part of being an artist, to be honest with you. It gives you a chance to interact with people. Like I done had shows where niggas run up to the front row when I get up on stage. That just shows me that my work is appreciated. Now that I put myself in those shoes, even when I do a shy show,every muthafucka in there goin wanna fuck with me after that. When I get on stage, I have to be A1, I have to deliver a good performance so people go home and fuck with me. I give them that reason. That makes it feel more genuine when I give them live performances. Like this can’t just be on the internet for me. I gotta go out and get my fans in person.
The first project just came out…
Well, actually this is my second project. I had another one that I did before I went by OG Dutch Master. Feel me? I had a nice little amount actually, but I won’t tell niggas how to find it.
Who were you?
I can’t put it out there, niggas can’t find it! But I went by [redacted] and the name I had, the second part stood for forgiveness. And when I had that name, that’s when my life changed, the Lord forgave me for a lot of shit. The project was called [redacted].
I won’t put it in, but I’ll go search for myself.
You better not.
Let’s talk about it like this: what did Art Of War show about you?
There’s a whole lot of tracks from there that released, but it paints a picture, and on top of that, it really gets me out of… I really want people to know that Baltimore isn’t The Wire. Like muthafuckas see that and be like “I’m never goin to Baltimore!” Fell me? And when you’re hear, you can live that life, or make something different. I’ve played both sides of the fence. So it’s like, I have that Wire feel, but also the “getting out of this” feel. I live a different life than you would expect. Like I got a song about girl in a fashion show. It shows what I go through, bein in the hood one day, and bein at a fashion show the next. That’s real shit, that’s how I be. That’s the image you’ll get from the tape. It’s the Hood Fashion Show.
What’s the most Baltimore thing somebody can do?
Go to ya local carry out and order a chicken box with salt, pepper, ketchup, hot sauce ALL OVER, with a jumbo half & half , then go to the BP grab a chocolate cigarello. Make ya way to the bus stop, and kill ya food while waiting and roll ya blunt on da bus if its a seat past the back door.
Well, what’s next?
GET BLUE LIGHT DISTRICT HERE
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