“I was exposed to a lot of different music as a kid, but I definitely got more attached to hip–hop. I just fell in love with it,” proclaims Drew 32. Along with fellow rappers Danny Brown and Angel Haze, the 22-year-old is part of a collective of new talents who seem to be emerging from Detroit. Though his music isn’t exactly topping the charts, it is however serving as an introduction to his skills. He has been able to establish himself to the point where he’s performed with the likes of Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, although, in all fairness, his journey is one of dedication.
Anyone discovering him on the basis of his latest track “True Colors” will see on display his honest expression of music-making—his sound is dynamic, yet deeply rich and catchy. The track hits hard with an upbeat, yet nostalgic transition from soulful melodies to a narrative style rap. It would probably take a long time to describe why he choose to have a 22-foot long Burmese python snake around his neck in the video, so instead we caught up with the singer, songwriter, producer and rapper to find out why he is redefining expectations into something new, something that represents his creativity.
RESPECT.: Firs thing’s first — I was doing some research and I found out that you and British rapper Wretch 32 are the only two artists with the number 32 in your name.
Drew 32: I’ve heard of Wretch 32 [laughs]. I remember randomly googling music one day and coming across him, and I was like, “Oh man, that’s crazy.” But I’ve had the name Drew 32 since I was 9 years-old. I got it when I played basketball as a kid and I would always wear the number 32, like Magic Johnson. In fact, I’ve pretty much always been Drew 32.
So why do you rap?
[Laughs] I love doing it, I guess that’s the simplest answer. When I was young, like, as a kid I was a fan of hip–hop and my dad also exposed me to both reggae and Brazilian music. I’m Greek American, so I also listen to Greek music. I was exposed to a lot of different music as a kid, but I definitely got more attached to hip–hop. I just fell in love with it, it’s something that I love doing. I love producing, writing and that whole process, so I guess that’s why I do it.
How do you imagine people will feel when they listen to your music?
Hopefully it brightens their day. I try to make my music fun and energetic. I like listening to music in the car when I’m driving. I don’t even have an iPod, like, ninety percent of the time I’m listening to music in my car. I try to make music for that kind of experience where you’re just in the car riding and maybe you want to put the windows down and have some fun. I think I can be serious on some of my songs but on the whole when people play my music I want them to feel happy.
Tell me about the process behind “True Colors.”
It’s a very personal song that is based on a real–life situation. I had produced the beat a long time ago and was just sitting on it until one day I came home from class and was just playing it. At the same time I had just kind of went through a really stupid situation in a relationship and I just kind of wrote the song while I was sitting in the car on my driveway. It usually takes me a long time to write songs but that song just came really quickly and I don’t feel I need to explain it too much, because if you listen to it you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
There’s a lot of interesting things going on in the video. A standout moment for me at least was seeing you with a 22-foot long Burmese python snake around your neck.
A lot of people’s reaction was, “Oh my god, I can’t believe you did that.” I decided to have the snake in there as a metaphor, like, I was kind of saying some girls are snakes. When I was directing it I didn’t even expect for it to be wrapped all around me. I remember when we got the snake in the room the guy who owned the snake was like, “Let’s just wrap the snake around you,” and I was like, “Wow.” It was kind of scary at first, but I hope when people watch it, it will show them how I put my life on the line for this music shit [laughs.] I could have died at any moment.
I don’t often meet people who get so up close and personal with reptiles. Is there anything you can share with us about working with snakes?
I did learn from the trainer about that snake in particular that he had owned it since it was about a foot long. He didn’t even know it was going to grow to be that big. But once I got used to it I kind of got comfortable knowing that the snake had been around humans for a long time.
One of the things I noticed from listening to your songs is that you’re really good at creating melodies. How exactly does that process work for you?
Ninety percent of the time — music first and then the words. One of the things I hate doing most is forcing myself to write a song. Usually, I’ll sit on a beat for a while, live life and then kind of allow things to inspire me before I write. I’m a pretty normal kid. I go to school and stuff, but when inspiration hits me it comes at anytime and that’s when I’ll just start writing.
There’s this fascination with rappers who sing. Do you understand that obsession at all?
It’s been around for a long time but a lot of people attribute it to Drake — he’s so popular for singing and rapping. If you can remember even Nelly was singing years back on his songs. I think people like melodies and harmonies. I think rap is expanding and it’s almost expanding into other genres.
I saw someone recently comparing you to Drake. What does that mean to you?
Sometimes I take it as a compliment and sometimes I kind of get tried of it because I’m trying to be my own artist. But Drake is dope I’m definitely inspired by him. He’s really cool. I like his music but at the same time I’m trying to be my own artist and I think I sound different and so does my music. I think on first impression a lot people will make that connection. I don’t think I’m as influenced by R&B as he is. I’m influenced by more energetic, progressive drums and I think that’s from my dad exposing me to a lot of sounds.
As an artist your job is to inform people of your experiences. But when everybody knows so much about you, does writing ever get difficult?
I hesitate sometimes to put songs out. I even thought “True Colors” was too personal, I remember saying to myself, “I don’t wanna put it out because it’s so close to me.” I think that some of my most creative moments are spawn from these real, personal encounters in my life. A lot of the things that I maybe wouldn’t even want people to know are the things that give me the most creative ideas. I can’t ignore them and even though I don’t want to put them out, they sometimes end up as my favourite songs.
Music in general, especially hip–hop can be a competitive field. What’s been your biggest challenge thus far?
My biggest challenge hasn’t necessarily been competition. I think I am one of those artists who just stay in their own lane. I am competitive in terms of success, like, I want to be as successful as I possibly can, you know what I mean? But on an artistic level I try to remain in my own space. I think the biggest challenge for me is trying to get my voice heard. I do feel like my music is strong, my live performances are strong, but it’s just getting my music out there and into the right hand. I’m getting there but the common challenge which a lot of unsigned artists share is getting the right exposure.
How did the name “Batch 1” for your mixtape come about?
It’s kind of like a concept about not having a concept. It was just a random batch of songs that I had. I told my brother’s girl friend that I was going to call it the Batch and she was like, “Why would you call it that? That reminds me of cookies? Why would you want a batch of cookies?” I thought that was funny because I didn’t even thought of cookies, but, anyway I took the idea and ran with it. I even thought of having an image of a girl baking cookies on the cover. Everybody loves a batch of cookies, unless you’re allergic to gluten [laughs.]
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