Interview: Dreezy speaks on her love of Lil Wayne, working with Gucci Mane, and her grand rap ambitions.
In the sprawling Chicago hip hop scene of today, perhaps no rapper has more artistic range than 22-year-old Dreezy. She first began to grow a significant following after she released her incomparable "Chiraq" remix in spring 2014. It's hard to believe that that song, in which she snarls like a wolverine, was made by the same person who would release the gentle R&B-pop hybrid "Body" with Jeremih 21 months later.
Dreezy's debut album No Hard Feelings, released earlier this summer, features an effortless blend of Dreezy's carnivorous rap stylings with a few more radio-friendly tracks. She spoke to HNHH recently about the album, her love of Lil Wayne, working with Gucci Mane, and her goal to become the best rapper on the planet.
What part of Chicago are you from?
I grew up at 81st and King Drive, Southside of Chicago. We were in a three-home apartment. We were all the way upstairs. It was just me and my mama. I was going to school around the corner. I was always doing art, writing, singing, dancing. I was real involved with the school. I was just into everything.
What was the first song you made?
The first song I recorded wasn't until high school. It was a freestyle to the “Pussy Money Weed” beat. Wayne.
I know you briefly went to college. How long were you there?
Probably about a month.
And you were just like, “This isn't for me?”
Yeah. I went just to try it out. I wasn't no reckless kid. I was smart. Me and my parents had a hard time trying to understand each other because I knew what I wanted. I tried out the college thing just to see what it was like, and I instantly knew, “Nah, this is not for me.” And I didn't wanna waste their money.
You often reference Wayne as your favorite rapper. To you, what makes him so great?
His work ethic, for one. He was always a hard worker. You can tell he came from the street. But Wayne was always in the studio. Wayne was always putting out new material, keeping that wave going, starting new trends. He stayed fly. He was cocky but humble. And he wasn't no dummy. I like when dudes ain’t scared to show their intelligence. Wayne will sit there and talk to you like you’re reading a book. I like that. And when it comes to the music, he gives you bars every time. People couldn't wait to hear a Wayne verse. When Wayne was on a song, everyone was like "Oh, we gotta skip to his part.” Or you could play it back again because he'd put those bars into it. And it didn't even come off as extra hip hop conscious -- you could get drunk to it, you could smoke, you could turn up.
How’d you come up with the name Dreezy?
Playing around. I wasn't sure if I wanted to rap then. Of course, all the rappers had the -eezy at the end. I was a big Wayne fan and I did that as a joke. It kind of just stuck on. My MySpace name was Dreezy F. Baby back in the day. It probably still is.
You speak very highly of Interscope and how they basically let you do what you want. Is there any downside of being at a major label?
I mean, I can't do everything I want. But they not trying to force me to be something I'm not. So I can respect that. I know eventually down the line I'mma have much more control over my music, and that's what I want to work towards. But you gotta have the rank for that too. You can’t just come at the label like “I wanna do this, this, this” and have no hits on the board and you ain’t done no numbers. You definitely gotta come and show and prove. And then when you come and show and prove, and they see, “Okay, well maybe we can trust her word.”
You gotta get them to trust you and then they’re gonna do more with you. It’s some downs to it, but I know we gonna work through it. I’m just glad we aint going through the problems like, “We want you to wear this and we want you to sound like this.” As long as you let me be myself, I can work, I can compromise through the other shit.
How do you like LA now compared to when you first moved out there?
I like it more now, because when I first arrived I hated it.
Why did you hate it?
I’m from Chicago, so it’s just a whole different vibe. I had to leave all my people, my family. I was in a relationship. Me and him ended up breaking up. I was just in a whole ‘nother state with nobody. And it`s literally night and day from Chicago. I had to get used to it and find what I liked about it. Now I know for LA, me personally I like the weather, the weed. I like shopping for clothes and I like working. So if I’m in LA, I’m doing one of those things. If not, I‘m gone.
Do you have a car out there?
Yeah, it’s a Honda. My daddy sent it to me. I could get a car right now, but I feel like I’m on the road so much, it wouldn’t make sense.
How have you changed as a person since you signed your deal and moved to LA?
I’m real short-tempered now. I`ve been short-tempered before, but I calmed down for a while, and now it’s coming back. I’m more mature. I’m more about me instead of trying to please everyone else. Because I’m young and I don’t need to be having everybody else’s responsibilities on me. I gotta take care of myself. People will try to take advantage of you. So I`m just learning. And now my circle is a lot smaller. I`m happy with the people that’s in my circle. I’m into business. I’m just working. I feel like I’m doing everything the right way.
Do you get recognized in LA? I`m sure you do in Chicago.
Sometimes. It ain’t too bad cause I don’t really be in LA like that. Honestly these past couple months, the past three or four months, I might have been home in LA for two or three weeks. I really been living on the road.
What was it like shooting the “We Gon Ride” video with Gucci?
It was turnt up.
It looked turnt up.
Yeah, I had fun. He's a cool dude. I'm glad he liked the song.
A lot of Chicago rappers your age were massively influenced by Gucci. Did you listen to him much growing up?
I mean, I listened to Gucci. I wasn't getting my rap skills from Gucci. He definitely was turning the parties up in high school, period. You couldn't go to a party with no Gucci songs. Gucci rubbed off on everybody.
You're pretty mellow right now. How do you go from being so chill to snapping on a beat?
I mean it's been a long day. I'm a little tired. I'm a little faded. I'm just chilling. I feel good. But yeah when I'm in the booth, I try to get everything off my chest. Everything I'm mad about. You just think about all the bitches that be hating, or the niggas that tried to play you. How much money you finna get. I'm just willing to go in there and talk shit.
Which artists do you want to work with the most?
All my favorites. Wayne, J Cole, Kanye, Drake, Nicki. I'm an artist because I love music. I ain’t just in this to just be here today and gone tomorrow. Hopefully I get to work with all these people -- I seen them all on the TV. I watched them all grow into what I'm trying to be. If any of them hop on a track with me, it's gonna be crazy.
What distinguishes your album from the two EPs and Schizo? What makes this a special project?
Schizo and the EP had way more rapping. It's more songs, more put together, more hits, more radio songs. It's more of an industry professional album. It was real polished. I had good features on it. We played it kind of safe with this album. Just because “Body” did so good, and then we just had everyone talking - we had to cut the process out to record the album and get it out there. We knew we had good tracks. We knew we had at least five joints that could go on radio with different sounds. I wanted every song on my album to be a banger. I wanted to come in and just kill everybody. But I knew it was gonna take time, too. So was I gonna wait and try to make this album perfect, or while I got the momentum going, I could put it out and go straight into another project. I just feel like we needed to put it out.
The tape you did with Metro and Southside. ‘From Now On.’ You were snapping on that consistently.
That was just me having fun.
I've seen a couple headlines that say 'Dreezy is the queen of Chicago,' or something along those lines. How that does make you feel? A little weird?
Nah, it's not, because I wanna be the queen of the rap game. Period. It's a good start, it's a good push. I don't go too hard with it. People be telling me like, "You famous!" I still don't know if I'm famous. And we don't even think about it like that. If they giving me that title, I appreciate it. I'm here to show and prove and make sure they know what they saying.
Are you trying to get to Nicki's level?
I'm trying to be top level. I'm trying to take it all the way. Nicki definitely did her thing, but I'd love to go even further.