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10 years deep: In Conversation With Dope D.O.D.

 

Dutch hip-hop formation Dope D.O.D. fuse rap rawness with dancefloor-igniting bass-music like no other and 2021 marks their ten year anniversary.

The Dope D.O.D. story is one of tight-knit hip-hop fanatics. Wide-eyed youngsters, who dared to dream big, they carved their own path and have so far delivered six albums, numerous videos and dozens of collaborations – some of which are with the biggest names in the rap-game – plus hundreds of sold-out shows worldwide.

 

The crew initially kicked off as a rapping trio with founding member Dopey Rotten but the band now currently comprises emcees Skits Vicious and Jay Reaper and producer/DJ Chubeats. When talking about being second-to-none in their niche, they are up there with Noisia. Coincidentally, it all started for them in the city of Groningen. One difference, though: unlike Noisia, they are far from done yet.

The hectic, deadline-driven days of touring schedules aren’t the norm now, making way for a newfound approach to life and work. And perhaps more time to fully reflect as well? We had the pleasure to talk to Skits about various life lessons during this globetrotting rollercoaster-ride. Read on below for an undiluted dose of wisdom, uncompromising directness, and also what the future may hold!

How’s Dope D.O.D. doing in these strange times?

Less touring means there’s way more time to work on new things. In 2021 we are officially ten years in the industry. Thanks to everything we’ve built, there’s a solid foundation now. Fans stay curious and ask for more. Now, since there’s much time to do things without stress or deadlines, a new, more organic vibe arises. I think this will really suit the taste of fans. We’re awaiting the moment to return to doing stuff without restrictions and continue building something for the next decade: writing history in the world of hip-hop.

There’s more time for other things as well now. Like?

For me personally, this is one of the best periods in a long while. I don’t have to be touring all the time. There’s so much more room for creativity now, and even some soul-searching. I think this is true for everyone more or less: knowing where you stand, who’s got your back. And where you want to go, while counting your blessings. Then again, if you look at how lives are destroyed through social restrictions, the economy collapses, and the financial struggles of people worldwide grow; I don’t believe Corona is being handled correctly. I pray for everyone this is over as soon as possible.

Besides having more time for myself, I also found the love of my life and I’m building a life together with her. This gives extra motivation to grow and become a better person for the people around me.

I read a lot of books too, I’ve read the biography of The Prodigy and Mobb Deep a few weeks ago. Also, the biography of Mike Tyson is one I recently finished. Currently I’m reading ‘Sapiens’ – about the history of mankind. Very interesting.

Jay and me know each other since we were kids: die-hard gamers. So whenever there’s chilling time left, I boot up the PlayStation occasionally. You can find us on Twitch: DopedodTV. We play the newest games live and chat with fans.

Life goes on and music remains my number one. I can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on with fans. We will hit back twice as hard.  While constantly touring, you get into this auto-pilot, it clouds your vision and creativity. It now feels like we’re working on the sickest shit compared to the last five years!

Your most recent collab with Shadow Sect on PRSPCT titled STFU. Is there a message behind this? Like, talk less and do more? What’s the story?

To be frank, there wasn’t a clear intention or message to convey during the writing. It’s simply a hard banger. So yeah, if there’s nothing important to say… Please… STFU!

Can you shed more light on the workflow during collabs like this one? How do you get the beats and music to ‘stick’ together?

Usually, we start with the beat, then we decide what (or who) fits. We knew Shadow Sect would really fit with their heavy, drum ‘n bass-inspired sound. When working together with such a collective, we try to make something not too complicated, with a really strong drive to make the crowd go insane. This track is the result of such an approach.

What can you reveal about the upcoming releases?

A new album is on the way, new videos, and some new singles. Perhaps there are some surprises, but I cannot give away too much yet.

As for the album: we’re making one wholly produced by Chubeats. He’s our DJ and long-time crew-member. Half of the album will be filled with features… Brace yourselves for one of the biggest projects we’ve released in a long time.

Hip-hop-artists are known for hitting the proverbial nail on the head in terms of words. It alluring to those who don’t have the platform, skills or guts. Sometimes own experiences serve as inspiration. But on the other hand, it still is entertainment and not a complete truth. The question is: how do you stay grounded as an artist who does brag and boast-rap?

The whole story about ‘being real’ and only rapping about what you really do is complete nonsense in my opinion. Every rapper exaggerates and makes stuff up to create a larger-than-life character. At the end of the day we’re all people with love for our family and friends, as well as love for fans who believe in us. Talking about belief: that’s what it’s all about with rapping – to really convince someone who listens, so he/she thinks: “…damn… it might sound crazy, but I believe this guy”.

Name one person who really does all the stuff they rap about, instead of grabbing the chance of making a living from art /entertainment. I mean, if it really was the case, they wouldn’t be on that stage.

Is it a matter of selling your ego, while at the same time being able to separate it from the professional aspect? How do you see this?

For me, it isn’t about ego at all. It’s about the love for the artform. Being egotistic; you wouldn’t be able to work in a team. You couldn’t even have normal relationships with people and nobody would give love back to you. The professional side of things requires discipline and focus. Even if you are godly gifted, if you cannot handle your product professionally… you’ll get nowhere fast.

Is it about keeping each other in check and staying real? Can you give an example? 

Absolutely! Especially when working in a group…. you have to stay connected and receptive to the opinions and emotions of those around you. You are basically married on professional terms. You share creativity, finances, and tons of time in the studio, plus touring. This asks for honesty and friendship. Without those aspects, it’s going to be rather impossible. An example would be: first consulting everyone in the group before making a decision.

Does this ask for a clear separation between the persona you play and the person who you are in your private life? How do you see this? 

I don’t have trouble separating this. This is my job: an artist, who practices his passion. Those who know me personally, know what they can expect. Only people I trust enough, and am comfortable to spend pastime with, see this side. If making music ever would make me unhappy or become a danger to my loved ones I would quit it. But I already knew how life would play out when I was fourteen years-old. So far, I enjoyed everything.

You have the privilege to work with some of the biggest names in the world of hip-hop. Can you share how it felt to meet the likes of Cypress Hill personally and work with them?

To clarify: we, sadly enough, haven’t worked together with Cypress Hill. We had the honour to share the stage as their support-act on different occasions, and we also were guests on B-real’s YouTube-show: B-realTV. Having the chance to talk to this guy and being recognized, that’s one less item on the bucket list.

There’s still a possibility to do a Cypress Hill – Dope D.O.D. -collab in the future and we will try to make it happen. Temples of Boom is one of my favourite albums since a young age, even one of my all-time favourites.

To get back to the question: (Working together with ) guys like Kool Keith, Onyx, and Sean Price (RIP)… I think it still will take some time to sink in. Even now, every now and then, I have to pinch myself. An album with Onyx? Pffff, tell me who also did this?

Not to exclude anyone, the list is long… but who was the most memorable artist to work with?

The biggest highlight for me has to be working with Redman. He’s my favourite rapper, period. Since the early days up to now. In my opinion there’s no equal in terms of being influential in the type of rap we do. The list of people he inspired is long. Guys like Eminem, Ludacris, Kraantje Pappie, it goes on and on. Usually, rappers are stingy when it comes to giving respect to other. I prefer saying: “I’m a fan first”. Without my heroes, I would never have gotten the inspiration to make my own stuff. Forever saluting the legends!

What makes the guys in the big league so unique? Professionality for sure, a big team as well. Is it the dedication? Does it resonate with your philosophy of success?

Funny how this questions follows up the last answer. Besides being a fan, you have to be your own fan as well. If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody will. As mentioned before, it’s also a matter of discipline and focus. I know guys who, despite not being the most talented, could surely create a fanbase and rock the underground. But when it comes down to talking big to your friends in the living room without making progress: the world will never discover them…  Be a fan of your own work and make sure you get that shit out there!

People usually see the end-result and the fame. At the same time it’s a lot of hard work. How do you stay motivated after achieving so much and smashing so many stages?  

That’s true. Huge sacrifices are necessary in terms of private time, and life overall. Sometimes it’s even a very ungrateful occupation. Because your success and partially your happiness is tied to public reception. This enables new opportunities, collaborations, shows and money. Naturally, you don’t want to let your happiness and fun revolve solely around this aspect, then you would only do it for the results and for others. Even without the money and recognition it has to provide enjoyment and satisfaction.

How to stay motivated? Haha. There’s your answer! For me it’s not about doing something nobody cares a fuck about. I look at rapping like it’s boxing. I do this to compete with the heavyweights. This recognition means a lot to me.

A very busy touring schedule requires a lot from your body and mind. How do you go about finding balance?

Initially you’ll learn not attend every afterparty and avoid drinking after every show, because it usually leads to scoring some fast food in the middle of the night. After a while, you realize that if you don’t take care of your body and mind, your health declines, and making doing stuff a lot harder. For me personally, providing the crowd with the best possible show and staying fit to release new material is the number one priority. These days, I try to eat as healthy as possible and leave to the hotel at the earliest, so that the next day I am functioning to the best of my abilities can do it again.

What’s the most important lesson after ten years of Dope D.O.D.? Has it changed your approach to life?

Funnily enough, as obsessed as I was with my music and prioritized success above everything else… it thought me that if you don’t have anyone to share the success with, and not give yourself the space to enjoy the little things in life… it’s all worth jack shit. By having balance on both sides you are able to get the most out of your private and professional life.

A big shout to everyone who stayed by my side through this big adventure.

Do you want to add anything to conclude?

Most definitely! Since we’re living in strange times, where everything happens online, the government tries to censor freedom of speech by even removing material from YouTube, and the laughable countermeasures against Corona are the norm… I want to tell everyone who reads this: form your own opinion, make your plans. Don’t judge the opinions of others if you don’t know any better.

These times are extremely disturbing, many people are sheepishly nodding ‘yes’ and marching with the masses. We are individuals and together we’re as strong as those who try to make us believe that they wield all the power. Fuck em’ all!

One world. We share it with our fellow humans and the nature that surrounds us. We must refrain from collectively driving into a ravine and destroying everything in the process. Don’t believe the media, don’t believe the hype. Believe in yourself!

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