Chicago is a breeding ground for socially conscious artists. From Curtis Mayfield to Common musicians from Chicago’s inner-city entertain as well as educate. Chicago is a city where Operation PUSH and the Nation of Islam have its home base and the influence is heard loudly in those who aren’t afraid to speak out against injustice.
Enter Add-2, an emcee from Chicago’s south side who holds nothing back when speaking on the plight of the black man. Add is not afraid to call out the powers that be or of holding up a mirror to the black community. Add-2, born Andre Dijuan Daniels, has spent the last eight years delivering mixtapes with verses that make you think. The latest mixtape, Save.Our.Souls, is another dope chapter in the Add-2 book and the best is yet to come.
Add-2 recently spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about his musical inspirations, the solution for Chicago’s rampant gun violence, and his latest mixtape, Save.Our.Souls.
TRHH: Why’d you title your last release, Save.Our.Souls?
Add-2: Originally I was at a place where I started to look at society and the way that everything was structured and I felt like we were at a crossroads where we could do something to help ourselves or we could let it get drastically worse. I kind of see it getting worse so I felt the urgency to speak out because if not they’re not going to hear it from anybody else. Everybody is waiting for the next Martin Luther King or Malcolm X and we can use these inspirational figures but we have to understand that the change starts with ourselves. That’s why I titled it Save.Our.Souls because I’m not trying to make myself out to be the person to do it. I’m trying to say I’m in it too and we have to be the people to save ourselves from ourselves.
Hip-Hop can be a tool for that because we’ve made everything negative popular. So why can’t we do it in a way where we can inform ourselves about ourselves and maybe spark a change within our listeners minds? Music is the most powerful tool that we have and if we can’t use that to at least show them a mirror of what’s going on we’re doing them a disservice. I never wanted to be one of those artists who waited for the right time to say things—say it now. Say it when it’s not convenient. That’s why I really wanted to take a strong stance with this album and put it out there because we’re at a point in life where we’re on this self-destructive path and I don’t want to see it. I have younger cousins to take care of and I want them to grow up in something better than what I did.
TRHH: Why do you believe the negative is celebrated over the positive?
Add-2: I think it’s American culture. We have a tendency to praise celebrities. Unfortunately growing up we praised stupidity in school. The people who were intelligent we looked down upon while the people who were in the back of the class and didn’t want to learn were the cool kids. In American culture it progresses that way so once we get older a lot of people still haven’t shaken all of the shackles that we had when we were younger and immature. In Hip-Hop specifically, it’s still growing. Hip-Hop is not as old as other genres of music. We went through our rebellious teen phase where everything was sensationalized, and it still kind of is. We haven’t found our way to a calm stable point. Hip-Hop is still finding its identity and its place so we’re trying to get balance.
As far as the negativity goes, it’s always been in our neighborhoods, it’s always been something that we gave power to. Things like guns and gangs we always looked up to because it’s what we lived in. Once we get into Hip-Hop it’s natural that we translate that into the same type of culture. We looked up to that when we were on the streets so people are going to look up to in the music. It’s just a reflection of what’s going on. I wish it were different. I think we can make something else where it doesn’t have to be completely positive but it’s reality and giving them both sides of the coin. Telling them, “OK, I hustle but here is the other side of that hustle,” as opposed to what we’re giving them now which is, “We’re making money and everything is all good,” and it’s not that way. There are people whose parents are on the drugs that they’re talking about selling. There has to be a conscious about that. I think I’m more a fan of trying to give people reality and if Hip-Hop did that more it would give people better insight opposed to this lie that we’re telling them.
TRHH: Who are some of your inspirations in music?
Add-2: I listened to a lot of music that people wouldn’t necessarily think I would. I listened to Do or Die and Three 6 Mafia. When you’re from Chicago that’s what you hear. Once I got to high school I started listening to Common and Kanye. I was always a big Jay-Z fan. People like that gave me more balance. If I’m rapping fast you can tell that’s Do or Die. If you hear humorous stuff, that’s from Kanye. I try to write songs that are conversational pieces, that’s Jay. I try to give a little balance to everything. The backpacker dudes would get turned away from certain things that I didn’t want to get caught up in. The club rappers didn’t like certain things about the backpack rappers, so I wanted to find a middle ground between that.
TRHH: What inspired the song ‘Cotton Fields’?
Add-2: That all came from a conversation with my grandmother. When I was coming up we didn’t get a chance to talk too much about my history. We sat down and she told me her experience of actually picking cotton. She would tell me what she went through, how she had my uncles and aunts out there with her, what the feeling was like, and what the pulse was down south. I started thinking about it and of course it’s not slavery in the same sense but it’s a different format. Rap culture has become like slave culture. People are signing their lives away for record deals. They think they’re making something and getting ahead but a lot of them aren’t. A lot of them will do everything they can to get this image but they forget that they become puppets. So many artists that I talk to say, “I wish I could do what you do. I wish I could say what’s on my mind but they’re not going to put my record out.” If you’re not working to do what you want to do who are you working for? Especially if this is a job where you’re supposed to be telling your thoughts. Once I started to see that it was a constant in this industry where people were closing doors based off you either complying with what they want you to do or not it feels like this is controlled.
This music industry can control you and its voluntary control. You have a choice if you want to be involved with it or not and some people decide that it’s more lucrative for them to do that. So many artists get caught up and end up not saying what’s on their hearts and working ridiculous hours because of the pressure of the money. The contracts that they have nowadays aren’t designed for artists to really get ahead. The 360 contracts take a piece out of everything you doing, merchandise, touring, and record sales to compensate for what they’re supposed to be getting because the internet is taking the money away so now they have to get it in other ways. The work hours for an artist have changed. It’s a 23-hour job. You have to be on it at all times. You can’t just relax and put out an album a year; you have to almost be on it all the time. That’s why so many people end up on drugs because they can’t cope with the schedule. It’s draining and once they’re done with you you’re off to the side. They don’t care after that. They don’t care if your life is messed up. So what? They found a new younger person to replace you. Good luck!
TRHH: Why do you believe artists from Chicago have conscious themes in their music?
Add-2: That’s an interesting question. It’s something that people from the outside looking in always wonder. They hear about what’s going on in the city and they’re so surprised that we have artists like Common and Lupe. Chicago is a melting pot where you’ll find a little bit of everything. Even the most hood guys I know have an element of consciousness to them and are smarter than they let on. Sometimes they have to shield that in order to function out here. It’s a cold-hearted city. It’s always been a gangster city since the days of Al Capone. We’ve always respected the gang culture but at the same time Chicagoans are very real. We’ll let you know if something bothers us or is phony or fake. Chicagoans have a tendency to speak their minds as well; it just so happens that the conditions of the city breed a certain type of emcee.
We’re verse conscious. We want people to react and say that’s mean, that’s dope, or that’s fresh. We want to give people that because we come from a culture of that. It’s a big open mic scene and a performance scene. All of this stuff combined creates this type of person as far as an emcee goes and we have to be sharp. I honestly feel like the city breeds us to be this way. We aren’t idiots. We’re smarter than what we’re letting on even if we are showing our intelligence on a track. There are people that can call out a person after only meeting them in five minutes. We can do that. I’m not sure what it is about the city, but it’s all Chicago. The realness, the dopeness comes from that.
TRHH: Recently Rhymefest and Lupe both made comments about Chief Keef and artists like him. I think Rhymefest said Chief Keef was like a nuclear bomb. What’s your take on artists like Keef and the Drill rap that’s coming out of Chicago?
Add-2: Rhymefest definitely said that. I remember that article. The way I feel about it is I can’t really be mad at Chief Keef as much as I’m mad at the people behind him. At 16-17 years old that’s where some people’s minds are. He was probably raised in this element and probably hasn’t been around people that wanted better for him in a way that they were pushing him. He may not have had mentors around him. He’s a product of what he’s around. He’s 17; he’s not going to be the most responsible person in the world. I know at 17 I wasn’t. At 17 I was making a lot of mistakes, I was around a lot of the wrong people, and I was rapping about a lot of the wrong things. I know that there are some people behind who are profiting off of this. Those are the people that should be more so looked at. They’re the ones exploiting a youth in order to get more hits on a website or to get more money out of his pocket. What he’s talking about is his reality but they see a dollar out of it. They see a way to make a name for themselves out of it—that’s sad.
It’s sad that nobody has taken the time out to tell him, “Hey, be careful out here, man. You should do better than that. You shouldn’t be talking about the things you’re talking about,” or at least get his life on the right track because it could very easily get out of control. Once it gets to a point where it’s out of control or can’t be un-done then everybody talks about what they could have done. Somebody gets killed and everybody wants to come around and say we need to change. Everybody has enough time to change in between that, especially the people around him. As far as the Drill scene, they’re speaking on what they live. It is a reflection of where they’re at because Chicago is a dangerous place to be. We can’t act like it’s not happening because it is. If we want people to start rapping about something different we have to change the culture. We have to change the neighborhoods; we have to change what’s actually going on because otherwise it’s going to keep perpetuating the same things that they’re rapping about. As far as some people who are not living it they need to stop that [laughs].
TRHH: What steps do you believe need to be taken to end the plague of violence in Chicago?
Add-2: It’s so intricate that it’s going to take a lot of different things. It’s built off a lot of neglect. It’s going to start with family and community. If those things aren’t there then I don’t think any politician can come here and say anything and there is not anything that Rahm Emmanuel can enact if those two elements aren’t there. The structure of the family has to be back, it has to be better. People have to start making better decisions on who they’re starting families with. If you’re having children with someone you’re not expecting to be with and you’re butting heads that’s not going to help the child. Not being there is not going to help the child. Raising the child in a community that’s not filled with love, even if it’s not the best one, but at least if you have a sense of community where people are trying to help one another the way it was in the old school times. You had about 6-7 moms on the block and if you did something wrong she was going to get a hold of you first and then take you back to your mom and your mom was gonna get you and then dad would come home and get you again. That needs to be back, where people aren’t afraid of each other or giving each other the side eye and looking over their shoulder.
Another thing is we have to start supporting our communities instead of robbing them. Our businesses can’t even stay open because we’re too busy robbing from each other. If we make these places into places of hope, comfort, and stability it’s not going to be as bad. I guarantee you anybody who has been in jail or been in the game knows they’re not going to do this forever because they can’t. There is no life in this lifestyle. It’s unfortunate that we’re getting to the point where we’re killing the children. The news has to start out like that in order for people to even watch. Adult’s getting killed is nothing because people are desensitized to that. I honestly feel like it’s going to take a lot more effort from everyday people just saying, hi. Say what’s up to the young kids on the street and don’t being afraid of each other. Help someone who may be in need of help even if they are a felon. Help them, they’re people too and they want better. We have to be able to give each other hope in the places of despair. Not just show up with a camera when it’s a tragic event. Do it before then. Be a mentor even if you can’t offer a scholarship—offer your time—little things.
TRHH: Did you receive any negative feedback from some of your contemporaries for the song ‘Modern Day Coons’?
Add-2: There was some people who told me not to do it. There was a couple of people who even reversed it on me and said I’m the racist for bringing up these things. They felt insulted by certain images because it may have hit too close to home. It’s always going to be people that don’t agree with everything you say. That doesn’t necessarily mean that what you’re saying isn’t true. I tried to make that song as truthful and honest as possible without throwing too many shots at anybody. I wanted to be honest about what’s going on. I feel like you can’t be more offended by what I’m saying than what’s going on. If that makes you mad then maybe you should be just as mad at the image that we’re portraying. Let’s be mad at some of the music that we’re creating. Let’s be mad at the culture that it’s perpetuating. We have to be honest about it. Our hands are not clean. We used to be able to say, “It’s the media,” but now it’s not the media. We’re doing it to ourselves. If that doesn’t make you mad or feel a certain way then maybe it’s not your fight. For me I feel a certain way about it and the only thing I know is to speak on how I feel especially if I know in my heart that something isn’t right.
TRHH: What do you hope to accomplish in the music business?
Add-2: This may be a weird answer to some but I just want to accomplish God’s will. Whatever he has for me I’m happy with it. whether this is the peak or just the beginning I just want to do whatever he has set up for me to do. Sometimes I may have my own idea but I’ve been learning to tell myself to put that to the side because I don’t know if I may be a tool for him to use to better myself or better the lives around me. I may just be a sacrificial lamb laying the pavement down for someone else to walk even further than me. I just wanna be OK with that. I want to have that as my mantra. I don’t want to worry about my own goals because my goals are pretty trivial. It’s like stability, if I can get that then I’m cool but some of the other things would make me lose sight of what I’m really here for.
TRHH: What’s next up for Add-2?
Add-2: Right now I’m working on a warm-up mixtape called More Missed Calls. After that I’m hoping to finish up the video for ‘Modern Day Coons’. I’m halfway done with that. I wanted to just knock it out but it’s been some hiccups. And work on the follow-up album. I’m still getting some things in order, getting the sound together, and I’m trying to really own the title of it. I’m playing around with different ideas but whatever it is I wanna own it. I’m just really trying to do as much as I can. No matter what it is, shows, interviews, features, I’m just trying to do as much as I can this year because I don’t know how long I’m meant to do this for. As long as I got breath in my body I’m trying to do as much as I can.
Download: Add-2: – Save.Our.Souls