Dyzzi: KidsBackThen

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Photo courtesy of Below System Records

DivSel, short for Diverse Selection, is a Midwest based creative collective that consists of Chaz from Detroit, KReal from Milwaukee, and Dyzzi from Chicago. Dyzzi, who now resides 90 miles north in Milwaukee, released his first solo album in 2017, “Same Clothes As Yesterday” on Below System Records. The 20-year old emcee is back with his sophomore album, an ode to his childhood called, “KidsBackThen.”

KidsBackThen is produced by Juno Adonis, MarvyMarv, Yung Tago, TnTxD, YooYongSoo, Alex Collins, BLK Saturn, NK Music, Jota Rodriguez, Byte, Hundat%, MjNichols, and Dustifingaz. The album features appearances by KanDo, Trizz, Chuuwee, Cj Folds, Tae the Don, ameriKKKen, and KReal and Chaz of DivSel.

The Real Hip-Hop chatted with Dyzzi about the formation of his DivSel crew, how he avoided gangs growing up in Chicago, and his new album, KidsBackThen.

TRHH: Why’d you call the new album KidsBackThen?

Dyzzi: If you look at the cover or listen to the songs it’s pretty much me going down memory lane. You have tracks like Gang Activity, Hallway, Jordan 1s and Sk8-Highs, and Zone where I’m pretty much just rapping about my past. It’s a lot more personal than the first album, Same Clothes as Yesterday. When it comes to the features I have a lot of my childhood friends involved. During the process of writing the album I felt so nostalgic. I visited a lot of old places that I used to go to as a kid. I spent a lot of time with a lot old friends who don’t rap just for inspiration. I wanted to go back in time with this album.

TRHH: Did you purposely make this album more personal than Same Clothes as Yesterday?

Dyzzi: Yes, I did, actually. In all honesty, I’ve said this once or twice before, but Same Clothes as Yesterday was honestly never supposed to happen. KidsBackThen was supposed to be my first album. I wanted to be a rapper that touches on personal subjects and has an older sound. I wanted KidsBackThen to be my first project, but I knew this was going to take a while to make because I wanted it to be perfect. Back when I made Same Clothes as Yesterday it was 2017 and I was still in high school. I wasn’t financially stable and didn’t have all the right resources. I wanted to serve people an appetizer and build up a fan base and once I was a little bit established I would give them this thing I’ve been working on since I was in high school, which is KidsBackThen.

TRHH: The title track ‘KidsBackThen’ uses a chorus from the Ahmad song ‘Back in the Day’; whose idea was it to add that to the song?

Dyzzi: My cousin, actually. Dustfingaz is the guy that produced it. When he made the beat I was vibing with it. I knew I wanted it to be a song on my album, but I didn’t have a chorus. I didn’t’ know how to approach it. I was listening to it with one my cousins and she was originally supposed to be on the song, but it never happened. When she was reciting her verse she used the Ahmad lyrics. I re-wrote it because when you listen to the original and my version I re-said it a little bit. What I said was, “Back in the days I was a kid, see I’m not young anymore, but some days still a kid I wish I was, again, again.” I worded it differently. When my cousin said her verse she pretty much copied and pasted the real chorus from Ahmad’s version. I thought it was a perfect chorus and around that I got started on the verses.

TRHH: The song ‘DivSel’ has a 90s battle rap vibe to it, how did that song come together?

Dyzzi: A few months after I dropped Same Clothes as Yesterday I finally got financially stable and I was in the right state of mind. I hit up the studio with all of my DivSel homies; KReal, who is the president of DivSel and is on the song, Chaz, my other artist, and our manager and producer of the track MarvyMarv. Marv went to high school with us, too. We all hit the studio together and were recording random songs. Marv said, “I have this beat that I want you on Dyzzi.” He played the beat for all of us and we were randomly freestyling. We were vibing for like 30 seconds and then out of nowhere we decided to get in the booth with it. Once it was said and done I asked Marv if he made the beat for me and he said, “Yeah.” I told him it was going on the album. The reason it’s 90s reminiscent is because we’re all huge fans of Joey Bada$$, Pro Era, Mac Miller, Common, and Logic. That’s pretty much the DivSel signature sound. How it came about was so unintentional but so fun.

TRHH: What’s your entry point into Hip-Hop? What’s your first memory of Hip-Hop?

Dyzzi: My very first memory of Hip-Hop was when I was like 4 or 5 years old. My mom was playing a Jay-Z song and I don’t remember what song it was. Every day I would ask, “Mom, can you play that one song?” I remember one day my aunt was in the car and she said, “What song is he talking about?” and my mom told her, “A song by Jay-Z,” and it was stamped into my head. We got a computer and I looked up “Who is Jay-Z?” I started getting familiar with his catalog. He was the first rapper I knew of. I just wish I knew what song it was. That’s my first memory of Hip-Hop, but when I started falling in love with it was the Sucker Free Countdown. It was really intriguing, my cousins, uncles, and aunts would watch it. I would eat my breakfast watching that stuff. Jay-Z was the first rapper I knew of by name, because before that I was into toys and video games. I really wish I knew what the song was. My mom doesn’t even remember it happening. I do remember the cover of the album was Hard Knock Life: Volume 2.

TRHH: That could have been Hard Knock Life, Can I Get A…, Jigga What, Jigga Who

Dyzzi: I think it was that! I do remember the name Jaz-O or something like that.

TRHH: So, you were born in?

Dyzzi: ’98.

TRHH: Wow. This is blowing my mind. Most of the people I interview are a little older. I’m very intrigued talking to somebody so young. How did you get your sound? The majority of your music sounds very 90s to me.

Dyzzi: Yes. Like I said, I’ve always loved all types of music. What made me legit want to start rapping and set my sound in stone was on a random school night I stayed up all night playing games. I was tired and turned on the TV and MTV I saw Joey Bada$$’ Waves playing. I was like, “Whoa, what is this?” It was like 2011 or 2012, so I was relatively a kid. When I saw that video, he dressed how me and my crew dressed. We were all skate boarding and playing games. I’d never heard any rap like that. I was a big Lil’ Wayne fan as a pre-teen, but when I heard that I wanted to do what he was doing. We were always music heads so we were aware of Big L and Biggie, but once we heard Joey Bada$$ we decided to start doing music like that. It’s pretty much Joey Bada$$ that laid the blueprint for me and my crew.

TRHH: Wow. I don’t want to keep harping on how my mind is blown by your age and your sound, but man! Okay, give me your top 5 emcees.

Dyzzi: Of all-time or currently?

TRHH: All-time.

Dyzzi: Lil’ Wayne is number one. Number two is Common, number three is Black Thought, number four is Biggie, and number five is between either Nas or Capital Steez.

TRHH: That’s interesting. Okay, let me ask you this, how familiar are you with 80s emcees?

Dyzzi: I know of a few people but I never listened to it because when I listen to 80s music I love the look of it and I like the sound of it, but it doesn’t really seem like they were on the side of lyrics. I listen to it, but I don’t get blown away with the lyrics. I love LL Cool J, Run-DMC, I loved their look, Beastie Boys, I like, I guess. Anybody other than that I’m not too sure on.

TRHH: Those guys are not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Slick Rick, and KRS-One.

Dyzzi: Ooohh, okay, those types of cats. I’m not too familiar with them honestly. I’m more of a 90s guy.

TRHH: Okay, here’s what I want you to do as a brother in Hip-Hop; I want you to go back and do your homework on these people and listen to all of their albums; Eric B & Rakim, Boogie Down Productions, Big Daddy Kane, Slick, Kool G Rap, and Public Enemy. Here’s why I’m saying that, those are the people who influenced everybody you just named in your top 5.

Dyzzi: Really?

TRHH: Yes. That’s my era. When I was 12 or 13 those were the guys. They influenced the era of the guys you just named, and once you listen to all of that stuff go back to the early 80s and late 70s. I’m not saying you’re going to enjoy this music, because it’s very different, but listen to Kool Moe Dee, Melle, Mel, and Grandmaster Caz. It’s important to listen to them because they were the first great rappers and they influenced Rakim, Kane, G Rap, and Slick Rick. I’m saying this so you are well-versed, informed, and know the history, that’s it.

Dyzzi: I’m always down to listen to good music, especially if they influenced my top 5. I’m going to check them out.

TRHH: Please do. I think that based on what you rap about and your sound that you are an important artist, and you need to know everything! It’s amazing that you know what you know at your age, but you need to be hip to everything. I’m sorry for jumping off the track.

Dyzzi: It’s all good, this is Hip-Hop!

TRHH: On the song ‘Gang Activity’ you talk about your exposure to gangs in Chicago. I’m from the west side of Chicago so I related to the song. How were you able to not get involved with gangs growing up?

Dyzzi: It’s simply the fact that I was scared. One of my first ever memories of the street life was when my uncle and cousin used to live with me and my mother. I was sitting on the couch and tried to make a fort and as I picked up the cushion I saw a few guns. I was scared. I didn’t even tell my mom. I put everything where it was and went back in my room and went to sleep. It scared me so much that I went to sleep and it was 4 o’clock during the day. It stunned me. I saw my cousins always fighting each other and I saw a lot that I can’t mention. It was due to the fact that I was scared and I didn’t want to be involved in that.

My mom used to be strict on me. When I did small things like go off the block or go to the store without asking my mom would yell. I was scared of getting yelled at or getting beat. I know for sure if she were to catch me smoking something or find a piece in my room she would probably disown me. Just looking at my cousins I was scared of them. Being a kid, I always thought to myself that I didn’t want anybody scared of me. I didn’t want to hurt anybody. It was easy for me to stay away from the street life and gang culture. I love all of my cousins, but that life is simply not for me.

TRHH: How does your mom feel about your rap career?

Dyzzi: She supports me. The only hiccup is she’s super-religious. My mom is very religious. That’s pretty much the only conflict. She still supports me, but she had different plans for me. I can tell my mom prefers me rapping over being a gang member, for sure. I didn’t grow up with her being religious, but she’s super-religious now. I started rapping in my pre-teens, so this is kind of new for me. I can tell she wants better for me. She doesn’t trust the industry. She sees what rappers go through. I know my mom supports me, but she doesn’t prefer this.

TRHH: How did the DivSel crew initially form?

Dyzzi: It started out with me and Chaz. He is on a lot of my songs and produces for me. We met in sixth grade and he was wearing a Nas shirt and I was wearing a Lil’ Wayne shirt. We coincidentally sat by each other in math class on the first day of school. I told him, “I like your shirt,” and he was like, “I like your shirt,” and after that we just became friends off of music. Around eighth grade year we met KReal when he came to our school. He saw me and Chaz wearing Hip-Hop shirts and he liked them. We all became best friends. That’s how we met, how we became a crew was when I first showed them Joey Bada$$ and said, “We should start doing that. We already love music and have the knowledge.” We never had a name. We recently established a name. The name came to us in late-2018. Before that we had some corny names.

Our first name was “New Dynasty” because this is the start of something new. We thought it was corny. Our second name was “Various Perspectives” and our logo was VP. We became known as “Villain Park” and we didn’t want issues with them down the line, so we had no name. I came up with the name “DivSel” short for Diverse Selection. If you look at all of us now, I’m more of the personal storyteller who is knowledgeable about street life, graffiti art, and skateboarding. KReal is more so on expanding the knowledge of the mind and being conscious. Chaz is like the modern-day rapper out of all three of us. He’s on that “turn up, I’m driving in that Hellcat, and got on six chains” type of stuff. We’re all best friends. We’re a diverse selection of artists, but we’re brought up together with music.

TRHH: Who is the KidsBackThen album made for?

Dyzzi: That’s crazy. I believe in versatility. If you were to ask me where I see myself in five years I want to be a star. I want to appeal to everybody. I’ll never quote unquote “sellout” or do any typical rapper type stuff. I believe in versatility and I want to appeal to everybody. It’s crazy because I just got done explaining Diverse Selection. There is a track on the album for everybody. You’ve got your old school boom bap stuff, which is Hallway, Jordan 1s & Sk8-Highs, and DivSel. Then you got your hard, modern day type stuff like BestFriends, Party, and Zone. Then you have some things that will hit your heart like Promise, Nostalgia, and One Day.

I want this to appeal to everybody. Of course, it’s going to appeal to my fan base, because the album is mainly old school lyricism, but I got a little bit out of my comfort zone and got really personal on a few of the tracks here. I want it to appeal to everyone. I want K-Pop fans to listen to it. When I first started with Same Clothes as Yesterday I wanted older people to listen to it. I wanted to be the 20-year-old that all the 30 and 40-year-olds like. Like I said, I want to be a star one day. I want this to appeal to everyone.

Purchase: Dyzzi – KidsBackThen

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About Sherron Shabazz

Sherron Shabazz is a freelance writer with an intense passion for Hip-Hop culture. Sherron is your quintessential Hip-Hop snob, seeking to advance the future of the culture while fondly remembering its past.
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