Doujah Raze: New York State of Grind

When you think of the Hip-Hop scene in Virginia, artists such as The Clipse, Missy Timbaland and The Neptunes immediately come to mind. And while Virginia Beach has produced some of Hip-Hop’s biggest names, the rest of the state has been virtually ignored. An artist looking to change that is Doujah Raze. Repping the Northern […]

When you think of the Hip-Hop scene in Virginia, artists such as The Clipse, Missy Timbaland and The Neptunes immediately come to mind. And while Virginia Beach has produced some of Hip-Hop’s biggest names, the rest of the state has been virtually ignored. An artist looking to change that is Doujah Raze. Repping the Northern VA area, as well as Washington, D.C., Doujah Raze is a new artists emerging in the underground scene with a refreshing style, sound and persona. Unlike most underground artists, Doujah is a well rounded MC with an uncanny ability to produce conceptual material. This is evident on his self-titled debut album, which finds Doujah covering a range of topics, which range from his own spiritual beliefs, to the role of his grandfather in his life, to various social issues. Doujah Raze has come this far…help him go further. Do you remember your first memory of Hip-Hop?

Doujah Raze: Yeah, it was Run-DMC’s Raising Hell, which was the first tape I ever bought. The track, “It’s Tricky,” that was my favorite joint! I had that whole album memorized within a week after buying it. I just fell in love with it and ever since then – I have been into all types of music – but that was my first purchase and my first taste of Hip-Hop. I think that is why I’m still in love with the music – that kind of set me off in the right direction. I know this is generic, but how did you first get into rhyming?

Doujah Raze: I guess it started in high school. The thing is, I would memorize any lyric that I ever listened to. Any track that I liked, I basically memorized the lyrics verbatim. And people would be amazed, because I could spit them with no problem. So in high school we would mess around, sit around, freestyle and b#######. It was always fun and I never really took it seriously. But before that, there was a time when I was even more serious about writing Rock & Roll songs. In like 7th or 8th grade, I was playing the guitar and writing Rock lyrics – I wanted to be a Rock star. But I fell back in love with Hip-Hop – because I went through a couple different sections of music and I kind of lost my dream about being a Rock star. There are not too many White kids from the suburbs who grew up to be Hip-Hop stars, so I didn’t really take it seriously. Then in college, I was freestyling occasionally – this and that – but I got into DJing and I thought maybe this was what I was going to do. It wasn’t until the end of college, when Double J hit me up on the phone one day and played me a beat he just made. I was like, “Wow, that is crazy.” So once I got off the phone I made the hook in the shower, and then I wrote three verses afterwards, and it turned out to be “Hard Times,” the first song we ever put out. How did you and Double J start to build your name locally at first? Take us to the beginning.

Doujah Raze: In the beginning – we formed the label in college and once we graduated we moved back to the D.C. area. We started making our name nationally and internationally at the same time we were locally. J had developed a network of DJ’s from doing the college radio thing, so he knew who to send my records to. He had also developed some industry contracts and contacts with distributors. So when we put out our first record, “Hard Times,” we had distribution. It was national and international. Plus, J knew how to promote it well. We sent it out to all the college DJ’s and that started the growth of my name and Trilogy Records. At the same time, we were working with cats in the D.C. area. And we were building with cats in the local scene, some of which had been doing things for five or ten years. I was recording, getting beats and doing shows with them. I was building my name in D.C. at the same time I was building it worldwide. After a couple of years in D.C. I felt like I needed to move on and make the move to New York so I could really elevate my career. I needed to take it to the next step. So when we got to New York we had to start over on the local scene. We were still doing the record promo and had distro, but it was a whole new scene we had to get into it. And it took longer than D.C., because New York is more saturated, and there is a lot more going on. But I feel it?s a real good fit and that we have done well the past three years in getting my name out in the streets of New York. But its definitely been a hustle and a struggle, but its all been worth it. You seem to have been dedicated to always improving your fanbase. For people reading this that have never heard your music, what do you think your strong points are as an emcee that will allow you to build up a following?

Doujah Raze: I would say I have an original sound. I’m not gonna say that my sound isn’t derived from other Hip-Hop that I listen to, because it definitely is. I have definitely taken the music that I grew up loving and put my own twist on it. But what I’m doing now, I don’t think anybody else is really doing. What types of topics, songs and issues can fans expect to hear on this album?

Doujah Raze: The beginning of the album is a little bit educational – I’m not preaching to anybody, but I’m pointing out some things I have observed in the game. Then I do some fun stuff. The track “Little More Time” is just me talking some s**t. “Clear” is my weed smoking song. Then I start to take the album into more of a spiritual point. It slows a little bit and I take it down. With “360,” I talk about karma and how I think. I really do believe the world and the universe runs in spirals. We then get into “Back To You,” which is another sort of karma song and how everything comes back to you. I have a track about my grandfather, who passed away. Its called, “Raze,” and I produced it. My grandfather really gave me all this music. He gave me the drive and what’s inside. We put it together carefully and I planned out the tracks. But its going to be good. Its going to cover some different bases. Like I said, I didn’t get crazy deep, but its there. People can see where I am going to go and on the next one I will get more personal. I’m gonna start talking about things that are really going on in my life. Not that I didn’t on this album, but I wanna really, really get in there. You mentioned your grandfather and how he was a driving force in your life. Can you talk about that a little more and what he meant to you?

Doujah Raze: My grandfather was a whole different type of person. He didn’t fit into society that well. He was kind of crazy, I guess. But he was my best friend and we were real tight. He always pushed me to be in music, because he was heavy into it, even though he wasn’t any good at it. He was good at dancing and he used to dance on stage with the Glenn Miller Band. So he was always an entertainer. As he grew older, he was always writing lyrics and working with these different producers to make songs. Had anybody else ever heard those songs, they would say they are the worst things ever. But I loved them. I loved listening to what he was doing and it always made me laugh. He gave me all of this. This is why I am, who I am – my craziness, my musical ability – its all from him. Because it doesn’t come from my parents, so it skipped a generation. My grandfather is definitely my man. And on the skit before the track about him – “Raze” – that is my grandfather. It?s a 40 second tape I have of him signing some song about the Washington Wizards. And its kind of crazy, so when people hear that, they are going to be like, “What’s this?” Then boom – the song “Raze” comes on. The feedback I have gotten so far as been amazing. People are really touched by the track. Its like my emotional joint, but its my hard emotional joint. So Rest In Peace to Sam Lipton, he was the man. Moving to New York, what do you like and dislike about it?

Doujah Raze: It’s funny, because I like and hate everything. I love the smells of New York and I hate the smells of New York. I love the people and I hate them. I love the food and I hate it. I love the Hip-Hop and I hate it. New York has everything good and everything bad. S**t is balanced, and you can’t have one without the other. And New York is extremes. It?s the best city in the world and it?s the worst. Sometimes I’ll be walking around the city by myself at 12 at night and I’ll be like, “I’m on top of the world, this is the best feeling ever.” Other times, I’ll be walking down the street in the day and see cats throwing garbage in the street and just laugh about it. There is a lot of disrespect. But New York to me, is the place I have to be to put it on. It is the best city in the world. It allows me to go into the studio with Sean Price on a random Wednesday night, see Evil Dee out at Joe’s Pub, or hook up with Minister Sinister. Its where Hip-Hop is going on. Its not happening like that in D.C., so it has been a huge factor in my success. Is there anything specific you remember or took with you from working with NYC cats like O.C., Sean Price and Da Beatminerz?

Doujah Raze: There isn’t one incident or thing that stands out, but working with all these guys that I grew up listening to – the best thing about it has been to meet them and realize they are regular people. I’m sure there are a lot of musicians out there that are on their own stuff and they have a big head, but I have been lucky that Da Beatminerz, O.C. and Sean Price are regular, down to earth people. That has given me more – not drive – but a better feeling about the whole thing – about being a rap artist in this game. Because you see a lot of grimy stuff and the industry is shady, but there is good people in the industry as well. So that is what I’m trying to do, because I believe if you surround yourself with good people and positive energy, than positive things will happen. So its good to know that there is positive people like me and that I’m not alone in the struggle.