Your Old Droog was Nas once upon a time. Last year, the Brooklyn MC set Rap Twitter ablaze when he dropped Your Old Droog EP out of nowhere. However, people weren't talking about the music per say. He sounds like Nas, or at least that's how everybody felt at first listen. Rumors started to spread that Droog was Nas' Internet alter-ego, a way to keep the chip-toothed Don as relevant as ever, a way for the veteran to stay sharp and creative. The Internets even tried to play detective by changing the pitch of one of the EP's songs. They also figured out that "droog" means 'friend' in Russian, which added more fuel to the fire. What is Nas if not rap's old friend? Those rumors were shut down rather quickly though when Dharmic X, a former Complex contributor, released Droog's identity. But even still, for a while, the only proof that he wasn't Nas was the shadowy picture in that post.
Droog is back a year later with The Nicest EP, a six-track onslaught of clever rhymes and smooth beats produced by DJ Skizz, El RTNC, and Marco Polo. We talked to our old friend about that fateful day last year, his true identity, being labeled a "white rapper," and his new EP.
Stream the Nicest below and check out our interview.
Have people always told you that you sound like Nas?
No, I never heard that at all. The first time I heard that was 2014.
The people you were working with never said anything?
Never heard it. I’ve been rhyming since I was like 13 or 14, and I’ve never heard that shit. I feel like that whole thing was just a big Internet deal. Like, somebody took my tape and sped it up. It’s unfortunate that that’s the way in which a lot of people were exposed to it. I never heard that shit, and it was a compliment too because I feel like, during those years, I really stepped up my skills. That was the nicest I ever was.
Did you plan a roll out, or did you just record something and put it on SoundCloud?
We just did a bunch of songs. I was like, “Yo, I’m going to put it out.” I felt like the music was strong enough that if people heard it, they’d fuck with it. First we put out “Nutty Bars” then we did “You Know What Time It Is,” and then the full project. The plan for the roll out was for people to just listen to the music because no one knew who I looked like. People from different boroughs were claiming they were Droog. “He’s from the Bronx.” “No, he’s from Queens or some shit.” The mystery angle was definitely a part of it. We didn’t plan that shit. That’s just something that the Internet created, and we left it alone.
You took advantage and just ran with it.
It’s just something that happened. When it happened, I was like, “Alright. I’ll stand back and let it do what it does.”
FWMJ from Rapper I Know went on Twitter and said he did the “Nutty Bars” artwork for you and said you weren't Nas.
That’s really what put my identity out there. At first it was like...it was just dope music. I wanted it to be about the music. That’s really the plan. It wasn’t about me. I wanted that album to be like anybody could have made it and it’s dope. But then Dharmic was like, “Yo, I met him," on some groupie shit. So then I was like, you know what? I’m going to come out and claim my shit. I’m going to get my fucking respect because I made this shit.
When did you decide that you wanted to be a rapper?
On some professional shit? I think like 2011. We were trying to do little demos and what not. I was working with Sacha Jenkins. He was introducing me to people.
How did you meet Sacha?
He heard my stuff online and reached out. I think I might have sent some links. I was just on some struggle rapper shit. [Laughs.] I was doing the inventive spamming and shit. I was just figuring out creative ways of getting it to the right people. Sacha heard it, and then we just started building. He introduced me to a bunch of people, and it was just working from then on. “Nutty Bars” was later down the line.
The whole Nas thing was interesting because people thought that he had created an alter ego. The older cats are kind of late to the party when it comes to the Internet. You and Rocky are the same age, and Rocky came up on the Internet.
I came up from that punchline era. The people who were really listening could tell the difference. Even our rhyme styles are different. Maybe it was the tone of voice. I don’t know. The thing is that they didn’t see me though. They didn’t see me, B. If I had videos out, the shit would've never happened. It’s a blessing and a curse. You mentioned A$AP Rocky. There’s people who knew me and we were laughing behind the scenes like Yams—God bless him—he reached out to me via DM. I knew him since I was like 14. He was like, “Look at this dumb shit.” Everybody was just sitting back laughing.
And they just kept it quiet, too. They didn’t go out on Twitter.
The people who were like, “I know him,” were people who don’t know me. If they know my personality, they’re not going to be out there on the Internet. I’m a private person, so people who met me like twice were the ones doing shit like that. Like, “Yo, he messaged me once on YouTube in 2007,” and shit. People who really know me were chilling. They know what it is.
It got people to listen to your music, though, even if they weren’t fucking with it, they were still listening just to figure out if it was really Nas.
The sad thing is that, if I just came out with videos, it would have never reached that many people.
This is art. You’re supposed to have fun with it. If someone’s playing jazz, are you a white trumpeter?
What’s your favorite song on the EP?
Either “Through the Nose” or “Listen.” “Listen” is just—with the wrestling references, it’s hilarious. I used to cop the old retrospective WrestleMania VHS from the video store. I remember watching that shit vividly. I remember WrestleMania 9 when they were outside and shit. The third verse is breaking down the whole fight with Yokozuna when Hulk Hogan came out and gave him the leg drop. It’s funny shit. I don’t take myself seriously in music. I’m having fun with it. That’s a big part of what I do, so the absurdity of name dropping Yokozuna with a straight face is funny.
Did anybody in particular help you with song structure?
Sacha Jenkins, man. We had a session and he was like, “Yo, concepts.” He was like, “Even if it’s some stream of consciousness stuff like Ghostface, just remember concepts. Have something to tie it together.” That just stuck out in my head. He dropped many gems on me. It’s something I already knew, but somebody came along and reaffirmed it. You can’t just be rhyming. “Loosey in the Store” has a lot of rhymes, but I tied it together with that one line about buying a loose cigarette in the store with 50 pennies.
Have you ever gotten shit for being a white rapper? How do you feel about that label?
I’m not a white rapper, son. I feel like it’s all about the rhymes and the beats. Fuck identity. That’s some corny shit. “Oh, I’m a white rapper.”
People don’t call the Beastie Boys white rappers.
I feel like the shit is corny [Ed's Note: Droog is referring to the concept of "white rappers." He's not calling the Beasties corny.] When I was coming up, I was ethnically ambiguous, B. I had the tape-up, son.
You could pass for Puerto Rican.
Puerto Rican all day! I’d go to this basketball tournament in Harlem called King Dome and battle. Nobody knew me. Nobody was like, “Oh, he’s a white rapper.”
You’re Ukrainian, right?
Yeah. Nobody even knew that, though.
You’ve got that New York accent, too. Were you born in Brooklyn?
We came here when I was mad young. I learned English in public school. It’s not like I came here when I was 18 or some shit.
You grew up here.
Yeah. There was a time when you would say that you were Puerto Rican to get girls. Dru Ha had the famous line, “I always get pussy ’cause I tell them that I’m Spanish.” I live by that, son. I was at the Puerto Rican festival in 2005 with a Yankee fitted and a flag tied around my head. I look back on those days and it was such an innocent time. There weren’t labels put on it. If you’re nice, then you’re nice, B. That’s what it was. Now identity is above that. People care so much about shit. This is art. You’re supposed to have fun with it. If someone’s playing jazz, are you a white trumpeter?
What’s next for you after the EP?
I’m just going to keep working.
You’re trying to put out an album later this year, right?
Yeah, definitely. Fourth quarter.
Is it done?
I’ve got a lot of stuff done, but we’re still working, man. If I make something that I feel really strongly about and I feel like it needs to be on the album, it’s going to happen.
So, for the record you’re not Nas.
You got jokes. I’m surprised that shit persisted like it did. It’s still hilarious, though.
Angel Diaz is staff writer for Complex Media. Follow him @ADiaz456.