Interview: D.C. Rapper Shy Glizzy's Awwsome Year

"I’m the D.C. sound. I’m creating it right now through this tape."

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Complex Original

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Washington, D.C., is a rap scene in stubborn, impoverished disarray. Five years ago, Tabi Bonney and Wale made regional waves with a string of breakout singles and excellent mixtapes, but the District itself suffers from a lack of a signature hip-hop sound, glaring stylistic debts to Philly, Baltimore, and Atlanta, and an unshakeable penchant for local rivalry and clique in-fighting.

Shy Glizzy plays the away game. Since his debut tape, Streets Hottest Youngin, dropped in 2011, Glizzy has long been frustrated with local disinterest in his turn at rap fame, an ascent made occasionally rocky by Glizzy's beefs with Fat Trel and Chief Keef. "Awwsome" is Glizzy's biggest single yet, peaking at No. 33 on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop chart and landing A$AP Rocky and 2 Chainz on the remix. Glizzy just signed a distribution deal with Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles' 300 Entertainment label, where Glizzy joins Migos and Young Thug. Last week, Shy Glizzy rolled 20-deep to the conference room of our New York office, looking like a prince who's just had a good year.

Young Jefe is so far Glizzy's most widely renowned mixtape, but now he's closing out 2014 with the third installment of his popular Law mixtape series. With appearances from Bobby Shmurda and Migos, Law 3 is otherwise sparse on features and strong on quirk and concept, most notably "Funeral," in which Glizzy warns potential mourners that they might get beat, shot, and robbed at Glizzy's funeral.

In D.C., anything can happen.

Based on the success of "Awwsome" and Young Jefe this year, what are the expectations you think people have of you going into this next project, Law 3?

People not looking at me as the "Awwsome" guy. You ain’t hearing that about Shy Glizzy as a new artist coming out with a hit record, like "Damn, that's going to be his only record." People still want me how they wanted me two years ago, but it's more people now. My fanbase just growing and growing. People know that I’m not just coming and going. They know that I’m here to stay.

I ain’t rushing for a deal. Ain’t no bad situation.

Where, geographically, do you think people fuck with you and your sound the heaviest?

In my region and Down South. The West is catching on. Everywhere is gonna catch on because it’s not fairytale music. It’s shit that everyone can relate to. "Awwsome" was a different type of song for an artist like me, but it’s still a true song. I was talking street stuff, but I was feeling awesome. Everyone can relate to me no matter what race or who you are or how you feeling.

Who do you enjoy working with the most? Who do you think matches your sound the best?

Future or PARTYNEXTDOORBoosie is my favorite artist, but I don’t think he’s the best collaborator for me.

Why not?

It would be a great project, don’t get me wrong. It’s a different time and age now. My sound and his sound, it clicks for the street. But for long term who I think would be best is someone with a nice sound who got a unique voice that don’t sound like anybody else. 

Do you think of yourself as a Southern artist or DMV artist?

D.C., that's all. No Southern or DMV. People compare me to Southern artists. Zaytoven told me that I’m his favorite artist, and he from the Bay, but he's used to the South. He’s used to Gucci, Migos, and Young Thug, and they're all Southern people. Most blogs always say I got a North Atlanta rap style. They be saying anything.

What is the DMV sound to you then?

Virginia people sound different. Maryland people sound like they want to sound like everyone else or D.C. I’m the D.C. sound. I’m creating it right now through this tape.

None of my songs sound the same. None of them. I take R&B beats and put it as a rap song or hip-hop beats and put them as a R&B song. A lot of people are boring. I don’t like boring music. Everybody sounds the same like they copying.

People will know the king of D.C. after this tape. No doubt about it. No cocky shit. I’ve been working my ass off.

For this project, how do you know when it’s finished? Do you think these songs will go hard on radio or these will go hard in the club?

I never been an artist that called and knocked on radio to get my records played. I never really pushed "Awwsome" to radio, to tell you the truth. I recorded like 100 songs, I had like 40 on the tape, the label told me put 12. I narrowed it down to 17 on iTunes and 15 on DatPiff. It’s just like shit I have to pick whatever fits my situation right now and how I'm feeling in life. When I dropped Young Jefe, that’s how I was living. It’s cold outside, man. Cold world. Somebody got to tell ’em. Somebody got to warm the holidays up.

People will know the king of D.C. after this tape.

So you’re going to make us wait for the PARTYNEXTDOOR song, huh?

I got a lot of shit y'all got to wait for. I ain’t really put a lot of features on this tape. I got a lot of features (coming later).

Whose idea was the PARTYNEXTDOOR track?

We clicked up on our own. He really was trying to get on "Awwsome," but when I sent it to him, he was like "Shit, I can’t do what you already did on there." There was a different energy, people could’ve did a better verse, but the energy that I brung on the song, it was a spur-of-the-moment thing. I was jumping up and down when I did that song, but I liked the remix and how it turned out.

Do you have any urge to work with more D.C.- or Baltimore-based artists?

I give people in those regions verses all day long. I work with artists that people don’t recognize their music. It’s not up to me, I gave you the verse. Your shit ain’t popping, and the people that are popping, you see what they was doing to me [when I was] coming up.

There ain’t enough people up here with me, straight up. I'm up here by myself. At the top. Our city doesn’t have that many rappers that got me like "damn," or [else] they would come with me.

Why do you think that is?

They copying everyone else's style. They wanna copy my style, Migos style. They don’t know their own style. Wale got his style. Fat Trel, I don’t know what style he got.

Ain’t no doors going to be open for niggas that just hate on each other. That’s what they did in Chicago. 

Why I got to worry about anybody in D.C.? Nobody in D.C. is worried about Glizzy. You ain’t never see a D.C. artist post something about Shy Glizzy. D.C. artists been hating on me from the get-go. I don’t know why.

When you think of D.C. as a rap scene...

—I don’t think of it as that. I think of it for what it is: washed up. It’s a party city now. Goofy town. D.C. ain’t proud of me at all. I do what nobody else does for D.C., and nobody tells me thank you. I ain’t never seen nobody in D.C. support a project I put out.

I’m doing the biggest shit D.C. ever done in history, period. Nobody dropping records like I’m dropping except for Wale, and that’s different. D.C. want me dead or in jail, so what the fuck I'm supposed to want from them? Straight up.

You have more projects planned out?

I got another one maybe right after this one.

By March how many projects would you have out?

Law 3, Glizzy Gang, and maybe the EP. I can’t confirm the EP, but I can confirm the Glizzy Gang project.

What's your label situation now? You’re on 300, right?

Glizzy Gang, 300. It’s P&D, it’s not really a deal. I’m independent. I do all of this, but I do appreciate 300 being in my corner. They back me with everything I do. They just made me a CEO.

How did you end up in that situation?

I ain’t looking for the situation; all these situations look for me. I mind my business. I own all my records. I do everything, and [300 is] backing whatever I do. I got one of the best situations in the game right now. Nobody 21 [years old] really got this situation that I got going on. I’m working with legends, top of the food chain. It’s an honor.

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