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Smoke DZA: The Kushed God reps hockey and rocks Tom Ford [Interview] #IronMic

Edmonton, AB – On Apr. 19, Harlem’s own Kushed God (aka: Smoke DZA) made his debut Edmonton performance at the first – ever – Iron Mic Music Festival at the Edmonton Expo Centre. When I initially saw Smoke, the first thing that struck me about him was his Mark Messier Oilers jersey. I mean – I didn’t figure Smoke as a hockey fan; much less a Western Canadian hockey fan. After all, Smoke is rocking with the Beast Coast. But as he pointed out: Mark Messier played for both the Edmonton Oilers, and the New York Rangers. And – you know – Smoke is from New York. Either way, Messier repped both the East side and West side (Canadian West side… but still) during his athletic career. So what am I getting at, here? Mark Messier became the unlikely common denominator that united Smoke DZA and the YEG crowd. Smoke’s Iron Mic appearance set the foundation for a beautiful blossoming Mary Jane-laced E-Town rap bromance.

Smoke’s been in the game for more than a decade, now. He came up on the scene as a battle rapper (cool fun fact: this one time, he battled Immortal Technique). He was also one half of the Smoke & Numbers duo alongside his childhood friend, Numbers. Smoke was discovered by Jonny Shipes of Cinematic Music Group, and found himself ghostwriting for the likes of Hi-Tek, and more. He split from Smoke & Numbers in 2008 to pursue a solo career. He dropped a string of weed rap tapes. And finally – at the beginning of April 2014, he released his debut three-part Dream.ZONE.Achieve album.

Smoke DZA: Reps hockey and rocks Tom Ford [Interview] -

I dreamed when I was battling. I zoned when I was ghost-writing. And now I achieve when I’m Smoke DZA and I’m doing it on my own and everything collectively has fallen into that place.” – Smoke DZA

In case you’re not familiar, the “DZA” part of Smoke DZA actually stands for Dream.ZONE.Achieve. Yes, it’s Smoke’s debut album name. It’s also a three-step plan to his reign over rapdom. First, you need to “Dream”; set expectations and envision what you want to do. Then the hard part. You need to “Zone” (or hustle). This is where the grunt work comes in to play. But if you can successfully dream and zone, you will inevitably “Achieve.” So Smoke set out his debut album in three parts. You guessed it – Dream, Zone, and Achieve. So as you listen to the project you go through the motions of dreaming, zoning, and – finally – achieving. Deep.

The second thing that struck me about Smoke was that his sneakers matched his jersey. I probably spend too much time overanalyzing the ish out of rap cats. But generally speaking – a dude who matches his kicks to his duds is meticulous and thoughtful in how he conveys his craft. So as you may have guessed, I was quite enlightened by my chop-up with Smoke. He’s a total teddy bear, too. So after Smoke wrapped his set with a monstrous performance of “Fhvt BVsturds” alongside Joey Bada$$, HipHopCanada and RandomPath Media caught up with Smoke DZA in his dressing room at the Edmonton Expo Centre. We sat down on a pair of fold-up chairs and Smoke started rolling a joint.

Smoke DZA: Q&A

Interview conducted by Sarah Sussman for HipHopCanada
Interview filmed and recorded by Randompath Media for Iron Mic Music Festival

Sarah Sussman: My name is Sarah Sussman. I’m sitting here today with Smoke DZA for HipHopCanada at Iron Mic Music Festival. Welcome to Edmonton.

Smoke DZA: Thanks for having me.

Sarah Sussman: So this is your first time in Edmonton.

Smoke DZA: Yes. Yes, yes, yes. And I loved it. Every minute of it. I can’t wait to come back and rock out.

Sarah Sussman: And you’re also an Oilers fan, I can see.

Smoke DZA: Yeah. I’m actually a Mark Messier fan. He played for the Rangers, and I’m from New York – so it’s the player that I recognize. Shout-out to Mitchell & Ness for my Oilers Jersey.

Sarah Sussman: Right on. So you recently claimed you were the best rapper in New York in an interview with Vlad TV. To quote, you said: “I got the best album out. Best rapper. Best dressed.” And you claimed you…

Smoke DZA: …and I smell better than them. Smell me!

Sarah Sussman: What do you smell like?

Smoke DZA: I smell like Tom Ford.

Sarah Sussman: [laughs] Tom Ford? Ridiculous. So that’s a pretty heavy statement to make, considering Kendrick came out last year and said he was the king of New York…

Smoke DZA: Ha. Ha-haaah. I’m the best rapper in New York City. I’m not going to sit here and sugarcoat it, ‘cause that’s how I feel. I mean everybody in New York – I’m sure – feels that way but nobody wants to say it out loud. But I’m saying it out loud. ‘Cause I really feel that way. And I bring more than just rapping to New York. The fact that I’m in Canada and we’re talking about the best rapper in New York City proves my case to be correct.

Sarah Sussman: You came up as a battle rapper. And then you got into ghost-writing. And now you’re only – finally – starting to really make it on that next level. How’d that all come together for you?

Smoke DZA: It came together just putting everything [out] in the universe. And continuing to push my own tablet from what I really want to do.

Smoke DZA: Reps hockey and rocks Tom Ford [Interview] -

Sarah Sussman: …to dream, to zone, and to…

Smoke DZA: Achieve. That’s where I’m at right now. I’m achieving. I dreamed when I was battling. I zoned when I was ghost-writing. And now I achieve when I’m Smoke DZA and I’m doing it on my own and everything collectively has fallen into that place.

Sarah Sussman: I found it interesting that your album was in three parts. You had the Dream, the ZONE, and the Achieve. Why didn’t you just release three separate albums?

Smoke DZA: I didn’t put out a project the whole last year. And that was unlike me. Because I usually release two-to-three projects a year. And the fact that I didn’t put one out last year, it kind of hurt me a little bit; at least, personally. So I felt like coming back out – I wanted to give the world everything that I was doing in the past year-and-a-half. My last project that I put out was KONY: King of New York. And that was 2012. So from 2012 to now, I’ve been working on Dream.ZONE.Achieve. Putting it into three different acts really was like my hands was forced, because I had so much good music. And I didn’t want to separate it.

Sarah Sussman: Would you say in the last year that you’ve gone through the entire process of dreaming, zoning, and…

Smoke DZA: …achieving? For sure. And it’s records that was originally on it – I scrapped Dream.ZONE.Achieve two times. I scrapped it two times in this whole process. And I still have two albums worth of music left over. As well as features with other rappers that I messed with. I felt like this was the best body of work for right now.

Sarah Sussman: Do you think it will be hard for people to digest that – as they listen to the album – to go through the motions of dreaming, zoning and achieving?

Smoke DZA: I don’t think it will be hard to digest because I put it into three different acts. So depending on how you’re feeling – if you’re feeling like dreaming…

Sarah Sussman: Then you listen to Dream.

Smoke DZA: And if you feel like zoning, you listen to ZONE. And if you feel like partying and achieving, you listen to that. So I give you three different feelings. So you just can’t run out of music. So for me, it’s like: on Twitter, everybody always asks me, “Yo when are you putting out something new?” after I put out a new tape. So I’m like, “I gave you three acts to listen to. So don’t ask me when I’m putting out anything for a long time.”

Smoke DZA: Reps hockey and rocks Tom Ford [Interview] -

Sarah Sussman: What’s your big achievement right now, then?

Smoke DZA: My big achievement right now would be controlling my own record label. Really f**king cool music. And controlling my own destiny; having that independence to be able to move when you want to move, and do what you want to do. And holding up with the rest of the guys that are actually doing something. This [Iron Mic] bill – right here; everybody on this bill is popular. From Joey Bada$$ to Action Bronson to MGK to the legend, Ghostface. ‘Na mean? I’m the independent guy. To be doing that and have my name mentioned with everybody else’s – that’s the achievement in itself.

Sarah Sussman: With a name like Smoke DZA – I know you’re trying to get away from being the weed rapper – but you’re kind of stuck with your name right now. So marijuana questions are going to happen. Because reasons. Have you tried Canadian pot, yet?

Smoke DZA: Yes. It’s cool. I had good bud before. [laughs] Smoked that in Toronto. I had good bud in Vancouver. Canada has cool weed. I’m not mad at the weed scene, here in Canada.

Sarah Sussman: It’s kind of lukewarm? Not the best. How are you celebrating 420 [this year]?

Smoke DZA: With Snoop and Wiz Khalifa in Denver. I’m actually flying out of here about 5 a.m. to go rock that show in Denver with Snoop and Wiz.

Sarah Sussman: When do you sleep?

Smoke DZA: I don’t. I sleep on the plane. That’s the only time [that’s] suitable to sleep where I don’t feel that I’m missing out.

Sarah Sussman: Fair enough. So would you ever consider changing your name so that you’re not as marijuana-associated?

Smoke DZA: I feel like at this point in my life – whether I change my name or not – people are going to call me Smoke DZA. I’m not really running from that. I just want everybody to open their eyes and listen, and not just judge the book by its cover. And read the book….

Sarah Sussman: …so they can get to the Achieve chapter?

Smoke DZA: You gotta get to the Achieve chapter.

Sarah Sussman: So before we wrap it up, here, I’d like to get your thoughts on what it’s like to be here today at Iron Mic Music Festival?

Smoke DZA: The fans gave me everything that I could ever ask for. They have real dope fans in Edmonton. I’m excited to be here. It means everything to me; to be in Canada and to be received as I get received back home, and anywhere else. To be able to come out here – for the first time ever – and rock out like that, it set the tone.

Sarah Sussman: And give me a few thoughts on your bromance with Joey [Bada$$].

Smoke DZA: Joey Bada$$ is my little brother. I have tons of love for Joey. That’s family; that’s beyond rap. He’s New York royalty. One of New York’s great future legends. I’m just excited to be a part of it.

Interview conducted by Sarah Sussman for HipHopCanada
Interview recorded and filmed by RandomPath Media

About Iron Mic Music Festival

Iron Mic is the first of its kind for Western Canada – it’s an indoor multi-headliner hip-hop festival offered to all ages. The festival is three parts in nature: it features headlining performances from internationally recognized artists. It provides an opportunity for local artists to gain some exposure. And it gives back to the community through charitable efforts. Iron Mic Music Festival was made possible through Pearl Entertainment’s partnerships with Nightshift, Mez Muzik, Dubsac, Jakmove, Diamond Kings Entertainemnt, IPartySask, and HipHopCanada.

Twitter: @smokedza | @ironmicfest

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Sarah Jay

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Sarah Jay is HipHopCanada's Associate Editor in Chief. Sarah is based in Calgary and works as a freelance journalist and photographer. Sarah is also a former A&R talent scout for the Universal Music Scouting Program, and runs a vintage store during the day. Sarah has juried the JUNO Awards, The Polaris Music Prize, and The Prism Prize. She has been fortunate enough to interview and photograph some of hip-hop's greatest influencers including Future, ScHoolboy Q, Ghostface Killah, Moka Only, Maestro Fresh Wes, Shad, Joey Bada$$, Mac Miller, and more. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @ThisIsSarahJay

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