Dkay hustles to build up the Vancouver Sound [Interview]
Vancouver, BC – Originally published December 8, 2014 – Up-and-coming hip-hop artist Dkay is rapidly gaining a buzz surrounding him in Vancity. He dropped an energetic album, Give Her That Dkay, this October (available for free download on his website here) and recently released a brand new video for “Grizz,” a track from the album that captures the fun and fly elements of his music.
Dkay’s live performances have garnered much attention from fans and the general Vancouver music community. He has shared the stage with the likes of MGK, G-Eazy, Ace Hood, Hopsin and JRDN. This August, if you were out at the YG concert you would have caught DKay putting on a spectacular opening show with the stature of a mainstream rapper, and successfully holding his own. The trajectory of DKay’s career is certainly upwards bound. HipHopCanada sat down with Dkay to talk about his music, his style and his career. Check it out below.
Photo: KassKills (HipHopCanada)
Interview conducted by Prachi Kamble for HipHopCanada
HipHopCanada: Tell us about yourself and how you got interested in the world of hip-hop.
Dkay: I’m a pretty regular dude. I grew up in Calgary and actually got into music through school. They had a lot of music equipment there because it was a new school. That’s how a buddy and I got into making music as a hobby, mostly hip-hop and R&B. We put stuff out for fun to get popular. One thing led to another and I started to fall more and more in love with music. So I went from having music as a hobby to wanting to make music that has longevity, and to actually make a career out of it.
HipHopCanada: What is the hip-hop scene like in Calgary and how different is it from the scene in Vancouver?
Dkay: I moved to Vancouver three years ago. Coming from Calgary I realized that Vancouver would be a way bigger opportunity in general. I didn’t want to go to Toronto because Toronto to me is really saturated right now. There is a lot of traffic going through there. I think that artists have to work together, bounce ideas off each other, and work with different photographers and club promoters. It needs to be more of a team effort. That mentality exists more in Vancouver but the resources exist more in Toronto.
HipHopCanada: Tell us your recent album, Give Her That Dkay. How long have you been working on it? What was your primary vision for the album?
Dkay: Before this album I put out an EP, last year. That was like a portfolio to start building relationships so that people could see that I could make music. “Who is Dkay?”, that was the motivation for that album. I wanted to put a lot of different kinds of music in there so you got club songs and the West coast kinda songs in there. I wanted to show my versatility and just prove myself as an artist. Moving forward I’m going to be doing the exact same thing but just refining myself as an artist as I go along, and building a fan base. From this album you’ll be able to tell what Vancouver is like, what Dkay is like, what kind of people are in Vancouver, what do they talk about and what’s important to them. You’ll be able to get all that from this album.
HipHopCanada: What was your songwriting process like?
Dkay: When I make songs I try and create a feeling. I just sit down and think, “What feeling do I get from this beat?” or “What feeling do I want to give a specific person?” – I focus on who the message is for, how it is going to be interpreted and kinda work from there. When I work with certain producers they have their own style and their own thing going on. So sometimes I’ll get a beat and I’ll try and adapt to the beat. Sometimes when I’m working with producers that I’m not too familiar with or if I’m working by myself then, I get to start from the very beginning and craft everything. Both ways are good.
HipHopCanada: On the album you have worked with various prominent producers. Tell us what those experiences were like.
Dkay: The four main areas of production came from DJ Marco, Nicholas Cheung, 2 Track Entertainment (they’re from Vancouver) and myself. Nicholas Cheung is extremely musical. He makes beats that are really different and strange. He has the ability to bring elements from rock music and country music and classical music. He’s the one who did “Die Wit a 40”, that has a sample from classical music. That’s something I would never be able to do. DJ Marco is really dope too. He’s got the L.A vibe mixed with the new popularity of Southern hip-hop, you know, the trill, Houston aspects of hip-hop, and he really incorporated that into the West coast vibe, which I really like. 2 Track Entertainment are more of my hands-on guys. We go in and really take our time with every instrument. They don’t feel like I’m taking away from their creative process. And when I have ideas that I can’t explain, I try to do it myself. I really try not to produce too much because I’m not a producer but if I have to then I try.
HipHopCanada: Could you tell me more about the details behind how you come up with lyrics?
Dkay: There are certain mechanics that you need to learn as an artist to be able to communicate what you want to say. You have to be able to say controversial things but be poetic at the same time. It’s about being a normal and real person and then having those poetic attributes about you. I would say that out of the nine years I’ve been making music, I’ve focused on lyrics for seven years because they are so crucial. Being able to say something you want and make it sound dope is huge. You gotta be able to learn it and be original. It’s also harder for artists out of Canada because they lack the accents of the U.S. I’ve noticed that the accent is huge. Sometimes Canadian artists can end up sounding off because of the lack of accent.
HipHopCanada: What do you think about Iggy Azalea and her rapping accent?
Dkay: Iggy Azalea is the perfect example of how huge an accent can be. If she had decided to rap in an Australian accent she might have gained some fans and she might have lost some fans. I think she decided which fans she wants to appeal to and that’s why she did it. There’s nothing wrong with doing that. It doesn’t matter if Rick Ross is not a drug dealer or if A$AP Rocky is not from Houston. That’s when I truly understood the art of hip-hop.
HipHopCanada: You have performed and opened for big names in rap. How do you handle all that pressure?
Dkay: Not a lot of major acts get into Vancouver and Calgary, so I think there are a lot of negative feelings that come along with performing with big artists initially. If there is a big artist coming into the city with a lot of influence, you can somewhat feel jealous of them. But I think those feelings fade the more and more you become your own artist, and have confidence in your own craft and abilities. Because then you know, ok YG is popular and I like his stuff, but I will have my own time at some point. I know that I could do it to the level of YG and that’s something that I had to find in myself. That is a difficult process. It involves all the aspects of your life. It involves knowing how you work as a person and how to put that into your music. Once you find that, opening for YG and all these people starts to be really fun, you know what I mean?
HipHopCanada: Do you enjoy performing or recording more?
Dkay: They’re extremely different and I appreciate and love them for their differences. When it comes to creating the music, there’s a lot of research that goes into it. I learn a lot about music and about myself while making music but performing and making music videos and everything, make me happy to know that people are enjoying what I just did and what I just created.
HipHopCanada: How was shooting the music video for “Grizz”?
Dkay: That was a really fun music video. I actually had a lot of my friends on that video. We just strode up to my homie’s house, had some drinks and had a decent time. Music videos can be really stressful but this was not. I’m proud of how it turned out.
HipHopCanada: Do you have any comments about hip hop, rap, and music in general? The direction it’s going in and how it’s changing?
Hip-hop is promising and it is extremely unpredictable. You don’t know which artist will come in and change the game and change the direction of things. You can’t rap the way people rapped 5 years ago anymore because the Drakes have come in and changed our expectations. We have to keep up with all that as artists. That’s a good thing about hip-hop, the sounds are always changing and that’s really dope. You can really see how Lil Wayne comes in and changes lyricism and Kanye west comes in and changes production value. It all adds up. It’s a constant progression which is exciting for me because that means that I can come in and change music too.
HipHopCanada: Which was the first hip-hop album you bought?
Dkay: 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’. I’m fascinated by how a gangsta rapper like 50 Cent or a normal white guy like Macklemore can make songs that so many people can relate to. That’s a huge inspiration to me. My favorite artists are those that consistently make music that people like.
HipHopCanada: What is it about hip-hop that people love it so much?
Dkay: Hip-hop speaks to me because you can tell stories that aren’t the easiest stories to tell, they’re sometimes touchy subjects. In other genres of music you can predict what someone is going to say and it’s all politically correct. Hip-hop is honest. If you have imperfections or ignorances, they are real. That’s why I think flamboyant characters like Lil Wayne and Young Thug would have a hard time being successful in anything but hip-hop because they get to be themselves. And even as a young black guy I understand that hip-hop is one major avenue that I can grow in and be myself in.
HipHopCanada: Do you see yourself getting political with your lyrics?
Dkay: In the future when I have enough social capital and popularity to say something and have it make a big difference, I will. That comes with developing as an artist. As of right now, as a young dude people aren’t really expecting me to say anything that’s too insightful but there’s always room to add that in. I’m looking forward to doing that in the future for sure.
HipHopCanada: What do you think sets you apart from other Vancouver hip-hop artists?
Dkay: What separates me from other Vancouver artists is that I don’t make music to sell you anything afterwards or get you to sign up for a club. I try and make music for the world and try to represent Vancouver. I’m not trying to make money off of Vancouver or be the king of Vancouver.
HipHopCanada: What future projects are in store for you?
Dkay: I’m going to be working on more music but I think that the direction of it is going to be changing more and more. I’m focused more on developing my own sound and developing a sound that is recognizable of Vancouver, just like Drake did for Toronto. That is overall my goal. I’m not really concerned about dropping another project or selling X amount or making X amount of dollars before a certain time. It’s important that I take the time right now and craft myself, develop and grow as an artist first.
HipHopCanada: Do you see yourself working out of Vancouver or will you move out to L.A or Toronto?
Dkay: I think to put Vancouver on the map you’d have to step out of Vancouver. I’m extremely down to leave. It’s very cut throat out there but you have to go in order to put the spotlight on Vancouver. When I’m ready I’ll step into those other cities but Vancouver will always be my home for sure.
Interview conducted by Prachi Kamble for HipHopCanada