There’s a track on Shy Glizzy’s last mixtape, the booming and imaginative Law 2, called “I Am DC,” but the bearded DC rapper recognizes that it’s tough for any rapper to get much love or support in our nation’s capital. Despite the recent success of DC artists like Wale and Fat Trel—who recently inked a deal with Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group—Glizzy still sees himself as an underdog, scrounging for attention from media outlets that don’t pay him enough respect in his eyes.

“I’m discredited,” he says during a visit to the XXL offices. “I’m still underground. I’m supposed to be out of here but they haven’t given me the credit I deserve.” He’s specifically referring to rap blogs, who he says have avoided his music. In a candid interview, the soft-spoken Glizzy opened up about his place in DC rap, his growth as an artist and his latest mixtape, titled Young Jefe, which is scheduled to drop in early 2014 and feature production from DJ Mustard, Zaytoven, Cardo and more. —Dan Jackson

You have such a distinct style that blends singing and rapping. How did you develop as a rapper?
There was a point in time, when I put out the Chief Keef diss, where I was so hot that everybody was calling my phone. But I decided to go set up under Wale but he wasn’t really teaching me how to rap. I was just sitting back, observing and watching him and other people in his camp do what they did. Meek and them. That’s when I picked up on my stuff. I learned how to approach music different, how to be in the studio all day, the discipline. Certain things I didn’t know 'cause no one had shown me that. Fuck Rap was when I stepped it up. But some people like Law better than my new stuff, so I don’t know. To me it just gets better and better. Around Fuck Rap was when I felt like I got it.

What do you think about the rap scene in DC?
It’s getting better and better. We’ve got a light shining on us, so everybody is getting their opportunity no matter where you come from. But there’s a lot of hatred there too, so if you can make it out of there you can make it out of anywhere. No one shows love. There’s no unity between the artists and the streets. There’s none of that in DC. You’re never gonna get love in DC. If you get love in DC than you’re a special person. There’s a lot of faking going on. If there were more people that come from where I come from, maybe it’d be different, but there’s some weird dudes coming out of DC. But I’m one of the special ones. I can’t really speak on no one else.

What do you think makes you a special performer?
My music is genuine and I’m talking about stuff that no one else—no one my age anyway in the game—is talking about. Nobody. I’m the only one really stating facts and speaking with real street knowledge. It’s stuff that I went through. Other people are just coming up with stuff they fantasized about or just rapping. I don’t really look at my music as rap. It’s really just my diary. I’m just pouring my life into a song. That’s why it’s easy. Even my fashion game, everything I bring to the game is different than every other person in the game.

What’s your strategy to go to the next level?
My flow got better. My hooks got better. Everything better. My production. I’ve got the hottest producers in the game. Three of the hottest producers in the game on my new tape, on most of my new tape, so I think that’ll bring a lot of energy to it. On top of what I already do. It’s gonna be big. Very big. Bigger than Law 2. I got DJ Mustard, Cardo, Zaytoven. Some in-house producers I’ve been working with back home. I still got a lot of features that I didn’t use on Law 2 but like I said I’ve been working with Young Thug and Peewee Longway and I’m planning on working with a few other people. I’m just interested in working with genuine people just because of who they are. It’ll come early 2014. Young Jefe.

You’ve had diss songs toward Keef and other rappers, but it seems like now you’re more focused on your stuff.
Yeah, I’m just focused on my stuff. No one else, for real. I’m in my own lane. I’m worried about Shy Glizzy.

When you go back and listen to your old music what do you think about it?
I think it’s great. Even though I think my music now is better, it’s quality music. It’s not fiction. I always go back and reminisce on some stuff that I said cause it’s reality. Nothing that I say in my music is a lie.

More From XXL