Don't let the bow tie and suit fool you: Dyme-A-Duzin is very much Brooklyn at his core. The 20-year-old, who built a fan base off satirical YouTube videos and hallway cyphers, released his highly anticipated A Portrait of Donnovan project last month, which saw production from in-house production team #BNFB as well as Plain Pat. Dymez has been signed to Warner Bros. since September of 2011, and has long been affiliated with fellow Brooklyn upstarts Phony PPL and Pro Era, but he's just recently begun to evolve from light-hearted adolescent into a polished, hard hitting MC who demands notice. Last week, XXL sat down with Dyme-A-Duzin in his Brooklyn home to find out about the man that has the heads worldwide saying "Sheesh!" Get familiar. —As told to Abrea Armstrong


On being a student of the game:

As a youngin’, as a younger youngin’, I feel like I put in a lot of hard work just to become someone that was considered a serious rapper or a real talent. I put in work everyday. I remember being in junior high school in the summer. No internet. Just straight going to the store and buying beat CDs and coming back to the house and recording all day. Knocking out albums in a week as a youngin’. Just writing and making song concepts. Not necessarily the best song concepts, or the most complex topics or anything. But it was what I knew and it was what I needed to get out. At the same time I was doing YouTube videos and trying to get my vision out because I always had an imagination. When I started on the rap thing, I just wanted to bring what was in my head out.


On his craft:

I am an artist, first and foremost. At the end of the day that’s what I love to do, create. I always have to create, and it’s fun to create. So I use my life experiences, and I don’t ever look at it as a job. I just do what I do and create what I create: music that I’m satisfied with or that I try to impress myself with, and then give it the people to feel and relate to hopefully.

I look at myself in a certain way. There are different perspectives of me and there are different sides. More real and more honest sides to everybody. In trying to portray that in this album.

The suit is something I aspired to do; to be like that Frank [Sinatra] or to be like that Ray Charles. [Laughs] It’s something that I believe in and it shows as the front cover. It shows as, "This is something that I want you to see because this is my vision," but then in the back is another vision and my eyes are closed, the paint is chipping. It’s another dimension.

On the video for "Swank Sinatra":

The whole point of my style is to throw it back to when I was back in [Edward R.] Murrow [High School]; my beginning days of how I would dress. It’s an old school video. It was like, “We’re back here. Let’s do what we used to do on a larger scale.” I felt like that video made us look like or will make us icons of that area because it’s Murrow. That video is forever. We all went to Murrow together so we were rapping in the school. We were ciphering every other day. Me and [Capital] STEEZ were really like the closest ones. My whole second mixtape was made from bouncing ideas off with STEEZ. Seeing him every day and learning from him and getting into his mind when it came to metaphors and the art of rap. He first started off spitting me his first raps. I wanted to take the people to where I was a few years ago. To paint it. That part of the portrait, that ciphering every day. That vibing, just us spitting.

On signing to Warner Bros.:

I was in the studio finishing up my first mixtape with Plain Pat. Dante Ross, who’s now my A&R, walked in and heard a few tracks. A few weeks later, he called me into the office and expressed interest. He told me how much he believed in what I was doing. I really felt comfortable with the label so I chose to roll with them.

On "Swank":

First of all, stop saying ‘swank’ if you don’t got none. It is a lifestyle, but it’s not like that. I don’t want nobody to be like, “Oh my God, I must live the ‘swank’ lifestyle.” No. Do what you do with finesse and do what you do with confidence and do what you do with sophistication. I’m all about doing what makes you comfortable and being free to dress however you want and doing what makes you feel good and wearing what makes you feel good.

Coming up I really dug the style, I still dig the style. I really look up to Frank Sinatra. I love the way a suit fits. How it makes me feel when I’m in one. Real formal. All the old school cats, the Ray Charles, the Stevie Wonders they wore suits on stage. Master of ceremonies. Those are the most swanked out people in the world. Why not wanna be like them? Why not carry that same energy with you when you do your thing?

The energy of that cool sophistication or even just a reminiscent feel of that era. Maybe the soul that I’m expressing to the people could be similar to the feeling that they got back then. If they’re not getting it from anybody else they can get it from the dude that got the suit on.

On Phony PPL and New York camaraderie:

[Phony PPL], those are my guys. I hang out with them almost every day and I work with them every day. So part of the whole reason of me coming into this music industry and getting serious on the business tip, was to put my foot in the door to get the people in my family, in my crew, a chance. Give them new opportunities as well as myself. Bring them into the game and take over.

What the New Yorkers of the past didn’t have was that sticking together-type mentality. In the 50 era they didn’t have that.  New York artists, they come at each other’s heads. Even Ja Rule and 50. That’s New York beef. That’s beef within our hometown. [At the same time] you got a clique like Rick Ross or DJ Khaled or Lil’ Wayne. You see them together all the time. Supporting each other on each other’s songs. You didn’t see that nowhere ever in New York but now you have guys coming up, they have crews and they’re making a name for themselves. Strength in numbers, helping each other out. That’s was the South’s mentality and look what it did for them. Brooklyn needs to help each other stick together. Stay positive. There’s room for everybody to win.

On the loss of Capital STEEZ and carrying on his legacy:

I haven't really taken the thought head on, like "Damn, my boy's really not here." He had so much potential to be one of the greatest. I just plan to represent him. I've dedicated the whole portrait to him. My whole second mixtape was dedicated to him. So it's like I'm giving STEEZ my projects, my thoughts. I'm honored to have had you in my life and to have you so close. And here is what we used to do, what we used to come up with, our thoughts. We're both creative people and we were both a little bit arrogant in school. We had our moments. So it's like me giving him a piece like he used to give me. This is dedicated to you, bro.

Even "Capital Swank/Probably had cash up in the bank" [Laughs]. Certain stuff like that, he'll say certain things up in the rap and I'm like "Oh yeah." It just triggers what we had in a conversation. That's cool to still have. He's sharing something with me with that inside joke, or I'm sharing something with him in a line or inside joke. This is how I'm sharing the music with him.