The Come Up: Young Dolph
Young Dolph isn’t quite a household name yet, but he’s on a mission to change that. The Memphis native is gaining momentum in his city, coming off the heels of rappers such as Three 6 Mafia and Yo Gotti. Dating back to 2011, Dolph has been relentless with his mixtape releases, dropping underground sensations Blue Magic, his High Class Street Music series, and East Atlanta South Memphis with Gucci Mane. Now, he’s back with his best effort South Memphis Kingpin, which contains a strong presence from rising beatmaker Izze The Producer.
Dolph’s often gives two perspectives to street music. His biggest hit “A-Plus” is a prime example, displaying his laid-back approach and tackling familiar topics with an aggressive manner. In other standouts like “Grew Up”, he shows a different side of himself by focusing on the realities of hustling and surviving the hardships of Memphis. Dolph is more complex than your average rapper claiming they started from the bottom.
His ambition and hunger to be the best were key takeaways when XXL spoke with Dolph about getting love in Memphis, why he turned down signing to Yo Gotti’s CMG label, and what the future holds for him. Get to know Young Dolph in The Come Up.—Eric Diep
On Being A Rapper Out Of Memphis:
Young Dolph: Memphis is a city where if you can get love in Memphis, you can get love anywhere you go. It’s hard to win Memphis over. Just as a city as a whole. I feel like you got Memphis love. You got Memphis behind you. You can get love for anywhere. Work your muscle, work your magic.
Memphis wants the proof. You know what they say about Missouri is the show-me state? It’s really like Memphis like that. They want proof. Ok, you hot? You a rapper. You say you the state? Ok, well, prove it that you the shit. If you a rapper man, if you ain’t moving around or you ain’t getting down what’s in your lyrics. It’s like they look at you a certain kind of way. They expect more. Whatever you saying and your music and all that. That’s what they expect. They won’t do the research on you. They just feel like you just a real person. You ain’t gotta be no street person or none of that.
On Getting Into Rap:
Young Dolph: When I was younger, I was into it, but I didn’t really think I want to be a rapper. One of my little brothers, he was really like the rapper. I just knew he wanted to do something with music. As the years went over and life, you go through these different changes in life. You go through different shit. Some way, I ended up behind the microphone. I started taking the shit seriously on my own. Shit just became a passion. Just like you fall in love when you getting a girl. No matter if you wanted to leave her, it's just something about it that you can’t leave it.
The first time I was taking it seriously in my career was 2010. It was like on my second mixtape or third mixtape. I just figured I put out all my effort, all my hustle into this music... My first two mixtapes I just like put them out. Shit, that response. I was like, “Hold on, I got something that’s going on.” I gotta go in here and do this shit for real.
The first tape I put it out ... fucking with my boys, I recorded a couple of songs. When you first do anything your boys gonna let you know. That’s the first opinion you are going to get. Your opinion from your close peers around you. Your cousin, your family, all that. They gonna be the first ones to know what you are doing besides you. Shit, once everybody was hearing this shit, it was like, “You need do this shit, bruh. You need to put out a tape.” Me, not even thinking about it, I asked one of my homeboys, “Man, what producers do I need to fuck with?” He a music head. Man off top, you need to go fuck with DJ Squeeky. So, I went and found DJ Squeeky got them beats going on. Spent some money with Squeeky, he gave me that bang. He had them bangers. Killer tracks. I just did that went in with Squeeky. I put that shit out just to see what it was gonna do. Man, the streets ate that shit up. I was just testing out the waters with this shit. I went ahead and dived in that motherfucker.
On Being Influenced By Master P, Pimp C And More:
Young Dolph: I was just a big fan of music. I didn’t write a lot, but I did use to freestyle a lot with my cousins and everybody. We was really playing, but when I think about it, that’s what we used to do. Just freestyle against each other. Even now, I don’t even write raps. We’ve been doing that.
I used to look up to [Master] P and them. P, C-Murder and them. I just respected his hustle more than anything. A lot of people look down and they really understand the music shit goes. It’s not just about the talent. It’s more with it. You gotta have the talent. You gotta know the business. You gotta keep your appearance up. The whole nine. You gotta have everything to go along with it, depending how far you want to go in it. I grew up bumping Snoop. I grew up bumping P and them. I grew bumping Pimp C and them. I grew up bumping DMX, Jigga and them. Shit, everybody. I fuck with all kinds of music. I remember that whole East Coast when there was nothing going on but all the Def Jam shit. Def Jam had all that shit poppin’. Ruff Ryders. Jay and them. Ja and them. Everybody.
These guys are authentic. Their originality. Storytelling. Their personal music. When you give your fans your personal music, they will be attached to you and they’ll be a fan of you forever. You got to them and you touched them and they started being a fan because of your personal shit that you were speaking. They gonna most likely end up being a fan forever. If people become a fan of yours on some like your music that you just putting out--fun music or regular music like trap music. Any kind of basic music, it’s cool but it won’t last that long. When you got that storytelling shit, you got that personal shit. You have a motherfucker want to listen to the song over and over and over. “Man, I was in this situation before." Or, “Man, I know exactly what you are saying. I can feel it.” They them people that’s gonna go buy your records. They gonna come to shows. They gonna do all that.
On Almost Signing To Yo Gotti's CMG Label:
Young Dolph: I respect his hustle. I respect his grind, for real. There ain’t too many people that really understand the business and know that there’s certain things that you gotta do to take your business to the next level. I respect him for that. I rock with him. He making the home team look good. He’s going hard for Memphis.
I met Gotti several times. I got a personal relationship with him. He called me. I called him. He tried to sign me for a good two years. He was trying to sign me for a while. “Man, c’mon let’s do the CMG/Paper Route thing.” I kind of got my own movement going on, which I’m not gonna foot it. I respect him for it. I be the same way. Shit, you see somebody got that same hustle in them that you got in you, that’s the kind of people you want around you. I know he know what’s up.
All the stuff that I am going through and dealing with right now. With going through the top and crossing over, going to the next level. He already did that. He know what I am doing. He reached out to me and he really just let me know that he respect what I am doing.
On Working With Gucci Mane On East Atlanta Memphis:
Young Dolph: Gucci just really let me know just go hard. Keep doing what you doing. He just be like, “Just keep doing what you doing.” He genuinely a fan, “You got it. You ain’t gotta do nothing. Keep doing what you doing. Keep turning up Dolph.” Keep shooting videos. Keep doing this. Keep dropping. Just keep dropping. That’ll be his main thing. You don’t gotta do anything but keep dropping.
I respect his hustle. I respect his grind. Straight up. Gucci is one of the artists that I just watched him turn himself into a star. I sit and watch Gucci turn into a star. Even when Gucci first started rocking and putting out music, people was rocking with him. There was a lot of people that was hating on him. “I don’t like his music.” And this and that. After it was all over and said and done, they became some of the biggest Gucci fans ever. I like that about him. I respect that for real.
On His Mixtape South Memphis Kingpin:
Young Dolph: I don’t know what it be. When I put out my tapes, whatever the title is of the CD, that’s what I go in on. That’s what I give you the feeling of. From the South Memphis Kingpin, it is what it is. It’s street. It’s grimy. It’s reality shit. It’s real. It ain’t no fairy tale music, no dancing music. None of that shit.
Then I have my series, High Class Street Music, the mixtape I’ve been putting out. Those I give you the feeling of high class street music. You know I am a street rapper. I talk about the trap. I talk about the streets, but I am giving you a message. It’s making that shit high class. Like, a lot of rappers only give you one side of the story. They have the kids and all the youth thinking about the streets is nothing but balling and having fun and splurging and clubbing and all that shit. That ain’t how that shit is. That’s why I give them the other side of it. While all this going on and you are trying to get money and you are doing this and balling, shit. You got deaths coming up in your family. You are going through some personal shit. It’s a whole lot of shit that comes with the streets. I wouldn’t advise you to get in the streets if you not in the streets.
On Staying Indie And Signing A Management Deal With Street Execs:
Young Dolph: I’ve been messing with Street Execs for a couple past years. With people in they camp. We just got a relationship. We’ve been in a relationship. I guess we see that there’s money out here to be made. For real, for real. They rock with 2 Chainz. 2 Chainz, that’s my boy. I’ve been rocking with 2 Chainz. He’s really the first person that started rocking with me when I first started rapping. When he was Tity Boi. Right now to this day, that’s what I still call him, Tit. When I am in The A, I call him. I go through the studio. That’s my guy.
My situation, I come in with my own whole movement. I can hold my own down. It’s just gonna make it something big. I’m coming from a whole side of somewhere that ain’t nobody from. They got a lot of talent, but I’m from Memphis.
On What's Next:
Young Dolph: We finna take Paper Route Empire to the top. I got young artist that’s on go. Real talent. Fresh talent. Original. We just finna rock and roll. Straight up. We get out here and work and service the streets. Just like right now, we on the road right now, getting it in. We’ve been on the road probably for the past three days. Doing radio runs. Putting together meet and greet. Just going through these cities and running it. Servicing the streets. We finna take Paper Route Empire to the top like straight up. Until they cut that big check. When they cut that big check, shit we ain’t finna do nothing but do time. We gonna turn up times 10 on their ass.