YoungBoy Never Broke Again Says He’s Finding Himself in First Interview From Prison
Early on the morning of Nov. 28, 2016, rising Baton Rouge rapper NBA YoungBoy, who now goes by YoungBoy Never Broke Again, was at a venue in Austin, Texas where he was set to perform when local authorities swarmed his crew and arrested multiple members. He was extradited to his hometown of Baton Rouge soon after, where he was then charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder. His bond was set at $200,000, but he's also got a hold from juvenile court, so paying bail wouldn't necessarily do much good.
In the days that followed, the Baton Rouge Police Department released a report claiming YoungBoy, born Kentrell DeSean Gaulden, was involved in a drive-by shooting that cops believe was connected to a larger string of incidents in the area. The rapper was accused of firing a gun multiple times on the 2000 block of Kentucky Street, and police say he was with three other people in the car, including the driver, a juvenile. During the shooting, one of the passengers was allegedly shot in the neck.
YoungBoy, age 17, was one of the hottest rappers to gain widespread attention in 2016 after releasing his 38 Baby mixtape in October. The 14-track project featured collaborations with the likes of Kevin Gates, Boosie BadAzz and songs like "I Ain't Hiding" and "Hell and Back." Rumors quickly swirled that he was signed to Atlantic, though nothing was ever confirmed, and co-signs from Atlanta rap stars like 21 Savage and Young Thug came soon after. Considering he only dropped his debut mixtape, Life Before Fame, in 2015, it was a rapid ascent for the young rapper, and one that didn't come without bumps. After dropping out of the ninth grade and getting arrested for robbery, he was sent to a juvenile detention center in Tallulah, La., where he wrote most of that debut project.
In Baton Rouge, kids can be tried as adults starting at age 17. So now YoungBoy sits in a cell in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison awaiting his Feb. 22 court date. He believes he'll be set free that day.
On Jan. 31, XXL spoke to YoungBoy Never Broke Again over the phone about what he's been doing in jail, what he plans to do when he gets out and what he's learned from all this. These are excerpts from that conversation.
XXL: Are you writing raps in jail?
YoungBoy Never Broke Again: Yeah, every two days.
You’ve been putting out some new music while you’re locked up. How do you get that stuff out?
Montana [the head of Never Broke Again Records]. FeeBanks [YoungBoy's manager and head of Good Money Global Management] be getting a lot of shit done for me. I just tell Montana what song [I want to put out].
A lot of high-profile artists from Louisiana have gotten locked up, whether it’s Kevin Gates or Boosie BadAzz. Do you feel like the police target rappers down there?
I don’t think they really target, but if you got a name, they know who you is. You do something, they gonna come get you, and whoever you’re with and whatever they do, you’re accountable for it just because you got the biggest name. That’s how that shit go.
I noticed on Spotify you had to change your name to YoungBoy Never Broke Again. Why?
Yeah, NBA gonna be on my ass behind that shit, I guess.
Have they reached out to you?
I don’t know. Fee wanted to do it the right way with no interference, so we did it anyway. I’m still NBA Youngboy.
There’s also a video of an apparent collab with you and Kodak. When did you record that?
I ain’t never record no song with Kodak. I don’t know what Fee got going on with verses that I did, but I ain’t never record no song with Kodak.
Who are some rappers you’re trying to work with?
I want to do a song with Nicki [Minaj] or Eminem or some shit. I ain’t no big fan of rappers, I don’t give a fuck about that shit.
Gates and Boosie were both on your project 38 Baby. How’d you get them on there?
I saw Boosie in Cali at a condo of a friend. Gates, that shit was done through Fee.
Who are some people that have reached out to you while you were locked up?
I be talking to 21 [Savage], that’s it. I fuck with him on some personal shit. He’s all I really be talking to. Other rappers really don’t fuck with me. I don’t give a fuck how much they post me, they don’t fuck with me.
What’s something you want to change about your life when you get out?
I want to change my image up. They should know what I’m like by now, they should know how we live, so I don’t really gotta flash guns or none of that shit. I got children, I got a lotta bigger things to look forward to, a career. That’s all that really matters. I want to make better music, though. Better than what I've been making.
When you got locked up, your Instagram got wiped of all the pictures you had with guns.
Yeah, positive energy.
Do you feel like all those pictures you’d put up with guns made you a little hot with the police?
Shit, yeah. When I was tricking out my SUV, nigga asked me, “Where the guns at from the pictures and shit?” I didn’t respond after that shit, but the guns in the car were legal, they were in my driver’s name because my driver likes firearms.
What are your plans when you get out?
I want to get a No. 1 single, a No. 1 album. That’s what I’m shooting for now.
Do you write all your raps down with pen and pad?
Yeah, but the whole 38 Baby, the only song that was written on that mixtape was “38 Baby.” Every other song from there was freestyled. I’d go in the booth, do four bars, listen to it, aight bet, punch in, let me do this. I’d do another four bars or eight bars and ask Montana or Fee, “You like that shit?” Take it out, do it over, keep going until I get that shit done.
When you come up with your raps, what are you thinking about?
I wake up seven or eight in the morning and just smoke and write. It’ll be quiet as a bitch, I’ll walk off or some shit. Shit just be coming to me. I really just rap about how I be feeling, the shit I be speaking about I done went through or I’m going to do.
Where do you record in Baton Rouge?
I record in Stroke Studio or Gus Studio.
What’s your least favorite part of being a rapper?
I don’t know. I ain’t really got no least favorite part because I always wanted this shit. I can’t complain about nothing. I wanted this shit since I was little. I got it, it ain’t what it seems. That’s all I could really say.
What have you been doing inside to stay busy?
Cooling. I don’t really talk that much. I just watch and observe. I don’t really trust nobody. I’m cool with some of the niggas though. I just be cooling, reading.
What are you reading these days?
One Heartbeat Away. It’s about when you die. What you gon’ do?
What do you want your music to do for people?
Better their situation from it. I can’t really say. Learn from it, I guess.
Who are some producers you want to work with that you haven’t yet?
I want to work with Young Chop. I like Go Grizzly. Ain’t nobody really. Dubba-AA be having some shit.
When you got locked up for this, how’d you feel?
I felt crazy. I thought I’d be out before this. But I’ve been knew this day was gonna come at some point. Can’t run forever. I be prepared. A lotta shit make you mad though.
Is there anything that keeps your spirit up in there?
Yeah, fan letters and hearing how much of an impact my music has. The fact that I’m in here and what it should look like when I get out, from what I hear I guess I’m a bigger artist now, so I can’t wait to see how that shit is when I walk out the gate.
How many fan letters have you gotten in there?
Over 500. I appreciate them.
Do you have a tape you want to drop when you get out?
If there’s one song you’ve made so far that’s most important to you, what would it be?
“Gravity.” I had freestyled that song in Stroke Studio. I had everybody in that bitch, man I couldn’t fucking think of nothing. So I sat down where they couldn’t see me, smoking in the booth like, Lord, please let me do this song. When I stood up, shit… I came on that bitch and put my feelings into it.
What’s been the scariest moment of your life so far?
I done been through a lot of shit. Scariest moment, shit… this. This right here. Not knowing if I’m gonna lose my career or not, if I’m gonna be in here. I’m behind here, I don’t feel how they feel out there. They could be telling me anything, they could be telling me I’m coming home knowing I’m finna sit in this bitch for five years. I’d come out and be a nobody. It’s up to me to keep the faith because I know they ain’t gon’ tell me. I don’t do shit but pray and read and observe. That’s all I could do. I’m good though, stay strong through anything that happen.
You consider yourself religious or spiritual?
I don’t know what to call it, I believe in God though. I don’t think the same as no 17-year-old. I got my way of thinking.
You were raised by your grandmother. Where were your parents?
My daddy been in jail. My momma, we got a good relationship. I seen her every day, that’s how I want it to be, that’s how I chose it to be. But my grandmother passed away, so shit… so long from there.
So you chose to live with your grandmother instead of your mother?
Yeah, my grandmother from the North. I’m from the North.
Why did you decide to move in with your grandmother instead of your mother?
Because my momma stayed in Scotlandville [in Baton Rouge] on the avenues, that’s at least 20 minutes from where my grandma stay. My grandma used to spoil me and shit. I used to get my weight over there. I used to get my ass whooped. My sister used to beat me up when I was little. I used to hate being around any girl.
How many siblings you got?
Older sister and one little brother.
Growing up, was there somebody that really had a big influence on you?
Music. I think music made me who I am. Music taught me what was gutter and what wasn’t. Music taught me how to live. I know right from wrong.
Lil Phat is your biggest influence. What are some of your favorite songs by him?
I like all of ‘em. I like “It Won’t Be Long.”
How do you feel about the rap scene in Baton Rouge?
Fuck rappers. Fuck Baton Rouge rappers, Fuck every rapper but rappers who fuck with me.
Do you feel like you have a lot of support in your hometown?
Yeah, I got a lot of hatred too. A lotta niggas wanna be like me, a lotta niggas diss me, lotta niggas talk shit and then wanna rap like me, be like me and listen to my music. That ain’t how that shit go. Bitch ass nigga gotta see me though. I don’t wanna talk about them niggas.
What was the moment in your life when you realized you really wanted to be a rapper?
Shit… when I was about 11 I think. I’ve been writing since I was 7. I wrote my first song in the first or second grade. I was on and off from there.
Do you feel like you have a responsibility as a rapper with a bigger profile in the city?
Yeah, forever proving niggas wrong. Putting my flex down.
You said rap made you who you are. Who do you feel like you are?
That’s what I’m trying to find out now. This time is to find out who I really am, feel myself out.
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