After one listen to D2X’s song “Surviving in Amerikkka”, it wouldn’t be surprising to think you’d just heard a track from a veteran Chicago rapper. He flows with confidence, telling stories of his upbringing with gut-wrenching realism on top of production that shimmers with soul-sampled glory.
Don’t be fooled, though–”Surviving in Amerikkka” is only the first track D2X recorded in a proper studio, and the 20-year-old rapper from Chicago’s south suburbs has only been pursuing rap since he started college. A lifelong fan of the genre and student of the craft, he made the move to take rap seriously after deciding to stop playing basketball, another longtime passion of his.
Taking the lessons he’s his learned from past mistakes, he put out his project “Enjoy Life” earlier this month. Get to know D2X, the experiences behind “Enjoy Life”, and why time is on his side in our interview below:
What music did you grow up listening to?
My whole life I’ve been a fan of hip-hop, and I grew up listening to everything. I remember in 7th grade, I was playing J Cole, Mac Miller, Wale was hot at the time. I love everything, but I really love lyrical music that has a message to me.
How did you get into rapping?
I started doing music really because of the fact that I wasn’t playing basketball no more. I remember in 2016, Chance The Rapper put up the “So Gone” Challenge. I did one, but I never posted it. Then, I did a “No Heart” freestyle to the 21 Savage song. I was still playing ball at the time. I had an app called BandLab that let me record songs off my phone, and I was just having fun rapping on my phone and hearing myself. That’s when I first started, and then I was recording in my dorm room.
As time went by, I started getting more serious and recorded my first song in a studio in November 2016, called “Surviving in Amerikkka”. My growth from there has just been picking up more and more, being around the right environment, learning new things and turning it into a career ever since.
How does your experience playing basketball correlate with how you approach rap?
What it helps me the most with is learning from the mistakes that I made back then. I was always dedicated, but there would be times when I used to battle with confidence issues. I was a freshman on varsity but I didn’t play that much. The girl I was dating at the time and friends would come to the game’s to support and wouldn’t see me play–it used to hurt me a lot.
I feel like everything what I’ve been through playing basketball has helped me now, because I know what not to do. I work 10x harder now then I was when I played basketball. There isn’t a day where I don’t do something related to music. This [is] probably what God had planned for me since the beginning.
You mention confidence is something you struggled with. How do you stay focused on yourself now and get away from people’s expectations of you or your music?
I just had to grow up. Knowing that if I have my family and people around me that care for me sincerely and unconditionally, I shouldn’t be worried about what other people think–especially people that I don’t even talk to at all. It’s a lot of people out there that you don’t even talk to that’ll be like ‘why is he even rapping?’. It’s just about quieting the outside noise and not letting that get in my mind.
Does that mindset feed into your lyrics and your songwriting process?
I feel like it motivates me. To be motivated and to work towards the future, you always have to remember where everything started.
On this project I’m talking about enjoying life, staying in the moment, and being appreciative of what I have. I used to be down a lot or depressed between school work and personal life. I was worried about the future, isolated a lot in my dorm room. I feel like I’ve overcome all those feelings and learned not to think too hard. If something’s bothering me a lot, I just learn how to do other things like being around my family. Not forgetting what you go through, but using it to motivate and drive you. You’ll never be happy forever, but you’ll never be down forever either.
Were there any specific moments that helped you realize that?
I was in the studio last summer and Valee was recording there. We had damn near an hour-long conversation, and it was genuine. He was giving me a lot of advice about how long this takes. He said there were two years where he didn’t release music at all, he was just putting work in. Everything just came to him gradually.
It motivated me, because everyone’s route ain’t the same and it’s about having longevity. I feel like if you stick it through, it’s gonna happen regardless. Every year, every month, every day it’s gonna be some new opportunity out there. It’s just up to you to get your foot in the door. I got a long way to go, but I’m way farther along than I was a year ago.
How long did you work on Enjoy Life?
The project I was originally gonna drop was called “Dreams of an Adolescent”. It was almost the same concept, but it was gonna be way longer. In the beginning, I was just trying to get the production process down. I was listening to albums that I love and just trying to get inspired. I was inspired by “4:44”, “Forest Hills Drive”, and other albums like that.
I came up with the idea for “Enjoy Life” when I was in LA in May. I was in the studio with Glohan–he engineers all my music–and it was just organic. I knew I wanted a short project to get my point across better. I didn’t want people to skip songs, and I wanted everything to be heard. I wanted to put out something that’s cohesive and had depth to it, and make the most out of just six songs.
How long have you and Glohan been working together?
We’ve known each other since first grade! We met before either of us were doing music at all, and he started making beats his freshman year of high school. Before that he was just the guy who was into video games–like the Naruto/anime-type people [laughs]–but we’ve always been cool. We live in the same neighborhood, so when I started making music we just started working together, This was before he even had the placement with Lil Uzi. He was just supporting me organically.
A lot of people don’t give producers enough credit and that’s a big problem in the industry. I like to credit everybody; I want it to feel like one big family. Everybody plays a role. Producers are just as important, if not more important, than the artist. We work together all the time, even if I don’t use his beats, I’m still recording with him and hanging out. That’s how you really develop a relationship–when you respect the producer.
You can definitely tell from a listener’s perspective when the rapper and producer are actually clicking too.
Yeah, that’s how it was back then. You couldn’t get to the artist without the producer–they were the forefront. It’s backwards now, but I’m trying to push and show producers are important. We’re gonna keep working together. After this EP, we’re gonna work on another project that’s just me and him.
Who are some of your dream collaborations?
Definitely J Cole, Vince Staples, Mac Miller, Valee and Lil Herb.