Atlanta's Dae Dae Won't Look Down

We sat down with the "Wat U Mean" rapper to talk connecting with fans, touring with Young Thug, and the joys of fatherhood.
November 1, 2016, 2:36pm

Atlanta-based Dae Dae has finally found his spot in the limelight. His 2015 single, "Wat U Mean (Aye Aye Aye)" went viral after a Twitter user uploaded a video​​​​of himself dancing to the song. Less than a year after the single's release, the rapper hit the road for a national tour with Young Thug on his "Hi-Tones" tour, and is venturing out again this fall for his "Birth of a New Nation" tour with PNB Rock and Shy Glizzy.

Dae Dae's  influences are far-reaching: He cites both the local rap scene of his native Atlanta and the R&B-infused stylings of Anthony Hamilton as key inspirations on his upcoming project. The rapper recently came through the VICE offices in LA for an episode of Noisey Radio on Beats 1 to talk his mixtape, 4 Reasons,__ connecting with his fans, touring with Young Thug, and the joys of fatherhood. Take a listen to the episode here and read on for an extended version of the interview.

Noisey: Talk about this recent tour. Is this your first national tour?
Dae Dae: Yep—this is my first time, my first time.

What's it been like for you?
It's been great, very great. You know, I'm seeing new cities, new things, actually my first time out of Atlanta, so it's a great experience

Who invited you on the road?
The label [300].

Talk about being signed to 300. How did that all work out?
I signed with 300 through Nitti, through Nitti Beatz. And um, everything has been great. Manager—they got me working.

What was the first single in Atlanta that helps you push over the top?
The single called "What U Mean (Aye, Aye, Aye)." I made "What U Mean" when I used to do these concrete and flooring jobs. What I used to do as you'd grind the floor, the noise would be so loud on the grinder that I'd be free styling in my head. So I literally came up with two bars. The first two bars came in on "Wat You Mean." And so, I cut the machine off, and that's when I pulled out my iPhone and wrote them two bars on my phone. So I put the machine back on, just grinding and grinding, and so I came up with two more bars. So I pull my iPhone back out and wrote that, and I was just so excited. I just pulled my phone and called the producer. I called Mercy and I was saying like, "Mercy, man, listen bro. I got four hard bars. Aye, man let's get in the studio, man." He said, "Cool, come tonight." So I ended up pulling up that night and he basically brought the beat machine up. And he was like, "Just say it in my ear." And then I was in the ear like "Racks in me like a piñata / Fuck you, blue Balenciagas / Robin Jeans with the Foamposites / Hit the club now—" so he thought, as I was singing in his ear, he was very excited. So then we he get the [Mimics beat] so—when we made the record man, we knew that was it. We knew that would be the single.

How'd you get it out to the DJs and stuff?
Well at first I went to an open mic at Club Lacura in Atlanta. And I just went up and signed my name up on a piece of paper and waited my turn. And when I performed it, I mean like, everybody in the whole club just turnt up and I just kept going.

Did that help you get more shows?
Helped, helped a lot. Very. Helped a lot. That was literally—literally a year ago from now.

Talk about the dance.
The dance came off of like—when I first performed that song, I didn't know I was going to do the dance. I always wondered what I was going to do when the "aye" part came in. I didn't want to hold a mic and just be like "aye, aye." So just so happen when the "aye" part come on I just started dancing. When I would dance in the whole crowd like "aye, aye…" Once I got that "aye" I would just start doing the little dance and that's how I came up with the dancing. Got everybody doing the dance.

Were you surprised by their reaction? It going viral?
I was, I am so surprised. Just knowing how quick the record caught, and how quick everybody caught on to it—it just is how everybody love it. The kids love it, and that's my most important part. I love kids, and so when I seen them loving it, man… man, it's a great experience.

What's the craziest video response to the song you've seen?
Right now it's a white guy. They say he was an Uber man. And so he like…when he doing the dance to my song, he basically was describing what I was saying in the song. Through dance. He was just crunk with it man. He was killin' it man. That was a crazy video.

Do you reply to the fans that send this stuff?
Yeah! Yeah, I try to be very hands on, you know? I don't want no shit like, "I'm just so big that it's hard to get in touch with me," or you know, they got to go through a lot of people to get in touch with me. No. I want to be able to talk to you. I want to be able to feel the same way you feel, you know what I mean? Get very hands on—I might not text every last one of everybody, but I will text back. It's coming from me, no one else.

When you're on tour, is it surprising when people are singing the lyrics?
Man, oh my god! It's like—I do three songs on stage every show, like when I hear people singing "What U Mean" man, it's the big 'cause I'm in other states other than my own stand. And then this is my very first time stepping out of Atlanta, so. So just seeing other people singing it—man it's great.

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​Photo by Devinn Campbell​

So let's talk about the mix tape, 4 Reasons.

The whole project was just to motivate you—to give you strength, to give you hope. Just to give you a good feel. Y'know what I mean? That was the whole project for me. Man you know, I worked very hard on the project. It is inspired by a lot of good people that I'm surrounded by. You know, trying to put out a good message to the youth. The youth and younger people and to older people. And just to the world.

What kind of producers you got on it?
I got Mercy on there, I got—shoutout Mercy, Mercy actually made "What U Mean" also. I got Xotic, shoutout Xotic. I got Money. It's a guy, it's a kid named Money. All that positive vibe.

There's a track "Been Broke Before,"where you talk about the past and the future. What's that track about? Talk a little about that one.
Well that song is about coming out of back then, or how I was before now. I was going through it at a young age. I got five kids now, but back then when I was going through it, I had one or two. They were just, real life going through struggle, you know? Living in the house with no lights. You know, cold outside. I'm using propane heating to warm me and my children up. So not having that much money. So it just—just feeling good saying, "I've been broke before  and look at me now and look how I proceeded." You know, just giving these messages out to another person. That if you messed up right now, you still able to come back, you know what I mean? You still able to be someone. Don't look down, you know? Just keep going.

What helps you through times like those? Especially back then.
My little girl. My little girl. Me and my little girl so close. And she—her smile. Anything that like—when she sees me play basketball, she'll sit on the sidelines and just cheer me on. When she hears me rap, she'll rap behind me. You know she loves to rap too. So just seeing her so excited, just looking at me do something, it just made me—it made me tell myself that I got to do something with myself to make her life better so she won't go through what I done been through. The whole process of me going through my situations. You hear me?

And how is she now?
She's great. She actually got this little diary she be writing her own raps in. Every time I come home she always try to get me to listen to her rap, and I be like "Okay I like that one" and I tell her the ones I like and the ones she needs to work on better. And she be like, "Okay daddy." She be ready to go to the studio man, it's great.

When did you find out you were going to tour with Thug? What was that like for you?
Celine from 300 pulled me to the side and he was asking me how do I feel about going on tour with Thug. And I was like "yeah! I like that idea." They put me on the tour, man, and I've just been going state to state. Interacting with more crowds, bigger crowds. You know what I mean? Learning how to work stages, bigger stages, versus like me just performing in actually just clubs. So I'm actually learning how to perform on bigger stages and work every side of the crowd. So I'm great at it now.

Were you friends with Thug in Atlanta or not really?
We didn't know each other but we was both on the same grind. I seen him grow as his career. I used to watch him as I was growing. He doesn't know, I had engineered a song he had did with a friend of mine in Atlanta, he don't remember that. So but—it's good to see him, where he at and how he's proceeded. You know, I'm right behind him, you know what I mean? In the same predicament. So. It's good.

What's your earliest memory of seeing him perform?
We always end up being in the same studio. I actually just been in another room and I'll go in his room cause I know some friends that he know that he brought with him and I been chatting with them and I be seeing work. You know, so, it's great. Yeah.

What kind of features do you got coming up? Are you working with anyone on this stuff?
Well, my feature will be coming from my team. My team, you know? My features is what I'm really focusing on. But I'd do any features, any artist I don't care. I'm very cool. Yeah, very cool.​

Catch Dae Dae on the "Birth Of A New Nation" tour:

11/10  Cleveland, OH - Agora Theatre and Ballroom 
11/11  Indianapolis, IN - Club Live
11/12  Chicago, IL - Adriannas
11/13  Columbus, OH - Live Entertainment Center
11/14  Cincinnati, OH - OTR Live
11/17  Pittsburgh, PA - Rex Theatre
11/18       Harrisburg, PA - Harrisburg Armory
11/19       Hartford, CT - TBA
11/20  New York, NY - Aces Nightclub
11/21       Boston, MA - Middle East

11/25 Baltimore, MD - Rams Head Live
11/26  Philadelphia, PA - Trocadero
11/27  Norfolk, VA - Alley
11/28       Charlotte, NC - TBA
11/29       Fayetteville, NC - TBA
11/30  Raleigh, NC - Ego Ent Complex
12/1         Winston-Salem, NC - TBA
12/2  Birmingham, AL - Marrianda
12/3  Atlanta, GA - Vinyl
12/5         Jacksonville, FL - Martini Mondays
12/6         Savannah, GA - Club Elan
12/7         Augusta, GA - Sky City
12/9         Dallas, TX - BT's Cabaret
12/10       Shreveport, LA - Kokopolis
12/11       Houston, TX - TBA