(AllHipHop Features) The Washington, DC area is currently offering a breath of fresh air into Hip Hop. An able crop of young acts from the DMV is leading a new movement of creativity that is beginning to spread beyond the Beltway.
Andrew Smith is among that class of newcomers. Performing under the name OneTakeDrew, the DC-born rhymer is building a base of support that may soon force an even larger number of worldwide rap fans to pay attention to his music and his region.
“I think that we have a lot of talent here that gets overlooked,” says Drew about the DMV. “Can’t pinpoint exactly what it could be that’s holding us back from reaching a global scale, but the talent is definitely there. I’ve heard it with my own ears.”
Thousands of ears have already been exposed to Drew’s 2016 album Ventilation. The 13-track project includes the record “Soulful” which has collected over 20,000 plays on Soundcloud.
Ventilation also hosts “Fifty/Fifty.” The song received valuable recognition when it was picked as a “Sleeper Song” on Joe Budden’s “I’ll Name This Podcast Later Episode 90.” Co-host Mal introduced OneTakeDrew to the show’s 90,000 weekly SoundCloud listeners.
“I thought it was a great opportunity to be heard by a wider audience. I was really looking forward to hearing the feedback from a fellow spitta and someone who has had their feet in the game for some time now,” says OTD. “So I’d say I was excited, not only for being able to get a spot on the podcast, but for all of the other placements I could possibly get. Especially being that it had only been 24 hours since my tape dropped.”
Before dropping a project and getting a co-sign from an influential podcaster, Drew began writing rhymes as a teenager. Being brought up in a household with a single mother and a seriously ill older brother motivated the aspiring emcee to use his lyrics as a testimonial for his life.
His immediate surroundings played a part in the music that Andrew Smith would eventually craft as well. Prior to reaching school age, Drew and his immediate kin relocated to Alexandria, a Northern Virginia locale right outside DC.
“I think that by being raised in Virginia, but having most of my family reside in Washington, DC gave me a broader spectrum of things I was able to talk about and understand because both are so close but different in many ways,” the 24-year-old explains.
Family is a recurring theme on Ventilation. OneTakeDrew shows love to his mom throughout the collection, and going off the track “OTM,” it appears the woman that gave birth to Andrew is a loyal member of the OneTakeMob.
Drew also examines love, friendship, and personal growth in his art. In addition, the importance of connecting to a higher power plays out on the album through biblical references and unwavering appreciation for the Divine Being.
“My relationship with God holds the highest magnitude, and my family’s a close second. They’re everything to me,” proclaims Drew. “They’re who’ll reap the benefits of all my success, and without God, none of it would be possible. And I only put things in my music that mean or has meant something to me, so that’s how they find their way into almost every song.”
Ventilation was a clear labor of love. It took OTD over two years to finalize the album. He had to split time between working a 9-to-5 job and recording at Indie Media Lab in Falls Church. Temporary mental barricades were hurdles too.
“Writer’s block is something that I’ve struggled with the most. Sometimes I get locked in so deep that my thoughts start to kind of jumble up and bury me. This’ll then lead to having a hard time getting them out in a way that’ll satisfy my perfectionist mentality,” says Drew.
The daily grind and the unwanted blockage did not pressure the rhymer to abort his musical mission. That drive to succeed is laid out on his debut project’s title track.
Producer Inkompletebeatz opens “Ventilation” with a sample of “Wildflower” by The O’Jays where the legendary singing group laments about facing hard times. Drew then displays how his lyrical capabilities will get him to a better place, and he uses the song’s chorus to share his views on the corporate elements of the music business.
“I say ‘f-ck a deal’ so emphatically because getting a deal isn’t really on my agenda,” says Drew. “I wouldn’t say I’m against signing with a major label, but it’s just not a top priority. So ‘we gon’ get there, when we get there.’”
Even though OneTakeDrew is not focusing on signing a contract with a record company at the moment, that does not mean he is not aware of the history of the industry or the present-day moves taking place. The up-and-coming entertainer is a student of the art form he has embraced.
R&B is actually Drew’s favorite genre. Maxwell, Tyrese, and Usher are among the celebrated vocalists that were played regularly during his youth. On the rap side, he enjoyed vibing to tunes by Eminem, The Game, J. Cole, Lupe Fiasco, and fellow DMV representative Wale.
In fact, it was a freestyle over Wale’s “Ambition” that served as one of the earliest OneTakeDrew releases three years ago. More recently, Drew presented bars over Jay Z’s “Dead Presidents” and Lil Uzi Vert’s “Ps & Qs.”
While Lil Uzi admits he comes off as a hater on the song, Drew insists mentioning DJ Premier on his version of “Ps & Qs” was not meant to be seen as a subliminal shot aimed at the Philadelphian. Earlier this year, Uzi faced backlash from some Hip Hop followers for refusing to rhyme over Premier production during a radio interview.
“I actually first heard Uzi’s ‘P’s & Q’s’ on a video of him performing it live,” recalls Drew. “I thought the whole scene was dumb-lit with crazy energy! So then I pulled up the song and really got to hear how much the beat cranked.”
He adds, “As far as the DJ Premier reference, it wasn’t directed at Uzi, but it was more-so me talking to the Uzi fans who heard his interview on Hot 97 and somehow get their ears on my version. I wanted to let them know the type of beats I’m used to rapping on and what lane I’m in – so to speak – but in the same breath show them my versatility.
Ventilation is a nice example of OneTakeDrew’s varied skills. More of his abilities will come to light as he keeps developing his soulful sound through future projects. As more people become familiar with his work, the damaging bright lights of celebrity could become a concern. Like Jay Z addressed on “Hollywood” – fame can blind a person’s eyes and turn loved ones into strangers.
Just in the last few months, the public has seen prominent Hip Hop figures battle depression, drug abuse, and divorce. These are issues that can affect anyone, but mainstream media and social media focuses more intense attention on the rich and famous. Online negativity also comes along with the spotlight.
OneTakeDrew approached the topic of fame on the Ventilation cut “Fantasy.” Even if A-list stardom is not the declared end goal, Drew is already preparing for the possibility he could one day be the subject of a TMZ article or Baller Alert post.
“I really have little to no interest in fame in the sense of people going crazy when they see me in person,” states Drew. “It would be ideal if my music itself could receive all of those emotions/reactions.”
The VA native continues, “I know it all goes hand in hand though, so when the fame comes I think I’ll avoid the pitfalls by surrounding myself with people who would still be by my side if I quit rap tomorrow. Those are the people I believe truly have my best interests at heart. It’s easier said than done, but time will reveal.”
Read other installments of AllHipHop’s #DMVOnTheMove series here.