Brooklyn, New York is home to some of rap’s biggest names, and HDBeenDope aims to be own. Having been working on music for 8 years now, it was at age 16 when he decided this would be his end-be-all. He states, “I use music as my expression, that’s really what it is for me.”
When it comes to his actual raps, he brings that East Coast swag and lyricism, telling real-life, honest stories of his upbringing and what it took to get to where he is today. When it comes to touring, he had the pleasure of opening for one of the biggest rock bands, Portugal. The Man. The opportunity itself speaks volumes to his talents and what he brings to the rap game.
Most recently, he released his new album titled BrokeN Dreams, recorded and produced almost entirely inside his bedroom in New York.
AllHipHop: What happened at age 16 that made you realize you could do music?
HDBeenDope: Really I was doing it the whole time, but it was the culmination of a mixtape. I was working on a tape and said “I’ma put something out myself.” Because I did a tape with a couple of my homies. We had this studio club, basically an after-school program we created. We made a mixtape all together but when I said I’ma work on my own, that’s when I thought “okay, I’m an artist now.” Putting out a project was that moment.
AllHipHop: What was it like being born and raised in Brooklyn?
HDBeenDope: It was pretty cool, my mom wasn’t really hitting the hip-hop heavy but my brother was. My family lives in the whole building pretty much. My grandma’s on the second floor, my uncle’s on the top floor. There’s always family around. My mom worked a lot so I had a lot of time to myself, my brother would be out. In the years I started getting serious with music, that’s when my brother moved out. I had a lot of time to work on music, get comfortable with my voice and not have to worry about being around for those stages. I got really really comfortable with being in my own space and recording. Even now, I got my whole set up in the crib still.
AllHipHop: Who were your biggest influences growing up?
HDBeenDope: I got into hip-hop heavy when I was 9, that’s when I started listening to it. I was taking my brother’s CDs. I was looking to 50 heavy, a lot of Roc-A-Fella stuff. I listened to 50’s Guess Who’s Back? mixtape a lot. Cam’ron Purple Haze, the Young Gunz first album, Freeway’s album, Snoop Dogg’s Rhythm & Gangsta, all these were heavy. I got into middle school and Lil Wayne was a huge huge influence. Till this day, Dedication 2 is probably one of my favorite projects. I loved that project.
AllHipHop: What’d you like about Dedication 2?
HDBeenDope: At 12 years old, I went to school in Manhattan. I remember going to the mixtape spot on 14th St., a little further down from the Guitar Center. It was a hole-in-the-wall shop, he had all the spray-painted t-shirts, the DVDs, and the mixtapes. We used to go over there after school every Friday, I got that Dedication 2 mixtape from that spot. Coming home and listening with my cousin, I’m like “this is the greatest rapper ever.” [chuckles]
In high school when I turned 14, that’s when Cole became prominent for me because I got Warm Up at that time. That was the s##t for me. I’m listening to Wayne and 50 heavy, I’m emulating those 2 from what I’m talking about to how I’m rapping. Cole was my transition to be like “oh, he’s talking about himself and it’s not necessarily this glorified preach s##t. I’m talking about me and it’s connecting.” That was my shift to become more introspective with the music.
AllHipHop: Congrats on the release of BrokeN Dreams, what’s the significance in the title?
HDBeenDope: It’s 3 meanings in the title. I went on tour with Portugal. The Man in 2017, definitely shouldn’t even been on that tour in terms of where I was in my career. I did a show at Gramercy Theatre in 2016, opening for Lady Leshurr. 4 months later, this dude Scott who’s Portugal’s tour manager told me he’s a stage manager at that show and he really liked my set. They’re about to be in New York in 2 months, he asked “yo can you open?” I’m like “yeah fine, I’ll do it whatever.” I didn’t know who they were at the time.
This was before “Feel It Still,” but obviously they had this huge fanbase. I go look them up like “oh wow, they’re doing s##t.” I do that show, it was a great show. We all f##ked with each other, it was cool. A couple weeks after, I was telling a booking agent that I did that show. They’re like “what the f##k, you did that show? We know their booking agent.” They reached out to their booking agents, the guys were like “yeah, let’s bring him on tour.” They ended up paying me way more than I should’ve been paid at that time.
AllHipHop: Nah, you deserved that!
HDBeenDope: All the work that I did, I was ready for the opportunity for sure. But they could have definitely taken a bigger artist, somebody who would’ve helped them sell tickets on that tour. They’re doing me a favor, I acknowledge that and I’m beyond appreciative. Getting on the road with them was this feeling of “alright this is the first time I’m being paid all this money to do this, this is amazing. I’m getting to live my dream.” Obviously first time being quoted to get all this money, “alright here’s how we’re going to do this. We’re going to divvy it up like this. I’m able to help my homies out, they’re coming on the road.” We’re projecting the fact that we’re going to bring in $1000 from merch, so we’re looking at $30K in merch sales alone. It’s $15K for the road, we’ll be good off this. We get off the road, merch didn’t sell the way we thought and we spent so much money on production of the show. I didn’t do it all basic, I went and bought lights. I wanted it to feel like an actual show.
BrokeN Dreams comes from me getting off the road and realizing “oh s##t, I’m broke now. I gotta figure it out.” Also being so close to my dream. Then there’s broken dream where as you get older, you start to see the people around you falling off. Everybody was on track for these certain dreams, “I’ma do this.” Now, people start to get to a place where alright, I gotta be more realistic. I gotta go get the job, I gotta go back to school, whatever it is. Witnessing that. Then the word ‘broken’ and the word ‘dream’ because as I got older, it’s a lot of things I grew up on that I thought were bible. Now I’m looking at it like “woah, that’s a horrible way to be thinking about things.” It’s realizing that I’m a bit of a broken individual, then I’m an individual on his journey towards his dreams. All 3 of those packed into this one project.
AllHipHop: You say the project explores the duality of a growing career and dwindling bank account. What’s the reality of this independent grind?
HDBeenDope: The independent grind is a lot of forward thinking. You always have to tell yourself “oh nah, but it’s better for the next one.” Things might not always be good but you have to constantly be thinking about how it’s going to work the next time, even if it doesn’t work. It’s a lot of “damn it’s not working, it’s not working,” but it eventually gets there. A big part of that struggle is having that confidence when things look like they’re not going up.
AllHipHop: The project was entirely written and produced by HD in your bedroom?
HDBeenDope: I’ve been recording out of my bedroom since I was 12, I was recording on cassette tapes with my homies. I had this little Sony tray. When I got my first laptop at 13, I had Mixcraft and was recording all the homies. I’d either record here or at my friend TJ’s house, a couple blocks down from me. I got comfortable with engineering. I got really comfortable being in my own space, even making beats for the projects I made.
AllHipHop: What’s the meaning behind “Die With Me”?
HDBeenDope: I did a show one time, my homegirl was saying “how do you get on stage all the time? I’d die if I had to get up there.” For me, a moment clicked of “oh wow, that’s what I’d feel if I had to go to work everyday the way you do specifically. More so looking at the other world like “you’re doing something that I can’t do and that’s fire, but if I had to, I wouldn’t enjoy it.” I made “Die With Me” in order to look at both sides. It’s written from the perspective of the 9 to 5 worker or the freelancer, but I also wanted to do it in a way that doesn’t glorify freelance life.
A lot of times, people talk about “be your own boss, you could do what you want.” That s##t sounds cool, but there’s so much you have to deal with on that side of the fence. Not knowing when your next paycheck’s coming in, the doubt, all these things you have to deal with as a freelancer that isn’t pretty. I really wanted “Die With Me” to not necessarily glorify either side, but have both looking at each other like “wow it’s f##ked up on both sides.”
AllHipHop: Was “Superheroes” inspired by Eminem?
HDBeenDope: 1000%. “Stan” is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard, ever. Coming up with the concept of “Superheroes,” I thought “this would be cool if I do something as an ode to that record.” I started messing around with keys and that’s what I came up with. For sure an ode to that song.
AllHipHop: How was touring with Portugal THe Man in 2016? That’s huge. What’d you learn?
HDBeenDope: One thing for sure is having those conversations with them and understanding the grind of it all. Before “Feel It Still” hit, they’re not necessarily the biggest thing in the world. They’re not the Grammy winners yet, but they’re in a place doing a 100K cap on average. I didn’t see them as these super super prominent people, but it’s a testament of actually going out and grinding for all these years. They had a decent amount of projects, a lot of years they were together. To see oh wow before y’all even had the hit hit, y’all had fans. People really love you because you kept working the ropes. I took heed to making sure when you’re on the road, really getting out there (when it’s possible) and staying true to that.
AllHipHop: How’s it feel to have the 10th Spot on the 2020 XXL Freshman Class Contender?
HDBeenDope: That was dope, it’s one of them things on the hip-hop checklist. To even be recognized, I remember being 13 like “yo, I’ma be this.” To be in a position where you’re on their radar, alright we’re good. You’re on the right track, so that feels really cool.
AllHipHop: Goals for yourself at this point of your career?
HDBeenDope: At this point, I’m really focused on getting to a place of touring. Being that I went on that tour with Portugal, I’m super adamant on being able to do that for somebody else. The fact they’re able to take this small kid from Brooklyn and bring him around the country, damn that’s really dope. They didn’t have to do that. I want to build it up so I can be able to start doing that for other people because I know how much that s##t meant for me, how pivotal it was for my career. I want to be able to pay that forward.