Symba is here to put on for the Bay Area, who can rap his ass off. Coming from true humble beginnings, the rising star went from his family losing everything to now being able to tell his story — in hopes of uplifting the masses that they too can bounce back from the highs and lows that come with life. When it comes to his rhymes, he spreads what he calls Ghetto Literacy, viewing rap as his own personal diary.
He states, “We not gon’ shoot videos in the hood with Drake, we gon’ pull a Bentley truck into a college.”
Having written for some of the elites in the music industry, Symba recently signed with Atlantic Records. With each release, he wants to make a positive impact, spitting braggadocious bars about putting in the work and getting to the bag at all costs.
AllHipHop: Talk about going independent after your Colombia deal, and how you came up with the concept for the mixtape.
Symba: My homie PJ and I ran around independently for 6 months. Cash and I had a conversation in Wokcano in Burbank, my favorite restaurant in LA. I’m playing Cash the EP, he says “it’s cool, but you can rap and and you aren’t trying to rap.” Rap is what I really do, people telling me not to rap. He tells me “bro, don’t run from rap.” That quote stuck with me. I pull up a song called “You Don’t Know Me” I had on YouTube. He said “bro if you could rap like this, why would you ever make a melody joint?” I’m a hustler. Whatever people tell me this is what they want, I’m going to supply the demand. He’s like “f### that, build your brand. F### supply and demand, the demand will come through your brand of who you are.” I’m like “damn, you have a point.”
For the next 6 months, I locked in on rapping. Watching battle raps, old documentaries I grew up on. I started noticing every dope rapper with a long lasting career had an identity. They didn’t buy into a sound. Most people buy into a sound and when that sound dies, they die with it. When you have an identity, you can always evolve with what the f### ‘s going on because you’re authentic to yourself. It took me a minute to figure out what I was trying to say.
AllHipHop: When did you start recording Don’t Run From R.A.P.?
Symba: The last week of March 2019, Cash sends me these big anthemic ass beats. I had to say something different on this s###. The next day, Nipsey dies while I’m listening to the beats on my balcony. I’m looking at the whole Nipsey situation thinking damn, we’re really trapped as black men in America. We’re trapped inside ghettos, cities, jobs, all kinds of s###. I made this song called “Trapped” talking about how we can’t get out of the cycle we’re stuck in. The next day, I make another song called “Black Jesus.” Our religion is illegal stuff we do to get us out, we sell drugs to get money to get our families out of the ghetto. We’re doing bad s### for a good cause. The next day after, Dallas has an aux cord party at Atlantic Records.
AllHipHop: What’s an aux cord party?
Symba: Aux cord party is when an A&R calls a bunch of people. I think my n*gga Dallas is the only person who does this, shout out Dallas. A&Rs need to step their s### up. He’ll call people to the label, put them in a room, whoever jumps on the aux plays music. If your s###’s fire, you keep playing music until your s###’s not fire. I’m noticing everyone playing the same song, the sound of what’s going on today. I figured I’d mix it up. I played “Black Jesus” and shut the f###### room up. Darryl Jones is in there, all these big people from Warner Bros.
4 days later, Dallas calls me to the office. “Yo, let me hear some music.” I play music, he says “we have to go to New York.” We go to New York, I’m thinking we go to the studio to chill and record. I walk into the studio, we’re in there with Meek Mill. I played Meek the music, he looked me in my face like “bro you inspired me.”
AllHipHop: What song did you play?
Symba: I play “Trapped” and “Black Jesus,” the same songs I made after Nip died. This is where I found my identity. I realized I make music for n*ggas in the hood in unfortunate circumstances, but want to get out. They want a second chance. People who don’t want to continue to do the same s###. From that day forward, boom this is what I’m going to talk about. This is my message, tell people there’s more to the s### we’re doing. I started cooking.
Fast forward, I cook up the “Big Homie” record with 2 Chainz. I made that record because somebody who helped me get in this s### was showing signs of envy. It was a newfound situation for me that they had no control over. Me being me, I still respected it because this is my homie. I know he doesn’t mean no wrong but he isn’t understanding how he feels and why he feels this way. I tried to keep s### cool, play it as long as I could play it but everything has its limits to where people show their true colors. People get drunk, say the wrong thing. Eventually, you realize you outgrow certain situations and you have to move on.
AllHipHop: I know you suffered a lot of losses, how did you cope?
Symba: My best friend [shows chain] dies, he’s killed on New Year’s Day by being with someone who had street issues. Wrong place, wrong time. I could’ve been in the car with dude, I knew bro from back home. They’re out of state, running around all day chillin’. He’s not a bad dude, he just had problems with people. My bro was in the car, car got shot up. I knew from that day, this gon’ be a f##### up year. I was shooting “Birds In The Bando,” then 3 weeks later Kobe died. 2 weeks later, another friend of mine died named Vince. Somebody I went to school. The homie T Mac died in May, who I did music with back when I was living in the Bay. I started doing music with Young Curt when I first started rapping, he died in July.
My best friend’s birthday is July 27, he does dinner every year on his birthday. Before he died, he knew he had a kid on the way. We do the dinner as scheduled, we’re all there. The first time I see his mom cry and break down. I love his mom to death, I treat his mom like she’s my mom. Once he passed, we got a lot closer. The next day, there’s a celebration for him on his block on 15th St. in Richmond where he came from. 4 days later is his baby shower, on a Saturday. His mom’s getting ready for the baby shower, has a heart attack. Basically dies for 30 minutes, they revive her but she’s in a coma for 2 weeks. That next Friday, his son was born around 3:45pm, his mom died at 9pm at night. His son was born the same day his mom died, the same year he died. I’m dealing with all this in my head, thinking about it on top of having to go to Atlanta the next week to shoot the video with 2 Chainz.
AllHipHop: What’s the premise of Don’t Run From R.A.P.?
Symba: You always have this vision of how s###’s supposed to look or be when you finally reach your goals, but it never really happens that way. You learn things you value in life really don’t mean s###, because it could change at any given moment. At this point, I’m living a day to day standard, trying to be the best person I could be. I know that one day my time’s going to come and all that’s left is moments like this, where my son can go back and read to figure out who his dad is. Everything I’m doing at this point, I’m saying Don’t Run From R.A.P. I have a responsibility and principle to do better as a man everyday, to help the next person to be able to feel the same way.