(AllHipHop News Feature) The last time most fans heard anything about Atlanta rapper DG Yola was in August 2009, as he surrendered to serve time in prison for shooting his cousin in a family dispute gone too far.
Three years have passed since DG Yola, one of the South's most promising rappers of the late 2000s, was first incarcerated over the incident, and the hours, days, weeks, and months spent locked away - three years in total - were well spent.
According to DG Yola, he used the time to write an enormous amount of material. Then, upon his recent transfer to Atlanta Transitional Center's work release program, the rapper got crafty about how to work his first "real" job while breathing new life into his rap career.
"I wrote everyday, everyday for like 36 months, everyday, day in and day out. I came out with something like 2,500 songs," DG Yola told AllHipHop.com in a recent, exclusive interview. "I touched down, I’m at the halfway house transitioning…still transitioning my life. From time to time – we at Raheem’s Seafood – I’ll just drop songs or whatever.
"You know, they let me work and make songs from time to time here in the shop on a laptop. It all plays itself out—while I’m in here cooking, I can still find time to make a song. That’s how I came up with the Mr. Broke Tha Knob situation."
Mr. Broke Tha Knob (titled for how everyone in Atlanta is "turned up" these days) is DG Yola's latest mixtape project, which he described as pure street, without the "outerspace swag" that some of his fellow Atlanta artists have been reaching for lately. But, he insisted he wasn't referring specifically to Future (and his Pluto album), and said he's glad all types of rappers can gain respect, especially independents.
"I’m doing everything – me and my manager – we’re doing everything out of our pocket. If a label did want to step in and back it up, I mean, that’ll help," DG Yola said. He was coy about whether labels are actually scouting him now; however, the word on the street is that he is "in talks."
Known for his Southern, street mentality on past records, DG Yola made his mark with the hit single "Ain't Gon Let Up" - and those words may ring prolific, if he can avoid the revolving door that often finds former inmates right back where they started.
Said DG Yola, "I got shot in my mouth before, and I was rapping with wires on my mouth, with wires on my teeth. So it’s just that I’m a very determined person, you know what I’m saying? If I want it, I’ma get it, and at the end of the day, if that’s what it is, I’ma have it, you know? I don’t look at myself no different from nobody. It is what it is."
His cousin has made a full recovery since the shooting, and has forgiven him, too: "You know, I talked to my cousin. I talked to him or whatever; we let everything go. As far as the family, everybody still the same – it’s just something that happened, something we got to dealt with, and something we got to live with. There ain’t no bad blood or nothing like that. In the heat of the moment, there’s no telling what you’ll do. And I ain’t just the person to go for certain things. So, at the end of the day, I feel like it was wrong. I ain’t have to shoot him but I shot him, and he forgave me for it, so it is what it is."
As for whether his relatively light shooting sentence was a matter of luck because it involved his cousin, DG Yola remarked, "Cuz is lucky it was him, ‘cause somebody else probably wouldn’t have made it through that. I mean, cuz lucky, you know what I’m saying? He ain’t the first person, and he might not be the last, but I mean, I’m not here to speak on who or what I’d do. I mean, cuz just violated. I’m a person who you shouldn’t violate. I got my lines, I got my boundaries. It’s certain things about me that you don’t do, so at the end of the day, he lucky. But, if it was somebody else, I probably wouldn't have gotten out of prison."
Yet, DG Yola said he has worked on anger management and is constantly putting life in perspective. At the conclusion of the interview, he shouted out a list of over 25 friends, and most of them were dead or incarcerated.
“The past three years, it’s just really been like a downtime…time for me to get myself together as far as mentally, and evaluate myself, you know what I’m saying?" DG Yola said. "It really just showed who all is gonna be there for you when your back’s against the wall. The last three years have really been like an evaluation process. I got my mind right; I’m focused now, so I guess it was well needed.”
Follow DG Yola on Twitter (@dgyola). Watch his "Neva Gon' Stop" documentary below: