Only 20-years-old HDBeenDope already got himself quite a reputation inside the New York Hip-Hop scene. Stepping Into Tomorrow was the project which put him under the spotlights last year. Like an echo to the lyrical bombs « Rhymin’ », « Boomerang » and « Aladeen », the mixtape gave us a first hint to the artist’s huge potential. Since then, the child has been traveling, and the shockwave went beyond New York to reach the other side of the Atlantic. We met the kid just before his show at L’International in Paris, after he gave a remarkable performance at the Dooinit Festival. Loyal to the big apple, HD pays tribute to the boom-bap sound of the nineties, and twists it with more actual tones. Here’s the portrait of a great-headed kid, who dares taking some time to think.
The BackPackerz: HD, can you start by introducing yourself to the BackPackerz who still don’t know you?
HDBeenDope: My name is HDBeenDope. I’ve been rapping since I was nine, took it seriously about fourteen, and sixteen is when I started putting music on the internet. From there, it has been consistently growing.
TBPZ: What’s the story behind your stage name?
HD: I started making beats around thirteen. Back then, I was going by Hitmaker D. But when you rap on a song, Hitmaker D sounds stupid. So I’ve shorten it to HD. As I started making more music and taking it seriously, I thought ‘I don’t want to be known for making hits, I just want to make real music.’ Now, what HD stands for is high quality. I’m just trying to give you the best I can. And for me, BeenDope means recognizing your potential before anybody else.
TBPZ: The two statements you live by are « L.A.B.B. R.A.T. » and « A.W.Y.A. ». Can you tell us what they mean to you?
HD: L.A.B.B. R.A.T. means « Learn And Become Better. Receive And Think. »
Everyday you wake up and you’re learning something. Right now, we are learning something: you are learning how to conduct an interview and I’m learning to present myself in public. We are learning from each other. You can learn these things, but if you don’t use them to become better, that’s wasted knowledge.
Especially with social media, there’s a lot of ‘I see this here, so this is happening, I’m going to tell the world.’ Nobody is really thinking about it. Sometimes it doesn’t even make sense. You have to receive the information and think about it before you tell the world.
« A.W.Y.A. » just means « Accept Who You Are ». When you start rapping, you are rapping like other people. Because of your influences, the people you look up to. When you finally have something specific to bring to the table, it’s important you accept to be yourself.
TBPZ: Do you relate to the message of Kendrick Lamar’s « i »?
HD: Definitely! It’s simple, you have to love yourself. The foundation is you.
TBPZ: Your music sounds both very ‘boombap’ and very modern. Apart from Jay-Z, NaS and Biggie, what are your biggest influences?
HD: I listen to a lot of music: Action Bronson, J.Cole, Logic, Kendrick Lamar of course, Joey Bada$$… Soulection is one of my favorite Bandcamp. I listen to many of their tapes, and sometimes I feel like I need to rap on them.
Think about life, imagine if you could only be happy or sad. Sadness, anger, these emotions make you a human! Music is the same. One day you feel like ‘I want to give people something raw.’ Another day you feel like ‘I want an 808, I want to hear this in my car.’ Dynamics, that’s what it’s about!
TBPZ: You are really present on the Internet and very active on social networks. What role do they play for you?
HD: The Internet is why I’m here today. I put music on the Internet and people gravitated towards. I try to be active on social networks. I think a lot but I don’t necessarily feel like talking about it. I’d rather write about it, put it in a song. But when somebody hits me up, I’m trying to get to everybody. I always make that effort.
TBPZ: The first line on The Greay(t) Area is ‘I got questions for everything you got answers for.’ Do you think it is your role, as an artist, to question the way we live and think?
HD: I think that’s your role as a human! You go through a lot of things daily. You have to take time for yourself and think about it. Self reflection is important: ‘Why did this happen? Why did I react this way?’ Especially when something big happens.
TBPZ: The topics you deal with are quite profound. Prodigy once said ‘I’m only nineteen but my mind is older’. Do you feel the same?
HD: I don’t think my mind is older. Why can’t a younger person think? It doesn’t apply only to older persons!
TBPZ: You are still studying. How do you balance school with rapping?
HD: Yeah, I’m doing psychology. I want to go to school. My only problem is I don’t do homework, because I’m recording all day. But I like being in school and learning, I like the discussion. I have to take it more seriously. Hopefully I’ll have more time soon…
TBPZ: How do you relate to the New York scene, the Beast Coast or Pro Era movements?
HD: In New York, everybody knows about each other, especially if you’re starting a buzz. But nobody wants to acknowledge. Because ‘If I acknowledge him, people are going to go to him, and they have to stay on me.’ I think we need to come together. I don’t mean getting on this huge rap record to show everybody we’re united. It’s just so saying ‘I respect what you do’. People like Dillon Cooper or Oddisee sent their nods, even if they’re bigger than me. I respect that. It’s all about showing the love, there’s nothing wrong with it.
TBPZ: On Stepping Into Tomorrow, you said you were mad embarrassed to sing at the end of the last song. Can you feel your confidence as an artist growing?
HD: When I’m in it, I don’t recognize the growth per se. But when I look back on the songs, yeah that’s growth! Some songs I’ve made for The Greay(t) Area couldn’t have been on Stepping Into Tomorrow. Simply off the fact that my mind wasn’t there yet.
TBPZ: What’s your favorite song from you?
HD: It’s changing all day, every day. Right now, « All Good ». You may not be cool with this person, something might be shaking in that area, but at the end of the day, I’m here. It’s all good!
And, don’t sleep on this playlist of our favorites tracks from HDBeenDope !