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In literature, one who has hubris is commonly known to have an excessive amount of pride and a blatant bit of arrogance, though respected for his will to challenge Greek gods. In the hip-hop world of blatant egos and hidden imperfections, Asaad comes off as a Shakespearean protagonist. But this time, the predictable tragedy is more like the predictable victory. Self-described and semi-autobiographic in his solo track “Dirty White Leathers”, the Philly-bredren found his lyrics a home at Rap Genius due to his uncanny references, visually-provoking stories, and catchy phrases. With two Grammy-nominated mentors like Black Thought from The Roots and Bink! the producer, his possibilities in both fields are more than promising.
Included in a line-up of some of the most promising emcees today, Dirty Middle Class Mixtape will feature Asaad along with Mac Miller, Casey Veggies, Gilbere Forte, and more. Peep the animated interview below to get a taste of the next leading role in this hip-hop saga.
THE TRUE SIMBA
[RG:] So, “Asaad” in Arabic, (as you may know,) means “lion.” So would you say that this describes you in any way?
[A:] Oh, hell yeah! But um… first, my name means “Young Lion” or “The Happy Lion.” Asaad isn’t just some name I just chose, it’s my birth given name. And that really represents me. I am the young lion, I am the happy person. You fuck with me wrong, I will snap. You know? Just like a lion would.
[RG:] And also in your bio, it says that you’re like a “peaceful warrior in the battle for individuality and fun.” So that kind of made me think of Drake’s lyric where he says:
[A:] Oh see, here’s the difference. I’m from the hood. Like, straight up; broken homes, low income circumstances. When I say I’m peaceful, I say that because every contribution I’ve made from my community to my family has been positive. Now in terms of individuality, when you grow up in these situations, there are people that assimilate. Not just the men that want to be thugs, there’s the women—with their hair, with the way that they like their men, the drug dealers, the glorification of all of these wrong doings—then when you have someone that’s positive it’s like, you don’t get no love. So I was kind of outcasted and that’s how I understand individuality, and that’s why I fight because I know, just like that was me in the hood, there’s a lot more of these kids in every hood. Or, even in the suburbs that can relate to me you know?
[A:] I actually like that [Drake lyric] because that’s like a reply right there, but it shuts down all of them. Battling is kind of a part of the essence of this music. But the new wave of people are kinda over it because people usually beefing over stupid shit. But when somebody wants to talk some shit, when I see them in person, I’m gonna say something to them. But im not gonna diss them on a song cause that’ll be backwards, you know?
[RG:] Right. And your father was a songwriter for the Philadelphia International Records right?
[A:] Oh, nah, he was a producer. [M]y father, when I was born, my room was in the studio. [H]e left to move to LA when I was 6 years old, and shit, after the point, I hadn’t seen him. So as any kid, you glorify your father. I had turned 12, and I still hadn’t seen him but I knew music would one day be my ticket to get to him. And fast forward now—I’m 20 years old and I’m back with my father. So music was the ticket. You know, it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. My father is the core source of inspiration for me starting it, even up until now.
50 WAYS TO KILL A RAPPER
[RG:] It says that when you first started, you described your music as “stereotypical hood music.” What is stereotypical hood music to you?
[A:] Hood music is—you got the HK, you got the AK, you got the the 45, you got the Desert Eagle, and you’re gonna shoot somebody. You’re gonna shoot them in their face, and that’s all I knew because that’s what I was around. I didn’t shoot anybody so that’s why, eventually, I started to bring out my character.
[RG:] You have to find out what it is that you really want to speak about.
[A:] Exactly. It’s trial and error. It’s coming of age. And people don’t understand. This is why gangsta rap is so big, because it’s easy. It’s so many different ways to kill somebody (laughs). You know, that’s why it almost became a crutch and it wasn’t boring. And it was like, I don’t want to kill nobody.
[RG:] I know you cited Common as most influential to your rap career, and Nas is like that to me. So what is it about Common that drew you so much into him?
[A:] You know, I was in the hood. So the Roc-A-Fella era—these were all that mattered—State Property, I love them still to this day, now they’re my friends, but there was no one that talked to me, no one that spoke to me. And it was the lyrics:
And when I heard that I was just like ‘Damn, you can talk about loving somebody?’ you know? Because before you couldn’t talk about loving your mama unless you were Pac, but you still had to diss your dad. When I heard that, it showed vulnerability and that just— Resurrection changed my life.
U DON’T KNOW
[RG:] So you’re currently working on an LP and an EP?
[A:] Yeah, I’m working on A LOT (laughs). The mixtape we’re working on with my best friend Troy. That’s just like a collective of just everybody. Me, Casey, Rich Hil, Mac Miller—all of the young guys I’m friends with—Troy, and we’re basically taking all of the tracks and making a mixtape called Dirty Middle Class.
And the EP is titled 6. It’s a six-song EP; one feature. The EP 6 is really reflective. [M]y father left me when I was 6 yrs old [and] we went and got a [recording] studio apartment and the apartment number was 6. Six colors all combined, you get black. I’ve been wearing black everyday for the last 2 years. And it represents my state of being and my state of expressing myself. So 6 is like the most important thing right now.
[RG:] Through exchange, I know you’ve been busy with meetings, trying to solidify a few things for the future, [so] if you were offered a deal today, what is the most important detail you’re looking for when it comes to that?
[A:] Number one is comfortability I think. At this point we’ve got a few offers, but it’s nothing like—I’m not satisfied at this point. Really essential to me is number one—my control over shit. Because you know, these mofuckers will take your whole shit. And um, the other half of number one is the numbers got to be right (laughs). They tryin to get they ones, I’m tryin to get them M’s. I still got work to do. At the end of the day, shit, I can make a great body of work with 10 dollars, you know, I don’t need 10Million, but shit I would like to have 10 million.
DIRTY WHITE LEATHERS
[RG:] So we’re gonna talk a bit about the lyrics of Dirty White Leathers now.
[A:] That song. The true bare-meaning of the song is kind of of-age. I was inspired to write it. I was walking down the street and I was wearing my varsity jacket and I was like ‘damn, I got to take this jacket to the cleaners’ because the Italian lambskin leather was dirty white at this point. And I was like damn, what if our skin was leather, like an animal, and we never got to clean it? Like, all the scars that we have, we could never manage them, we couldn’t get them fixed. How would we be? Would we judge each other differently? So that was really like a timeline of my maturity.
[RG:] So when I first heard it I was like ‘wait, who is this? Talking about hero’s hubris and et tu brutus?’ I think it’s those kind of references that really pull people in. It’s like ‘wow, he’s really rapping about something different here.'
[A:] The day I played this song for Ammo [his manager], I told him about the Shakespeare reference, the Tribe Called Quest reference, the John Lennon reference… the Prince references, and he said ‘I don’t think no one’s gonna pick that up’ and since you said that, it makes me feel good because (directs comments to Ammo) she just said everything. She just pointed all that shit out. (Directs to me) Yo, you really are representing Rap Genius, yo.
A: Those lines were really depicting my dichotomy of how I live. Like, I have a Tupac moxxy like I stated earlier, like I’m not to be fucked with. If someone fucks with me, I’m gonna snap. I’m gonna look at it like I’m a real nigga. I have a working class hero’s hubris but like… I’m tired. I’m tired like a working man, but I live—like, I’m wild like a Tupac. And on top of all of these contributions I’m giving, it’s like, the world’s on my shoulders. And it’s like DAMN, you too? Like, Damn, can I breathe? Can I live? Like Jay-Z’s “Can I live.” And that was my way of saying to the world ‘When somebody’s fighting for you, don’t beat them down.’ Like, you don’t have to fight with them, just respect them.
EVERY 23 NEEDS A PHIL JACKSON
At the tender age of one, I go the test of my life
Poppa set the chopper to my left, Quran to my right
Looked down at the gun, and looked him in his eyes
Picked up the Good Book, he picked me up and start to cry
[A:] That was a big thing, but my father is a deep person. He was testing my wisdom at one years old to see how I would end up. You know, it was just different. There was a series of tests. I always get tested by him.
[RG:] Man, let me tell you, my father is Muslim too and I get the same thing.
[A:] Yeah, you know how that is—you gotta come correct when it come to your father
[RG:] Yeah man
[A:] My father likes the song by the way. He called me, he was like, you he heard the song on his own. So you know, that was cool for my pops to hear the song and he was like ‘you need to rap about me more’ (laughs)
[A:] I feel like raising my child in N-Y is like a dream, a goal of mine. I’ll raise my son in New York so he’ll know the ways of the world, first hand. But my daughter, on the other hand, you know, it’s like yin and yang. I want my daughter to stay innocent and pure. Like any father, you know, it’s just that honest emotion. Sometimes you care about people so much you don’t want them to know the ills of the world.
[RG:] Also, in the song you make reference to your girlfriend. And I was like ‘wow’, cause a lot of guys don’t mention their girls. But, girls love when rappers talk about their girlfriends even though they want to replace them. It brings a realness into it. They have care for someone more than just the hoes up in the club.
[A:] Exactly: That’s a common mistake that rappers make, you know? It’s like, mothafuka, you act like bionic man, you know? You smoke a thousand blunts, you fuck a thousand hoes, and then when someone sees you and wants to get your autograph, you’re like ‘I’m human’… NO! Don’t say that shit now! You know? That’s what Common showed me. Common showed me vulnerability. You can show that you’re a man. And I still talk about having sex with other girls just because it’s just that exciting. It always excites guys. Every guy just wants to have sex with a bad girl. I don’t have a problem with gay people or nothing, you know, I don’t dislike them, but I just don’t understand them. Because it’s so many pretty motherfuckin girls in this world it’s like, ‘Why don’t you want to fuck em?’ You know what I’m saying? Like, are you crazy? Did you see that a-?
[A:] Another thing, aesthetic that I want to bring back to music— these guys aint talkin about stories. You don’t have no stories. It’s like.. I remember listening to a Ghostface song was better than reading a book to me. And now it’s just like, what? Ok, I’m having fun, but.. you know—what about when I’m not in the club? Like what about when I’m not smoking? You know what I mean?
[RG:] Exactly. Like, that’s how I got addicted to Nas. Like, Im a Nas STAN. And I think its cause when I first heard “Rewind” where he tells a story backwards
[A:] And that’s another person that helped me out because It Was Written is a crazy ass body of work, you know, even from the personification of the gun in “I Gave You Power” which is fuckin crazy, you know? And I’m taking those references and I’m using them to this day.
FAVORITE RAP LINE OF LAST YEAR was Swizz Beats. He said:
My life crazy, like Obama!
That’s my favorite line. Because I relate so much. Cause like, Obamas life has got to be crazy. That’s the first black president EVER. Like, you’re in history of humanity!
FAVORITE SONG TO LAY IT DOWN FOR LOVE was Common,
So Far To Go
Definitely. Common featuring D’angelo.
FAVORITE SONG TO SERENADE A HO Oh to seduce a chick? Oh?
International Players Anthem. UGK featuring Outkast.
Oh man, you make a girl feel special you play that for her. Cause it’s all about Andre getting married, then you got UGK talkin’bout mackin’ hoes and Big Boi talking about divorcing a chick, and then fuckin Bun B telling you how to run game. It’s like the perfect fuckin clash.
FAVORITE GO-TO SONG TO VIOLATE. Oh, FLAKA! Aw, man.
the whole Lebron Flocka James Volume 2 Mixtape.
If I had to say two songs— I got to go with two songs. I would say “Uh Huh” and I would say “SHAWTY I’m FLEXING!” Flexing is my shit. But “Uh Huh is my favorite one. He got the best quotable for me. He said “I got three jobs— Stunting, Stunting, Stunting, Stunting” (Laughs) He said it FOUR times!
FAVORITE GO-TO SONG TO CUDDLE UP AND CRY is
Dear Mama by Tupac
Cause that song touches—and I didn’t grow up with my father. So you know, I have bitterness towards him, you know? And when I would do that, I would love my mom, people talk about how they love their mom, they would diss their father. People think it’s just about his mom but it’s about his dad too.
RG: If you could have one thing that could happen today to change your good to better, what would it be?
A: If people.. not just me.. but if all people could tell themselves that good could be better, so more people wouldn’t be satisfied so easily. Because they don’t know that ten years from now, they could’ve been a successful person. There is a whole world out here. Like this is a vast world. And people take this world, I think they take this planet for granted.
I’m just an American kid. I like everything. I love music, I love tv, I love movies, I’m very interest in interior design, and everything. From flowers to everything! I’m interested in it all. I’m just a cultured motherfucker, you know. I’ve mastered the art of being myself.
Written by Jazzi Johnson/Follow as bubbleMAMI on TWITTER