x CB » Interview: Danny Brown Talks About Rap Pt. 1

Interview: Danny Brown Talks About Rap Pt. 1

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Danny Brown – “Radio Head” (Internet, 2011)

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Danny Brown is a very talented rapper from Detroit. His The Hybrid was one of last year’s strongest mixtapes and he’s currently preparing an Itunes rerelease with bonus tracks for Feb. 8th. Rather than do the regular straight forward new rapper Q&A, I sat down with him to talk about rap, music and rap music for the latest installment in CB’s TALKS ABOUT RAP series.

What was your first rap tape?
Kid N Play 2 Hype. I bought it from the gas station for ten bucks. I had young parents. My pops had me he was 16, my moms was 18 so he always listened to [rap]. He was a house DJ too and I always had that house and techno. Being from Detroit that’s like our little underground scene, that’s our world. It was always Ghettotech around. But he always had the little hip hop tapes here and there [too], he had a wide range of what he’d listen to. He was bumping Ice-T for a minute and then it went to NWA and all that shit and then before you know it changed to Tribe Called Quest. By the time Tribe Called Quest came around I was old enough to start buying shit for myself. I think that the first tape that I got into on my own was Spice 1. I didn’t know that type of hip hop existed, Bay Area hip hop. I was listening to West Coast shit but it wasn’t Bay shit and for some reason when I heard that Spice 1 shit I knew there was something out there that was different. That’s what the independent scene was to me at the time, the Bay shit. In the Bay niggas had like 415 and Richie Rich so I was just getting into that type of shit. And then from there that’s when the whole Death Row shit came around. And then once I heard Wu-Tang it was over with. That’s when CDs first came out. My pops bought me my first Wu-Tang CD Enter The 36 Chambers. Then I got into Nas. Then came the whole Rawkus stage, then like Slum Village as Detroit hip hop started progressing and getting recognized. I was into that because that was hometown shit. But then after that stage I was into Def Jux, I got into it from Rawkus, listening to a lot of Rawkus shit. Then from the Def Jux stage it went over to the London shit, I started listening to a lot of Grime and a lot of Dubstep because I was influenced from the techno and the house shit from when I was younger. So I easily gravitated to that. And after that? I was doing hip hop on my own. So I guess I just got influenced by all that shit I just named.

Yeah you just about ran down the last twenty years of hip hop completely.
[Laughs]

So let’s start with the Bay…
Yeah E-40‘s like my top favorite rapper, top three alive, dead, whatever. E-40 taught me so much shit. His new album is amazing. I hope I’m that cool when I get to be his age. But Spice 1, E-40, a lot of the underground ones Mac Mall, C-Bo and then I started getting into like all that Brotha Lynch Hung shit. All that Sick Wid It shit though, I remember they used to bring out ill compilations and shit. So the Bay got a huge influence on me.

It seems like a lot of the more animated aspects of your rapping, the things you do with your voice, draws on that Bay shit.
Yeah for sure it’s definitely some Bay shit. Listen to somebody like Roach Gigz right now, it’s the same shit. I wanna work with that kid. He can rap!

Why do you think, outside of Pac, the Bay has never really been able to cross over on a mainstream level?
Because they doing it independent. I don’t think that’s their intentions. I mean I don’t know that but from the outside looking in I feel like they feel that’s they’re shit.I don’t know if it’s like this anymore but I used to hear stories that they was making hundreds of thousands just with no record label. That’s something to look up to. You can get signed to a deal and go through that record label bullshit and motherfuckers are telling you how to make records, and motherfuckers are picking your records for you. Motherfuckers just making their version of what you are. They’re making what they think will sell because they invested in that. To [independent rappers] it’s more pure because it’s them doing them and doing what they want to do. And people gravitate to that and they buy it. Look at somebody like Mac Dre, these guys made a lot of money by themselves and people still love the music. I don’t know. I don’t know what people look at as mainstream anymore. I think the lines got blurred. I understand what you’re saying but to me they did do it. Spice 1? He did it! I don’t about right now, a lot of the younger guys aren’t making the music that them guys is making, the caliber of it. I know times is changing and there’s new shit going on but we liked the Mob music shit. So Hyphy, when it got to that shit, that’s their own world. That’s just like us with Techno, you know? [It's like] if niggas started rapping off Ghettotech beats and shit, which probably some niggas need to do out here. It might be our own scene out here and other people might not be able to get that shit. I think E-40 though he do the hyphy shit the best. Because it’s lyrical now. It’s some party shit so it ain’t really that [lyrical]. I mean I know Mistah Fab can rap and it’s a couple, like I said Roach Gigz but [otherwise] it don’t really seem too lyrical to me, it’s some party shit.

Well they also have like Jacka and Livewire out there.
But they don’t really do Hyphy. Jacka’s like the Bay Area Nas or something. Now Droop-E, I like Droop-E like a motherfucker. I guess it run in the family.

Then of course there’s Lil B, who you’ve worked with. How’d you get put up on him?
I got up on Lil B from The Pack and shit. I listened to the Pack. Everybody got up on him with the “Vans” song. So I always used to see him release little music on his own and shit. I remember he did the shit with Young L, though I never was really checking that shit out or nothing. Then I was just chilling one night, it was late, you know, one of them nights when you’s bored and you’re searching on the internet and ain’t really shit popping, you can’t really go to sleep. I was up smoking and I was on World Star Hip Hop and I come across the “Like A Martian” video and for some reason, man, it bothered me. It must’ve bothered me in a good way! I didn’t really take to the song like that or take to the lyrics but I don’t know, there’s something about the whole shit. Like “Man… is this guy on drugs?! I don’t know.” I just knew it was something there though. The next day I was chilling with my homie, we were smoking and I was like “yo I seen this crazy shit yesterday!” [Laughs] I showed him and he was like “What the fuck!?” and I think we watched it like 5 times straight. And ever since then I’ve just been fucking with his shit hard. I knew it was something there. That’s all I knew.

What do you think it is about his personality?
Personality wise, when I met him.. I don’t want to say it was the total opposite of what the music presents but in some sense it’s kinda like that. A lot of people probably listen to his shit and they probably wouldn’t think he’s the type of guy that he is. When I met him he was super humble, he’s super nice, you could tell he’s been raised. He’s just got manners about himself and he’s a real cool person. At the end of the day just getting to know him and seeing what kind of guy he is it’s like how can you hate on a person like that? Ain’t no hate in him. He’s just all positive. He got an ill sense of humor and that’s what the music is projecting more than anything I think.

When you see what he’s doing does that change the way you approach your own music?
No. It just let me know what I was doing was kinda right. Because what I was doing, it was always shock value in it in some sense. It was always shock value going on in my everyday life though, I just figured out a way to exploit it a little more for humor purposes. But yeah to see a person like him, I think he know how nice he is and he know he’s not getting the respect for how nice he really is and then he just did something to get your attention. And now that he got your attention he’s gonna show you the lyrical shit. For him to figure out that strategy that was kinda ill. I don’t know if he thought like that but it’s almost like “I’m gonna write the worst rap I can possibly write and you still gonna like that and when I am writing raps for you to like you’re gonna like that too!” I don’t think no other rapper could do that. Because we’re so caught up in being rappers and trying to be nice and everything you say is better than the next man. For a person like him to be like “I’m just gonna say what the fuck I want” and that’s it, you gonna love it. Because of the confidence of the rapper presenting it to you. “And I can rap, so when it’s time for me to show you I can rap I’mma bust your ass.”

What do you think it says that B’s more ignorant records are the more popular ones so far?
I think as of right now they’re the better records. Don’t get me wrong, he can do the other shit, you’ll see glimpses of that. But I think just in terms of who he works with and what he’s working around the production value doesn’t measure out. Like when he does his East Coast shit it’s cool but the beats to me aren’t as good to me. I think once people realize that he’s super talented [it'll change]. Just imagine him getting a beat from DJ Premier or some shit. It’ll step up. But I think right now he’s not really getting beats from people that’s capable of making that style of music. But lyrically I like both sides of him. I don’t think you can have one without the other. He changed the game, man. A lot of people are gonna be more open minded about shit. That nigga’s like the David Bowie of this shit right now. And he’s a music nerd himself, we can tell. Who else would rap over ambient, bro?! It takes a music nerd to do shit like that. And it comes across in his music. When I listen to Lil B I really think a lot of the shit is punk rock influenced like in the melodies he chooses. To me “Look Like Jesus” could totally be a punk rock song. It’s just a different style of production. I could see a punk rock band covering that song and it’d be the shit! See that’s what the kids are doing, they’re taking more chances than the adults right now. The adults are more business minded. They was hating on the kids for so long and now the kids are busting they ass and they don’t know how to take it. Like with the whole Odd Future thing right now…

Yeah they can rap their asses off.
Yeah respect due.

Check Pt. 2 of the interview, where Danny talks about Dizzee Rascal, Def Jux, Kanye, Cudi and Korn…

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65 Responses to “Interview: Danny Brown Talks About Rap Pt. 1”

  1. Osiris Says:

    When you order coffee at Starbuck’s, do you ask the barista about Lil B?

  2. noz Says:

    Only if we’re already having a conversation about Bay Area rap and by sheer coincidence it turns out the barista has recorded multiple songs with Lil B.

    Messy Marv works at my Starbucks.

  3. Osiris Says:

    My interactions with baristas don’t go much farther than me ordering a “large” coffee. They can’t stand that I refuse to say “venti.”

  4. noz Says:

    Cool story, bro.

  5. done Says:

    thanks for this i really love these interviews man keep it up. this shit has always been my favourite parts of interviews by miles, it gives you way more of an insight into the artist. plus its interesting. no one really cares that much what you think your doing on your new record and rappers generally arent very enthusiastic or articulate about it but they are with the music they like. plus it probably makes a nice change for them from the usual boring publicity shite. like in that southern hospitality interview with jacka, you really got the impression he coulda talked on slick rick and mac dre all day

    ha and i suppose it was inevitable it was gonna descend into a lil b lovefest. dude has the most diverse (and great) taste of any rapper that im aware of, but then again you usually only get occasional glimpses of their influences of their outside of actually hearing it in their music. to hear a rapper from outside the bay say 40s in their top 3 is great too

  6. AK Says:

    My 2011 wishlist, item #1: Danny Brown, Roach Gigz, and Lil B over a Young L beat.

  7. done Says:

    ha

    also do starbucks really make their employees call themselves barisitas? thats not right

  8. done Says:

    item #2: currensy, starlito and husalah over justice league

  9. ANU Says:

    this kind of itw is the best

  10. DR.NO Says:

    There isn’t an ounce of ‘I’m not a rapper…’ posturing to Danny Brown, so this is an obvious fit.

    I like how he’s laying down the generational gauntlet. “The adults are more business minded. They was hating on the kids for so long and now the kids are busting they ass and they don’t know how to take it.” It needs to be said.

  11. perfectionisperfected Says:

    cool interview, noz. looking forward to part 2.

  12. brad Says:

    ‘The Hybrid’ was dope. From this interview, it seems like the only difference between Danny Brown and myself is that I never fucked with Ghettotech, grime, or dubstep. But I haven’t read part 2 yet, so who knows?

  13. GuttaboyJihaD Says:

    Danny Brown >>>>>>>

    He’s one of the few rappers I ever seen interviewed who has the ability to talk about rap from the standpoint of a FAN– someone who has an invested interest in the scenes, the lyrics, and the characters that rappers portray on wax. Artists now only big up their peers- co-signing other artists who have the ability to keep them relevant in the mainstream for a little longer.

    I have personally never heard of Roach Gigz, but off D. Browns cosign, I will go find something from him. Maybe I’ll like it, maybe I won’t, but the lack of posturing that Danny Brown exhibited in this interview (and others) is a refreshing change of pace.

    *daps Noz*

    Can’t wait for part 2, Fam.

    JihaD

  14. hl Says:

    Good interview.

  15. Ryan Says:

    Great stuff! He’s an interesting guy.
    I’m curious about his missing front teeth, myself.

  16. FoOd RiOt Says:

    dope

  17. AaronM Says:

    Great read. All praise due to Danny for helping me expand my narrow backpacker mind.

  18. mike T Says:

    thank you for dope pt.1 interview! love reading about rappers who are very knowledgeable about their shit and other shit and super positive!

  19. Hele Fita Says:

    it IS a great interview, and made me a lot more interested in checking out dude´s output. But even though it is relevant here, the space dedicated to Lil B is a little over the top, and it does make your “fawning fanboy” comments in the g-side discussion seem a little off. Would much rather hear him talk a bit more about ghettotech, that seems like a interesting direction this interview COULD have headed. Also as far as rapping over ghettotech, a FEW people have tried it, usually subpar rappers though but htis one is one of the more interesting efforts (R:I.P. Disco D): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmmadeE6yDk

  20. Hele Fita Says:

    Also DIsco D had a decent effort at a ghetto tech remix of BG (Hottest Of the Hot) on the same EP that track is on, weirdly enough only on the promo version of the 12 “, but it´s pretty easy to find for those interested. And yes (even if I´m guessing most reading this will be aware) this is the same Disco D who did Ski MAsk Way for 50.

  21. AK Says:

    Surfing youtube links from that ghettotech cut, I discovered to my surprise that the hook from “Need Another Drink” comes from a Disco D song.

    You learn something new every day.

  22. M-F Says:

    Some of these Detroit dudes really need to start rapping over shit by Juan Atkins, Underground Resistance, Carl Craig, Aux 88 etc.

    It’s pretty ass-backwards that rap has such a euro-rave fetish at the moment, when all the electro, house, and techno that Americans actually invented remains totally unmined by modern rap producers.

  23. Hele Fitta Says:

    Missy “loose control” was a rap song over some Juan Atkins shit. But yeah. Actually there are a bunch of The Pack songs that sounds pretty much directly influenced by ghetto tech. So I guess there could have been a way to make this convo about Lil B AND ghetto tech at the same time too, he he.

  24. M-F Says:

    Yeah, that Missy shit sampled Clear by Cybotron, but that’s a song which was a staple for a lot of hip hop djs back in the 80s anyway. I was thinking more of Juan’s later Model 500 and Infiniti stuff.

  25. petter417 Says:

    don’t drag all the hurt feelings from the g-side-thread in here, Danny Brown himself makes the following statement: “He(Lil B) changed the game, man.” That statement warrants conversation, and if the journalist in place just HAPPENS to be the noz…

  26. Hele Fitta Says:

    Actually noz is the one who brings up Lil B in the conversation with Brown, even though it is brought up in a totally relevant context. And I ain´t got no hurt feelings from the G-Side thread, I didn´t participate in it and even though Giraffo is good peoples I sorta understand where noz was coming from with that comment. Just pointing out that there IS something of a contradiction here, and if you can´t see that …

  27. AK Says:

    I like how Danny Brown describes his initial reaction to Lil B’s music as being bothered by it. I know I’ve experienced the same thing with certain artists, where I don’t immediately *like* something or find it pleasurable but instead go after it because it’s messing with my head. Most recent would be Waka, the whole entirely-adlibs-and-screaming part that ends Bustin’ At ‘em. It bothered the hell out of me so much that I had to just keep listening to it until I’d figured it out.

  28. done Says:

    jesus evryone should just relax and quit nitpicking with the lil b shit and enjoy a good interview. hes not an interview robot. a large part of how robbie from unkut (without a doubt the best blogger interviewer, noone even comes close) gets such interesting interviews is his enthusiasm for the music, it wouldnt have the same appeal if he didnt lead the questions towards stuff hes interested in too sometimes, that way its more of a conversation.

    plus dannys worked with lil b and obviously respects him anyways so its a legit question.

  29. done Says:

    yeh detroit would have more of an identifiable sound beyond just sounding dilla-influenced if it dippped into its own musical history more. a lot of interesting shits come out of there since motowns prime thats not really being used.

  30. Hele Fitta Says:

    Definitely a sidenote, but the new Dirtbombs techno covers album (out for like a week) sounds very promising. Two Cybotron covers. Plus: A MFin DJ DEEON TEAR THE FUCKING CUB UP cover. Somewhat related I guess?

  31. Hele Fitta Says:

    Ha ha, cub! Club, obviously.

  32. petter417 Says:

    Hele Fitta: I hear you I was just you know, saying.
    tnhx for the detroit tech tips btw

  33. noz Says:

    There isn’t a contradiction dude. I know this might be hard for someone overseas to distinguish from the regular blur of OMG FREDDIE GIBBS IS NUPAC blog hype but B is actually a pretty significant talking point in the hip hop community right now. His name tends to come up a lot when I sit down with a rappers or (younger) rap fan (though often times not in a positive light!) The whole purpose of this column is to translate those types of conversations that are happening every day. I want this series to be as casual/organic as possible. If Danny and I sat down with the tape recorders off we’d probably still end up talking about Lil B. But there’s another 2500 words of the interview going up later today that cover a wide range of rap topics so chill the fuck out.

    I think the Yelawolf interview set a false precedent that this series was only going to be about rappers waxing nostalgic over the music of their youth. His only turned out that way because he didn’t seem particularly interested in current rap.

    There are a couple of older Detroit techno-rap but none of them are all that notable. The Atkin’s produced Flintstones “Party Race” of which the vocal version isn’t on Youtube, but imagine this with cheesy rapping. Also this random joint kinda leans in that direction. There was a big techno influence in some of the later Dilla shit, you might say Amplified/Frank N Dank stuff was as influenced by that era as it was Neptunes or whatever and there was a really explicit techno homage on Welcome To Detroit, but it doesn’t seem like many of his acolytes picked up on it. (Though I suppose the line from him to dudes like Flying Lotus could be drawn that way.)

  34. Hele Fitta Says:

    Dude I look forward to the rest of the interview but you sound butthurt. Of course B´s name is gonna come up when you insist on mentioning him. Not saying it might not have come up anyway but maybe not as such a significant part of the convo. Bringing up the overseas thing is something I´ve become used to from the various times I´ve chimed in on rap convos on the internet. That might be a valid point now and then, but most of the time it´s a really lazy fucking argument which is used when someone runs out of sensible counterpoints. I expect more from you, as a rap writer (one of the few) who is USUALLY able to formulate a coherent argument for his views, not even kidding.

    Anyway the techno/ghetto tech/Detroit rap part of this convo is far more interesting. And yes, to my memory, it was acknowledged here and there when Welcome To Detroit dropped. But most of the people who discuss Dilla today weren´t really paying attention back then, and are too narrowminded to make that connection on their own, even when it´s as out in the open as it is on parts of that record.

  35. Hele Fitta Says:

    Oh and I have an old Underground Resistance-hip house record laying around somewhere with some Chuck D soundalike. It sucks.

  36. Hele Fitta Says:

    plus it´s an old techno urban legend that moodymann supposedly released an incredible rare rap record under some totally unknown name before he started putting out stuff as moodymann.

  37. petter417 Says:

    *makes a Google Alert for “RARE AND SECRETE LEGENDARY MOODYMAN RAP RECORD OMG”*

  38. Hele Fitta Says:

    I also remember SLum Village acknowledging some techno/deep house DJ as a close friend and inspiration back then -I wana say Theo Parrish but I´m not sure. Anyway DJ Dez/Andres DJs for Slum Village and plays percussion for Moodymann, if we´re talking links between the “musical communities” (I guess they come from the same actual communities). His solo album/EPs on Moodymanns label like last year were solid if a little boring, if that makes sense, plus they were about 50/50 hip hop/house.

  39. Hele Fitta Says:

    Also Carl Craig got Dilla/Slum Village to remix his people makes teh world go round remake. and techno wiz kid Kyle Hall also makes wobbly hip hop beats, I actually had a drunken convo with him about ghetto tech, jitting and Slum Villages extensive use of lingo and gang signs taken from the Errol Flynns (look it up). on a whole the detroit techno dudes seems a little more geared toward “musical unity”, to be honest, but I´ve also seen some really divise statements from some of them, talking about how hood dudes who only wanted to hear stupid bass records and gangsta rap ruined the intelligent and mostly middle class techno scene of the eighties(!! and no im not making this up, if anyopne is interested I can go find the link somewhere- it was one of the UR dudes I think). Class divides in Detroit techno is a thesis paper just waiting to be written.

  40. Hele Fitta Says:

    at this point this is becoming close to a rant, but since Moodymann is playing here this saturday I was just yesterday revisiting the best interview (if you could call it that) video of last year. Relevant? Maybe. Essential viewing? Yes.

    http://www.redbullmusicacademy.com/video-archive/lectures/moodymann_henny_and_kenny

  41. Jacobake Says:

    I’m a fan and enjoyed reading the interview. I heard Young Zee after I heard Danny Brown. I wonder if Danny Brown was influenced by Young Zee and Da Outsidaz. I know they had ties to Detroit with Shady.

  42. noz Says:

    Yeah my dumb ass totally forgot to ask him about the Zee connection. I once tweeted that he sounded like Zee and that the Outz had a huge influence on Detroit and Danny retweeted it, so uh… I guess that’s a confirmation?

  43. Jacobake Says:

    Word

  44. corpsey Says:

    i love you noz/danny brown.

    danny should rap over some wiley/terror danjah/johnny cash beats!

  45. CrowleyHead Says:

    Just saying; If you follow Brown on Twitter, the dude is more obsessed with B than Noz. At least, from a twitter perspective.

  46. Aurich Says:

    I’ve never heard Danny Brown, but after his “last twenty years of hip hop” rundown and bigging up E-40 like that I’m going to find The Hybrid.

    All you little old ladies need to find something else to jaw about besides whether or not someone talked about Lil B, go walk your little sweater clad dogs or have a girl scout come by and read you some Nah Right comments or something. We get it, move on.

  47. greg Says:

    Danny Brown > Lil B

  48. nico Says:

    CBRAPS IS ALLLIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVVVVEEE… haha, just playin

    word up though noz… these interviews are ill..

  49. East Oakland Roy Says:

    DANNY BROWN IS THE FUCKIN BEST EVER!

    -East Oakland Roy

  50. AbercrombieBagels Says:

    “He changed the game, man. A lot of people are gonna be more open minded about shit. That nigga’s like the David Bowie of this shit right now.” – Danny.

    Someone mentioned a thesis paper earlier. Here’s mine: Lil B is potentially a huuuge cultural force, way bigger than rap, that speaks to decades of culture that has been faced quite literally in the opposite direction. Lil B is mosaic of influences – as so many young people raised on the internet and fed by the whole cultural patchwork/exchange of ideas that that involves are and will be – and he will make it okay to be a mutt of various interest and ideas largely due to how he has translated his “otherness” through a semi-familiar, semi-terrifying, faithless, over the top punk rock, rap sound. More will follow in his footsteps, without having to dress up their purpose at all, because so many more are like him in their own way.

    This explains the wild enthusiasm of B’s fans at his shows. They love him because he is like them. We are all like him.

    This is important and Danny thinks so too. And Danny Brown is a part of this seismic shift, not just a fan or bystander.

    Lets watch as it all comes together.

  51. Hele Fitta Says:

    Cool thesis bro.

  52. AbercrombieBagels Says:

    thanks. buy fresh abercrombie bagels.

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  54. modi Says:

    this joint rocks. simple as that. this dude danny brown is nice. about to check for him.

  55. dj king david Says:

    i’m very proud off danny for reppin detroit’s vast musical legacy so well. detroit and the bay area have alot in common. “soul beat”, outta oakland was syndicated in detroit ( channel 62 ) in the early ’80′s. too short’s underground cassettes ( pre-jive records)were also floatin thru detroit’s streets in the early ’80′s, due to the detroit-california drug connect. so i can see where that connection he has stems from. alot of detroiters fuck with bay-area music. i’ve also watched danny grow as a artist since his days with “resorvoir dogs” in the early 2000′s. keep doin yo thang-DJ KING DAVID ” da mixtape felon “

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  57. RTC Says:

    great interview. I didn’t know danny brown was such a “music nerd” and one of our own, haha. Dope.

  58. Karen Russer Says:

    I was very surprised to find this web-site.I wanted to thanks for your time for this wonderful read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you blog post.

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    DANNY BROWN IS TO RAP WHAT CHROME, HELIOS CREED WAS TO PUNKROCK IN LATE 70S EARLY 80S FUCKING MIND TRIPPING SHIT, WAY AHEAD OF THERE TIME.AND HOPE HE DOES NOT DIE LIKE A ROCKSTAR

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  65. ProfaneHipHop Says:

    Why do you post once in a full moon? You should do it more often. at least twice a week.

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