Dayne Jordan | photo by Maggie Elizabeth | courtesy of artist
The enormous transition of Philly’s Dayne Jordan
The great thing about artistic growth is that each step brings a creator closer to feeling comfortable with being themselves.That type of comfort allows one to discover what they bring to the table, following with the confidence to grab their own seat. It is this reason why hip hop artist Dayne Jordan has been able to transition into something bigger than the city limits of his hometown of Philadelphia.
Since 2009 the north Philly MC, formerly known as Dosage, has been making noise in the underground hip hop scene in Philadelphia with mixtapes such as Sand and Foam, 3D11 and In Due Time. So much noise that he was able to gain the attention of Grammy Award winning hip hop artists, Lupe Fiasco and legendary Philadelphia hometown hero DJ Jazzy Jeff, as well having Complex claiming him to be one of the next biggest things to watch out for coming from his city.
However the desire to be bigger than just a star in the city of brotherly love caused the rapper Dosage to transition to hip hop artist we now know as Dayne Jordan. Since this transition, Dayne has joined his mentor DJ Jazzy Jeff and traveled across the world performing at least 200 shows a year while dropping quality projects such as Memoirs of Dayne Jordan and In Transition. I recently was able to sit with him to talk about the origins of his transition as well as recent single “Enormous” and his thoughts about the Philadelphia local scene.
The Key: I read in Philly.com that you said Dosage was premature and lacked a good sound base or guidance. How would Dayne Jordan guide Dosage when making your first mixtape Sand & Foam?
Dayne Jordan: There’s a million things I could say that I would do for that, but at that particular time, being young, what I noticed a lot of times when you’re young you’re very rebellious. So I would probably say I wouldn’t guide him, I would just let him be what he’s goin be. Because he’s going to become what he’s goin become either way. If anything, I would tell him to just be passionate and to only do this if it’s something I really want to do, because outside of that, I really wouldn’t change much of how things unfolded. Maybe go a little harder if anything.
TK: In 2008, you met two of your biggest influences in music: Lupe Fiasco and Philadelphia’s own legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff. Share some of the best advice given to you from the two hip hop veterans.
DJ: I learned so much from those guys, but specifically with Lupe, I’ll never forget the first show that we did on the tour and I said to him “Yo man thank you so much this is a dream.” And he said “Wake up,” and that was it. He just said wake up, and it was real because I’m here, you know what I mean? I can recall him saying that, it means more now than it did then when he said it I was 19.
In terms of Jef,f oh man, it’s like endless advice that I’ve gotten from him. One of the things he’s always said to me was to act like you’ve been here before. When we would walk into certain rooms and he knows let’s say Obama is in that room, before we walk in he’ll look at you and say “Act like you’ve been here before,” you know what I mean? Now this is not from him, but sometimes you’ve gotta pick a side. Do you wanna be the guy that’s fanning out, geeking out? And it’s not like you have to hide and not be who you are and tell someone you’re a big fan, but it’s ways to go about it.
We all know what it’s like to be or to witness someone who is over fanning out and I get it. People may cry from a song or message you put out so I completely understand that it’s touch them in a way so much that when they finally get to meet you they’re just like appreciative of it and that happens. But in terms of me it was a life lesson and now I’m comfortable being in a room with anybody because I know how to act like I’ve been her before even if internally I’m geeking the fuck out.
TK: Throughout your transition, you’re vocal when expressing your feelings towards music critics, especially on songs like “Sacrifce,” “LVLA,” Dosage Mood,” and “Good Fortune.” What has been your biggest issue with past music critics and interviews?
DJ: My biggest critique to them is that they’re not creative. Everything is based off click bait. You know, what can I put in the headline to get people to listen? Early on, by default, a lot of the click bait would be “Lupe’s Protege Says Such & Such,” like you see someone else’s name before you even see my own, so are you really interested in me or the obvious that I’ve worked with these people? But I feel like that’s a bonus if anything, if anything somebody should be curious to know what those people saw in you. What did you see in them? What made you choose that path and walk side by side with people like that? Just more creative questions, I’m not an interviewer so I can’t think of them, but we know what it’s like to get a question that makes us excited to answer.
Really it’s just knowing like damn there’s stuff that I’ve wanted to talk about in interviews that I’ve never talked about because people ask the same questions you know what I mean? I feel like it’s not my job to steer the interview, but damn, there’s times where I don’t get to share certain information. No one asks questions about who was your camp before you got with these people or what made you talk about this specific moment in a song. You can tell that they didn’t even listen to the music. I can tell just off this conversation you’re talking about projects from the first one to 3D11, you know what I mean? Which means clearly you took the time to find out information to have questions.
TK: Thanks man, I appreciate that. The more information makes it easier to document an artist’s growth, like when you met your official DJ, DJ Inferno, after joining Lupe Fiasco’s Steppin Laser tour in 2010. What was it about the chemistry between you two that made you both want to work with one another?
DJ: A little back story: when I went out on the tour with Lupe, I was using an iPod. I had pretty much put a set together and it was twenty minutes long that I had memorized. I’m talking about drops, how much time I had to talk between songs and the whole thing, I had to just study it. One of my friends that went out with me on the west coast leg of the tour was like “Yo man you gotta get a DJ,” and I wasn’t too familiar with the DJ culture. I mean Lupe had a DJ, so I saw it, but this was how under developed I was. I didn’t even take note to say “Oh I need to get a DJ,” I was wingin it a lot, so much so to the point that I had a twenty minute set on the iPod and then the shows were going so well that he gave me twenty five minutes and I had to figure out what I was going to do.
When you gotta DJ, you just like “Yo pull this song up.” When they say that right before you go on, the whole show, I’m going through this twenty minutes panicking like “What am I going to do with these last five minutes?” Because I don’t want to not take advantage of it, but basically what I did was I had instrumentals on my iPod so just put an instrumental on and just went off. When I came off the tour, a friend of mine named Jason had known Ferno and connected the dots. When I met him he was just a real cool dude and we clicked. I was already familiar with who he was because he used to host a party I used to go to back in the day called “Urban Expression.”
TK: Two years later, you dropped your stage name and your third mixtape In Due Time under your birth name Dayne Jordan and started transitioning in front of your city. You could hear you talking about the local scene and wanting to be more than that. At times it felt you felt confined to being a certain type of way. What led to this first stage of transitioning?
DJ: In terms of the name thing, even by definition, I just didn’t want to be a small portion of anything, you know what I mean? I didn’t want to be like a dosage, just a dose. The name was awesome, but I knew I had more in me than that and it was just time to just be a hundred percent of who I was. It was a combination of things at a particular time, I felt like I had more to offer artistically. I felt like people were viewing me in a certain light that was this “Dosage” character and I was like “Man, there’s more to me than just that.” It was also really being proud of the name my mom gave me man, Dayne Jordan. It just sounds way more grand, if I had to put Dosage and Dayne Jordan on a scale that shit sounds elite you know what I mean? And the name Jordan is just associated with greatness.
TK: Which leads to your next stage of transitioning with your first album under Dayne Jordan, Memoirs of Dayne Jordan. You collaborated with DJ Jazzy Jeff on this album and it seemed like the world got to see you more as an artist instead of just the rapper with bars. How was collaborating with DJ Jazzy Jeff different from collaborating with DJ Inferno?
DJ: With 3D11, Ferno was more instrumental in the recording of it, but in terms of my beats and everything I still kind of went out and did my normal footwork that I do. Getting it from different producers, some of them were industry beats so it was kind of like a mixtape vibes fused with some original music. But he oversaw everything and mixed everything and he also did the first record that came on the project and that was “Clocks,” it was a mashup. And a lot of that stuff was based off songs we had been performing and different things like that. When I worked on Memoirs, Jeff handled all the production. Every beat on there he saw from start to finish and I still maintained my own vision of sequencing and arranging different things like that because it was my story, so it had to play out in the order it was written in.
TK: Last year you dropped In Transition and it sounds like your present stage of transitioning, and you seem to have grown more confident in the direction you’re going. How did you get to this level of confidence in your choices throughout your journey?
DJ: More importantly, I trust God on a spiritual level man. I have this phrase that “God is my guide,” and whatever He places on my heart in reference in the decisions that I need to make I don’t question Him. That’s what faith is in anything, and I’m not just talking about a religious standpoint. To have faith you gotta just know, it’s a feeling and the vision. The story has already been written, but more importantly, it’s just like I am a character in it and just living out how ever the author wrote it for me, you know what I am saying?
The person that’s reading it is not meant to know where the story is going, that’s why they’re reading it. The person watching the movie is not meant to know how it’s goin end. We all disagree with some of the choices characters make in the movie and then when it all ends we’re like “Oh snap! I didn’t see that.” It’s all a part of this bigger picture and for me I’ve been given the gift of, being able to see past the moment. To see the bigger picture even when I’m trippin, like when I’m going through my own personal thoughts on how I should move and maneuver I just revert back to the higher power man and really put my faith in that.
TK: A couple of months ago you dropped “Enormous.” Was that an extra song that didn’t make the cut for In Transition or a prequel for what’s coming soon?
DJ: I wanted to put out a new record. It had less to do with putting out a song for anything in particular and more to do with I wanted to release something new. And I felt like for at the time in what was said in the song, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
TK: How has the local scene differ from when you spoke about it on In Due Time?
DJ: I love it right now man, it’s exciting. And I think a lot of it has come from going to other places, and I now realize what Philadelphia as a whole has to offer. Not just the city, the world. The challenge is trying my hardest to share insight on things I’ve seen. It’s almost like if the one slave was given freedom to leave the plantation and for a couple of years he goes missing and comes back to the plantation like “No listen! I’m trying to tell you what’s out there I seen it!” But it’s like, how can you get them to truly believe that I’m not telling them something bogus or that I’m not telling them something for my own personal benefits?
Because it’s less to do about me, it’s like nah, there’s space for all of us. We don’t have to be steppin on each other’s toes. And I said this to a friend of mine Chuck, Uncool Chuck. And I was saying to him “Yo you don’t have to worry about stepping on somebody’s toes when you’re walking side by side with him.” If you notice when an artist comes out of Philly there’s always one of us at a time, and I’m not even just talking about music. You got guys from here that got like the fashion stuff on lock, and not even just fashion but there taste level. People say taste makers, it’s less of that it’s just a different quality in taste coming from Philly, being Philly bred. People say if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere, if you can survive in Philly you’ve seen every type of person, characteristic or experience that nothing the world presents to you can you not be prepared for you know what I mean? And I say that to say that local scene isn’t local, it’s really a global scene that the world just hasn’t seen yet. And I wanna play a part in however I can in shining some light, step to the side so they can see some of the other stuff that’s going on.