ABOVE: D-PRYDE AT HIS STUDIO IN NEW YORK, JUNE 2013. PHOTO BY BENJAMIN STELLY.
When D-Pryde covers Justin Bieber and One Direction, it is without irony. The same is true when he spits about making money, his haters, and his reputation. Recited with confidence and conviction, the self-anointed D-Prizzy’s rhymes are never lazy. He doesn’t drink or do drugs; he does what he wants.
Born in Toronto, D-Pryde flits between unabashed pop and indie, rising rapper cool. It’s a dichotomy he relishes in: in his video “Priorities,” two versions of the rapper—one in plaid shirt, cap, and hipster glasses, the other in a hoodie, puffy jacket, sunglasses, and wool hat—battle it out. “Justin Bieber died his hair black,” the latter Pryde begins. When we ask him about his style of music, Pryde shrugs that you’ll either love his music or you’ll hate it, but you’ll definitely find it “really different from anything you’ve listened to.” How so? “You don’t even know who’s talking to you. Is it a 19-year-old? Or is it an experienced 30-year-old?”
Whether Pryde is rightfully self-assured or cocky depends on whom you ask; but he’s certainly not going away anytime soon. Only 19, D-Pryde’s been amassing ardent supporters (and a few detractors) since he first started posting his videos on YouTube at the age of 14. He’s just finished supporting J. Cole on his Canadian tour and is set to play Lollapalooza this summer. Now based in New York, his latest EP Canal & Richvale comes out today.
EMMA BROWN: Is being talented enough to make it in the hip-hop world?
D-PRYDE: Talent isn’t really enough to make it in any world. If you’re trying to be a superstar, or at the highest rate of fame, you have to have personality too. You have to be a well-rounded person. It takes way more than talent nowadays.
BROWN: In your song “12 a.m in Chinatown,” there’s a line: “I let go of an image that wasn’t real to me.” What image was that?
D-PRYDE: When I was younger and I was on the Internet and I was uploading videos—about 14, 15 years old—I [thought] people would like me if I swore a lot and added multi-syllable rhymes. Just all around being a hard core rapper, flexing like somebody I wasn’t back then. I put out a video that basically went viral. It was just me rapping over this beat and it really set the format of who I was to a lot of people in the wrong way. People thought I was a really raw rapper that hated everything—a really sour person—but really I’m just a good, all-around music-making kid and I’m really happy. That really, I feel, painted my image to a lot of people. My music now, some people get sour over it because it’s really happy, it’s poppy, but I’m just telling them that that image from way back then was me feeling uncomfortable and now I’m comfortable. Now, I feel good in my own skin. I let go of that. I let go of that whole image. It wasn’t real to me at all, it wasn’t who I was. Now I’m happy.
BROWN: When did you first start rapping?
D-PRYDE: I got really into it at 16. It was a fun thing for me [when I was] 14, 13. 13, I was writing a bit, but really I was 16 when I started all around being a star about it and really, really taking it seriously.
BROWN: Do you have regrets about starting so young?
D-PRYDE: No, not at all. Not at all. You have to go through ups and downs. Mistakes turn into lessons.
BROWN: When did you move to New York?
D-PRYDE: I moved to New York when I was 17. A year into my record deal with Mars Music.
BROWN: Did you move by yourself then, or did your family come with you?
D-PRYDE: Yeah, all on my lonesome. No parents. I love it. I love the rowdiness, I love how crazy it is during the day. There’s a business about it that’s great. There’s never a dull moment, so it really inspires the music I write.
BROWN: Do you miss Toronto?
D-PRYDE: Yeah, of course. I mean, it’s the hometown, you’re always going to miss your daily eating spots, your daily hangouts with your friends, family. I miss my family like crazy, all the time.
BROWN: You’ve accomplished quite a bit for your age; do you feel like a 19-year-old?
D-PRYDE: See, the worst thing is I don’t feel like I’m 19. I feel like I’ve skipped a lot of my childhood for this. I skipped my adolescent stage of going to parties and being young. At the end of the day, I can be young some other time. Right now I have a family I have to take care of, I have my team. They really depend on me. I’d rather be a hardworking man.
BROWN: Which rappers would you most like to meet?
D-PRYDE: Drake. I would love to meet him. He’s from the city I’m from. I feel we share the same interests and I’m really just into his music and him as a person in general. He’s great at what he does. I would want to meet Eminem. He was my first ever influence. The reason why I even started writing was because my mom bought me my first Eminem CD and I was glued from there.
BROWN: Did she know what was on it?
D-PRYDE: No, she just heard the song on the radio I really liked and just got me the CD. And from there it was a nightmare. She heard me singing in the house, it was nuts. She got me the dirty version, of course. It was hell from there.
BROWN: What about your peers. Who are some other rising rappers that you admire?
D-PRYDE: I admire Action Bronson—his work ethic itself, his music. Earl Sweatshirt. He’s a really good person in terms of writing. Mac Miller—I love his independent grind, he’s crazy. Macklemore. I just got touched on Macklemore months ago, two months ago. His stuff is really really good, too. Those newcomers are really doing it right now.
BROWN: You were nominated for XXL‘s 2013 “Freshman Class” of hip-hop, but weren’t chosen.
D-PRYDE: Yeah, unfortunately. [laughs] I’m not sour about it. Of course I would want to be on that list, but I can’t dwell upon it. I can’t be sour. I just gotta pick my stuff up and move. Maybe next year, maybe never. I’m going to get the front cover of any magazine as long as I just work at it.
BROWN: You’ve put out some Justin Bieber covers.
D-PRYDE: I love pop.
BROWN: People can get quite heated about whether Justin Bieber rapping counts as rap.
D-PRYDE: JB, Bieber’s lane is a pop star singer, so when he steps out of his lane—whether he raps or does something else, or just dances—he’s always going to be attached to the name and branding of singer. People are always going to say, “You’re not a rapper dude, you’re a singer who wants to rap.” It’s like me, I’m a rapper who wants to sing. It’s just about the lane that you put yourself in prior to you doing what you’re doing.
BROWN: What do you prefer, singing or rapping?
D-PRYDE: I used to prefer rapping over singing, but now I’m a little 50/50 about it. I like doing both, a lot—equally.
BROWN: Do you consider yourself a controversial figure?
D-PRYDE: Very much so. A lot of people want to keep me off my feet. I say a lot of things that are on my mind; I’m a very honest person. On top of that I’m a weird figure for hip-hop: this person who doesn’t drink, smoke or do any of those weird things.
BROWN: You don’t drink?
D-PRYDE: No, no, not at all. I don’t condone any of that. And I’m also underage so everything I do is of course under a microscope because a lot of people are onto me growing up. But I won’t mess up. I have a lot of good people around me.
BROWN: Did you ever? Or were you just never interested?
D-PRYDE: I was always like that, always. I have nothing against it, there is nothing I can do to tell people not to do it. I don’t tell people not to, I just tell people to be wise about it. If you want to do it go ahead, if you don’t go ahead. Nothing makes you cooler, nothing makes you lamer. You’re just a normal person if you don’t want to do it.
BROWN: How do you stay confident?
D-PRYDE: How do I stay confident? I just look at my accomplishments that I’ve made so far. It’s a very conceited thing to say, of course, but I just look at everything I’ve done and all the fans that write letters to me. Sometimes I even look at the good YouTube comments and really pay attentions to them. I’ve inspired a lot of kids, and it’s not every day you get to hear about that when you have this kind of career.
BROWN: You talk a lot about money in your music. It’s obviously a common topic in popular music, but why do you think it is so important?
D-PRYDE: It’s important in the rap industry because you’re always rapping to be bigger than the other person—bigger than who you’re rapping to. A lot of my music is really, really, really humbled down. I don’t have as much money as the average rapper, but I’m still good.
BROWN: But do you aspire to?
D-PRYDE: Yeah, of course. Who doesn’t like money? I love money. Why not. My subject matter will change when I get to that point.
BROWN: What do you see as the point of your music?
D-PRYDE: The point of my music? The point I just want to get across is I’m me and I exist. Just letting people know who I am. Ever since I was young, I was the little attention grabber; I always loved attention. I want to grab people’s attention. I want them listen to me and know that this is really good music. Whether they like it or not, they’re gonna listen.
It wasn’t even music I wanted to grab attention from, it was everything. I always liked telling jokes. I always liked being funny and being the person in the middle of the room that everybody would listen to.
BROWN: When you were five, what did you want to be when you grew up?
D-PRYDE: When I was five, all I wanted to be was a superstar. Not even lying to you. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I wanted to be famous.
BROWN: Did you have a role model in mind?
D-PRYDE: My mom. That was it. ‘Cause my mom has been through a lot. My mom is actually diagnosed with cancer. She got diagnosed with cancer a year ago.
BROWN: I’m so sorry to hear that.
D-PRYDE: Oh, it’s cool. Thank you. But she’s doing well now. She’s getting through it. She’s going to be cancer free—to me she’s going to be cancer free in a year. I’m really positive about it. Other than that, she went through a lot of things with my father: she went through a divorce, she went through working three jobs to have us. Just looking at her and her work ethic I understood at a really young age that she was a hard working woman and she was putting herself on the line for me. It was great to look at in a positive light.
BROWN: Does having a good relationship with your mother make you rethink using words like bitch in your lyrics?
D-PRYDE: [laughs] It’s a different thing. My mom has definitely taught me to respect women. Bitch is just an overused word in the rap culture—sometimes I don’t even mean woman when I say that. She’s totally cool with it. It’s a really played around word in hip-hop, so I just use it either way.
BROWN: Last question: What’s mobbing?
D-PRYDE: [laughs] Mobbin’ is hanging out with your friends and being in a big pack, like 20 deep. Pretty much.
CANAL & RICHVALE COMES OUT TODAY. FOR MORE ON D-PRYDE, VISIT HIS WEBSITE.