Evolving with Chicago’s own D2X

A year ago, I spoke to D2X over the phone. The then 20-year-old rapper from Chicago’s south suburbs was just about to release his debut EP ‘Enjoy Life’. The EP, as its title might suggest, communicated a mindset that the rising artist had finally settled on: after backing out of college basketball offers, recording in a professional studio for the first time, and finding confidence in his skills as a rapper, D2X was finally ready to pursue that which truly made him happy.

Now, on a mid-July afternoon, as the sunlight starts to barely creep in through the boarded-up window panes, D2X sits next to me on a couch in the lounge of the Lyrical Lemonade office. He’s joined by his right-hand producer Glohan Beats and friends/photographers John and Tove. A can of lemonade in hand, D2X starts to catch me up on what has changed since we last spoke. His viral track “Woop Woop” got played on Chicago’s legendary Power 92 radio station, and recently he’s headlined his first concert as part of Illanoize Radio’s Let’s Get Social series. Though these career highlights stand out in our conversation, what’s most apparent is how D2X’s demeanor feels almost exactly the same as a year ago: determined, aware of his strengths, yet humble. It’s this mentality that’s gotten him off the ground, and as you’ll read in his interview, he’s confident that it’ll get him a whole lot further.

Read our conversation below:

MDR: Last year, you dropped your debut project ‘Enjoy Life’. What is it like to look back on that project now from the position that you’re currently in?

D2X: “I still play it in my car if I need inspiration to write a song. I just realized certain time periods in your life can’t be duplicated, in a good way though. As an artist, you want to continue to reinvent yourself. That’s what I feel like I’ve done. I’ve reinvented myself. I feel like I have the same lyrical content as far as telling my life and story, but everything has just changed. I feel like that time period was special. 

I feel like the bigger I get and the more my career grows, [‘Enjoy Life’] is gonna be the one project that people are gonna wanna go back to. It was a lot of people that never even listened to me before that, and it just really grew my audience. I was working on ‘Enjoy Life’ when I was in my junior year [of college]. I was stressed out about stuff and that’s when I wrote “Lights”. Then I kept making stuff like that. It was a 22-minute EP, but it felt like a full-length album. For any new listener I have, that would be the #1 body of work that I would want them to listen to. I’ll never forget about that project, and I’m still gonna treat it as my first thing always. Hopefully one day I get it on vinyl or something like that.

MDR: In what ways have you evolved since then?

D2X: I think my sound selection as far as production. Now we lean more towards an experimental process. I’m still a fan of introspective music, soul samples, jazz, everything that inspired ‘Enjoy Life’. I think that’ll never leave. I’ll always make that type of music, but right now I’m just testing things out that I haven’t tried before. 

For awhile, I put out fun songs every once in awhile, but lately it’s been a lot more consistent as far as aggressive production, fun music, and just me challenging myself to rap in a way I’ve never rapped before. That’s actually helped to grow my audience because now you have people who might like a certain genre of rap and people who love me for what i do. It’s opened up my music to more people. I’ve evolved as far as expanding my sound and making new things, and I will continue to do that. 

MDR: Did you evolve to fit what people wanted to hear or was it just an internal shift?

D2X: It’s an internal thing. Obviously I’m aware that that’s the type of music a lot of people might like or that’s popular today, but since I’ve been making music, the #1 thing I’ve told myself is I’m never gonna put myself in a box. It wasn’t about pleasing anybody. I honestly just make music off what I like to listen to, what I’m interested in. 

Some of my favorite artists are J. Cole, Kendrick, Vince Staples, Meek Mill–artists that make a lot of introspective music. But sometimes I might want to listen to Playboi Carti or Lil Yachty whatever the case may be. I really just rap off what I’m influenced by. Sometimes I’m in a good mood so I might wanna listen to more trap-based music or music that gets people hype. I do have that vibe sometimes when I’m in the studio, or sometimes I wanna slow it down ‘cause I just want to think.

MDR: You even see the more “introspective rappers” like Cole or Kendrick still have that side where they just want to make bangers. And they still don’t lose their character in doing it. Is that how you see yourself?

D2X: Yeah, I just always switch it up off of how I feel. When it’s summertime and I’m home and I don’t feel so trapped mentally versus when I’m at school. School can be tough mentally and just having homework constantly, those are the times where I feel like I really have a lot to tell.

No matter what the production is, though, I feel like you could decipher what I’m talking about. Anyone who’s listening to me can always find a piece of my lyrics to have some sort of message to it. I’m always talking about what I’m going through. That never changes.

MDR: So what are some things right now that are inspiring your lyrical content?

D2X: Just having faith. Lately I’ve been real faithful and learning more about myself. Just realizing I gotta be patient. Everything is gonna happen how it’s meant to happen. The #1 thing I’ve got to do is trust my process. I don’t try to overthink music that much anymore. I just create when I really feel like it, and it helps me ‘cause that’s when I make the best music: when no one’s forcing me to. So, lately, I’ve just been taking things slow and brainstorming ideas of what I wanna do next.

photos by @tovenlb and @gtfo.john

MDR: It seems like having faith has manifested some big things for you so far. You’re playing your first headlining show, right?

D2X: Yeah this is my third show ever and it’s already a headliner. That’s big for me.It’s gonna be my first time at SubT, and I just appreciate Illanoize for having me be a part of it and also having me come up for an interview. Those two things were goals I had written down since last year. It’s crazy how things are just meant to be. I feel like every show I’ve done so far has opened up doors for another one to happen or more people have learned about me. 

My last show in April was at Illinois State University. I’m in college myself, so it was cool performing in front of college students who actually are inspired by the things that I’m saying. I performed “Nites”, and I seen how everybody eyes just lit up in the room and they were really listening to what I had to say. It just made me feel good that I could have an influence on people. I just wanna continue to be myself every show and still get better at performing too. It just comes with time. I’m definitely excited.

MDR: How do you prepare for live shows?

D2X: I hang with my friends. My producer Glo, my big homie Dre, Quis (Kid Marquis)  will be with us. They help me open up. I gotta get a lot of laughs in. I don’t think about it too much. I just go out there and do my thing. On the outside looking in, most people might expect you to be nervous. But I feel like you gotta have confidence at the end of the day ‘cause I’ve been making music for years now. All that time in the studio and all that energy–now it’s just time to show people what you’ve worked so hard for. So, it’s really not hard and it’s fun actually. Knowing that night there’s gonna be somebody that might be interested in following your journey–that’s the best part.

MDR: Do you write down goals for yourself a lot?

D2X: Yeah man, it just comes every once in awhile or it might be like little commitments that I make to myself. I also write down New Year’s resolution every year like getting on Power 92. I wrote that down a few times before I actually got on there. I used to share my songs on Instagram last year and I put #Power92 in the captions, so it’s just crazy that it turned into something that actually manifested. Honestly, I believe in speaking things into existence. I feel like whatever you want to happen you just got to believe in it. 

MDR: Could you explain more how “Woop Woop” came together?

D2X: Kanye dropped his song “XTCY”, and it was on spinrilla. I have no idea why it was on spinrilla *laughs* I don’t know if Kanye or G.O.O.D. music made that happen. But I heard it and I’m like “what the hell is this?”. I play the song and it’s long as hell and it’s hilarious. Kanye–he freestyles his music but shit is still creative. The song had like moaning noises and s*** and I’m like “what the hell did I just hear a ‘woop woop’ at the end?”. Then, we were just like “we can’t leave the studio without sampling this s***. We got to try it out.” That’s an example of our experimental process. I mean we just try s*** and we throw it on things that we know will be super appealing for a listener. 

I wrote it in 8 minutes. Glohan, another friend and I was just like “man this song going to get on the radio” and then it really happened. It’s definitely one of my favorite songs I’ve made. 

MDR: That vibe definitely comes through on the more recent singles you’ve put out. It just sounds more off the top.

D2X: I just feel like as an artist sometimes you come up with your best music when you don’t overthink it and just let things flow. Sometimes s*** comes out better than you expected. I just keep it flowing, that way it’s really just following the mojo. Sometimes I switch it up and I want to write alone or sometimes it’s in the studio.

MDR: How do you resist the pressure to constantly be putting music out?

D2X: Well, music is not the only form of concert I have. I have photos, promotional videos, and just being active with my followers. You don’t necessarily always have to drop music to be consistent as an artist. You could do something to make people think or offer inspiration for people that do listen. It’s about being human at the end of the day. Society might make it an obligation for an artist to constantly drop music, but everyone’s got a life. 

MDR: What have your interactions with fans been like so far?

D2X: It’s funny to me sometimes. I get a lot of DMs from random people. There were a few people that followed me who would tag me on their story and circle my name and say “D2X started following me! Oh my god!” and I was like “what the hell?”. I be thinking these people have never heard of me, and it’s crazy ‘cause stuff actually circulates around the internet that you might not even know. 

MDR: So next year is your last year in college. What’s your plan for after?

D2X: Honestly, just continuing to do the same thing. When I get out of school, I obviously want to do something within my degree. I’m minoring in music business and majoring in journalism. I know I could find some type of work within that field. But at the end of the day, my music career is my number one thing that I’m focused on. I seen it grow over the years, so just picture when I finally get the opportunity to fully be within the city that my s*** is spreading around in. 

MDR: What sparked the decision to minor in music journalism?

D2X: What happened was I was playing basketball my whole life, and when I went into my freshman year of college I was planning to walk onto the basketball team at WIU. I had partial scholarships from schools, and I could have played at them. That’s the reason I went there ‘cause as far as universities, that was the best option I had at the time. I just changed my mind, though. I was thinking long-term. I didn’t wanna do it for 4 years. I knew I wouldn’t be happy, that wasn’t my angle at that point.

I’m majoring in journalism ‘cause at the time I wanted to be a sports journalist. Before my junior year I decided I’m into music now so I might as well make music business my minor. I could still find work and use that knowledge to my advantage as an artist.

MDR: Do you have any plans for what you want to drop next? Should we be expecting a project soon?

D2X: I’m in the listening process working on what kind of production I want to try out. There’s periods of time where I get influenced by different sounds. I’ve been listening to a lot of music from a lot of different genres, be it Hip Hop or whatever the case may be. Recently, like this past week, I’ve been playing nothing but Lucki 24/7. 

As far as the project, though, I have no idea but I know that I want to explore new sounds and make something new. I want to have a project out at least at the beginning of 2020. I’d love to start the new year off with the new project. Another reason I haven’t rushed into dropping something yet is ‘cause I’m still trying to build my audience when it gets to a point where I feel like I have enough people. I just want everything to be in order. Right now, I’m still exploring and trying to network and see what opportunities I have. When it’s time, I want to be comfortable knowing that my next release will get attention. 

MDR: Do you have a publicist?

D2X: I do it all on my own. I send out emails and that shit works. This is a conversation I have all the time. Building relationships is one of the most vital things to do as an artist. Just building your resources. It’s a chain of resources that could go a long way. Just because you might meet somebody and they’re not big, but they’re a genuine person taking the time to help you, you never know what could happen. Never doubt the resources you have. 

MDR: I first talked to you last year before ‘Enjoy Life’ dropped. And we’re here now with your first headlining show, play on Power 92, and your fanbase is steadily growing. A year from now, what are some things you want to manifest?

D2X: Honestly, just more shows, bigger shows. Shows that are out of town to get my name out there. But there’s nothing I’m chasing at the end of the day. I just want to be a better artist than I am right now and everything else just comes with it. It feels better when things just flow and come to you and you just really want to stick to doing the same thing you’ve been doing this entire time. Stick to your methods. Stick to your strategies. I have to stay true to myself and be the same person I’ve always been my entire life. I feel like I’ll be a lot farther than I am right now next year ‘cause in previous years I’ve shown that if I just keep doing me, things are going to continue to get better.

Follow D2X on Twitter and Instagram and stay tuned for new music from the Chicago-based artist soon.