by Itoro Udoko
Dee Goodz has been creating a lot of buzz lately. He’s been receiving positive feedback on his new mixtape and earning a shout-out on Isaiah Rashad’s breakout single, not to mention getting shot in the leg. Quite a few people have been talking about him, which probably means that quite a few eyes and ears are going to be on him when he releases his debut album, FFM, later this year. Dee is a busy guy. Last week, he took a break from recording to come back to town for a few days. He had a few things on his mind, so we got together for a drink and chatted it up. We discussed what he’s been doing in New York for the past year, Nashville hip-hop, his upcoming debut, and that one time he made a rock album.
The first thing Dee let me know is that he hasn’t moved to New York. He’s just left on business. “A long business trip,” he calls it. He relates to me his experience so far in New York. Bouncing around from borough to borough, initially sleeping on couches.
“I was bouncing around Brooklyn like the rest of the hipsters," Goodz says. "Williamsburg-ing it. Bed-Stuy-ing it. Then all of a sudden I got a spot in the Bronx, right next to Yankee Stadium. That was the most regular shit.”
Dope Spanish chicks, $5 plates of chicken and rice and $1 cigarillos. Only problem is that it was too far out from the city. Taking 2 hours to get back home from the club could only cut it for so long. So now Dee has a spot in Manhattan, and he’s also gotten his own studio space. It’s all part of Dee’s plan to do everything himself. Over the course of our conversation, I realized that DIY has become his new mantra. He recently started his own imprint, All Goodz, as well as helped get a new independent label, Launch Point Records, off the ground. Dee’s new approach is literally embodied in the name of his new imprint, All Goodz. Goodz explained to me his frustrations with the music industry and why he decided to just do everything himself.
Nashville lacks the infrastructure to support its hip-hop scene — part of the reason Goodz is currently on sabbatical, he says. He recounts how things were when he was living here.
“None of my friends worked in the music industry," Goodz says. "At a certain point I realized I was booking the artists, promoting the shows, performing and planning the after-party.” For a while that seemed appropriate. But eventually Dee outgrew his situation. “I realized if I was gonna go it, I should do it right.” He even has a publicist now.
“I haven’t played a show in Nashville in over a year," Goodz says, explaining why he's not a local rapper. "I’m a mainstream underground rapper.” Don’t be confused. He still puts on for his city. Donny Cash, his latest mixtape, has plenty of reminders of where Dee hails from. The second track, “South Still Ballin’” even pays homage to the classic Nashville rivalry track “South Be Ballin’” by the Bezzeled Gang. “My goal is to bring people to Nashville. They’re gonna see Nashville when they see me.”
That’s part of the point of living in New York. The city also seems to have served as a sort of muse for Goodz. He’s been quite prolific during his time away. “I’m one of those creatives that has to travel and see different things," he says. "People inspire me — the experiences. My music is a lifestyle. It’s more prophecy than it is rap.”
Somewhere along the way, Dee Goodz had an epiphany. Now he’s resolute, and ready to share his vision with the world.
Goodz says he's in the studio from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. every day. “I’m just making records," he says. "Before I dropped Donny Cash, I had over 160 records done. Donny Cash was originally a rock album I did two-and-a-half years ago. ‘Look Where I Came From’ was on there. The Lisa Bonet track was on there. I cut a whole rock album, pre-Yeezus.” I ask him why he never put it out. “I wasn’t confident [enough] in it. I let people talk me out of it. I thought it was the illest shit ever. ‘Look Where I Came From’ is so reduced [now]. ‘World’ is dumbed down too.”
I wonder out loud why it took him 160 tracks to release the mixtape before the debut album. It’s more of a rhetorical question though. By this point, it’s pretty obvious that Dee is a certain state of mind right now. He talks about all the new talent in Nashville. Then he voices frustration at how, because the industry only sees the money-making part, it’s still hard to get support.
“I gotta wake up the rest of the world. So some people with interests in the culture will think about Nashville and wanna come here.” He references “If—,” a poem by Rudyard Kipling: “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue / Or walk with Kings — nor lose the common touch.”
“I’m here for the people," he says. "I am the culture. When you see me, you see someone who’s from nothing, trying to be something.” It’s true. Dee Goodz is ultimately just another working-class man. And he’s fully aware of that.
We both agree that nobody owes you shit. The only people that owe you anything are the people rocking with you. “You’re not gonna make money until somebody can make money off of you. 'Cause if it’s based off money and the money ain’t there, the people ain’t there.” It begins to sound like Dee Goodz is more concerned with creating a family, rather than a fan base. But really he’s just a guy who grew cynical of the rap game and decided to play things straight. He puts things in perspective for me.
“I almost died," says Goodz. "Sean Taylor got hit in this same leg and died. I’m an inch away from my main artery.” That’s the kind of experience that can quickly get rid one of false pretenses. Right now Dee is just focused on making music and fulfilling his dreams.
I asked him if he knows when his debut album is coming out.
“It’s looking like November,” he says.
“How done are you with FFM?” I reply.
“The album is done. But I’m everyday inspired. Every day it could change.” I try to clarify. But then I remember that he’s already recorded 160 tracks.
Dee is preparing to hit the road in anticipation of his debut — CMJ Music Marathon, among other things. It’ll be more opportunities for him to spread his gospel to new ears. Dee has already established himself in Nashville. To a certain extent, hanging here is like preaching to the already converted. So he’s on a mission right now, doing his best to spread the good news: Nashville hip-hop has arrived.