Def Soulja: «It’s an invisible Renaissance happening: NYC is getting back to its original sound»

Up-and-coming Bronx rapper Def Soulja told us about the silent revolution that’s happening in the pavement of the New York Hip-Hop scene, how his hood has changed over the years, how he approached Hip-Hop as a kid, how he met the Bronx producer, 183rd, with whom he made his latest album “42 Square Miles” and much more…

Essential Projects
  • There's a Soulja in Every Saint (x Saint Micheal)
    2021
  • Militant Minded
    2022
  • 42 Square Miles (x 183rd.)
    2022
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photo credits @sinematic.studios

Peace Man. Thank you for dedicating your time to us. We appreciate it! Your bio says you were born in South Carolina, but grew up in the Bronx, one of the legendary boroughs of New York City, where Hip-Hop is said to have originated. When did you move there? And what was it like coming from a place like South Carolina into the chaotic Bronx? Was it hard to adapt for you and your family and what was the Bronx like when you arrived and how is it today?

Thanks for sitting down with me, Salute. I moved to NYC when I 2yrs old. At that time we were in Brooklyn then a few months later we moved to The Bronx. By the time I was 12 my moms sent me back down there cause I wylin out in NYC and In about a yr and a half I came back.

The Bronx back then was rough, very rough especially where I’m from which is E180th & Southern Blvd. a lot of vacant buildings, stray dogs, broken homes, drug infestation etc etc just poverty. Today it’s much cleaner but we still go thru our problems but it’s much better.

How did you start taking part in the hip-hop scene of your hood? What were your first steps in the Culture as a kid? Was there anyone who introduced you initially?

Growing up in my household there was no Hiphop, nothing but R&B and gospel music was played. I had to sneak and get my big brother VHS tapes and watch hip hop videos. The first Hip-Hop song I got introduced to and fell in love with was Special Ed’s “I Got It Made”. I prolly played that song every morning before my moms got up lol.

My moms kept a tight leash on me when I was young so I wasn’t outside like that early on but when I started going out on my own I started to hear a lot of Pun, Big, Busta, The Lox etc being played on my block”.

One of our favorite films of all time is “A Bronx Tale” … Obviously, a different era than yours and a different context. But what would your “Bronx Tale” look like from your experience? Can you tell us about your typical day in the hood as a kid?

Like I mentioned earlier I wasn’t outside like that but once I did go outside I got into all types of shit. A Typical day was playing manhunt, playing cops and robbers wit cap guns and trying to get a kiss from one of the baddies on the block. Then I got older and started getting into illegal shit, RIP to my bros Black & PJ because I learned a lot from those guys on how to move in the streets and how to get money

Recently, you released “42 Square Miles” with 183rd, a producer coming from your same hood, and, in our opinion, among the dopest NYC producers. How did you meet 183rd. and how was the album in question born? Can you explain the meaning of the title?

I always knew about 183rd, we not from the same hood he from the west side of The Bronx but not too far from my side. But the first time meeting him was thru my manager Coach at the Baby’s All Right show. We didn’t talk about doing music it was more like acknowledging each other’s work and just showing love.

Then a few days later I get a email with a beat pack from 183rd and I just started getting to work. Once I sent back a few songs I did then we started talking bout a album.

The meaning behind the title “42 Square Miles” is that’s the size of The Bronx. We wanted to give the album a unique title, something that represents where me and 183rd is from without actually saying where we from. It’s a Fun fact that a lot of people from The X don’t even know.

How was the synergy in the rec. studio? What is your favorite song on the album or the one you feel most personal and why?

We clicked once we got in the lab. 183rd works fast and I mean fast. I never seen someone put a beat together that quickly before so it was dope to see that and it pushed me to write faster, and wit the beats being so dope writing wasn’t hard.

My favorite joint on the album is “Henny Privi” not just my favorite but my most personal song I ever wrote. Since the passing of my son I never sat and really wrote about it because it was just too hard to do, feel me.

But doing this album about my boro, I felt like I HAD to give it my all, not saying I don’t do that with all my projects this one just felt right. So when I heard that beat it just clicked and I went with my gut and let my heart speak.

Besides “42 Square MIles”, which are the other most important projects of your career? Why?

Good question, all my projects are important because they all play a certain role in my career but I gotta go with “There’s A Soulja In Every Saint” & “Militant Minded”. There’s A Soulja in Every Saint” , which is produced by Saint Michael, was my first concept project. I feel like my song writing was tested on that project. Even tho it’s a short Ep the concept and mode I had to be in while writing was different for me.

With “Militant Minded” which is produced by Streeta G, I feel like I finally got a chance to show exactly who Def Soulja is. The content on that album showed a lot of range, from beat selection to the type of songs I wrote. Those 2 projects in my opinion let’s you know exactly what type of a problem I’m going to be in this game.

What are your favorite Bronx rappers of all time? And today?

Big Pun, Drag-On.

From what we get here, it seems that there still is an active and strong underground scene in NY, but that it is totally obscured at the social and mass media level by the phenomenon of the drill wave… What is your point of view from inside? How would you describe the New York rap scene today?

It’s an Invisible Renaissance happening. NYC is getting back to its original sound and just being authentic. A lot of media outlets aren’t coming down to the pavement to check for what’s happening because it’s not trending, but there is alot of movement happening and soon it’s gonna be too big to miss (pause). Salute to Roc Marci and GXFR (Griselda Records) because they played a huge part in keeping that HIP HOP, Golden Era sound alive.

Your latest album seems like a decisive step forward in your musical career, can you anticipate what the next ones will be? What can we expect from Def Soulja next?

Of Course I can! I feel like now I’m getting the attention I deserve but it’s so much more work I have to do. I want my name etched in stone, I want a catalog that’ll last forever. I don’t want to be a here today gone tomorrow artist. That’s not why I’m in this game for. You can expect GREATNESS from Def Soulja!

Just kno I’m constantly working on music and working to help build Social Misfit, That’s The Family. 2022 was the year my name appeared on the radar, 2023 is the year they won’t have a choice but to mention me. Stay Militant

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