Haphduzn: I've kind of got a lot of experience with struggle

Categories: Rap/Hip Hop
Haphduzn recently dropped his debut album Whittier Alliance, a collaboration with Wide Eyes' producer Dimitry Killstorm, and it sits comfortably in the pantheon of the Rhymesayers artists with whom he recently got off tour. A brutally honest and personal record, the straightforward raps come from a place of struggle, but with the willpower to break through the cycle. Gimme Noise sat with Haphduzn and Dimitry to discuss their powerful new record.

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Gimme Noise: How did the two of you initially come to work with one another?

Haphduzn: We met at an event probably four years ago called Twin Cities Battling, it used to be hosted by Truth Maze, a battle at the Blue Nile, and I would battle there, and Dimitry would go because Sean [Anonymous] would battle in it, and Ill Lab. I didn't know any of them dudes. I started going because a buddy of mine saw the flyer and said "If you wanna be a rapper, this is a good place to start". I'd never done anything like that before, so I was kind of apprehensive, but I went to it and started battling and shit, and sucked really bad at first. I got progressively better, to the point where I was making the finals round, twice the last two years. I became pretty good friends with Illlab, and he was good friends with Dimitry, and he gave me my first beat to rap to.

Dimitry Killstorm:
It was probably the first beat that was specifically for you.

I wrote a song called Southside, which was about South Minneapolis. Ever since then, I don't know. He lived so close to me in Whittier. 

We found out after the fact too, like, oh, you live right around the corner from me? We'd both hit Spyhouse pretty frequently, so we'd meet up, trade ideas over coffee. We were just really prolific. I'd give him a stack of five beat and he'd come back with four songs in like a week. Not all of them were good, but "Brand New Nostalgia" was one of those first songs.

H: We kept making songs, and one day we were like, let's just make a project together. I think he was in the downtime on Wide Eyes shit. He makes all sorts of different beats, but because of the ones I was picking, it made it a lot more cohesive than I really imagined it being.

A lot of it wasn't just, here's my beat, rap on it; he came with a record and a sample sometimes. I like to make beats that set a rapper up with a topic to some degree.

He'd send me a beat, and then the vocal sample, I would write around it. "I Still Love You" is the sample, and I'm kind of talking about how I love the hood, and it's not the greatest place in the world, but I still appreciate the things I learned from it, as opposed to making a love song for chicks.

D: When I first made that beat, I thought it was going to be a love song for chicks. There's another one like that, "All Yours" which is the last track, the sample goes "Do you love me? / I love you", but he's talking about fans. It's another way of flipping a love song.

We didn't structure the beat around the song, we lead the sample as opposed to letting it lead me. I think we did a pretty good job of that, in terms of thinking about what should be a love song and turn it into something that can be viewed as a love song but in a completely different context. I'm a super huge fan of sample-based music, just because I'm older and that's what hip-hop was, that's what started this shit. I like classic sounding hip-hop.

You do a good job of introducing yourself and your story on this album, with a straight-froward style that gets your message across clearly. Was this intentional?

H: I get really sick of hearing rappers talk about rapping. It's cool to do it when you're doing it in kind of a braggadocio way; I like music like that too. To me it takes a lot more skill as an MC to write songs about reality. "Have My Doubts" in particular, I tried to write a song similar to that probably 20 times. I just never really got to a point where I'm doing the story justice while also making it sound tight at the same time. That's why it's one of my favorite songs on the project is I was able to take a story that's all factual, that shit really happened, and I was able to do it in a way where I liked it musically and I thought I did it justice, the story stayed true to what really happened.

Over the last six years, I got sober and changed my life around. I haven't been to jail since I got sober. I haven't made a lot of the same mistakes that I did growing up since I did that. I'm not in the street anymore. I was really in the street, I was homeless at times. There was times where I was for real suicidal and shit. Rap music was originally about struggle, and I've kind of got a lot of experience with struggle [laughs] It's easy for me to go back and talk about that, in part because I'm in AA, for real. I bring meetings to kids and shit, kids treatment centers. A lot of that is stuff I dealt with through AA, and trying to make rap songs out of it, it made it way easier.

It was like this album is a lot of get off your chest kind of thing. He's been waiting for this platform to say this kind of stuff, in an important way. An important platform.

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