If there’s one name that’s synonymous with Harlem’s Rap Renaissance, it’s Smoke DZA. The born and raised Harlem artist rose from the ranks of local battle rapper, sharpening his rhyme skills on the playgrounds of NYC’s public schools, to an internationally-acclaimed artist touring with the likes of Snoop Dogg & Wiz Khalifa to Redman and Method Man.
We recently had a chance to catch up with DZA in midtown NYC as he was prepping the release of latest project, The Outsiders alongside his crew, RFC. DZA sat down over a plate of homemade food – chicken, mashed potatoes and greens to be precise – to talk about the rap game, hip hop fashion, and what makes him sweat.
Well, a lifestyle rapper, or a lifestyle artist is someone that’s not categorized by a certain lane of music, it’s really just a lifestyle that the artist lives. In my particular case, the music that I make is reference all to my life, its stories I’ve seen from my window or heard from my friends, so I categorize it as lifestyle rap, because I’m really giving my life, so that’s lifestyle rap. I’m influenced by everything around me – fashion, family, basketball, and fun. So that’s pretty much my lifestyle all in a nutshell with those four things right there.
Well, I love bucket hats, that’s been my thing since I was a kid. My favorite brands; Ralph Lauren of course and everything that falls underneath it: Denim and Supply, Double RL, Regular Ralph, Classic Ralph Lauren, RLX, Black Label, Purple Label. I love Ralph Lauren though, that’s what I’m into. And there it is.
Well, performing on stage is something that definitely makes me sweat. I give my all when I’m up there too. There’s nothing like that rush and that adrenaline that pumps through your body, when you have people you’ve never seen before in life vibing with you on the music and you’re connecting with them. It’s that moment where you know that nothing else matters right now but this. Performing is definitely something that I love doing, it’s a craft that I’m really really trying to perfect, and I continue to work on it as much as I can.
Honestly, that’s the only time I might not stay cool. I’m cooler than central air all the time (laughs) but when I’m performing it’s like I’m Patrick Ewing in the fourth quarter. With that sweat, it’s hard to stay cool on stage. I look forward to the summer festival shows – performing outside, but still that’s hard, because I like to move with my fans, I like to get into that mode, get into that moment, it’s no holds barred after that. So it’s hard to stay cool on stage, of course my aura stays cool but my body sweats a lot.
I think I was in Ann Arbor Michigan, it was a really small spot I played in and the venue was boiling! Actually I’m lying it wasn’t Ann Arbor, I take that back, it was Boston – at The Middle East, yeah that’s the name of the venue. It was so hot in there that even the roof was sweating! There was water dripping off that roof, and it was like everyone was packed on top of each other so it was even crazier. That may be like the hottest performance that I had.
I’ve done outfit changes on stage – but not because I’m hot, but just because I’m fly. (laughs) Nah, really I normally do outfit changes after I get off stage. I never have to change my attire until I get off and you know I’m drenched in sweat and I need one of those fresh Polo tees out the three pack.
Wow, you do your homework! Yeah, basketball is another thing that makes me sweat. Before my rap dreams, I had hoop dreams. Up to this day I still recreationally ball, and I still think I’m Jamal Mashburn or Tim Hardaway. And that’s definitely something else that makes me sweat. In fact, off the court, you can often find me placing bets on the outcomes of NBA games on websites like FanDuel.
Aside from getting on the road and continuing to record good quality music, I strive to continue to stay relevant in this pop culture and to achieve other goals and really solidify myself as a boss and put my company on the map.