CyHi Da Prynce isn’t your average southern MC. Whereas the majority of rappers from the south make party music, CyHi takes a more lyrical approach to crafting songs. Since joining the G.O.O.D. Music stable of artists, his star has been on the rise. I recently got a chance to speak with the Atlanta native. During our interview, I was surprised at how down to earth and funny he is. His intelligence and wit came through as we talked about getting signed to G.O.O.D. Music, leading a double life as a teenager, and how he is the Anderson Cooper of the streets.
TUD: When did you know you wanted to be a rapper? What brought you to that realization?
When I really knew I wanted to be a rapper was around when I was 18. I used to play around with rhyming, but I never took it serious until I met Diddy. I had to be 17 and I was in the club. There was a party at a club and my friends and I skipped school to go. My friends’ dad was super plugged into the industry and we got into this club because of that. Diddy was there and he handed me a champagne bottle. I thought, “Yo, if I can get this close to Diddy, I can probably get my music in his hands.”
You weren’t allowed to listen to rap music until you were 12. What was that feeling like when you first discovered rap music?
Well, I went to skating rinks and things like that and heard rap being played. As for playing it in the house and just vibing out to it, there was none of that. [laughs] Age 12 is when I started going to my friends’ houses and listening to it. I still couldn’t play it in my house. Actually, I don’t think I was able to play rap in my house until I was like 14. My friends were putting me up on music I had never heard. The craziest part was I was familiar with 8Ball & MJG, UGK, Pastor Troy, and stuff from around Atlanta. I wasn’t up on Jay-Z, Nas, DMX. I think those up north artists are the ones that made me really want to rap. The down south rappers were cool to party to, but the northern rappers were intellectual.
How did you link up with Kanye and G.O.O.D. Music?
Uh, you know this guy named God? He stays on the top floor in a condo… [laughs] Nah, really that’s all it was. Yelawolf invited me to the crib one day and we did the “I Wish (Remix)” with Pill. We shot a video for it and Yela put it out. Somehow, Kanye saw it. My verse came on and I guess it blew him away. After that, he put it up on his blog saying that I was dope. No I.D. and L.A. Reid flew to Hawaii and were chatting with him about his album and my name came up. Kanye said, “Tell CyHi to come on out here.” I flew out there with the last bit of money I had, which was like $250. That was the initial meeting and that’s what started this whole thing.
Was it a hard transition going from being a fan of Kanye’s to being a colleague of his?
Yeah, it was. The first two days recording with him were kind of odd. I can’t even front because ‘Ye has all these rules in the studio. It was no electric guitar, no internet, no blogging, no cell phones in the studio. He had so many rules and I was like, “Oh crap! We in here for real!” Then you would see people like Amber Rose come through and other celebrities. I got used to ‘Ye fast because I knew it was time to go to work when I got into the studio with him. Meeting other celebrities like Alicia Keys and Jay-Z was crazy for me though.
Last year, around this time, you were introduced to the world in the BET Hip-Hop Awards cipher. What was that experience like?
That was a stressful one. [laughs] We had a day to think of what we were going to spit. BET will usually let the rappers know about a month or two in advance. People didn’t know how dope ours was because we weren’t supposed to do it. BET was trying to figure out how they could get Kanye West to be apart of the Hip-Hop Awards. Kanye didn’t want to do it. BET thought it would be cool to do a cipher with all of his new artists. The day before everything had to be turned in for post production is when we shot that.
I was on the plane putting my rap together. I ran into Big Sean at the airport and I said what’s up to him, but he didn’t hear me. I tapped him on his shoulder and asked him what he was doing. He said, “I’m thinking of my rap!” We walk up the steps and we see Pusha T talking to himself. We asked him what he was doing and he said the same thing as Sean. We were all thinking of our rhymes right before we shot our cipher. It was hard work, but we pulled it off.
You’ve gotten buzz through releasing mixtapes on the internet. When you put out your album, do you think it’s going to be harder for you to sell, being that your fans are used to downloading your mixtapes for free?
No, because the way I look at it is I’m going to keep giving away free music. If a fan is a fan, they are going to be a fan. At the end of the day, I tell them, “Look guys, I’ve given y’all a hundred songs for free. Just buy ten and I’ll give you another hundred before I ask you to buy another ten songs.” That’s my promo pitch. That’s more than an even exchange. Fans don’t care how they get the music, they just want the music. As an artist, you have to make them understand that in order for me to keep giving you free music, I have to make money to re-up on the music. In street terms, if I run out of work, I have to go get some more. I can’t get more work if I keep giving it all away for free.
Are you working on an album yet?
I’m getting started. I’m getting all my producers together and I’m researching song ideas and other things I want to do for my album. This is like the infant steps of putting together an album.
How will your album differ from your mixtapes?
Well, to me an album is more personal. My mixtapes are dimensions of me, but my album is going to be the story of me. Everything that’s gotten me this far, personally, is going on the album. My mixtapes are different parts of me that I give out every now and then. The album is going to be more of a timeline of who I am and where I come from.
Royal Flush and Royal Flush 2 are very different from Jack of All Trades. Is Jack of All Trades more of a lyrical exercise for you?
Yeah, I’m a real song guy. I really like making songs. But I have some fans that just want to hear bars. I don’t think some of my fans know I can give them bars on top of bars on top of bars like Lil Wayne or something. To me, that’s a little boring because I did that for so long when I was in the battle rap stages of my career. I would just put anything together and it didn’t have a story form or any type of character. It was just whatever rhymed with the next line rhymed. I think that’s more Young Money-ish. G.O.O.D. Music has topics and characters in the verses. We focus more on musical concepts to build great albums.
In simpler terms, Jack Of All Trades is me playing a pick up game of basketball, doing all the tricks that won’t work in a professional game. Royal Flush and Royal Flush 2 are me in pre-season practicing with my team and my album is going to be me playing in the game.
How would describe your overall rap style?
I would describe my rap style as imagine if Kanye spent five years in the streets with some gangstas. I’m a cool kid. I grew up in the church and I have a nice family. On the other hand, I was bad in school which caused me to get kicked out of the house. When I got kicked out, I went and stayed with a friend and he was a street dude. So I got an equal balance of living the suburban life and bagging up drugs, carrying pistols, and fighting everyday. I’m the Anderson Cooper of the streets. so when it comes to rap, I have the conscious side and the street conscious side too. Don’t get me wrong, I did my dirt too. I did it smart so that I didn’t end up in prison somewhere. I push the pros an cons of being in the streets. I don’t just rap about the hustler’s life on Friday and Saturday. I rap about the hustler’s life on Monday through Sunday.
What are your thoughts on rappers trying to be singers and singers trying to be rappers?
Technology helps. With Pro Tools, when you sing a part of a song you be like, “Damn, I actually sound kind of good. I don’t need to pay anybody to sing this.” At the end of the day, we’re all musicians and hip-hop is the youngest genre of music. We’re still trying to find ourselves. Anyway, if you sound good singing, I don’t mind it. At the same, if the track needs a singer, you should get a singer. I know some singers that try to rap and it doesn’t come off that good. I think it’s better if rappers try to sing than if singers try to rap because rappers aren’t going to try to do too much. Most of a rapper’s fans can’t sing. So if a rapper gets a singer on the hook and his part comes on at the show, a lot of people aren’t going to be able to sing his part because they can’t sing like the singer. However, if Roscoe Dash sings the hook, everybody can sing like Roscoe Dash. See, you can’t be at a show and an Aretha song comes on and everybody tries to sing like Aretha. That aint going to work. People might think, “CyHi can’t really sing, so if he can sing this hook, why can’t I?”
Is the tour you’re going on with Big Sean your first major national tour?
Yeah, this would be my first one as big as this. I’ve done a couple spot dates with Wiz Khalifa and I wen on tour with Yelawolf before, but those venues were more like 800 to 1,000 seaters. This Big Sean tour has venues where there are no less than a thousand seats. This is going to be my first big tour, but I like performing so it’s going to be fun.
What can fans expect when they go to a CyHi Da Prynce show?
You’re going to get energy. You will get real conversation, on and off the stage. It is just going to be a great performance. I feel like I have a lot of material and I know how to deliver the material to the audience. You are going to have fun and there’s going to be a lot of lyricism. I’m going to be cutting the beat a lot because I like for people to understand that I can really rap. Sometimes, I get the Atlanta stigma and I have to overly prove myself that I’m not like most Atlanta rappers. I have a lot of different styles I can tap into and I’ll be displaying that.
Is there any type of competition between you guys at G.O.O.D. Music? There are some serious rappers in that camp.
I hope the stuff I do pushes those guys to do better. Kanye is smart. He picked artists that are all different from each other. All of his artists are a dimension of him. That’s why Kanye has Kid Cudi, who is melodic and does the spaced out type of music. Pusha T is very intelligent, but it’s street intelligence. Then you have Big Sean and he’s flamboyant and overly funny. Me, I’m not all the way conscious, but conscious plus the southern roots. Kanye likes the vibe and bounce I give in my music. An artist like Common is the conscious side of Kanye. I like to compare G.O.O.D. Music to Captain Planet. [laughs] All our powers combine to create Captain Planet. ‘Ye is on his fashion tip and he needs us here to keep his music alive while he tries other things.
You’re signed to G.O.O.D. Music/Konvict Music/Def Jam. How does a joint venture like that work?
It’s simple. It’s more so they are splitting up their half. I’m not splitting anything with my money because I’m not a label, I’m just an artist. Most rappers want to be a label and don’t know how to run a label. They have somebody under their label and wind up ruining that artist’s career because they’ve been on that label for five years and people don’t know what to do with them. I told myself I would never start a label until I was ready to focus on other artists. Basically, I had a deal with Konvict and they didn’t know how to push me. Kanye said he wanted to work with me and they entered a partnership. I was already a Def Jam artist when I started working with Konvict and G.O.O.D Music.