Simply put, if there’s any one creative force and vocal social leader to watch whenever he’s behind a mic or in a public forum, it’s STEFisDOPE. Having arrived in DC in 2009, his DOPE Since ’88 brand was forged in the fire of DC’s early ‘1os era which saw the evolution of DC from “Chocolate City” into a diverse locale with unlimited socio-cultural possibilities. In many ways, it’s apropos to say that he grew as a man just as DC grew as a city, and both are now fully matured, learned and aware of the need to break out onto the national stage. The Jamaican-American artist discusses music, culture and society-at-large here, and showcases what makes him an icon on the come up.
Check out STEFisDOPE on 4/20 at our Massive One Love Massive Website Relaunch Block Party, and at our stage at 4/30’s incredible Broccoli City Festival.
STEF, what’s motivating you as a creative right now?
Really man, I’m having fun and pushing boundaries. I’m working a lot with production, mixing and mastering, honing my skills in that regard. I want to be a one-man operation. As far as rap goes, I’m sharpening my rhyme schemes…man, hmmm…I think I’ll give you some of my new secrets right now. A lot of people don’t know that I’m Jamaican. So what I’m trying to do is bring some of that old school dancehall back and mix it with some of the current sounds out right now. One of my homies is making something called “trap-hall,” and there’s a One Love Massive Collective member, Bunx Dadda, who I’ve known for a couple of years, and he’s doing the same thing. I want to merge all of these sounds. I saw this Noisey documentary a couple of days ago on the EDM scene in Vegas, and it’s got me wanting to get on my Afrojack vibe!
On Facebook recently, you described your life right now as “very lit.” What’s got you so excited these days?
Imma keep it real with you. My life is VERY lit right now. One, these One Love Massive shows are a blessing. Last year, I was begging to get on stages like these. Getting that opportunity this year is an amazing step up. There’s a lot of festivals happening and I like that as well. The National Cannabis Festival, so many. I’m thankful that they’re happening. This year I’m also marrying my high school sweetheart as well.
What’s the secret recipe behind DC’s surge in popularity these days? I mean, I have my own ideas, but what do you think is the cause?
DC has had an ill subculture for awhile. I’m happy that the rest of the country is starting to realize that there’s a lot of dope stuff happening [in DC]. I started making music in DC in 2009. I was amazed. I would’ve never known that there was such a concentrated pool of talented artists here. From R & B to hip-hop to some of the illest producers in the country. I don’t feel like there’s anywhere else in the country that has such a diverse pool of talent. Unfortunately, there’s venues getting shut down, but there’s venues like 9:30 Club, U Street Music Hall and more that are killing it right now as well.
Where should people be going out in these days in DC, and who should they be listening to and checking out as well?
Oh man! I can’t front. Tropicalia is great, but some of these parties at Flash (where One Love Massive holds our “Feel The Love” monthly) are insane. [Artists from Drake’s OVO label] Majid Jordan were at Vices, and they thought it was crazy! What’s wild is that actually Drake and his team show a lot of love to DC. Drake’s eaten at Woodland’s Vegan Bistro! There’s DJs like Ayes Cold, Mista Selecta and Mane Squeeze who are like some of the hardest DJs ever, period. Shout out to the OG DJs Jerome Baker and Spinser Tracy, they’re legends now. There are so many ill ass DJs here.
So, as far as looking ahead for the future in the city, there’s people who are excited about things, and then there’s people who get angry about gentrification. It’s hard, but what do you think about the future, on all levels, in the Nation’s Capital?
It’s bittersweet. I came to DC in 2008, and I heard people back then tell me all of the time that a lot of the stuff we’re doing in the city right now would never happen. The only thing that’s constant in this world is change, though. I feel like it’s a balance, man. There’s a lot of culture being washed away, but at the same time, if you can find a way to adapt, it’s amazing. There’s a lot of kids who are making music who are black in Southeast who are getting love from white kids, Hispanic kids and Asian kids across the city. On that level, it’s actually becoming kind of diverse now. Diversity is a good thing, but at the same time it’s difficult appreciate it in DC right now. Musically, it’s a beautiful time for me.