Starting a rap career was never in the cards for D.C. rapper Yung Gleesh, but after his go-go band disbanded, the “Wasabi” artist decided hip-hop was his new career path.
On the heels of releasing his Gucci Mane-inspired mixtape Free Wop, Yung Gleesh stopped by Global Grind’s offices to discuss the inspiration behind the tape and why he keeps his eyes and ears on the streets.
In a time when so many DMV artists are receiving national recognition, Gleesh also discussed the hurdles D.C. artists face when dealing with their peers and navigating the area’s tight-knit music scene. Gleesh also touches on how the late A$AP Yams helped him with his career, his relationship with A$AP Rocky, and the reasons why he doesn’t collaborate with fellow D.C. rappers Shy Glizzy and Fat Trel.
These are the words of Yung Gleesh.
You used to be in a go-go band. What made you start rapping?
I never used to listen to rap. We had go-go in D.C. But Boosie and Gucci Mane showed me that real n*ggas be in this rap sh*t. They made me realize if they could do it, I could do it. Roger Beat and I were both in a go-go band. He was the keyboard player and I was a percussionist. He started making beats and then he asked me to get on a song with a bunch of other go-go artists. That was my first song I ever wrote. In 2012, I met Gucci Mane and he doesn’t write any of his sh*t, so then I stopped writing.
A lot of D.C. artists attribute Gucci Mane to why they started rapping. What it is about Gucci Mane that D.C. artists connect with so much?
The reason why I did my Free Wop tape is because of Gucci. There’s a high percentage of artists in the rap industry that sound like Gucci, like Migos, Future, me…that’s just the top names. A lot of people don’t give that man his credit. Gucci is so versatile and changes flows on every track. Gucci’s like our generation’s Scarface. Old heads in D.C loved Scarface, and we loved Gucci, and our youngins love Chief Keef.
How’s your buzz in D.C.?
That sh*t is iffy. I feel like it’s the same interview with all the D.C. artists – they feel like D.C. don’t f*ck with them. I know they love me and f*ck with me, but they don’t support you until you’re buzzing somewhere else. It’s crabs in a barrel type sh*t. I’m not complaining though, I’m just letting you know how it is.
How does that affect your relationships with other D.C. artists including Shy Glizzy and Fat Trel?
I got history with them folks. For other artists, I don’t know. There are some new artists that are coming up that’s jai-like buzzing. Me, Shy, and Trel are old news, it feels like. I feel like I’m old to these youngins. I’ve been sitting back watching the new sh*t.
Are you open to working with some of your DMV peers?
You talking about Shy, Trel, and me or…?
Not specifically, but when I’ve spoken with them, they have the same story as you. Nobody supports them.
That be the real feel. When a n*gga says that, like, it ain’t like the whole D.C. don’t f*ck with them. It’s just our closest friends that we know. They’ll walk up to me and ask me about Shy or Trel when I just dropped a tape and their men do the same sh*t to them. Them n*ggas who robbed the Migos f*ck with the Migos. It’s wild n*gga sh*t. That’s that new generation sh*t. The way we were raised up is the reason why me, Shy, and Trel are hesitant to work together. We were raised differently.
How did you grow up?
I been all around the world, but my mother raised me right. I ain’t no fool. I only hung with the fools. D.C. a tough place. There’s only a few things your mother can do for you. I’m not going to give you an autobiography about D.C., you know how D.C. was affected by crack cocaine and how the crime rate’s crazy. Same ‘ol story. I’m still getting raised. I’m still growing.
When you were growing up, what did you want to be?
I don’t know. I didn’t think I was going to be no rapper. Where I come from, we didn’t listen to rap. I was just living day-by-day.
What do you want everyone to know about Gleesh?
I think everybody know about Gleesh for the most part. My folks f*ck with me. They love me for me. I’m not a household name, but there’s a lot of people who aren’t mainstream that are eating, like Danny Brown. He’s on tour with a lot of motherf*ckers. They don’t play him a lot on the radio, but I know Slim, he’s getting money.
You’re not worried about achieving mainstream success?
I am, but I ain’t stressing it. When some of these artists achieve mainstream success, they end up getting these writers to keep them in the household name status. I’m not shelling out bread to keep up with it, though. I’m independent. I gotta make my hit by myself. I would love to expand, but I don’t go into the studio like, ‘This for the radio.’ Nah, it don’t work like that.
What’s your relationship with A$AP Rocky? Everyone went crazy over you dancing in his “Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2” video.
On the low, I was just talking to Rocky the other day. I may go on tour with him. Who knows?
How did y’all get cool?
I met A$AP Bari and all of them through Fredo (Santana) when they were on tour in Chicago. Bari had already been hip to my music and he put me on to Yams. I was always fucking with Yams more than Rocky. I didn’t meet Rocky until a little before we shot the video. I used to kick it with Yams and Bari and all them. They used to f*ck with my sh*t hard. It was Yams’ idea to get me in the video. Yams was the innovator. A lot of the sh*t the A$AP Mob was doing was inspired by Yams. It was his ideas. Yams hyped Rocky like, ‘Gleesh hot. He dancing. He’s moonwalking on water.’ [Laughs]
Yams was such a funny dude.
Yeah, he was definitely fun, but he was serious too. When Yams said he was going to do sh*t, he did it. I can’t believe how much sh*t he did for me. I can’t believe he did all that sh*t for me because he was working with the A$AP Mob. He did more for me sometimes than people on my own team. That was a real good dude, man. The game lost an innovator, man.
PHOTO CREDIT: Yung Gleesh