Young Dolph—the self-proclaimed King of Memphis—began his career over a decade ago, a slow burn towards prominence and an example of perseverance. With an extensive discography, and his own record company, Paper Route Empire, the 31-year-old is on his third mixtape of the year, the incredibly titled Rich Crack Baby, featuring a murderer’s row of collaborators: Gucci Mane, 21 Savage, Wale, T.I., 2 Chainz, and Boosie Badazz.
Complex caught up with Young Dolph in our New York offices to talk the meaning of "Rich Crack Baby," his career to date, and what it takes to be a hustler.
The new mixtape shows rap and trap music's teeth while taking the musical aspects of it in terms of production and flow, did you go into the album with that mentality?
Nah, when I put together a project I just go in on the title of it and make sure they get the meaning out of it. It’s basically the same formula, I’m talking about the same theme; the struggle and the motivation, know what I’m saying, so it’s just the title of it Rich Crack Baby, so you know what I mean, it is what you get. I just go in and record, record, record.
How do you feel about Rich Crack Baby compared to the rest of the body of your work?
The difference between Rich Crack Baby and the rest of them — it’s more street. All my music is street, gutter, but this one right here is more telling you about Dolph, know what I’m saying like Rich Crack Baby, example, it’s the meaning of Dolph you speak Young Dolph, Young Dolph or the meaning is Rich Crack Baby, you know what I mean?
How was it working with the likes of 2 Chainz and Gucci again?
Both of them they were on Dolph too, it’s just gonna go how it go. Both of them, Gucci and 2 Chainz, it’s just regular.
I know you worked with them back in 2011 and I’m sure you’ve changed and they have as well. Has your dynamic working with them shifted at all over those years?
No, it ain’t no different. We get together and cook up dope music. It’s easy, from 2011 all the way to now, we do music. Every year I drop numerous projects, so you’re going to get a 2 Chainz feature on a motherfucker and you goin’ to get a Gucci feature on a mother, gotta add that on.
How do you feel about making your mark on other people's work?
It’s all good, it just depends on the body of work. Depends on the song.
And what do you look for in a song?
The quality of it and if it’s good music I’ll jump on anything.
You’re the executive of Paper Route Empire, are you the person who scopes out producers?
I do that myself. You know what I’m saying, with my management and everybody we just do it know what I’m saying, the producers, the artists, I look out.
So you look at a producer's body of work and you see something that you like and that’s who you pick?
Nah, they just send me beats and whatever I like I go in on, or whatever producer I want to work with, I reach out to them. Personally.
I noticed most of the tracks with big name features are produced by Zaytoven. How did you get to know him?
Man, really just in the mix. Gucci my dog and it just came together, he reached out to me, wanted to give me some tracks. He wanted to give me the lay up, so we just made it happen.
So it’s more like people are coming at you than you're coming at people in terms of creative content.
It’s a mixture of both, it’s both.
What’s your favorite track off the new work? Or a top three?
“I Can’t Deny It” the trap song, “Star Power,” and “What’s Your Life Like.” Those are my top three.
I noticed there was a track called “Smoke My Weed” produced by Drumma Boy that was left out — did something get jumpy with that track?
Oh, nah. It’s going to be on the next project.
As the leader of P.R.E. how many people are under your sphere of influence?
Shit, the whole world! Every city I go to they show me love and they about they paper they got motivation they about what I’m about, all of them paper route.
You’ve been on tour, correct?
Yeah, we’re on tour right now. The Royalty tour — tonight we at SOBs here in New York. It’s my first ticket-selling venue tour, we had three tours we put together ourselves, just touring doing nightclubs.
And now you’re on this whole other level now. So what do you want people to take away from your music?
What I want people to take away from it, man, is just how to take care of responsibilities, how to live life and enjoy life. You only get one shot at life, one life to live ± make the most out of it put as many smiles as you can on people's faces, help as many people as you can, get you some paper. Live life, you and your folks.
What keeps you focused?
When you a person out here, you focus on money, your life. It’s like you can only move a certain kind of way out here, to being on the streets, to working a job, to doing music — whatever you doing. You can only move one kind of way and if you don't, it can hurt you, you can put a roof over your head, you can limit your chances. I don’t want to limit myself to doing nothing so that’s all that is.
As an executive and as someone who is an artist how do you balance those two identities?
Basically a have a good team around me, and letting them do what they do and I do what I do, having people around me that work that want to make me work even harder.
You once said, “I used to think all these rappers are real until I started rapping myself” I was curious — what changed your perspective?
Nah, what I mean is until I started rapping myself I got to being around rappers and being around the industry and when I got into the industry it pulled the cover off of everything and everybody there was a lot of fake going on.
When you say a lot of fake?
A lot of faking it, a lot of faking just period.
Like people's identities? People’s flow? What they say?
A lot of faking it, just a lot of faking it, you know what I’m saying. It ain't what it seem. If you would get around some of the people you listen to some of the artist you listen to you’d probably be disappointed, let’s put it like that.
Feel that, it’s refreshing to have a figure come into the public that is genuine, so I got respect you for that. So as one person to another I appreciate you keeping that value strong.
For sure. Mhm.
I know you’ve been having an incredible 2016 you’ve been popping the fuck off.
What is your perspective on some of the younger rappers who are coming up this year like Lil Yachty, Lil Uzi, Rae Sremmurd?
I like it, I like what they’re doing. I like what they’re doing so my advice to them is just keep doing what they’re doing.
What is it about what they’re doing that you like?
They’re being creative, they’re being different. They just doing them.
They’re taking it to a different level?
Not even it more so of taking it do a different level, they’re just doing it different. They doing them. They’re not doing what everyone else is doing, trying to fit in like everybody else or sound like everybody else. Those younger kids are coming in and making noise. I just like seeing people succeed, I like to see people have success so I just like what they’re doing.
And time to time you give free studio time to some individuals?
Nah it’s just I got lil’ homies and people in the city I’m from I got like young homies in the street, you know I’m saying, they want to rap and they want to do different stuff I put em’ in the studios to see what they going to do what they got, see if it's what they want to do because I ain’t have that.
What does it take for one to be a hustler, or can you be made into a hustler?
Not really — it’s got to be in you. Everybody ain’t got it, even some people got it but don't have it as much as others. And to be a hustler and to be a super hustler you gotta know how to deal with sacrifices. You learn how to take sacrifices, you learn to give things up to get into something you’re trying to get into.
What do you give up?
Time. At the end of the day that’s the only thing you can’t pay for, the thing you can’t get back. So you gotta learn to sacrifice that time to put something you trying to invest in.
I was listening to “Strippa” earlier — have you ever had a night where you’ve gone to the strip club and heard your own music while tossing bills?
Yeah, happens all the time. It’s the culture, especially in the South, you gonna go to the strip club, strip club is heavy in the South and they bumping Dolph in in all the strip clubs and all the clubs. We go up there and we campaign with DJs and strippers — these are same people who are a part of making hits, households, so we go in there and show them love, too.
Where do you see yourself in one year?
One year from today, I’ll be on another level. Having more, doing more — whole lot of everything, really. More everything, more swag, gonna have some classes to teach niggas how to swag, teach niggas how to dress, all everything is going to be more. More dope music, bigger music, bigger records, more money, more success. When I talk about success I don’t mean music business, I just mean the people around me. When one of my partners has success, shit, I share his success like it’s mine.