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You don’t even want to know what Brandon Callender has in his bag.
When I first spoke with Dz, he was about to head out to AutoZone. When I finally got to sit down and interview him, he was on his way to the studio. He’s always on the move and refuses to let things take him by surprise. He speaks with the emotion of someone who understands how to will things into existence. Life takes him wherever it’s supposed to; he just understands how to react.
Born on the West Side of Detroit, the gifted rapper claims Plymouth Road as his home. Despite that, he can be seen hanging on the East Side with his close friends, and claims them as if they were his own blood brothers. Detroit is part of who he is, evident from the White Cartier Buffalos he’s always seen rocking, a mainstay of Detroit street fashion.
He’s said in the past that he feels like Detroit is seen as the home of “some ghetto-ass rock stars, ghetto-ass superstars and ghetto gold.” But he doesn’t have the loud and boisterous personality of a rock star. He’s calm. He’s focused on what’s next. He doesn’t worry about what’s going on now, he’s concerned about what he’s going to do after the interview and what his next move will be.
The 27-year-old rapper has said countless times that he’s only been rapping for a year and a half, but he has the coolness and nonchalant attitude of someone who’s been doing this for years. Interviewing Dz showed me that he believes a level head is one of the most important things to leave the house with, and he clearly makes that a priority.
In July, the Detroit rapper released In My Bag, a project full of songs where Dz explores his past and his present, his rapid fire vocals backed by pianos gliding up and down scales and synths on every song. Dz isn’t like his frequent collaborator Skuba Ruffin, so you probably won’t see him turning Mark Morrison’s official summer cookout theme song into a beautiful, yet violent ballad. He’s closer to Peezy and Drego. Dz says he makes “gangsta boogie.” He combines the hard street lyrics you expect from SOB X RBE, who are friends of his, and the danceability of a DJ Quik deep cut. He’s influenced by but stands alone from a Too $hort or E-40. He’s modernizing the sound, continuing the legacy of the Bay Area with a distinctly Detroit hustler’s slant.
In My Bag features poignany reflects about the times when he had to sleep on the floor before his career took off, like “Where Was You.” The times where he had no one to turn to and looked towards the streets for a way to survive, like on “Back Against the Wall,” where fellow Detroit artist La’Britney is featured singing along with Dz on the hook.
On “Made Man” he says that everyone else is “just keepin’ up.” Dz can drop a line about only knowing murder and compare hitting a lick to “[flipping] a nigga like a burger.” If we had a rapper trading card game, Dz would have his attributes maxed in every category. His sense of self-awareness and humor gives him that extra quality that sets him apart.
In our interview he made it clear that he didn’t have very many friends growing up, and that the friends he made then are still around now. He puts on for his boys just as much as they put on for him. He says that they promote his music even more than he does.
To return the favor, he looks out for them. He values his long-term friendships and loyalty. His connections have helped him get to the point where he is now. They let him know that people are hearing him outside of Detroit. His friend Philthy Rich introduced him to Vallejo’s SOB X RBE, who he collaborated with on “Washington Dz” in 2017.
Dz knew he was going to be something when he hit his first million views on YouTube, and now he has no intent on slowing down. He acknowledges this on “60 Seconds,” rapping, “From underdog to top dog, it ain’t nothin’ like it/ I swear I knew this shit was comin’, I’m a psychic.” His storytelling and songwriting abilities are unmatched and he deserves all the praise and spotlight he’s received recently. Detroit is up next. – Brandon Callender
What were you like as a child? Did you have any friends?
FMB Dz: I mean, me personally man, I used to be under my granddad a lot. He was grouchy so I grew up as a grouchy ass young dude. I aint really like friends for real, know what I’m saying? So I used to isolate myself when I was younger. If I was cool with you it was cuz we clicked. The two friends that I did have, it was just Dz like that. If I did have a friend growing up, I got ‘em now cuz I ain’t like people. I don’t like people. Period.
What are some of the first songs you remember hearing?
Dz: Slick Rick, “A Children’s Story.”
Who were your favorite rappers when you were growing up?
Dz: I was listening to a lot of Detroit rap at the age of 19. I was listening to a lot of city rap. I was into a lot of city rap. I was listening to a lot of, how can I put this, underground music.
What did you think you were going to be when you grew up? Did you think you were gonna be rapping?
Dz: I really did. I just ain’t know when I was going to start taking this seriously. I always knew this was what I was gonna do. At the end of the day, everything I tried to do I couldn’t ever do, but this is what I can do. So I knew I was gonna be doing this.
In a lot of your interviews you talk about how you’re from the West side of Detroit, but you hang with a lot of dudes from the East. You feature dudes from both sides of the city in your music too. Do the sides not really hang with each other like that? Do you see yourself as unifying your city through music?
Dz: The East and the West, we get along. There ain’t no type of beef. But you may have different individuals that’ll kinda block that off, know what I’m saying. But other than that, there ain’t no big East Side versus West Side thing.
In all your videos you’re wearing some white Cartier Buffs. You’ve talked in interviews before about how Cartier frames are big in Detroit, but what else could you not leave home without?
Dz: Well you know you gotta keep yourself, you know. It’s not good, but at the same time, if you really got something you love and you care about, and you got something to live for, you wanna protect yourself. At the end of the day, you know you gotta leave your house with that, with protection, and you also gotta leave your house with a level head no matter what though. You can have protection on you, you can have a whole lot of money on you, if you don’t got no level head you might as well go back in the house.
What are some more style trends from Detroit that people not from there wouldn’t know about?
Dz: It’s really not too much. You might see like Buffs, white Buffs. You might not see that in too many places but people that’s familiar with our culture you’ll see that on them. We go crazy over hats over here, you probably won’t see that in too many other places.
You’ve been rapping for a year and a half now, right?
Would you call yourself a hard worker? Did you think that you’d get this big, this fast?
Dz: I ain’t think so for real. That was my intention, but I never thought that, you know? Cuz you never know what can happen. As I grew man, once you speak on shit too much, it never happens. So I just let it grow, let it rise.
People said you stole Eastside 80s’ style, but you clarified saying 80s was your boy, but people in comments sections of videos were saying 80s was your cousin. Is that true?
Dz: Nah, 80s just my brother man. He just a real cool friend man.
You call your style “Gangsta Boogie” because it makes people want to dance but you still talk about street shit. Do you feel like you’re making your own lane with this?
Dz: Exactly. Its different styles, different approaches, its like life. Everybody got a different motive. With rap, you can be a hustling motherfucker, a violent motherfucker, or you can be a crybaby ass motherfucker. You can go different ways with the music. You see me and 80s, where we separate at, my brother 80s is a hustler. That boy all he talk about is getting that money for real. We both got some hustle bones in us, but if we were twins, I’d be the evil twin, you know what I’m saying? That’s how it go.
That’s where the world really fucked up at. They don’t really understand. Me and 80s never really talked about the same shit cuz of course he older than me, he a little bit more polished. And I can say that, that’s my brother. He’s a little bit more polished than me. You might hear it a little bit in our voices, we got some deep ass voices when we start rapping. When we get in the booth, our voices probably sound similar. But nah, come on man. I got my own shit goin on, he had his own shit goin on, and he still got his own shit goin on. And he’s been gone for what, 2-3 years? Come on man, let’s speak the facts now. That’s how that go though. When people first started saying that, no one was listening cuz at the end of the day they gotta say something. So fuck it, if that’s what they sayin Imma let it ride.
Whats your writing process like?
Dz: You know, I smoke a couple backwoods. Drink some water, you know how it go. Get refreshed. Period. Then I be ready to go.
Hopping in your bag on “In My Bag,” you showed off your versatility and the different types of songs you can make. Who are some of your influences? What artists do you listen to?
Dz: I been listening to a lot of artists that’s around. I been taking different trips to Atlanta, so I’m kinda liking the Atlanta sound. I’ve been listening to what they’ve been talking about. I’ve been listening to the Gunna, to the Lil Baby. I’ve been looking at Moneybagg [Yo], you know he from Memphis though. I just been looking at a lot of different artists and listening. There’s a lot of shit going on in the world man, and we gotta tap in and get to it. I’ve been listening to a lot of South Rap, a lot of rappers out of Florida. I been listening to a lot of shit lately.
I saw you talk in an interview about taking a trip to do a show California right before The Gift dropped in December, and that’s when you realized that you were getting a lot of love out there. How did it feel seeing so much love shown from a completely different part of the country?
Dz: It gave me a grateful feeling man. I couldn’t be mad about nothin. I feel like I’m living my dreams now.
When did you realize that your music was getting heard outside of Detroit?
Dz: From my lifestyle, I was moving around before rap. I got people in Columbus, I got people in Arizona, I got people here, I got people there. Just from me keeping in touch with them, they let me know. They was asking me, “Aye man, you don’t go by FMB DZ do you?” I had a couple of people going, “They playing you out here man, I ain’t even know this was you.” A couple homeboys from Arizona: “They playing you out here man, we ain’t know this was you.” They know me by my real name. But like I said, I been moving around so much. That’s how I really got with that, that I was getting played everywhere.
The people you work with who aren’t from Detroit tend to be from the Bay Area or Sacramento. What’s the link between Detroit and the Bay? Do you have family there?
Dz: I got family from Cali. Them some good brothers right there, I look at them as brothers. They introduced me to Vallejo. Oh, shoutout to Philthy Rich, that’s my brother too. They introduced me to the Bay, got me tied in real heavy. Shoutouts to SOB X RBE, shoutouts to Slimmy B, Yhung T.O., the whole clique. That’s family man, that’s family. They tapped me in with everyone, showed me how to move. Shoutouts to Nef the Pharaoh. It’s like we cousins man. It’s like we family out there. I love the Bay.
What’s up with Double Dragon with Skuba? There’s like three singles floating around right now that people are feeling. When you think we can expect that?