“I’m From Detroit, It’s Hard to Make It to Where I’m At”: An Interview With Damedot

Isaac Fontes speaks to Damedot about growing up in Detroit, being a dad, his latest mixtape and more.
By    July 21, 2022

Image via Damedot/Instagram

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Isaac Fontes is an unrestricted free agent.

For the past five years, Damedot has been one of the most consistent rappers out of Detroit, dropping stacked projects full of vicious punchlines, offbeat humor and undeniably catchy hooks. There’s always something going in Dame’s life – his girl is trying to pick a fight, but he’s too busy counting up his money to entertain it. He’s paying $80,000 for a watch and feeling obligated to show it off. It’s shit-talking “get money” rap about expensive cars and designer clothes, but his music isn’t limited to mere flexing. There’s real emotion and paranoia. “Sometimes I wear these Gucci shades ‘cause I be tearin’ up,” he raps on “PROUD,” a track dedicated to his late grandmother.

A driving force in the Motor City scene, Damedot’s work ethic was instilled in him since early on. Growing up as the middle child in the 7 Mile neighborhood of Detroit, Dame credits his mom for providing his family with a good childhood. “If we were struggling, I didn’t know for real, until I had to look deep into it,” Dame recalls. Between some family members being part of the gospel at church and the sounds heard around the house, music has been a crucial part of his life since a young age. The music that was played at home varied by genre, which Dame credits now for allowing him to have no musical limitations; a characteristic that he embraces by experimenting with his sound and striving towards versatility.

After developing a love for technology and computers through a middle school program where he built and disassembled computers, he frequented music-downloading sites like BearShare and Limewire. Always self-sufficient, he taught himself how to make beats, starting out on a program called HipHopStars before learning how to use Reason, Ableton and Fruity Loops. He participated in Freestyle Fridays and embraced the title of “class clown” at school where he poked fun at classmates through rhymes. Other kids his age went out to play – Dame stayed inside and treated music like a day job.

Before he began his solo career, he was a member of one of the most well-known rap groups to come out of Detroit within recent years: Team Eastside. Consisting of the top guns from different hoods throughout the Eastside of Detroit, the members had all heard of each other and decided to come together to unite the sub-region. Members included recent XXL Freshman Babyface Ray, Detroit legend Peezy, Lou, Lil P, D-Nice, Snoop and Dame, who started out making beats for the group to rap over once they decided to move on from rapping over industry beats.

Team Eastside was working as a group to keep the signature Detroit sound alive, and push its hard-hitting sound to the mainstream – a feat that hadn’t really worked for any of the generations before them. Another Detroit supergroup in Doughboyz Cashout, were occupying a similar lane making similar-sounding music that was both club-ready and street-inspired around the same time. “If it wasn’t for our sound and us competing with Doughboyz, I don’t think the Detroit sound would’ve made it,” Dame says. In posse cuts where each verse is riddled with lifestyle braggadocio, flexing and tales of the Detroit streets, Dame fits right in.

As a solo artist, he’s held onto the same qualities and sprinkled in his own humor through punchlines. On top of dropping projects, singles and feature verses every year, Damedot also runs his own record label, a security team that can be booked by the public, a property management company and a comic book company for his son.

As he gears up to take over the summer and continue to flood the streets with his music, Dame is fresh off the release of his second tape of 2022, FUCK YO SUMMER, whose eponymous lead single chants “Fuck yo summer, this my summer.” Shortly after its release, we spoke about Detroit, his career, how being a dad has changed him and how drinking exotic Fanta from China inspired one of his most recent hits.

​​(This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.)

I heard you say that, looking back, your mom made it seem as though you guys weren’t struggling. Can you expand on that a little bit?

Damedot: Yeah, definitely. If we were struggling, I didn’t know for real, until I had to look deep into it.

What’s life like as a middle child?

Damedot: You know, you just be on your responsibilities early. That’s all. It’s being a teacher. I like learning, so I like teaching [too]. She (his younger sister) was always looking for me to teach her something. I wasn’t around my older brother, so I couldn’t really learn from him, but I’m pretty sure it would’ve been dope to teach somebody or have somebody that’s looking up to you and you want to learn from.

Are there any other musicians in your family at all?

Damedot: Yeah, my momma. She used to sing. I got a couple. My whole family got a church and they play all kinds of instruments. I got people in the gospel industry, who are in my family. Yeah, so a lot of my family did music.

So it runs deep.

Damedot: Yeah, it do. My kind of music, I didn’t get from them though! (Laughs)

That’s your own wave! What kind of music was being played around the house, that you can remember?

Damedot: R&B, rap. A lot of rap. A lot of R&B, old school songs, all kinds of music. I listen to all kinds of music and that came from when I was growing up, my mom used to play all kinds of music.

And how, if at all, do you think being exposed to all different kinds of music helps you, now that you’re an artist yourself?

Damedot: It don’t give me no musical limits. I always see some type of genre in my music and it ain’t always rap. It ain’t always R&B. Sometimes it might be jazz, sometimes it might be rock. I was able to use that in building my characteristics in my music now. So a lot of people just know rap. They just know hip-hop and they don’t hear other music in their music. Me being exposed to that just helped me add that to my pot.

For sure. What were you like as a high school student?

Damedot: I was cool! I was fresh. I won class clown. I was like, the best rapper in high school. I don’t know, high school was cool. But I really went to high school in the opp’s hood, so it was fun on the girl’s tip, but the n****s, I kinda had a little smoke in that area. Other than that, it was cool. High school was great.

Did you ever think about going to college? Or was rap going well already, by that point?

Damedot: Nah, rapping was always going well. But I wanted to go to college to learn how to play the piano and I tried it for a year and I was just like, ‘yeah, this ain’t something you go to school for.’ It’s something that you just gotta sit in front of the keyboard and grind. So I tried it, but it didn’t work.

I heard you say that you hit the streets around 15 years old. Can you share what led to that?

Damedot: Just getting in high school and it ain’t like middle school, where it’s easy to impress people or easy to fit in. In high school, you gotta have more money than your momma gave you. You gotta have better shoes than your daddy bought you, stuff like that. So you start getting out here and seeing your own opportunity.

What stands out to you about that period of time, looking back now?

Damedot: Just being able to start helping. Just being able to start helping and not being so dependent on people. That’s something that I carry to this day. I still help people and I still go out of my way to see, what I can do to help you?

How would you say that those experiences, at such a young age, helped shape you into the man you are today?

Damedot: I actually learn from my mistakes. I actually pay attention to my life. So you know, stuff that I learned when I was young, I carry with me now. I’m 31 and I still do stuff now that I did when I was younger, just knowing from experience, how to move, how to read stuff, how to look at certain things, how to analyze when I first walk in. Stuff like that. Learning that stuff at a young age taught me to stay afloat now. I’m from Detroit, it’s hard to make it to where I’m at. I think learning that stuff at an early age helps me stay afloat today.

I understand that you had been rhyming or poking fun of people at school before you actually started rapping. At what age would you say that you actually started rapping seriously?

Damedot: I’d say about middle school. Maybe like seventh grade? Seventh grade, I started taking it seriously and started listening to it like, ‘OK, so I need to buy programs. I need to start getting a microphone,’ and stuff like that. That’s when I knew I needed to start rapping for real, because now I’m buying the stuff, I’m getting money invested. Everybody else was running outside to play and I’m in here, clicking and tryna figure out what’s going on, why the sound ain’t coming out the mic and stuff like that.

What do you remember from the Freestyle Fridays that you participated in at school?

Damedot: That I wasn’t really talking about shit! I really was just popular, so they were all like, ‘aye!’ But I wasn’t really talking about nothing. I think one day I had found one of my old raps, like a minute ago, I found an old rap and I was just like, ‘yeah, that’s crazy. We came a long way, boy.’

When and where did you first actually record?

Damedot: At my momma’s house. I started in my room, like in a little walk-in closet and then we moved into a house and then I had the basement. I had lots of room in the basement. Then when I moved out, my whole house has been a studio since then.

Do you remember your first time recording in an actual studio?

Damedot: I do. I had a management situation when I was maybe like, 17 or 18 maybe. They took us to a real studio. It was a house though, but they had all the mixing boards, they had the mic in the booth that you gotta walk through the hallway and go around to. Back in my day, that was a dream to have a booth. Nowadays I don’t even use the booth. I keep the mic right next to me.

Was that kind of an overwhelming experience at first, like to be in an actual studio for the first time?

Damedot: Yeah, that was crazy. At that time, I was getting into technology and looking into plug-ins and programs and stuff like that, so me looking into all of that around that time and then actually going in there, it was like a dream come true really.

I was gonna ask you about that too. How did your love for technology first develop?

Damedot: Being bad in middle school, they put me in this program and we had to like, build computers and take them down – just little stuff. Then I kinda started liking it, and that’s how it happened. I had a computer in like, second grade and didn’t nobody know what a computer was. I don’t know, I used to be on BearShare, downloading beats. I was just on Limewire and stuff. I was just ahead of a lot of stuff. I used to watch Soulja Boy and stuff. Like, Soulja Boy made me wanna get social media. I was like, ‘wow, you can have a page on MySpace and they can play your song! That’s crazy!’ It don’t mean nothing now, but that was crazy back in the day.

I’m always curious too, especially with these Detroit and Flint rappers – Michigan rappers in general.. Do you ever write down your bars or do you just freestyle?

Damedot: It depends. If I’m in a rush with my mind, when I get focused, my mind just overloads, so if I’m right there in front of the microphone, I don’t need to write nothing. I can just say it. But if I’m like right now and my mind starts working right now, I’d have to write it down. Or if I’m sitting in the studio and I’m tryna rush or something, I don’t wanna take all day, I just write it down. But I don’t like the songs that I don’t write.

That’s interesting.

Damedot: I feel like, when I’m just sitting in front of the mic, just freestyling, it’s momentary to me. It’s how I feel right now. How I feel about something right now. When I write it, I got time to say how I feel about it regardless. It feels more meaningful to me, whether I’m talking about anything. Not just meaningful stuff.

One thing that sticks out about your music to me, is that there’s definitely humor in it, and I think that’s a really important quality, especially in 2022. Do you ever think of these punchlines at random times throughout the day, or do they just come to you? How do you incorporate your humor into it?

Damedot: Both! It’s both. Like sometimes, we’ll just be sitting here laughing and joking and we’ll say something that’ll just be so funny, I’ll write it down, like ‘I gotta put that in there somehow!’ Or sometimes I’ll say something and then when I stop recording, I’ll listen to it and I’ll laugh myself, like ‘OK, that was kinda funny.’ It’s both sometimes.

How did Team Eastside first form? Did you guys all know each other from school?

Damedot: Nah, it was like, we heard of each other. We’re all from different hoods. Around Detroit, [we were] all the top dawgs, so we kinda just met up and was doing music. It first was called The Boys and we were just rapping on other people’s beats. Industry beats and stuff like that. We finally were like, ‘we’re gonna take it serious.’ We did a hashtag on Twitter, #TeamEastside and that’s how that happened. I started making the beats. My beats were up to par by then, you could rap on them now.

Would you say that you and the rest of Team Eastside helped influence the signature Detroit sound that we know and love today?

Damedot: Yeah, definitely. If it wasn’t for our sound and us competing with Doughboyz, I don’t think the Detroit sound would’ve made it. Because we done tried this a couple times and it never worked for no generation. Competing with them, going back and forth, making them work harder, them making us work harder, we turned the sound up to make people really like it, ultimately. And that’s still the sound that I use today.

I think a result of the influence that you were just talking about, is Detroit having this really diverse hip-hop scene. But a lot of the guys like you, Peezy and I would even say Babyface Ray, just to name a few, your sound is distinctly Detroit. How would you describe what you guys have going on right now to somebody who might not be aware?

Damedot: That’s probably the hardest question. It’s something that you gotta experience. When you listen to Future songs, yeah they’re cool, but it’s something about listening to them in Atlanta. When you come to Detroit and you eat the food and you go to the club and see what everyone got on, you see all the Hellcats and everybody driving crazy, all the big booty girls.. When you see everything, the music is just the soundtrack to the Detroit life. It’s really self-explanatory. We don’t make a mood, we don’t make you feel like something. We tell you exactly what it is. This is a rich n**** summer. I’m not tryna be poetic about it. I’m not using no metaphors. ‘How much did you pay for that booty / What you want for that coochie?’ We getting straight to the point!

I like that. I know too, that a lot of your influences are Detroit rappers and that makes sense because that’s where you were born and raised, it’s how your music sounds and it’s the scene that you’re a part of. But would you label any other artists outside of Detroit as influences? They don’t have to be just musically..

Damedot: Yeah, Gucci Mane. I love Gucci. You know, I got a label now and he is a lot of the reason why I run my label how I run it. I let my artists do what they want. I like how a lot of people rap. I like how André 3000 raps. Wayne is creative. I like a lot of artists for different things, but as far as musically, I could sit here and listen to Wayne all day, listen to whoever all day, but when I put out my music to the world, it ain’t gonna sound like Wayne. It’s gonna be off the people who influenced me musically, from my house.

Can you talk about your label a little bit?

Damedot: It’s called FGM: Forever Gutter Music. Forever Gettin’ Money. Forever Global. I got three artists right now. I got a security team that’s open for the public. You can book my security. They adapt the sound, and they take the sound and put their spin on it. It’s like having another family member in the family. It’s just a mixture of everything.

You mentioned that security team.. Can you tell me about your other business ventures outside of music? I hear there’s a rug company, there’s lawn service..

Damedot: Yeah, I got a property management company, a security company, I got another record label. Yeah, I got a comic book company for my son. That’s about it right there so far.

What would you say is your inspiration for having all of these other ventures? Does generational wealth play a factor?

Damedot: Yeah, but I just know rap don’t last forever. I know you gotta get it while it’s hot. Let me think of an artist right now that’s washed up.. Young Joc. If he started a company, he’s just like Joe Blow from around the corner, tryna get a company started because don’t nobody care no more. You gotta start it when they care.

I heard you say too, that on every project, you like to experiment a little bit on a song or two, with different sounds. How important is it to you to branch out and why?

Damedot: I think being versatile is a quality that can get you far. It’s something that holds a lot of weight, that people don’t take seriously. Some people don’t wanna hear ‘rah rah rah’ all day, you know? You might collect some extra ears if you sing a little bit. You might get people who like the R&B rap. If you use autotune, you might get the younger crowd who likes autotune nowadays. If you use an old-school sample, you might get an older ear, like ‘oh I remember that song!’ So just using a broad variety of different types of music and sounds, and directions of rap, to me, just always seemed like a way to build a bigger fan base. My fans appreciate it, they’ll put on for me. My favorite rappers are versatile. They don’t just rap just like this. So that’s a good talent.

I think that’s really important too.. You put out pretty long projects as well. The newest one has like 29 songs on it, so I think that’s really important to switch up your sound on the same project and I think that’s why it works when you have that many songs, because you’re so diverse and you have a little bit of everything for everybody on there, right?

Damedot: Exactly!

We talked about you being 2 for 2 already in 2022 and you drop very consistently. How important is that to you and do you feel like your output has to be high because of the short attention span that fans seem to have nowadays?

Damedot: Sometimes I feel that way, but I just believe in quality over quantity, even though I give them quantity [too]. Yeah, so that’s another thing. It’s just like being versatile, it’s another thing I like having in my bag, and they be liking that I’m consistent too. ‘Not only is he this and that, but he’s consistent.’ That’s a heavy punch too. Consistent and being versatile. Like, ‘OK, he can rap. OK, he can dress. OK, he can hoop too! Wow, I didn’t know that. But he’s actually consistent, he’s not a one-hit wonder, and it don’t seem like it, and he’s versatile. When we get tired of this, he’s gonna give us that.’ That’s different.

I was hoping that we could talk a little bit about the dad life. Does having a son change your life as a rapper at all?

Damedot: Yeah, it makes you go harder! It makes you be more safe, it makes you think more secure. Like, I need to do stuff that’s 100% absolute, instead of risking. My risk level now is very low, because I don’t need to take risks no more. I got a responsibility. Like, a whole human life is my responsibility. So I can’t risk pretty much nothing. My job is my job, I gotta risk it when I go to the club, when I’m anywhere in public, but I keep it down to a minimum.

Do you still have plans to move out to Texas? Does that move have anything to do with your son, or just because you like it out there?

Damedot: I think I don’t wanna move yet, because I want my son to have a little bit more Detroit on his back. He’s gotta feel where he comes from a little bit. I don’t wanna just move him to Texas and now he’s a cowboy! I want him to know where he’s from and I want him to use all of that everywhere he goes. But I will [go] back and forth, until it’s time for him to be on his own two feet and decide whether he’s gonna live there or not.

Do you have any production credits on the new tape? I know Rell has a lot on there..

Damedot: Mmhmm! I made the beat with me and Peezy on there (“IN THE MOB”). They think it’s a sample, but it’s actually not a sample. What else did I make? I made “HIBACHI” on there. I made “RICH BOSS.” I think that’s it.

So there’s a few. I heard you say though, that you prefer to rap over other producer’s beats.. Why do you say that?

Damedot: It’s just like, two heads is better than one. When I rap on my beats, only my input is right there. I get help from other people and it comes out better for all. They get credit, I get credit, the fans love it. It just comes out way better.

I had a couple questions about a couple specific songs on the new tape. The first one is “CHINESE FANTA.” Can you tell me about the story that inspired that song?

Damedot: My homeboy, he’s got a store and he had exoctic pops in the store. One day he was like ‘bro, this that new Fanta!’ I looked at it and I couldn’t even read it, I’m like, ‘what is this?’ Then he was like, ‘just try it out!’ I fell in love with it. I was going into the gas stations and looking for them and I was like, ‘wow, I can only get them from him.’ And it was so expensive, I was like, ‘yup, I gotta make a song about this!’

It was like a coconut Fanta, right?

Damedot: It actually was white peach. But coconut just sounded better with the song.

Fair enough. (Laughs) I’m curious too.. I know this is an older song, it’s not on the new tape, but “Balacananas”.. I had to look up what they were, but how did you hear about them?

Damedot: (Laughs) It was a viral video of an old head from Baton Rouge and people tagged me in the video and were like, you know, ‘this is funny!’ I was like, ‘I’ma put that in a song.’ I actually named the song after him tryna pronounce it and he couldn’t.

I’m curious too, about “ROOFTOP.” That’s one of my favorites so far as well. I think what sticks out to me about it is what I think to be one of your strong suits, which is like, these catchy hooks. How important are those to you?

Damedot: That actually was one of the last songs I recorded for my tape. That’s one of them songs where I just went in the studio, and just in front of the mic, just saying stuff. Just saying stuff in front of the microphone. As far as the hook, I just was rapping. You know, ‘she wanna go to Ruth Chris, I took her to the rooftop.’ It was so hard, that I just made it the hook. I really was just rapping!

So you’ve been rapping for a while now obviously, since you were in middle school and you’re 31 now. How have you seen the game change while you’ve been a part of it?

Damedot: It’s less about music and more about everything else. It ain’t about how sweet you can make a song or how solid your album is. It’s not about that. It’s about that one bar in that one song that they can use for TikTok. That’s as far as the consumers, the labels, everybody. The artists are aiming for that. Everybody is just tryna find that one bar in that one song, out of the whole tape, and they miss everything else. But it’s just attention span.

You mentioned that the game now is not really about the music anymore, it’s about that one bar. How would you say that’s made you change as an artist, if at all? Are you intentionally trying to find that bar?

Damedot: Nah, I’m doing me no matter what. But I do kinda incorporate what’s going on around me, in today’s world, in what I do, because I wanna be involved. So I wanna be a part of society and what’s going on, so I incorporate in what I do for sure. But I don’t let it change me, just because they don’t wanna hear a three-minute song no more. I’m not looking for that one bar and I think my fans got a different respect for me, for not being like that. For still sticking to the code and keeping it about bars and picking good beats, and still having hooks and stuff like that. So I don’t let it change me.

Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years from now?

Damedot: Right here where I’m at, just doing what I’m doing, but on a bigger level. On a bigger scale. Looking back, telling all my artists ‘I used to do what y’all doing now.’ Running all my other companies, hopefully they’re gonna be off the ground. I should have my clothing line by then. Same thing, bro. I know what I was put here to do. I’m not gonna die a janitor. I’m not gonna die a politician or nothing like that. I gotta do this until it’s over.

Do you see yourself still rapping for a long time?

Damedot: I know I probably can still do this forever, but I don’t think I’ll do it. I think it’s a time limit for me on music, that’s why I’m venturing off and doing other stuff.

What age do you see yourself tapping out at?

Damedot: I don’t know, because there’s some 40-year-old rappers. I don’t wanna be 40 rapping, but I don’t know! I feel like I’ma use it as long as I can bro, to be honest. If I still got it, I still got it. I can’t fight it.

We talked about you being versatile, you could always switch it up and rap over an Alchemist beat..

Damedot: Yeah, or sample my old shit! My shit is gonna be old school by then. (Laughs)

How about the other side of the Detroit scene, where you have guys like Danny Brown and recently, Boldy James.. Are you tapped in with those guys at all?

Damedot: Yeah, I recorded my tape Mafia Lord 2 at the Bruiser House. That’s Danny Brown’s studio.

Yeah, his label is going crazy right now, with Bruiser Wolf, Fat Ray..

Damedot: Yeah, Fat Ray is in my video to “Yeah.” If you watch my video, “Yeah,” Fat Ray is in there. I was helping him promote his strain. Boldy James been my man for a long time, he’s on my second album that I ever came out with. But yeah, I think they’re putting on silently. Detroit itself, the big meat and potatoes of Detroit, it ain’t really a hip-hop scene. It’s more rap. But they shine everywhere else way bigger than we ever shined streetly here. But they [are] my guys, I rock with them all. I done did business with them all, songs with them all. I got a song with Danny Brown.

Man, I can only imagine what that sounds like..

Damedot: Yeah, it’s actually dope. I can’t think of who made the beats, but I was in his bag. He got me on some hip-hop, lyrical, real dark, deep, hardcore type of shit. And I got him on some [Eastside] Chedda Boyz-sounding shit.

Wow, that’s incredible.

Damedot: Yeah. I’m actually kinda lyrical, bro! I just dumb it down for the crowd. I really can go. I really can go up, but who wants to be in the club, drunk at 2:50 in the morning, thinking of my bars, like ‘what did he mean?’ My audience don’t really care for too much of that, but I try to sprinkle it in a little bit.

With that in mind too, being connected to Danny Brown and Boldy James and all that, would you say that the Detroit hip-hop scene is a tight knit community?

Damedot: Yeah, I think so. I think they’ve got their own world and we’ve got our own world. Just how we’re not in their world, they’re not in our world. A lot of my fans don’t know who Danny Brown is. A lot of his fans would be like, ‘who the fuck is Damedot?’ But when we get together, people are happy to see it. Some people are there for that. Some people are like, ‘I wanted to see this, I’ve been waiting on this!’ Some people listen to both of us and they can’t wait for it, so hell yeah.

Well look man, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me.

Damedot: For sure, anytime! We’ll have to do a part 2.

For sure. It’s been an absolute pleasure. Congrats on the 2022 that you’re already having and I hope that there’s another tape or two in store?

Damedot: Maybe! I appreciate you having me for the interview, bro. Hopefully next time we’ll be in person.

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