One of the best parts about these year-end lists, whether it’s the Album Of The Year or Song Of The Year round-up, is reflecting on the new artists who’ve emerged into the fold. Brooklyn, specifically, has been having yet another renaissance of sorts. Drill’s resurgence found a new home in the New York City borough with artists like 22Gz and Sheff G rapping over London variations of the Chicago sound, with the triplet flows and subtle melodies. Brooklyn stars like the late Pop Smoke and Fivio Foreign brought Brooklyn drill to a global platform but still, there’s a slew of artists who are just starting to gain notoriety on a national scale.
Image provided by the artist
Though relatively quiet and reserved, Smoove’L is merely allowing the music to do all the talking. And it's been working for him so far. “New Apolo'' made massive waves in late 2019 but unfortunately, Travis Scott ended up co-opting the beat for the JACKBOYS single, “GATTI” ft. Pop Smoke. The friction between Pop and Smoove’L bubbled even further after the latter’s appearance on Casanova’s “D&D.”
A little over a month after the two rappers initially started trading barbs, Pop Smoke was shot and killed in Los Angeles. And while Smoove offered his condolences following Pop’s death, he revealed that they were going to do a song together. It was never actually set in stone because of Smoke's death, however-- the night Smoove reached out to Pop was the same night he was murdered.
“I had got his number and then I texted him. I texted him the same night,” he told HNHH recently. “I woke up the next morning and found out on the news.”
Though a pioneering figure of Brooklyn’s drill scene had fallen at the beginning of its proliferation, it's artists like Smoove’L who have kept Brooklyn's momentum going throughout the year. A pandemic ultimately halted Smoove's plans to really take over the way he wanted to. But he managed to secure his first million and perform a few shows. The first one being alongside A$AP Rocky in Brooklyn for Yam$ Day.
"I done chilled, and met, and seen a lot of n*ggas this year. It’s starting to get regular with me," he admits, though the feeling still appears to be fresh. "Bro, it’s just crazy how you could be listening to somebody’s music and it’s just like, right there. So I’m like, ‘This is actually real.’ And my whole goal is to show the people from where I’m from like, this sh*t can happen, you know what I’m saying?"
For the eleventh day of our 12 Days Of Christmas interview series, we caught up with the Boy From Brooklyn Smoove’L ahead of the release of his new project, Ice Cups & Shootouts to discuss his latest project, reaching out to Pop Smoke, and meeting A$AP Rocky.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Day Eleven: A Conversation with Smoove'l
HotNewHipHop: Yo, how you doing bro?
Smoove’L: I’m chilling.
Dope, dope. Thank you for your time bro, it’s been an exciting year to watch you grow. It’s been a productive year all things considered.
Yeah. I been chilling. I feel great, I feel good.
We’re approaching the end of the year so I wanted to revisit your song “2020.” You rap, “I ain’t with the funny money/ I got shooters moving with me cautious/ You had a chance with me, too bad you lost it/ I don’t need no friendships, no I won’t force it.” It sounds to me like you’ve just been locked in and hella focused this year. So in retrospect, do you feel like you were able to accomplish everything you set out to do this year?
Yeah. I got more to accomplish but it’s just the start, just the beginning, you know what I’m saying? Just really getting into the studio and getting better. That’s all, man. Just making music.
How do you think this year played out for you, with all things considered?
Because of the mothafuckin’ corona and shit, it could’ve been better but, it was good. I’m grateful for everything. That’s it, it was good though. It played out good.
Did you get to play any shows before the pandemic hit?
Oh yeah, I did about nine shows. A good amount [like] 9 [or] 10 before it came, and then that was about it. I did some through the pandemic, yeah. Next week, I think. It was good.
How’s that feeling for you? I know 2018-2019 your local buzz was crazy and then this is the kind of year where people everywhere started taking notice.
Great! It’s crazy because it’s really hard to expand to them other states and cities and s*it like that. So, for me, to see people vibe with my music out of state and things like, that is great. That’s God’s blessing right there.
It’s dope that you’re able to go to different places outside of your own city and see people identify with your music. It’s classified as Brooklyn drill but you can tell there are other influences outside of that, as well.
Yeah, most definitely. It’s just about energy, at the end of the day. And really just being creative in the studio. Making sure I’m creative and things like that. Learning what the differences is, and what could get the fans ear. I try to be on the best of both worlds when I do that.
What do you think is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from 2020 is?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned from 2020 is save your money, that’s about it. Save your money and be cautious. Stay dangerous, be protected and be safe. That’s it.
I think you mentioned recently that you reached your first million so congratulations on that. That’s a big milestone.
You seen my Instagram?
Yeah. That’s huge.
Where for yourself do you see yourself navigating in the business world?
Probably [in] like fashion. Brand ambassador, you get what I’m saying? Stuff like that. I got little investments. I think I’ll go with lifestyle investments, like, everyday things people got to do in life.
I was checking out the Funk Flex Freestyle from earlier this year where you said that you have yet to go to New Apolo. Has that changed since then?
Nah, I still haven’t went. It’s like -- I don’t know. Apolo’s was a thing that’s from Brooklyn. So, I really heard about it but I never went to it, you get what I’m saying?
I heard they got good reviews.
Yeah, definitely. Some of my mans just go back and probably go there and bring it back to the hood, that’s how I knew about it. I never really went there myself. My mans’ll probably go and bring it back to the hood and share it out or some shit like that.
What’s the significance of the title of your new album, Ice Cups & Shootouts?
Basically, like where I came from. Brooklyn is like, it’s not a lot of violence but it’s just like an environment, you get what I’m saying? It’s a lot of partying, it’s a lot of crazy stuff going on.
There’s a lot of growth on this project in comparison to Boy From Brooklyn. What statement do you want to make with this project?
Whatever the people make it. I just really make music, that’s it. I don’t do nothing else. I just make music. I really don’t be looking for -- I do love looking for my fan reviews but it’s like, I just make music. I don’t trip about it, you get what I’m saying? God showed me what I got so I basically gotta keep doing the same thing. That’s how my thing goes. But I definitely put some time into this, so I hope the people like it.
How long have you been working on this one?
I’ve been working on this for like a good minute. It could be a year or more. But it just came a time, like, I didn’t plan it like, ‘this was gonna be the name.’ It’s just like, ‘okay, it’s time.’ It’s not like a planned time. Like I just dropped, and it’s like, 'Alright, let me just put something out.' So, it wasn’t, like, me knowing a year ago I was gonna come up with this sh*t. It’s just a time thing.
Image provided by the artist
So, at what point do you realize you have a project done?
Like I said, I make songs. So, I be like, ‘Okay, this is it,’ [or] ‘that’s not it,’ you know what I’m saying? That’s how it is. I make songs sometimes, it just be like, ‘Alright, this is good,’ or ‘this not good.’ But, you get the idea, you know what I’m saying? I just put it all together and be like, ‘this would be a dope way of listening to my music in this sequence.’
So, sequencing is the most important aspect of putting together a project for you?
Yeah. Really like, what’s coming right after each song in a good flow, in a good way. How each song goes into each other. Play out perfect, that’s all.
What’s an album that you appreciated sequencing on?
Roddy Ricch’s album Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial, that one right there. I like his little sequence because I was listening to it. I was like, ‘Alright, it’s a good flow.’ And it’s melodic. It’s my side of the world. So I really listen to a lot of melodic dudes and melodic is going on crazy right now, so you get what I’m saying. So, I try to just focus and study the goods and greats and everything.
"Roddy Ricch’s album Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial, that one right there. I like his little sequence because I was listening to it. I was like, ‘Alright, it’s a good flow.’ And it’s melodic. It’s my side of the world. So I really listen to a lot of melodic dudes and melodic is going on crazy right now"
Are there any collaborations on this project?
Yeah, I got Toosii on this one. Toosii up there in the act. How that came about, I just hit him and I sent him a verse. Or I think my A&R got it, I can’t remember. But my boy stepped on that.
I know you kind of mentioned before in a previous interview that you’re a bit more reclusive. Do you enjoy making music like more by yourself or are you looking forward to collaborating more in the future?
Just making music more by myself. It’s just like the natural thing. I started by myself so it’s like, ‘hey.’ But if it comes along soon, if I hear about these songs, will I turn it down? No. So it’s like, if an artist wanna work with me, we can work. That’s all. Or maybe my team will come and be like “Do this real quick” and I’ll just do it.
Around the time you dropped Boy From Brooklyn, you did an interview with XXL. They asked you who would you compare your sound to or which comparison would you hear and you said, “Lately, I’ve been feeling like DMX.” What is it about DMX that resonates with you so much?
I like DMX’s aggressiveness. He go hard. That sh*t fire. DMX is fire. Just his approach. His approach is great, you know what I’m saying. That’s it but really, I’ll be doing my own sh*t.
Nah for sure. Aside from yourself, what else has been on your playlist this year?
I can’t expose that. I don’t want nobody to know that [Laughing]. I been in my own world.
The passing of Pop Smoke was among the many tragedies of 2020. After his passing, you cleared the air on the supposed feud between you two and said you were going to do a track together. Was there conversations in place about getting the track done?
No, no. I hit him. I had got his number and then I texted him. Then, the news came. I texted him the same night. I texted the same night and then I woke up the next morning and found out on the news. May God bless his family and bless his soul.
"I had got [Pop Smoke's] number and then I texted him. Then, the news came. I texted him the same night. I texted the same night and then I woke up the next morning and found out on the news. May God bless his family and bless his soul."
The night you pretty much extended an olive branch, you found out that same night he had got shot?
No, the morning. My A&R had talked to him and told me and then I texted him. Like a real n*gga should, you know what I’m saying?
I’m very sorry to hear that. Just going back to what you mentioned earlier about having to stay dangerous, especially with as many rapper shootings that we’ve seen so far this year, do you feel like you have to be more on your toes when you’re out?
Yeah, you should be more on point. I don’t know why rappers don’t have security guards but I have one. Sometimes. Sometimes not. But you should, especially for shows and sh*t like that. It’s a professional thing, you get what I’m saying? I ain’t trying to get this side of the world mixed with this. If I see that’s the right thing to do in this side of the world then do it because, us, as rappers, [there’s] a lot of jewelry, ice. It’s a lot of n*ggas -- how everybody else is, it’s a lot of haters.
What has been your biggest flex of the year?
My biggest flex of the year? Maybe, my car. It’s gotta be my car. Yeah, my car. I got a Hellcat SLT. Number 464th in the world. That was my biggest flex. $100k, you know.
"My biggest flex of the year? Maybe, my car. It’s gotta be my car. Yeah, my car. I got a Hellcat SLT. Number 464th in the world. That was my biggest flex. $100k, you know."
Nah I see your Instagram, you’re always flexing in a different car. What’s been your favorite? Aside from your Hellcat.
Damn, that’s hard. I really don’t know. That’s a good question, man. Maybe, it is my car. I don’t know. I drove an M8, too, this year. That shit fast. Yeah, so I don’t know.
So, outside of the purchase, what’s been your highlight of the year?
Probably Yams Day. Was that this year? It was, right?
I think it was right before the pandemic hit.
Oh yeah! So, definitely, that was my highlight. It was in Barclays Center, you know what I’m saying? I’m from the town. I’m from Brooklyn, so it’s like, perfect. A good lineup, and it’s just in front of everybody. That was my first show, so that was my highlight of the year. And I got to bring my mother and my whole family. That shit was lit. Word.
Rocky brought you out for that right?
Yeah. Shout out to Rocky, man.
How’s that relationship with Rocky? I know you said that you’ve hung out with Ferg--
Rocky’s a cool ass n*gga! He a cool a*s n*gga! I mean, we only talked once or twice. After the show he texted me. He was like, "Appreciate it bro for coming out," and sh*t like that. And it’s hard to remember, you get what I’m saying? A lot of n*ggas don’t do that. Just remember somebody after their show and sh*t. I’m like, that’s A$AP Rocky texting me, you know what I’m sayin’? Because I was just a regular n*gga the day before that, so that’s crazy. He dead texted me. Then he followed me on the ‘Gram, so I was like, ‘Oh, sh*t! So I’m really in his world.’
Image provided by the artist
That must’ve been a surreal moment. Who else have you gotten to hang around that was surprising?
A lot of n***as. I done seen everybody this year. I done even seen -- like, shit in person, if you’re saying all the rappers and sh*t like that, I done seen everybody. I seen a lot of people this year. I seen Lil Baby in California, I seen Youngboy in California. And I seen, it was a video shoot with Quavo. I been with Migos. We were at a party and sh*t like that. So I done chilled, and met, and seen a lot of n*ggas this year. It’s starting to get regular with me.
Bro, it’s just crazy how you could be listening to somebody’s music and it’s just like right there. So I’m like, ‘This is actually real.’ And my whole goal is to show the people from where I’m from like, this sh*t can happen, you know what I’m saying? That’s why I be pulling up sometimes, so people can know, like, these people are real people, that’s it. You can chase your dreams and shit like that.
So just on that note real quick. Who were rappers from your own neighborhood growing up that made this rap seem like it could be a reality?
My n*ggas, POB. Pop Out Boys. They from the hood, you know what I’m saying? N*ggas from my hood was rapping before me. I’m just a young n*gga. They was rapping first and they was making it look good. And then still growing up in my childhood. I mean, like, my early stages, 14, 15, A Boogie came out. I was like A Boogie was from New York, too, and that sh*t got it jumping right there.
Grade 11 was when you started taking rap seriously, right?
What was that moment that kind of clicked with you? Was it seeing A Boogie or was there something else?
Nah, I been rapping for a minute and at the same time, you get on the internet and it’s a lot of people nowadays, like, everyone is getting on. So I’m looking from the perspective of 'if they could do it, I could do it, too.' That’s how I’m looking at it. But at the same time, I’ve been rapping. So it’s like, you go in there, you get in there and you learn the studio the same way you learn school work. I just stayed in the studio and learned the studio. And then things just come. It comes. You stay down.
Christmas is around the corner. What are you looking forward to the most?
What I’m looking forward to for Christmas? I mean, giving. That’s what I’m looking forward to. Giving back to people.
We’re coming into 2021, you mentioned yesterday after that you’re coming into 2021 differently. What do you hope to accomplish next year? What’s your mindset going into the new year?
My mindset going into the new year is to be a better me. Be a better me, you know what I’m sayin’? And just, stay down and just be a better me. Definitely, just go harder. Stay in the studio, and that’s about it. Don’t get caught into the hype and just be me, that’s all. Simple.
And what do you hope to accomplish next year?
Get me a song on Billboard. Like, for real, Hot 100.
Dope, that’s up! Any last words to the fans?
Man, just get money! [Laughs]
That's what's up. Really appreciate you chopping it up with me and looking forward to seeing what you are about to do in the new year, bro.
No problem. Appreciate it, man. Thank you for having me.
Alright bro, take care.
You too. Happy New Year!