Really Doe has made quite an impression on the top digital retailer of music worldwide with his aptly-titled debut full-length, First Impressions.
“iTunes is actually gonna re-post the album,” Really Doe revealed to HipHopDX last Friday (January 8th) of the planned relaunching of his LP set for today (January 12th) on the iTunes site. “They loved the album so much. Actually, [back in August] my album debuted at #6 inside the Hip Hop Top 10 charts on iTunes. Then they released it again [and] it debuted at #8… [And now it’s gonna be] back on the front page, [with] full banners. [And] in order for iTunes to do anything [they] most definitely have to believe in your product.”
The appreciation for Really Doe’s work has been a long time coming, over a decade to be exact.
“Sometimes God put us in positions for a certain reason,” Really Doe replied when asked why it’s taken ten years for him to finally see his debut album released. “I feel like now I’m ready, I done been around the world a few times with [Kanye West], [I’ve] been a student to the game, I know what to do and what not to do in order to make a complete CD [now].”
Launching his career in the late ‘90s as one third of local Chicago group The Go Getters, alongside future star Kanye West and childhood friend GLC, the eventual late bloomer went off the Rap radar during the half-dozen years between when The Go Getters were making noise locally and Really Doe’s national coming out party on Kanye’s “We Major” from ‘Ye’s 2005 sophomore effort, Late Registration.
“I was still hustling, doing what I do, grindin’,” Really Doe revealed of how his time was spent during that period. “I was caught up into the streets a little bit, but I was [also] making music as far as I was selling music to local artists, doing appearances. I was basically Internet hustlin’ too, selling guys 16’s over MySpace and different things like that. And traveling also, I still was on tour with ‘Ye [for some of that time]. I did everything from The College Dropout [Tour], which I was opening act [for], to ‘The Glow In The Dark Tour.’ So I’ve always been a student, as far as like traveling with ‘Ye and learning different things he’s been doing for other artists.”
“A lot of guys [were like], ‘Damn dude, I know you upset your album ain’t out, and you going to the studio with ‘Ye for him to work on another artist’s project,’” he continued. “No, quite frankly I wasn’t upset because I knew one day it’d be my turn. And everyday [learning] as a student I would know what to do by having [this] hands-on training.”
That hands-on learning experience courtesy of Kanye has helped his onetime group-member develop over the last decade into a more diverse artist.
“Of course as an artist we have our setbacks and different things like that,” said RD, “but I’m mature now and I’m ready to go. And I’m pretty sure now, me putting out an album to the world, it’s way more better, a better variety for everybody, not just my block. I’m able to make music for the world now.”
That worldly sound is evident on the first official single from First Impressions, the electro-powered “Mesmerized,” as well as on several other songs from RD’s first offering including “Plastic” , the self-described “definition of ballin’” featuring Kanye atop grinding synths.
Helmed mostly by up-and-coming Chi-town beatmakers Rich P (who constructed the album’s arguable sonic apex on the hard-hitting “Million Dolla”) and Jay Jeffers, First Impressions boasts a mixture of the synth-pop sounds heard on the aforementioned tracks with the arguably more traditional Windy City sound of the soul-driven soundscapes anchoring tracks like “They Say” and the “Mysterious Vibes”-sampling “Follow Me.”
“I’ve basically sized up where music is going,” said RD of the inspiration for his album’s wide-ranging sound base. “And I wanna be able to win. I wanna be able to travel the world with this album. I don’t wanna be locked down to just the States, or locked down to anybody block, and that’s why I did the range [of tracks for the album]. It’s like, ‘Checkin In’…it has like that Euro sound to it… When I was making this album I didn’t even really listen to Rap at all. I didn’t want my album sounding like another urban artist.”
That declaration of independence from the creative confines sometimes associated with “urban” music may sound surprising coming from city dweller Really Doe. Hailing from a much more rugged background than Kanye, the southside Chi-town native purposefully omits mention of his past street life in his rhymes, as he noted to DX, “I personally don’t talk about it throughout my music because I feel like it waters me down and puts me into the [same] category with all these other regular niggas.”
One word that has never come to be used in describing the trio that came to comprise The Go Getters is “regular.” From his earliest meetings with Mr. West in the mid-‘90s when RD was just a 15-year-old doling out his allowance money to a neighborhood deejay to make mixtapes for him, it was clear that his group was going to be guided by someone different from the normal teenager.
“Of course me being a young man my wall was basically covered with like naked girls and shit like that,” recalled RD. “And I went to ‘Ye crib [and] his room was actually covered with crates of records, and beat-machines, and mics. And [that] kind of gave me the spark of like, ‘Yo, let’s do this shit for real.’”
While admittedly inspired by Kanye to take rhyming seriously, in recent years Really Doe has been purposefully moving out from under ‘Ye’s wing, sidestepping signing with Yeezy’s G.O.O.D. Music label and instead inking with Cartel Records, having been introduced by Kanye to Cartel’s founder, and ‘Ye’s onetime creative director, Griffin Guess, during the recording of Late Registration.
“’Ye’s my nigga,” Really Doe reminded, “[but] it’s like if I branch off and I do my own thing and I empower myself…it’s highly respected throughout the world. Not to say me having this [guidance from Kanye] is a bad thing, it’s a great thing. Who the hell wouldn’t want Kanye [working with them], which I still do. But, the world [will] definitely respect my grind a lot more like, ‘Yo, this guy went out and took this shit hisself.’ And that’s basically what I’m doing right now.”
While iTunes has apparently recognized RD’s grind, there are others online who have not been as supportive, criticizing Really Doe’s audibly rushed delivery (as heard on the first verse to “Roll Out”) and an at times seemingly purposeful emulation of Kanye’s phrasing and inflection on the mic (maybe most detectable on the aforementioned “Checkin’ In”).
“Well maybe it was [rushed], ‘cause I did the lyrics in four days,” he humbly conceded after admitting to the few-day window his debut was recorded in. “If you hear [that] then maybe I have to critique it a little harder myself… If it does have that sound on certain songs [it’s because] I’m not [normally] a reading-off-the-pad kind of guy, or reading off the Blackberry kind of guy, and maybe some of the songs were basically read off the pad or the Blackberry or whatever. Maybe I shoulda sat back and learned a few songs a little [better], but you know I had time limits.”
That uncommon self-analysis is commendable. And Really Doe pledged further to DX that his forthcoming sophomore solo effort will be vocally sharper, which is a commitment he should easily be able to keep after continuing the development of his craft via a new string of high-profile live performances, including his recent showing on Jimmy Kimmel Live and forthcoming television appearances slated for The Mo’Nique Show and Lopez Tonight.
“I’m not a quitter,” said Really Doe of his determination to win with music. “And I know I have what it takes to basically be one of those guys when you mention Rap. What I mean by one of those guys I mean Jay-Z, I mean ‘Ye, I mean Nas, I mean ‘Pac, [Notorious] B.I.G. I can’t accept anything less than that.”
First Impressions is available now on iTunes.