One extremely local act who grew their own following were The Fly Guys. Around the time, any DJ with a jerkin’ set most definitely featured the trio’s “Penny, Nickel, Dime” track featuring Mann (now going by Yump Daniels). The accompanying video was also directed by Issa Rae, who is currently transitioning into a Hollywood A-lister following her role as creative lead and star of HBO’s new critical darling Insecure.
Of course, Issa also directed The Fly Guy’s cult YouTube series The F Word before becoming a household name through Awkward Black Girl. Issa’s relationship with The Fly Guys makes sense. Her brother is also DX Daily alumni Enimal, who also premiered his “Committed” track on the series premiere of Insecure Sunday night (October 9).
When HipHopDX caught up with the rapper/producer/engineer, he was crafting beats in a makeshift recording studio inside his father’s Inglewood doctor’s office. Days before the series reached the small screen, he was already setting his next plan of attack, which obviously includes more music and acting.
Enimal’s Almost Famous Moment With The Fly Guys & Giving Early Production Advice To DJ Mustard
HipHopDX: You been in Los Angeles grinding for like 1o years man and now you’re on HBO?
Enimal: I’m feeling like all this hard work is coming to a head. It’s really about to take off I feel. There are things that are playing at a couple of different angles. I feel like everything is accumulating. I started around 2005 with The Fly Guys when we were fuckin’ around and freestyling. We got real serious around January 2006. Top of this year is like the 10-year anniversary of me being serious with music. This is the “what I really want to do” type shit. I feel like it’s going to be to the point where it’s an overnight thing. People are going to be like, “Who is this guy?”
DX: I remember talking to Yump Daniels (formerly known as Mann) and he mentioned you being the one who taught DJ Mustard how to use Reason?
Enimal: That’s a weird bar on my resume. I taught one of the hottest producers in the world how to use his equipment and software. I was helping him get through that and to see Mustard rise has been crazy. He was a DJ for YG and Mann at the same time when they both were signed to Def Jam. Both started using his services because he was the most popular jerkin DJ at the time. Mann used to come through to the house with him when we were working on our tracks together. Mustard would be like, “I want to learn how to do these beats.” I told him to get Reason and I’d teach him how to use it. A couple of months passed, he went and got Reason. Then he was on my line asking me how to make sounds and get stuff on beat. It was the very basics.
DX: What was it like to watch his style evolve?
Enimal: It was inspiring and unbelievable. He always had the juice, though. It was always something about Mustard. Every time he came through, you could tell he was destined to be somebody. He was always tatted up and just looked like he was going to get it. I always fucked with him for that.
DX: Around that time, you’re working with Mann, giving DJ Mustard advice and in a popular local group The Fly Guys. You guys came up through the jerkin movement and had an almost famous moment.
Enimal: The Fly Guys were heavy. It was crazy because we wanted something so badly that we couldn’t appreciate what we had. We had some ride or die fans and people who fucked with us. It was bittersweet, we were plotting every day and The F Word was borderline real life on how our methodical brains were working trying to get to this “success.”
At the same time, I understand what it takes to get there, which is a lot of organization and hard work. Plus, a lot more hard work. It was an eye-opening experience in making it in the industry. We were in the blogosphere and they were talking about us. Our thing was that we wanted to be known for the music. In a way, we ended up taking ourselves too seriously where we should have embraced that we were funny guys and made people laugh.
How Issa Rae Went From Directing The Fly Guy’s YouTube Series The F Word To Awkward Black Girl
DX: Around that time, your sister Issa Rae is growing a significant fan base herself who has this YouTube series.
Enimal: A burgeoning director on the rise who has a spark and knack for creating funny content. Actually, she came to The Fly Guys to shoot our first video with our boy Mann called “Penny, Nickle, Dime” which was poppin in the jerkin world. The track was a banger and my sister Issa Rae hit us up asking to shoot the video, but she wanted me to rap a verse on it, though. I had only done the beat or whatever so I put a verse on there and she shot the video. After shooting with us the whole day, she was like, “You guys are idiots, let me put you on camera and write a show for you guys.”
DX: And that ended up being The F Word.
Enimal: She really came up with the whole concept after just by hanging out with us for a day. We didn’t have any scripts. All we had were outlines for each episode. We went off the top and adlib. It was really us but, just the extreme version. That was who we were and we all interacted that way. It was a funny show. She did a couple of music videos for us. Maybe four or so videos for us and then she did seven seasons of The F Word.
DX: This was exclusively on YouTube right?
Enimal: Yeah, YouTube. Worldstar and other sites would pick it up from time to time. We were pioneers in that regards because nobody was mixing music with video series. We were recording our studio sessions and everything from discussions Love & Hip Hop type confessionals.
DX: It was mad clever.
Enimal: Yeah, to this day I still put on most of those episodes and it’s still funny and fresh. It was us and really authentic.
DX: Where were you around the time she started her Awkward Black Girl series? That essentially became her large breakout moment.
Enimal: It was really a breakout moment indeed. We were maybe Season 5 or 6 of The F Word when she started doing that. She put it out and the first day, she had as many plays as one of our biggest videos. We were like, “Damn, this is crazy.” The next day, she passed all of our biggest videos. This shit was serious. The next episode happened, and the same thing happened. She was on to something. At this point, we had put out hundreds of videos and none of them had a response like that. This is something special. As the season progressed, it got bigger and bigger. Then she did the Kickstarter and it took things to another level. It became obvious she was the brains and star behind this whole movement. Her genius is undeniable. She’s super talented.
DX: You were helping with the music for the series as well.
Enimal: I was pretty much the music supervisor and composer for the whole project. That was dope because I get to say I worked with Pharrell for the second season even though it was indirect. I wasn’t emailing asking him to turn up snares or anything. He was the head of the project and funded it.
DX: Awkward Black Girl was so revered for many reasons. I loved how much she incorporated Hip Hop into the show. “Booty Shawts” became a huge example of that along with moments of her haphazardly trying to write bars. That led to Issa creating the short-lived group The Doublemints.
Enimal: The Doublemints had their songs just ready. They came to the studio with their verses already done. They had everything all structured out and I’m just hitting record. I was giving my input of course, but for the most part, they already had things together.
DX: I remember seeing them at Fais Do Do in mid-city with you opening for The Doublemints doing “Penny, Nickle, Dime.”
Enimal: I remember that. That’s when they made their rap debut and did Brokechella too before it was Broke LA. I was definitely their engineer and producer at that point.
DX: And you were the judge in the “I’m Pregnant” video too.
Enimal: I got endless James Harden comments on Worldstar too. I think one of the coldest comments was the one for Cozz’s “Western Ave. Slave” video who is one of J. Cole’s Dreamville artists. Someone said James Harden got a mermaid voice. Is that a compliment or a diss? I don’t know. People are ruthless, but you gotta just laugh at it.
Getting His Music On Insecure & Following Up With New Project
DX: When exactly did you start making solo joints?
Enimal: I always recorded my solo stuff even when I was with The Fly Guys. It just naturally happened as we were going through our growth period. We were trying to explore what we wanted to do and how we wanted to work. Our work rates were different. I quite literally lived in the studio sometimes. I would crash at my bro’s crib on Slauson for like 20 hours, sleep on his little futon couch and go back at it. I would compile material. I’m not going to sit on it and wait for someone to hop on it. I rather finish the song. It felt like eventually, I had to put it out. I had an album worth of shit that was dope. The first solo project I put out was The Enimal Kingdom which was when I was with The Fly Guys.
I caught a creative wave. When I get it, I’m the most creative muthafucka in the world and when I don’t have it, I don’t feel as inspired. This time, I caught a wave with the bars and was rapping. I just put out a mixtape where I was rapping on industry beats and a couple of original joints. I knocked that out, wrote and recorded it, in like a week. I put that out with The Fly Guys. The next project was The Amalgamation of Enimal was pretty much my first all original venture by myself. Earlier this year, I dropped Healthy Obsession in March. Now, I’m getting ready to drop this next one and I got some heat rocks on there. A couple of joints from it are featured on the smash new show Insecure on HBO.
DX: HBO made the announcement two years ago about working with Issa on a series. Where were you when you heard the news?
Enimal: I was in the studio and she sent a text message to our family in a group text. Everybody was, of course, amazed and in awe. When we got the news that the pilot got picked up for the whole season, we were in Miami for the Revolt conference. We were super lit in Miami for the rest of the weekend. She was out there speaking on a panel and that night, we got the news. The rest of the weekend was an epic celebration.
DX: And, you’re on the first episode which came out last night (October 9) as well.
Enimal: It’s a legendary thing. I just spoke with licensing people. You know, 37 seconds which is a pretty prominent placement for a song. I just can’t believe it. I’m just floored. It’s no way to really explain it. It’s just an accumulation of hard work, right people and the right time. Plus, it’s just about being good too. The track is called “Committed” and it’s produced of course by myself. It’s a heat rock and a ball of energy. It’ll be on my next project coming in the next couple of weeks in conjunction with the show. I’m just riding the wave as much as possible. Performing that at The Maverick’s Flat was epic because we were shooting, but everyone was supposed to be turnt up. As soon as we started shooting, everybody was watching like this shit is hard. By the time they got through with it, folks were asking if this was a concert. They didn’t have to act like they were having a good time because they just were. That was my first time being on a full production.
DX: On an HBO level. You were on that Game of Thrones shit.
Enimal: I’ve been on some expensive video shoots, but nothing like this. It was well lit. It was very well lit. Craft service was well lit. I was a principal character so I had a trailer that was well lit. I was feeling like the man walking around. I didn’t have anything in my trailer, but I’m taking Snaps like hard. That was dope as hell.
DX: I’m assuming you and Issa have had some interesting rap conversations growing up together.
Enimal: Yeah, Issa loves rap. She loves music. Growing up, I soaked up her taste. She was kind of the tastemaker with the rap and who she liked. A lot of the stuff I found out because that’s what she was bumping. She was really the computer wiz too and would download all the music on Limewire.
DX: When people used to give their computer AIDS just for downloading one song.
Enimal: Download the wrong thing and your computer would start going slow. I got so cold with the fucked up computer, I started doing the CTRL + Alt + Delete just to shut everything down. She always had a great sense of music though and that influenced me in certain ways. Definitely, couldn’t listen to some music in the house because my mom was hella strict. That’s crazy to see now that I’m an artist who says vulgar things on a regular basis.
DX: You got some other episodes coming?
Enimal: I have another episode this season. All I can tell you is stay tuned. You’ll see me again. I’ve been definitely reconnecting with some people.
DX: You’ll be a new face for a lot of folks around the nation, but those who have followed L.A.’s rap scene closely for the past decade know who you are. How do you feel about that journey?
Enimal: I feel like it’s about people supporting you, but want to have something they can jump behind. They want to be able to explain why they fuck with someone. It’s always about giving reasons for your fans to stand behind you. I consistently try to do things that make people who believe in me be like, “Oh yeah, I knew I believed in him for a reason.” It’s just like this is a super big check mark.