Los Angeles, CA

The ultimate dream of signing to a major label is usually reserved and highlighted by the rap stars who’ve already accomplished so much independently — which makes Bay Area rapper Symba’s story that much more special.

The 26-year-old up-and-comer represents a different generation in Hip Hop. One whose formative years were forged in the aftermath of Diddy’s shiny suit era. Coming off his HipHopDX-premiere of “Get the Time,” Symba sat down and discussed the origins of his name, how his deal with Columbia Records came about, and his inspiration.

“Honestly, I got this name because when I was a kid [The Lion King was] the only movie I would watch,” Symba recalls. “From [ages] 3 to 9 everybody was like, ‘Little Simba! Little Simba! Little Simba! Little Simba!’ Then when I started rapping when I was like 15 I called myself Symba. It stuck. Everybody in the neighborhood knew me as that.”

In this day and age of artists having to build their own brand before a label takes them on, Symba’s path was much more traditional. “It was actually a real old-school, organic process. I met my manager about six years ago, Chelsea Blythe. At the time she was an intern over at Interscope and I was in the studio with Nic Nac, I was working with him, and she had came in [and] heard me rap. She was like, ‘Yo I’m interning over at Interscope [but] I’ma be an A&R one day. Stick with me, believe in me and I’m going to believe in you,’ and I was like, ‘Let’s do it.’ At the time I didn’t really have a team, I didn’t have a manager, I didn’t have a support system. I had my mom and a couple people from back home. So she kind of moved me out here. [She] Just schooled me on the ropes and making bigger songs and finding my identity – knowing who it is I wanna be as an artist and what we’re going for. Four years later she ended up getting an A&R position over at Columbia and her first A&R meeting she played one of my songs. The rest was history. They called me up for a meeting, I went in there with Chelsh, and it all worked out.”

The Bay Area MC also broke down his influences. “Symba is a real ’90s artist. It’s fun, exciting music and is the guy that has trouble with girls. We all go through that. We all have different women in and out of our life. That’s majority of what my message is: getting through life and dealing with these crazy women [Laughs]. My whole vibe is ’90s. I grew up on that Nelly, Ja Rule — that late 90s, early 00s wave. I loved all Hip Hop but that’s what I gravitated to; the 50 Cent’s even though 50 and Ja had their fair share of issues [Laughs]. I was a fan of both I was especially a fan of Ja because Ja kinda, he gave that melodic wave to the game.”

Symba also took the time to discuss how he thinks MCs don’t always grasp the concept of the music business. “Rappers have a misunderstanding of record labels. I just had a conversation with my homie the other day basically about how a lot of the independent game is killing the music industry because you have nobody watching the music. For instance, you get these artists and they might get a song and the song works out and everybody becomes a fan but they drop the ball with the project. It’s because there’s no A&Rs in play, it’s no real writers helping them expand to different audiences. It’s literally [just] them in the studio so it’s their minds and that’s it. And it works but after three times of hearing that same album, it’s like, ‘I’m over it. What’s next?’ I think that’s where labels come in and help you grow and put you in the room with different people. It’s a different time. The things kids like to hear now is catchy, fun stuff that they can relate to right away. It’s not really how we grew up, sitting in the car dissecting [lyrics], looking in the dictionary. It’s not really that. They wanna get it right away now.”

Be sure to catch Symba’s latest video for his single “All We Ever Wanna Do” on Vevo and tune into #DXLive every Thursday at 6 p.m. EST/3 p.m. PST for more exclusive interviews and of course, the #LitnessTest.