Detroit rap has seen a resurgence as of late thanks to a band of talented, young rappers that have come from the trenches and helped shine a new light on the city. Their brand of Hip Hop brings listeners to the streets of the Motor City where stories of violence, poverty, and other real-life issues are the backdrop to their hard-hitting songs. One of the pioneers of this contemporary Detroit sound is Icewear Vezzo, a rapper who has his finger pressed firmly on the pulse of the city and has earned the nickname the “Mayor of Detroit” by the natives.
Icewear Vezzo is gearing up for the release of his latest musical effort Robbin Season 2, and he’s looking to expand upon his influence with the upcoming project. “With Robbin Season 2, I’m trying to motivate you, I’m trying to teach you, I’m trying to lift you up,” Vezzo tells HipHopDX over the phone. “But I also want to make you laugh, I want you to go through emotions with me. So for this album, I want the respect that I deserve, that I work hard for as an artist, but I also want you to connect with me. This is it.”
The respect that Vezzo yearns for is well-deserved. Not only is he considered one of the leaders of the current era of Detroit rap, but he’s also one of the best to come out of the city. The “Mayor of Detroit” emerged onto the Motor City Hip Hop scene in 2012 with his debut mixtape The Clarity. He grew a considerable buzz off his debut and followed that up with the second installment in 2013.
The mixtape birthed a breakout hit with “Money Phone” and from there, Vezzo’s name and music became a symbol of the rising rap scene in Detroit. Before Vezzo knew it, most of the rappers in the D were styling themselves after his image by rocking dreadlocks and rapping about robberies and the heavy use of drugs like prescription pills and lean.
To keep his run and influence going, Vezzo released a string of mixtapes and albums that elevated his popularity with the fans, but things came to a screeching halt for the 29-year old rapper. In 2016, Vezzo was sentenced to two years in a federal correctional facility for illegal possession of a firearm. He only served 18 months, and in that time, Vezzo went into deep reflection and gave himself a moment of clarity.
“That wasn’t really jail. That shit was an educational facility because I learned so much shit. I learned about love, I learned about hate, I learned how to control my emotions and I learned discipline,” says Vezzo. “I’ve never had no discipline, ever. I never respected rules, I never respected authority, I never knew what it was to have self-restraint and to take responsibility for my own actions. I wasn’t a man at all until I went to prison.”
Following his release, Vezzo understood the huge opportunity he had in turning his life around and that’s exactly what he did. On top of releasing even more music, Vezzo became a role model for the hood by giving even more back to his community while also educating those around him of the power they possess within them. Word got out about Vezzo’s efforts and he soon became the first Detroit rapper to sign with Motown Records in 2018.
With his new projet Robbin Season 2, Icewear Vezzo hopes his listeners can learn from his stories and experiences while applying some of that knowledge to their own lives. At this point in his career, Vezzo wants more recognition for what he’s already accomplished, but he’s also opening a new lane for himself that allows him to be a teacher and leader for those coming up under him.
“This is where I get that respect. This where I get that real shit from everyone. I want people to understand that I’m bigger than a street artist. I’m not just a muthafucka that went to jail and came home and only rap about jail,” Vezzo says. “I’m not just a muthafucka that can only rap about money. I want you to see I’m really one of those people that you can really learn from. That’s what this is going to be.”
HipHopDX spoke more with Icewear Vezzo about the recently released Robbin Season 2, the city of Detroit getting back on its feet, prison reform, his views on the new, young rappers repping Detroit, his thoughts on the protest around the country, and more.
HipHopDX: The city of Detroit has a rich music history. How did its music scene influence you?
Icewear Vezzo: When people think of Detroit as far as the masses go, you have to acknowledge Motown Records and The Temptations, people like that, and Eminem, guys like that. But that’s not the part of Detroit that motivated me. That’s not the rap scene, that’s not the music scene that made me want to rap. I grew up on Chedda Boyz, Street Lord’z, Blade Icewood, Rock Bottom, the Lost Boys.
Growing up in Detroit is just a whole other culture. You got to really be about that shit you talk about. The streets made me who I am and I learned all my mistakes from the streets. If I fell, I picked myself up and all that. Our culture, our slang, everything about Detroit is just lit to me.
HipHopDX: What does it mean to have people from the city give you the nickname The Mayor of Detroit?
Icewear Vezzo: I don’t know, man. Everybody always called me that. At first, they called me the politician, now they call me the mayor. But I don’t know. I just laugh at it. I have thought back on it before like, it’s crazy that people call me the mayor because they really mean it. They really feel like that. But it is what it is, like whatever. I do shit that I do and the way I move and decisions I make and the position I play in my city and my community in Detroit and Michigan overall, I do that shit because that’s who I am. I don’t do it for a title.
That title holds a lot of weight and If I embrace that title then now I embrace a certain responsibility. And I don’t have that much control over myself, I just had this conversation with my wife the other day about probation. I can get off probation, but I told my PO I ain’t ready. I don’t have that type of control over myself. I still got fucked up ways, I still got a temper problem. I still get mad and turn up and it’d be one way and everything would go way less. It’s a lot that comes with having power. So I know the kind of power I got, but the moment I embrace it then I’m channeling a different monster.
HipHopDX: Detroit has seen a resurgence in the music industry. Overall is the city still decaying?
Icewear Vezzo: No. The city is lit right now. Like economically we got up out of the mud and the real estate is starting, it’s big business in our real estate again. Downtown looks amazing and there are parts of the hood where you’ll see white folks walking dogs and shit like that. You know, when the white folks feel comfortable coming back down, then that’s a good thing. We love that. We love to see that because it just shows our level of where we’ve reached. So not only are we lit economically and all that, we lit in the rap scene, because like you say, it’s a whole new surge of young rappers that’s turned up with real fan bases, and they bring shit to this.
Everybody plays a position in what’s going on with Detroit right now as far as the rappers that are popping right now. We all bring shit to the city and Detroit is a place where muthafuckas actually want to come. I seen this girl on Instagram the other day from Cleveland that I’m following and she said, “Who going to Detroit soon?” And it made me think like, wow, it really got to that. That some shit you would be like, “Yeah, who want to go to Miami?” Or, “Who want to go to L.A.?” Like she actually said Detroit as if it was Miami or some shit. So that just only show where we are as far as our Hip Hop scene goes. Everybody wants to be a part of it.
HipHopDX: You’ve been long considered one of the leaders of this new age of Detroit rap. Do you see yourself in a lot of these young Detroit rappers?
Icewear Vezzo: Yeah, all of them. I brought a whole culture to Detroit. When I started rapping I had dreadlocks and I’m rapping about popping pills, selling lean and robbing muthafuckas. I was just doing a bunch of wild shit, and when I came out people used to comment on my pains like, “Bro, you make Detroit look bad. We don’t wear dreadlocks. We don’t sip lean here. Why are you rapping about pills? We don’t pop pills. You making the city look bad. Why you rapping about robbing?” And everybody was saying this to me, everybody. All the OG rappers, everybody.
But then I popped. Now everybody embraces that part. I brought that entire wave to Detroit. Nobody was drinking lean, nobody was rapping about lean, nobody was rapping about robbing, and nobody was wearing dreadlocks. None of that shit. I brought that whole wave to Detroit, that entire wave. So I see myself in every rapper in Detroit.
HipHopDX: Do you feel you should be held in higher regard because you brought this culture to Detroit?
Icewear Vezzo: Nah. No. That’s like saying somebody owes me something. I might admire a person, but that’s just admiration. And if I make it somewhere, my work ethic and God got me there, not my admiration for this person. You understand what I’m saying? I don’t deserve any credit for anybody. Young niggas worked hard for that shit. They grind and they pray but they just admire my culture and what I brought. But they still had to take that, put their own seasoning on that shit and their seasoning worked. It got them to where they supposed to be.
So no, I don’t think I should be put on this pedestal because I brought this culture. That’s corny. It ain’t like I got rappers to read books and I got niggas to understand what it is to be a man and understand what it is to have money or create generational wealth. If I had brought that culture to my city, then yeah. Fuck yeah, I should be put on a pedestal. Because I got niggas to think right, I changed niggas mentalities, I fuck niggas mentality up though, in a sense. So, no I don’t want to be praised for that.
HipHopDX: Can you talk about your advocacy in prison reform? You’ve made it loud and clear how important that is to you in your music.
Icewear Vezzo: With prison reform, I mainly think all these protests and everything that’s going on outside of guys being arrested, if a guy doesn’t get killed, for one, we need to fight for that procedure that comes after being arrested. We definitely got a fucked up prison system, man. It’s fucked up and it’s terrible. But I know for a fact it’s mostly through states. The federal prison system, they got their own system. They got their own rules and I’m not going to say it’s decent, but it’s not unfair. The prison system is just messed up. For instance, I got caught with a gun and I did less time for that then I would’ve done if my case would’ve been a state case. I would’ve had to do a mandatory five years flat.
It’s mandatory, with no discussion. Ain’t no plea deals, even if you have the best attorney ever. But my case being federal, my guidelines were zero to 10 years, basically. So I only got 20 months, and I only did 18, versus doing the five full years. State prison laws have to change. That’s what needs to be reformed. Like, Meek Mill wasn’t in federal prison, he was in state prison and that’s what’s fucked up. It’s the state prisons, those state judges, and those state court appointments. It’s just fucked up. Like, with the federal system, they under the same law. States aren’t under the same laws, every state got its own laws in how they govern the people.
HipHopDX: Speaking of the protests you recently dropped “No More Pain” a song that focuses on what’s happening in the country right now. What are your feelings towards everything that’s happening in these cities all over the country?
Icewear Vezzo: It’s amazing what’s happening. It’s amazing, it’s amazing. It’s amazing. We literally, literally, literally got tired and fought for what was right. It’s amazing. We pushing big companies backs against the wall, they walking on pins and needles. People actually fear being wrong now. People fear being racist now. Come on, man. That’s amazing. We got racist people scared to be racist now because they don’t want to lose out. And we did this shit in a peaceful but not peaceful way. You understand what I’m saying? The Black community got so much. Not the Black community, the right community. Because it is about Black and white, but it’s more about right and wrong.
You got a lot of white people and Mexican people, Asian people, Jewish, Italian, whatever, they also in this fight. They fighting with us. I’ve seen people put their freedom and their life and their jobs at risk to fight for what’s right. So that’s why I say it’s a right versus wrong thing. But what’s going on, this today, it obviously had never been done. Everything Malcolm X said we should have done in 1962, we just did it in 2020. It’s done. We literally trying to put an end to racism. By 2022, I know for a fact being racist ain’t going to be no different from being damn near a pedophile. But not in the same sense. What I mean by that is like, people are openly racist. But the way it’s going now, that shit going to be some behind closed doors type shit. You know what I mean?
HipHopDX: We have your latest project Robbin Season 2 coming very soon. What’s the story behind it?
Icewear Vezzo: Yeah, I mean, because right now it’s really robbing season. We really taking back our power. We taking back everything, not necessarily what’s ours, but we taking our dignity back, we taking our pride back. We taking our heart back. We really robbing right now. Look what’s going on. Look what we had to do for the world to acknowledge like, “Hey man, it’s a problem in America.” It’s really a problem with Black and white. It’s bad over here, look at this shit.
But we taking this and we making people watch us. When you go and protest you’re saying, “Hey, look at me. I’m right here. I’m fighting for something. I’m screaming for something. I’m walking for something.” We robbing for attention, we robbing for power, we robbing for respect, we robbing for love, and we robbing for understanding. Right now it’s literally robbing season. It had never been robbing season more ever in life than it is right now.
HipHopDX: How different is Robbin Season 2 from the first installment?
Icewear Vezzo: Robbin Season 2 has inspiration behind it. You know, I been had this terminology, this meaning, for what I meant by that. So when Robbin Season came out, I posted videos as a motivational thing like, if you want to be great as a rapper, don’t wait, get up, and take that shit. Go get it. It was more of a motivational thing. The difference is between motivation and inspiration. Robbin Season was motivational and this new one is about inspiration. The inspiration is me being inspired.
HipHopDX: When you say something like this project is inspired by what’s going on in the country, people are going to expect to hear rap songs about protests or being black in a white-dominated community. Are those the type of stories you’re going to be telling on Robbin Season 2?
Icewear Vezzo: Yeah, that’s on there. But it’s also about accountability as well. So like “Rain Drops,” if you listen that’s accountability. I’m talking to my people and my community. You understand what I said? That’s why I said, “To my young niggas find a way because the streets won’t save you. I don’t argue with the gang unless it’s a money fight. Don’t go to war with no nigga unless your money right. Crashing out over a girl, you the dummy type. These bitches snaking their own nigga for a hundred likes.” That’s accountability. That’s awareness.
HipHopDX: Once Robbin Season 2 is out, what do you want it to be for, not only the music industry but your fans, the new fans and people who don’t know who you are yet?
Icewear Vezzo: I’m going to set my foot in the ground with this one. Vezzo, I’m here. I come with meaning, I have reason behind me. I’m not just rapping. This project is where you say, “All right, Vezzo really good. I like him. I really want to see him more in concert. I want to support everything he does from here on out. He’s really an artist, he’s bigger than a street artist.
HipHopDX: You’re someone that seems to have his next steps already planned out. What’s next following Robbin Season 2?
Icewear Vezzo: I’m going to keep creating and keep teaching. What I’m starting with Robbin Season 2, I have to continue that. I’m opening a new lane for myself. Not like I’m trying to turn into a conscious rapper, but I am that in-between. You know how they say, “There ain’t no gray area,” as far as rap, I am that gray area. Because I know both lives, I know rich, I know poor, I know smart, I know dumb, I know love, I know hate. And I’m in-between. I want to rap about it all.