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Famous Dex Is Leading the Wave as One of Chicago's Most Versatile Rappers

STATUS Magazine cover story, November 2018

With a take-no-sh*t attitude and admirable work ethic commonly unknown for a modern-day rapper, FAMOUS DEX proves he’s on that next level grind with no chances of burning out.

Famous Dex takes pride in his hustle. Sporting dyed dreads as colorful as his career and a horsepower that exceeds his Bentley Bentayga, the last three years has seen him release a total of eight mixtapes and the studio album Dex Meets Dexter. The 25-year old rapper credits his inexhaustible energy and career push to his late mother who passed from breast cancer in September 2014. “My mom’s energy is inside of me. My mom was too energetic; we were the same person. Baby Dex has the same energy as his daddy and my little brother Poo Poo has the same energy. Her energy lives through all three of us, so I always think about her.” He continues, “My mom was my best friend so when I lost her, I lost my mama and my best friend. When you go through sh*t that bad, two things happen: you go crazy or do right. I knew my siblings looked up to me, so I needed to do right.”

Hailing from the South Side of Chicago, his surroundings were a fusion of different characters that he learnt to observe. Growing up in an area notorious for its high crime levels yet honored for its deep-rooted art and musical history made his upbringing a struggle. “[There was] a lot of conflict between people. I saw a lot of negativity. I notice that all the guys who were negative were getting put on and not the positive guys. So I was around both of them, but I was patient and wanted to do it the positive way, that’s why my music doesn’t sound like the other guys that made it out of there.” Soaking up all these experiences, whether for better or for worst, prompted him to decide what he wanted to be and how he wanted to present himself to the world at a young age. “I was always the kid in class with the fashion—class clown, loud, outlandish. I knew I was going to be star though, so I had faith in myself. My mom’s last words were “Dexter,” so I had to do right,” he recalls.

In between recording 10 songs in one day, flying from coast to coast, and turning it up at the biggest music festivals, Famous Dex never forgets the most important thing in his career: fun. “The wave I live in is fun, and Dex likes to have fun, period,” he says cheekily. He sat down with us in the midst of his jetsetter lifestyle to talk about what differentiates Dex from Dexter, his impressive array of collaborations, and a look back at his growth as an artist.

You entered the rap game in 2015 with your Never Seen It Coming mixtape, but your debut studio album Dex Meets Dexter only came out in early 2018 after a lengthy delay. Why did you wait three years to release it?

I wanted to consistently give my fans what they like. I just kept giving them Dex. I was known as the consistent guy who dropped videos every week—I lead the wave. Once they understood Dex, I knew they’d like Dexter, then I decided it was safe to drop the album.

As the title suggests, do you see Dex and Dexter as two different people?

Definitely two different people. [laughs] Dex is wild, that’s the persona everyone knows! Crazy colored hair, jumping around... Dexter is more clean cut, the mama’s boy. He’s wants a girlfriend and he has a lot of love to give. I don’t know how it happens, but it can change hour to hour, day to day, week to week.

You worked with A$AP Rocky on the album single “Pick It Up”. Tell us how you and Flacko got together for this song.

My A&R at the time, Zeek, put that record together if I’m being honest. I really wasn’t feeling that record for the longest time. The label kept bothering me about it but I wasn’t trying to hear it. [laughs] Once I hear Rocky on it, I was like, “Oh sh*t!” and I got it right then and there. Rocky supported the record and helped with the video, dope sh*t! That record changed everything.

The music and lyric videos for your single “Japan” have over 14 million views combined. How did you conceptualize the track?

When I came up with “Japan”, my friends was high on xans. We had Asian girls in the studio and there was one girl sitting lonely so I just came up to her like, “Baby girl, how you doin’, what’s yo name? I just popped a xan, 50 thousand in Japan.” Like, I was just joking. [laughs] It’s crazy how that came together.

How did Roy Purdy get into the picture?

Roy is a special-cool-young-gifted special guy. I met him on Melrose and he gave me his glasses. I felt his energy. Then he did some dance online, I didn’t ask him to do it, but it took out. That sh*t was crazy!

You’re a huge fan of collaborating with other figures such as A$AP Ferg, Higher Brothers, and 6ix9ine. How do you successfully fuse your own flavor together with the other artists?

I just stay myself. My sound is so distinctive and so is the sound of artists I work with, but I do what feels right. Dex is the artist that everyone loves to work with. He’s not stuck up and he rocks with everybody.

Who else do you want to link up with in the future?

Common. That’s it. Nothing more to be said.

As a rapper with an extremely busy schedule, what do you do to avoid burnout?

I can’t [burnout]. My kids burn me out, they have more energy that me. Baby Dex is just like me; I wake up, he’s up on the floor ready to play. [laughs] You can’t avoid burnout, but I try to keep up with my kids.

In the midst of all the mixtapes and collaborative albums, how do you think your sound has changed in the last three years?

As I grow, I be around more people who do music professionally. I learn more stuff, so I’m not just in the studio by myself trying to figure it out. I can pick up on what they do to make their music better. From mixtapes to my album to now, I’m always growing from watching other artists.

Written by Sophie Caraan