Rapzilla is excited to introduce: Here and Not Yet. It’s an interview series where artists and producers share exclusive, behind-the-scenes stories of tracks that have been recorded, produced, mixed and mastered, yet for one reason or another, have not seen the light of day. Today, it’s all about nobigdyl.

For this inaugural installment, I had the chance to talk with the indie tribe captain about his track “Credit.” He teased this track in the form of freestyles on his Instagram, although dyl. himself first acknowledged the existence of the track in response to a Tweet from NGen Radio Host Angela “Lil Ang” Bradway back in August 2018.

Despite being tight-lipped on details since, dyl. was gracious enough to talk about this elusive song but the conversation quickly spanned a variety of other topics, from his own artistic process to advice on how to avoid creative burnout. dyl. proved time and time again that he’s a lyrical maestro on and off the mic.

The following is a transcription of our conversation, edited for clarity.

nobigdyl.

Rapzilla: Talk about this song “Credit.” When was this recorded and what was the creation process for this song?

nobigdyl.: Man “Credit” keeps evolving. The first time I started working on it was while I was making SOLAR. But after I had made the tracklist I was like, ‘Nah it’s not gonna fit’. After SOLAR released I worked on it again and it completely transformed–actually wait let me back up. I just remembered the actual genesis of it.

Rapzilla: (Laughing) Okay. The creation process of “Credit,” take two.

dyl.: It all began with a verse. DJ Mykael V had a song in 2017 that he wanted me and James Gardin on. I wrote a verse to the beat he sent but that beat had a sample from a Sampha track and sadly Mykael couldn’t clear the song. But I loved that verse and so I recorded an acapella of it and sent it to some producers while I was working on SOLAR. Nothing was really working with the verse though. After SOLAR came out I sent it over to the producer Namesake and he made a track for it that I really liked.

Still, since the song was so special I really wanted to make sure I got the music right for it. He and I would go back and forth where he would do some production work on it and I would write new melodies to it and so forth.

Then late last year I came up with a whole new way of writing songs. I would come up with arrangements in my head and rather than try to verbally explain it to a producer, I would create a skeleton of that arrangement and work with that instead. Then I linked up with one of my best friends, Anthony, who plays the keys and I would rap the verse out loud and sing melodies for “Credit” while he would play keys. Eventually, we got a more fleshed out version of the song and I sent it to Namesake again. Another time I was on the Better Late than Never tour and worked on the track in a studio in Phoenix with completely different people.

nobigdyl.

So overall that’s been the process for “Credit” both in the past and present. I’ve written so many verses to that song and I don’t know which ones will make it on the final version. The verse that Angela mentioned is not on the current version…at least not right now.

Rapzilla: Woah…

dyl.: (Laughing) Sorry that was a very long answer. But this track has been 2 ½ years coming.

Rapzilla: Your response was totally appropriate given the amount of time you’ve spent tinkering the track. Fans can take for granted the amount of time and effort artists put into a project, let alone a whole song!

dyl.: Yeah in general, for every 10 songs that come out, I make about 100 demos. Not like full mastered songs but like 100 different ideas that have been fleshed out in some form. A lot of the verses that I put on my Instagram are demos that may be reworked at a later point.

Rapzilla: After you’ve released a song and you listen to an older demo of it are you ever like “oh snap that’s what it sounded like / could have sounded like?”

dyl.: For sure. The other night I was going through some old ideas I had. Some of my best writing was from my older songs. It’s so important for me to go back and see what I was writing because the concepts can be so important and the bars so good that I want to work them into the newer stuff I am making.

Rapzilla: Do you ever go back as far as smoke signal?

dyl.: (Laughing) Yeah just the other night!

Rapzilla: That’s great. You mentioned how “Credit” was not really working as a song for SOLAR. If/when you ever release this track, do you think you’ll drop it just as a stand-alone single in vein of “over here,” “Shakira,” and “Poster?” Just because you’ve spent so much time on it maybe you’d want to let it shine on its own. Or do you think “Credit” will be a part of a larger body of work, like say your third album?

dyl.: “Credit” is for sure gonna come out. It’s just a matter of getting it right and doing it justice. Right now though, I’d say that it fits in within the context of a project whether an EP or album…it definitely has to be a part of a bigger story. It could be a single but wouldn’t be a stand-alone.

Rapzilla: You mentioned in an earlier interview how you plan on dropping singles in between album releases. When you make these singles are they created in mind to fit within the spectrum of a larger project or is it more you create and then pick songs for an album?

dyl.: For me, the process is always changing. Sometimes I write a song and later the concept develops. Other times I have to rewrite in order to make something fit into a context or concept I love. Rarely when I write do I go in saying “this is exactly how it’s gonna be” or “this is not malleable.” I’m always tweaking and fine-tuning happens all the time though…usually, right until the moment, the track has to actually get distributed (laughing).

Rapzilla: What’s an example?

dyl.: (Laughing) Sometimes I’ll have a song and it has an outdated reference so I gotta re-record some lines for it.

Rapzilla: So clearly you put a lot of work and effort into the songs you make and it shows in the final product. How do you create without getting burnt out though? Doesn’t making 100 demos get exhausting especially if you’re doing that for most if not all your songs?

dyl.: That’s a good question. A lot of what I’ve been writing lately about has been about that idea of burnout. In my music, I’m both trying to find the answer to that question and also exploring the consequences of what happens when you answer that question incorrectly. As cliché, as it sounds, how I don’t get burnt out is to just live life. My usage of technology outside of creating music has decreased 85% over the last year, especially social media. Most of the time I don’t even have the apps on my phone.

Overall I’m trying to be more present with the people in my life. Whether that’s my wife, brother-in-law, or church family. I’m trying to be out in nature a lot more which helps put things in perspective. It’s all these small things that not only recharge me but I find imperative to thrive as a creative.

Rapzilla: Can you elaborate more on that?

dyl.: Here’s the thing: if you’re just in the studio the whole time you just start to rap about being a rapper. That gets old after a while. You have to experience real life…you need a Sabbath…you need real rest. So as ironic as it sounds, how to not get burnt out is to put the mic down and step out of the studio. Obviously, you need a good and faithful work ethic too. I’m a believer in letting the music be consistent but ultimately, not all-consuming.

Rapzilla: That’s great. It actually ties in with what you posted on Twitter about whether an artist should release a song they love because it might not work out commercially. For artists who only rap about being a rapper, their music can be alienating to their fanbase as opposed to the artist who opens himself/herself up to these experiences (i.e. “real life”)  that people can relate with more. Then that artist’s music becomes less esoteric. Could you talk a bit more about what you Tweeted?

dyl.: Yeah, so it’s interesting that when I Tweeted that, people immediately assumed that “non-commercially viable” songs meant deep cuts. So they were telling me that “no we want the deep stuff we don’t care if it doesn’t sell.” But actually, two of my most commercially viable tracks were “Suicide Nets” and “close” and both of those were super deep. In my mind, what I mean by “non-commercially viable” would be music that a lot of people might consider shallow. What if I put a song out over a SoundCloud rapper-type beat and its about how I feel when I drive around with my wife…would people like it? That’s more of what I was trying to get at. I was asking myself if I were to release a song that I personally love out to the public and people don’t like it, would I like it less?

Then I realized as I was listening through older tracks that honestly maybe God had me write songs where I wouldn’t have learned lessons any other way. There are some tracks where I feel like He said: “maybe you’ll listen to the lesson I’m trying to teach you if I make you write about it.” Even if a song like that never gets released that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a purpose; maybe it just doesn’t have a commercial purpose.

Rapzilla: Dang. That’s real. So while your fans await “Credit” you’ve teased this “third” project you have upcoming. This is your Dark Knight Rises, Return of the King…what’s been the most exciting but also challenging thing about crafting it?  

dyl.: I’ve always had this underlying fear and I’ll run out of things to rap about. After I dropped smoke signal I thought for sure that I talked about everything I wanted to (laughing). One time though, Alex Medina Tweeted  “I write to know what I think” and that perfectly describes me. As I’ve lived life and had new experiences I realized I don’t even know what’s going on in my head and heart until I write it out. So finding out what I’m really thinking as I’ve been working up to this third project has been both challenging and exciting.

Rapzilla’s one-sentence review of a rough demo of “Credit” that nobigdyl. was kind enough to share.

“Credit” is stacked to the brim with bright effervescent vocals, backed up with lush production, all held together by clever yet endearing refrains (“I still have your love though / when the cash go”). The only problem I had with the track is that it hasn’t been released yet.