ALL PHOTOS BY HADAS
It’s been a long time coming for Deante’ Hitchcock.
From his days of rapping in his car to landing an invite to Dreamville‘s epic Revenge Of The Dreamers III recording sessions, the Atlanta native is just a week away from sharing his debut album, Better (5/13). Unlike most debuts, however, Deante’ isn’t celebrating an arrival or start of a new chapter. Rather, he has a a much different goal in mind.
Once primarily known for his freestyle videos, Deante’ hopes Better separates the artist in the automobile from the artist we know today. His debut shines a light on all corners of his artistry thanks to the rambunctious “Attitude” with Young Nudy, the coming-of-age story behind “Growing Up Mother God,” and the potential warm-weather anthem “Gimme Yo Money.”
After sharing two singles before the arrival of Better, we sat down with Deante’ to talk about the upcoming album, his growth and inspirations, Atlanta’s transferable chemistry among its stars, and much more.
First and foremost, how are you? How’s quarantine life and how have you been staying sane and safe?
Really just been trying to do something everyday that I like. We started this series called Better Living, and we’ve been doing something everyday of the week. Monday through Sunday, we’ve got workouts, yoga, cooking, drinks. Before that, I was just sitting here. I been talking to a couple other folks that be making music and everybody sh*t feel the same; it’s been hard as hell to create right now. Usually we create sh*t we live, but n****s ain’t been doing no type of living right now. Just been trying to stay active in some fashion or form. Just trying to move, keep them idle thoughts out, that anxiety down, cause all this sh*t will drive you crazy.
What made you decide to not push the album back during a time where you wouldn’t be able to bring the live experience to fans?
Honestly, I felt like if I would’ve pushed the album back anymore somebody would’ve sent some anthrax to my doorstep–it’s way overdue. I think [my producer and I] finished recording on our side, in August or September of 2019. I was excited as hell, so I went on Instagram and Twitter like a dumbass and I told the world the album’s done and folks were like “Oh sh*t we finna get it soon.”
Man, the worst part about this whole music industry is sample clearances. It is terrible. We got a song on there (“Circles”), it samples the song, “Round and round we go, round and round we go” [Splack Pack‘s 1993 single “Scrub Da Ground”]. Apparently [the producer] sampled that song from somebody else, so we not only had to get the clearance through that group, but we also had to get the clearance from the original group and that sh*t took forever. On top of that we were waiting for one more verse for a minute, but everything’s finally done and soon as we got the green light it’s time to move cause we can’t push this back anymore. It’s a strenuous process. I don’t think most people realize that from the outside looking in, myself included before I was really immersed in this sh*t. Couldn’t afford to push it back no more.
What drives you creatively nowadays?
I want to say Better took a minute to record, but now that I look back at the tracklist we did a lot of it after we got home from tour with J.I.D. I think that might’ve been some inspiration–just feeling the crowd, feeling what they responded to. Me and him had a lot of conversations on tour about how to make music for shows, because both of us are rapping ass n****s. You can watch someone on the stage rap, but if you can’t say it with them it becomes more like a spectacle. It’s not really something you can enjoy and actually call and respond to. That switched a lot for me, so when we came home I think we did 80% of the album and that was the biggest inspiration.
Better is continuation of your 2016 project, Good. Why did you decide to continue the story after so many years and various releases?
That was really the plan from the start, because it started off as Good, Better, Best. When I met my producer, Brandon Phillips-Taylor, we sat down and we put this whole thing together and he was like this could be a trilogy-type thing. Originally, Better was supposed to come out a lot sooner than it did, but I’m kind of glad that it spanned out this way. I want Best to be the last thing that I drop. After “best” where else can you go? I’m out after that. Good dropped in 2016 and it was kind of like a mixtape. For Better to be my first official album it feels amazing and it feels real good for the story, especially with Best being the last thing I’m ever gonna do. All of them seem to have a special place in my career.
Aside from music, what else have you improved on in your life?
Most of this sh*t is really just day-by-day for me. Some of the things I write about come from past situations, so as I’m moving on I can kind of reflect on it a little bit better now that I’m not necessarily in the midst of it. I learned some things, some stuff I forgot, and some stuff I keep f*cking up on, so I’m honestly just taking it day-by-day. I’m in a better financial standpoint than I was, but I’m still trying to find who I am for real, trying to find my spirit. There’s still a little journey for me.
What kind of person should we expect to hear on Better?
When we started the album and as we worked towards the end, one of the recurring things for me was the search of trying to find out who I want to be. I want to say that the album is real secure in that, but I don’t think it is. I think the album sounds like a reflection piece. It may sound like I’m trying to settle in to new experiences and things, but I’m still getting to that point. I’m not there yet, I’m sure I’m not there and I’m aware of that. I’m aware of where I am, and aware that I’m not all the way where I want to be.
That’s interesting. Most debut albums celebrate an “I’m here” or “I made it” moment, but you accept that that’s not quite the case yet.
I don’t want to keep going back to the Revenge Of The Dreamers III sessions, but I got invited on the second day and I felt like I was only invited because I was the guy that freestyled in the car. For a good period of time, somebody would see me out and say, “Oh sh*t, you’re the dude that be rapping in the car.” So I always felt like I had to get out of that box, gotta get out of that shell. Even now, I feel like this album is my chance to solidify the fact that I can actually make music. The same nerves that everyone has for their first album are there, but I think the stipulations are a little bit higher for me. It’s like if I don’t meet expectations or whatever the case is – we’re gonna meet them, I already know we are – but if God made it so that was the case, then it’s okay. Maybe you freestyle in the car, that’s what you do, but it’s so much more than that. I want the music that’s recognized first and then the freestyles in the car second. I don’t want it to be the other way around.
I just wanna say congratulations to you, word got out that Revenge Of The Dreamers III just went platinum today, how much did the experience there factor into the creative process for Better?
That sh*t felt full-circle for real. I don’t know where to find the documentary anymore, but I think J. Cole got one of them HBO documentaries and I’m in that sh*t somewhere. I wanna say 2015, maybe 2016, and I’m there, I’m in line. It was when he went on the Dollar And A Dream Tour around the country, and I’m literally in the documentary standing in line–we was rapping one of his verses from “Friday Night Lights.” After that concert I stayed and I got Cozz, Omen, Bas, somebody else that I can’t remember, it might’ve been Lute, to sign one of my first mixtapes. I had a mixtape called Wishful Thinking and they signed it. Going from that to actually being on the album and actually working with some of these folks that I looked up to, it felt real full-circle.
It just lets me know that I’m still on the right path. When I dropped out in 2014, my folks was on my head, whole family was ready to beat my ass cause it was like, “Bro, what are you doing?” To actually feel like I got some kind of confirmation that it was the right decision, it was crazy, it feels good. Now I got a platinum plaque to show for it.
Looking at your recent projects, you’re comfortable giving a smaller amount of music compared to other artists. An album of 11 songs isn’t the norm nowadays, why have you chosen this route?
Two reasons. On one end, most artists are real married to their sh*t for lack of a better word. Every song we make is kind of like our baby, so it’s not always me cutting the projects down. Sometimes it’s heated arguments with my manager, my producer, just trying to trim the fat off an album. We’ve had three renditions of Better. I think the first one we did had 18 songs and we cut it down to 14; it’s been through a couple changes. That’s the first thing, definitely. I am married to a lot of my stuff, but I also have a team of people that I trust around me. Yeah, it comes down to me with the final say, but I respect everybody’s opinion. They’re all there for a reason.
Two, I’m actually happy that it worked out that way because people’s attention spans are sh*t nowadays. When Kanye was on his seven song album campaign, I thought that was real genius. People aren’t listening to three-minute songs right now. When you listen to a DaBaby project, that n***a coming in in the first four seconds of the beat every time. Folks not listening to that long sh*t no more, it’s crazy. More of the longer stuff, if it’s more flushed out, people will have a better understanding and you get to see different parts, but sh*t just happens so fast now. I’m not gonna say music suffered, because some two-minute songs are great and leave you wanting more, but sh*t just too fast now. You gotta slow it down because folks ain’t gonna listen to it. If you can’t listen to it on your way to work and listen to the whole thing, you’re probably not gonna revisit it. I don’t care how good the album is. There’s so much sh*t going on now that you gotta try and keep the attention while you got it.
What’s the song you’re most proud of from Better?
That sh*t change everyday, I’m not even gonna lie to you. I’ve been asked this question a couple times and I think I gave like five different answers for that. Today I would say “Flashbacks,” with Miguel and St. Beauty. I was listening to that this morning and it was speaking to my soul. That one felt real good today, but it’s gonna change in another 24 hours.
Adding to your growing catalog of songs with talented R&B acts, what can be expected of “Flashbacks” with Miguel?
As much as I wanted my first song with Miguel to physically be tailored for women, it didn’t work out that way. I think this song, if I were to describe it in two words, is “reflective” and “freeing.” Definitely reflective, talking that talk on that. It’s definitely a spiritual release. I have a series that’s called “Talking To God.” I got two parts in it so far, and originally the first thing I wrote for this was going to be “Talking To God 3,” but we ended up changing it and it turned into “Flashbacks.”
You have a bunch of artists from Atlanta on your album. What about the culture makes this chemistry so transferable from artist to artist?
We small as f*ck. We see everybody, everywhere. I feel like I met 6LACK for the first time in a parking lot on Edgewood Ave. I don’t even remember what I was doing out there–this is still when bro had the free-form dreads. That was my first time meeting him and I was just coming up to him like a fan, telling him I f*ck with his music before he even knew who I was or who I was going to turn into. I think I met J.I.D at a show. I can’t even remember when I met Childish Major, but I know I saw him all the time. Well, not no more since we can’t go outside, but the same studio, festivals, all that. Like, you might run into your favorite rapper in a restaurant or some sh*t. If you’ve been doing what you’re supposed to do and the word is already out about you, then somebody might float you the same respect like, “Oh yeah, I heard about you. We should link.” From my experience at least, I ain’t seen no real crazy egos or nothing like that. Everybody’s on the same mission, doing the same thing. Like the Revenge Of The Dreamers III sessions. Everybody that we already knew was there, it kind of reaffirms things, telling us “okay, you really doing your sh*t, we on the same path, let’s do this sh*t, let’s work.”
What songs are you most excited for fans to hear?
There’s two for me. The one that I’m most excited about fans hearing is “Attitude,” that sh*t be making me want to run through a wall. I wish we could still do shows right now, because that would easily be one of my favorites to perform outside. The one I think that’s going to get taken in the most and that’s going to age the best out of all of them will be “Growing Up Mother God.” That song has some of my favorite verses I think I’ve ever wrote in my life, some of my most-touching verses too. I think it’s really going to sit with folks, especially being in a time where we’re sitting in the house and ain’t have nothing to do but actually listen to the words. I cried a couple of times listening to it.
Which one of your ATL homies are you getting up outta here in an IG battle?
I’m getting everybody out of here, f*ck you talking about?! I’m on my French Montana sh*t. I’m taking everybody, I don’t care who it is. Even if we playing unreleased records, all of that, I’m willing to go against anybody. What they doing, 20 songs? Yeah, I’m with it, everybody can get it dawg. As time goes on that sentiment is only going to get truer. The more albums you keep putting out, the more songs we make, the more confident I’ll be in answering that. Right now, it’s still the same, even if I’m just speaking it into existence, that’s how I feel.