An Interview With Dada1k

Vol. 19

Dada1k doesn’t do self-aggrandizement. The 19-year-old talks about his career milestones in remarkably casual terms, like he rolled out of bed one day and decided to become a rap star. When your talent is self-evident, who needs a sales pitch?

Dada1k (pronounced Day-Day-One-Kay) grew up living with his mother and three siblings in Birmingham, Alabama. He was a three-letter varsity athlete in high school, and his mom encouraged him to parlay his athletic gifts into a college degree. When Dada decided higher education wasn’t for him, he got a job at the local Royal Cup coffee warehouse and spent his free time writing music.

The first single Dada ever put out, “Nobody’s Real”, garnered a local buzz almost immediately. He followed it up with “War Ready”, a slow-burning anthem that turned him into the subject of a major label bidding war. According to Dada, “War Ready” was the only recording he had on hand when he met up with director Rm Capturez for a video shoot. His decision to share it with the world amounted to little more than a happy coincidence.

The song took on a life of its own online, earning over 14 million views on YouTube as of this writing and catapulting Dada into a deal with Arista Records, a Sony Music subsidiary that was relaunched in 2018 under the leadership of industry vet David Massey. Since becoming one of the first hip-hop artists to sign to Arista in late 2019, Dada has released a steady stream of singles and a full-length project called Death Of Me, which he recorded in just two days. His next LP, Gangsta Pop, is underway and expected to drop in 2021.

Dada’s ace in the hole is his distinctive singing voice. He doesn’t rap so much as belt his heart out, and his radiant rasp cuts through instrumentals like a knife through warm butter. Had he been born a century earlier, he might’ve found his calling as a bluesman.

From style to subject matter, Dada’s music contains echoes of the blues. His songs wrestle with poverty and its attendant pains in forthright terms, and his machismo is tempered by blunt honesty (“I done fucked like a hundred broads, and the shit still don’t make me happy”, he confesses on “Shining Hard”.) Yet his writing can also be playful, and a sense of triumph rings through the heavy subtext, as if he’s fending off his troubles by turning them into melodies.

“War Ready” is a call to arms built around a world-weary refrain: “Tell them bitches that I’m ready, war ready / I don’t fuck with my daddy, he’s a pussy ass felon / These n***as be jealous, real jealous / I don’t need no friends, ‘cause they know that I’m stepping.” Delivered over a guitar loop that would’ve fit in on a 2016 Lil Tracy x Lil Peep project, each lyric teems with wistful emotion, and lingers in the air like blunt smoke.

The resonance of “War Ready” is no fluke. Soulful tracks like “Remember The Times”, “Heart Bleed”, “Reflection Of Myself”, and “With God” reveal an evolving artist with plenty more tricks up his sleeve.

I spoke to Dada1k over the phone about his budding discography and creative process. These excerpts have been lightly edited for clarity. You can stream Death Of Me and the rest of his music via the links below.

Dada1k - Death Of Me (Apple / Spotify / Tidal)

Dada1k - Full Discography (Apple / Spotify / Tidal)

What were your earliest memories with music growing up?

Shit...the radio. I ain’t have no specific artist I’d be listening to. I don’t even know.

Did you always recognize yourself as a talented singer?

I knew that I knew how to sing as a youngin coming up, but I ain’t never want to do that shit for real. After I graduated high school, that’s when I got comfortable with doing the music shit and writing music.

Do you remember the earliest song you put out officially?

Yeah, “Nobody’s Real”. That’s not the first song I ever recorded. The first song I ever recorded, I ain’t ever dropped. But it’s still hard though (laughs). I just never dropped it.

When did you really start taking music seriously?

When I figured I ain’t want to go to college no more and shit like that. I was like fuck that shit, I gotta do something, you feel me? I was working a job when I was dropping my music, and I was just shooting videos and shit. But when my shit finally took off, that’s when I started taking that shit more serious. 

What type of job were you working?

I was at a warehouse. Coffee warehouse, god damn Royal Cup (laughs). All the old folks in there used to be on my shit. Bumping my shit in there.

“War Ready” is still racking up streams, even though it’s over a year old. Were you surprised by the way that song blew up?

Hell yeah, ‘cause I wasn’t even gonna drop that song. Only reason I dropped is ‘cause that was the only song I had recorded at the time, when me and my video man were working. 

How’d you link with Hotboii for that remix?

That was on some label type shit. I had just started listening to his music, and my label had called me and asked me about him and shit like that. I was like ‘yeah, go ahead and put him on there. I wanna see how he sound.’

Do you have a personal favorite song you’ve released?

My favorite song? I don’t even know. My favorite song is...all them hoes (laughs). I’m just waiting for the right person to hear me, for real. 

There’s really no skips on that Death Of Me tape.

I made that Death Of Me tape in two days, you know what I’m saying? I made that tape in two days. I really made fifteen songs in two days, but they ain’t let me put the whole fifteen on that hoe.

Do you write your lyrics down, or are you just going off the head?

Like, “War Ready”, I wrote that with no beat. It was just like, the shit I was feeling, you feel me? What I had going on at the time, you feel me? All my first shit I dropped, I wrote, like “Dope Boy Dreams”, “Remember The Times”, “Nobody’s Real”, “War Ready”, and “My Image”. What I’ve been doing now though, I just be going in off the head and just punching in and shit. That’s easier. I find that easier.

What’s behind the name Dada1k?

That’s my childhood name! Dada. So everybody’s gonna know Dada. And the 1k? N***a just solid, one hundred. I need one hundred, one thousand ass n***as around me. You hear me? That’s what that’s standing for.

You’re coming up during a weird time with the pandemic, were you able to do live shows before coronavirus?

No. I only did one, I did a birthday party. So it wasn’t really no show, ‘cause I ain’t never post a flyer or nothing. I ain’t let nobody know I was there, you feel me? It was just a birthday party. So I ain’t have nobody coming out like that, but I still performed at that hoe though.

You mention in multiple songs that you don’t want to be famous. What is it about fame that turns you off?

It’s just, my whole life, I never wanted the spotlight, you feel me? I ain’t never gave no fuck about the spotlight.

Is that weird as an artist, where the spotlight comes with the job? 

No, I accept that shit now. It’s up there (laughs). You feel me? That shit ain’t finna change me or nothing like that. You know how n***as get to acting different and shit when they get fame? But that’s just them.

There’s not much focus on material things in your music. Is that intentional?

For sure. You hear what I’m rapping about. I don’t flex in person. It’s not me. I don’t flex at all, so I don’t know. I ain’t got that in me right now. I ain’t never been no flexing ass n***a.

How’d you get so comfortable with showing emotion in your music?

I think...I don’t know how (laughs). That’s just how I was out the gate. Writing about shit that I was going through. Real things. 

One of my favorite hooks you did was “Million Dollar Crumb” with C Money LaFlare. What does that concept mean to you?

I’m still a crumb, but I’m worth a million dollars. I’m still in the hood, but I’m worth a million dollars.

How much unreleased music are you sitting on?

About 200 songs. I’d say about 180. Shit, I don’t know. When I get ready to drop it, you know all that shit fire though.

What’s your process for picking singles or deciding what makes it onto a project?

I’m coming out with like two or three singles before I drop this Gangsta Pop, tape or album or whatever. Gangsta Pop gon’ drop around March, so I’mma drop like two or three singles up to March. I’m finna open up a new genre in music, you feel me? Gangsta Pop.

You mention on “Bruno” that your mom wasn’t that supportive of your music at first. When did she realize you could make a career out of rapping?

Shit...when my shit started taking off. I played sports all my life, and that’s what she wanted a n***a to do, play sports and go to college. When I told her I wasn’t going, she just told me I better make this shit work (laughs). 

How important is family to you?

Important (laughs). Really important. That shit important like my money, you hear me? 

Are they proud of how far you’ve come with music?

Hell yeah they proud of me. For sure. My whole hood proud of me. I hear it every day, every time somebody see a n***a, every time I see somebody, you feel me?

What was the inspiration behind the title Death Of Me?

Death Of Me...I really don’t know. I don’t even remember, like, I can’t remember, you hear me? I be so geeked (laughs). I came up with it in one second. I think it was ‘cause of the “Death Of Me” song, like the intro, that’s how I made the name of that hoe. I just named my tape off the song name.

When you’re going through beats and deciding which ones to pick, what’re you looking for?

That melody. Nothing but melody beats, for real. Sometimes I hit uptempo beats, sometimes I ride with the pain, it’s just how I’m feeling. And the beat is what makes my lyrics, you feel me? I be coming up with so many rhythms in my head. The beat will give me the vibe, if this shit gon’ be about pain, or if this shit gon’ be turnt. You hear me? Then I rap what I feel or what I’m feeling like. What I done seen. What I done did. All that.

Do you have a dream collaboration with an artist or producer?

Nah, I don’t got no dream collaboration. I’m fucking with whoever fucking with me, but I ain’t got no dream, you feel me? It ain’t nobody I rep like I’m just dying to get a song with them. 

I know there was a bidding war to sign you. Why’d you end choosing Arista Records?

I wanted to be the face of that bitch. So that’s what I’m working on doing, being the face of their hip-hop shit. 

How’d you link up with your current manager Carlisle Jones?

He was shooting videos and shit for local artists in Birmingham, and I fucked around and got a video with him. “My Image”. We’ve just been locked in since that.

What’re your goals for 2021?

I’mma keep going crazy. You know that. I gotta keep going crazy. I’m on the way up, so that’s my goal. I’m tryna touch it. I’m tryna touch the top.