Doa Beezy doesn’t just rap about pain. He traces its contours, wrestles with its infinite forms, and whittles it down to its sharpest expressions. On his 2020 LPs Trauma Child and Raq Baby, the 24-year-old confronts grief and hardship with breathtaking clarity. Clarity that stops you in your tracks: “Even though my homeboy died a couple years ago, I still be feeling that ghost.”
Like many artists born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, Doa Beezy saw himself in the pioneers of the city’s Drill scene, innovators turned icons like Chief Keef, Lil Durk, and G Herbo. Though he was drawn to music from an early age (he cites Tupac as formative listening), the runaway success of artists like Keef in the early 2010s gave Doa the notion that music could be a viable career path.
Doa picked up rapping in 2013. His earliest material drew on the choppy cadences and melodic phrasing of Drill’s first wave, but he was a gifted storyteller who quickly developed a searing sense of creative purpose.
At the outset of Doa’s music career, two of his closest friends were killed. On July 5, 2014, his friend Tunchie was shot 16 times by police. Tunchie’s body was so riddled with bullets that the morticians had to give him a fake arm and leg before his open-casket funeral. The cops claimed he reached for a gun, but eyewitnesses insisted the young man had his hands up.
Three months later, Doa’s right hand man Roddy was gunned down by local rivals. In one of his first recordings, Doa narrates the consecutive murders in chilling, devastating detail. In one lyric, he recalls another dear friend, Savage (a.k.a. Savo), breaking the news to him about Roddy. Savo is currently locked up on a murder charge. He briefly appears on Raq Baby, calling in from prison to maintain his innocence and sing Doa’s praises during the final minute of “Bad Guy.”
In the long shadow of these personal catastrophes, Doa Beezy discovered his signature sound. After years of honing his voice over scattershot production, Doa broke through in 2019 with “Streetz Done”, a piano-laden breakup letter to his old life, delivered in creaky melodies that ooze raw emotion. “I’m still in the trenches fighting demons, they don’t hear me though / I done lost so many of my dawgs, I swear this year for y’all.”
The song marked Doa’s arrival as a singular stylist, and it made enough noise in local circles to catch the attention of his current manager LVTR Kevin, a cameraman turned multi-talented creative with industry connections and deep ties to Chicago’s rap scene.
Trauma Child, released in February under the LVTRRAW imprint, is all cathartic confessionals and graveyard blues. Whether he’s contemplating revenge (“To The Grave”) or grappling with paternal abandonment (“Soul Got Me”), Doa’s writing is richly nuanced and unsparingly honest. Somber keystrokes from fellow Chicagoan JTK - architect of melancholic anthems like Calboy’s “Envy Me” and Polo G’s “Dying Breed” - complete the project’s elegiac mood.
On last month’s follow-up Raq Baby, Doa and producer Stacc Da Greatest refine the Trauma Child formula with an eye towards the present. Tracks like “High Profile”, “Gangsta Bitch”, and “Black in America” offer vivid glimpses of Doa’s current mindset, whether he’s reckoning with the pitfalls of success, newfound love, or his place in post-George Floyd America.
In conversation, Doa is approachable and self-possessed. Over a half-hour phone call, we discussed his creative process, his aversion to clout-chasing, and the importance of never giving up. These excerpts have been lightly edited for clarity. You can stream Trauma Child and Raq Baby via the links below.
PFOS: In your writing, you really are uniquely comfortable with talking about uncomfortable truths and making yourself vulnerable. Where do you get that inner confidence to speak on pain with such clarity?
DB: I feel like you’re supposed to open up. On everything, every aspect of your life, because it made you the person you is today. If I don’t open up and share that story, I feel like the fans aren’t gonna connect with me the way they do right now. I know it’s other people out there with stories like me. I just wanna speak for the people who don’t got a voice, you feel what I’m saying?
Is that a big responsibility to carry?
Yeah, I feel like it’s a big responsibility to speak on that. Because if I wasn’t, it just wouldn’t feel right. It wouldn’t be right to not talk about the struggle, because that’s really what we go through and what we’ve been through. So if I were to talk about all this other type of stuff, it wouldn’t feel right.
Do you hear a lot from fans that your music has helped them deal with hardship in their own lives?
I get that every day. Every day I get a lot of fans that say I’m helping them get through their lives, through hard times and the struggle. I get those messages pretty much every day.
I understand where they’re coming from. I definitely listen to your music when I need to deal with some heavy feelings.
That’s what I make the music for! That’s like my therapy too - going to the studio or writing. When I’m feeling some type of way, I can just write it out and get it out through the music.
Crazy you say that. I was about to ask whether you see music as a form of therapy.
Definitely. It’s therapy for me, for sure. I love music, and any type of feelings I’m feeling at any moment, just rapping about it or talking about is gonna help me get through it. Just because I know there’s people out there who are hearing my message, and like I said, it’s something that I love to do anyway.
Do you write your stuff down or does it just come naturally?
I write all my music. I’m not the typical rapper that’ll go in there and freestyle. There’s nothing wrong with that, I just feel like I get to say more stuff, because as I’m writing I can think about it more, and put it together more, go over it, and make it - not perfect, because nothing’s perfect - but as perfect as I can.
Did you always recognize yourself as a deep thinker?
A deep thinker and an over-thinker, for sure (laughs). Definitely. Growing up, anything I did, I wanted to make sure it was perfect. I knew I was a very deep thinker at an early age.
Do you have a personal favorite song on Raq Baby?
I’d probably say “Bad Guy” or “High Profile”, one of those. I kinda like “High Profile” more, because I’m reminiscing about my old life, but I’m talking about my new life. So I’m giving you the best of worlds on that song. I’m letting you know life is good right now, but it’s still cold, there’s trials and tribulations. It’s still a gift and a curse at the same time.
I thought “Gangsta Bitch” was really great and heartfelt. Was that your first time writing a love song like that?
It’s my first time putting a love song out like that. I’ve written love songs before, but I wasn’t fully comfortable with it. I was still working on my sound for that type of concept. Like I said, I make sure everything is close to perfect. But that ended up being one of my favorite songs on (Raq Baby) too.
I definitely want to hear more Doa Beezy love songs. I didn’t realize you can go in that direction so easily.
That’s exactly why I wanted to put it on the project. So I could show the fans I can rap about anything. It’s still gonna sound good and sound like me. It’s not like it’s gonna be forced.
It’s fashionable for artists to say they “don’t do shit for clout”. But you really don’t seem to be interested in getting big features, going viral, or using gimmicks to get attention. Has your philosophy always been to make the music you want to make and let people gravitate to it?
Yup. I wanna be known for my music. Once you start doing this and that for clout, you’re in the circus. And you gotta keep up the image. Because once you do that, that’s what they gon’ know you for. Even if the music’s good, they’re still gonna know you for chasing clout, and once you stop trying to chase clout, the music is irrelevant at that point. That’s why, like you said, you never hear about me doing anything except music. I stay off the internet. It’s a bad thing too, because I’m supposed to be on the internet. The internet does help an artist push his music and get bigger, so I’m still learning how to get on the internet and use the internet as an artist, for my business. But as far as the clout, you will never see me doing crazy things to make my name pop. That’s just not me.
I also noticed neither of your projects have features. Is that something you felt strongly about?
I have features, but I really want the fans to get to know me. I don’t want nobody to overlook my body of work and the way that I’m writing my music. I wanna be heard first before I put any features on my project. But my next project for sure will have features.
You wanted to showcase your voice.
Exactly. When people go back to the older music, they’ll see it’s all me. I can make a hit song by myself. I can write about anything. And I can make a body of work by myself.
You have a unique way with melody. Was “Streetz Done” the first time it clicked to rap in your singing voice?
I been had my singing voice, but that was the moment where I figured out how to say what I wanted to say and still make it catchy at the same time. I used to use my singing voice, but it was different. I didn’t say what I wanted to say and make ‘em feel it the way I wanted them to feel it. But once I did “Streetz Done”, that’s when I knew, “okay, this is how you’re supposed to do it”. Ever since then, I crafted all my work, and you hear what you hear today.
I know Stacc Da Greatest produced Raq Baby, and JTK played a major part in Trauma Child. Do you have any other favorite producers to work with?
I’m tryna not leave nobody out, but they’re really the top two that I like working with. JTK and Stacc Da Greatest. I just ran into Stacc not too long ago, and it’s crazy how the chemistry is just there. I ran into him in May, and ever since the first couple beats he sent me, I knew. I could tell he’s been listening to my music, he knows my style, and he’s really tryna work with me for real. Because a lot of people will send beats, and it’s just what everybody else is doing right now, ‘type beats’. Instead of them really listening to what I really do and sending a beat made the right way.
You’ve been making music for a long time. Was there ever a time when you felt like giving up?
That’s a good question, because a lot of people would probably say they felt like giving up. There never was a time in my life, ever, that I wanted to say ‘I don’t want to rap no more’. Not one time. Because I always saw the progress. And like I said, every day I was writing. Whether it was a bar, it could’ve been one bar, that bar would still help to start a song off. So every day I was writing. For years and years and years. And I saw the growth of my music and my fanbase. Whether it was 100 more fans, that was still more than I had last year, so I was never like ‘nah I’m gonna give up’. That never even crossed my mind, not one time.
You cited Chief Keef as a big inspiration in another interview. Was there anybody besides Keef that really influenced you growing up, whether it was a Chicago Drill artist or something totally different?
Tupac. He really influenced me before Chief Keef. Tupac made me like music, and Chief Keef made me wanna rap. But Tupac was the one, that’s why my music sounds like it does. It’s all raw music. It’s the truth, it’s unfiltered. If you listen to Tupac, you know that’s all Tupac did. Make unfiltered music. So that’s where that comes from. And me being an artist from Chicago, and seeing Chief Keef, Lil Durk, Lil Herb, it just made me think ‘why not?’ I might as hell go ahead and get to rapping. But all I would do when I was younger was just listen to music. Every type of music. From R&B to hip-hop to soul, everything. I was just listening to all types of music.
Do you feel like, between the people who make memes about Chicago and the people in the media who portray you guys as menaces, there’s a lack of empathy for artists who come from where you’re coming from?
For sure. But it’s two parts to that story. Like I said, a lot of people from here, they like to portray that image. You know me from my music, but a lot of people who are from here, they like to portray that image. So if you portray that image, the media is only gonna do what they're supposed to do. They’re doing their job. They’re gonna put out what they see. So if you’re portraying that image, and you’re putting it out like you’re the toughest guy, you got the most murders and all that, they’re gonna put that in the blogs or whatever because that’s their job. So like I said, it goes both ways with that.
Is it weird for you to see people just now waking up to police violence, when it’s something that you’ve been personally affected by and dealing with for years?
It’s not weird because when I was a youngin, I wasn’t looking at the police like that. I was always like, the police are the police. When my friend got killed by them, and they said he had a gun, but I knew he didn’t have a gun, that’s when I started to know, “ok, this is what’s going on”. And it happened over and over and over again, throughout the world. So I kinda caught on how everybody else is catching on. I’m the type of person, you can tell me something, but if I don’t see it for myself, I’m not gonna go off of your word. I gotta see it and experience it myself for me to catch a hold of it.
On “Streetz Done” and “1000 Tears”, you draw a distinction between living and just surviving. Do you feel like you’re at the point now where you’re really living?
I feel like Imma always be surviving. It’s always gonna be 50-50. You’re gonna be living and you’re gonna be surviving at the same time. Because as a rapper, that’s one of the dangerous jobs to have. Then being Black in America, you still gonna be surviving out here, whether you got money like the richest person or not. You're gonna be surviving, but of course you’re living your life too.
In 2020, there’s a lot less people partying and more people going through it. Do you think that gives you an advantage, as someone who makes really raw, purposeful music rather than fun, frivolous music?
It gives me a big advantage. Me and my members talk about that all the time. The way the world is right now, it’s a lot of sad type stuff going on. So with my music, it gives me a big advantage because people wanna hear that right now. A lot of people are not gonna want to turn up or do all the extra stuff. So it definitely gives me a big advantage.
(Photo Credits: LVTRRAW)