Alley Boy Reflects On Prison Time & Drawing Inspiration From DMX
Exclusive: Alley Boy chronicles the formation of Duct Tape Entertainment, selling crack to family members & why Plies crossover hurt him as a fan.
Through the verses of emcees such as Jay Z, E-40 and T.I., listeners have seen the archetype of the dopeboy turned rapper a countless amount of times. The times and circumstances may change, and UGK’s “Pocket Full Of Stones” inevitably gives way to Vince Staples rhyming, “Sellin’ Thizz, couldn’t tell you what the recipe is.” But as long as poverty and addiction are societal staples, there will likely always be someone to rap about the cause and effects of selling and abusing drugs. And the skill and conviction with which such rhymes are executed are often what separate Hip Hop’s cultural torchbearers from the rest of the crowd. Bred in Atlanta’s Edgewood Court Housing Projects, Alley Boy fancies himself as someone who can be such a torchbearer.
“I kick a lot of shit, and it’s harsh reality,” Alley Boy explained during a visit to HipHopDX’s offices. “I know hundreds of people where that’s their reality too, so I try to talk about that more than just, ‘We selling this much dope, and we whipping this in a pot.’ Bruh, them same niggas that be whipping the pot, niggas be kicking at they door. So I talk about everything. I just felt like my real story gonna single me out from a lot of dudes, because they gonna see it in my face.”
It’s a face with tattooed tears, and from it come tales of prison stints and family members addicted to crack cocaine. So while the eyewitness accounts, brutal honesty and vivid detail make Alley Boy’s story that much easier to believe, will his off-the-mic activity detract from the actual music? The beat-downs and instances of calling out the likes of Jeezy, T.I. or any of the character rappers Alley Boy refers to as “Muppet Babies” are available on any search engine for your perusal. And as the Duct Tape Entertainment rapper gets more comfortable in his relationship with Atlantic Records, the rhymes about his transition from street pharmaceutical merchant, to inmate, to rapper will be there too. Much like drugs, in the right market they practically sell themselves, and they aren’t likely to disappear anytime soon.
Alley Boy Recalls His Transition From Prison To The Rap Game
HipHopDX: Tell us about the part of Atlanta where you were raised.
Alley Boy: Edgewood Court is one of them real, close-knit neighborhoods—everybody cousins, and everybody is family. But it was a real drug spot, and it was one of them closed-in hoods where a lot of drugs was in…a lot of big drug boys over there. People started young. Everybody started selling dope young over there. By a time a dude was 30, and he from Edgewood, he probably been selling dope, bout 14, 16 years. It was one of them type of hoods. It was a violent hood, but it was a lot of love, ‘cause everybody who was hustling was out there just in the hood. It gave us a lot of experience, and it kind of made me strong. If you can make it over there, you can make it anywhere. If you can come up around a bucket of crabs, then you can come up out the bucket. When you got crabs pulling at your foot, your leg, your pants, your ankles, just beating at them, then you can make it anywhere. That’s why I be anywhere, and it’s like a breeze to me, ‘cause I’m from Edgewood. I done already seen worse. All in all, it’s cool though. Everybody was just on the block, young with a mouth full of gold. We had the old school cars with the rims and the beat. I love my hood, and I’m always in the hood. I’m out here in LA now, but I love Edgewood. I’m Edgewood for life.
DX: So how did you go from those early days in Edgewood Court to rapping? How is Duct Tape formed within all of that?
Alley Boy: My brother, Big Bank Black started the label Duct Tape when I was in prison. It was just one of those situations where we always been like family. When I was 19, me and his brother had a murder case against us together. And that was my best friend since I was like seven or eight. We had a murder charge or whatever; he ended up getting 13 years, and I ended up beating the case, but some friends from the hood told what happened. It was like a bond thing, ‘cause both of us lost somebody—I lost my best friend, and he lost his little brother. So that’s like my brother now. So Big Bank Black is like my older brother now, even though I got my own little brother. We were already getting money together in the streets, but me and him caught a case together, and I ended up going back to prison… I ended up getting off for the murder case with me and his brother.
DX: So what happens when you’re out of prison the second time?
Alley Boy: When I came home, he knew I always did music since I was young. So everyone from my hood they know that boy Alley. But they used to call me Lil’ Curt back then. When I came home from prison—from when me and Black caught the charge together—dudes in the prison were older than me. So I used to be walking around the prison like barefoot or with just my socks on, and they would be like, “Don’t walk on that floor like that, you gonna catch something.” And they would say, “This little nigga alley as shit.” They kept calling me “alley,” and I just started running with it. I started writing about it, putting it in my raps, and I just added the “Boy” to it. So when I had came home, Black had started the label and he knew what it was. I was telling him the whole time I’m locked up that I’m watching Gucci, and Gucci Mane is one of my partners who I been knew. So when I went to prison, I watched Gucci pop out, and I’m like, “Damn, Gucci going crazy. Man when I get out I’m finna go fucking crazy, cause I’m writing like fuck. I’m writing it while I’m in prison. I’m loading up. I’m finna get out of here and go crazy.”
So when I got out, we just started the label and just started pushing. I feel like I’m dope, and I feel like my story real. So I ain’t never used to have to lie. Everybody stood behind it, and everybody in my hood know the story. If you’re really in the streets of Atlanta, you already know me before the music. When people can just see on a bigger level, they’ll say, “Okay they really pushing at it. They ain’t gonna stop, and these just ain’t some dope boys who got some money who tryin’ to start.”
Why Alley Boy Compares His Passion To Tupac & DMX
DX: Yeah, because that story gets pretty old.
Alley Boy: But that’s every dope boy; they’ll go get an artist if they don’t rap themselves. So I just took it upon myself with my music. I was like, “Shit, I was just gonna talk about selling dope.” A lot of people try to sell this fake ass, dope boy dream. But we came up out the struggle for real, and I’m going to tell my story, because I know I like to hear a real story. That’s what made me fall in love with Lil Boosie and ‘Pac—they story. Real niggas is just what they stood on, so I just started stamping out in Atlanta. I been big out in Atlanta before a person even knew me outside of Georgia. The streets were already on me, so we been mashing since then. The whole hood and all of our families together, they all knew this was something we can really stand behind because shorty really can rap. I really been through it for real with all of the cases and bumping my head. I’m really just now getting up out of a lot of shit, but it’s cool though. We just said that we was going to work hard and let the streets decide.
DX: So when did you get signed?
Alley Boy: I got signed to Atlantic in ’09.
DX: That was like your big break so to speak?
Alley Boy: It wasn’t given to us, so I can’t name a break. I been going hard the whole time, and I still be feeling like I ain’t have the looks that a lot of cats had early. The radio don’t support me in Atlanta, ‘cause I represent something that they don’t represent. I’m really representing the streets. And I’m going to stick with it until it pops, ‘cause I’m trying to bring artists behind me. So I ain’t never want to jump too mainstream, before I could stamp it like, “This ain’t just nothing to do with Rap,” ‘cause if I had to compare myself, I’m going to say my passion and my drive compare to ‘Pac and DMX. I got that type of passion.
DX: As a fan, what made you want to emulate Tupac and DMX?
Alley Boy: X might be on stage crying for real, and them ain’t no fake tears. I wanna go after people like that. That’s how I feel like you have two number one albums in one year; when people can really get into you. They want to hear your story more when it’s real. They want to know who your girl is, who your kids is and who your baby momma is. I like some artists, and they make good music, but I don’t want to know that about them. I wanted to know everything about ‘Pac. I still read stuff about ‘Pac over and over…any interviews he did.
DX: You talked about the passion they had, but how do you identify that from the outside looking in?
Alley Boy: It was the look in his eye, and that’s the lane I want to be in. I feel more militant that just an artist, and I got to say something. I kick a lot of shit, and it’s harsh reality. I talk about robbing, and that’s my reality for real. I know hundreds of people where that’s their reality too, so I try to talk about that more than just, “We selling this much dope, and we whipping this in a pot.” Bruh, them same niggas that be whipping the pot, niggas be kicking at they door. So I talk about everything. I just felt like my real story gonna single me out from a lot of dudes, because they gonna see it in my face.
DX: Can you talk about that aspect a little more? A lot of Hip Hop has become like professional wrestling, so you latched on to this type of authenticity. But at what point were you drawn in by the music?
Alley Boy: I just watched them from the jump, because those the type of people you see it in from the jump. I can hear it from some people. I can hear a verse a dude will kick, but when you really hear a person talk, they can really look you in the face when you talk without blinking. That’s just how I judge people. If a person don’t look me in the eye, I ain’t gonna trust you at all. I know that when people lie, their eyes go left. So when dudes do that—and I watch they interviews, and I can see a dude talk to the camera, because that’s just like talking to a person. So you know the look, and when they talk, I can believe that. But when you got a dude who got on these big glasses, and they bigger than his face, I don’t really believe nothing you say, ‘cause you talking behind tint. I always knew to look a man in the eye when you talk. That’s a sign of respect. If it’s respect, then it really ain’t no lying. But if it ain’t no respect, a dude will tell you anything. So they not gonna look you square in the face. That’s when I stopped paying attention to dudes.
Why Alley Boy Feels Comfortable Telling Fans His Life Story
DX: So shifting from fan to artist, how did that affect how you moved?
Alley Boy: I quit looking at who got the biggest watch or who showing the biggest car, but really just listening like, “Oh okay, he like this…he like that.” So I became a student, and I just knew what I felt better doing. I ain’t feel good being a dude saying, “My watch cost 100 or whatever.” I was more about the dudes like ‘Pac on “Dear Mama,” because my momma was on crack. So I really felt that when he said that, because that was real life for us. For a person who hasn’t been through that, you can’t say it. You will never know, because you have never felt that pain. You can be like, “Okay, I know people momma who on dope or whatever,” but that ain’t your momma. So you don’t feel it. I felt that from him, and I really went through stuff. That’s who I cater to, and that’s who I like. I want to put a message out like that, because there is so many of them like that.
DX: There are people out there looking for someone who speaks for them the same way you felt about ‘Pac…
Alley Boy: Them same dope boys just don’t grow up like that; we ain’t just get there. People wonder how you get there, but people ain’t just walk in the dope trap. A lot of them same dope boy’s mommas is they customers. Their daddy might start off as they customers. My first customer was my uncle—my real first customer. He would steal all my dope, but he would come back and pay me. This is when I was 13 or 14 though. I would take my shoe money and buy me a 50-dollar slab or something, cut it up, and my uncle would buy all my dope. He used to trick me out of most of it, but that was our relationship, and we still tight to this day. Even right now, he found God, and he straight. But that was just our bond. It was some hood shit…some real, project shit. But people be like, “Damn, that was probably bad.” Nigga, it wasn’t bad to me.
DX: Yeah, I was going to say that was pretty bad.
Alley Boy: When you grow up with something it ain’t bad…it ain’t that bad when you grow up in it. So I see different shit, and I look at dudes who probably ain’t go through shit. I be like, “You ain’t as tough as me, and you ain’t really withstood the shit I been through.” That’s not to make them soft or nothing or take nothing away from them, but it’s like if you beat on something you going to make it tough. If you keep beating on a Pit, he gonna be more aggressive than a Pit who got petted everyday.
DX: You mentioned Tupac’s “Dear Mama.” What kind of songs were you studying…
Alley Boy: I used to keep up with people’s story; I wasn’t keeping up with their songs. A song can play out quick. Look at the statistics in Atlanta. How many artists pop off a year, then you really know them next year or two years down the line? So I don’t be studying the music. I study the artist. I be like, “Yeah, he will be here.” I ain’t going nowhere. Even though I ain’t hit main-mainstream yet, my status is still where I want it. Instead of me going up and dropping just as fast, I want to slowly keep going up. It’s like I’m building some stability, and I’m going to have roots on it instead of just popping off.
A lot of these dudes—not to drop any names or nothing—but look at Ca$h Out. He just had the number one song in the country, but people don’t really know Ca$h Out. His first song went national, and it kind of hurt him. So now he forever going to be reaching at a number one instead of just putting your story out there, if you got one. See I’m more so putting my whole story out there. Instead of a person liking a song, they like me so much to where they going to like every song I do…to where they into me enough where they going to want every song. That’s just another part, and it’s more than just saying, “Oh, I like that song in the club.” It’s like, “I fuck with him.” ‘Pac ain’t never did a wack verse to me, and it’s the same with DMX. I just like them, so everything they say is just like they talking.
Look at Jay Z. People just love Jay Z. I’m going to say the Kendrick Lamar song, “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe.” On some lyricist shit, Kendrick killed him. But he not Jay Z though, and you just feel that difference. It’s the feeling like, “But it’s Jay,” so everything he say goes. People take anything he say as jewels, because he not putting out no bullshit. You feel like everything he put out got to be a jewel, ‘cause you know what he stand on. That’s how I want my shit to be all the way around. Every tape I put out, every time I drop a song, they just be like, “Shit, that’s just shorty doing him.” They know I ain’t doing nobody else, so I don’t really keep up with it. There’s a difference between mainstream and telling your story. A lot of dudes are just doing music, but I don’t just do music. It could hurt me, but I think it could help me in the long run. It’s going to make everything I put out be like a trophy. People are going to cherish it more than be like, “He just dropping songs.”
Alley Boy Says Fake Rappers Are “Like A Muppet Baby”
DX: There are some people who have really experienced the things they rap about. What’s the difference between someone that may be glorifying a lifestyle that they’ve never seen any part of?
Alley Boy: It separates itself, and it’s kind of easy. If you will lie on the mic, then you will lie to my face—so I’m going to take you different. But some people fall in love with some characters though, and that’s like a Muppet Baby. You know it’s a Muppet, but you still like Elmo and shit…he Elmo. I like Elmo being Elmo, so I like him for that. I like this for this. So I just take it different, and I don’t knock the music people put out. People be pushing that line, like really trying to put a story out there like, “Yo, this me, blah, blah blah,” and you know people can back track you 10 years ago. I can go online and see you. Bruh, you weren’t like that, but you talking about your past like, “Bricks on bricks and keys.” I don’t do that, and I don’t like that. I hate that, but I got a lot of partners that do though, and they make good music. I just don’t personally do that. I don’t got to walk in they shoes. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see they complexion. It ain’t them who I see, so I just have to see me. I’m taking a different route, and that’s why I do more reality music than just fun, because it get mixed up.
I don’t know. It’s two different types of music. It’s some music that’s strictly for the club, and I don’t really hear too much out here in the car and the club that I would ride to. I don’t care about the club really, but the club will get you shows, and that’s why people reach at that shit so hard. But I don’t want to do that. I feel like, if you like something, it don’t matter the tempo. People going to sing it and fuck with you anyway.
DX: In line with what you said about not knocking the music people put out, it seems like you’ve called out some pretty successful people. What’s going to happen if and when you reach that level of success?
Alley Boy: I don’t be calling dudes out about they success, because I want you to celebrate mine. So I want to celebrate yours. So it ain’t about them succeeding, but it’s about your character. I’ll call out a character. If I see a character, [I’ll say], “Oh, your character fucked up.” Everybody ain’t groupies, and everybody ain’t fans. So I ain’t gonna come out here and treat you like that, and I ain’t going to look at you no less because you do media. I ain’t going to look at her no different because of whatever she do with the camera...a photographer or whatever. I ain’t going to look at you different, because that’s you. That’s what you chose to do. But when I see a character—I see rappers go into rapper mode all the time—I don’t like that. Don’t go in rapper mode. Be regular. You just a dude who made some hot songs and got blessed with fans. It’s a blessing in itself, so take it like that. Don’t act like you done did something that no one else can’t do or nothing like that. Don’t act like you doing something that’s never been done. When I see the character and people bring themselves around me, I say something about it. I don’t mind. It’s good Hip Hop to me, and I like it.
DX: How much of it is actually having a personal issue with the people representing themselves that way?
Alley Boy: I don’t be trippin’, because if I see it, then I’m like, “Oh, you ain’t like that. Quit talking like that.” It will aggravate me, and I might be wrong, but that’s just the Edgewood in me. I prey off the weak. If you weak, and I feel like you in a lane I should be in, I push you out. This is dog eat dog, and that’s the American way, right? Everybody steps on toes. So if I feel like I can do something better, why wouldn’t I shoot at this position? But I don’t just get at people. For everybody I ever said something about, or ever got into it with, it was a personal issue for real. We had an encounter. And you can’t sit there and explain to a million people the exact story and keep explaining it, ‘cause all the interviews will be the same. You will just constantly be saying, “Oh, we got into it about this.” So I just leave it all at once, like fuck them, and we agree to disagree. I ain’t on no campaign for no nigga. At the same time, if I feel like it’s on my chest, hell yeah I will say something. I ain’t no punk, and I’m for real street. So, that’s what an artist is going to have to deal with when they trying to play street. I’m a street cat who is an artist too, and the streets is what I know. So I handle shit different. That’s not to say it ain’t going to be no violent shit, but words don’t hurt. If I’m talking about it, I ain’t shoot nobody. So we talking about it, that’s cool…whatever. It still makes for good Hip Hop.
Alley Boy On Crossing Over & Working With Meek Mill
DX: Duct Tape was a really self-contained and self-sufficient movement. What’s the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make since transitioning to a major label?
Alley Boy: The songs. That used to be my problem. With Atlantic, I felt like they would never push what I wanted them to push. I’d be like, “I don’t want to do no song like that.” They might feed me songs from writers and shit, and I’d be like, “Man, that shit wack as fuck. That ain’t no project stuff, and that ain’t no trap beat.” If it ain’t that, then I’m like, “Fuck no.” But then I just started moving around more, and I started opening up to the shit. I started bending a little bit for them, and they start bending a little bit for me, and then we can reach up in the middle. It’s good. Like right now we been working good. My A&Rs and shit, we go hard together now.
But at first they ain’t know me, and I felt like they was giving me stuff too premature. And I’m like, “I ain’t ready for no song like that.” With my last two mixtapes, I’m just now putting out a record that got girls, where I’m talking to girls on it. I never did, and I don’t want to pop off like that. I don’t want to be Plies. I don’t want to be this goon, then go over into just straight sticking to the radio—just straight going into player mode.
Plies hurt me. I’m saying this now, ‘cause he hurt me. I’m telling you, you hurt me Plies, because I believed you. That’s what I say about street…when dudes are really street. I ain’t saying, “Oh, you are somebody that will kill somebody.” It’s where your heart is at. You might be street at what you do. You cater to street artists who coming up, or you sticking to the street…kinda like the underdog and not just so much mainstream. That can make you street, because now you in a position where you can help. When you get straight, where you be at? How you kick it? Did you forget about your hood? Do you not go to your hood no more? So that’s the definition of street cats to me. When you poor, you got to be in the projects. But when you get rich, you ain’t never going to go back to where you really grew up at? Your heart wasn’t never really there, and you really didn’t love it. Even though it was fucked up, I loved where I was from. We had hard times, but it was where I grew up at. How am I not going to love that? I may not want to stay there, but I got to go back. I got to love it, and I got to show that part of me.
But some dudes they really don’t do that, because they wasn’t like that for real in they hood. So they don’t want to go back. You ride through my hood with me, they going to be like, “Hey, Little Curt!” Everybody going to see me. You going to see winos, crack heads and everybody, but they not that to me. These are people I grew up with. I know this crack head’s son, and I know that wino’s daughter. So it looks different to me. But for some dudes they don’t want to show that. I ain’t saying they ain’t done went through it, but you got to show your roots. I feel like there’s a lot of dudes who can’t show they roots, and I’m like, “Dude, I don’t know you. That’s a character, and that ain’t you.”
Alley Boy ain’t a character. Alley Boy raps, but I ain’t no character. This is me. I’m an open book, so this is all me. Some dudes really are characters, so when you check or go back and look at they shit, you like, “Boy, you straight lying. You ain’t like that.” Some dudes really be trying to put a struggle story out there. I’m not saying you have to go through a struggle to be a good artist. Look at Drake. I love Drake, and I know Drake probably ain’t never shot nobody or did nothing. But I love Drake, ‘cause Drake do him, and he still will reach back. That’s street to me. And me saying street, I ain’t saying like you street and just wilding. Me saying street is down to earth. I feel like you know what’s going on, and you not looking at if from a blind eye, like, “Damn, I only see the negative.” Some people see the street like, “Oh, that got to be negative,” but it ain’t always negative.
DX: You got a different look with Meek Mill collaboration you did for “War Cry.” How was that?
Alley Boy: When you don’t know someone in person—we had never met before—but it wasn’t on some club shit like, “What up?” So I didnt really take to him like that, ‘cause I didn’t know him. But when we got in the studio, he called me when he was out here. I hit him about the record “Stack It Up,” and he was like, “Alright, let’s get it.” And he hit me as soon as he got out here saying to come to the studio. So we come down there, and we really chopped it up and looked each other eye-to-eye, talked on some regular shit and kicked it all night. And I’m a fan. That really made me like, “Alright, I really fuck with bruh,” because I just wasn’t on it. But that made me pay more attention, and I listen differently now. It ain’t all about just, “Oh, he Meek Mill with a hot song.” I can listen to anything now like, “Oh, okay that’s just shorty kicking shit.” It’s dope. The record came out dope as fuck, and he freestyled that bitch. Went in there and knocked that bitch out. It was just killed.
That was the single, and we pushed with that. The tape was just doing good, and right now I got an artist called T-Mack. He’s from Columbia, South Carolina—from the river…Riverside. So I’m gonna do this project with him called Riverside Rush. So I’m working on that, and me and Master P still doing a project together. We just did the Louie V Mob tape, so we finna just stay recording. All this is just to keep it hot and to keep the Internet going. I feel like a lot of times I used to have a lot of legal issues during the time I been signed…crazy shit. So it used to stop my momentum. I’d have it going, but the legal shit would kick in, and I would always have to fall back somewhat with the promo. It would just always be some shit. I live in LA now, and I don’t do shit but stay in the studio and just work. I’m out of Atlanta, man. I’d be in trouble out in Atlanta. So I was smart enough to leave, like, “Man let me go. Let me go get my blessing. I can come back to this bullshit next year.” But it’s cool…I love it though.