If you’re a Jay Z fan you’ve more than likely heard him repping his new slogan #NewRules with veracity. Ironic as it is that one of the most commercially successful hip hop artists in the game is pushing this anti-industry motto. However, there’s no denying that indie rap is the new wave. With today’s technology, having major label baking is no longer a necessity to make it in the game. With social media and global marketing available at your fingertips it’s possible to stay self sufficient in this new age of hip hop. So, we’re bringing you four artists that are really creating their own rules, and asking them how you too can come up on your own.
For this installment we’re bringing you Danse Dimes and his crew Bklyn Stickup.
Danse Dimes has been in the game for a while now, and he’s got the underground following to prove it. Not only does this guy bust his way onto famous stages by any means necessary, he also rolls through with a throng of 100 plus supporters; all clad in Bklyn Stickup original apparel. Keep your eyes pealed and you might even spot a few Bklyn Stickup tats out there. This crew isn’t anything to mess with, they mean business. And so does Danse. Bar-for-bar he can rhyme with the best of them. He’s a hustler’s hustler; supporting himself and his movement through Bklyn Stickup clothing sales so that the music can remain free to the public. We sat down with Danse to discuss how he’s become so successful at his craft, what his vision is for the future, and what advice he has for the young bucks trying to come up in the game.
Mass Appeal: How did the whole Blyn Stickup movement start?
Danse Dimes: It started with one of my partners who I was actually doing music with at the time; he got arrested. And the article came out in the news the next day with his picture, and he was getting carried out of the UPS that he was trying to stick up, and it said, “Brooklyn Stickup Punks Boxed In.” So, I was about to drop a mixtape at the time, and we hadn’t decided on a title. So, we saw that in the paper, and my manager was like ‘Yo, that’s the name of the mixtape right there, Brooklyn Stickup.’ I’m like, ‘alright, that sounds good.’ They’re synonymous with each other so we made 12 promo sweaters, just to promote the mixtape and threw them out to people who were very close to us in the camp. And it just grew a head of steam, and grew into something crazy.
MA: How did you get your name?
DD: When I was in high school, my brother was the dancer of the crew and I was the guy that would just sit down and just watch everybody. That’s just me, I’m just chillin’. So one day he’s just like; ‘Ayo son, dance!’ And I’m like, ‘Nah, I’m good.’ So, he’s like, ‘You know what, that’s what I’m fucking calling you from now on. Sundance, every time I come to a party I gotta tell you, yo son dance!’ So, it started like that, they started calling me the Sundance Kid and it evolved from there. You don’t pick your nickname.
MA: Right now with Bklyn Stickup would you say it’s more about the music or the fashion?
DD: I think, just the lifestyle in itself. It’s equally about the music and the fashion. The first mixtape with the first sweater was 5 years ago, and at that time, no one wearing the same sweaters to a venue. Who’s going to a club wearing the same thing somebody else? And we would go in there like 5 of us, with the same sweater on. Nobody was doing that, so people were giving us funny looks, and this and that. But when they saw that it was kind of militant, that we were showing allegiance and loyalty to each other and we were about this. And now, you see every crew with their logo on it, and the whole crew’s wearing it out. We were the first ones to do that in NYC. People were clowning us, like ‘Why the hell are these guys wearing the same stuff?’ Now, more people bought into it. People buy into allegiance and loyalty. And the fashion aspect of it has grown. We’re making overseas sales at a good number; Australia, Japan, Korea, the UK. I mean we’re doing well in the states, especially in New York and in all boroughs. When you got someone in Harlem wearing a Bklyn Stickup sweater that’s crazy in itself. But that ties into the music and what we’re about and the whole story.
MA: Are you the only one that does music?
DD: I’m the lead artist but there’s other artist’s by the name of Papertime and Dubs the dealer. We have NEMS from Coney Island, he started with Fight Club and doing battles stuff like that, and Maine and Phresh flow. So there’s other artists here.
MA: So, do you call yourself a record label or how do you like to call it?
DD:Yeah, we are. I’m the CEO of Bklyn Stickup
MA: So it’s a self made record label?
DD: Totally self-sufficient, no investors, no anything, just hard work. We paid for everything we got, we shoot our own videos, we book our own studio. We pay for our own merchandise, we have manufacturers in China that are the same guys that do the New Era hats. Not having the label behind us, or a huge machine behind us, the things that we didn’t have that we we’re kind of bitter about in the beginning actually taught us how to go out there and still get what we need to get accomplished.
MA: How were you able to shoot your own videos and things like that?
DD: We taught ourselves. One, we were fortunate enough that we had a lot of friends that were directors, that’s what they were aspiring to be. We were very fortunate to find a lot of people who we were cool with and who were in the same boat as us. So I think that’s a big tool and a big area of attack. Find people who are in the same position as you, but are as talented as you, and everything works.
MA: So do you sell your CDs hard copies or do you do iTunes? How does that work?
DD: We started out doing hard copies. We don’t sell. I’ve never sold a piece of music to date. That’s just us looking at the bigger scheme of things; if people aren’t buying records, and nobody’s selling records in the industry. Not the biggest artists. You know, there are people that are, but the percentage is ridiculously low. So for somebody that’s trying to build that buzz and trying to gain that notoriety, it’s almost counter-productive to try to sell music ‘cause there are going to people who simply don’t want to buy it; I don’t want that to happen at all. Just listen to the music, if you like it, buy a shirt.
MA: What’s the motivation behind doing your music? Where did that even come from? How did that start?
DD: As fans. I’m heavily influenced by The LOX, heavily influenced by B.I.G., Pac and Nas, that era DMX. Like how could you not be influenced by that and not say, ‘Yo, I want to do that, I want to emulate that, I want to take a crack at it.’ Like that’s the biggest challenge in the world, trying to take a crack at being as good as the person you look up to. And hopefully one day you get to step in the ring with them. That’s validation on how good you really are. So, I started out as a fan and I figured out that it was something that could turn out to be lucrative and change everybody’s situation around.
MA: What’s it like dealing with other people’s managers?
DD: These are people we see on the streets, but you try to hit them up on the phone or on email. Those types of things I consider losses, like I tried to contact someone and they stood me up, that’s a loss. But all my losses are responsible for all my wins. They make you, you learn from them and then you say, ‘I don’t want that to ever happen to me again.’ So I’m going to figure out how I can approach this next situation so that can not happen to me. I’m not going to give anybody the opportunity to do that to me.
MA: Was it hard booking shows at first? How do you get people to let you play in their venues?
DD: Absolutely. Well in the beginning, we would just take anything we could get. If we knew somebody that knew somebody that knew somebody we would ask them and see if they would put us on. And the first big show we had, we had to pay to play, we had to pay to get on the bill, and after one or two of those we swore that we would never do it again. And for good reason, and we’ve never looked back. And it just continued from one venue to the next, it just got bigger and better, bigger and better. We’d just walk into that building and light it up and bring the whole fan base with. But in the past, we’ve bullied our way on to shows, peacefully in a non-violent way [Laughs] but we’ve basically bullied our way onto shows. Like BB King’s, where we found out about the bill two days before and it was Barack’s inauguration. That was one of the biggest ones that put us on a different level. It was the Raekwon tour, and we went right to the point person and they told us ‘Look, there’s no way you can get on the bill’. We were like, is it sold out? ‘Nah, it’s not sold out, but the spots are locked’. So I was like, ‘Well, how many tickets are left? He was like ‘Ah about 200.’ They said that like that was going to turn me away. So I said, ‘I want to buy them, I’m going to sell all of those tickets in 2 days. Can I get on the bill if I do that?’ “Yeah’. Ok, I went, bought the tickets, sold them all out in 24 hours. And we booked our way onto the bill. It was us, Maino, MOP, Naughty by Nature, Troy Ave, we were all on it, but I’m sure their approach was way different than ours. But we got ourselves in the building. And that’s just our approach, life gives us nothing, take everything.
MA: How big are the crowds you usually get?
DD: Pretty big for NY venues, aside from places like Best Buy or Madison Square Garden. I’d say a thousand, two thousand is the average. We like the challenge, we like the venues where there’s supposed to be people with higher notoriety.
MA: I’ve heard that you guys always have 100 people with you in the crowd when you perform, how do you do that? Are they the same people?
DD: A lot of them are the same people, and then five more will come, 10 more will come or they see a video or listen to a song and reach out to me and are like, ‘Yo, when’s your next show, I’m going to come through.’
MA: And they all have the Bklyn Stickup gear?
DD: 75 to 80 percent of them, I would say. It’s been like that for every show in like the last two years. That’s how I bogarted into B.B. Kings. It’s like, ‘Yo, are you going to turn away 150 paying customers?’ And promoters in New York, they know, no unsigned artist can bring out a crowd like us. When we did the SOBs show with Trinidad Jame$, if there were 300 people there, we were 210 of them [Laughs]. And he had the number 1 song out at the time. Completely accurate, 100% accurate.
MA: So what do you think is preventing you from getting to the next level?
DD:I think a lot of people think that we’re better off than we really are. It’s like, ‘He’s on The Source, and all his music hits on all of these blogs and he’s on MTV and he’s on Worldstar his people must be doing a great job so I can’t look into that, they look like they’ve got it under control.’ That’s one of them, and the other one is fear.
The ride has been amazing, we learn so much. The amount that we’ve learned is invaluable. The knowledge is invaluable, period. I go to my phone and I’ve got rappers that you and I know, and they call me and they’re asking me who my booking agent is. [Laughs] Like, ‘Yo, I’m my booking agent, my brother’s my booking agent, anybody that I send them over there is my booking agent.’ ‘Cause we gonna get it, we’re getting on that bill. We’ve just learned how to maneuver, we’ve learned the language, we’ve learned what works, we’ve learned what doesn’t work. The game has taught us so much so now it’s to the point where we’re applying our knowledge and reaping the benefits.
MA: What advice would you give other people who want to come up without a commercial record label behind them?
DD: At the end of the day, you are in your own driver’s seat. A lot of people are praying that these labels find them and gives them a deal. My music is saturated so that every lyric tries to hit home. So people are like, ‘Whoa, I know what he’s talking about and I can feel it. Not just that it sounds good, but I can feel it.’
You gotta get home behind you first. Because the formula for so many people right now is to relocate and try to make it in Atlanta, or try to make it in Miami or LA. And they’re using formula’s that are successful for people from Miami and LA, but you’re not from there.
Believe in yourself and stay consistent and people around you will start to believe in you and it just starts to grow.
For more on this dope emcee, check out his Twitter and look out for the Bklyn Stickup compilation coming at the end of January. Danse’s Champagne and My 40 Oz LP drops in March, but until then, you can catch Danse releasing a new remix every week at Bklynstickup.com.
Peep Danse’s latest video “Champagne and My 40 Oz.” below.