‘The Uptown Interview’ is a series of candid conversations with some of D.C.’s cultural influencers in an attempt to interpret and preserve the artistic heritage of the city.
Davon Bryant AKA “Dreamcast” found himself outside of the United States for the first time this past summer. Exploring the streets of London and Amsterdam thanks to the warm reception of his smooth, soul track “Liquid Deep,” Bryant embarked on a month-long radio tour. The D.C. artist talks influences, working in the music community, and the District he experienced growing up in Northeast.
DB: Explain to me more about the site and everything you got going on.
MY: Yea, man! InTheRough was started by my twin brother, Alex. He started it in high school as a Nike blog. It was called ‘NikeOverEverything’ because we liked to follow the shoe releases and stuff like that. We followed ‘Nice Kicks’ and ‘Hypebeast’, we still read that shit. And it just evolved to cover youth influencers around Pittsburgh the most because that’s our home, but also D.C. and L.A. because we have a team of 5 people. So, we’re trying to cover people that aren’t necessarily popping yet, but who also have a following, also have a movement and who are grinders. The markets are so saturated in everything, it’s hard to get ahead. What is that?
[Tossed an apple juice box.]
MY: Oh, turn up, turn up, turn up!
DB: When I get really fried, I just get anything at the grocery store.
MY: I feel that. But yea, we are just trying to let people know who’s out here. Especially in D.C. because I went to [George Washington].
DB: Dawg, wait, when did you go to GW?
MY: I graduated last May.
DB: Okay, so when I was hanging out around there you probably weren’t there yet.
MY: What were you doing? What year?
DB: Alright, so my friend went there from 2010 to 2014.
MY: Who’s this?
DB: Andrew Haynesworth.
MY: I don’t know him.
DB: He was a wild dude. You would have known him if you were black on GW’s campus. He was like that wild…you know, there’s not a lot of black kids running around GW anyway. He got the Trachtenberg Scholarship, I don’t know if you know about that.
MY: Yea, I do know about that.
DB: He was one of the D.C. kids who got that scholarship. But yea, I remember those days, man. GW was funny as shit.
MY: Were you just going to parties or were you performing?
DB: Ah, I wasn’t even performing. I maybe had just started DJ-ing at that point. So, I was more so just like hanging around with [Andrew] not doing anything. He didn’t smoke and at that time I wasn’t smoking around him. So, I was just like getting drunk, walking around GW. We were always at the Black House.
MY: Word up! The Black House was like at its peak when I was just entering GW.
DB: Then it died. It died horribly. This is back when the black Georgetown kids would come to the Black House and it would just get lit.
MY: Yea, I don’t know about that life, honestly.
DB: It was definitely a whole other level. It was pretty tight…perfect thank you for having a grinder. So, yea I would say at that point I wasn’t doing music yet, but I was just having fun. And that’s where I met a good amount of cats. This is just when I started peeping my head over at Velvet [Lounge] in 2014. There’s like a whole scene of cats who have been at that spot for so many years, it’s crazy. There’s a whole era of dirtiness at Velvet that evolved, you know?
MY: You’re saying “dirtiness” as a good thing?
DB: A very good thing. I liked to be able to go there and not feel judged. I’d walk in there with flip flops, sort of rough. Like I always wore this one shirt pretty much everywhere I’d go. My girlfriend is so tired of this shirt. It’s a Kobe shirt, but my last name is Bryant. So, its got Bryant over the top of it, and its got a big ass hole on my belly button. It looks wild as shit! But I don’t know, that was D.C. for me at the time. And so me just finally getting out and going to Europe for the first time was sort of a big deal because I just got my passport dude. I was like, ‘Damn it’s a lot of world out here.’
MY: How did Europe come about?
DB: So, Europe came about more so because I dropped this record “Liquid Deep.”
MY: Bro, first of all, I mean the only reason why I’m here at the end of the day is because your songs are fire.
DB: I appreciate that.
MY: “Liquid Deep” is one of my favorite songs.
DB: It’s one of my aunt’s favorite songs, too. She was in the car yesterday like, “I really like this song.” I think it just makes her happy that I’m not making crazy shit. But, you know, crazy shit is cool, too. But she’s in her 70s, you know, and she enjoys that soul, funk era and I guess I came of that. Just like shit that’s really smooth. And so I dropped “Liquid Deep” through PPU, which is a whole other story within itself.
MY: How so?
DB: PPU is a very in-the-cut label in D.C. sort of the same way that Car Park is. Car Park is where Toro y Moi got his start as Les Sins. But you wouldn’t know that they’re in D.C. So, I released that seven-inch [record], the one you have, and it sort of sold out and got a lot of weird traction. Primarily because the scene, this future funk–Dam-Funk, Sasac sort of style–never really had a vocalist on the whole scene. That’s a shit-load of producers that do it but don’t have a vocalist and so [“Liquid Deep”] just sprouted, which is fun.
MY: You’ll have to play some of that Dam-Funk before I leave.
DB: Definitely. Dam-Funk is like the poster-boy of this scene. He’s from L.A. He’s done some shit for Snoop and people like that. He’s huge on SoundCloud–on everything for real. I’m not even gonna hold him. The label I’m on now [PPU] has released some of his shit back in the day under a different alias (EARCAVE). It’s definitely a well-respected label, so when I drop something on there people take notice. People don’t notice if, you know, when you’re just a normal dude and you drop shit on your own people could give a fuck, honestly. It’s sad that that’s the way the art scene works, but it does. So, all that happened whooptie-whoop.
MY: So, PPU got you the connect to Europe?
DB: Well, no. I dropped the tune with them and the guy who runs the label goes by the name of Andrew, and he’s really in the cut. He doesn’t really like to deal with all that shit because he’s got a family. So, I took it upon myself to start hitting up these cats and start making friends overseas who already had these connections with radio stations. So, the radio tour wasn’t through PPU it was through me. But once they saw who I was they were just like, ‘Oh okay well we’ve seen your work. Come on out here and we’ll give you a day.’ So, that’s pretty much what happened, man. I went out there and didn’t really know anybody except a couple of cats I had met on Instagram–one by the name of Tommy Gold–who’s like this 19 year-old kid out in London. Very chill. I would definitely check him out. He was really close with the cats at NTS [Radio]. So, the dudes that run NTS are Phinnie, and Fergus does the booking. I did a set at NTS, but the funny story is I didn’t go out there planning to do more than NTS in London. I went out there and somebody sent me the wrong address to NTS. The wrong address happened to be right outside of Rinse FM, which is a whole other entity within itself. A huge radio joint out there. And right standing outside was this dude, Finn, who pretty much runs Rinse. I was just asking him for directions and I was like, ‘Yea, I’m just out here to do a set on NTS blasé blasé. And I got the wrong spot, but what is this? What is Rinse?’ I wasn’t really familiar with it. He was like, “We’re a radio station, but if you’re in town…” It’s all about being in the right place at the right time.
DB: So that shit just happened, man. Shit like that always seems to happen to me. And so I did NTS that day when I finally went to the right place. The next day I did Rinse, so it just built a good amount of traction.
MY: So were you planning to be out there for a month the whole time?
DB: Well, London just for the weekend, from like Thursday until that Monday. Then we went back to Amsterdam. We weren’t even really staying in Amsterdam we were staying in Den Helder, which is a whole hour and a half train-ride to the city center. But we made that shit work. My girlfriend and I went out there together. She picked the places. We sort of did it like teamwork style. It was just an experience, man. The people I’ve met out there in Amsterdam–the reason I was in Amsterdam was to do Red Light Radio. I had fun, too.
MY: I bet.
DB: I also had the chance to meet this dude, Jordan, He’s in a group called Juju & Jordash. That shit was wild. The stories from being out in the street. It was just a fun experience.
MY: Did you catch any shows while you were abroad?
DB: Okay, so I ended up going to see Jordan play. They’re pretty lit out there. They’re on a whole other wave. They just do festivals and shit.
MY: For me, the UK is really about the grime scene, like Skepta, Giggs and Stormzy.
DB: I mean, you’ll get out there and see that, but to be honest, house runs the world, man. These house festivals and techno festivals, they sort of have a big draw out there. I was impressed with everything. As a black man who has never left the country, I was sort of in shell-shock. I was just like, ‘This is a lot to handle.’
MY: I noticed your phat-ass set over there, so you definitely gotta play some music.
DB: Once we hit this J, I’ll definitely play some shit for you. Today I was supposed to be working on this mix. NTS gave me a six-month series.
MY: This is after your visit?
DB: Mhmm. They fucked with the set.
MY: What are you doing? A mixed series like Apple Music?
DB: Through NTS. Their online presence is really good. Like a podcast type deal, but I’m only spinning for an hour. So, I’m probably going to sit down tonight and find a bunch of music and then knock it out off the lateness.
MY: Does music start from the DJ booth for you? Did you always know you could sing?
DB: No. Honestly, when I was in high school, I used to sing songs in my head, a lot. What I ended up doing during school when I was not in class because I barely went, I started to fuck around and I would just sing in the hallways. This one girl, Alicia, she caught me one day. She was like, “You’re singing like that?” I was like, ‘Yea, uhh…’ and that was just that. I left it alone for another 4 years, I guess.
MY: Where did you go to high school?
DB: I went to School Without Walls, which is on GW’s campus.
MY: Yea, what the hell.
DB: That’s the reason why I was pretty much around there for like 8 years from 2007. While in high school, I was mostly focused on just listening to music. I went through my bad music phase where I was listening to shitty house music.
MY: What is shitty house music?
DB: Well, “shitty” like “dance” music, which turned into…I don’t know. I really can’t stand…when I first heard Skrillex I would listen to him, but after a while, I can’t listen to him for more than ten minutes. Especially if I’m high. To me, good house music is some shit that is very well looped. It just has one pocket that sort of just keeps you in a house song and you’re just like, ‘Fuuck.’ And so when it changes you’re like, ‘Ohh,’ like you’re sort of caught in that song.
MY: I feel you. One hundred. Who do you listen to?
DB: Chaz Damier. I really enjoy listening to a lot of Matthew Fordberg out of Paris. I’m listening to some Beautiful Swimmers, primarily because I’ve been hanging out with them recently. They rock pretty hard. Shit out of 1432R, which is a label out of D.C. It’s some Ethiopian-based fire. They have a bunch of Ethiopian cats on their label. There’s a cat named Dawit who’s a singer as well, but you wouldn’t know it. What type of shit are you into?
MY: I listen to a lot of things. But at the end of the day, I like the current sound.
DB: Mmm. Okay, so who would you say is current?
MY: Travis Scott is ruling the world.
DB: Oh, dude, fuck yea. Travis Scott is the man right now.
MY: Lil’ Uzi. Honestly, I think Luv is Rage 2 is actually pretty good. Listening to it and letting it sit, I enjoyed it. I think he put together a tasteful tape. Bus A$AP Mob’s Cozy Tapes vol. ii that shit is wild. That’s the vibe I’m looking for overall–that type of sound–that Playboi Carti sound. It’s a very bubbly sound that I’m enjoying in hip hop. But also Gary Clark Jr. is one of my favorite guitarists.
DB: I’ve heard a lot about him from my friend, Chanice. She brags about him a lot.
MY: He’s a G. He’s groovy. I saw him at Made in America Festival last year, that was cool. Who else…Chance the Rapper though, Childish Gambino…these are the guys I listened to when I first started listening to music junior year of high school. You said you went through the shitty music phase, for me that was iTunes top 40 shit. And when I was little, music was only really played in the car with my parents. They were listening to whatever we told them to put on, and often times that was the NSYNC tape or the Backstreet Boys tape when we were playing “Hey Mr. DJ” and shit on repeat. So, I didn’t really have a broad understanding of music until late.
DB: What were your parents listening to?
MY: Will Smith. Janet Jackson’s tapes. Justin Timberlake was fire. Beyonce’s tapes. They bought the Now 4 tape. Again this was music that they bought for us. My parents don’t really listen to music on their own. That’s something we have kept around the house because we enjoy it more than our parents do. For them, their experience of music is the time we’re in now, like their 20s and 30s when they were going out and stuff. And they’re not hip to Apple Music like we are, so they’re just starting to experience those old songs again.
DB: What’s some shit that you brought to the house for them?
MY: Uh, Majid Jordan. The song “Gave Your Love Away” from last spring’s Louis Vuitton fashion show when Drake released “Signs” following it.
MY: My mom loves that song. She fucks with Jay Z, too.
DB: Oh, well that’s a positive. For someone that didn’t listen to music, she’s still got some spirit in her.
MY: I guess I made it seem like my parents are dry people.
DB: No, you just didn’t give them enough credit.
MY: You’re right. She likes Childish Gambino’s [Awaken, My Love!] tape.
DB: You said she likes the Gambino tape?
MY: Yea because she likes Parliament at the end of the day. Anything Funkadelic is cool.
DB: That’s really good to hear actually.
MY: We’re definitely funk people. Even as far as pop goes, like the Black Eyed Peas are a family favorite.
DB: Oh, shit. In their prime they were crazy.
MY: Exactly. “Smells Like Funk” is one of our favorite songs as a family.
DB: That’s the family tune? It’s lit. Come on outside…let’s smoke this J. I’ve definitely gone through the ringer of listening to all types of shit. I had a phase where I was obsessed with Maroon 5’s Songs About Jane. I was really into that shit for a minute. So, you’ve probably been aware of CMPTR CLVB…
DB: I did that really hard for like 3 years, and we built it up to what it was. CMPTR CLVB changed the game. Jamal with Nag Champa changed the game. Nag Champa just showed kids of my generation that were around a jam-band, which is so big now, that they are super doable. And you can do it with instruments and production live. That was amazing to see.
MY: When were you introduced to Nag Champa?
DB: Probably like 2014 or 2015. I did a show with them in Charleston, Virginia.
MY: Beyond performing what were you doing?
DB: Beyond performing, I was just working at Amsterdam Falafel. Got fired a year and a half later. I was still making music and shit. A bunch of producing, too. I was producing shit for Nappy Nappa. He ended up using it for his last tape.
MY: What song?
DB: The first song, which is [“LeoBoy”] I believe. I’d have to look on SoundCloud, but I was super fucking proud of that shit.
MY: Were you guys tight before that
DB: Yea, I had been DJ-ing for him for a minute.
MY: Can you enlighten me on the process of features and collaboration? Because you said you were friends with Nappa, but you’re still proud of the song at the end of the day. So, did you not know that he was gonna include your beat on a song?
DB: Well, he recorded to [“LeoBoy”] like a minute ago…Devante, he’s talented as fuck, but I wanna see him blow. That would be D.C. at its finest. That’s really like D.C. youth. He’s like a new era of a D.C.-ass kid.
MY: How old is he?
DB: Shit, probably like 21.
MY: He’s got a crazy vibe. He’s always in 70s gear.
DB: Yes, man. He’s on this whole other level with this other dude that he runs with named Devin. He goes by SPVCK LA BOOST, but I digress. You were asking me a question about collabs.
MY: So, you heard “LeoBoy” before?
DB: He hit me up like a day or two before he dropped it. He recorded it somewhere else and sent it to me. Honestly, with my beats when I give them to people, I let them do whatever the fuck they want. If it’s good, I’m not a micro-manager at all. So, if you fuck with it I fuck with it. That’s just my style because I hate when producers try to micro-manage me singing.
MY: When a producer tries to do that is it lyrically or how it sounds to the beat as far as your melody? What does that mean for you? What don’t you like?
DB: I like to experiment with a track. Like I know you made the beat and sometimes it does help when we build the beat together, but I don’t wanna be told how to sing because I don’t have a structured voice. Were you listening to that second project? Dreamcast vol. ii?
MY: Yea, man. Why the fuck did you delete “Devil’s Red Dress” from SoundCloud?
DB: Haha, so I wanna put it back because I’ve gotten a backlash from taking that shit down.
MY: Wait, you’ve had multiple people tell you that?
MY: Yea, dude. What the fuck. That song goes. That’s my favorite song. I told you this before.
DB: Yea, I’m gonna put it back on there. The reason I took it down is because I’m gonna re-release it as a bigger project. So, I’m working on my first full album, but because those were mixtapes–volume ii and iii–I’m gonna take the best ones off of those.
MY: So, a full album, When can we expect that?
DB: I’m thinking within the next 3 to 4 months, man. I need to have it out. I really wanna maximize me being on the radio now to push it. I’m just having fun with it dude, like, it’s really not a job right now.
MY: Is that the main thing you do?
DB: I was just working at a dental office for maybe 6 months to a year, and I ended that before I went to Europe. But what I’m focusing on now is just making some new content. I just wanna make some shit that makes people sit down. There’s so much turn up music. I want to have that same realm of performances as James Blake, where people come and sit down. They stand when they really feel the music. You don’t have to be turnt up. I want you to come on some acid.
MY: That’s some jam-band shit. Some Grateful Dead shit.
DB: Yea and just enjoy yourself. There’s no pressure to look like you’re going to the club.
MY: That’s interesting. I didn’t even know that James Blake’s concerts were like that.
DB: yea, he did it at Warner Theater.
MY: Where’s that?
DB: It’s like a whole theater in D.C. It’s like a sit-down theater. I love shit like that.
MY: That’s what CTRL Space CMD was at the end of the day, like people were sitting down watching what was going on for those 4 weeks in April.
DB: And just tripping. I still like concerts where people stand up and I have the full band out.
MY: How do you prefer to perform?
DB: I like performing with a band. That’s preferred. But I’ve noticed with touring or traveling, I can’t bring a whole band. So, what I’ve decided to do is consolidate my performance. I’m working on getting Ableton more involved and triggering all my drums. I’m gonna drop the album when I’m ready to present myself performing it. I might have a keyboard player and a bass player. I was performing with the entire Champion Sound band, which is like 6 people.
MY: I’ve seen them live at Funk Parade. I’ve seen you twice with Rob…
DB: And Karim was playing the keys.
MY: And also at the Art House.
DB: I realized I really like performing in warehouses and spaces that are more art spaces, rather than performing in clubs. But also, I like house music, so I’m really into playing clubs sometimes, but like a straight DJ set. So, I’ve got those two lanes: that funk, live sound and the house music sets, which I pretty much did exclusively in London. It’s just funny how one album sort of got me a little respect, like around the world. And that’s crazy that something the size of a cup…that’s sort of how that trip was. Music is limitless in a way. It’s a piece of currency that’s universal. If it’s good it’s good in every language.