Brown Sub's D-Mac on Working With Jermaine Dupri: "Relentless Work Ethic"

D-Mac aims to be the first rapper out of Miami's notorious Brown-Sub section of Liberty City to make a global impact in music.

And the new video for his track "Mind State" off his Destiny mixtape makes it perfectly clear that he will settle for nothing less.

He is the grandson of William McKenzie, one of Miami's most respected high school band leaders, and has been writing and playing music all his life. He also has the support of Jermaine Dupri. Here's what D-Mac had to say about putting on for his city, struggles, and motivation.

First off, tell about your new video for "Mind State...."

It's directed by Ra-Image. It's pretty much a conceptual video tryin' to capture the inner city to downtown, and certain spots in the city I grew up in.

What is the song about?

Mind State is a motivational record talking to people who are from the inner city like myself, pretty much tellin' them to stay focused on elevating and becoming exactly what they want and dream to be and not allowing circumstances of our environment to hinder us, moreso teach us how to make it out, and stay out.

What inspired the song?

The Jay Z documentary "Streets Is Watching." I used an excerpt from it at the end of the song where he's talking about the mental state of kids in the inner city growing up, how we feel trapped, and the reason we act the way we act, do the things we do, and resort to certain hustles to make it out the box. I thought it was important to throw that in there, a hint of where it came from.

The song is off your newest mixtape?

Yes. Dear Destiny is a nostalgic mixtape, like, the song "Mind State" samples R Kelly, "Seems Like You're Ready." The entire mixtape is pretty much 90s R&B samples. It's produced by Feb9. The project is a play on words. On the cover it's a girl holding a letter, but destiny is really what I want out of my life, so it's like a letter to my destiny.

Where are you from?

I'm from Miami. From Liberty City. Brown Sub to be exact. Brownsville. Brownsville is a landmark in Liberty City, but it doesn't get the notoriety it deserves and I feel it's my responsibility to shed light on my neighborhood. We have our own everything in Brownsville. It's like its own little world from 45th street to 62nd street and from 42nd Ave all the way across to 22nd Ave. There's never been a real hip hop emergence and that's what I hope to bring from that area.

Howd you start songwriting?

I been songwriting literally all my life. I began music from my grandfather William McKenzie. He was band director at Jackson High, and Booker T Washington High. I grew up playing different instruments like saxophone, violin, trumpet, and then I transitioned into songwriting and composing music.

Your new project is all collaborated with one producer, how'd that come about?

I had worked with him previously on a song that I had which was real big in 2010 called "My Will," and we basically hadn't spoken for a couple years and then we met up, sat down, and talked about music and I told him about the idea I had for doing all samples from 90s R&B. I chose every song we sampled, we built everything from scratch, and I put my own twists and concepts on it and that's pretty much how we did it.

Where'd you learn about the music business?

Just reading. I didn't go to school for it or anything. Just reading and trial and error actually. And I learned a lot of stuff from Jermaine Dupri. I'm friends with Jermaine Dupri. I've learned a lot from him.

You do any ghostwriting?

I do songwriting for other people, and production as well. I been doing that a long time.

What was your first milestone for that?

A couple years back I won for Best Lyricist at the Best In Dade Awards. And I've been nomintaed for best mixtape in Florida a few times as well. In 2011 I made my first songwriting deal. And I'm actually in the process of writing a gospel album right now.

Wow, yeah, that's a huge'd that happen?

Somebody heard my song "My Will" and asked me to write the music for his album for his artist.

What inspired "My Will?"

That's a song I wrote while going through some tough times and losing friends to the streets. It was my way of saying that if I'm next, this is what I want left, these could be my last words. And the video was actual footage from one of my peer's funeral so it touched a lot of people. It's all real pain, real tears, and a real feeling you get from that video for the message about stopping the violence.

What are your goals in the music business?

I want to one day be a mogul like Jermaine Dupri or Shawn Carter or Dr Dre. I want to eventually become CEO of a record label. I wanna place a PR firm in Miami, and get into fashion as well.

What's the best advice you got from Jermaine Dupri?

The people around you should be trying to outwork you. The company that you keep when you're trying to achieve a goal is important. The moment you feel like you care about a project more than the people around you is the moment you need to replace them. Hard work beats talent any day.

What is he like to work with?

He doesn't sleep. His work ethic is second to none. I adapted his style from watching how he works. He'll be in the studio for 12 hours, leave, take the songs he just finished, test em' in the club, come back, everybody sleep, he wide awake, get back to work on the songs, fly somewhere to go DJ....just a relentless work ethic, and that's what separates the moguls from everybody else.

You do shows?

I'm settin' up a tour now for November, a Miami club promo tour.

Any advice for indpendent artists?

Learn, leanr, and learn. As far as being independent, we don't always have the budgets to market the way we want to on a large scale so it's important to learn what not to do so as not to waste money. It's important to have a plan for generating revenue as opposed to notoriety. Everything we do should translate to revenue for elevation.

What is the importance of having your own publishing?

It's important to have publishing so that you can get paid for any placements of your music whether it be video games, or soundtracks, or movies, or radio spins. It's also important to trademark your name. People spend all their money promoting a name they don't even own, and then when they get hot, someone goes and buys it out from under them.

What are you working on now?

The next recording is Date With Destiny II, coming out March 5th, that's 3-05-15

Shout outs?

Every artist in Miami that's trying to push the culture because Miami is much more than strip club music and it's time we show that.

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Jacob Katel
Contact: Jacob Katel

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