DL Incognito

DL Incognito
Revivalism in hip-hop has become a cyclical trend in the art form's history. Most recently, there has been a wave of young artists that have gained followings displaying styles that predate their existence. DL Incognito, delivering his fifth album, Someday Is Just a Second Away, has grown up with the brand of raw beats and rhymes brand of hip-hop he has become synonymous with. While a whirlwind of trends came and went around him over the years, he's stayed true to his sound. Now, the trends have come to him.

There was a larger span than you're used to between this and your last. Did you step away from music for a period?
Well, we had a plan to release an album in 2011. Just some different personal things didn't really allow things to line up. We did some shows and dropped one or two singles. We were working the whole time. It actually didn't even feel like five years — time flies.

With the extra time, did you take a different approach to putting this record together?
The recipe is always the same. You can bake a chocolate cake and it can come out a bunch of different ways but the basic ingredients are always the same. I think hip-hop is the same thing. Trends will come in and out. Hip-hop might be pop for a minute, then something else might be pop for a minute. It will always go through those cycles but for us it's no different. We're getting into the lab and doing the same thing. We just had a little bit more time to capture something that we're really confident in.

What compels you to stay true to your signature sounds with so much changing around you?
For myself, what I do is try to be a really good writer. I try to be clever without beating knowledge over anyone's head. I always envision the dude that's taking the train with his headphones, he's listening. He's not in the club. Not in his car. He's really listening, so he picks up the lines, the metaphors, the nuances that somebody won't catch in a club environment. There's a lot of dope club music and conscious music out there. I just don't feel like I need to contribute to any of that because there are a lot of artists already doing a great job at representing those scenes. What I can offer is what I enjoy; what I do is for fans of hip-hop, fans of my previous work, and for fans of artists that are more comparable to me. All I could do is just try to evolve without alienating that audience — evolution but not revolution.

You've shown over the years that you're good at what you do, you just haven't really done anything that really fits on radio. Have you ever thought about doing that, just for some more exposure?
I've never thought about trying to do that. There's always a possibility that a song could grow legs and just sort of organically become a hit. Like Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," I'm sure they didn't go in thinking "let's make a hit." When Nas did "You Owe Me," that was such a hard thing to digest for me, I felt like everybody knew he was better than that. That was Jay-Z's thing, he always had that. Drake has it too. Some artists are really good at that, and other are just not and I think I'm not that guy. If I do it, dudes would see right through me and be like "DL, what the hell are you doing?" Good music finds its way to the ears and into the hearts of the right listener. I believe that. I just need to do my thing, pick my battles.

Making albums?
Right. We usually take some time to find a theme for the record, myself and Tech Twelve. I usually record in blocks. I'm not one to record 12 or 15 random songs and just package them together, then call it an album. I like to stay in the same frame of mind so whatever I'm going through at that time would affect the music.

Isn't there a temptation to conform a bit when you see some contemporary acts being so successful though?
When it's all said and done, I want to be proud of my body of work and be proud of the records that I put out. If I have kids, I want to be able to sit them down and say "This is what your dad is doing." No different than a father could sit with his son and introduce him to jazz or old soul. I want to introduce people to the classic hip-hop sound. I'm not trying to be the holy hip-hop god for everyone but hopefully I can take fans into a realm where they'd start searching for something similar. Once they start doing that, they'd open the door to a ton of really great, beautiful music.