The interviewer’s first encounter with the Reaction Band was surprisingly enough not in Washington, DC or the DMV area at all. I was living in Florida in 2009 and feeling home sick; I started an internet search for some current go-go hits and up came the Reaction Band. Coming from the era of the Backyard Band, Junkyard Band, and Rare Essence, I started out skeptical looking for music that mimicked those old sounds. Well, Reaction Band did not leave me hanging. I fell in love with skillful percussion remakes of Drop It Low, Gucci Bandana, their original Clappin Song and my all-time favorite that brings an immediate smile to my face, Feels Good. Every one of my Orlando friends that got in my car asked what was this sound and could not deny the forced involuntary movements of the drum beats. Finally, the Band did not fall short of providing that DC native fulfillment of calling out the individual neighborhoods we all identified with so closely before gentrification.
Fatefully, December 2012, Reaction Band lead rapper and powerful lyricist, Choppa Black AKA Lil Dee, contacted me for an exclusive interview. He said he wanted the world to differentiate between Choppa Black of the Reaction Band and Lil Dee from Southeast Washington, D.C.
Today is January 2, 2013.
Me: What is the difference between what the public sees on stage versus the persona your friends grew up with?
Choppa Black: I did not become Choppa Black until 2006. As Choppa Black, all my peers look up to me. Fans come see me play and to them I am a semi-iconic figure. But they don’t know the struggles that Lil Dee endured to become Choppa Black. They don’t know that many of these struggles continue today.
Me: Do you want to expound on those struggles here?
Choppa Black: Sure. (He hesitates and breathes deeply.) First off, I grew up without my father. I had a step-father who thought love was a dollar sign. I never had anybody to teach me how to be a man so I had to teach myself. Being the first of 8 children and being the only one with a different father took a major toll on my upcoming.
Me: Did you bear the brunt of having to raise your brothers and sisters?
Choppa Black: Yeah. Both my parents were hustlers. I did a lot of things to help raise them that went unnoticed. That’s why I ran away from home.
Me: What age did you run away from home?
Choppa Black: The first time I was 11.
Me: Where did you end up?
Choppa Black: I ran to my aunt Dae Dae’s house for the weekend lol. Little did I know that Aunt Dae Dae as well as a couple of other aunts would be playing the mother role for the next couple of years.
Me: While you were moving from home to home, how did that affect your educational experience?
Choppa Black: I maintained a 3.0 until 9th grade and then when I started high school, there were no uniforms. My priorities changed and I had to keep up with the latest trends. With my aunts having kids of their own, I had to fend for myself. (not saying they didn’t try)
Me: How did you fend for yourself as a child?
Click on the Link to Enjoy a Video for a Classic Tribute to Fallen Soldiers,
Now back to the interview…
Me: For the uninitiated and people who grew up in a stable home, what did it mean to survive outside of the realm of protective parenting?
Choppa Black: By any means necessary…stealing cars and selling drugs.
Me: Those are criminal offenses. Did you end up locked up?
Choppa Black: In an out since the age of 12. I caught my first charge in the seventh grade. That’s why I said in my song, “I Hustle,” I started to get confused between my bedroom and a cell. ENJOY THE VIDEO FOR “I HUSTLE’. CHOPPA BLACK WROTE ALL THE LYRICS RAPPED HERE.
Now back to the interview…
My last charge as a minor was at the age of 16. I turned 16 inside the Oak Hill Youth Facility. After my release I refused to go back home or to any family member whatsoever,
Me: Where do you go if not home? Who embraces outside of your home?
Choppa Black: A childhood friend named Man-Man and his family refused to watch me go through what I was going through and took me in but just like my aunts couldn’t really afford me so I had to fend for myself. But unlike my family, they never took a roof from over my head. I lived with them until I was 18.
Me: You are only 23 now so what has the past 5 years of your life been like?
Choppa Black: A double standard…
Me: mmmm, two faces
Choppa Black: Yeah, I became popular and used go-go life at night as a shield to hide my struggles during the day. While fans came to admire me and wish that they could be me, knowing I had no where to go at night, I was wishing I could be them.
Me: (Shaking my head in sadness) That is so poignant, oh my God… When did you discover the lyrical creative genius that we know of you?
Choppa Black: Since “discover” is a powerful word, I’ll say I knew of my talents since I was 7 but discovered my genius at 16.
Me: What do you mean?
Choppa Black: The childhood friend, Man-Man, played for another popular band called M.O.B. He took me to his show where Reaction was also playing.
Me: And that’s when you were 16?
Choppa Black: (Shakes his head yes.) Reaction’s rapper wasn’t there.
Choppa Black: So Man-Man told Rick that I was very good and asked him could I rap?
Me: I feel ashamed to ask this but who was Rick?
Choppa Black: The lead talker of Reaction Band.
Me: Okay. So your public career began at age 16?
Choppa Black: Yes. Rick shrugged his shoulder in disbelief but since the other rapper wasn’t there, he said “okay.”
Me: And then you blew up then huh?
Choppa Black: I got a call 3 months later asking me to come to band practice.
Me: After that one performance?
Choppa Black: After that one rap. It wasn’t a whole show. One rap, 16 bars. They had a whole set and I won them over in 2 minutes.
With lyrical play like this, it’s no surprise that Choppa outshined his competition.
Now back to the interview…
Me: Three months later must have been surprising for you at such a young age. I always recognize the number 3 as a powerful number as things always seem to come to fruition in 3s. Maybe 3 hours or 3 days or in your case 3 months…How was the vibe when you went to practice?
Choppa Black: Surprisingly, the other members other than Rick were surprised that I showed up but it made a lot more sense when the other rapper didn’t?
Me: (laughing) So they booted him?
Choppa Black: (Shakes his head yes.) I got the spot and to this day (that was 2006) I am the only band member to become a permanent band member after one practice (try-out).
Me: So now you’re a regular with the band. Is it safe to assume that legal money started to roll in for you?
Choppa Black: Safe to assume it but the amount varied with shows.
Me: Sounds like a lot of gigs I’ve had myself. So it was fame without dependability?
Choppa Black: Some would say that but to me it was an escape route from stress. And because I grew up struggling without money, I had no problem with the up and down financial situation.
Me: (I couldn’t help to laugh from that one.)
Choppa Black: It’s like being a rapper. My man Presto told me “promote. Put out music and hope when you do shows it has a nice turn out.” On that note I would leave some shows with enough money to pay a car note and I would leave some shows with enough money to pay my Boost Mobile bill. But in all it felt good to feed myself legally.
Me: From an older person’s perspective I think that you have been highly blessed and even with struggle have accomplished a lot more in the past 5 years than people twice your age who have been spending a lifetime trying to recognized.
And what’s a better way to get recognized than with a skillful counteraction. This one can’t be beat. Gypsy kinda sick in her head but this is one of my favorites from this artist. Hooks, Video Scripts and Personal Lyrics All Written By Choppa Himself.
Feel the hook, “From the souf side, gotta a Mac boy Fuck ur Nina. And a Tech will leave em wet just like Katrina. Send a couple 223 bullets to meet ya. Then I toss on my Ray Bans like I ain’t see ya. In my apartment working my wrist, boy I’m trappin out. Then I come down on your rip to see what that rap about.” WHAT!!!!
Now back to the interview:
Choppa Black: To the contrary of that, I would have agreed prior to D.C. becoming more rap-oriented and local artists blowing up around you. Makes me feel like I didn’t accomplish enough.
Me: That is understandable, what you’re saying. However, being a lead rapper for a popular band not only lends credibility to your skill but gave you a platform in which to enhance it over the years. Which is why I say all the time that it’s all for the good. So that being said and after listening to 5 of your most impressive recordings today on Youtube, do you think it’s time for Choppa Black to be recognized and appreciated as a solo artist?
Choppa Black: Yes because as a Reaction member I can make the ladies smile while rapping a love song to them. I can make the fellas bounce while chantin out their hood but I don’t just rap so the DMV can dance. I want to rap so the world can hear my story. With go-go it’s hard to expand your struggles because the soul purpose of the music is for fun.
Me: Wow, I never looked at it like that. But that makes a lot of sense and I think that’s the reason why a lot of us born and raised in D.C. stop listening to go-go after a certain age. It’s like we acquaint the sound with our growing years.
Choppa Black: I agree to disagree. Cuz while that’s true a lot of us don’t outgrow the go-go sound, we outgrow the sound of the band and start looking for go-go within our age group.
Me: Ahhh, that’s true!
Choppa Black: While 17 year olds love to party to T.O.B., in the back of their minds, they can’t wait to turn 18 to party with TCB. Once they put in a couple of years with TCB, they can’t wait turn 21 to see Backyard and much more mature bands.
Me: (Shaking my head in agreement) That makes perfect sense. What do you think holds more weight in our city now because you said earlier that we have become more rap-oriented?
Choppa Black: The clubs
Me: What do you mean?
Choppa Black: Clubs affiliated with go-go aren’t as popular as they once were but the same bands can play in Love and have a major turnout. So I would say, we’re slowly changing until someone like me who is a superb rapper…
Speaking of the clubs and often the music played to cater to the female audience, click here to here Choppa’s rhyme over Da Reaction Band’s “She’s a Freak.” The metaphors are comparable to Wu Tang’s 21 Flavors.
Now back to the interview…
Me: And writer..
Choppa Black: And writer who also has a very strong go-go history can make it mainstream so the D.C. fans can have the best of both worlds.
Me: Excellent delivery. Do you want to end this here?
Choppa Black: I want to give shout outs.
Choppa Black: I want to give a shout out to my 1-3 kids.
Me: Care to elaborate?
Choppa Black: I have one son. He has two brothers so refusing to do what was done to me I have three.
Me: Honorable, any more shout outs?
Choppa Black: Butler Gardenz/Choppa City (my neighborhood), Wahler Place (birth neighborhood), the entire Southeast, Reaction Band, male best friends Man-Man and Wave Dave, female best friends Danielle, Rita and Sheena, favorite male cousins Montae and Los (Rip), favorite female cousins Apples, Joycelyn, and Stephanie <3, 2 special women Reesie and Jonet
Me: Are there any more? Lol
A hustla’s police report, siiiiik, “Cut cuz got that AR with a ski mask to match, 4 cruddy niggas ridin round with 3 in the hatch. No need to buckle up cuz we got too many straps. Neva care about where, what or who when I’m smacked. No whip that’s dead, I ditched it. Find a Caravan for the mission, I’ll chip it. Turned a new car to a UU in a minute. Found him slippin, report him missin. Mother last seen him with my AK kissin. MY CHOPPA SPEAKIN SO SHUT UP AND LISTEN! Raise ur hand til I grant u permission but I won’t stop til that whole clip finish. I’m finished.“