The emerging conscious hip hop scene is quite prevalent nowadays. A long-time popular yet selective underground style, this type of lyrical subject-matter has long been held by a few artists in their own right. But this style of hip hop is becoming vastly popular amongst rising stars such as Doe Cigapom. A budding and engaging lyricist, this rapper has really made a name for himself with his Soulful produced EP entitled Caged Birds. I got the incredible opportunity to kick it with Doe Cigapom and hear him really open up and discuss everything from his personal struggles to his love for music. Take the exclusive opportunity to learn more about the man behind the music and enjoy the interview with Mr. Caged Bird, Doe Cigapom below:
Q: Ay, how you doing? This is Stone from The Hip Hop Speakeasy, how’re you doing?
A: “Good, and how are you brother? I’m doing fine.”
Q: I’m good. Thank you for taking the time to do this with us, we really appreciate it!
A: “And I thank you guys; I appreciate it, man, thank you.”
Q: Alright so why don’t we get started and you can introduce yourself to the readers.
A: “Ok, yeah, well I go by the name of Doe Cigapom, also known as Doni Metro. You can get at me @DoeCigapom on Twitter, on Facebook. I just put out a new project – [I’m] working on an album, but I did put out a project on my Bandcamp, doecigapom.bandcamp.com. That’s the Caged Birds EP.”
Q: Aight, so where are you reppin’ out of?
A: “I’m from Washington, D.C. Washington, D.C., man, North-west, North-east Washington, D.C. and also Maryland, but that’s still by the Washington metropolitan area.”
Q: Ok. So Doe Cigapom, where did you get that name from – how did you come up with that name?
A: “I used to play go-go. From my hometown, we have a sound called go-go where we play with live instruments, of course. I used to play, and still [actively] play percussion. I like to play instruments [like] drums and congas. My nickname, because I’m a big guy was Dough Boy [laughs]. And it just kind of sat with me; it was spelled just like “dough boy.” When I graduated high school, the go-go scene here kind of affected me, and I just remember being home one day and writing my poetry, before I even thought I was going to rap, I came up with a name, like what would I even call myself if I even wanted to be a poet? And my name popped up as Doe, but I said I don’t want to spell it as it was as d-o-u-g-h. And literally as that though came to my mind, D-O-E popped up and the acronym “Deliver On Emotions” popped up. So that’s when I knew Doe stuck with me. Cigapom came like two weeks later…literally, like two weeks later. It was literally an acronym of mine; I don’t remember if I was arguing with my mom or [my] brother, but I just kept saying “I just need a piece of mind, can I get a piece of mind?” And my brain as it usually does…was breaking down each letter and Cigapom was born like that. From then on, Doe Cigapom was my name.”
Q: I like it, it’s unique [laughs].
A: “Yeah, man it’s a crazy story [laughs], but that was the story.”
Q: Who would you say are your biggest musical inspirations?
A: “That’s very hard for me to say, because by me being a percussionist, I love all types of music. My grandfather brought me up on 50s music, like all types of music, man, [Fats Domino], Al Green, Sam Cooke… So, you know, genre, if you want to go by hip hop, of course, Biggie Smalls was my biggest inspiration. I always felt like, it seemed to me that Biggie Smalls had some type of D.C. flavor within his lyrics and it was easy for [me] to relate to. Yeah, Biggie Smalls in hip hop, that’s definitely one of my biggest influences; Eminem, of course, I used to love Kool G Rap, M.O.P., Mobb Deep, Heltah Skeltah, I mean the list can go, you know what I mean [laughs]?”
Q: Yeah [laughs]. You mentioned that you were in a go-go band, but growing up, was it a moment, was it an event or transition that really got you into hip hop music and made you decide to become an artist?
A: “It was the heartbreak of me being in a band; dealing with egos, you know, people arguing. When a whole bunch of creative minds get together that can happen. But even when I was in the go-go band we did raps, because we would have a man called the “lead talker” which leads the band, and then you’d have back-up rappers. And I used to always find raps, until one day I said, “Man, one of these days I’m going to rap at one of my shows,” and I rapped a Busta Rhymes song. But just the feeling I got when people looked at me like I was rapping like it was mine. I liked to listen to things people don’t hear. The response I got from it was just crazy and I never forgot that. From that, I started doing poetry because I didn’t want to rap until after my go-go band broke up and my best friend was telling me, “Yo, you’ve been in a band and all of this – try rapping.” I could always kind of freestyle a little bit, but he just fell in love with what I was writing out of my poetry and a little bit of the freestyling, and that’s what kind of transitioned which really made me. [It] really gave me the buzz when I first got on stage with my own music.”
Q: So would you say that your poetry has pretty much the entire influence in your style of rapping and your style of writing?
A: “Yes, definitely, definitely. There’s different types of poetry that you can write, all the way from regular format, sixteen-bars of poetry, to a haiku. I mean there’re so many ways. That’s also a way I deal with my upbringing, which was really rough, and my depression. So you know, the writing is the poetry and the poetry is, as my grandmother would say, the writing. So yeah, man, definitely – it heals me.”
Q: What sets you apart from other contemporary emcees and do you feel you have any advantages or disadvantages?
A: “What sets me apart? I don’t think [anything] sets [anybody] apart. I believe, what [are] the morals? I think my moral in hip hop is just to be as honest as I can about myself. But there is also an art of storytelling and we’re just telling stories. I was taught that there’s fiction and nonfiction, but stories can still be stories. I can use other perspectives of other people’s lives that I watch, but I like to rap about me and my life and the pain I went through being abused and being homeless. I was abused in every form of different types of abuse[that] you can imagine and I’m here to help kids with that. That’s what sets me apart; when I’m on stage, if I’m rapping about my father abusing me, you’re going to hear me, you’re going to feel me and you’re going to understand that that voice is for that song and my heart was for that song. My advantages, I feel as though I have…that’s a little bit of the wordplay, the way that my mind is. But also me being a musician. It’s what kind of sets me a part from a little bit of other people that are just rappers or emcees, because I understand music on a whole ‘nother level, not just hearing the beat and trying to write rhymes to it.”
Q: Mmhmm. So, you recently released your album Caged Birds and that was entirely produced by Soulful. Could you tell us a little bit about him and how you guys ended up working together?
A: “Soulful is one of my young brothers, man. He’s a young guy, very talented. He actually reached out to me because I was doing a lot of features around the D.C. areas, and shows, and I did one specific track for Uptown XO. He released a project which is called Takeover 2 and I was on that one track called “Uptown Anthem.” Soulful heard that and was intrigued by the way that I rapped and the bars that I rapped on that song specifically. He reached out to me and it was like, the day we met, he played, literally, I want to say twenty or twenty-five beats and I grabbed all of them. I started writing and he just inspired me, he really inspired me and I just started writing. Within a matter of two songs I wrote, I knew Caged Birds was going to be the EP, I knew what songs I was going to do and I know how many songs I wanted. The only things I didn’t know on it were the interludes on there and the fun stuff, you know? You can hear it at the end; like I have a song “When It Rains,” if you let it play all the way out there’s an extra interlude of me rapping…stuff like that. He brought that side out, that extra creative side. Because I feel that the format of Caged Birds EP is like this old school Slum Village.”
Q: What was the inspiration or the idea behind the album?
A: “Just trying to figure out more ways to set myself free, literally. Like I said, my childhood I was dealing with, I was dealing with that for a long time, all the way until this day that I am…I just turned thirty. When you go through a lot, and I mean a lot of things, even to the point where you’ve kind of been gone in this world, but you’re still here, but you’re not, you know, breathing…I’ve been gone. For me to still be alive is the inspiration. I didn’t know what I wanted to write about, [but] the minute, like I said, I heard his music, his music gave me what to write about and that was the inspiration. Because you can write like Jay-Z did. Jay-Z used to write about crack cocaine in his rhymes, but if you listen to it, he rapped about in so many different ways, in like fifty-two different ways. You can write about abuse and pain in so many other ways, but [Soulful] gave it to me in a way that I can still be happy and content with my life and just now give out messages. That’s what inspired me to do [Caged Birds]. To still give my life and give out messages and have fun – you know, you can have fun with your music, but there’s a war going outside in my perspective of life, so I’m here to let people know that it’s not all about popping bottles and popping e-pills and how many girls you can get on songs. It’s real life stuff going on out here and that’s my inspiration.”
Q: Would you say that “caged birds” is a metaphor for you, like you would be the caged bird in this case?
A: “Yes, yes! I am. As you hear in the beginning of that, “I am the representation of all of us on this world as a caged bird.” I say that in my intro, at the end of it. I am and that was the whole reason of me being a caged bird in my abuse. Neglect, in childhood being poor, living on the streets, I mean caged birds: the society of me living in one of the most powerful cities in the world, Washington, D.C with the government, and I walk everyday and see homeless people. This is a game going on to me, “the natures” I call it. I’m very deep-minded when it comes to stuff like that and I don’t want to be anybody’s chattel, I don’t want to be nobody’s bird in a cage; I’d rather be free and fly. That was myself setting myself free in a way.”
Q: That’s cool, that’s cool. A lot of your tracks were featured on big hip hop sites, like 2DopeBoyz, HipHopDX. How does it feel to have your music spread like that and get that kind of recognition?
A: “I cried, man. I’m not going to even lie, I definitely cried. I mean, even having an interview with you is a blessing, you know, that someone is really listening to the music, because it [really] took a lot of days. It’s just a good feeling and I know this is just a start of my LEGO blocks…I’m building, but it’s definitely still a plateau that I’m proud to be on. I’m still kind of at an awe about it, you know what I mean? [Laughs] I smile from ear to ear when I found out I was having an interview with you guys; anything is a blessing to me…anything. That’s just how I look at it; I’m just totally [grateful] of any and everybody that’s interested into the music or me as just an artist.”
Q: That’s great, man. I think you deserve it though, I mean…there’s just something about your music that’s so… Like you were talking about, the poetry and when you’re on stage, they can feel it; you can feel what you’re saying. You have such emotion behind your words. That’s what I really find so great about your music and that’s why I loved Caged Birds so much is that you can… You know you’ll have rhymers just talking about going through stuff and it kind of gets to be the same old, same old, but the way you put it, I guess with that poetry influence that you have and that you actually felt it, it’s just so powerful.
A: “Wow! Thank you, man. Thank you so much, man. Oh man, that brought tears to my face man, thank you.”
Q: Oh, no problem, man.
A: “No, man, it’s just a lot. I don’t mean to talk your ear off… I dealt with a lot, even trying to put [Caged Birds] out, but I’ve thought of killing myself, man. So, for me to get that, I thank God, but I thank God for even you. I just look at so many things that’s miniscule to be big and [a] blessing in so many ways. For you to even give me those compliments, I appreciate it, but I’m nothing less than God’s child as what you are, as well, and we all deserve it. I just appreciate that, man, you taking the time out to even do this with me, thank you so much man.”
Q: Thank you! We just love, especially with you, just how humble people can be, because you see these guys that are just, you know, way up there and they’re too good for anybody. I love the artists that are actually humble enough to take the time to actually answer a few questions, so I really appreciate it.
A: “Yes, man, thank you so much.”
Q: So how are the receptions so far for Caged Birds?
A: “I mean [laughs] everyone that has heard it…I’ve heard nothing less than A1 responses, really. I mean, from Culture Shock, which is also [on] my Bandcamp that I put out in 2010, that was my first project [and I] was getting my feet wet [and] in the door. And the critiques I took from that, I just remembered to try and apply that to apply that to every project that I do. All the way down from where [I] record to who masters and mixes it or to even how you record it. And everything that I was hoping or wanting people to critique, they did critique on it and I just felt great. Everyone said they loved it, they really, really loved it.”
Q: Have you ever considered putting it up for sale? Because you do have it up for free download, but would you ever want to sell it?
A: “I would, but me and Soulful are coming out with an album. The album’s already done, we just definitely need to finish doing our critiquing and mastering and mixing with it. But the album, I would definitely try to sell that one – it’s a lot of music. You’re going to get the same emotions, the same feelings from me, but this time you’re going to get different views; I’m just really going in on the album. [I’m] not just talking about setting myself free, I’m talking about the ones who hurt me, I’m talking about the things that I’ve done, whether it was in the streets, whether it was stealing or robbing to whatever. All the way down to being in love, all the way down to traveling, I even talk about traveling in different ways. All the way down to just wanting to have sex with my wife!”
A: “It’s life! I’m a Virgo, so I’m a very sexual person and I love my wife [laughs]! But at the end of the day, yeah it’s just a passion for music, so I talk about everything. Everything.”
Q: Do you see yourself working with Soulful again in the future, whether it’s a track or an album or something like that?
A: “Definitely. Like I said, we have an album coming – I don’t know the title yet – [but] we definitely have an album. We already have in the making to try to kind of do some more EPs with themes like the caged birds, you know, stuff like that of course. But yeah, definitely; I’ve already worked on some of his projects already. He’s had a project he put out called Mumbo Sauce & Drum Breaks; I was on that a couple times. Of course we’re definitely going to be working, it’s like a brother love we have, man. Because [my] lyrics and [his] beats fit very well together.”
Q: Yeah, I agree. I really like the unity that you guys [have], like you just fit so perfectly over his beats, I thought it was great. So I’ll be glad to hear another album from you two.
A: “Aw yeah, you’re going to love this one man [laughs]! I wish I can sneak-peek it, I really do; trust me, I really wish I could.”
Q: [Laughs]. I think you touched on this a little bit, but do you have any past projects, and if so, would you consider re-releasing them?
A: “Yeah, I have the Culture Shock 2012 A.D. that’s running through my Bandcamp, as well, which was a free download, as well and that was produced by A.Sesay. Those are the only projects I have. I’m also about to start a mixtape that I’m going to work on just for the streets, but it’s going to be different, but it’s still going to be street. I have another project that I’m going to be working on with another producer named AB the Pro that’s from out here. I have another EP I’m working on with another guy named Grussel.”
Q: Ok. Are you happy with your spot in hip hop right now and would you change anything about it?
A: “My spot in hip hop? I don’t know, like, where is my spot in hip hop. My perspective of my life as far as how I rap and what I give off, yes I’m definitely happy. I would rather rap about something with substance than rap about being a dumbass.”
Q: [Laughs] that’s good.
A: “I mean, honestly, what’s the radio putting out? If everybody would just be honest and know that everything in this world is controlled by somebody or something behind something or someone. And we know there are people pulling gloves to play the dumbest shit on radio waves now. So yeah, I’m definitely happy with my standing in hip hop; I am, I’m definitely happy.”
Q: Alright. Would you ever consider signing with a major label?
A: “Of course! I would consider doing business with anybody as long as it’s fair and no one [tries] to play me off like I’m a dumbass kid from the streets of Washington, D.C., because my college education helped me very well, as well. So if everything’s fair and well and no one wants to play contract games as I call them, then of course! I will sign with anyone! I would definitely sign with anyone; I have all the stuff to protect myself all the way down to the trademarking. I would love to get the help, that big push of that notoriety. Of course I would sign, [but] I wouldn’t do it out of desperation.”
Q: What would be a dream collabo for you? Maybe somebody major or someone people don’t even know. Who would you really really want to work with if you had the chance?
A: “Wow, that is a lot! If I can get a couple, my first one, which is rest in peace, is Baatin from Slum Village, because he had the same disease that I have which is PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. And a lot of people didn’t know his music was literally him and what helped him stay sane as long as he could. So Baatin, of course Biggie Smalls, but I know that will never be in case. Jay-Z, yeah, he’s definitely one that would be cool. Overall, I would love to do maybe like now, the new generation of hip hop that I love, the conscious hip hop, like Jay-Z that used to be conscious…”
A: “Hey [laughs] you know what it is! But Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Black Hippy, you know what I mean, [those] guys. It’s so many people that I would love to learn [from]. I’d like to collab to also learn. Like me, I like Tech N9ne; Tech N9ne has a weird style that I have not seen. It’s similar but it’s different in so many ways that I have not seen [anybody] try to do or emulate. I like to learn the styles. I look at hip hop as a dojo and everybody’s got a certain style of wushu or some type of karate or tae-kwon-do or kung-fu and we can all learn. We can all learn from different styles, but don’t bite them.”
Q: Yeah, and what it is that you want listeners to get from your music?
A: “I’m just a human. Just a human, but I’m also here to give out messages from my life, but it’s from my perspective or I rap about another person with a disclosed identity. I just want people to learn and understand that, even in music itself, it’s not all about the clubs and all of that, because that’s what people want to be brainwashed with and a lot of people don’t even know that’s what radio waves do. That’s why they call them radio waves – to brainwash. I just want it to be a certain way where my people and my listeners [are] conscious of what’s being brought to them, even when it comes to me. That, and just to understand that [there’s] still hip hop going on; I don’t really want to call myself “real” hip hop, because I’ll do any type of music. Like I said, you’re going to hear different styles of me soon. Just [live] and take it serious; not to the point where you can’t have fun, but it’s life. That’s what I want [listeners] to really get from me. And I’m just here to share my wealth, whether its through knowledge or my money, because my main dream is to be an artist, but really one of my dreams is to be a philanthropist, just to be rich and give away money. People think that’s crazy, but I just want to give, I do, man. When you come up like me and you watch people walk past you because you’re homeless and wouldn’t give you money or your parents didn’t care because they thought about their drug [addictions] more than you or your stomach, that’s what’s driven to where I am today…who I am, as well.”
A: “I think I’m what you’d call a real have-not.”
Q: Wow… Well, what is one thing that very few people know about you?
A: “Hmm, what is one thing? You said that very few?”
Q: Yeah, very few people.
A: “One thing that very few people know…on the outside, I may seem as cold, but really, on the inside, I’m just as sensitive as can be and very conscious of how I treat people. I also have a ticking bomb, too, you know what I mean [laughs]? So that’s something very few people know about me. I do have a good heart, but [I’m not like] “Oh yeah, I’m the toughest guy from the streets!” No, but I will remind you that I did grow up in poverty. So I can act any way I need to act to defend myself or offend if I have to.”
Q: Hm, interesting.
A: “But I will give you the shirt off my back, as well, literally. I will feed you, you can come to my house and go in my refrigerator, spend the night, whatever. I don’t leave no one out cold. Yeah, that’s me, that’s what very few people know. Because a lot of people want to know me for motives and music, you know how it is.”
Q: Yeah [laughs]. And this I just kind of thought of, going back, way back, you mentioned when you were in the go-go band, you played drums, right?
A: “Yeah drums and congas and roto toms and timbales.”
Q: Would you ever consider or have you ever thought of providing your own drums for your songs?
A: “Oh yeah! Definitely, I want to produce! Definitely…I would definitely like to do that. Yeah, I’m actually going to do that when I get a chance.”
Q: Oh alright. Would you use the live stuff that you know how to play or would you use a machine?
A: “Yeah, machines and live. Definitely machines and live.”
Q: Alright, that’s cool, yeah I was just wondering. Do you have any shout outs or last words you want to give?
A: “Shout out to my team, man, Secret Society. I have a clique named the Secret Society [with] Uptown XO, my man Benji, AB the Pro. I want to shout out Toney Night. Gordo Brega, I want to shout out my wife, my brothers, my family. Interlude, J-Scrilla. My homie Elekto. I mean it’s so many people, man [laughs]. I mean, the people that support me know exactly who they are. All the way from the bloggers to my homegirl, IGOTIT4free, Byrd. It’s just a lot of people, Godzilla, Diamond District, Oddisee [laughs]. Yeah, and I know you guys are well aware of them too. Slim Kat, yU the 78er.”
Q: Alright, and finally, what’s on your iPod?
A: “Amy Winehouse, Big L, Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, go-go music, Alien Ant Farm, Bob Marley, Noel Gordon and some unreleased music of mine [laughs].”
Q: Alright, well thank you very much for being so open with this interview.
A: “Thank you so much, I really appreciate it, man.”