Lil Hype, born Daronta Lee, is a new artist hailing from North Carolina. At the age of 28, Lil Hype is not only a rapper, but the CEO of his company Illest Records. Over the years, Lil Hype has released various mixtapes including I Smoke Like Smokey Robinson Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, Trappin While I'm Rappin, and Da Streets Callin Me.
Currently, Lil Hype is putting the final touches on his Hood Star mixtape, which is hosted by the self-proclaimed “Carolina King” DJ Chuck T. Lil Hype is excited about everything involved with this new mixtape from the features to the production and he guarantees that everyone will love what they hear.
Yo! Raps spoke to Lil Hype about his rap moniker, the most influential Southern artist of all time, the Hood Star mixtape, and his company Illest Records.
Give us some brief background on who you are and how long have you been rapping?
Well, my name is Lil Hype… the North Cak Representa. I’ve been rapping for a little minute. My brother started out doing this, so I’m just following up behind him.
Where did your rap name Lil Hype come from?
It’s just a name that I had through the years. One of my homies gave it to me on the school bus way back in the days, “Hype”. So I kept the name, but added “Lil” in front of it, and ran with it like that.
Since you are from the South, how important would you say the South is to the Hip-Hop industry?
Actually, I think the South is real important to the industry. People doubted the South for a long time looking at n*ggas like their slow or whatever. Up top was running things, but now it’s kind of vice versa. Now, everybody’s looking for the South to get features and beats. I kind of consider myself the South.
Who do you think is the most influential Southern artists of all time? Why?
Damn, that’s a good question. I think I would say Three 6 Mafia… DJ Paul and Juicy J. Everything that’s going on today, they were doing 10 to 15 years ago. I believe I’m going to have to say these guys or UGK.
It is hard for an up-n-coming rapper in today’s music industry. What sets you apart from your competition?
What sets me apart is that I’m just me and about 95 percent of what you hear me saying is true. I’m just real with it and I keep it too 100, so that’s what separates me from everybody else. A lot of people be spitting phony, they don’t live what their spitting, but that’s cool if you ain’t trying to be gangster. If you’re in the streets, you say you’re in the streets, then you gotta really do what you say or n*ggas gonna flip your cards over and it’s going to be a deuce. They’ll be looking at you funny like you ain’t what you say.
What has been the hardest topic for you to discuss in your music?
I don’t think that there are any hard topics for me to talk about because if you hear me talking about something, it’s straight from the heart. Like I said earlier, I just keep it 100. So the hardest topic would probably be when I talk about my mom or a situation that I have going on with my family because I don’t really like to put a lot of our business out there like that.
You've released several mixtapes over the years, which do you believe was your best work?
First, Trappin While I’m Rappin is a classic. Let me just say that and volume 2 is coming soon. Actually, I think my best is Hood Star, which is what I’m about to drop shortly.
Talk about your label Illest Records.
Illest Records is the mother f*cking sh*t and Illest Records is doing big things! I’m the main artist, so we gotta focus on me first. We got a couple of artists next, but I don’t really like to discuss or put their names out there like that. You know how sh*t is, it might be different tomorrow, but Illest Records is a movement!
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on Hood Star. Actually, it’s finished. I’m just getting my songs remixed and stuff right now and it will be out real soon. I’ve been talking to Drumma Boy, we’re going to do something, but that will probably make my next mixtape.
What artists and producers did you work with on Hood Star?
It features Alley Boy, Young Buck, Tity Boy (2 Chainz), and Tech N9ne. As far as producers on this mixtape, I got my homie, my in house producer I Peezy and the homie Jaywan. I’ve worked with the hottest artist in North Carolina, but if I haven’t yet, I’ll be working on getting with them soon and a couple of artists in South Carolina, as well. I’m just trying to do everything.
How important do you believe is the artist and DJ relationship?
I think the artist/DJ relationship should be tight. Don’t waste your time and money on putting out the project because the listeners can tell that there’s really not a close relationship between the two of you. Shout out the homie DJ Chuck T, we’re cool and I’ve for five to seven years now. That’s my dude right there and it was time for us to link and put this classic out.
For the people who are not familiar with your music, what can they expect when listening to a Lil Hype record?
You can expect some good music, however it comes. Some might sound South, some up North, or have that West Coast sound. Overall, it’s going to be good music!
What are your other hobbies besides music?
Sh*t, to keep it gangsta with you, I smoke. If you go around the hood and ask people, they’ll say I smoke like Smokey Robinson. I work out too, just kick it with the homies and make music in my studio.
How important do you believe social media is for artists such as yourself?
I think it’s real important. The Internet is a big part of Hip-Hop right now. Worldstarhiphop.com is the new BET. Plus, you have to be heavy on Twitter and Facebook. I haven’t been to MySpace in a while, but whatever you do you have to have a good manager and good people around you. You gotta have a team that is willing to open their mouths and talk, meet, and network with people. If you ain’t got that, you ain’t nothing. You are only as strong as your team.
How can people contact you via the social media?
You can hit me up on Twitter @lilhypenc, facebook.com/lilhype, or on youtube.com/ presidentghost. I got a lot of stuff on there that you’ll probably like and a lot more coming soon. Other than that, just stay tuned and on the lookout for Hood Star coming soon, hosted by DJ Chuck T.
- By Isha “Ice” Cole