This February, after he was dropped from T.I.’s flailing Grand Hustle label, Atlanta rapper Yung L.A. tattooed a large duck on his right cheek. That duck is also the logo of Duct Tape Entertainment, to which fellow Atlanta rapper Alley Boy is signed. In a series of increasingly inflammatory exchanges, Alley Boy, who is fiercely loyal to Duct Tape, pressured Yung L.A., who he said was never formally associated with the label, to remove the tattoo. In early March, L.A. refused, before covering the tattoo with an LA Dodgers logo a few days later. In April, Alley Boy and a group of associates attacked L.A. They taped that assault as it happened, and the recording circulated the internet widely. I talked to Alley Boy about what happened that day and why. He also spoke about old-Atlanta entrepreneurs, his daughters, emotional struggles and Duct Tape's plans for the summer.
When did you start rapping? I grew up in a community called Edgewood Courts. I’ve been rapping since I was nine. But I started going in the studio and recording when I was like ten, 11. I was dealing with this label called Drew B.M.K. Records. They actually did do Big Play Entertainment now, who YC signed to. But back then, like way back then, Drew B.M.K. was their label. They headline artist was named Mr. Ku, and he was my best friend’s cousin. So they were interested in us, cause we were so young but we could really rap and write.
How did your rapping develop as you entered high school and got older? My mom and dad, they was on drugs. So I stayed with my grandma. In middle school, I got into all kinds of stuff. I used to like to dance. I could sing a little bit back then, but rapping was my stronger point. But as I got a little older, in high school, just being out on the streets, we started hustling a lot. School kinda became secondary. As bad as that may sound, that’s what it was. But I always fell back to the music. When I started making my own money, I started paying for my own studio time. And I kept it going. That was the dream and I knew I was good, so I just always kept it in my heart. And I always took the time out to stay right, recording and doing songs. A lot of my cousins rap too, so it would just be where we was at.
How did you get your career started? In 2003, me and my brother from another, Big Bank Black, we caught a charge together. A possession charge of some guns and marijuana. I ended up going to prison. I did two years and during the time I was locked up, that’s when Black, he was like, "Bro, I know you wanna, let’s do the music thing.” He was getting money and stuff, so it really just started up. I was like, "Let’s go with it hard when I come home." So when I came home, we already had the label, my name and stuff like that. We just went with it.
Where’d the name Alley Boy come from? When I was nineteen, I ran into a situation with me and three other homeboys all up on a murder charge. Murder and robbery. So I went to prison back then, in the year 2001. I did a year but I got out. During that time I was young so I used to be running around a lot. I was always being hyper, and older dudes were like, “Man, you alley as hell!” Cause I used to be loud, real loud. They was like, “You look country as hell! You country and loud!” Like, “Man, you alley, boy!” It stuck with me from there. When I came home I started writing it in my rhymes, like you know, “I’m alley, boy.”
When did you link up with Gucci Mane? I met Gucci in 2002. He was signed to this label called Str8 Drop Entertainment. I used to deal with them too, record at they studio. Me and Gucci we had a long relationship, before his career took off and everything. When I came home after the second time I been to prison and did two years, in ’05, Gucci he had the song “Icy” out, his thing was going good. He had just got out too so naturally we hooked back up. His situation was moving, so he was like, “Bro, however I can help you, you know Imma help.” We're friends outside the music. I had the Duct Tape Entertainment thing going with me, we had our movement going so everything started bubbling from there. Everything was making sense.
He's been through a lot this year—the tattoo, an assault arrest. Do you still talk? You think he's doing okay? I know Gucci personally, so I know everything isn't exactly how they put it out in the paper. I’m understanding on his situation totally. I know what’s going on. I don’t look at it how the public might look at it. That’s my friend, so when people talk about him or whatever, I be offended. I know the truth behind the situation. But I’m proud of him for everything. He’s a motivation to me.
What really happened in all this mess with Young L.A.? Of course, I’ve seen the video of you fighting him. Is the fight real? Who filmed it and was it planned? It’s real, you know. I didn’t really want to talk about it, but it’s whatever, I don’t even care cause I wanna get it behind me. L.A. disrespected me. And it wasn’t about the tattoo at all. What happened in the video, that wasn’t a set up. I just so happened to be there and he came over there. He's coming out of a bathroom. He knew I was there. I saw him when he went in the bathroom, that’s when I was like, “He must think we cool.” So I was like, Imma beat this motherfucker’s ass. So I had a friend of mine record it, since [Yung L.A.] wanna talk shit on World Star or whatever. So I’m like, Record this—when he come out this bathroom I’m gonna beat his ass. My buddies, they knew about it, but it wasn’t no thing planned. It was nothing like that. Period. I was just like, Imma a beat his ass for talking his shit to me. They didn’t really want me to do it. But I was like, I don’t care, he disrespected me. L.A. saying I asked him to take the logo out his face and he put a video out on World Star saying, “Fuck what they said. I got goons behind me.” Oh really? You really gonna go there with me, and you know me? There was more behind it all than the tattoo, that’s what it was.
After that controversy, what's up with Duct Tape now? Man, we been going crazy. My little brother Trouble came home December the 17th and he dropped his mixtape. I’m in the lab right now working on two mixtapes. I got one on the way that I leaked a song out from the other day, featuring Trey Songz. That’s for the ladies. Imma do a whole tape catering to the ladies. And I’ve been working on The Definition of Fuck Shit 2 with DJ Holiday. I finished that record yesterday me, Holiday and Killer Mike did. I might release both of them in June. And I’m pushing my single “Pocket Full of Money,“ featuring Jeezy. The whole Duct Tape family, we just green light right now. I got the empire behind me. We working on our lives. Everybody’s got a lot of good connects from doing their own thing. We're putting it all together and making super good gumbo.
Do you have any kids? Yeah. I have three daughters. Two of them seven and one of them is five.
What are they like? Crazy! Like I got three wives. My kids—one of them like the hyper me, and one of them is like the cool me. And the baby she’s like the old me, when I was just young and wild. It’s crazy, but it's cool. I enjoy it. I can’t see them not being here. You know, once it’s at that point—you have to be a parent to understand.
Since having kids and coming in and out of lockup a couple times, how have you changed? I done grew up so much. I’m more understanding of people. When things happen to me, people treating us a certain way or I sense something from people, I don’t take it how I would of took it when I was young. I would of gotten mad and reacted different. Now, I know how to blow stuff off and just be like, “It is what it is.” I pray hard, so I ask for the strength to be able to not worry about the things I can’t change, be real accepting and shit. Nothing surprises me anymore. I’m at a point now, when I’m just really about my money. My mom and dad are getting old, my kids getting older. I gotta take care of them. So I’m just trying to lift the load off my family. I’m simple and I know Imma always take care of me. But my people that I love, I wanna make their position a little more comfortable.
As you try to be more accepting, what do you struggle with? I struggle with my anger. I wear my emotions on my sleeves. Things can go bad because it’s hard for me to fake things. Times when I should just play it out and be fake, it's just kind of hard for me. I show in my face and I give myself away. I’m a Pisces, so I’m emotional. I gotta work on it. That’s my biggest thing but other than that, I put it in god’s hands. I feel that everything that happens is already meant to happen and everything’s gonna be god’s work, period.