Baltimore rapper Butch Dawson’s been making music, releasing his own tapes, and producing for talent from the city, like Black Zheep DZ and Abdu Ali, since 2009. He’s also been a central figure in Baltimore’s Basement Rap Radio, an underground collective and radio station that records music together and provides a space for the city’s talent to shine.
This summer, the 25-year-old, real name Jujuan Allen, released his debut album, Swamp Boy. It’s an eight-track glimpse into Butch’s life, the songs at times feeling dark and eerie, at others jazzy and a little melancholy — and at all times hitting. “This project represents something way bigger than me, " he shared of the project over email. “It's about turning nothing into something, it's about making the best out what you have.”
Following an appearance and performance at Telfar’s recent NYFW show, today Butch shares the video for Swamp Boy standout and single “Feel Nobody,” premiering on The FADER. The song’s an audio thrash, with unrelenting drums sitting over a wonky wah-wah that makes you want to tear something apart. The video captures that sentiment: flashing lights, frantic camera angles, and a smashed up cop car to top it off. “I literally made the beat and wrote the song in 3 hours and the rest was history. I think since I made it so quick, this song was meant to exist, haha,” he said. The song was mixed by his friend James P, and mastered by friend and Baltimore-based artist JPEGMAFIA.
Watch “Feel Nobody” above, listen to Swamp Boy below, and read on for a short interview with Butch about the project, the video, and his year so far.
Tell me about Swamp Boy. How long were you working on it? What was happening in your life as you were putting it together? What did you want people to take away from it?
I’ve been working on Swamp Boy for about three years. It was basically me making a lot of music and taking breaks to live a little. Throughout those three years, I’ve been moving from place to place and figuring out creative ways to make this project as impactful as possible. What I want people to take from this project is that whoever you are, or wherever you’re from, you can make the best out of it and who you are through your music, and that it's ok to break some boundaries.
How was working on it different from your previous projects?
Swamp Boy is different from my other projects because I knew how important and meaningful the title was to me, compared to my mixtapes and previous projects that are all theme-based. [The inspiration for those projects] were just coming from the bedroom spaces I made those projects in. This project represents something way bigger than me, it's about turning nothing into something, its about making the best out what you have. Swamp Boy is about highlighting the beauty of where I'm from and talking about real situations on raw and jazzy beats. I feel like this is, by far, my biggest project to date.
You recently performed at the Telfar presentation at NYFW. What was that like? How did that come to be?
It was Incredible. Shout out to Telfar Clemens, Babak, and the whole Telfar squad for giving me the opportunity to work with them! They hit me up a while back and asked if was down do a live performance and model for the lookbook. I worked with seven other artists on a 15-minute song for the show. For about two days, we practiced and got to know one another and the chemistry was great. I never done anything like that.
How did the “Feel Nobody” video come about? What was your inspiration for it? I read the news story about the cop car.
When I dropped the song everyone went crazy. I was getting a lot of emails from people wanting to shoot it and since I was already working with Jeffrey [Rettberg] I stuck with him and we made this video come to life. I’d send him references, moods, and colors so he understood the direction I wanted to go with. From there we put our ideas together and things started to look how we expected them to. My inspiration came from the song. I wanted the video to be as chaotic [as] hearing the record. And I want to show people that when you see me smash a cop car, that's it not a form of ignorance but a form of expression and freedom.
I see that you’ve got a few modeling gigs and shows lined up in the near future, but what else is next for you? What’s your goal for the next year?
I'm gonna continue to push Swamp Boy until the year is over. Put out more music videos. The shows have been picking up on the east coast so hopefully, I get to perform more everywhere else. I'm about to get signed with an agency so there will be more modeling, and I want to continue to work on my Basement Rap Radio mixes starting 2019.
Thumbnail photo by Amira Green.