“I be on the phone with Doe Boy, I be telling him, he inspired me to go harder”—Future, “My Savages”
Doe Boy couldn’t believe his eyes.
“When I saw that, that shit didn’t even seem real,” he tells me over the phone, describing the time the rapper received a text message of LeBron James rapping the lyrics to his 2019, YG-featured single “Walk Down.”
It’s been eight months since the ebullient 30-second clip of the three-time NBA Champion went viral, a moment that Doe Boy, born Cotrell Dennard, still speaks of in disbelief.
“DJ Mel caught LeBron at that very moment, recorded it, and sent it straight to my phone,” he continues. “Once I posted the clip online, all the basketball blogs like Bleacher Report started posting it. It was even on Sports Center. Everything changed from that point on.”
In late 2019, change was a consistent theme in the life and career of Doe Boy. The “Walk Down” rapper relocated from his hometown of Cleveland to Atlanta, announced a record deal with Epic Records—a joint venture with Free Bandz, the record label headed by mentor and rap superstar Future who signed Doe Boy in 2012—and released his latest, 15-track project, Streetz Need Me 2, on December 20.
“When I dropped the first Streetz Need Me, I was fresh out of jail, still in Cleveland, around what I was around,” Doe Boy remembers, calling his life four years ago, “way different,” from what it is today.
Now, a regular day for the 25-year-old is 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. in the studio with the remaining daylight hours belonging to sleep or light shopping. This regimen of continuous recording produced 60 songs in the first two weeks of January, or somewhere in the ballpark. With so much music accumulated, and more always being made, Doe Boy is eager to release another body of work. He even hints at a possible collaboration tape coming soon, but wouldn’t disclose his collaborator.
“That was really his song,” Doe confesses. “We were chilling in the studio and did ‘I’m Scared’ and ‘Grave Digger’ back-to-back, on the same day.”
“I’m Scared,” which also features GRAMMY-winning rapper 21 Savage, was placed on Thug’s debut album, So Much Fun, while “Grave Digger” was saved for Streetz Need Me 2. Both records are produced by Pi’erre Bourne, which explains why the two sound as if they were twins separated at birth.
If not Thug, a more likely candidate for Doe Boy’s fabled collaborative project is, of course, Future. Since Doe Boy signed with both Free Bandz and Epic Records, having the two align and officially release a full-length project would further increase the exposure around mentor and protégé. During our call, when asked about his diligent work ethic, Doe cites his famous label-head as the encouraging influence who put the battery in his back.
“Future don’t like it when you lazy,” Doe says with sincerity, adding, “I got in the habit of working because I want it, but he was on my ass, he pushed me to want it.”
Future not only influenced how consistently Doe Boy records but also the West Coast-leaning sound evident in Doe Boy’s Impala-rattling basslines and his taunting, tough-as-nails bravado. Streetz Need Me 2 standouts “Walk Down,” “6-4,” “Mini Vans,” “Skip Skool,” and “Death Row” all feel familiar, drawing from a sound old enough to be nostalgic without being a complete copy.
“One day I posted the first cover of Streetz Need Me 2, it’s Doughboy from the Boyz n the Hood movie going to jail when he was a kid,” Doe Boy recalls. “Future called me like, ‘Man, I just painted a whole picture in my head. You gotta make the project sound like that old school Eazy E and Ice Cube. You gotta hurry up and do it.’ I told him he was right. All history does is repeat itself. If I didn’t do it, somebody was going to do it, and soon.”
Doe Boy may carry the aggressive attitude and bullet-proof spirit of hip-hop’s most dangerous rap group, but he doesn’t sound like a rapper doing N.W.A. karaoke. Before his call with Future, Doe Boy was surprised when he read comments comparing his work to Eazy-E after the release of his 2018 single “Mini Vans.”
“I got this record, ‘Mini Vans,’ that’s actually the first song that really went crazy. It was a changing point in my life,” Doe Boy says. “After I dropped ‘Mini Vans,’ everybody was like, ‘You sound like the new Eazy-E.’ It’s so crazy because I didn’t think people would say that I sound like Eazy-E, I used Juvenile’s flow.”
It’s serendipitous how a burgeoning rapper from Cleveland is pulling inspiration from West-coast rap aesthetics in the age of LeBron James as a Los Angeles Laker. The video of his reciting Doe Boy’s lyrics shows how close the hybrid street rapper is to catching a record that will elevate him beyond social media virality. That’s why Doe Boy is in the studio from 7 to 7 every day, cutting 60 songs in two weeks.
He hopes the next song will once again change his life.
By Yoh, aka YohBron James, aka @Yoh31