Deante’ Hitchcock claims to have a memory that’s better than most.
“I eat a lot of blueberries,” the Atlanta-based rapper says over the phone after I ask him about his primal declaration on “I Remember,” the intro track that begins his major-label debut album, BETTER.
Hitchcock was born on March 10, 1993. The day before his fourth birthday, the New York rap legend The Notorious B.I.G. was gunned down in Los Angeles, California.
When I ask Hitchcock if he remembers the day Biggie died, he replies, “Hell nah, I was somewhere jumpin’ off a dresser or some shit.” The 27-year-old speaks, much like his rapping, with unabashed sincerity.
BETTER, released through RCA and Bystorm Entertainment on May 13, 2020, is not an album Hitchcock created overnight. In fact, he’s been signed to the major label for nearly four years.
“I remember the day [I signed], but I always forget the year, it’s either 2016 or 2017,” he says, a touch of shame in his tone. Of course, he remembers the signing date itself, March 9. The day before his birthday.
When I remind Hitchcock that Mark Pitts—CEO of Bystorm Entertainment and the President of Urban Music at RCA Records, and Biggie’s former manager—signed him in 2017, on the 20th anniversary of Biggie’s death, he responds: “God’s the greatest screenwriter ever; shawty shittin' on Tarantino.”
During our interview, Hitchcock, a native of Riverdale, Georgia, was candid about life before his record deal. He was a man behind on bills, working check to check at Walmart, praying to catch a break. That spiritual awareness is prominent across BETTER. Belief in God, angels, and family is the driving motivation behind his vigorous music.
Deante’ Hitchcock ultimately settled on rap, hoping the artform would change his life, but he’d be the first to tell you that becoming a rapper wasn’t his childhood dream.
“My real dream is to own a pizza shop,” he says. When I ask him why a pizza shop of all things, he replies: “My mama wanted me to meet my great, great granny before she passed. I was six years old when I met her in New York. My mom took me to a pizza spot afterward. You know New York got the crazy pizza. I’ve wanted a shop from then on because I associate pizza with a good memory.”
The emerging Atlanta rap star who wants to own a pizza shop. It’s a bit funny how hip-hop attracts all these different kinds of dreamers. For Deante’ Hitchcock, though, rapping wasn’t his choice. For rap, he was chosen—one of many facts he reveals during our interview, presented below, and lightly edited for content and clarity, as a series of vignettes.
Deante’ Hitchcock’s earliest memory:
“The earliest memory I can recount is, I was four years old, and I had, you remember those little toy cars with the red doors and the yellow top that a child can fit in? I drove one of them down a row of steps, and I cut my face. I had a scar going from my forehead to my chin, all the way down my face.”
On his earliest memory of rap:
“I was 11 years old in a rap group, [The Tainted Cliq]. Me and a nigga named Nasty Noonk. I was Baby D, and he was Nasty Noonk. My uncle started the group. He was the one who put me on rap in the first place. Music isn’t something I picked up myself. My uncle used to rap. He was trying to do a whole Kriss Kross thing. He used to write my raps and everything.
“I didn’t want to be a rapper; I had no aspirations to make music. I didn’t step into this on my own accord. My uncle put me into it. From there, I fell in love with the competition aspect. That’s what drove me to stay in it. I used to play football [and] baseball and ran track. My dad drove for me to be a sports guy. When I was playing football, that nigga was on my head. We used to practice before and after practice. So competitiveness is a real thing for me.
“Even as a child, I wanted to rap better than the niggas I was in the studio with. That’s what got me to stop my uncle from writing for me. One day, at the studio, I told him, ‘I got my own shit to record.’ I haven’t looked back since.”
On Deante’’s last job before music became his full-time gig:
“You know the little kiosks they have in malls? Where niggas be selling phones and shit? Nigga, I was working at the Walmart in Riverdale, selling family [plan] mobile phones in the electronic center. They had a little table for me, and a banner to put over that motherfucker. I would sit right there in the front of the electronic center, every day, chasing niggas down, trying to sell trash ass phones.
“I got a line in my song, ‘Shadowman’s Interlude,’ where I say, ‘I’d probably still be up at my old job if they didn’t lay me off.’ Walmart is what I was talking about. I was there every day. Miserable. There’s no one more hated in the world than the niggas at the kiosk.”
On “Affirmation Song:”
“An affirmation song is ‘I Got Money Now.’ I got real big on the affirmation wave because my best friend was on it for a second, and my mom had just given me The Secret. It’s all about affirmations and how the Law Of Attraction works.
“At that time, we were broke; we didn’t have shit. Niggas wasn’t eating. Niggas was two months behind paying rent. We needed money. When we made that song, it wasn’t a true song at the time, but if you say anything enough times, you’ll start to believe it, and then it becomes real. Look at us. Here we are doing a little better today than we were when we made it a year ago. That’s an affirmation song.”
Why “Angels” was almost left off of BETTER:
“It’s crazy that people like ‘Angels’ so much. That’s been the most trippy thing about the album being out because we were finna cut ‘Angels’ and not have it on the tape. Me and my producer were feeling the same way that everybody feels about it when we first made it. Then two weeks later, we listened back and was like, ‘Eh, it’s alright.’
“Blair Hicks was the one who proposed the idea of keeping it. She came through, heard it, and was like, ‘Y’all niggas drunk. Yall gotta put that motherfucka on there.’ So we start having all these listening sessions. Yung Baby Tate, Steph [Yung Baby Tate’s day-to-day manager], and all of them came through. They said we were tripping. So we went ahead and put it on there. We weren’t feeling it for real. ‘Angel’ felt like a throwaway to me.”
On his reaction to how BETTER has been received:
“It’s crazy to see the reception because I was nervous. No cap, we sat with the album for so long. As far as rapping-wise and production, on our side, the whole album was done in August. You sit with something for so long; you start nitpicking shit. You start saying, ‘I could’ve done this better; we should’ve changed this beat.’ I didn’t think it would be this crazy. So for it to get this kind of reception already is a blessing. I know that shit is going to turn up even more. It hasn’t caught for real how it’s gonna catch. We got hella shit coming. The rollout doesn’t stop after the album comes out.”
“This shit gonna shake regardless. We’re going to make it happen. But, we aren’t complaining if somebody comes along and speeds this motherfucker up—for example, the Revenge of the Dreamers III recording sessions. I don’t think I would have as many eyes on me right now if that didn’t happen. It was a blessing. It’s about understanding how important a co-sign can be.
“Let’s say I’m a basketball player. Take another guy and me. We’re [the] number one and two hoopers in the country. We are pretty much equal in every aspect, except Michael Jordan co-signs him, but I don’t get a co-sign. Automatically, his star power, his status, is going to raise way past mine just because someone we already respect and love gave him a nod.”
On what comes next:
“From here, I just want BETTER to get into more people’s ears. I want somebody prominent to give it a real co-sign. I need [J. Cole] or Drake to tweet this album out. That’s what I need next, straight up. Not even what I want, it’s going to happen. It’s going to. Put that shit out in the world now. Affirmation time again.”