Famous Dex enters the Highsnobiety office in a maelstrom of gold grills, peroxide-bleached hair and 16 bars worth of borrowed Jay Z lyrics. His exuberance is so under-contained the front desk receptionist is unable to refrain from wondering (out loud) what he’s having, and seemingly considering how possible it would be to get some for himself.
Dex’s music reflects this permanent state of hyper animation; it’s a fervently ad-lib-filled affair complete with the odes to marijuana, lean, and carnal pleasures made more salacious when offered by someone else’s girlfriend. Dex hails from Chicago but his preference for snare-heavy beats and basic strong structures that rely on energetic hooks more than adroit verses favor the sonic precedence set by some of the South’s new guard of party rappers.
Fun is the bottom line here: The unselfconsciously cut-rate videos of Dex and friends smoking blunts while dancing in someone’s parent’s apartment, the half-drawled lines, the references to partying or stealing someone’s girl are all just part of Dex’s quest for a good time.
“I’ve been like this my whole life,” Dex says, “I’ve always been a class clown and a jokester. I’m just an energetic person. That’s why I want to bring laughter and fun back to the game.” The idea of making music purely for the purposes of advocating carefree living might not seem very versatile or particularly ingenious, but it does provide a lively buffer for some of the grimmer realities Dex has faced.
Like the loss of his mother to breast cancer, for instance. When asked, Dex sheepishly admits to having more tattoos than he can count. However he easily identifies his first because it’s his mother’s name, placed strategically over the chest to be near his heart. He also got a large breast cancer ribbon tattooed prominently on his face in her honor.
For Dex, the passing of a parent gave him reason to work harder and avoid the lifestyles of some of his peers. “I stayed away from gang banging and stuff because of music and because I lost my mom. When you lose somebody you’re either going to f**k up or show up, so I had to show up the right way.” Where Chief Keef and Glory Boyz Entertainment (G.B.E.) helped to usher the Chicago drill scene to national prominence with grimly homicidal lyrics and trap-influenced beats, Dex wants to be the city’s face of turn-up music.
“I really want to change the youth. I come from Chicago and I come from the hood. I’m from Englewood, like the bad part. I’m like five blocks from where Chief Keef came up back in the day. Two years ago me and Chief Keef might not have even seen eye to eye because of that gang shit, he says. “It wasn’t even like that for me just my brothers were gang banging. So now I just want to make sure my brothers, sisters and my daughter are straight. I consider myself a role model now and that’s really important to me.”
Listen to Famous Dex’s OhhMannGoddDamm mixtape below.
- Photographer: Thomas Welch