Dylan Fabrega, known on stage as dylAn, is ready for the world to finally start paying attention to him, his music, and everything that he stands for. For the last couple of years, Fabrega has quietly been putting out music and collaborating with his brother/producer Daniel D’artiste and his childhood friends Jaden and Willow Smith. When Jaden created his MSFTSRep collective, he enlisted Fabrega and his brother to be a part of the movement. Fabrega is still part of the collective, but he now has his own legion of fans who show up to his shows, consistently stream his songs, and make it known that they are here for him.
In a 2017 interview with Wonderland, dylAn explained the capital ‘A’ in his name. “The capital A in my name stands for Alfred, it’s the sad, emotional, sensitive side of dylAn,” he told the magazine. “Alfred is a cool guy, he doesn’t go out often, though. Instead he stays alone inside, transforming his pain and struggles into vulnerable spoken word/rap music.” Two years later and dylAn is still transforming his pain into vulnerable rap music. His raw ability to use his past experiences as a vessel for truth is what makes him stand apart from the large pack of SoundCloud rappers. There’s no gimmicks with dylAn. It would be easy to rely on the Jaden Smith co-sign, but since day one with his first song, “Tower158,” he has chosen to rely on his talent and knack for storytelling; listening to a dylAn song is like reading a friend’s diary entry or a caption on one of their Finsta posts.
On his new EP Woodland Hills, Fabrega ambitiously pursues honesty and introspection. Across a mere four songs, it lays the ground for a clear understanding of who he used to be and who he currently is as a 23-year-old. Days before its release, we caught up with dylAn for an intimate conversation about the new album, identity, working with Jaden Smith, the music industry, and his self diagnosed “daddy issues.”
You’ve known Jaden and his family since you were little and now he’s playing an instrumental role in your career. Has that affected the creative process and the friendship you guys have built?
I’ve become accustomed to it. We grew up together and we know how to work with each other. But, at the same time, it’s also a double edged sword. It’s hard to mix family and business. From us making the transition as SoundCloud artists sporadically releasing music to now clearing samples, distributing it amongst all platforms, and planned out proper releases… I’m used to it but I’m still learning shit everyday.
The Smith family is this huge celebrity power family. Did growing up and seeing their fame with your own eyes make you a bit apprehensive about pursuing a career in music or did it make you want it more for yourself?
I guess it made me want it more for myself. We stopped kicking it when I turned 11, I moved to Florida and we lost contact. When we linked back up, he was creating and making music with my older brother Daniel. Once I saw my brother making tunes with them and writing songs with Willow, it just inspired me. I really wanted to make dope shit with them.
What was the transition like coming back to California? I was in LA for nine months and it’s something different. It moves so slow.
LA is super unique. When I came back, I was shocked. A bunch of friends making music and SoundCloud was a thing. It was the Mecca. You become consumed by what people thrive off of. If you’re making art and not getting a million views or this amount of plays compared to your next door neighbor, it’s like, ‘Oh I’m not doing that good.’ You have to leave to get your head out of it and realize you’re where you’re supposed to be.
How long have you been working on Woodland Hills for?
Probably five months. I dropped this one project in June of last year. Right after we put that out I started working on the Woodland Hills shit. We finished it pretty quick, in like three weeks. We had the skeleton and then we worked on the production for a while.
Albums these days are like 20 songs deep, Woodland Hills is an EP with 4 songs. Why something shorter instead of giving your fans 20 songs?
It was originally gonna be an album with 12 songs. But, dealing with the shit getting pushed back, I started to randomly release shit. There was that tragic shooting in Thousand Oaks and I took one of the songs off Woodland Hills and put it out. I was raising money to donate to the families of victims from that shooting. I had announced the release date, threw a premiere for Woodland Hills and it never came out. I felt like I was letting my fans down, I’m super sensitive and in my head.
Every new artist has this window of time where there’s a certain amount of eyes on them. It becomes their job to capitalize on that moment and not waste it. With all of the delays going on, was there any worry that you had missed your window and that your fans were losing interest?
Every other day I would be thinking about losing fans and people not caring and checking my streams. And you want to blame the label but, you don’t want to bite the hand that feeds you because those are my people. There are a bunch of people who are excited and really want to hear it and that’s fueled my fire.
Throughout Woodland Hills, you’re bringing people into your world. You reference specific places in the valley that you grew up around. Why was it important to bring people in?
A lot of people don’t get it.
What is there to get?
I called the project Woodland Hills, we shot all the videos in Woodland Hills and did most of the recording there. I’m in my own world. That’s why I really commend Jaden for his whole Syre shit. It’s a whole vibe. If you don’t like it cool but, he’s taking the time to show you what inspires him and what the music looks like.
In the first song off Woodland Hills, “Lonely Boy,” you go right into your relationship with your dad and having “daddy issues.”
Me and my dad don’t really get along. He’s super concerned with the lucrative part of music and not my mental health or me being happy. He kind of doesn’t really give a fuck. I don’t want to run away from that. I want people to know I do struggle with that and it does reflect in my music.
Most people get to a point where they realize whatever issues they’re having with their parents are starting to negatively impact their growth as a human being. When did you realize that your issues with your dad were affecting not only your art but your growth as a human being?
Probably 2017. I definitely realized I was in this really toxic relationship. I felt like everything in my life was going [well], but I was like, ‘Why are things going wrong?’ And then I was like, ‘fuck, my relationship with my dad isn’t great.’ I went back to Florida and realized that when you don’t go deep and deal with shit, all types of shit will stem from it. I would be in the studio and get into an argument with an engineer or a disagreement with someone. It would literally have nothing to do with my dad but at the same time, it kinda did. The way I handled things and handle aggression and get upset, it all comes from that. I can’t be in control as in making the situation better but I can accept it. This is my dad and this is how he is and we don’t get along and that’s fine.
On that same song, you also clear the air in regards to your sexuality.
It paints a picture of where I’m at and where my vibe is. I want people to know it’s okay not to be okay. None of this shit is a gimmick or a cute aesthetic.
Identifying as anything other than straight has become something that a lot of current artists and some of your musical peers use as a gimmick or a cute aesthetic. They dance around in ambiguity when it comes to their sexuality for attention.
It’s not authentic. I meet these niggas and they’re straight as can be and they’re like, “I’m not really on that gay shit.” When the smoke and mirrors clear, the only thing that’s left is real. I think JAY-Z said that to Jaden. So when all these niggas start disappearing, only the realest will be here. When I started to pick up on the industry and that being an aesthetic, I wanted to be like, ‘I’m not one of those niggas. I see it. This is who we are and this is who I am and I’m proud of it.’
For more of dylAn’s music, head here.