Young Lace Discusses His "Above Average" Mixtape, Work With DJ Mustard
Exclusive: The basketball hopeful-turned-rapper explains his role in the Los Angeles Hip Hop movement of the future, and playing high school hoops with James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
Sometimes your dreams aren’t what you thought they were. For Los Angeles, California rapper Young Lace, this is couldn’t be more true. As a basketball prospect, Lace reached the pinnacle of youth stardom, achieving Second Team All-State while battling on the hardwood with future NBA stars like James Harden and Russell Westbrook. He parlayed this success into a scholarship for an academic fifth year at a prep school in North Carolina, but a heart condition forced him to reconsider his dream of playing in the pro's.
Since 2007, however, Young Lace has made great strides by hanging up the basketball kicks and picking up a pad and pen. During a stint in Folsom State Prison, Lace spent his free time writing rhyme after rhyme. After doing his time, Lace got out and quickly reunited with old friend DJ Mustard, who had recently achieved success of his own as the producer of Tyga’s smash hit “Rack City.” The two collaborated on Lace’s recent Above Average mixtape, with Mustard as the host. Lace released the first single, “Bad Bitches & Good Weed,” and since then, the video has generated over half a million hits. What’s more, he has caught the attention of and collaborated with rappers like Wiz Khalifa and Kid Ink, resulting in collaborations. Not bad for five months on the scene.
Like many, Young Lace’s path to stardom has been a tricky one. It’s also probably not the career he envisioned. It’s something he thinks about all the time, “Even though I’m still hustling, it’s a blessing to be in the position I’m in and I’ve just got to keep on saying I’m humbled,” says Young Lace during a recent phone interview with HipHopDX. Check out what else he had to say below:
HipHopDX: I saw you just celebrated your 24th Birthday, so Happy Birthday.
Young Lace: I appreciate that, my dude. That was last week in Atlanta, but we’re doing a party tonight out here too, kinda like my L.A. party tonight. At a club out here called MyStudio tonight.
DX: Oh word. Well what have you been up to recently?
Young Lace: Lately man, I’ve just been promoting my last project, Above Average - it’s a project by DJ Mustard. And I’ve just been traveling around, doing shows and interviews, pretty much just getting the music heard for people who aren’t aware of what we’ve got going on out here.
DX: You mentioned Above Average, what’s the reaction to that project been like?
Young Lace: It’s been real good; it’s been nice to get the ball rolling. It’s doing good on the Internet, it’s also doing good out here - mainly in the streets though. A lot of the songs have been playing in the clubs and playing in the streets, so it’s actually a different kind of look than I’m normally used to with just the internet love and stuff like that.
DX: Yeah that must be pretty cool to go in the club and hear your stuff playing.
Young Lace: Yeah, exactly. It’s a different look. For the last couple years it’s always been non-stop Internet and random shit, so to be out [to have] people actually loving the music in the streets in different cities, different states and to be getting the kind of love that we’re getting- it’s humbling, man. But at the same time, it’s inspiring it makes you want to keep working hard.
DX: Definitely. You mentioned DJ Mustard before, can you tell me a little about how you two got in touch?
Young Lace: I’ve known [DJ] Mustard since about ’09. But when I went away and did some time in jail... for about a year, and I got out, while I was gone he was doing songs, he did [Tyga's] “Rack City” and all that. We got linked back up because my brother- Cashout Kidd- actually did an appearance on a YG’s mixtape along with Casey Veggies. So we got linked back up that way, it was already just a no-brainer; Mustard was loving the music and when you feel the love, it definitely helps out.
DX: Nice. So you guys knew each other back in the day. Does that mean you’ll probably be working a lot more in the future?
Young Lace: Yeah, of course. Mustard’s probably doing my single; we’re working on a single right now. So we’re just trying to figure it out, maybe about doing something with [Nipsey Hussle]; [Action Bronson] just sent us some stuff today, and working with Lil Reese from Chief Keef Camp. And you know, just working with a whole bunch of people. Kid Ink, a lot of people, man.
DX: Nice. You mentioned you did a little time in Folsom State Prison. After that you really took off and got the ball rolling. What were those first few weeks of freedom like?
Young Lace: Oh man. Shit. I’m still on a natural high from that freedom. It’s been five months. I mean the first couple weeks [were] definitely- that’s where all the songs from Above Average popped up, and that was all like the first couple weeks of me coming home. And all the music got wrote while I was gone. So I came home, I dropped “Bad Bitches & Good Weed”- that was the first thing I dropped. And you know, it was a different flow, it was slower, more laid back, slower than you were used to. And it actually did real, real good; we’re up to like half a million hits on YouTube with that. And at the same time, it just allowed me to get the ball rolling for what I was trying to do.
But my time away definitely helped me mentally, physically and just getting better musically, of course.
DX: Switching gears a little bit, you mentioned that you knew Mustard from back in the day, your brother is Cashout Kidd and he’s been on some of your material. When did you first start marketing yourself as a rapper? How old were you?
Young Lace: I started doing music in about 2007, taking it real serious. I was a basketball player; I played basketball in college, all the way through high school. So I actually stopped playing basketball when I got hurt in 2007, and I had a heart condition that held me back from playing competitively. So I just came home from school; I went to school in North Carolina... and I came home from school in ’07. Kind of the end of ’07, like November or December. And ever since then I’ve just been learning to do everything on my own. I engineer my own music; I was managing myself for a long time. Just to have a situation where I finally have a little bit of money behind me and to get paid to do what I want to do, it’s just a blessing, honestly just the way things are going.
DX: Where in Carolina were you playing basketball?
Young Lace: I was playing at a place called Charis Prep. I went to a prep school for a fifth year out there and I wound up going to Charis playing and whatnot. But in high school I was Second Team All-City out here in L.A. All kinds of stuff, man, I probably could have went to a Division I school, but I was more focused on going to a school that would allow me to focus on me and get myself to where I wanted to go- to the League. But things just didn’t work out that way.
DX: I feel like stylistically, basketball and Hip Hop share a lot of similarities. Would you agree with that?
Young Lace: Absolutely. Of course, it’s the exact same thing. I mean, when it comes to basketball, of course, it’s about skill. When it comes to music, of course it’s about skill but at the same time it’s about who you know, and that’s with anything. Basketball is like... you know, there are certain players that are destined to be a certain kind of player, and I feel the same goes for anything in life, not just music.
But music is definitely a very close similarity. That’s why it was so easy for me to make the transition. I still stay in touch- you know I got a couple boys that are in the League. Two of them play for the Oklahoma City Thunder: James Harden actually was helping me out a lot. And Russell Westbrook, we all grew up together and played on separate teams, graduated the same year, everything. So I definitely still stay in touch with my people that still play and show them nothing but love. Regardless, we all have just taken different paths.
DX: That’s incredible, man, growing up with James Harden and Russell Westbrook. What was that like?
Young Lace: [Laughs] Russell Westbrook was the one who beat me in the playoffs my senior year and ruined my dreams of winning a championship. We had a battle - he went to Leuzinger High School and I went to Hollywood [High School]. We had a close shootout. I think he had like 40 that game, I had like 31 or something. But we lost and I was sick about that. So I still hold that grudge against him for that game, but that’s my boy though.
DX: So are you a Thunder fan, or do you root for the Lakers or Clippers?
Young Lace: I’m a Laker fan, but definitely I would root for OKC once the Lakers lost, that’s definitely my second team. Whenever they come to town I go to the games whether it’s Lakers or Clippers.
DX: No doubt. Growing up in L.A. you were exposed to so much good Hip Hop. What were you listening to growing up? Who were your favorites?
Young Lace: Growing up, of course you’ve got to say ‘Pac, that goes without any questions. Tupac, [Dr. Dre], Ice Cube, all the West Coast Legends. But at the same time, I was born in ’88; I probably started listening to Hip Hop heavy in about ’95. And I was always just- I loved the flashy stuff. I always loved like the Bad Boy [Records days], you know, [Notorious B.I.G.] the early days. Just so many eras of Hip Hop; Jay-Z- I can go on for days talking about all the Hip Hop I listened to growing up. It’s just hundreds of people.
DX: Do you feel like there’s still a signature West Coast sound or style like the one from back in the day?
Young Lace: Of course. They changed the sound, and I mean, we changed the sound. Actually the sound right now is more of that club, ratchet sound. Right now, that’s what’s evolving. You know, I’m not too much really in that range- I have a couple records [with] the Mustard beats and I’ve worked with Y.G. before and stuff like that. But that’s not something that’s naturally my range.
But I would definitely say that’s the L.A. sound right now; the sound Y.G.’z and Tyga are pushing. But there’s people along the way- like right now it’s Kid Ink and myself and other artists - who are trying to change the sound and not just have people realize that once again, everybody’s saying it’s all gangster music and riding low-riders, and all they think we do is make wacker music and [are] just ignorant. It’s not always the same, [there’s] always someone else who’s making a push for something different. You know I think that kind of music is what’s going to have me having a long career in the game, ‘cause it’s not music that gets you on quick, it’s something that you have to sit down and really master, and master your sound ‘cause it doesn’t sound like anybody else.
DX: If you could put a word on it, how would you describe that sound that you’re going for?
Young Lace: That sound, one word? The one word would have to be “waze.” W-A-Z-E. That’s what we push, man, the waze is everything. That’s the sound that everybody that’s a part of my crew, we all have different ways/waze that at the end of the day you can tell is our signature sound [that] is going to be on every song that you hear.
DX: Word. This year alone, you’ve been blowing up on Youtube and mixtapes. Do you feel like rising to fame in the Hip Hop world may have been easier than you originally thought?
Young Lace: Hell no [laughs]. Hell no, if I knew it was this hard I probably would have just tried to go back to school or something. But once you’re already so deep in something and you’ve been working so hard, you’re left with no choice. But like I said, to anybody out there’s who’s trying to get into this game and really be a part of it, really live- there’s a million rappers, but a person can tell and has respect for a person who’s living the same lifestyle that they’re living. Or they’re hustling the same way the other’s hustling. So to be able to live this life, it’s not easy. It’s stressful and we go through stuff every day, but at the same time we’re doing what we love to do, that’s pretty much our main focus and that’s what I’m taking care of myself and my family doing. And even though I’m still hustling, it’s a blessing to be in the position I’m in and I’ve just got to keep on saying I’m humbled to be in the position I’m in. Honest.
DX: Do you feel like you’re controlling your own destiny just because you aren’t obligated to be on a label right now?
Young Lace: Oh I’m definitely controlling my own destiny. I’m definitely running my own show; I finally added an addition to [this] year. I mean, for years now I’ve been doing this all on my own and finally- shout out to Brian McKinney. I wouldn’t say he’s my manager, but he’s definitely overlooking what I’m doing. And we go back-and-forth on a lot of stuff, and it’s just a good thing to have a checkbook finally available.
You’ve got to put something in yourself to make [the final product] look the way you want it to look, and we’ve been doing all this stuff with no budget. And now to be able to get there is amazing.
DX: That’s awesome. Just a couple more questions here. Do you have any plans for a studio album, or do you enjoy life on the mixtape circuit right now?
Young Lace: That’s a great question. I definitely have a plan for a studio album, I’d like to say I’ve been working on it for years now, I would like to say that. I don’t have a name for it, it’s not something that we’ve specifically sat down and focused on. But there’s tons of records [that are] sitting in my iTunes that haven’t been put out that I feel are huge records, that aren’t just records that go on a mixtape or just get put out. So I think definitely by next year, we should be coming out with an album- it’ll probably be an independent album first. That’s the pursuit I’m trying to follow, is doing my own thing. And that’s when I drop an independent album, maybe we start hollering at the [major labels] and seeing what they’re talking about, ‘cause right now, the answer really is just, “no,” they haven’t been taking too many meetings or too many phone calls, they’re not really giving us what we’re feeling to work right now. So we’ve just got to do what we do, and when that time comes, man, there’ll definitely be an album coming out.
DX: Word. So you’ve got an album in the works. Any tours or guest appearances that you’re working on?
Young Lace: Yeah right now I’m just doing my Above Average Tour, I’m traveling with my brother, Ca$h Out, and we’ve been doing shows. Special guests, you know I’ve got my boy Dez, brought him out a couple times. Also my boy from West L.A., Mann. So we’ve just been doing our thing, we just got back from Atlanta a couple days ago from doing a show out there and got a couple interviews, got a lot of love. But we’re definitely negotiating some stuff, man, we’ve got some stuff on the way. We can’t speak on everything we’re negotiating, but there’s tours in the works and definitely some big collaborations on the way.