AD was born and raised in Compton. Aside from being a phenomenal rapper with a huge personality, real name Armand Douglas has seen the worst of the worst in his neighborhood. At age 18, he witnessed his friend get shot on the porch of his own home. 

But AD is not your average street rapper. He doesn’t like to be stereotyped, which is evidenced in his club-heavy bangers such as “Juice” and “Strapped.” Aside from the realness and authenticity in both his demeanor and lyrics, the West Coast spitter has been going hard on the independent grind, giving hope to all aspiring rappers who also hope to make it on their own terms. When it comes to his sound, he just records what he’s feeling in that moment — which typically is some type of intuition.

Fast forward to 2019, AD unleashes his new project By The Way 2, with features everyone from Trey Songz to G Perico to O.T. Genasis. L.A. Weekly caught up with AD to discuss the reality of life growing up in Compton, being in a battle rap group with 03 Greedo, and freestyling the entire project.

Why should people fuck with you?

For one, I can lyrically handle the whole industry myself. I got a dope personality, got a great story to tell, and got even better music.

What is your story to tell? 

Growing up in Compton, I’ve seen and been in the middle of a lot of bullshit. As a kid, you’re exposed to things the average 9-, 10-year-old shouldn’t be exposed to. On my daddy’s side, I’ve got family members: crackheads, crack babies. Living in my neighborhood influenced by gangbanging. Homeboys walking home from school, people trying to fight you like “you need to be from here.” You can’t go to the store, someone trying to steal your bike. You’re exposed to death at a young age. You start losing friends real early. I lost one of my closest friends at 18, he got killed on my porch.

Are you serious? Shot on your porch?

Hell yeah, shot dead on my porch. House got hit up like 30 times.

Where were you?

I had just pulled up. 30 seconds went by, I probably would’ve been right there. I used to be with a group of 14, 15 people. The streets life took people away.  My homeboy didn’t gangbang, no one was targeting him. Just happened to be outside at the wrong time. Growing up in Compton when people think you’re of age, you can just get hit. You in the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time, you hanging outside, it don’t matter. 13- or 14-years-old, somebody can gun you down. You get exposed to that.

The only thing that helped me out, kept me from a lot of bullshit me and my friends were doing, was music. Go in the house, I had a little Mickey Mouse mic I’d plug in. Upload shit to Myspace, YouTube, wherever I can get my music heard. Because as soon as you walk outside, your homeboys live across the street, around the corner. They knocking on your door in the morning. That was an escape for me while everything else is going on around me. You become numb. You go to funeral after funeral after funeral… I’ve probably been to more funerals than most people have in their lifetime. 

Was it traumatic after your friend got shot? 

Yeah ‘cause it was my own house. At the time, you don’t know if somebody’s looking for you. You don’t know nothing, it’s a million questions. On top of that, your family looking at you like “this your fault.” You getting it from both sides, like fuck! Mentally, that shit breaks people down.

At what point did you realize this music thing was forreal?

I’ma say when YG got signed. A first we’re all doing music in the streets, but it was more a hobby. It didn’t seem like it was gonna pop off for anybody. First time I seen YG get signed, I said “damn, this is possible. A n*gga from the area doing what we doing, turned it into something.” That’s when I really started kicking into gear. “It’s time to go.” 

Talk about battle rapping and coming up with Greedo.

I started battle rapping in middle school, n*ggas were like “you suck.” [laughs] But anything I could do to get into the music. Middle school: battling, battling, battling. Really wasn’t that good, but stayed at it. High school, battle rapping. My school had a lot of people who wanted to be rappers. Our fucking principal — it was dope of her — gave us our own little club. They let us battle rap each other at school assemblies too, really encouraged that creativity. A little bit after high school, MixedByAli (that’s my boy) brought me around the Top Dawg camp early on. Introduced me to Top and everybody. 

This is way before Kendrick, etc?

This was when Jay Rock just got his deal, had his song with Lil Wayne. The jerkin’ shit was going up. Before jerkin’ was defined, no one knew what jerkin’ was. It was just a word. A lot of it was gangbanging dances, so it wasn’t really categorized into kid shit back then. Top Dawg wanted to get some young talent. Ali wanted to bring me to the table, then my homeboy Bubba. He put us in a group. That’s when I met Greedo because Bubba and Greedo were like this [crosses fingers].

At the time, Greedo was already producing, already making 10 to 15 songs a night. We weren’t even making 15 songs a night! Went from that to us all really hanging around each other. As they added him into the group, I kind of fell back from the situation. But we all did work. I still got songs with me and Greedo from 2012, crazy.

What was it like seeing his career take off?

Man that shit was dope as fuck, because he always had the work ethic. That’s why this game is so dope. Back then, Greedo was always going back and forth to jail. He was considered to everybody, “that’s the crazy homie!” Because he was doing drugs, turning up. The first n*gga I knew to get a face tat, he got a big ass face tat. Real wild, but always dope as fuck. Always making his own beats, always putting the extra initiative in. A lot of people weren’t seeing and respecting it. I had a couple homies say “that n*gga gon’ go one day.” 

I didn’t see him for years, he was in jail. When I seen him, shit started fucking taking off. I still got records we did, I ain’t released yet. We actually have a song where he’s saying himself, “we started off in the same group.” Look out for that later.

Talk about your little brother…

17 years with half time for some bullshit, I ain’t gon’ say. My blood brother, same mama, same daddy. Everybody around me, you seen almost 90 percentof people around me just wither away, whether they died, etc. I got homies I’d be with every single day, who lived with me, doing 50 years. Got homies doing 40 years, homies doing 20 years. My own little brother, 17.5 years. Before he went to jail, he had just got out for a year. Seven months later, that happened. It’s sad man, my little brother been in there almost seven years now. While he’s been in there, a countless amount of his friends have been murdered. My grandmother died, he wasn’t there for that. 

I talk to him daily, encouraging him to keep his head on straight. Since he’s been in jail was really when the music’s been going up in the streets. People are like “man, your brother fucking hard.” Sometimes people walk up to him, “that ain’t your fucking brother, you don’t know that n*gga.” He’s like “damn, you really doing your thing out there.” It’s crazy, my life’s been a whirlwind man. A lot of motherfuckers would’ve tapped out. Not me. I don’t look back. I made it how far I’ve made it, all because of God’s faith.  

I’ve been around the most negative people you can ever run across, still ain’t let that consume me. I take care of business. I’m blessed to be where I’m at, to be going where I’m going. Keep a smile on my face because I’ve seen enough of that negative energy.

By The Way 2! Talk about creating this…

By The Way 2 is fucking fire. I was going through a time in life where — I won’t say I wasn’t inspired by the music, but music became a job for me. Versus me having fun with the music. Once you start making money for this music, it starts turning into your fucking 9 to 5. It’s dope, but you don’t look at it the same as a kid dreaming on the corner. At this point, I’ve already made it out the hood. Doing well for myself, drive a nice car, family — what you’d want to accomplish doing music. 

But the inspiration, the dreams, the wants, people lose that once they start attaining things. I remember being that little kid, “I can’t wait to do this, work with this artist…” Now I got songs with these n*ggas. I’m accomplishing my goals. It’s about being inspired again and not looking at the music as a job. I started having fun with this shit again. I freestyled this whole album, top to bottom. Never done that before.

You usually write?

I always write! I had fun with the shit. We had a lot of people in the building, drinking, turning up. That’s the type of vibe By The Way was. I was fucking hungry. I’m talking hungry. I wanted to tear heads off, cement my name in this shit. Now I’m back on that again. I got bigger goals, got more things I want to create, got more things I want to do. This album was dope, just pure fun. Got a lot of the homies on there. I feel like the little kid again with the hopes and dreams, pushing it. 

You mentioned obtaining things were you ever signed?

No, never been signed. I never wanted to model my career after everybody else’s. No disrespect to no label, but a lot of these deals aren’t good. They really don’t have longevity in this game. I look up to somebody like E-40, who can still put out music today, still can be successful and venture on to other things, but still be respected. When he drops, you’re still gonna fuck with it. A lot of other artists can’t do everything they want to do, they don’t have no input.

I always knew eventually, my shit was going to catch up on the independent wave — which it is now. I wanted to do my own thing, model my shit. Not to say I’m against taking a deal, but I had to make sure I was mentally ready. Had everything ready before I can even do that, meaning you have projects making you money already. Already set a foundation for yourself. With or without the label, still going to make your money, still be able to do what you want to do. I want to partner with a label, do like Nip did. Go get a partnership. Not sign no 360 deal or what they think they should give you. Only way you get that is if you bring that value, so we bringing that value.

Did you and Nipsey have a relationship?

That was my homie. Nip was dope. I didn’t even know Nip fucked with me like that. One time I was at the gym at 6 a.m. randomly, working out. He walked up to me like “I fuck with your shit, keep doing what you doing.” Gave me his number. I’m like “shit that’s fucking Nipsey Hussle!” Sometimes you see an artist, especially somebody coming up, you won’t necessarily reach out to them. I do it myself too. You looking like “that’s dope,” but you don’t reach out to them. An artist you think “damn, I want to work with this guy one day,” they already fucking know you and you don’t even know. Even Wiz, I didn’t know Wiz knew me before I met him. It’s dope though. You’ll wonder if this person heard of me, and they fucking really do.

I mean, “Juice” was a slapper!

Super. That moved me out the hood. People don’t understand, I didn’t know what the fuck that record was. Didn’t know what to do, whether to go left or to go right. People telling me this, this, and that. I wasn’t educated on the business side of everything. There’s steps I’d take now that I have the knowledge, that’d amplify it even more. But shit, we ain’t crying over spilled milk. We gon’ do the shit again multiple times and make it happen, you feel me?

Bring us back to the independent grind before “Juice” popped off.

Before “Juice” came out, I had five mixtapes. You feel me? I had my daughter. Man, I had $50 a month.

How did you support yourself and the family? 

My grandmother and my family luckily. I couldn’t support myself. I was trying to find ways to make money. Back then, I used to find the woman I knew had the most money, knock them down and get some paper. On some real gigolo type shit. [chuckles] Christmas time coming, I’ll try to fuck with a woman who had money to give my daughter some Christmas presents. 

Damn son!

Hell yeah, gotta do what you gotta do. My grandma used to take care of the bills. Any little money I got it, that was it. I didn’t really have nothing, but I put everything into the music. 

Right before “Juice” happened for me, I had no expectations. Really nothing was going on for me (in the streets either). Music wasn’t making me a goddamn dollar. After five years of nothing, boom! Something pops up. Your life fucking changes that fast.

Did you think “Juice” would be what it was?

Fuck no! When artists don’t have no money, it’s very hard to get your shit heard pr moving to where people are going to react. I had no money, was really plugging shit up myself. I had the beat for 6 months, didn’t touch it because I said it was dope. It was a catchy beat to me. I came to the studio one day, got drunk, shit came out. Even when I originally dropped it, it didn’t do anything. The day I dropped that song, little to no type of a buzz. I had more personal songs on that project (talking about my life) the streets were fucking with. But “Juice” didn’t do shit. Had it out for three  months before, then OT did what he did. 

What’d O.T. do? 

He’s driving one day, asked his brother “AD got a new mixtape out, give me a song off of there.” He played it. This is him, fresh off “Coco.” He’s counting $400K in cash, banging it on his Instagram. Everybody’s like “what song is this?” TMZ picked the shit up. Everybody’s trying to figure out what song it was. Bam. We started turning the fuck up. First Xzibit played it on his own radio station, I had an interview with him at 93.5. Then DJ Hed asked me to make him a custom version of the song. He helped me out completely. REAL 92.3, we started getting dumb spins on it. I got all this circling at one time, from not having nothing.

How was linking with O.T. Genasis on “MIND”?

I ain’t gon’ say that’s my best friend, that’s my brother. He looked out a lot for me and my career. Still continues to do so with awareness, bringing me out at his concerts. Me and him are real tight knit. 90% of me and his shit both, we should be on there. I’m on his upcoming album too. I don’t want to bring him anything just ‘cause he’s my homeboy, I want to make sure it’s catered to him. We go to the clubs a lot, they bang that shit. We listen to that shit together. “Mind” is fire.

Talk about your friendship with Wiz.

That’s my dog right there. He’s a real genuine person. He don’t follow no fucking trends. He do what he wants to do, drinks what he wants to drink, wears what he wants to wear. He’s one person who encourages his homies to work hard, he supports it. Come on man, you ain’t gotta do four, five songs for me. On top of that: clear it, do videos, put me on your platform, post me up. That’s real n*gga shit. Artists don’t have to do that. He’s helped me since day one. He’s like me man, we with the shits. We’ll fight you, but real playful with it. We have fun like fucking kids, it’s real genuine.

What can we expect at your show at The Echo on August 1st?

I’m turning the fuck up. We’re not making it into a traditional show. Pun’s like, “we need to bring people into your world.” I’m always at the clubs, always having fun. We want to give the fun of environment. You go to a standard concert, stand around, look at the artist, watch them perform — which is dope, but I wanna bring somebody into our world. I hit up the club promoters where I go, team up and give the people an experience.

Implement my club experience with the music. Bring the homies on the records and people I respect — instead of bringing them to perform, come turn up with this big ass party. We play the music, the fans get to turn up with us. That’s what we call an experience, nobody else is doing it. We don’t want to call it a show. We want everybody to come through, pay your motherfucking money, and have a good fucking time. You go back like, “I gotta make the next one.”

Favorite song to perform in a set besides “Juice”?

I love the “Bruce Lee” shit. Lots of high energy. My life is high energy so I want to keep shit high energy. I can mellow it down but I don’t want to, fuck no. 

AD performs with Steven G, Young Blacc and Lil Mexcco at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 1 at The Echo.

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