If you’ve been paying attention to the D's music scene, you’re aware of its resurgence over recent years. More and more artists have been making names for themselves and receiving widespread attention. And, for the most part, they're sticking to the sound that's synonymous with Detroit hip-hop. It's no doubt that Tee Grizzley's "First Day Out" played a seminal role in the newfound light cast over Detroit. But it's important to acknowledge some of the other Detroit spitters grinding, many of whom tend to fly under the radar commercially.
7 Mile Clee happens to be one of those artists. A hustler at heart and product of Detroit's East Side, he’s one of the most prolific artists I've come across from the Midwest. This year to date he's delivered five projects, the latest being his musical journey From the D 2 the Bay.
I recently got a chance to chop it up with Clee about his new album. But it didn't stop there. We also wrapped about the close bond he shares with his father, how he got into breeding Cane Corsos and the passing of his older brother. Some other topics we discussed included his friendships with Dame Dot and Microwave Man, his workout regimen in the gym and his formula for writing and recording. Peep the interview below.
You recently dropped your project From the D 2 the Bay. I know there's been a connection between the Bay Area and Detroit for years, but what inspired you to record this album?
I wanted to give my guys down in California an opportunity. They're underground just like me. When people think of California, they think of E-40, Snoop Dogg, they don’t think of the local underground artists like myself. I said, ‘Fuck it, I’ll put something together.’ I gotta bunch of guys out there that rap so it really wasn’t hard for me to do. I just tapped in with the Bay Area.
How long have you been visiting the Bay?
Since like 2009, 2008. I’ve been going out to Cali for years – Bay Area, LA, Sacramento, all over that mu’fucka, for real.
You got any favorite spots?
My favorite spot is San Francisco. I love it there. It ain’t nothing like home, but if I had to move right now, that’s where I’m going.
Ima keep it all the way real. The area I grew up in, Gratiot and 7 Mile, it was rough, but I was spoiled. A lot of the stuff I chose to do, I ain’t have to do. My parents worked nine-to-fives — retired from Chrysler. My mom’s a registered nurse, all that type of stuff. I just adapted to what I grew up around.
Man, I was not expecting you to say that.
One thing about me, I don’t fabricate shit. It is what it is. It ain’t, 'I did it' or 'I was about to do it,' it’s either 'I did it' or 'I didn’t.'
What’s one of your favorite childhood memories, something that you still reminisce about?
Just getting in the car and riding with my pops. He used to pick me up. We would ride, hit my granny’s house, my auntie’s house. He always kept me with him. That’s why I always have my son with me. My daddy, I’m his youngest child, so he always had me. He wasn’t the type to drop me off to a babysitter. My pops, that’s my best friend. No matter what, he’s gonna tell me wrong from right.
When y'all were riding around, what was in rotation? Rap? Soul?
He never listened to rap. Never. He listened to the O’Jays, Levert, Maxwell. He loved the Temptations. That was, like, his shit. The Dramatics. Brothers Johnson. All that good stuff. That’s why I’ll ride to old school music. I listen to everything.
On a few different projects of yours, you make the reference, ‘My pops told me, ‘Never accept defeat.’ Why does that still stick in your head to this day?
When I was little, I grew up in the ‘hood. You know, as kids, we fought. We did things we weren’t supposed to do. In my neighborhood, I used to get into a lot of fights, and my pops used to be like, 'No matter what, you win or lose, just don’t accept defeat.' [Since then], I don’t never accept defeat. I might be down or whatever but I’m not gonna ever quit. I’ll never stop. Nobody can say I quit. I done been through hell and back. I done lost everything I worked and grinded for and got that shit back, but I ain’t never quit. I done been down to zero dollars, all my bills due — I ain’t never quit. That shit [my father taught me] stuck with me.
It depends on how my day’s going. Some days, I wake up, I might have 30, 40 emails. It might be all beats. I might just go to the gym, skim through the beats, if I like it, I drop. Once I start dropping and get to, like, my fifth song, I already know what I’m about to name the project. I already know where I’m going with it. I already know who I want on it and when it’s going to come out. My work ethic is crazy. To drop a project, it can take me three studio sessions. When I go to the studio, I might have five or six artists there at the same time to knock songs out. I’m knocking out four songs every time I go to the studio, easy. When I start writing, it just comes to me. Them first couple of bars, it tells me if I’m about to talk about hustling, traveling, how the streets are making me feel…it goes by the type of beat I got. All my music is about how I’m feeling. What it took for me to get to where I’m at. What I might have just did on vacation. I can’t see myself rapping about another person, and I don’t really make songs for females because, I don’t got no bad blood with females, but I don’t want to diss them. It’s already enough bitches, hoes and sluts, and I don’t want to make no song about fucking a bitch, dogging her out, trashing her out. My shit is really for street purposes only, but I’ve been trying to get out of that loop and broaden my horizon.
You're part of the Forever Gutta roster. How did you link up with Dame Dot and join the squad?
I used to always be at this studio, like, Hayes and 7 Mile, over in the Red Zone. Dame was one of the only guys that knew how to work the computer. They would always call him up there to record. But Dame was a member of Team Eastside at the time, so, me, 80s and Dame Dot and, uh, GT, we used to always be together. Dame branched off from Team Eastside and started Forever Gutta. We were together every day so we clicked up. We ain’t never look back.
You mentioned being at a studio in the Red Zone. I used to hear a lot about there being crews in Detroit, but listening to people like you, Dame and a few others, I’ve learned that there’s a gang presence, too.
Yeah, it’s gangs. Where I grew up at, that’s like…Detroit is setup east-west. On the East Side, you’ve got 8 mile, 7 mile, 6 mile, Gratiot, East Warren, Woodear, it’s all little different sections. Basically, every section there’s some shit that’s been around there forever, some shit that was started way before we were born. Me, I was born in the Red Zone. I was born and raised over there. All the niggas that I grew up around, they were bloods, Head Bangers, Vice Lords, Piru, shit like that. That’s just what it was in the neighborhood. Then you might go a mile or two up and it might be some GDs, Crips, it just depends on where you grew up at.
I also learned how dope Cousin Fik was by listening to your music. I knew he was E-40's artist and I used to see his name here and there but never got around to checking out his music.
That’s my guy. Cousin Fik, he’s the definition of a real artist. This guy produces, mixes, masters, records. When I first went up there with Fik, he pulled up on me, he had the whole studio in his car. We ain’t have to do nothing but get some food. We worked, we dropped and when he came out here, we showed ‘em love. We partied. We turned up. All of it. That’s my guy. 100. Shout out to Cali. The whole Bay Area show me love. When I be out there I be feeling bad ‘cuz I don’t have time to hang with everybody. The whole San Francisco, Oakland area, Richmond, Sac, they fuck with a nigga. Everyday all day, they’re posting my shit, tagging me in it. I got nothing but love and respect for Cali.
Quiet is kept, we’ve got something coming real soon. SB, that’s my in-house engineer. I’ll record other places but I choose not to because SB knows my sounds, my vocals, the plug-in I want. We’ve got a chemistry. We help each other. He’ll call me and say, ‘What do you think about this?’ I’ll be like, ‘It’s okay,’ or ‘It’s hard,’ or however the song is. We don’t sugarcoat shit with each other. SB, he’s got about as many projects as me or more. We stay working. Our work ethic, we’re old school with it. We’re like Penny and Shaq. I’m droppin’, like, every other month. He’s droppin’, like, every other month. He’s passing it to me, I’m passing it back. We like Penny and Shaq with that shit. And SB is from the West Side, I’m from the east. We’re interlocking with so many different people just by his big ass crowd and my big ass crowd.
When you're not rapping, what’s a typical day like for you?
Wake up, feed the kids, hit the gym and fuck with the dogs. I breed dogs, Cane Corsos. My kids and my kennel, that takes up a whole lotta time of my day. After I do that, I shoot my rounds, check on my people to make sure everything good. Other than that, I live a normal life. It ain’t too much different. I got to get out and pay bills, run errands, do school drop-offs, football practices, help out with the football team. My son’s team, they’re top five in the nation. I’m really just a normal parent. It ain’t nothing too crazy or cliché. I go out to eat. I go out of town, go to the movies, hang with my girl. I don’t really do nothing outta the ordinary. I just live life.
How’d you get into breeding dogs?
My homeboys in Cali. I’m out there fucking with them, seeing how the dog protect their crib, protect their kids and I just had to have one. Maximo's Kennels. Max Tran, that’s my guy. If you wanna real dog, Italian mastiff, that’s the guy you need to see, or you can see me. We ship ‘em all over the world. They’re AKC registered, ICCF certified. A doggie will cost you about $2,500. To be honest, I can’t keep enough puppies.
You rhyme about working out in some of your music. Take me through a day for you in the gym.
My shit be crazy ‘cuz I been to the joint before. I be on some shit that normal mu’fuckas ain’t gonna do if they ain’t never been that way, ya feel me? When I go in the gym, I superset everything. I workout on two body parts a day. But before I workout, I put 225 on the flat bench and I do three sets of 6-8 reps and I superset it with 15 to 20 pullups. I do three sets of that and I go on to my workout.
Man, my brother died cutting the grass, bruh. He was a big guy. He had a massive heart attack. That’s what really got me in the gym. He was outside cutting my step mom’s grass and shit. My brother was like 6’5, 300-plus. He was cutting the grass on a hot ass day in August. He passed out and had a heart attack. As he had a heart attack, he had an aneurysm from his arteries being so clogged. His artery was like 97 percent clogged when we finally got the autopsy back. I was like, 'Man, what the fuck was he doing for his arteries to be so clogged?' And that shit fucked my whole life up, bruh. That really woke me up.
I’m sorry to hear that, man. I’m sure he’s happy to see you out here making moves.
Oh, yeah, that’s my guy right there. He used to call me a dummy. He’d be like, ‘Bro, stop being a dummy. Think about shit before you do it.’ So if I’m about to do some shit and I ain’t thinking about it, I can just hear him like, ‘Dummy, think about it. Don’t make no dumb decisions.’ Mu’fuckas will let you do some shit that they know they could have prevented you from doing.
You and Microwave Man have a few songs together. He's another Michigan artist I vibe with.
Man, that’s my world right there. That’s who told me, ‘Don’t stop rapping.’ That’s who made me come to the studio, sit in the studio. That’s my nigga ‘til death do us part. We’ve been through so much shit together, beyond this music shit. Microwave Man, he’s the first nigga that ever told me, ‘Out of everybody that rap, you’re gonna be the nigga that get the deal.’ He was telling me this in, like, 2012. I was rapping on his shit. He was like, ‘Bruh, drop your own shit.’ He was paying $500 for a 10-hour block at Collective Studios. That’s like where T.I. and them come record when they’re here. So we up in Collective for five or six hours smoking that bitch out, coming up with hits. We’re dropping it, and the hood is going crazy about that shit. Microwave’s work ethic is crazy. He’s got like 15 CDs. I’m like, ‘Damn, bruh, I gotta catch up.’ I start dropping. I’m dropping twice a year, three times a year. I look up, I got a catalog all because of bruh.
I appreciate the time. What's next for you?
I appreciate you, bruh. Yeah, I’m dropping on Halloween. THC 2.