Q&A w/ Your Old Droog on new album ‘Dump YOD: Krutoy Edition,’ dream collabs & more
Brooklyn rapper Your Old Droog released three albums in 2019 but then had a mostly quiet 2020, until finally emerging with this new album. While his previous album Jewelry found him embracing his Jewish heritage, this new album finds the Ukranian-American rapper exploring his Eastern European roots. Droog does that in his lyrics and with some of his samples, but the overall vibe is still what Droog fans know and love: '90s-style New York rap with bars that hit hard enough to rival Droog's biggest influences. (To quote a line from Droog's 2017 album Packs: "I'm sick of these sycophants that want make their idols proud, I want my hero to hear me and shit his pants." Judging by this new album, his goals haven't changed.) The album was executive produced by Mach-Hommy and produced/mixed by Tha God Fahim, and they both appear on the album, alongside El-P, Black Thought, Phonte of Little Brother, billy woods, and Tvoy. That list includes some of the most legendary MCs to ever appear on a Your Old Droog album, and Droog still stands tall next to the best of them.
Your Old Droog recently released his new album Dump YOD: Krutoy Edition, and as pointed out in my Notable Releases writeup quoted above, it finds him exploring his Eastern European roots while delivering the unique spin on '90s-style New York rap that he's been honing since he broke out with his 2014 self-titled EP. We caught up with Droog over email to ask him some questions about the new album, the music that influenced it, other artists he'd like to collaborate with, and more. Read on for our chat...
Your 2019 album Jewelry spoke about your Jewish heritage and this new one speaks about your Eastern European heritage, and you've mentioned in both cases that it took you a while to fully embrace these roots. Can you talk a bit about what inspired you to dedicate albums to these topics, and what went into the process of exploring these sides of yourself and turning that exploration into songs?
It just felt right. My general life interests started to naturally go in those directions so it came out in the music. Once I saw these elements coming out in the material, a different part of my brain found a way to tie it all together into cohesive projects. I didn’t want to half-ass anything so I went all the way. Those were two parts of my heritage that were largely ignored and I didn’t want to beat around the bush any longer.
What would you say you learned about yourself or your roots while writing the songs for Dump YOD: Krutoy Edition?
I learned that I’m just as nice in Russian as I am in English. Nah, the past few years have been a slow but enriching process of growing, and embracing my roots, away from the music. I think most of the work was done before I ever wrote one bar. Although during the making of the album, there were a few moments of “Wow, I can’t believe I snuffed out this rich cultural history earlier in life, for what exactly?” You know that one rhyme where I said I traded my culture for 4 wings and some hot sauce? Yeah. I spent so many years entrenched in poverty that I associated loose cigarettes, Timberlands, and my immediate surroundings with my identity. That’s not who I am. That barely scratches the surface. I forgot who I was. This album is me remembering who I am.
What do you most hope that listeners learn about you and/or take away from this album?
I don’t really care. I thoroughly enjoyed making this album and I know what it means to me and that’s enough. I’m glad it’s out. If the listeners can take anything away from it, it’s that they are hearing a person who is 100% comfortable with himself and he wasn’t always that way. So, they too, through patience, and hard-work, can master being their authentic selves.
Musically speaking, top five influences on this new album?
Music of Eastern Europe, Music of Israel, Tha God Fahim, Lil Wayne, Igor Stravinsky.
The new album has some legendary guests (Black Thought, El-P, Phonte) - how'd you link up with those guys, and how did being on a track with them challenge you as an artist?
We all crossed paths via mutual respect. It didn’t really challenge me at all because I wrote and recorded my verses on those songs before I knew they were going to be featured on them.
What guest(s) would you most like to do a song with that you haven't already?
Megan Thee Stallion, Rihanna, Dolly Parton, FKA Twigs, Kanye West.