Having lived in West Virginia, Texas, Arizona, and now sunny Los Angeles, Ponce De’Leioun is ready to prove once and for all he has a place in this rap game. Having been in the game for a minute, Ponce is a man about his paper. And for good reason too — the “Django” rapper tells the story of a kid who made it out the streets and made something of himself through his music. Read more…
Hopping on Tim Westwood 5 years ago was no coincidence, as the reality of his rap dreams coming into fruition sunk in. Fast forward to this year, he releases a record called “Outside” with OG Maco, and more recently a trap banger called “Breadmakers” with Hardo. Aside from the music, it’s his high-energy shows that fans can’t help but flock to.
And if you were at LA’s Swisher Sweet Artist Project showcase, he was there too.
For those who don’t know, who is Ponce De’Leioun?
I’m named after Ponce De’Leioun, who is a Spanish explorer. Coming from the east coast of West Virginia, I always wanted to just travel. That was the main thing that really got me into leaving. Obviously, I make music, that’s how I ended up in Texas, London, Arizona, everywhere else. In West Virginia, people don’t leave. They don’t even know what exists in this world. Once I left, I began chasing music. I started making the music, branding myself. I’m me. I’ve always managed myself. I’m a boss. That’s what it is.
Where do you fit in the realm of hip-hop and R&B?
I’m about to put a lot new music out. I feel like right now, it’s on a vibe. It’s more catchy. Before, it was a little different, because I was in a different place in life. My mindset was different. Obviously, you think different, your music is going to be different. Now, I just feel like it’s good energy.
So you never lived in Houston or you did?
I stayed in Dallas and I stayed in Austin. Houston, I was in and out.
When did you move to LA?
I was born in LA, that’s why I always wanted to come back. My dad’s family is from the East Coast, it’s a whole other world there. It’s not poppin’. There’s no music, there’s no labels, there’s no nothing. When you’re doing what I’m doing, which is rapping, you’re being looked at as the outcast from the inside. This is my state, but I’m rapping. There, it’s a country ass state. It’s West Virginia. The first time I came back out here it was 3 years ago. It was right after college and all that. I left 2 months after, then I did all the traveling. Now, I just came back out here in December.
Was the traveling just because you wanted to or was it for your career?
It was really the shows. We got into the college network. Once we got tapped in there, we could book shows whenever. In Texas, there’s so many… you can drive an hour and be in another part of Texas. The crowd is going to be just as loud, just as hyped, and they’re going to pay you. You gonna get your money. We learned how to ride off of those college crowds. From there, it was so easy to just do a show, film it, and then market it to the other college crowds. Just smart shit. I went to school for marketing so I’m big on business. That’s really what the traveling was, just being able to go network and meet new people.
How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
It’s mad important, but it has to be the right timing. You come out here too early, they low key will chew you up too fast. I came back here thinking I want to be an A-list artist, an A-List individual. I don’t make music like these type of people, I make a certain type of music. There’s different levels of where you want to be in your career. LA is that place you can meet anyone at any given time and take your career to the sky. The energy is another thing. Growing up on the East Coast, I can tell you, people don’t even really understand energy. Then you get out here and you see how important energy is. The people you meet, the things you do, the way you even live is mad important. These other places, you don’t experience it. You don’t get it at all. You get it here and it changes everything.
Even last night at Teyana Taylor’s show, everybody was back there.
People come to LA for 2 days and they’re like, “Oh my god, I never want to leave. This shit’s crazy, I met all these people.” It’s that spot. If you really want to invest your time and your money into whatever you’re doing, LA is the place to do it at. You can do it in other places, but you’re not going to get the same certain results.
I went back to your record “Django” from 2015. How has your sound evolved since?
Oh man, that’s like evolution of life. Because I was still back in West Virginia, in this more trap type of situation. Everything I was saying in that song was literally how I felt. Being there, there’s not much to like. You work a 9am-5pm, you have kids, and you die. That’s about it. Everyone there is accustomed to that and is cool with it. Wanting to get out then, my music was very aggressive. It was a lot more lyrical, because I was either always angry or always like, “I got to get the hell out of here.”
I like that though, because you’re actually spitting real shit.
Yeah, that was probably some of the best shit definitely. Obviously, more money comes in, you experience more, and then it just starts changing. I didn’t even realize it until probably after a year of really traveling because I’m not sitting in the same spot anymore. I’m not mad. I’m not in the same situation. Now, the things I like to do, the life I live now is a lot more of a luxury life compared to then. So the music is a lot different. I’m not stressed and I’m not struggling, so I’m not talking about it. I’m talking about what it seems like everyone is talking about. I’m really buying these clothes. I got receipts that are $4,000 or $5,000 in these stores. The music now isn’t near as aggressive. It’s mad chill. It’s relaxed.
In “Django,” you said if you weren’t rapping, you’d be flipping bricks. Talk about your journey as a rapper, at what point did you realize this was forreal?
I’ve been rapping now forever low key. I did the joint with Tim Westwood in 2013, 2014. I was still in school at the time. But when I did that and the fact I did it from West Virginia forreal, my mindset was like “you can’t really lose after this.” When you go to Tim Westwood, usually you’ve already completely blown up. You’re everywhere. I did none of this shit. I just got this invitation and boom, I’m out here.
He hit you up?
Yeah, crazy. I hit Tim Westwood up trying to get a mixtape host. His manager emailed me back and was like, “We don’t do mixtape hosts.” I’m thinking they were going to say like “2 bands,” so I’m like whatever. I took a chance and sent a paragraph saying who I am, where I was from, etc. They didn’t send anything back, so I’m like “fuck it, whatever.” They emailed me back 15 days later and said “What’s your artist name again?” I gave it to them… nothing.
3 days later, they hit me back up like, “Yo if you’re ever in London, we want you to do an interview. We want you to come here.” I’ve never been to London. I didn’t have a passport, nothing. From there, we went to the 1st one and then the 2nd year, he invited me right back out. But when I did it, immediately in my mind it was just like, “Alright, this is what I’m doing.” You don’t get offered certain opportunities and then are just like, “Oh I’m not going to do this shit, I’m not going to take this shit serious.”
What do you have going on music-wise? Are you working on a project?
We pretty much have a project finished. The last 5 or 6 months, we’ve just been shooting music visuals, just getting a lot of videos ready. We’re going to take the Wordstar route. Blow up Worldstar, that’s low key the plan. I’ve been working with a lot of different people in the industry, so a handful of different features. But the main thing I’ve been doing is the visuals.
Is there a name yet?
I’m not really sure what I’m going to call it yet, but the vibes are great vibes. By far the best music I’ve ever made.
Talk about linking with OG Maco on “Outside.” What was the dynamic in the studio?
Me and Maco made that song in legit 3 hours. The song came out great, probably one of my favorite songs. I just got back in town and was like, “Let’s link back up and make this happen.” He told me before he came, “Man, I’m trying to get some shit off my chest.” For us to go in there and create the song in minimum hours, and for it to sound the way it sounds, that’s dope. Maco is a real chill dude, I like him a lot. He’s mad smart.
Hard work and dedication is a huge mantra of yours. Talk about your work ethic and who inspires you.
I mean, I don’t sleep. I’m all about my business. I’m a Capricorn.
See, that’s the energy right there. I’m all about the hard work. When I was younger, I got kicked out of school because I was just always wildin’ out. To see from there, literally being put out of school and people being like, “You’ll never do this, you’ll never do that,” to be where I’m at now and having the same people that told me I wasn’t going to do this still following what I’m doing, it shows you that you can literally do whatever.
The time you put into it is exactly what you’re going to get out of it. If you’re going to put a week’s work into whatever the craft is, that’s what you’re going to get. If you don’t waste time and you invest your time and your money into what you really want to do, all of it, then you’re going to be good.
I graduated 3 years ago, I got a degree. My diploma is still at the university. I never even picked it up, I left 2 weeks later. My mind was literally like “I’m going to LA, I’m going to do whatever I need to do to get in with these people.” 3 years later, my diploma still sitting there. My mom tells me, “Go get it, go get it.” But my mindset was like “if I pick up my diploma and then go out to LA, I’m going to get a job.” That’s not the life I want to live.
How important is social media for your career?
Social media is everything, low key. Even though right now, social media is so fucked up. [laughs] Being able to brand yourself and market yourself before actually seeing people, it makes a huge difference. Obviously, your network is your net worth. If you can network with people the right way, you can damn near get in any door you want to, depending on what you’re doing and how you’re branding yourself. Not even artists, but really just for anybody. Anyone that’s trying to brand something, social media is huge. Your picture goes a long way.
3 things you need in the studio?
Weed. I don’t really like people in there. When there’s too many people in there, like extra shit, I get mad. I be wanting to fight. I need lights, red lights or blue lights. Red gives you that crazy vibes and blue gives you that chill vibe. I’m real simple really. I like to get in my zone and just work.
Favorite song to perform in a set?
What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?
That would have to be the messages they send. I get mad messages. Like how you mentioned “Django,” people messaging me from 3, 4, 5 years ago like, “Yo, it’s crazy to see this, this, and this.” Especially coming from where I’m from and people having actually seen it, the reactions I get that way are better than anything. In person, I feel like I throw people off because I’m way more chill than they expect me to be. I feel like the people are low key upset sometimes.
Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
Right now, it would be Gunna and Lil Baby.
Sheesh…. [laughs] It used to be Cole, but he doesn’t entertain me the way he used to. I used to fuck with Cole heavy. I’m supposed to do this record with Trippie Redd. That’ll be a dope record, just ‘cause the sounds he makes and the sounds I make.
Anything else you want to let us know?
Project coming, visuals coming. I’m out here. I ain’t going nowhere.