Darnell Williams is here to step out from behind the lens and into the spotlight with his own artistry. The 27-year-old describes himself as the ultimate artist, which includes directing, writing, screenwriting, and rapping. As far as the latter, he plans to become the biggest artist the game has ever seen. Read more…
Hailing from the 7 Mile neighborhood of Detroit, the “Turbo” rapper delivers bars over hard-hitting trap beats — equipped with vivid storytelling. More recently, he’s been flexing his versatility with some slow jams for the ladies, spending the majority of his time perfecting his craft. Currently managed by Roc Nation and signed to 12Tone, Darnell brings his drive, hustle, and grind from the D to LA.
Talk about transitioning from screenwriting to music.
Really, I was always directing for other rappers. I was making music myself, and it came to a point where I didn’t want to be behind the camera anymore. I felt like I could do this shit better than the people I was shooting for. I wasn’t a behind-the-scenes type person no matter how loyal I was to the people I was working for, it just wasn’t me.
Can you talk about Porno?
Porno is an album I’ve been working on for a long time, I kind of built this universe around it. You know how porn stars go to the set and actually fuck people for the scene? Then it’s for us to watch, it’s our entertainment. But the pornstars actually have to fuck.
It’s a lot of things artists have to go through and sometimes it’s not always the best. It’s traumatizing shit, but we have to keep bringing it up in order to entertain the masses who fuck with it. Sometimes, it might help someone. They can relate to it. Other times, people don’t even know what the fuck you’re talking about. They just like the beat, fuck with the vibe. For them, it’s porn.
Are you worried about any negative judgement?
Nah, I have a shirt that says Porno on. I make Porno shirts. I get looks, but usually it starts conversation like “what’s this about?” A smart person before they run their mouth — because they already know I’m thinking deeper than just running around with a shirt that says Porno. No offense to people doing porno, shout out to all the porn stars. Shout out my homie Gia Valentino, I fuck with you.
When did you come to LA?
6 years ago, I was doing video still. I was shooting for the homie Big Sean.
What have you done with Sean?
“Mula,” “24K of Gold” a bunch of shit. It just got to the point “man, I’m not tryna do this shit.” More people were asking for videos, I really wanted to do the rap shit myself. Because I’m always making music, I just was never making money off of it. Life shit happened and forced the transition.
Does Sean know you make music?
Nah. Even now, I don’t think he really knows. I see him all the time, just seen him at the Roc Nation’s brunch. He knows, but he doesn’t really understand how I’m about to take over this shit. He’s prob thinking “aw that’s dope D.” Nah bro, I’m about to be charting.
Ya’ll need to collab!
It’s definitely on the way.
What’s your favorite thing about the West Coast?
The weather. The West Coast feels like a whole different country than the rest of the US. Everybody out here does shit a lot different. I fuck with it, but I definitely got a song called “F*CK HOLLYWOOD.” That’s more so about all the Hollywood shit I deal with trying to be the biggest artist of all-time. Of course, you deal with different people.
What were you going through when you made “F*CK HOLLYWOOD”?
I was going through a thing where I didn’t really know what the fuck was going on. I was making all these songs, we weren’t getting the fraction we needed. Kept having all these labels meetings, I’m like “man fuck this shit.” Literally met with so many labels. We get to the point we have our conversation, they’re like “let’s do this, what we gotta do?” I walk out the meeting all happy, then get no call. After the 4th one, I started walking out the meeting like “I don’t give a fuck if you like me. I don’t care no more. If you don’t like me, you don’t like me.: I was at a point of frustration.
What was the best part about shooting the video?
By the time the record came out, I was in a different headspace when it came to making the video. Probably the reactions after it. Everything was just a lot of fucking work. [laughs]
What’s the most you dropped a bag on?
Since I got some bread, honestly buying shit for my mom. Flew her out here. Out here, whatever she wants: shopping, food. Then sending money back home. To be honest, a lot of my money goes to weed, helping my family with shit, and buying clothes. I’m not crazy, I don’t need to have to have all of the latest shit. I just like what I like.
How do you stay grounded?
I’m humble, I’m grateful. I’m just like everybody at the same time. I’m at the point where I found the best parts of me and used them to take me far in life. I’m not anything anybody can’t be. I like that about myself, I don’t ever want people to feel like they can’t do the type of shit I do.
Talk about linking w/ Reese LAFLARE on “Turbo.”
Shout out to Reese LAFLARE, that’s my homie for life. I met Reese way before on some whole other shit, but that’s beyond the point. [chuckles] Literally I was in the studio recording. I hit Reese to pull up, because I always hit him when I’m in Atlanta. We been supposed to make a track since he dropped “Molly” way back when. I was playing him records, that’s the one he heard like “I want to hop on this one right here.” Went in, did his shit in 20, 30 minutes at most. From there, it was a record. We were banging it the rest of the trip.
What is it you want fans to get from your story?
1) Man, just remain humble. 2) Don’t let this shit discourage you. If you ain’t got it right now, shit not happening in the time frame that you want, or you sitting somewhere literally watch person after person blow up around you — I know that shit can drive you crazy — but don’t. Everybody got their time. 3) You don’t gotta be fake or have a gimmick to really get out here. I literally been doing the craziest shit in my life, and my name is Darnell Williams. Everybody’s like “what’s your rap name?” I’m like “it’s Darnell Williams.” I literally can’t think of a fucking better rap name than my real name.
Were there any backups?
I had Ace the Kid. I don’t know where I got Ace the Kid, that was a dumb ass rap name. My first rap name was Young Choc. My stepdad gave me that rap name. I had Marty McFly, corny ass shit. I got to the point where I’m like “I don’t give a fuck, I’ma be Darnell.” My shit’s fire enough to the point where it doesn’t even matter if my shit was fucking Doodoo head.
You’re only 27. What do you want your legacy to be?
Fucking great. Fucking awesome. I’ma do this rap shit till I’m maybe 41, 42. I ain’t going to 50 like Jay Z. Shout out Hov and Roc Nation. It’s the Roc.
How’s Roc Nation been?
It’s been dope as fuck. I met Jay Z this year, he was cool as fuck. It’s like meeting the Godfather. [laughs] Meeting the Mafia. I met him at the Roc Nation brunch, he was real cool.
What does mama think now?
Shit, my mom’s just really like “get rich.” My mom’s ready to stop working, and I don’t blame her. It’s an agreement between me and her. It ain’t anything where I’m even stressed about it, I’m happy to get yo ass out of that job. She always believed in me. It was never “mom I’m tryna live my dreams” and she tryna push me. She’s always “whatever the fuck you want to do.” In elementary school for Career Day, I’d have a Fubu jersey, her earrings on for finger rings, say “I want to be a rapper.” She always knew about this, knew I could do this shit.
Favorite person to follow on IG?
It might be Boosie Badazz. I love Boosie BadAzz. People have shit to say about him, how he is and everything, but Boosie is real as fuck. He’s always around his family, that’s the way I want to be. I want a big ass crib with family around all the time. Having fun, getting high as fuck, having parties. His shit doesn’t seem fake, it reminds me of back home.
What’s a normal day in the life? Walk us through.
I wake up and smoke a blunt, usually smoke a Fonta paper leaf. I make smoothies, check emails and shit. Lately, I’ve been having this calendar that’s so fucking long. I might be going to 15 cities for some radio shit. A day is literally me smoking, creating ideas, thinking of ideas, smoking, studio, thinking, smoking.
3 things you need in the studio?
Weed, a strong mindset, and some type of caffeine.
Who’s in your Top 5?
Lil Wayne, Jay Z, early Kanye, Kendrick right now, J. Cole.
What advice do you have for an aspiring Darnell Williams?
Don’t fucking give up. If you end up homeless, you doing it right. [laughs] It just don’t pop. Sometimes, you just gotta lose it all to get what you really want. You gotta literally lose it all. You can’t be afraid. Don’t be trying to be comfortable. People don’t make it because they’re always comfortable. A lot of motherfuckers got jobs working at Chick Fil A, they stay just because it’s a comfortable salary and it’s comfortable. They want to live their real dream, but you might have to lose that shit for a couple months. Get used to losing shit. Don’t let nothing be the end all be all to you. Be numb to that shit.