Interview conducted by Aviv Hart, find aviv at @reallybiggun on Twitter and @avivsux on Instagram. Find Davis at @hennyramen on Twitter and @blackgoodle on Instagram. Buy his album at
“The lyrical augur, it’s the Eastside marauder”
“Never find me in no cracker’s noose”
“Some other wild shit lie white hoes boofing Kratom. The caucasity of it all!”
The group known as the Why? Footclan have quickly cemented themselves as one of the most captivating and energizing crews in the Chicago hip-hop landscape, with a roster boasting long-time local hero Malci and hastily ascending duos Free Snacks (Joshua Virtue and Ruby Watson) and UDABABY (Davis and Joshua Virtue). Stellar debut solo projects from Ruby Watson (Balance) and Joshua Virtue (Post Faith Dialogues), as well as the fourth installment in Malci’s excellent discography (Papaya!), have begun to establish the fledgling Why? Records’ radical art rap canon; with one member in the wings waiting to take center stage.
Ever since being first introduced to Davis’ zig-zagging flows and rough yet humorous lyricism on the UDABABY tape, Why? Records’ cult-like local following has been clamoring for his first full length release, tided over only by the occasional guest verse and solo live performance. Those who frequent local venue Nude Beach have likely seen Davis cooling behind the bar, eyes tucked safely beneath the brim of a Takashi Murakami, Polo, or Black Power hat, radiating a lowkey confidence that comes both from being surrounded by his crew and the security of knowing just how good he is at what he does. Davis quickly accrued a Jay Electronica or Despot-esque notoriety on the local level, a prodigious wordsmith who remained enigmatic as talk of his debut project saturated the Chicago underground music scene.
It is rare for an artist’s debut release to be mired with such a high level of expectation as Davis’, and yet, Green Parakeet Suite exceeds all those expectations and smashes every standard that has been placed upon it by Davis’ association with such prolific peers. With only three songs exceeding two minutes and not a hook in sight, Davis’ debut puts the spotlight solely on the bars, of which many or profound and none are filler. After washing down the Super Donut with the Ron Ron Juice at the start of the album, Davis proceeds to nonchalantly deliver a clinic on why rap is the most significant linguistic art form of the twenty first century, slashing and stutter-stepping through beats like a veteran point-guard dissecting a shoddy zone defense. Davis raps like it’s his first language and conversational English is simply something he adopted to fit in, absolutely bodying beats that range from murky and claustrophobic (LCL), to off-kilter and odd (Super Green), to gorgeous and triumphant (Muggsy Mingus). However, Green Parakeet Suite is not simply a display of technical ability, but an intimate roadmap through the mind and memory of a young Black man in Chicago vying both for success and survival. In a contemporary rap landscape that has adopted apathy as the preferred attitude of the mainstream, it’s incredibly refreshing to hear someone rap like their life depends on it.
So the album is called Green Parakeet Suite, what does that mean? Where or what or who is the green parakeet suite?
D: Well the idea behind it is, I mean you grew up in Chicago, so you know there’s hella green parakeets just in the city and shit, and even as a shorty I had always been fascinated with that. I grew up on 87th and Stony and I had always been fascinated with how they even came to be here. For a while I had been told by some old heads that they were from the Worlds Fair that was here and some people just let them out by accident, but that was some bullshit. Apparently its from the 70s, there was an illegal bird trade and they were mule-ing them over and then they escaped, but either way it’s just a metaphor for niggas. Just beautiful creatures that are displaced. But the Green Parakeet Suite is also a term for my mind, I guess. I feel like Malaya, who fronts Side Action[a popular punk band in Chicago] and is also a friend of mine kinda put it poignantly, she said the album kinda operates like a radio dial, switching between channels and shit in my mind. That’s also why it’s subtitled GPS, its kinda like a GPS through the different facets of my mind and the things that I’ve been through.
Q: One motif in the album that I thought was interesting was all the cartoon references. Toe Jam and Earl, Sudowoodo, Dexter and DeeDee etc…, with cartoons being one of the first pieces of media our generation actively consumed, was that motif a conscious choice or was it just something that was part of your personality?
D: A bit of both, there’s levels of intent and also levels of just word vomit. Like tryna find a word that rhymes with something. Like with Sudowoodo I was tryna find a word that rhymes with gestapo for that ICE line, fuck ICE. And then sudowoodo just came up and I was like ‘alright how can I fit that.’ But yeah, as a shorty I mean I played outside and shit but I always wanted to be in front of the TV. Especially after school when toonami was on and shit.
Q: You definitely have rap bravado in spades, but two bars that stood out to me were “Leave abusers neutered” and “Don’t poke fun at crackheads cause we know real clucks,” because your delivery is still very hard but the lyrics, at their core, are looking out for the most vulnerable people. How do you find that balance of aggressive compassion?
D: I mean I strive to be a good person, I feel like it’s necessary. I guess I get that from my mom. She raised us, me and my brothers, and she loves us and has loved us but that love can be hard sometimes, so I get a lot of that from her. I strive my damnedest to be righteous, I guess. And I get that they kinda, for lack of a better term, butt heads; the typecast aggression of a rapper with the person that I am and I strive to be, but I found a symbiotic relationship with them. And I guess how I navigate that is just to try to do the right thing. And it can be mean[laughs], last night I almost had to fight somebody cause, we was at Empty Bottle and I was kicking it outside with my girl, and this random came up and he called her a bitch. Not even on some aggressive malicious shit, like he was just joking, but it was still like yo what are you doing? I called him out, kept giving him chances to apologize and shit to the point where I was like yo you just need to go cause it’s finna be hands. So I guess that’s also an example of aggressive compassion [Laughs].
Q:So my favorite bar on the whole album is “Stalk the block in the steel toe G-Fazos.” As someone from Chicago, and also a Nike connoisseur as I know you to be, what is the significance of the G-Fazo [Air Force One] to you?
D: I wanted to rep that Chicagoness obviously. I’m from Chicago, I love my city, and I don’t see myself leaving here for a long time, and I always wanna push Chicago to the forefront as much as I can and whenever I can. And also bringing it to me, I just love Nikes man[laughs]. I get that from my oldest brother, my oldest brother is the biggest sneakerhead I know. He’d buy shoes, wear them shits once, throw it back in the box, he had towers of boxes and shit. I still remember going down to his room when I was a shorty and just looking at all the shoes. And I prefer the Air Maxes out of all the Nikes but when it came to that line I’m like “nah I need to put the G-Fazos int eh front cause, you know, that’s Chicago.
Q: So this is the first Why? Project where the rapper hasn’t made a majority of the beats themselves, do you work with anyone outside your immediate crew? And when you’re working with people, what are the things you’re looking for, cause there’s a lot of diversity in these beats.
D: What I’ll say to that, I don’t make beats but I had a heavy hand in a lot of the beats on the project, I knew what samples I wanted for them, I knew little snippets I wanted in there to add a little flair and shit. When it comes to who I work with I only exclusively work with the people in Why right now, all of the homies, all of the brothers, and Why? affiliates like Mr. Rivers and Cultivation. It’s definitely more insulated. I’m very selective with what I want cause I know I have a vision for it. Especially with the people that I trust to make the beats I trust their vision enough to not really butt in as much when they’re cooking it, but I’m in the room when they’re cooking it and if I do feel like I have to butt in I do but that’s rarely the case. I was just like “I need this song freaked and I need this little sample in there.” I would like to make beats I just don’t have the time or the proper laptop for that right now, my laptop is like seven years old [laughs].
Q: You got the Lenovo?
D: Nah, it’s a Mac! It’s a Mac, but it was off Craigslist it’s old as shit, it’s still got a disc drat the same time too,! It’s been on its last leg for like three years.
Q: So the first song Hedgehog’s Dillema starts off with a sample sort of talking about how the closer we get the more we hurt, and it says “He can’t let anyone know how he feels.” With that uncomfortability with intimacy and closeness, is music sort of a response to that for you? Is your music a space where you can say stuff you maybe wouldn’t be comfortable with talking about otherwise?
D: Um, yes and no. I mean, a lot of the things I express, a lot of the feelings and emotions I express on the album are things I’ve expressed to people, those are people that are close to me though, you know what I’m saying? I’m a real closed off person in terms of people I don’t know. Like for example Sam (Ruby Watson), when he first came over here, cause Alex (Joshua Virtue) wanted us to link and shit, and this is pre-Why? I ain’t know who the fuck he was, he came over and I was just like “Sup” and kept to myself. And maybe that just comes from where I grew up, you don’t really talk to people who you don’t know, cause it can be dangerous. But I need to work on letting muhfuckas in, or at least just be open to talking to people that I don’t know but I tend to not[laughs]. I tend to be very closed off and insulated. But that sample is from Neon Genesis Evagelion, which is one of my favorite animes. I think the reference is either Kierkegaard or Freud I can’t remember, but yeah, that’s pretty much what it’s about.
Q: I loved the little Evangelion nod at the end of Carry Me off the UDABABY tape too.
D: Like I said that’s my favorite, one of my tattoos is a Neon Genesis tattoo, there’s a couple NGE references throughout this album, all the cicadas that you hear is ripped from that. LCL is a reference to that. I feel like it’s poignant to understanding me.
Q: So at least to me, the most poignant single bar on the album is on LCL when you said “I’m black, I cannot afford failure,” that bar obviously has a lot of universal meaning but what does it mean specifically to you?
D: I mean it’s kinda literal you know, I can’t afford to fail, I have too much riding on me just based off the color of my skin. And I mean that can be thought of in a couple different ways. Like, if I fail my family what does that mean to me, if I fail the people around me what does that mean to me, if I fail at my job what does that mean to me, you know what I’m saying? But it’s multi-faceted definitely, just failure in general is not really an option for a black person, because the reprimanding that comes from that is greater for us than others. There’s a lot to lose.