Interview By Ethan Merrill
A stream of light sparkles outside followed by a burst of loud popping noises.
Everybody in the singlewide trailer pauses. All conversation stops.
After the crackling continues for a few more seconds, the fear in the room subsides.
“Them just fireworks,” declares Chivez Smith, better known as Icewear Vezzo.
Gunfire or firecrackers? The Detroit native seems familiar with the question.
It shows in Vezzo’s street-oriented style of music, flowing from the same vein as other underground hip-hop icons out of the Motor City like Blade Icewood and Doughboyz Cashout.
Vezzo’s popularity in Detroit is unquestioned. His TM-88 produced single, “Moon Walken” is a contagious banger and one of the hottest songs in the city this summer.
But Vezzo isn’t content just being a hometown rapper; he has his sights set on the national airwaves. He believes his upcoming album, Price Going Up, will catapult him to the status that many of his predecessors from Detroit never reached.
With a guest feature on Gucci Mane’s mixtape last year, an upcoming song with Big Sean produced by Metro Boomin, and the whole city behind him, it’s not hard to envision Vezzo’s buzz continuing to grow.
Vezzo sat down to discuss his plan for national takeover after a performance at Common Ground, a music festival headlined by A$AP Rocky held in Lansing, MI.
What have you been up to lately?
Icewear Vezzo: Working, man. Doing shows, moving around – travelling. Getting the music out there and spreading love to the fans that rock with my music that I ain’t been out to see. It’s hand-to-hand action right now, bro.
Is there a serious effort to gain a national following now that you’ve sort of blown up in Detroit – or is that something you feel will happen organically?
Vezzo: There’s lots of effort. Organically takes too long.
You were on a song, “Brick Phone”, for Gucci’s mixtape last year – that’s a big feature. How did that come about?
Vezzo: Gucci’s producer and engineer, Sean Paine, reached out. He was putting a tape together while Gucci was in jail. He DMd me on Twitter from Gucci’s page. You know I jumped right on that – it meant a lot. That was always my favorite rapper, and still is.
The crazy thing is, I always knew I’d do a song with Gucci Mane. When you’ve got them ambitions, you always know something. It might not happen right then and there, but you feel it. I know I’m going to be a national artist one day. I say that humbly, and with faith. I can speak everything into existence.
I always wanted to do a song with Big Sean, and we did one. It ain’t out yet, but it’s done. It’s a big song – Metro Boomin produced it.
Are there any other artists you’ve always wanted to work with?
Vezzo: It’s always been Gucci Mane. Just Gucci Mane, bro.
Are you trying to work with him again?
Vezzo:x I’ve been in jail before. You got to let him relax. That’s something that can happen organically.
What’s the word on your upcoming album?
Vezzo: It’s going to be called Price Going Up. It was something that was going to be a mixtape. But the music I got right now is so strong – you got to treat it the right way. [Vezzo has announced the album will come out in September of this year]
Is there a theme behind the music on the album?
Vezzo: Not only the transition from the streets to being legal, but also the transition of being local for so many years to finally becoming a national artist.
Price Going Up is like a metaphor for me [as a person]. Different me, new dreams. It ain’t always about the money. Price means my life, my mentality. Price means my environment. Price means my friends, the people I keep around me. Price means the beats I rap on. Price means how I go about putting my music out. Price means where I hang at. Price means all of that. That’s what’s goin’ up. Everything’s changing because I want it to.
I been saying I’m the king of Detroit. My mind has been so stuck on the streets, thinking like a hood nigga. Extra, extra slum type of environment – just being around that. Not seeing past where I hang at, and seeing my true ability. I feel like that kept me stuck in that position for so long. I see that there’s a different way to be. I ain’t got to be thugged out my whole life. I ain’t got to be a goon, and I ain’t go to kill people.
I don’t even want to be the king of Detroit, bro. It ain’t the position I want to hold. I want to be the king of the rap in the world.
I’m over that, bro. It went from wanting to be like Blade Icewood, to wanting to be like Jigga.
Do you think Blade Icewood suffered from focusing on Detroit too much, and not expanding out of the city?
Vezzo: You never know nobody’s intentions. You can’t really go off what people show, because a lot of times people are way more stronger than what they show. Timing may not be one somebody’s side.
I know guys that I grew up with that were stealing cars with us who are police officers now. That came with the timing. But that was something they probably always wanted to be deep down inside. That was always the intention. I can’t judge nobody’s intentions just off what I see. A lot of times people got to dig down to show their true intentions – but they’re still there. They might not speak, they might not show it – but they think it.
It’s like when I was in the middle of the hood two years ago. There’s shootings, police harassing us every day. In my mind, I was like ‘I’m not going to live like this, bro. This shit gonna be done for. But looking at me? You would think I loved it.
What’s your outlook on the city of Detroit as a whole?
Vezzo: There’s got to be some bad to have some good. That’s written. You need a bad action to have a good action. Sometimes right now has to be bad for the future to be good. If you didn’t have bad, you wouldn’t recognize good. It would be normal to you. When you recognize something you want, you embrace it. I definitely see changes coming [in the city] – and it’s going to be a big change.
What needs to happen for those changes to come?
Vezzo: What needs to happen is going to happen. Ultimately, bro, the crazy part about it all – I feel like music is going to save Detroit. I know for sure it’s going to be music. A guy like me, when I got on – I’m not saying I’m going to put everybody on – but even if it’s a shout out for the next person, even if it’s a point in the right direction, something that small can change somebody’s life. It’s going to be because of music. If I put a lot of people with my mentality in a good position, we’re going to be untouchable.
It’s all about encouraging buying studios. For as many liquor stores we got [in Detroit], we got as many studios. Just as much dispensaries we got, we got the same amount of dancehalls. It’s not the politicians, but the artists who are going to make the changes.
History repeats itself. Motown is coming back. We’re going to be just like when Berry Gordy ran the town. I might even be the Berry Gordy – I might not. But it’s going to happen regardless.