CyHi Brings Conscious Trap to the Masses

By Daniel Oberhaus on July 5, 2017

Few hip-hop records have been as highly anticipated and as often delayed as No Dope on Sundays, the forthcoming debut from CyHi The Prynce. Cy has been collaborating with Kanye West since he signed to Yeezy’s GOOD Music label in 2010 and has been promising to add a full record to the nine mixtapes that make up his discography for almost as long. Yet in the last two months, he’s dropped two new tracks—“Legend” and “Nu Africa”—to hype his summer debut. Based on the early tracks, it’s clear that the wait for the album will have been well worth it.

Cy hails from Atlanta, Georgia, and the trap sound that helped turn that city into the new hip-hop capital of the U.S. shines through on his latest tracks. Already notorious for his unparalleled wordplay and high-minded lyricism, Cy further honed his style through his lyrical collaboration on a number of Ye records, which have landed him five Grammy nominations for songwriting. Although there were hints at some beef between the Prynce and Kanye back in 2015, they seem to have put their differences behind them, and Yeezy took the helm as executive producer on No Dope on Sundays.

Today, Cy is often referred to as one of the most underrated rappers in the game, but this seems destined to change following his debut. By this time next year, it’s easy to imagine that CyHi the Prynce will be well on his way to becoming a household name. In anticipation of what’s to come, PRØHBTD caught up with Cy at home in Atlanta fresh off a month-long national tour with Lil Wayne to talk about his new record and the state of hip-hop in Trump’s America. 

No Dope on Sundays sounds like it’s made a departure from your mixtapes. What’s changed?

You’ve never heard these stories that I'm giving you guys on No Dope. A lot of time on mixtapes, I'm just trying to be creative enough to keep the listener engaged and still have fun. But a lot of the stories I would try to keep to myself for my album. Most of the mixtapes were just the creative side of Cy. This is more of the actual Cy: the stories of my upbringing, how I came up and different trials and tribulations I went through. I think in a nutshell the difference is more true stories about myself.

Can you tell me a bit about the album title?

I used to always say that I'll rap so good by the time I'm done I'll be able to say, "No dope on Sundays," and you won’t be able to find a nickle bag of weed in the neighborhood. Also, it was a part of my life when I was younger that my friend got shot on like a Sunday morning after a party. Everything that happened from that Sunday morning to the next Sunday kind of shaped this album. These different things that transpired after my friend got shot—rushing him to the hospital, some of my friends retaliating, the police kicking in our door for the retaliation—all these stories happened in a seven-day span. That's why I say no dope on Sundays because the week was so rough for us that we just wanted to take Sunday off to assess our situation. I think that's the premise of the album. 

This album's been a long time coming. Why the delay?

The reason it’s taking longer than shit is I have some big artists on there. To get all the paperwork cleared for that and the samples takes longer. I'm used to just putting out a mixtape whenever I want to, but when you have people investing millions of dollars, you got to make sure all the t's are crossed and i's are dotted. But the music is all done. 

How did you decide which artists were going to be on which tracks?

Every song that I wanted somebody on, they thought it was perfect for them to be on. Like I didn’t ask Trav to be on the record he’s on, I just played it for him, and he wanted to get on it. My favorite part of the process was just hearing my peers on different songs. Just giving the song to them, and them having the same outlook or reaction to the song that I thought they would have. 

You and Kanye have collaborated for a while, and now he's executive producer on your album. What's your creative relationship like?

Me and him, it's a big think tank. It's a lot of brainstorming. That's what we do when we come up with something like "Nu Africa." You want to talk about those records, you know? I don't just want to go in there, roll up a blunt, drink some liquor and just freestyle it. There’s a lot of dialog, a lot of conversation about every record that we do so we can pierce the souls of humans. It's not just some get rich scheme. This is for the people. I think that's why this album is so prolific, and a lot of [Kanye’s] albums are different and ahead of their time. 

"Nu Africa" is an incredible song. What inspired it?

I look at something like Dubai. It was a desert like 15 years ago, and now it’s a thriving city 10 years later. It’s the idea that we can build whatever utopia that we want, especially with the education and resources and cachet we may have. All of those things can shape the new world we want to live in. Nu Africa could be in your neighborhood. It's something like a mindset. You got Little Italy, you got Chinatown, so let's have Nu Africa. It's getting people in that mindset of taking care of our culture, taking care of hip-hop, taking care of our kids. But it starts with a mindset. I just wanted to give the culture to the world in a thought-provoking way but also keep it fun. 

I loved Ernestine Johnson's verse on that track. How did you two wind up collaborating?

I'd seen her do a couple of poems before, and I thought it’d be so dope to get some poetry on this. Once I sent her the record, she came right to the studio and laid it, and we were elated that she laid it. We just vibed out so the song must've affected her in a certain way as well. 

Your music often embraces political themes. What is the role of hip-hop in Trump's America?

It’s like if you have an illness and a doctor offers you a surgery for that illness, but he tells you it may go good or it may go bad. Some people will prefer to have that surgery, and I think that's what Trump is to our generation: It’s the surgery. Either this might go good, or it might go bad. Either way, we're going to get it together ourselves, or he's going to destroy the world and be so bad that we have to get it together ourselves. Whatever spectrum he comes out on, it's going to be good for us as Americans. It's going to be like, "Okay, we need to get together as people to change our lives, change our situation, rather than relying on the government or the higher powers." 

That's what "Nu Africa" is about. We can create our own utopia, our own place. Then we have more leverage. We just have to put pressure on the powers that be to let them know we're not playing as a people. Artists that have a similar mindset, we're just sparking the brain for the people. Some artists are just making music to help us feel good. I don't think every artist should do it, but those that are capable should take a stand.

Who are you listening to right now?

Right now, just coming off this recording process, I haven't been listening to a lot of artists, but I've been listening to artists in different genres. I like this girl named Valerie June from Nashville. She's a country singer and just so dope. I know a guy from my neighborhood, Jid, who just signed to Cole's label. He's dope. And a lot of Thundercat lately. 

Photo credit: Cam Kirk.

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