A Q&A with DK (aka Wayne Watts)

Hot on the heels of my Q&A with Lex Rush, I’ve scored an interview with another Terp alumni, DK aka Wayne Watts. 

Making a name for himself through his homegrown label, Evergreen Music, UMD Juke Joints, and more, the Baltimore native released projects to acclaim in the DMV region, even reaching the ears of the 2003 Billboard Hip-Hop Conference. After graduating, DK released a few other projects (including 2009’s 24, a collection of tracks revolving around his 24th birthday) before moving to Denver, Colorado to begin a new life–musically and otherwise. Personally, this interview was a big deal for me, since Wayne, as mentioned, is one of the artists who influenced me along the way musically. 

Anyhow, before going through another trip down memory land, let’s get into it.

SOTB: What’s the inspiration behind the album?

DK: It’s based on the idea that every song is like a window. And every windows allows the person looking in or out to come up with their own perception on  what they are seeing. Is the woman in the coffee shop crying or laughing?  Is the old man yelling at the boy or excited to see him? So I kinda wanted to  tackle this musically.  I’m actually breaking up the project into four “Windows.” I.e, EPs. So the first Window is the Rearview window, and it focuses on the themes of reflection & reconnection vs regret & relapses.

SOTB: Why Windows Theory as a title?
DK: It’s called Windows Theory because I wanted to present it as a piece of academia . Like, I love moving the culture forward and I wanted to make something that could be cited in dissertations or thesis papers for real. I think Hip-Hop is just now starting to get some “scholarly respect.” But, my hope is that we, as hip-hop artists, become just as valuable academically as the status quo scholars. So, on the skits of the project I have professors presenting the theory. And the music is like the case study.
SOTB: What should listeners expect from the album?
DK: Umm…the first Window is dark. Like, I think it’s the darkest music I’ve made. So, I was actually scared, because my core fans are used to upbeat, motivational, funny DK…and the first window isn’t that (laughs).
SOTB: Now I know you’ve been in the game for YEARS at this point. How do you adjust to being a bit of an elder statesman? I mean in experience, not really age. If it were just years, then I’d be feeling old as hell myself (laughs).
DK: I’m on some “Well you’re only as old as you feel” ish. And, just saying that is a clear cut sign that we’re getting old (laughs).
SOTB: Definitely. At least we’re not at that “get off my lawn” point yet.

DK: But, it’s cool, though. I think now I have been able to broaden my demographic. Because, at the end of the day, I want to be able to tell my real-life stories and have them connect to people. And the older I get, the more situations I’m able to discuss as my view out of the window changes. So, I have different takes on things now then I would at 20.   
SOTB: Oh, yeah. Shoot, if I was speaking on something like, I don’t know, politics…it’d sound a lot more unfiltered at 19, 20, than at 26. Age helps you figure out how to approach things and what to say, I guess. But how was it juggling the music hustle and classes?

DK: It was dope because I was able to use what I was learning in my music! It taught me to think critically. So, I could take what my professors at Maryland–like Jo Paoletti, Jared Ball, or Solomon Comissiong–were teaching and incorporate it in my music.  
SOTB: Now, you know I’ve got to ask this one. Has the Baltimore sound influenced your music any?
DK: Man, you already know! If you listen to my music, you’ll hear references to my favorite club songs as a kid. The intro on the album starts out with a flipped Baltimore club sample.  
SOTB: So, with that said, being from Baltimore, Baltimore Club Music was (and is still) a big part of who the city is. How did you take the death of the Club Queen K-Swift? I know I was floored since she was such an influence on me growing up and recorded some (to this day, still unreleased) tribute songs about it.
DJ K-Swift, Baltimore Club Legend

DK: Man that hit hard. She was the Queen of the City–just about to be huge. Like, you see the DJ Dramas or DJ Khalids out here. And, I’ll be like “man, Swift would have been there.” (Ed. Note: Prior to K-Swift’s death in 2008, she had just inked a distribution deal with Koch Records.) So, it was a huge loss for not just the city, but the world, because she was taken from us right before her prime. And what’s crazy is that a lot of the EDM music has taken from stuff she started (Ed. Note: Elements of songs, such as the oft-heard, late-90s track Samir’s Theme, are still being interpolated into songs today, both at the B’more Club level and beyond).

SOTB: I know we started speaking on the college grind a little while ago, but–just like I asked Lex Rush–how did being a Terp influence your music? I mean, you were THAT DUDE for a minute during Juke Joints and all those sorts of things. Hell, I remember you were one of the first cats that actually helped me out on the stage fright and all that craziness (laughs).
DK: Shoutout to Lex, man! She is super dope! I talked to her a few weeks about her coming out to Denver to do some shows.

But, being a Terp was huge for me. The Juke Joints provided all of us with a space to grow and develop. It taught us how to read an audience & how to articulate message in a way that moved the crowd. Aside from that, our network is DOPE (Ed. Note: This is true. The UMD network does have some pretty deep reach, considering artists such as Logic used to perform on Route One at the now-defunct Thirsty Turtle). And, we have alumni doing major things. So Jason Reynolds  was  THAT DUDE when I was a freshman, right? A few months ago, I was at a Barnes and Noble in Denver, and saw his newest book on the shelf. Like, that was huge to me!  

So to answer the question, it heavily influenced me and still does. Shoutout to all my fellow Terps that are doing big things! All of you inspire me to keep going.
SOTB: Switching gears now, who are some of the people who’ve influenced your music?
DK: I would say Phonte for subject matter, Joe Budden for honesty, Jay Z for different flow, Slick Rick for storytelling, and Biggie for freestyling.
SOTB: Some solid choices there. Do any of these make your top-five artists?
DK: Um, of all time? Jay, Nas, Big, Andre 300, and the 5th [one] always changes. But, currently? Chance The Rapper, J.Cole, Kendrick, Drake, and Wale.
SOTB: If you could change three things about the world, musically or otherwise, what would they be and why?
DK: I’d make it so that creativity & originality were more important than the co-sign, that authenticity was still relevant, and that my city was seen in a more positive light.
SOTB: Where can prospective listeners find your work?
DK: http://www.DKakaWayneWatts.com. You follow me on all social media sites @DkakaWayneWatts
SOTB: It’s kind of a weird place to ask this, but is Windows Theory an appropriate introduction, or should listeners take in the entire discography, back to Firelane Project and earlier, to get the entire story?
DK: I would say each project of my mine is a concept album. So, they should listen to them all to see the  diversity in my music and how I tackle different subjects.     
SOTB: Any last shoutouts?

DK: AYYY BALTIMORE!!! Hardly home but always repping.

(Ed. Note: DK’s Windows Theory is dropping soon. Be on the lookout for it.)

Speed on the Beat

Whatever you need to know about me, you can find out on speedonthebeat.com. Dad of two, cat dad (of two), mental health advocate, Team Support Dope Music in All Its Forms.

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