Gorilla Warfare Tactics' Dilla on Zoology and Growing Up on St. Louis Hip-Hop

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Was it ever an issue balancing school with these projects?

One of us was a primarily math major, one was focusing on econ, and I was doing finance and creative writing. If you take on a project as big as being in a hip-hop group and really trying to push yourself as an artist, I think you're obviously going to run into problems with school and stuff. But, if you're passionate enough about something, it doesn't feel like a sacrifice. I remember, the last weeks before we dropped Premier, it was right around midterms, and we had three songs we had yet to finish before our deadline. When that happens, you study for your midterms until 8 or 9 p.m., go to the studio, get back around 3 a.m., study a bit more and roll into your midterm at 9 or 10 a.m. It makes no sense not to give 100 percent to both. For us, it was never a stressful thing, but it took up a lot of time in both respects.

Did you feel within the NYU community people were checking for your music?

Yeah, I think that's where we felt it most, to be honest. We're fortunate enough to have fans in a bunch of different countries around the world, but you really feel it when you're at NYU with people stopping you on the street saying, "Your project is dope." Or people saying, "Yo, my friend from NYU showed me your stuff."

What made you decide to use the name "Dilla"?

My last name is Kanakadandila. So before I ever got into hip-hop, "Dilla" as my moniker preceded all that. Once I began gravitating toward the hip-hop scene, there's been people who really don't mind and people who've felt very strongly about it. They see it as heretical to call yourself "Dilla" in hip-hop. For me, it's never about that. I have the utmost respect for Jay Dilla and the part of hip-hop he's representing. I'm not using his name to troll the Internet for views. It's not a publicity stunt. It's a name I identify with as an artist and something that fits me as an artist which I feel very connected to.

You also gave the commencement speech at NYU's Stern School of Business' graduation last week. How does speaking to a crowd like that compare to rapping onstage?

The feedback I've gotten is pretty positive. It was actually one of the cooler experiences that I've had. I was onstage in the center of Radio City Music Hall in front of 5,000 different people giving the last address before they called out names. It's an experience I'm very lucky to have. It's a similar experience [to rapping]. You're going to be stressing out regardless. The way I distinguish the two is that if you're rapping in front of people who don't know who you are, right off the bat you're trying to impress them. But when you're in front of people that you know who support you, it's a dope experience. You feel like you're in a position of power with everyone listening to you and not pointing out things that they can judge you on. I felt really comfortable.

Zoology is available for free download here.

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