Will the Real Corporate Dough Please Stand Up?
Houston rapper Corporate Dough contemplates his next move after a scene-stealing appearance at the inaugural Day For Night Fest.
Photos by Marco Torres
The sun is about to set when I receive a phone call. "Hey Marco, I've got Corporate Dough here....Wanna talk to him?" I had been trying to get in contact with this kid ever since he jumped on stage with Kendrick Lamar and free-styled last Sunday evening during the L.A. rapper's headlining set at the Day For Night festival. Since then, the story of what happened that night had gone viral...TMZ, Complex, XXL, Vibe, CBS, and a host of other news outlets had picked up the story.
The questions were mostly all the same: What were you thinking when Kendrick pulled you from the crowd? How did you feel when you were handed the mike and then forgot the lyrics? What possessed you to freestyle? I wanted to find out who this guy actually was, and when we would hear some more music from him.
"I'm on my way," I reply.
As I walked into the location where the interview was taking place, Dough was on the phone answering questions for a major music blog out of New York City, and a local news personality was waiting to tape a live interview. Right away, from the way he talked to his thoughtful answers, I could tell that he's a smart, charming, and confident young man. You can also tell that the last few days have taken a toll on the guy; his tired eyes looked ready for some sleep. He was still wearing his Day For Night wristband, which I assume he will until it falls off. A tuft of hair peeked through his backwards strap-back cap, and he flashed a wide smile every time he recalled the events of last Sunday night.
His name is Sam, a 24-year-old Houston native with a background in marketing and business. He went to school in Austin, and has lived and worked back and forth between the two cities for the last five years. Last Tuesday, two days after the festival, Sam was asked to resign his corporate finance job because of all the attention resulting from his Day For Night appearance. Life is full of surprises, good and bad.
He told me that he's always been a fan of hip-hop, even though "I'm the whitest kid ever."
"I grew up listening to 50 Cent, Nelly, and Eminem" he recalls. "We wore Air Force 1's, and played rap music in the car with our moms.
"I love the beats, the creativity, and lyricism," Dough continues. "Everything about it has made it my favorite genre, but I love all music."
He talked about his love for Kanye West's Graduation album, and especially the track "I Wonder."
"I've listened to that song a lot since all of this happened, and its taken on a whole new meaning," Dough says. "It talks about having and achieving your dreams, and I feel like getting onstage with Kendrick was like a dream that became reality for me."
Dough lived part of that dream when he was called to the stage at the Day For Night fest. He says it was the first time he ever performed in front of a crowd, much less the thousands of Kendrick fans who packed the carpeted area in front of the main stage. "I love Houston with all my heart," Dough proclaimed onstage.
"As I've grown up, my love for this city has increased" he says while walking up and down Westheimer taking photos. "Going up on that stage with the skyline facing me — the most beautiful skyline in the world — it was better than a dream."
Dough was almost brought to tears as he was proclaiming his love for H-Town on stage, he says. Earlier this year, he nearly accepted that he had lost his opportunity to achieve his dream of becoming a rapper. And so to be picked from the crowd and have the response from Kendrick and the audience, the emotions were overwhelming.
"After I left the stage, there was a chair back there and I had to sit down, take a deep breath, and compose myself" he recalls. "I was about to let the emotions spill over and let it all out, but I said to myself 'YOU'RE A RAPPER NOW.... DON'T FUCKING CRY!'" It definitely was the most emotional experience he's ever lived through.
Dough says he draws inspiration from "anybody that's at the top of their game." That includes James Harden, Lebron James, Steve Jobs, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Kanye West. "I feel like those guys have the whole package, and although they are not perfect and all have their flaws (except for Drake he adds with a chuckle), their greatness shines brighter.
I ask him if he's prepared for the next step in his career. Its one thing to be lucky enough to be plucked from the crowd, bust a free-style, and go viral... but to actually work on and release quality music and polish his stage presence for a live show, that takes work and talent. "I've been asking myself the same question, honestly," he answers. "I've got pages and pages of lyrics written down, but they aren't put together quite yet. Before Sunday, I didn't really take this opportunity as seriously as I should have, and I thought I had more time to put a plan together. But now everything is moving very fast, and I'm gonna have to put out the best thing I can, and if the world accepts it, that's great. And if not, I'll find something else and keep pushing."
The question that will most certainly be asked of him will be concerning him being a white rapper. Some in the media have called him "The Next Eminem."
"A lot of people have been comparing me to him, and I guess that happens with every white rapper, but our styles are nothing alike, and I'm nowhere near Eminem," says Dough. "He's probably the greatest rapper ever, and I have way too much respect for him to compare myself to him."
Another white rapper who has seen great success in the last few years is Philadelphia's Lil Dicky.
"First of all, that guy is hilarious!", offers Dough. "I freaking love that guy. He's a great rapper and very talented. I do sometimes wish if I had been more serious about my rap career sooner, I could have had some of the success he is enjoying now."
Dough says he wants to take more of an inspirational route with his rhymes. He says that in 50 years, the color of a performer will not matter. Will there ever be a time when we forget about labels, and white rappers and Latin rappers will just be regarded as "rappers"?
"I don't want to sound cocky or anything, but its gonna take people like me who step up and just be themselves and do their own form of the genre. If more people do that and realize its not about race or color, and that its really about bringing people together and about the music, then everyone will benefit.
He proceeded to show me the mock artwork for his soon-to-be-released mixtape, and played me the rough edit of his first single.
"We are working pretty hard and fast to get this thing out as soon as we can," Dough says. "If I don't make good music, then I don't deserve any of this attention. It's [the music] on its way!"
What else does Corporate Dough want Houston to know about him?
"I'm not doing this for fame or money... I really am doing this because I love this city and this form of music," he vows. "I wanna do what Drake is doing with Toronto, which is to take Houston to the next level."
When he's not roaming around the city in search of tacos and graffiti, Marco points his camera lens toward the vibrant Houston Music scene and beyond. You can follow his adventures on Instagram: @MarcoFromHouston.
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