“The black Benz.”
It sounds like code but the largest identifier for where Doeman has stashed himself on the Southeast side of town is a black, bubble-eyed Mercedes-Benz parked in front of a business park with no other major landmarks around. When you message him, it all comes back to that black Mercedes, a symbol of ‘90s engineering and hip-hop status.
Inside, walk down a corridor and the very last door ahead opens up to what Dodi has used as his place to vent for the past five months. The lead producer, Marvin S, is working a mixer and at the same time running off a multi lap circuit race on Gran Turismo. Dodi’s longtime DJ and best friend Mike C is thumbing through song titles to piece together how the world will hear From My Soul to Yours, the Mexican-American rapper’s follow-up to 2016’s O.B.E.
What was originally dubbed as Cassius has now become something far more personal and intimate. It goes beyond being a Mexican-American rapper, which Doeman will openly discuss until he runs out of breath. It goes beyond being a good-looking rapper who isn’t trying to stunt. It goes even further beyond carrying the family name and a legacy of prideful Mexicans who have sunk roots here and been under attack from a clown who currently occupies the highest office in the land. To Doeman, this album is about his voice — a fourth-generation Mexican who carries his family and friends in the ink embedded into his skin.
Channeling one of his biggest influences, J. Cole, Doeman admits the album picked up minor cues from Forest Hills Drive, the North Carolina native's 2014 commercial and critical breakthrough album. It shows in his writing. The rhymes about comparing himself to ghosts are still there but toned down. In their stead are storytelling moments and concept records, including one where he’s writing to two brothers he went to high school with who are currently locked up for 25 years. “Two dudes, straight A’s and shit,” Doeman says. “They just got caught up in the wrong stuff and went the wrong way.”
Less than three weeks ago, From My Soul to Yours had an entirely different title. “I've decided to name my next album DREAMER$,” Doeman wrote on Twitter on September 5. “Dedicated to those not jus Latino but all immigrants who came and 'lended a hand' before trump.” It was in reference to the DREAM Act, the proposed legislation that would allow the young, undocumented immigrants known as "Dreamers" to continue residing in the United States. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called for an end to the program, enacted by one of former President Barack Obama's executive orders, which the new President agreed with before Congress began drawing up alternatives.
On this night, however, this is about as personal as Dodi will get. Instead of making the message into an audio blanket statement, he’s purposefully answering from his own mouth, eyes and ideas. One would think Dodi has all of this sequences and pieced together. Instead, the rapper, now 23, is running through tracks, even those he’s forgotten to finalize for this album. That includes zipping through worlds of clapping tambourines, gorillas in the trunk-style anthem music, prayers for guidance and tracks he personally believes will change everything.
In the four years since he emerged as a rapid-fire Mexican rapper, Doeman's beliefs as not just a rhymer but regarding his mental space have evolved. He’s still rhyming about chasing ghosts, laughing it up with friends as they offer their input around drum tracks that could bend worlds at will. Everyone suggests which record will be the one, a variance of spirited, trunk-rattling anthems and thoughtful, personable moments where Dodi actually sings. And then there’s the giant GOP elephant in the room.
“I know there’s something for that guy,” I remark.
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Mike C’s eyes light up. “What about the Donald Trump one?” Doeman audibly responds with amazement: “I forgot all about that!” Without much hesitation following, he cues up “100 Diamonds,” a banger of a record that starts off more as a relaxed love song before morphing around the second verse into a fiery middle finger at Trump, his supporters and more. In one rousing stanza, Dodi contemplates changing the mind of a supporter if their daughter happened to be giving birth to a brown child. It’s far, far more visceral than my words shall give it.
After it plays, the room nods in agreement about every single word. Unlike “No Limit ‘91,” nobody had to be booted from the room in order for Doeman to get through it.
From My Soul to Yours feels like a family affair. Dodi’s mom makes an appearance on the tapes’ outro where he wonders if he should have chosen college over rap. “Why God take my friends home?” he ponders. The matriarch of his family offers a simple piece of nurturing love, “I knew you would be destined for something great. Keep inspiring us so much with your music.”
That’s the importance of what Dodi is out to create. Win or lose, From My Soul to Yours is going to be personal to him. For everybody who rides with him and supports him. The general excitement of hearing his voice lead in Chile and G-Man’s afternoon-drive show on 97.9 The Box is one thing. The hard part, to him, was narrowing down songs. Now it’s up to the world to carry on his message.