A few months ago the WILDABOUT team spent the evening in with our favourite kush princess Lil Debbie. In an exclusive interview and editorial we talked about the influence of Bay Area culture on her music, business and the early experiences that have shaped her into the headstrong business woman and musician she is today…
TSKENYA: Thanks for sitting down with us Lil Debbie. I thought we could start this interview from the beginning? Your experiences at school? Are there any vivid memories or events that have shaped the person you are today?
Lil Debbie: Well, I bounced around alot when I was younger, I went to Catholic school for a long time and then after that I went to a private school in Richmond, California. After private school, I went to high school in Marin County, California, which was another Catholic school. To be honest, I didn’t want to go back to Catholic School after having been to an ordinary private school because it just wasn’t the same. I only did a semester at Marin County Catholic School, and even though it is in the San Francisco Bay Area, Marin County is one of the wealthiest counties in America – I just felt so out of place –
TSK: What was it that made you feel so out of place?
LD: I came from a middle class home, but I had never seen money like that. Growing up in the Bay Area and coming from a home that had steady financials people assumed I was rich, which was far from the case as my family were just doing okay. But when I went to school in Marin County, I felt like I was the ‘needy’ there. I was the kid who travelled from another county – it took more than an hour to get there – so I ended up switching to Albany High School which was a public school, but in the end I dropped out and started at a continuation school.
TSK: What is continuation school? I think we might have a different name for it here in the UK.
LD: Continuation school is a level below public school, it was for the bad kids, so for the kids that would skip school or the kids that would fight. So I have had an experience of it all, I think have had a taste of everything: I saw what real money looked like and at the same time I got to experience the level headed likemindedness of my peers in public school. The Bay Area is a very multi-cultural area and growing up there I never experienced or felt racial issues, but when I went to school in Marin County it was a switch up.
TSK: I can completely relate – I grew up in Hackney which too is a very multi-cultural area. I had friends of all shades, religions and cultures and it wasn’t until I went to university that I realised racism and xenophobia were still prevalent problems –
LD: Yeah, in The Bay Area everyone is accepted but in other areas of America it is quite the contrary. When I was at private school and throughout my life I have had people remark ‘oh, you don’t behave like a white girl’ and to me those kinds of remarks are wild. How ignorant must you be to think that particular behavioural traits are attributed to certain races or groups of people. I don’t even know how to process comments like those. In my younger days I had identity issues because I didn’t fit in, I was myself – I have always been my most authentic self.
TSK: I think people like us who have been surrounded by a diverse set of friends underplay exactly how culturally privileged we are. So when we are hit with ignorant shitty comments like that it comes as a shock –
LD: Right! You cannot even school the person, because you are in shock that someone would say something like that, let alone say something like that to your face. We shouldn’t have to educate these fools, we live in a digital age where you can read about all these social-political issues and their mama should have done better.
TSK: [Laughs] It isn’t our job. So, is this how you fell into music? Channelling all of these experiences?
LD: Yeah, I got into music when I was about 14. The Bay Area has a huge music culture, sounds from E-40, Mac Dre, Too Short and the list goes on. I grew up in Cali’s musical culture and I went to school with kids who were in The Wolfpack, dated a boy that was a rapper and my homegirls would rap and be constantly noting down sick flows. The Bay Area is just very musically cultured area with a funky injection.
TSK: How would you describe The Bay Area sound to a British audience?
LD: It has funky undertones – a funky base. It is so hard to describe because it is so eclectically different to anything else. The Bay Area sound is defined by the Hyphy Movement, when I think of the Bay I think of that. What I really love about the Bay is that everyone supports each other musically. The Bay respects the creative hustle of all its residents and accepts the introduction of new mixes.
TSK: Your track ‘Tell Me’, I personally felt was a perfect Bay Area sounding track, it is a summer anthem that you could get hype with or high with. If you know what I am saying?
LD: [Laughs] No completely, I agree –
TSK: How did the track come together? Do you get the beat first or do you tend to write lyrics first?
LD: Usually I get the beat first then write. Before , I used write these killer two liners and then post them on Twitter, but then when I went to write I would have the worst writers block. So now instead of me thinking of this dope shit and giving free game away on Twitter I now put them in my notes and down on paper. So now when it comes to writing music I have a springboard of lyrics that I can go back to for inspiration.
TSK: Do you have to be in a particular mood when you are writing, when does the creative genius come to you?
LD: Gosh, when I am driving, I produce and think of the best shit especially when I have been emotionally touched by something. I am an emotive person and my rhymes are shaped by that. If I am in the studio and someone pisses me off that is the mood killed for the day. I don’t force it, if I am not feeling it I won’t write it down or perform it, because then that isn’t truthful. I wish I could fake it, but that isn’t who I am, I am conscious and I am super focussed on my sound and craft and I don’t think it can be rushed.
TSK: There is a definite marked growth in you as a person, you have gone from Lil Debbie, to what the album is all about Debbie. Was it is an aim of yours to map this growth?
LD: The internet saw me go from a girl into a woman and I have been very public with my growth. I am a feminist and I am open about my acne, body, music and business. I have spoken about everything even down to not being on a record label. In regards to my album Debbie, I think it was more about showing everyone what I can do, that I have a diverse range and now that I have done that I feel as though I have stepped into myself and I am sure my fans do too. I am happy people got to watch me grow into a woman, because if my journey or progression can inspire even just help one girl I am proud. Especially if the girl I may inspire wants to go into the music industry, an industry where it is all about who is good looking or who has the fattest ass, because I am an ordinary woman who has a talent and that is what pushes me. I want every young girl to know that she has got it going on.
TSK: What advice would you give to your younger self?
LD: There are loads of things that I would say to younger Lil Debbie! One, watch how you ask for things you want. Two, don’t do shit you don’t want to do. Three, who fucking cares? I would literally scream at myself ‘who fucking cares’, be you as long as you are comfortable and be head strong – always.
TSK: Finally, How would you describe yourself in three words?
LD: Stoner, smart and human.
THANKS LIL DEBBIE.
Check out the Lil Debbie editorial here.
Make sure you listen to Lil Debbie’s latest EP XXXIII featuring the likes of Yung Felix and Yellow Claw.
Photographer: Silvijah Gec
HMUA: Kitty Noofa
Brands: Jemilla King