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Interview: Dawn Gun

BTS: Dawn Gun

Not too long ago, we met up with Harlem raised, Los Angeles based emcee Dawn Gun who shared her gripping views on challenges within womanhood, the experience of making her new album La Pistola, which is available worldwide, and her proposition for fellow female emcees to join her label, Pretty Ill Entertainment. Inspired by previous mic wreckers such as Salt & Pepper, Queen Latifah and Eric B. & Rakim, and being compared to one of Hip-Hop’s most consistent emcees Nas, Dawn Gun strikes for her own sound while remembering those who passed on the torch before hand. Coming together with LexZyne Productions on a collaborated track called “Body Bag” with her sister Brandi Kane from their crew “(Sis)tem”, and “One 212” produced by XL Productionz where she sheds a flavorant 80’s flow with style to match.

She also runs an online vintage boutique called La Pistola Vintage which is a spin-off to her raps. Having vivid reminiscence of her Latin childhood, Gun explains why she’s the trigger and the shooter.


Where did the name Dawn Gun come from?

Dawn Gun was actually an alias that I had. My last name is kinda mobbish. A friend of mine named me. I was previously releasing music under the moniker “Mis.Led!” and when I got my distribution deal with INgrooves-Fontana. I had some legal issues with the name, so I wound up just going with Dawn Gun.

That’s what it is. Nice. So, you’re a mother now?

I am. Yes.

Would being a mother ever be a conflict, when it comes to your music?

Being a mom is awesome. I actually have two very beautiful, gorgeous children and it’s not really a conflict with my music. My music is pretty forthright and it might be a little grimy and a little explicit for them to listen to, but it doesn’t conflict with how I raise them or anything like that. And as far as me being able to pursue what it is that I’m doing musically, I have a really supportive family and it’s not a problem for my kids to be with my family while I have to do a show or if I need time to write a song or focus in the studio, or something like that. So it’s been a blessing. They actually inspire me to continue what I’m doing.

And would you ever change your style of music for your daughter?

Would I change my style of music for her? If she sat down and told me that there was something that she wanted me to do or something that she wanted to talk about I think I will definitely take it into consideration. But I don’t know about changing. Changing completely? I don’t know. It would have to be a really good reason, I think. She’ll have to talk to mommy about that.

Would you ever think about compromising with her?

Yeah. I mean I don’t really think my music is that bad to where she would want me to change, you know? Maybe she’d ask me to not curse so much. I would understand that. But I think she’ll pretty much rock with me. You know, if she had an issue with it, then we’ll talk about it.

What is your first memory of music?

Oh wow! My first memory of music has gotta be in my grandmother’s house. I was raised in a Puerto Rican home with my grandmother. It was a lot of merengue, a lot of salsa going on and she was always cooking up Spanish food. So, I remember being in the kitchen and her putting on a real old school box-like radio. Like, a real old school radio and just always hearing Spanish music blasting through the speakers in the kitchen while she was cooking. I can smell the food now! So yeah, that’s my first memory of music. Me and Hip-Hop? My father really introduced me to Hip-Hop, and he had all the fresh Hip-Hop before anybody else did. I was constantly asking him, ‘What is that? Who is that? Where did you get this from?’ And he’d be like, ‘Just follow me kid.’ He was a big Hip-Hop influence on me, but musically speaking, I think I remember just being in my grandmother’s kitchen always hearing: (Claps rhythm) you know? It was awesome. It was fun.

Do you incorporate your Puerto Rican culture into your music often?

Yes! Well, my album is called La Pistola, which I think is an ode to my name and also an ode to my Puerto Rican roots. With the album, it’s really not a traditional Hip-Hop album. It’s really musical. It’s a musical album and there are some Spanish influences on some of the tracks, [there] and in the style of that, I chose to write and spit the verses too. So yeah, it’s not completely drowned in like, ‘Oh my God, it’s soaked in arroz con pollo’ but it’s there and you can tell that there’s something Latin about that — that sound.

Right, the vibe, I like that. I like that, and who would you say influence you the most as an artist?

Old School Hip-Hop really influenced me and it does continue to influence me today, because it was so raw and so real and it talked about things that were happening and not just dreams — what you want — and what you wish for and what could be. But the delivery was so raw and so real that it stayed with me and the love that I have for it just continues till this day. So I think just in general, old school Hip-Hop, and artist like Boogie Down Productions, Eric B. & Rakim, Salt & Pepper, MC Lyte. Even Antoinette, Isis, Sweet Tee… Those type of females, and that type of Hip-Hop is what is in my heart.

So, that real core 80’s Hip-Hop?

Yeah, The Golden Era of music — The Golden Era — 90’s Hip-Hop was also incredible but I don’t think it influenced me as much, as style goes.

How long have you been recording?

I’ve been recording probably about thirteen years. I’ve been rapping for a really long time. Like forever, since I could remember and things like being in high school and battling in high school and taking out opposite crews and things of that nature was always there. But when it came to writing a real song, to production getting in there and actually completing it? I started doing that in 2000 and that was because I had so many talented people, producers, engineers, writers, rappers around me that were like, ‘Why aren’t you doing this? You need to utilize your tools here.’ And I thought, ‘You’re right. Let me really jump into this and really take it seriously.’ So I recorded my first song it was called, “Super B-Girl” and I think that was the year 2000 or 2001. It was fun. From that point on, it was fun trying to find my voice on the mic, and figure out my style, my delivery and it was a good time and I liked it. Since then I want to be in the studio, I want to make music, I want to complete music and I want to make a difference with my music. I can’t do that if I’m just sitting around writing to myself. Calling my friends up spitting hot verses — that’s not going to get my on so I been doing it for a minute now. But I’m happy to be where I am at this point with my album, it’s finally out. So I’ve been going for a while.

What would you say is your style?

My style. I been told told that I have a “Salt” from Salt & Pepper style with a mixture of a “Nas”. I don’t necessarily compare myself to those artists and I’m even blown away that they would even compare me to those artist but I feel like my style comes from an organic place with loving Hip-Hop. I listen to Nas, I listen to Jay [Z], I listen to Prodigy, Ghostface, those are like my favorite rappers and I know in some way or another they influence my style a bit but my style is like mine.

It’s you.

Yeah, so if you would say ‘What do you sound like? Or who would you compare yourself?’ or something like that, I think you yourself would understand that I kind of fall into my own category a little bit.

There it is. You’re your own person.

That’s how I feel.

What challenges have you faced so far?

I think every day is a challenge. I’m a mom. I’m an independent woman. I’ve been on my own for a really long time so every day in life is a challenge. But with the music — being a female is a challenge. Being a female in life in the world is a challenge, right? So, you take an industry and its dominated by men and they can see you have talent. It’s awesome, you work with a lot of people but they tend to focus on the male rappers and put them more as a priority when a female, who is me, who’s ready to go, who should have been smashed, and probably could blow your whole label up is sitting in the back like ‘Well, why am I playing second fiddle to this dude when you know I’m doper than him?’ That’s been a challenge for me and I feel like if I was a guy, it wouldn’t be such a thing. I’ve had some setbacks where I had to start over. I have had to press the reset button a few times on projects because of that same thing. You have an artist that you want to push, you want me on your roster but you don’t want me to be a priority right now. I have to wait. I’m not waiting. I’m ready. So that’s been a challenge for me but I’m happy now because I’ve been doing it independently. Sometimes, you gotta do it yourself.

Do you ever have any doubts about being a musician? With achieving your goals?

I think in the beginning I doubted if I could really pull it off for my career and a real future. I come from a family that really pushes me do well academically and have a safety net and sometimes you just gotta say “Fuck the safety net!” Sorry? I’m going to fly or die. And that’s just what it is. I believe if I could see it, then I could make it. If I could see it, if I could see you, I’m going to touch you. So as long as I see it in my head, I know that it’s going to be okay and even with the sad times, the ups and downs, this is it for me. I’m built for this, so I’m going. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is what’s up for me.

What are your goals?

Well right now, and I say right now loosely I guess because this is a forever thing, I started my company — my own label which is called “Pretty Ill Entertainment” and that’s how I released my album through my partner XL Productionz, also with INgroovers-Fontana and what I want and what we will be is the hub for the female emcee. Not exclusive to the female emcee but the hub because I’m surrounded by so many beautiful women artists including my crew, The (Sis)tem, that don’t have an outlet. A real outlet. I don’t know why people are so scared to take chances on a female with skills! I’m surrounded by females with skills so Pretty Ill Entertainment is going to be the hub for the female emcee. I want to put out everybody! If Roxanne Shanté wants to come back, she’s coming out through Pretty Ill Entertainment. If Queen Latifah wants to come back, Monie Love, Miss Toy, or whoever out there thinks, ‘I want to put out an album. Who can I go to? What would be the right label for me?’ Pretty Ill Entertainment is going to be that label.

Ladies!

The independent labels will be the major labels… don’t get it twisted. These major labels are crumbling left and right which is why they’re signing independent talent. So, with that said, Pretty Ill Entertainment is going to be a major one-day so get on now!

How do you plan to expand the female emcee’s narrative?

Plan to expand by just doing me. I mean don’t write in a box, so I’m a free thinker and the way I put it down on paper, I put it down pretty freely. Which is why I believe I have respect from males and females. I speak from a female perspective but I also understand what’s real and it’s hard to say what’s real when you’re a female without being consider a bitch but when you’re a dude, you could kind of say what’s real and just kind of get away with it. It doesn’t have anything to do with gender. So, I know when I speak, I speak from the heart and I speak for all people and I think that women get put into a box where speaking about sex or they’re speaking about money and I want to expand the narrative. I think I’m already doing that by just reaching out and talking about different things and just being real with everybody because as long as your real, people could relate and that equals success.

Dawn Gun

That’s what they want.

They want someone they could relate too. They don’t want someone that they can’t touch. So, I’ll let you touch me.

A little bit.

(Laughs) You got to pay a little and then you could touch me a little bit. But I want to touch a lot of people and I think I’m doing that right now because I just speak the truth. It’s nothing specific, no main topic, what do you stand for, what are you about. It’s just truth, that’s it. I stand for the truth I speak the truth. So, that’s how you females need to expand your own damn narrative! (Laughs).

(Laughs) Lay it on the line thick!

But I lead by example. I will.

So, tell me exactly like we spoke before, what is The (Sis)tem and how did you get involved?

Absolutely, The (Sis)tem crew is my crew! We’re actually being called ‘the female Wu’. Which is fun!

BTS: Dawn Gun

Shout out to Wu-Tang Clan!

Yes, they actually call us the “Pu-Tang Clan” which is funny because we got boxes. So, The (Sis)tem crew is six wonderful female emcee, and one gorgeous DJ Jiji Sweet. There’s Kandi Cole, Brandi Kane, Oracle Jane Doe, Miss Bliss, myself Dawn Gun and DVS1. But The (Sis)tem crew is a crew of dope female emcee’s and one dope ass DJ and we just rep for the females. It came out of Project Blowed, which is the longest running Hip-Hop open mic on the planet. Peace out to Freestyle Fellowship, The Good Life Bullies and everybody that pioneered that movement. The (Sis)tem comes from Project Blowed. So I linked up with the (Sis)tem and we’re just like a force to be reckon with. We have an EP out called “The Treatment”. You could get find it on Bandcamp. We’re just awesome. We all have solo projects and were solo emcees but we come together like Voltron and we smash! It’s fun.

What have you learned from being apart of The (Sis)tem?

You know what? I learned that I could actually get along with girls. I really can because when it’s genuine and everybody in The (Sis)tem is really genuine, there’s no real beef. There’s may be disagreements because we all don’t see eye to eye on certain things but it all comes from a place of love and truth so we really really rock with each other.

Sisterhood.

Exactly! Sisterhood. And we love each other so I’ve learned that I could really get along with girls that are my friends. I have to work with them, we have to be in each other’s face, we tour, you know we burp in front of each other, all kinds of crazy stuff but I never saw myself being in that atmosphere or in that environment ever and now that I’m in it, I could rock with it. It’s fun, I like it and nice to unify and stand for one common cause and have the support of so many dope women behind you.

So being in the (Sis)terhood, do you take critique from other entertainers? And how do you take that?

I take critique from everybody. I’m really open, I’m really approachable with things. If I give you the open door, it’s sincere. So I’m always open to hear someone else critique or opinion. As long as that’s just what it is. Don’t get at me! Getting at me is like, getting at me you know? But I’m receptive to that because I want to be my best and I want other people to like what I do and it matters to me what other people think to an extinct.

So tell us more about the album, why did you choose that name and what’s the message?

Well, my album is called “La Pistola”. It’s available everywhere! Everywhere, everywhere, internationally everywhere, go get it! U.K., Australia, England, Japan, everywhere go get it! I called it La Pistola because that’s actually a nickname Brandy Colemy (Sis)tem crew member gave me. Every time I walk in the building she’s like “LaPistola!” and I was like “I really like that.” Like I am the pistol, I am the gun, I’m the straight shooter, I’m going off, I’m the one so it felt good to name my album “La Pistola” in a manner of looking at myself just in a different light. Taking Dawn Gun away. La Pistola is more like an urban legend.

An alter ego?

Yeah, she’s like the urban legend of how Dawn Gun became Dawn Gun. La Pistolas.

The root.

Exactly! The root of it and it just made sense to name my album that. So I released it on my label Pretty Ill Entertainment (P.I.E.) because everyone wants a piece of the P.I.E. The album is a really fun time with a really fun girl on a really dark night and it’s eleven really dope tracks executive produced by Ty Black 32310. It has a track called “Body Bag” which is really a dope track with Brandi Kane and that’s produced by LexZyne Productions. They’re partners, one is from the Bay and one is from Texas so I think that’s pretty cool. And then XL who is of no limit fame, he came up with No Limit and Master P and was really responsible for that sound that they came up with back in the 90’s. So XL did a track on my album and the message is really is, have fun, hang out and be you. If you want to chill with me, that’s how you got to be and I’m pretty chillable so come out, hang out with us, and have a good time but it’s going to be raw. It’s not really a message base album, it’s just really a good time but a dark album. But it’s good, it’s fun, it’s like a ride out album.

Nice, so it’s like some summertime jams.

There’s some Summertime shit. Matter fact, I just released my single “One 212” and I filmed that in New York. In Harlem. In my ‘hood.

Is that the black and white video?

Yeah that’s a real good summer jam right there. Just a real good, feel good, get paper, kind of like a bit of an anthem. So yeah, there’s some Summertime shit on there. Some heartfelt stuff on there. Some real raw, you know, smoke with your peoples type shit, some sit-around-and-talk shit. I’m really good at talking shit.

Politicking.

Mhm, that’s what I do.

How do you first hear about GrungeCake? And what comes to mind when you hear that name?

Actually, I heard of GrungeCake probably a couple of years ago. I’m down with Hellfyre Club: Nocando, Kail, Rob, Sahtyre — everybody — Open Mike Eagle and I heard about GrungeCake really just being involved with them. I did my own research. So when I think of GrungeCake, I think of independent and eccentric artistry being exposed and being appreciated. That’s what I feel. It’s really edgy but it’s super cute. I don’t know. It’s my style, so I’m excited to be apart of the GrungeCake movement right now.

And are you looking to be a mainstream artist or musician?

Like I said earlier, I do believe the independent labels will be the major labels so we’re going to dictate what becomes mainstream. I know I have the appeal to crossover but I’m not really holding myself in just a ‘Hip-Hop light’. I could rock hip-hop all day long but I have versatility and a variety to offer, in general. I think I have that now. I think the right people need to see it so I could have those opportunities but right now I am “The Kwan”, you guys. Show me the money, okay? The Kwan! You seen Jerry Maguire? The Kwan, it’s everything. You have it. It’s just, you need to know where it is, so you could find it and then I’m mainstream overnight? I don’t know. But I think it could happen. Definitely.

So, what’s next for you?

I’m running my company. I want to put out some really great female artists and I want to build the right foundation for Pretty Ill Entertainment. I really want to promote the hell [out of] “La Pistola”, my album. I want to put out The (Sis)tem crew and I want to expand. So, this is a business. I’m running a business. I’m not selling CDs out of my trunk. This shit is for real, so I’m just going to make it even more realer. Every day that goes by, I’m just solidifying everything that has to do with my company Pretty Ill because it’s real. And it’s going to get realer for a lot of other people. We’re going to be a force to be reckoning with so that’s my main focus right now. Pushing my brand. I actually sell vintage clothes online. I have a store called La Pistola Vintage. It’s on Etsy. I have some really great rare finds. I’m focusing on branding and building.

Nice, and if possible, can we get a freestyle? A quick 16?

A quick 16? Sure. Absolutely. Let me get my shit together. Is there a beatboxer around here? To read Dawn Gun‘s freestyle verse, just click here.

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For more Dawn Gun, just click here.

Written by Richardine Bartee

Her unprejudiced love for people, the arts, and business have taken her this far. Join Richardine on her journey as she writes history into existence, one article at a time. Richardine is a member of the Recording Academy/GRAMMYs, and a GRAMMY U Mentor. She is part of the Complex Day Ones, an exclusive community to help make the Complex experiences even better.