Dupree Edwards, aka Duped, shared with The Arc Minnesota his experience as a rapper, MC, and podcast host in a question (Q) and answer (A) style interview.
Q: Can you tell us a little about the art that you create and how you got started?
A: It all started when I was in transition plus school. It started to unlock different gifts about me. Whether it’s hosting and doing radio shows and things like that. Later I found out that I could rap. I just try to use that in the best way I can and in a positive way. I use my hosting abilities, my radio voice, to speak up for people with disabilities and mental health. I use that to create some awareness. I kind of use my gifts towards self-advocacy in the beginning when I started.
Right now, I am working on my album. I do gospel rap. I have made three songs already and am working on the fourth. I’ve amplified my self-advocacy voice. I have my music on Spotify and Apple Music which is getting a lot of good numbers. With my music right now, I am being patient and working on the foundation.
Q: What inspires and motivates you to create?
A: Telling my story. Back in the day, I felt like a lot of people didn’t really listen to me or take me seriously. When I perform, when I’m on stage, or when I do music, I feel like that is where people listen and really understand. I felt like I had two sides of me. One Dupree that people don’t understand, but the performing side Dupree they be like, “I like this Dupree, I can understand where he is coming from, I can understand what he is saying.” That’s what inspires me. Just making sure that I can tell my story, that I can get my point across, I feel like people listen to me. This was more back in the day. Right now, I feel like I can talk to people where I don’t have to put on my creativity to make people listen to me, but that’s still the inspiring thing, to tell my story and make sure that I get my point across in my music. To answer your question, I guess it’s really just telling my story. Just making sure my voice is heard and use my gifts to really get my message out there.
Q: Does your art tell a story about yourself?
A: It really just talks about how I went through different things in my life of different obstacles that I have learned. I really try to tell that in my music. I really try to think about what I’ve learned in my life. There is a song that tells what I have been through and what I go through today and the things I overcome. There were a lot of things in my childhood that were not really the best, but I really overcame some things. It’s all about growing, maturing, getting better, and learning from my mistakes. I try to incorporate that into my music. In my radio, speaking, or podcast that I do, sometimes I just tell my story like that. It’s just based on what I have been through. I feel like back in the day, every day was a learning experience. I had to prove people wrong to know that yes, I can do this, yes, I’m capable of making it. I feel like I don’t have an obligation to do that anymore, because I know that it’s about me and it’s about my growth and it’s about what I want. There’s a lot if things in my art that tell people, “Oh wow, you’ve been through a lot, but how far you have came, how far you have accomplished.” In my earlier rapping, you could just tell that I was still going through a lot of stuff in my music. Today, you can just see the growth and how I can tell it in a greater way where people can understand it.
Q: What are you most proud of as an artist?
A: That I don’t do it to be the center of attention anymore, or I don’t do it just get people to listen to my side. I do it because I love to do it. This is what I was meant to do. I don’t have to prove to anybody that I can do this or do that. I’m proud that I can just say “yeah, this is what I am creating, this is what I am working on. Whether you want to listen to it or not, whether you want to support it or not, I just know that it all matters to me.” If they don’t support it or don’t like it, it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to back in the day. I do music, my creativity, and my podcast just to amplify my voice and make my voice heard. What I’m really most proud of is that I’m not doing it just because they like that side of Dupree. A lot of people are big fans of my performing side. I try to put my performing side and myself into one category. You’re getting both sides; you’re getting all of me in one type of category. That’s what I’m proud of, that I do it because I love to do it and I’m not trying to impress anybody.
Q: Have there been any challenges you have had to overcome as an artist?
A: I guess just trying to get somebody that really wants to listen to my music. The radio type thing I just do that on the side. It’s not something I really want to pursue right now, but I’ve been to radio stations. It’s really hard to create your own show there. But my music, really just trying to find a label. Finding somebody that’s going to try to enhance my writing skills. I just found a label three years ago. It was really good, and I have been happy with that. I’m not doing it in a negative way, it’s a positive way. I’m rapping about God and doing it in a better way where I feel good about it. The challenge was just trying to get fans, just trying to get exposure. I think I find ways to bring my music out and when I do put my music out and promote it, a lot of people listen to it and like it. It’s still a challenge to get more listeners. It costs money to get your name out there.
Q: Is there a relationship between your music and community. If so, could you tell us about this?
A: I really don’t know because I haven’t really gone out and performed in a while or every day. That’s something I’m really working towards to actually see if my music will actually reach the community. But that’s the goal one day! I just have to go to different gigs and shows to build fans and connections like that. I’m working on trying to build that community, that fan base, that connection with the community. It’s in the works. If you’re talking about the disability community, yeah, the disability community knows my music very well. A lot of people listen to it. That’s where I usually get my exposure in the disability community, because a lot of disability advocates or leaders ask me to do my music.
Q: Why is creating art important?
A: It makes me feel good when I perform, when I rap, when I write something. It just makes me feel good about myself. It’s pretty much like therapy. Like relieving my stress, relieving my anxiety. When I do it, I also have fun, even if I’m going through a little bit of challenge when I’m writing or when I’m recording. It’s all about to be real, not to be fake about it. That’s why I like to rap. It’s my gift. All of these talents came natural to me. I didn’t practice rapping; it just came natural to me. I didn’t practice dancing; it came natural to me. I didn’t practice radio stuff; it just came natural to me. I’m still trying to unlock my talent, unlock my rapping ability, unlock my creative voice. I’m really still trying to learn because I’ve only been rapping for 11 years now, so I’m still trying to learn new ways about things. When I first started rapping, man, my voice sound good. I just want there lyrically yet, but I was feeling it. I was on the beat; I was doing good. Now I’m a lot better. I’m a lot smoother now in my craft. I continue to work on my craft each and every day. I guess just growth is part of the answer of the question. It makes me feel good. It makes me release a lot of stress, release a lot of anxiety. It makes me forget about what’s around me. If I have a bad day and I go write something, or go perform, I forget about that bad day. Music makes me happy. It gets me in my element every time.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start creating?
A: I would tell them, “Is it something that you are passionate about? Is it something that you really want to do?” I would say really try to work on your craft. Really try to believe that you can do it. Nowadays people just think they can rap and talk on it, but it’s all about your delivery. It’s all about your passion that you want to put it through. A lot of people could just listen to anything and just make a crazy song that you could get so popular off of it. If you want to be creative and be true to yourself, really think about what you want your message to be, what you really want your story to be. In my rapping, I want a positive outlook so I can reach the community and make the community better. That’s my motto, that’s why I rap, that’s why I do that. I want to reach the community and give back to the community. I’d just tell somebody that if you really want to be artist, just try to make sure you’re passionate about it. You’re not just doing it to be famous. You’re doing it because you really like it. That’s what I try to do. I just do it because I like and I love it. It’s a purpose why I do it.
Podcasting, just write something that you’re really passionate about. Whether it’s about the disability community, whether it’s about something you’re really interested in. Really try to stick to those topics and stick to what you do. But really my message to all artists, it’s all about believing in yourself and being yourself. Stay true to yourself. Stay true to who you are. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something, that you’re not good enough. You’ve got to know that you are good enough with your art and creativity.