His white T-shirt with cherries on his chest bounces off the blue walls of his fairly new apartment. His eyes are low and he’s grinning per usual. This interview is different from any other I have done.
It’s a bit more personal and tells a story of someone who I’ve grown to admire. He can make an entire room burst into laughter. But, what started out as another joke to me was the manifestation of ‘MOD’—a “Man of Dreams.”
Jared Fenton, 22, better known as Mod Da God, could be seen through my MAC computer. He was 400 miles away, in Buffalo, NY, a place I loosely call home. I spent my college years there. And it’s where I met Mod.
“You don’t even remember Chris,” he said. “We were in south campus, in some bumass south campus party, you were one of the first people I told,” he said. “I told you: I’m legit with this rap shit and I’m going to be somebody.”
I nodded my head trying to remember when this was. (Quite honestly we were probably both intoxicated and sweating profusely. After minutes of playing around I'm sure we linked arms in the college ritual of swag surfing ).
None of this was a joke. 4 years later after reminiscing over that very moment, in a 50 minute interview Mod talked to The Initiative about how he made it on Hot New Hip Hop, his new mix tape and his humble beginnings.
The Initiative: How did this all start? One minute we were playing and now you’re on Hot New Hip Hop.
Mod: I was deadass! I’ve always had a strong love for music. My father is into music. Before I moved to Mount Vernon and I lived downtown in the Bronx we practically lived in the studio. We would turn off the TV and my pops would be in there with his headphones. I’ve always been around it. He produces, he can mix. He tried to get me to play piano and shit but I was never into that. I’ve always had a love for lyrics and at this point I realized that this is for me.
The Initiative: So this is it, no more school? You’re going to be a musician.
Mod: (pause) Yeah, I’m on a different path man, I’m done with that.
The Initiative: You mentioned a lot in this first mix tape that’s why I asked. You talked about homelessness, possibly dropping out. What happened last winter?
Mod: When I first decided I was going to rap, it was over. I was stacking my bread; I convinced my parents I was taking a semester off. Then I needed a place to stay. It was just a tough time but I am good now. Now I’m in the daily life struggle like everyone else, trying to get by. I’ve put out my own videos and one day I would want to produce my own music. I will never stop rapping, the words move too much.
The Initiative: What was your inspiration behind your first mixtape?
Mod: I wanted to look like I was serious about rapping. But not just look like, I am serious about this. My first project is so positive because—my parents. I already think positive and I think ahead. I already know I’m successful at this rap shit, that’s how I live, time just has to meet it. So, I was thinking for my first mix tape, I’m about to J. Cole it. I want positive, I want different. My thought was, if I get big enough and they listen back to it they are going to be proud of me and the message I put out. That was my inspiration.
The Initiative: That’s always been you! You are so family oriented. What’s amazing is that following this mix tape, you made it to Hot New Hip Hop for three weeks in a row. How did this happen? How did that feel?
Mod: Listen, the first time was a fluke. John put the song up and then I got a text. Drake “Pop Style,” was at the top and we were at the bottom. I was like Oh Shit. Then, the second week, I told everyone I was going to make it on. We were sitting in the car and it happen again. On Sundays, you just submit the song. The next week, I was sitting in my crib thinking, it would be crazy if I make it again. And then it happened for the third time that was GOD.
The Initiative: That’s pretty crazy. So what’s next, where you trying to hear yourself?
Mod: I’m going big this time! I don’t think people are trying to hear me. My audience is my friends. I have to get it heard somewhere else. A lot of people show love though. I ain’t about to stop, I want to put out two more tapes before the years out.
The Initiative: Where do you get this drive? Who are your biggest inspirations, icons?
Mod: … I want to be like Jay-Z. When I think far ahead, I think about how am I going to boss up. Jay-Z, 50 Cent, J. Cole too. Big Sean too, all inspirations.
The Initiative: You just named my favorite rappers. As for Big Sean, people need to really listen to him because I think he’s often overlooked.
Mod: He’s a boss, they’re all bosses. Meek Mill, Dave East—he’s a young n*gga, inspirational.
The Initiative: Alright, so what do you bring to the table?
Mod: My story is just different. Went to school, didn’t fuck with school. Been in the hood, been out the hood. I’ve had hood friends, been broke, been middle class. I’ve been everything, I feel like people focus on the struggle too much. But at the same time, everyone didn’t come from the bottom. At the end of the day more people are more like me then they think.
The Initiative: Your story isn’t rags to riches-"poor then I rose to the top…"
Mod: Yeah and I don’t like that killing shit. I don’t like that shit! I don’t want to get shot. They killing people and then that’s the top song in the club. I don’t like that shit.
The Initiative: You know what I respect that. That’s not your story and you’re not trying to live that story.
Mod: You ain’t about to hear me shooting nobody. I am down talking guns (laughing). My new shit is down talking guns and people shooting each other.
The Initiative: That’s dope, you know my background with Black Lives Matter and you’re one of the few people who I know off-hand, who use Frederick Douglas in a bar. You touch on pressing issues: guns, tuition, school, being a black man. Why is that important to incorporate in your music?
Mod: Black Lives Do Matter. At that time, those lyrics, it was how I was feeling. I listen to this shit back and I may have been harsh but that’s how I was feeling about our people. This is real, you have to understand where it comes from. They can’t think, I’m crazy. If you turn on the TV you see where I am coming from. More people need to be honest about it.
The Initiative: Angie Martinez just did an interview with Idris Elba and he said if you have the platform to talk about this stuff you should. So I think its dope that you talk about it. You remind me of Cole. You have the same concept…I love Timmy Turner but I also love consciousness. How are you going to be different from Cole?
Mod: Street music, Meek Mill, talking about all that fly stuff, people feel that because that’s what they want. But J. Cole you feel him the same way but his story is just like wow! Love Your’s is the most beautiful song ever written. You can play that around your mom. He has better numbers than all of them, he’s not taking any L’s. People call him boring but he’s only dropping once a year and has an effect on people.
The Initiative: What do you want out of this, what’s your long-term goals? 5 years?
Mod: 28. I’m up! I’m different, I’m not here. I work way too hard. I can drop mad tapes with the music I have. The end goal is a label. I want to put everything out right.
“This is everything I said I was.”
His creativity trumped college. Mod is taking his talent elsewhere and dedicating his life to his music. Following the interview Mod played me songs off his next tape which will be out in September. His new song Believe is now on Sound Cloud and just made it to Hot New Hip Hop AGAIN. Its only up from here.
Hear more Mod Tha God at: https://soundcloud.com/moddagod