Meet Mod Da God—A lyricist eager to change the typical “Rags to Riches” story

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

Meet DJ Nyla: Cracking the Mic and Smashing Turntables

She plops down on the crisp white sofa. Her head is right above a stenciled, iHeart Media logo. “This is my first interview,” she said. “Not really but you know what I mean.”

From Paris to Philly. Her latest trip to New Orleans is just one of the many places where Nyla has left her mark. The German born, military brat, calls Maryland home but often finds herself on the nearest flight to a destination she has yet to uncover.

Her pit-stop in the Big Apple is her new stomping grounds--her home away from home. 21 year old, Nyla Billups, St. Johns graduate, Power 105.1 and Source intern, is navigating the concrete jungle and hustling her way to the top of the entertainment industry. In an industry that is heavily dominated by men, Nyla is taking the world by storm, garnering every skill and following in the footsteps of powerful women like Angie Martinez, Angela Yee and Karen Civil.  She is a jack of all trades.  Not only does she want to crack the mic and rock the airways on radio, she is also proclaiming the title as a powerhouse Dj.

“When I was younger I’d tell people that I want to be Oprah,” said Nyla. “I want to be an influencer. My two passions in life are social issues and Hip-Hop and I am trying to find a way to combine both.”

Nyla found her love for Hip-Hop through influencer's close to home, her parents. They were both students of the game. She recalls being exposed to Wu Tang and other classic 90’s artists,  way before she knew she wanted to be a personality.

“My father was big on New York music, but my family is from the south. We listened to a lot of Trick Daddy and a lot of Outkast,” she said. “I grew up off that culture. Sure, I watched Disney Channel but BET! I could tell you all the shows that came on and at what time.”

In High school, Nyla began to entertain the idea of Djing. Djing is the first element of Hip-Hop culture. The complex mixing and scratching of 70’s disco and mcing is the foundation of the music we love today.

“Disco was brand new then and there were a few jocks that had monstrous sound systems but they wouldn't dare play this kind of music,” said Grand Master Flash. “They would never play a record where only two minutes of the song was all it was worth. They wouldn't buy those types of records.”

Grand Master Flash is a Hip-Hop pioneer and the creator of  ‘the scratch’. An idol in Nyla’s eyes to say the least, Grand Master Flash is a worldwide Hip-Hop pundit. Practice is the key to mastering the craft but in high school Nyla fell short of that effort. Her first piece of equipment was only $50.

Spin. Stop. Scratch. Spin.

The record to Nyla’s life turned around when she began to intern at Power 105.1. Power 105.1 is the home of the Breakfast Club—Angela Yee, Charlemagne the God and Dj Envy. It is also the home of radio legend, Angie Martinez—an original reporter of Hip-Hop news.

“When I started working here at Power, being around some of the best MC’s to do it, DJ TY Boogie, DJ Will, DJ Clue, DJ Self—when I see them spin and scratch, its inspiring,” she said. “I want to be the one to make the people dance because when they get on I want to move, I want to have that same power too.”

Nyla took her last refund check and invested in herself. Her brand new Serato equipment is now part of the soundtrack to her life. Building relationships with the Power 105 DJ’s, who participate in Angie Martinez’s ‘Live at Five,’ has allowed Nyla to master transitioning techniques and the baby scratch. She pays homage to You Tube also. The internet is a driving force in her ability to practice and master mixing.

“I am trying to start small before I go big. I am going to take my time,” she said.  “I am going to stay humble and work my way up. I don’t want to be a button pusher.”

Her first gig transcended #Black Girl Magic. Nyla, was the feature Dj at the first Fifty Shades of Magic event. Fifty Shades of Magic, is a non-profit organization led by Nyla and a few distinguished women who are climbing the ladder in their respective industries. It is an open platform focused on the mentorship, guidance and development of young girls. Nyla played empowering music from the soundtracks of Beyonce, Solange and the iconic Lauryn Hill.

Nyla is one of the many revolutionary women Dj’s that are on the rise. Her counterparts Vashtie and Kitty Cash have broken into an industry that has been male dominated for many years. Her passion for Women’s Rights, the Black Lives Matter movement and the fight for political integrity are driving forces in Nyla’s love for music.

“I want to use my platform to talk about the next presidential campaign or voting for the senate,” she said. “The biggest issue is that a lot of people don’t know [politics] but everyone loves music, so I want to be able to draw people in through music.”

Take #TheInitiative to keep up with  Nyla

20 BIG Facts about the Notorious B.I.G


1. There's no place like home.
Biggie is from Bedstuy, Brooklyn.

2.Hip-Hop it started out in the park.
Biggie's name blew up heavy on the streets before his hits saturated Billboard Charts.

 

3. Rare findings
Biggies original demo tape was only sold in the Lion’s Culture in Brooklyn.

4. He changed his stage name
Notorious B.I.G., wasn't his original stage name. He went by MC Quest then Biggie Smalls. The name derived from Calvin Lockhart's character in Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier's 1975 film "Let's Do It Again." He changed his name to Notorious BIG to avoid any patent complications.

5. The Source
Diddy discovered Biggie in The Source magazine under the Unsigned Hype column.

6. Mary J Blige tracks helped boost him to stardom
Before making a solo appearance. He appeared on a 1993 remix of Mary J. Blige's single, "Real Love," and followed it up with a second Blige remix, "What's the 411?"

7. Pivotal Career Moves
His first solo single "Party and Bullshit," was released under Uptown Records. This indicates that BIG was under Uptown and made the move to Bad Boy Records.

8. Angie Martinez the legend
The beat of Biggie's 'Ten Crack Commandments,' comes from Angie Martinez's break that aired on Hot 97.

9. 4.5
Biggie’s Ready To Die received 4.5 mics from The Source magazine.  When the magazine reviewed the album 8 years later in 2002, it was changed to a 5 mic rating.

10. Michael Jackson was a fan
Biggie is one of the few hip-hop artist to ever record with Michael Jackson (1995). Six years later Michael Jackson released his tenth studio album 'Invincible' which featured a verse from B.I.G.

11. From High School to stardom
Biggie, DMX, Busta Rhymes and Jay Z are all products of Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School.

12. That baby is not Biggie!
B.I.G is not on the cover of 'Ready To Die.' The baby is Keithroy Yearwood. He made $150 for being on one of the greatest albums in Hip-Hop history.

13. Business Owner mentality
Biggie planned to open a soul food joint and he wanted to name it 'Big Poppa'

14. Awards.
He never won a Grammy.

15. Television Appearances.
Biggie made a special appearance on the fondly remembered Fox cop show, New York Undercover. He rapped “Juicy” and sat in on a fictional panel about violence in rap. He also made an appearance on Martin playing himself.

16. Walk with a limp.
Biggie walked around with a cane, due to a broken left leg he suffered in a car crash with Lil Cease.

17. BIG.
Biggie was 6’1, 395 lbs, according to the coroner’s report.

18. Irony.
'Ready to Die,' was released on September 13, 1994, and reached No. 13 on the Billboard 200 chart, eventually being certified four times Platinum.

19. Friendship.
Tupac and Biggie were not always enemies.

20. Life After Death
Big Planned To Drop 'Life After Death' On Halloween In 1996.