More Ready Than Ever
While the world was moving outside, 42 Dugg's career came to a halt as he did time on the inside for 18 months. He's back in business now with a forthcoming project and the self-awareness to cherish his freedom.
Interview: Georgette Cline
Editor’s Note: This story appears in the Spring 2024 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

If there was a meter on maturity, 42 Dugg would be in the red. The Detroit rapper, who calls Atlanta home these days, has a renewed sense of purpose as he reflects on being a free man during a Zoom call from his ATL digs in February. While Dugg, 29, still possesses the kind of boyish charm that makes his age hard to tell, his demeanor turns to stern indignation when discussing his most recent stint in prison. This time, he’s hell-bent on not going back.

42 Dugg has spent much of his life behind the wall. Just shy of his 16th birthday, he did a six-year bid for carjacking and gun possession. Once he came home in 2017, rapping became his livelihood. Mixtapes like Young & Turnt and Free Dem Boyz earned him respect both in the streets and the tweets. His slurred vocal fry and signature whistle heard on songs “We Paid” with Lil Baby and “Maybach” featuring Future are the calling cards that sent him soaring. Lil Baby and Yo Gotti saw Dugg’s potential and signed him to a joint deal, 4PF/Collective Music Group/Interscope Records, in 2019. As more music and projects followed, Dugg’s legal issues put his promising career on pause.

In 2022, the Midwest MC was arrested after failing to surrender to serve a six-month sentence for illegal firearm possession stemming from a 2020 case. 42 Dugg spent 18 months in prison and faced hardships inside like having to heat up food with shower water. He was released from United States Penitentiary Atlanta last October. The Cheshire Cat-like smile he had on his face as he was captured on video running out of the prison gates was deeper than just happiness to see the fam. Dugg wasn’t seeing a cell ever again.

Over the last five months, the rap ace has been perfecting his new album, Forever Us, Never Them, set for release this spring or summer, and unleashed the salient singles “SpinDatBac” and “Wock N Red.” 42 Dugg is ready and raring to go with this next chapter of his music. Here, the rapper opens up about getting back in the booth, working with Sexyy Red, the realities of life in prison, launching his own record label and he even sets the record straight on that wild dice game with Offset.

XXL: So, first off, how are you doing?

42 Dugg: I’m alright. Appreciate it. Taking it easy.

What have you been up to the last few days?

Last couple of days, I just been listening to the songs I record, tryna just see what order they should come in on my tape, hearing final edits of my vocals, going over different hook ideas, different features, should this make the tape, should this not. Just stuff like that, for real.

The new project you have coming out is Forever Us, Never Them. Why that title?

I was gone for a minute and a lot of people probably tryna write us off, you know what I’m sayin’? A lot of people, you know, they ain’t expect me to bounce back like how I’m finna do. So, I just want my fans to know it’s always gon’ be us and it’s never gon’ be them.

[For this album], I would say I’m paying more attention to my tempo and I’m making sure I’m balancing it out, as far as I wanna put a few songs on there for the girls. This the most I paid attention to songs for girls since I’ve been recording. I got to make sure I had something on there for the girls instead of talking s**t to ’em.

Is there one song or a collaboration that you’re really excited about?

Me and Sexyy Red. [A song called] “No Panties On.” I sent it to her and she did what they said she was gonna do. Hard-a*s beat, man. I just f**k with her energy, you know what I’m sayin’? I f**k with how she stick with who she is, and I just like she real raw. GloRilla, too, though.

So, this project, were you writing that while you were in prison or this is all different songs?

The s**t I wrote [in there], I ain’t even used that yet. [Forever Us, Never Them is] just new ideas, just really my feelings. It really just how I’m feeling. I just felt when I was in there [prison], making sure my fans understood the pain. It wasn’t all just fun. It wasn’t all that. It wasn’t none of that s**t, for real, you know what I’m sayin’?

Even hearing people scream, “Free me,” and getting fan mail, that s**t hurt. Reading letters like, man, I wanna be home. I don’t wanna be reading this type of s**t. I appreciate that, but dang. Why I gotta be going through this type of s**t?

You were able to read the mail fans were sending you?

Yeah, for sure. One guy asked me, he [repeated what I] said, “Once I get a hundred million, I’m done rapping.” He said, “Why you stopping so soon?” That was funny. I said, s**t. Hell yeah, right. He said, “Why not at a billion?”

Did you ever write people back?

Yeah, but they won’t let my letters go out. They was playing with my mail. I wrote a few people back.

You tried. A testament to the type of person you are, right? Because you could have gotten a whole bunch of letters and not even decided to correspond with people. Why is that important to maintain that relationship with the fans who support you?

They took their time out. I just wanted to show I was appreciative that they even took their time out to write me, you know what I’m sayin’?

You were vocal on social media during your time in prison about some of the conditions that you experienced while there. You said you had to heat up food with shower water. And then you wanted a civil lawyer to help out with some of the things going on. Overall, how would you describe this particular time when you were away?

It was probably harder for me because, of course, the first time I went away, I had kids and it just was, like I said, the circumstances was crazier. This time, I felt like they was making it harder for me on purpose, but, in a sense, it kind of helped me realize I can’t do this s**t. No, I ain’t doing this s**t no more, you know what I’m sayin’? So, it was like a change for me, something I needed.

It’d be hard because it’d be like, s**t, you don’t wanna piss these people off. You in these people’s hands, you know what I’m sayin’? I just wanted to shed light on what many people go through, f**ked up s**t in there. That s**t was reckless.

Do you feel your status as an artist was the reason why they also may have been giving you a harder time?

In a sense, yeah, but s**t, it was non-famous muthaf**kas going through s**t, too. All the conditions, for real. You couldn’t read your mail in person. That s**t had to be on a computer. Couldn’t have visits. The place they had me at, I couldn’t even see my people at first until they moved me to another facility and then they was tryna keep me there to make sure I don’t go home early. It was just f**ked up, you know what I’m sayin’? But like I said, it made me realize I can’t do this s**t no more.

What’s the biggest lesson learned from that experience?

I’m more self-aware. I’m more making sure I ain’t doing no wrong s**t. I ain’t put myself in them environments no more where I got to do certain s**t. So, that’s why I feel like there’s a big difference now. Life, I’m pretty much chill. I do the same thing every day now, for real. Work out, come home, record every day. Well, not really work out. I just go hoop.

You had a big welcome home show in Detroit in January, a few months after you were released from prison. How did you feel seeing people come out for you after being gone for a while?

I just wanted to make it about the fans of Detroit, my hometown. I just wanted to get them the best show ever, you know what I’m sayin’? And I feel like I came very close to that. I don’t really wanna make it about me. At first, that probably was the goal. I wanna go home, but as I got close to the concept, I’m like, I’m making it about Detroit more so than me. I’m gonna be alright. Let’s just make it about the fans.

What was the memorable moment from that night?

Probably Yo Gotti coming out after everything that’s been going on. [Editor’s note: Yo Gotti’s brother, Anthony “Big Jook” Mims, was killed six days before the show.] Seeing Gotti still came and rocked with me. Being able to talk to him aside from everything, I feel like that was a big [moment] because, of course, I didn’t want him to be there. I mean, I wanted him to, but I understood the circumstances, so it wasn’t nothing that had to happen, you know what I’m sayin’? So, to see him come there and still feel like he wanted to support me, that was probably my biggest moment of the night.

Last May, Yo Gotti publicly said he’d pay $2 million to any lawyer that could help get you out of prison. How did that make you feel?

Man, I wish that s**t could have got me out, you know what I’m sayin’? It always make me feel like you don’t never wanna put these people in that predicament again where they ever got to do that type of s**t. So, it just make you wanna get your s**t together.

S**t, I do the same thing for him. It’s just our relationship, how I know they feel about me, know what I’m sayin’? What we got going on with each other. It’s probably more than just a business relationship. People like family, for sure. It really ain’t surprising me as much as it surprised everybody.

Following in Gotti’s footsteps, you’ve actually started your own label, Young N Turnt Da Label. What’s your vision for that?

We kinda starting fresh. I can’t be young forever. I’m really just tryna pass the torch off to somebody that I see myself in. I feel like just young and turnt, living their best life, having fun. Turning up in their city, just making good music that I listen to. It’s a lot of people, a lot of young people that doing that right now.

One of the dopest songs from last year is “Ron Artest,” your collab with Babyface Ray. Flo Milli’s track, “Never Lose Me,” uses the same beat as “Ron Artest.” What do you think about her song climbing the Billboard Hot 100 even though your track came out first?

I f**k with it. That thing turnt, for real. Me, personally, I feel like we all should perform it one day. I ain’t never performed “Ron Artest.” I feel like we all should perform it one day, see how it, you know what I’m sayin’? I’m probably gonna put it together. I know I could put it together.

That would definitely be hard. So, you support her and the song.

Hell yeah. I support her. I ain’t gonna not support her.

Earlier this year, Wack 100 spoke on a dice game between you and Offset that allegedly turned violent and money was supposedly taken. Would you like to set the record straight on that whole situation?

These days, muthaf**kas just be internet savvy, kind of get people to click on their story. That don’t mean it’s true, you know what I’m sayin’? Who am I to stop a muthaf**ka from saying what he wanna say? Everybody got their freedom of speech.

All I’m gonna say is everything sound good on the CD, you know what I’m sayin’? It is what it is, man. I can’t do nothing about it. I just want people to speak the truth when they speak about me, right? ’Cause I ain’t never lied on nobody.

So, there’s no truth to money being stolen from you?


In hip-hop right now, what does 42 Dugg represent?

Just young, creative, original, Detroit. I’m still myself, I’m still focused. Still tryna get better. Still tryna get bigger.

What else are you looking forward to in 2024?

I’m looking forward to dropping my album, shooting videos, that type of stuff. Getting back with the music stuff.

42 Dugg photo
Diwang Valdez

Read 42 Dugg's interview in the Spring 2024 issue of XXL Magazine, on newsstands now. The new issue also includes the cover story with Gunna and conversations with Metro BoominDanny BrownTeezo TouchdownJim Jones and Maino a.k.a. Lobby Boyz, That Mexican OT41BabyDrillRapsody, comedian Druski, actress La La AnthonyBigXthaPlugRob49Reuben Vincent, singer Tyla, actress La La Anthony and producer Tate Kobang. There's also a look at how social networking has a chokehold on rappers' feelings, how hip-hop in 2024 is experiencing more wins than losses, and the ways in which kid rappers are thriving thanks to social media.

See Photos of Gunna's XXL Magazine Spring 2024 Issue Cover Story

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