Location: Nashville, TN
Where do I begin? My first song? How about why? Should I skip straight to my life altering moments? There were two.. Should I begin with the brand I’ve created, the online contests, or how extensive my portfolio as grown since the age of 13? Maybe I should just let my fingers start from the beginning and hope I can keep you intrigued enough to maybe understand my journey. Yeah, let’s do that.
I’ve had all the musical influence I could possibly encounter through my diverse family. Everybody from Frank Sinatra, to James Brown, Elvis, Eric Clapton, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, the list goes on. My parents divorced when I was 2, so that meant two of everything:Christmas, Birthday’s, Thanksgiving, Easter. My mother remarried a few years later and I remember all too well the late night fights and blue lights shining through my window. We had just moved from my home town (Columbus, MS) around 2000, and landed smack in the middle of Pigeon Forge, TN. I don’t like to go into detail much about my childhood but what I will say is this; there are images, moments in time burned in my memory that never seemed to go away.
I was an angry kid, on the inside. I dealt with being the new kid, leaving my dad back in Mississippi where I spent 10 years of my life, being terrified to do the wrong thing in front of my mother’s husband. Granted there was a back story, to all this; Adultery, violence, a lack of parental guidance from both of their childhoods. But that’s not why I’m writing this is it?
The first hip hop song I heard was “Roll Out” on the way back from a visit to my family one summer. Not exactly a kid friendly track wouldn’t you say? I was fascinated; the comedy, the detail, the passion. No you don’t think “passion” when you here “Roll Out” or “Area Codes”, but I saw what it was over vulgar bar, every creative metaphor; and that was self expression. I immediately started listening to Luva Luva, Eminem, Young Bloodz and Nelly. That was the early 2000 jam session. I remember vividly asking one year for an Eminem CD. For months leading up to that Christmas morning I nagged everyone in my family so that my chances of receiving explicit gift was bound to happen. I wake up that Christmas morning to find what? Will Smith’s “Willennium”. What a gut shot. That’s not to say I didn’t know every lyric to the extended version of “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme song that following spring, To this day I can interrupt the Fresh Prince reruns with a very cocky and confident full version that no one else knows but me. But it is safe to say my parents were not a fan of “that rap stuff”.
The first song I wrote was very dirty to put it mildly. Hell at that point in my life I was all about being cool and foul mouthed. I kept a notebook with me in class and I would constantly write. Funny rhymes, angry rhymes, “bad bitches and rims” rhymes. I’ll never forget the day my mom and step-father found that notebook. I came in after school to them both sitting on the couch with a few of the ones I had stored away. I wrote a lot. They sat me down and I tried to hold back laughter as the word’s “All you hating ass bitches can suck MY DICK” came out of her mouth with Clear pronunciation as she read from my black notebook well into page 30 or so. I was grounded and I watched as they threw every bit of my writing I had accumulated in a span of the last few months. I was even more angry. I was even more fascinated. I was hooked.
Fast forward to senior year of high school. Four “Mixtapes”, a pocket full of cash (CD sales), a class mixture of haters, supporters, and most of which couldn’t care less, and a passion so deep I couldn’t Feed it fast enough. I ended up with a small baseball scholarship to Faulkner University and for the next few years I spent more time in my dorm mixing and mastering my upcoming releases than I did on the diamond. Which was crazy because before music, baseball was all I knew. Music took over before I even realized it. I ended up transferring to Mississippi State University where I continued to add CDs to my portfolio including an entire album with my father (crazy guitarist), a “Lost in Tranzlation” mixtape series that proved to be quite popular, and finally my first actual in-studio album “LoudActionsLouderWords”. after years of battling the stereotyped image of my passion (the white rapper), I was finally able to come up withan image that I was proud of. I wanted to represent class. A different angle in the industry. I cleaned up my lyrics and started wearing a suit with a bow tie any time i did anything music related. “The Dapper Rapper” they started calling me. I even dropped a song called “The Bow Tie Killer”. I thought it was unique and frankly I love dressing up classy. I was finally comfortable letting anyone and everyone know who I was. I was the Dapper Rapper with a positive message.
Que first life altering event*
Turns out being in college has its fun. The parties, the women, oh the women. Classroom, what is that? I remember getting the call the summer after I left Faulkner. It was a doozy. I answered the phone, “You may have a son I need you to take a DNA test.” Wait what? I was out of breathe. Confused. Terrified. Four month old Camden Mayfield. Now I was a little more mature than most, at least enough to take care of my little brother and sister during high school. Get them up for school, clean the house while mom was at work (mom had been divorced for sometime now), feed them before bed, rinse repeat. Never was a prepared for such life change. The DNA test came back positive and I had to get my shit together. Opening up for 2 Chainz after “No Lie” had just released, doing my own independent tours to backwoods clubs throughout the southern states, music videos, all that had to stop. At least for the time being.
Full time student with two jobs was just about all I had time for aside from visiting my son on an 8 hour round trip day once a week on the weekend. He looked just like me. It was undeniable. He motivated me to be something, to finish school, to be a role model. If there was anything I’ve always tried to live by its chase your dreams and don’t stop until you love what you do and do what you love. Simple enough. I couldn’t wait to show him, to mold him into a better human than I ever thought about being. It was a challenge I was absolutely willing to accept.
*Que second life altering event*
So the summer 2012 was the when my life changed. The spring of 2013 was when my life almost ended, at least my normal life. I was visiting friends back where I grew up in Pigeon Forge. I had it all planned out I was gonna spend the first part of my spring break with friends and then the second part at my grandmothers in Birmingham AL where Camden was there waiting for me that weekend. After a crazy few nights with good times and great friends, I headed down I75 towards family and my son who were patiently waiting for my arrival. I was in the fast lane and all I remember is a glimpse of tail lights from a Harley and then nothing. I was apart of a fatality on the highway. Unfortunately the motorcyclist didn’t make it. I think about that day every day of my life. The investigators came, there was so much traffic that day. I was checked for substance alcohol abuse all that stuff. Clear. They kept my phone to see if i was texting which was later proven that i wasn’t. My blood was taken after they assured me it was simple procedure when dealing with a fatality. Two months later the blood results come back. I was charged with a DUI and Vehicular Homicide. How could this be? I was sober as a fucking judge. Obviously I was mortified by the wreck and will never be able to be sorry enough for what happened that day, but trying to pin criminal charges on me? They claimed my blood level was a .24 (3 times over the legal limit).
After 5 months, $30,000 Lawyer, a failed semester at MSU due to stress, and a very supportive but worried family behind me, I was looking at 8 years in prison; probably serving 3-5 on good behavior and the fact that I had NO record. My Lawyer was 30k for a reason. He retested the blood with an independent contractor. The result? BAL: 0.000000000.
Five months. I was never gonna see my kid grow up. That was all I thought about up until my court date. October 17, 2013, I was released of all charges due to faulty handling of blood samples. Some how my blood was “mixed up” with someone else’s, and until that day I was gonna pay for it. I remember that day in the court room. My mother and father, my step mom and grandmother all there with me. Prior to that day, weeks before, I had to turn myself in and go through the process that all accused criminals go through. It was the lowest point in my life. I felt so degraded. Like I was a killer and my life as I knew it was over. That however was far from the truth and on that fall day, i was somewhat freed. Not from the mental damage, or the countless articles of my DUI incident, or my mug shot all over the internet, or the family of the victim still believing I was under the influence months earlier, or everyone who thought they knew but didn’t know the truth for lack of research and after-the-fact articles cleaning up my name, but I was freed from the thought of never watching my son grow up. That was a great start if I was never able to regain anything else.
It took me months before I could even talk about it. I was barely able to keep my GPA high enough to graduate, but I used my son as motivation to finish no matter what it took. After summer school and some late hours in the MSU library, I was able to walk across the stage. I did it. I did it for myself, I did it for Camden. He was almost 3 that day I graduated. I wrote a song for him shortly after called “Love Like This”. I have attached the file.
Three weeks after I graduated I moved to Nashville, TN (about 45 minutes away from my son’s residence). I chose Nashville for more opportunity degree wise. I hadn’t recorded anything since before the wreck, almost 2 1/2 years. It was hard not having an escape. When I moved I had a gym membership and a job bartending before I had a place to sleep. I was determined to make in closer to my son so I wouldn’t miss the big moments. I made it to his first T Ball game that following spring.
Feeling confident and ready to take on the world, I picked music back up. It was a part of me and I didn’t need to ignore any longer. Unfortunately these days I can only record in my closet with the equipment I used to use and distribute my music through iTunes, Spotify, and the occasional hard copy when I have enough money to order some. I have struggled financially during my time here in Nashville as well as finding a “career” for lack of that passion that i find so alive and well in the music i still do today. Since I have picked it back up I have been unable to pursue it full time because of late hours at work and the money isn’t coming in quick enough to devise a plan to grow my brand again.
People ask me all the time. “When you gonna make it man” and “How long you gonna keep doing this?!” I have no answers to these questions. All I know is that building my playlist makes me happy. It’s what makes me who I am. If you saw me on the street and said hello, there is no way in hell you would know you were talking to “The Dapper Rapper”. That is a part of my game I like to play. I don’t have the “usual” characteristics of a “rapper”. I usually let them stumble upon it themselves without Me having to tell them what I do. And then I get that classic, “The Dapper Rapper huh? I heard some of your stuff on (various music distribution sights). Not bad man didn’t peg you for a rapper. But it isn’t the usual shit you hear on radio.” That response is like music to my ears.
Music to me is an escape. What I do is for me and maybe for anyone else that wants to listen. I don’t have to prove to anybody of what I do, or why I do. When you listen all you will realize is that, I DO. Regardless if I ever become famous or if I never get to do another music video or another show, I will always be able to look back and say, “Wow, I had the balls”. I have a lot of support and I would be letting them down if I didn’t at least try to explain my story. So if you have gotten this far, thank you.
One day my son will come to me with a dream, and I will support it, encourage it. What ever makes him happy is what I will say. He will return with a question that truly keeps me after this music. He will say, “Dad, what was your dream?” And the beautiful thing about it is, if he doesn’t already know it from my end result, I’ll still be able to tell him, “Son, my dream is alive and well. I’ve got another album coming out this summer.”
Dale Ferrell AKA Willie Faulk