Hoodybaby has been navigating his way through a hip-hop career in the most peculiar way. A producer and writer first, he is also an artist who needs to operate under three different names, and very different characters, to tell his story. After humble beginnings in Oak Cliff, he now spends 12 hours in the studio a day and constantly flies from coast to coast. He has been filming a reality show with Lil Wayne for weeks. But eight years ago in Dallas, he was wondering if he would go to jail or be killed, with Chris Brown’s phone number in his pocket.
Lil Wayne’s House doesn’t have a network yet, but the show is basically Lil Wayne and his Young Moneys artist hanging out at his house. Hoodybaby has an artist deal with Young Money and a production deal with Warner/Chappell. He says the show has executive producers from Keeping Up With the Kardashians. After catching an early flight from LA to Miami this morning, he went straight to a beach to film. Tonight he will work in a studio with Timbaland, who first took him for one of Chris Brown’s goons. This sort of thing has happened before.
When they were teens, Hoodybaby met Brown playing basketball in New York City while visiting relatives. They became friends and consider themselves brothers today. Hoodybaby was known as Hood Boss in Dallas. In 2007, he was 20 and had released his own musical collaborations with Tum Tum and Lil Ronnie. “There was a lot of aggression in the music back then,” he says. “There was a lot of violence in the music. It was like, ‘Who has the best fight soundtrack?’”
There was a lot of violence in his life, too. “I come from the street,” he says. “I used to be doing a lot of street shit.” He put in the work, released music and tried to get it on the radio. But his music career did not take off as planned. He had a plan for success, but times quickly changed and it was clear that it wasn’t about selling CDs and getting radio play anymore. He eventually found himself surrounded by people who were getting shot, going to jail for shooting people and sometimes dying in his arms. And then Hoodybaby, then known as Hood Boss, got shot.
After spending a couple months in the hospital, he figured his options were death and jail. But he was a talented writer and producer and had Brown’s phone number. Brown knew he was talented, and also knew he was someone he felt safe around. “One day I just woke up,” Hoodybaby says. He was selling drugs while Brown was texting him. “Coming up, we all wanted to be the biggest guy in the hood. But when you think about it, that ain’t shit, because when you leave the house, who’s protecting your family?”
A year after getting shot, Hoodybaby left Dallas and spent five years with Brown. To someone like Wiz Khalifa, 2 Chainz or Lil Wayne, Hood Boss first looked like Brown’s bodyguard, security or a goon. “Everyone always assumes I am a bodyguard or some type of security,” he says. But he has been known to push people away from his famous friends. “I might move people around or clear them out,” he says. “Sometimes people don’t really trust their security and they feel safe with me. I provide a sense of security. Nobody’s going to disrespect me or the people who I’m with.”
By word of mouth, people started calling him for that extra sense of security when they came to LA, the city he now lives in. These people became his friends. As it turns out, Hoodybaby has a great sense of humor and enjoys smoking good weed. “Marijuana is the unifier of great people,” he says. He’s also a producer who worked on Grammy-winning music with Brown.
He is extremely close with Lil Wayne. “I’m funny,” Hoodybaby says. “I’m very entertaining. A lot of people don’t know how to talk and shit.” As a superstar, Lil Wayne is often unable to go where he wants to go or do what he wants to do. He has to carefully filter in a few people while keeping everyone else away. Hoodbaby brings a lot of humor to these lonely situations. Eventually Lil Wayne wanted to hear his music.
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Now that Hoodybaby has written and produced for so many of his famous friends, his work speaks for itself. He remains close with Brown, but is now focused on writing and producing. Lil Wayne even took an interest in him as an artist and signed him to his label, Young Money. There are now at least two projects in the works.
Hood Boss is about crazy shit from the past he doesn’t usually want to talk about, so that was phased out. He decided to take on a completely different persona. Hoodybaby is really cool, a guy you could smoke a joint with. He is also working on a Young Money mixtape packed with features.
But there is also Fat Leopard, a collaboration with Lil Wayne. Under that name, Hoodybaby and Lil Wayne plan to take on several personas for a release that will sound as if it were made by several people. Lil Wayne put out a track with Super Hood, which is Hoodybaby in character for the Fat Leopard project.
“Wayne loves that idea of other characters,” Hoodybaby says. But for him, these characters seem like different parts of his personality that need to be separated from each other. They also highlight different aspects of his production sound, which can be a slow vibe, trap or party music. Super Hood represents who he used to be. “Fat Leopard’s real emotional,” he says. “But Hoodybaby is a cool guy.”