Life's a Gamble: How Shooting Dice With Lil Baby Led to 42 Dugg's Blossoming Rap Career

42 Dugg
Courtesy of Collective Music Group

42 Dugg

Many gambling stories end in nightmares, but rolling the dice may have saved 42 Dugg's life. After starting to rap while behind bars in 2015, Dugg began to take his rhyming career more seriously upon regaining his freedom in 2017. And he quickly caught the ear of rising star Lil Baby.

The pair would eventually connect a year later, when Dugg flew to Atlanta to meet Lil Baby and the rest of his team. The 4PF boss shares a love for gambling with the Detroit native, which served as the core of their budding friendship. “I ain’t never seen no other young n---a that gambled and liked gambling as much as I did," Baby tells Billboard of his respect for Dugg's competitive fire when playing Cee-lo (Three Dice Game).

Just a few months later, Yo Gotti got wind of Dugg's movement through Baby and wanted to become involved with his ascension. Fast forward to last March, and Gotti eventually knights Dugg with a CMG chain in his hometown of Detroit on Meek Mill's Motivation Tour, signifying his allegiance to the Collective Music Group through a joint venture with Lil Baby's 4PF label.

“I’m really proud of Dugg’s growth and development over the years," Yo Gotti adds of mentoring Dugg."His hard work is starting to pay off and he’s only gonna get better as an artist. Baby and I know Dugg has the potential to be a superstar and we’re both gonna do everything we can to keep putting him in the best positions to succeed.”

The blessings continue to pour in for Dugg, who added 42 in front of his childhood nickname after discovering it to be Douglas Adams' answer to "life, the universe, and everything." In the first quarter of 2020 alone, the 25-year-old has already notched a heavenly assist on Lil Baby's sophomore album, My Turn, and followed up to release his Young & Turnt, Vol. 2 project to close out March, which earned him a Tyler, The Creator co-sign and debuts at No. 70 on the Billboard 200.

Check out our interview with Dugg, who shows love to Jeezy, reveals why he kept rapping a secret while in jail, plans to work with Tyler, The Creator in the future, and more.

How are you keeping busy during the quarantine?

I just moved into my new house and I was getting all my stuff in here.

Who were some of your favorite artists while growing up in Detroit?

I used to listen to Jeezy and Yo Gotti all day. I got into Gotti, but I was on Jeezy from the get-go. Of course, since I was listening to Jeezy, everyone wanted to be trapping and s--t. We really was just having fun and everyone wanted to go skate and be kids. I f--ked with Big Sean as soon as he dropped too.

Did you write any lyrics for Young & Turnt, Vol. 2? How long does it take you to cut a record?

I freestyled the whole tape. If I'm in my bag, it's not going to be long.

When you got arrested in March on gun charges, were you worried the project would release with you behind bars?

I was just making sure they were picking the right songs. It was hard being in there and thinking about the mixes and all that. I just had to trust [Yo Gotti] and them that they would get it right. I got out right before it came out, so I got to listen to a lot of it. I called Gotti and was like, "You gotta fix that." I was happy with how it came out; I didn't have too much to say about it. I just wanted to add a lot of mother---king songs. Every time I listen, I think, "I should've added this or I should've added that."

We saw you teasing Dej Loaf on the "Hard Times" remix. Is that dropping soon?

I really wanted to shoot the video with her and surprise everybody. We're going to try and drop that [soon].

How did you end up signing to Lil Baby and Yo Gotti? I heard your relationship with Baby started out of gambling together.

Yeah, we used to shoot dice and s--t. I called him one day and he was listening to one of my songs. They already knew that I rapped and they were rapping along. Then I came to Atlanta, and Baby asked me to play some of my music for him. It was really just turnt from there. This was 2018.

Gotti had did the "Put a Date on It" [record] with [Lil Baby] and Baby was playing one of my songs. [Gotti] was like, "Man, who the hell is this?" He was gonna tell Gotti to sign me, but then he wanted to sign me, so it was a little back-and-forth right there.

What's the best advice you've gotten from the both of them?

Stay focused. They always just tell me, "Bro, just rap. You're a rapper now. Just focus on rapping." Me and Baby are just chilling and chopping it up. Gotti's more [serious] and a big [bro]. He's giving all of us millions.

What made you want to start rapping originally when you were in jail?

I had gone to the hole and I ain't have s--t to do. I was hungry as a motherf---ker, so I put some s--t together. I didn't like my [raps], so I threw all them b----s away. I went back to the hole and I thought, "This s--t is starting to sound alright."

Were you always into storytelling as a kid?

I was so young, so I'd tell a motherf---ker about me being in the strip club, and they would look at me crazy. I would just keep that s--t to myself and keep my raps to myself. I was in jail for six years, and mother----kers ain't never heard me rap, except for a few people. They were surprised that I was rapping.

Did you and Lil Baby bond over the love for gambling? Back in the day, I bet it was just a few dollars, now it's tens of thousands getting thrown around.

I used to f--k Baby up and he got me good one time, and now I don't really f--k with him. [Laughs] We stopped after that. We're playing for hundreds of thousands, you'll get f--ked up.

How did "Grace" come about for Lil Baby's project?

Anytime we're in the studio together, we try to make at least one song. [Buddha Beats] put on a beat and it was nothing I could rap about on it, but I could sing. So I just went in there and they didn't even know what I say. Baby asked me, "What did you say?" After he finished his verse and hook.

I pulled up on him the day him and Future had a concert. While I'm rapping, he's shooting dice and I couldn't focus because I wanted to get in the game. Everybody was feeling the song, so they wanted me to finish it before anything. I went in and cut the lights off and figured it out. [Baby] was asleep when I finished, then he woke up and rapped along to it.

What did it mean to get a Tyler, The Creator co-sign? He tweeted out that he's been bumping "Been Turnt" off your album.

I been kicking it with Tyler on the music side. He hit me like, "Somebody put me onto your music and I f--k with you." He asked me, "Is there any beats that you want me to make?" I ain't got them yet, but he wants to do something.

Do you feel like the legal system could use your raps against you?

Hell no. All this s--t is just rap. I mean, I might just say anything. I'm really just trying to focus up. I told Gotti they let me out of that thing and I'm not coming back.

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