On a cold day back in January at Dunks on Morrissey Boulevard I had the opportunity to sit and have a coffee with one of Boston’s hottest Hip Hop artists, Gio Dee. The questions start at his early years to get a sense of how he tapped his artistic side. Then, at 20 years old, David Appolon (formally Bigg Dee) gave me a very honest account of how he led the prototypical life of a boy raised by a single mom in the inner city and how he turned it around.
Was pops around? he stared out the window for a second as he contemplated the weight of the question and then replied “nah man”. It only took a few seconds, and his mind was in a place 10 or 15 years prior. “I had anger problems man” he went on “I bounced from school to school because I was always fighting”. What schools did you go to? He then rattled off what felt like virtually every school in Dorchester and Roxbury. Despite the tribulation in his early years he always found a sanctuary in the arts. Where did you find music? “My mom, man she would listen to everything”. The references made in his songs point to a strong and spiritually insightful mother. Was mom a church lady? a huge smile ensues “yeah she is, she would play gospel, Johnny Gill, Prince you name it”. So the music started at church? “I used to sing in the Jubilee Christian Church youth choir up on Blue Hill Ave”. Was it only music? “Music came out later, at first it was dance. I used to do Crunk and Step. I messed around with photography and painting too”.
David’s personal journey in music started at 11 years old, where he would start practicing rap after school in his bedroom at home. This led to rapping with friends for fun which snowballed his confidence level. Eventually his mom helped find the right school and his teachers helped zero him in. David started to let go of his demons from the past and started to focus. “That’s when it all turned around for me”…he admitted. As time went on, his grades shot up and he looks back at his high school experience as a very positive one. After high school, he set his sights on Boston University where he would pursue a degree in audio engineering. “I learned a lot at BU” but he later lamented “I just couldn’t afford to keep going, so I had to stop after two years”. Regardless of the setback David recorded his first song “Money Money Money” inside the studios at BU before leaving. After a solid 2000 hit response on YouTube, the seeds were planted for what was about to come.
“It started one day at my grandmother’s house” David was hanging out with two friends Dipp and Deon enjoying some music, dancing and freestyling. Their friends from the neighborhood took notice and started referring to them as the “Chefs”. Weeks had passed and one day the three friends started making a plan. “We thought we could turn it into something bigger so we started with names” after a long period of brainstorming they stuck with the Chef name…..which led to The Chef Boyz. “We started doing backyard barbecues with some microphones and a DJ” the trio used the time strengthen their stage presence although performing in front of small gatherings would not last long. Near the end of 2011 David would release his mixtape entitled “D-Day” featuring a rich sounding and multi layered track called “Foul”, qualities of which have became David’s hallmark given his experience at BU. At the beginning of 2012 David went right back to the studio and went to work on the next mixtape which would later be titled “#TOTB: This is Only The Beginning”. The first release off the mixtape would come in the form of a music video for the song “Talk of the Town” which made its way to the studios at Hot 97 Boston. “This is when things started really heating up” David admitted.
The exposure from Hot 97 coupled with the strong response from the video soon garnered David and the Chef Boyz calls from larger venues. “Our first big show was for Showcase at Patriot Place in Foxborough”. It was shortly after this show when I picked up on Gio Dee’s trail. I stumbled upon their latest video at that time “The Way It Goes – Ball” in which the crew can been seen driving their bicycles down Dorchester Avenue reciting over a musically rich track that would become a summertime anthem around my house. When finally able to get my hands on the entire #TOTB mixtape, to say I was stunned was an understatement. This was something deeper. This was hip hop with a soulful southern flare and attention to the finer points of sound engineering. Tracks like “Georgetowne Drive” and “Well Connected” feature luxurious basslines that hit you in the rib cage with a flow that goes from drawl to rapid fire then back again, it easily got your attention. I couldn’t help but feel I was witnessing an artist who was about to take things to another level.
Towards the end of our interview we discussed how Boston has been a traditionally tough place for hip hop artists to break through. “Honestly man, I feel like it’s time for Boston. There’s good talent out there in the neighborhoods and I want us all to make it. I have love for these places and I’m planning on putting it into my future songs.” Finally it was over, I wrapped up the interview and Dave looks at me and smiles “You got some time? Wanna hear the new album?”. A few minutes later I was listening to the unreleased version of “Fashionably Late”.
With collaborations with Boston Music Awards “Best new Artist” Cam Meekins and Nick Gray, more videos with local studio Rawe Quality, 2013 is shaping up to be the biggest year yet for Gio Dee and The Chef Boyz.