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Every great rapper has a quintessential ad lib, and 42 Dugg’s is...a whistle. Shrill and soaked in Auto-Tune, it’s the rap equivalent of Clint Eastwood riding his horse into town, effortlessly confident, the townies’ mouths agape. Dugg’s earned that bravado. The rapper born Dion Marquise Hayes, in 1994, grew up immersed in Detroit’s rich rap tradition and became a part of it in 2018, warbling over the city’s pummelling instrumentals about the friends he’s lost and the jail time he’s served. In 2019, Lil Baby and Yo Gotti caught wind of his buzz, signing him to a joint deal on their respective labels. It wasn’t until a year later, though, that Dugg had his real breakthrough. His collabs with Lil Baby were undeniable and everywhere—“Grace” a royal stroll, “We Paid” a cold, silky banger (and, of course, the whistle appears on both). Dugg also dropped his album, 2020’s Young & Turnt 2, a vibrant showcase of his cross-regional range. His voice has evolved into a mix of Detroit rap’s straight-faced edge and the alien crooning coming out of Atlanta, an alchemy that has brought two of rap’s greatest cities and styles closer than they’ve ever been before.
The monitor, worn because of a pending case for gun charges, is also a reminder of how the 26-year-old got his start in the industry. Dugg taught himself how to rap nearly a decade ago to pass the time in solitary confinement while serving a sentence for carjacking and gun possession when he was 15. He rapped so much that he made a project: 11241 Wayburn in 2018, which caught the attention of fellow Detroit rapper Tee Grizzley. Grizzley then took Dugg to Los Angeles, where he met his now favorite collaborator, Lil Baby, during a dice game. They recorded some records and collaborated on hits “Grace” and “We Paid,” the latter of which has racked up nearly 200 million streams on Spotify. After signing a joint venture deal with Baby’s 4 Pockets Full Inc. and Yo Gotti’s CMG imprint, he began to find his path, releasing two volumes of his Young and Turnt series and becoming one of hip-hop’s biggest new acts. (