April 25, 2024

Courtney Bell, Detroit’s Not-So-Secret Weapon


The Detroit rap scene has been on fire for the last few years. And truth be told, there’s always been something about the Motor City that produces a certain caliber of distinct, one-of-a-kind talent. Perhaps there’s something in the Rouge River that keeps pumping originality and talent into the artists and producers sprouting up each year.

Next up is the multifaceted and versatile spitter, Courtney Bell. He’s been honing his skills for decades, and he’s finally ready to let the world know what he’s been cooking. His new project Microdose is executive-produced by Royce Da 5’9” and boasts impressive features from Black Thought, Symba, Conway The Machine, and Skilla Baby.

Okayplayer sat down with the rising rapper to discuss the new project, his Detroit ties, and his overall plan for the game.

The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.

Okayplayer: First off, how long have you been rapping and what inspired you to first pick up the microphone?

Courney Bell: I’ve been rapping professionally since 2017 when my uncle Nardy died, but off the books I’ve been involved in music my whole life; I remember picking a mic up around kindergarten/first grade.

Your rapping style and content are very versatile. You could fit into a bunch of different boxes: conscious, backpack, street rap, super-lyrical etc. Was it a deliberate choice to touch all these different lanes?

Honestly, I feel like as I’ve grown and gotten to know myself as an artist, and a boy growing into a man, I just wanted to express myself freely. For the first few years of music professionally, I was street-based. Then when I started my spiritual journey I went conscious/religious, and then when I had my next level of awakening within, I came to the point of just expressing what’s on my heart. So some days I may be in a street space, some days, I might be feeling super heavy spiritually, and some days I may be on some backpack rap. But I feel like I experienced all these layers of myself in real-time so it made it natural when I picked my pen back up to just be myself and allow the fans/supporters to journey with me with the music.

Courtney Bell & Royce Da 5’9 – Westside (Official Music Video)www.youtube.com

The Detroit rap scene is really exciting right now — brimming with so much talent. Where do you think you fit in the current breed of talent from your city?

I honestly feel like a big brother and little brother all at once. I feel like the city is on fire and it’s all different types of sounds coming out of here. I know I’m a pioneer for our generation in regards to what Big Sean was to his generation, so that’s a lot of weight to carry because of what Sean has done musically. So my focus is creating art that’s true to us here and be the voice for the artists who rap more toward the streets and offer music that reflects that reality.

Let’s talk a little bit about your project MICRODOSE — how long have you been working on it and what type of message/story are you trying to tell with it?

The title itself speaks a lot for me personally, because I’m big on psychedelic therapy. But the musical meaning was a sample of what’s to come, so this body of work contains records that were once an album that I outgrew sonically, but I still love the records so these are echoes of what my actual album will sound [like]. I’ve been recording so much music the past 3 years, some music I’ve loved, some I didn’t at all, lol. So the story behind this project is that it’s just an appetizer before the entree and dessert. I wanted to allow the listeners into my thoughts over the last few years of my absence but we’ll go deeper on my album.

Royce definitely pops up all over it — can you explain your relationship with him, and how he’s been guiding and shaping your own career?

Royce is the big homie – a big brother musically that I look to for advice in real life, so in the music space it bleeds over naturally. At first, Royce was hands-off my music, he just let me create. But after building together as brother and little brother, he became comfortable with sharing more of his input which helped me grow faster as an artist; he’s been like a sensei to me while curating both projects sonically.

Courtney Bell lays back on a couch wearing a Detroit Redwings jersey. Photo by Anthony Harvey.

A big part of making it in rap right now is having the right marketing/promotion strategy to break through all the noise. How do you intend to get the masses to hear your album?

Honestly, that’s a job within itself – I feel like I’m in a space mentally where I know the phones and marketing has to be a part of the planning but I just want to let the music speak and pray that what we are creating shakes things up in the rap world, while I continue to be myself and stay consistent in the music space.

Who are some of the icons in the game (OG or present day) that inspire and make you want to perfect your craft?

The late great Nipsey Hussle, I admired his spirit a lot. Outside of him, Kendrick and Tupac, I’m a fan of authentic art, so J.Cole as well.

Lastly what’s next for you after this project drops and where do you see yourself in the next 3-5 yrs?

Consistency is what’s next for me. More music to come – having been away for 3 years I have a lot to say and so much to do, I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be but I’m playing keep up.

In the next 3-5 years I see myself as a household name in the business having three to four projects out minimum; I see myself having children, spiritually being focused on that space and touring, and seeing the world with my gift.

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