The four artists of local rap group Young Paper Generation say they have it all. As we talk in Deer Park not far from member Bilal “Blao” Butler’s childhood home, I ask what makes them unique. Donte Chaplin, who goes by the name “SwaggBoii,” answers by pointing to each of the performers and talking about their strengths. “Me, I produce very well, we have wonderful writers as well as rappers, so I feel like it’s a very unique collective,” he says.
Don Gorham, who goes by “Passport General,” agrees. “You could just pick one of us, and we’ll still stand out,” he says. “And with all of us together, I wouldn’t say it’s competition with each other, but we motivate each other to go harder.”
All four musicians grew up on Long Island. Dondré Rajaram, better known as Draii Rynell, and SwaggBoii come from Bay Shore, Blao is from Deer Park and Bay Shore and Passport General grew up in Central Islip and later moved to Lindenhurst. YPG says that choosing Long Island as a home base instead of New York City sets them apart from the crowd.
“We’re putting it on for our city essentially, our town,” says Passport General. “These big artists are coming out here, and I feel that we get the chance to represent Long Island for the rest of the people that don’t know.”
Passport General also wants to eliminate misconceptions about his home. “There’s not a lot of people that rep it, its like, people sleep on Long Island,” he says.
SwaggBoii agrees that Long Island is not given the respect it deserves. “A lot of people haven’t heard of Long Island. They think of Brooklyn, Queens,” he said.
On this night, the four are putting on a performance at Brandy’s Album Release Party in Hempstead.
“You could just pick one of us, and we’ll still stand out,” says Passport General. “And with all of us together, I wouldn’t say it’s competition with each other, but we motivate each other to go harder.”
For three years, Blao and Passport General were in a group called Young Paper, then in 2012 they added Draii and Donte and became YPG. “We were each doing our own independent work, so we soon saw eye to eye and became friends,” said Rynell. “The next thing you know, YPG.”
The group is influenced by 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, famous producers and siblings. “With me it started off with playing an instrument,” said Passport General. “I was always in music. I played saxophone, and then after awhile I started writing my own lyrics.”
“I get inspired by anything, whether its relationships with girls, hanging out with friends, just every day living situations get me inspired,” said Rynell. “I go into my room and make up these melodies and talk about basically what happened in the past day, week, year.”
YPG has performed in Virginia, Connecticut and New Jersey, but they all agree that Madison Square Garden is the ultimate prize. Passport General is hopeful but realistic about the New York audience. He says they’re the most difficult judges out there. “You could just play something and people would just stand there,” he says.
Passport General believes that YPG already has what it takes to perform at Madison Square Garden, but until they do, they will continue to give Long Island their all. The group always looks forward to their audience’s energy and love. “You just get in the zone,” they all said simultaneously, while Blao sums it up. “You feel the love from the city; you feel the love.”
YPG will be performing at Dunk Xchange on November 25 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York and you can also hear them on LIB’s upcoming mixtape. Check out the video below and learn more about the group on ReverbNation.