Marcus Thomas, Jr., better known by his stage name Young Dolph, has experienced what few artists have in hip-hop: hardship.
It was 1994 when Thomas was a baby boy in Miami’s Liberty City, a neighborhood where gangs, drugs and the prison system are deep roots.
He grew up on welfare, working alongside his father and three brothers.
He went to public school but eventually was dropped due to absenteeism.
Thomas dropped out after just two years.
Five years later he left Miami to move to Atlanta, where he first experienced a taste of fame.
He felt comfortable, embraced his new role as a rapper and hit the streets.
At the age of 21 he moved to Los Angeles.
“I just went for it, I was hungry,” Thomas said in a recent interview with the Washington Post.
Thomas admits that he was very naïve to the music business.
He didn’t know what it took to make a decent living.
But he quickly learned, went on to carve out a successful career.
During his 20s, Thomas rose to prominence.
His classic single “I Like It” became a summertime anthem.
The song brought in massive commercial success and earned Thomas one of the most sought-after platinum records in the game.
However, he felt cheated by the music industry.
With his record company, One Music, he received more than what he had signed for.
Thomas left One Music shortly after he was signed, but he didn’t have the confidence to get a free record deal with another company.
He eventually decided to jump ship from the music industry and focus his energy solely on his art.
“It’s just a case of confidence,” Thomas said. “It’s a matter of: do I see myself as a big boss, or am I insecure about my career? I felt like I was an artist, and then I realized that the label wanted to use me as a rapper. My goal is to be a cultural icon; I’m not about being a rapper. That’s not my team.”
He’s since followed that path.
He’s debuted multiple records under his label, One Music Recordings, and in February 2015, he signed to Epic Records.
Since then, his “Cemetary Walls” duet with Freddie Gibbs is one of the most played songs on radio across the country.
In an industry that exists only in the eyes of “big bosses,” Thomas proved he was a big boss of his own.
Thomas has worked with a slew of top R&B singers including Beyoncé, Ty Dolla $ign, Tinashe, and Bishop Nehru.
He was also introduced to the world of Wiz Khalifa, with whom he performed at four performance outside the Washington Beltway.
Thomas views music as a means of self-expression that transcends any arbitrary demographic.
He and Wiz Khalifa have become unlikely friends.
Young Dolph told the Washington Post that he attended every Wiz Khalifa concert he could.
“I thought he was the dopest brother in the game,” Thomas said. “I went to every Wiz Khalifa concert I could.”