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Things are starting to change for Hoodrich Pablo Juan. His new label, 1017/Alamo Records (under Interscope), dragged him out of bed to fly from Atlanta to New York early this morning, and he’s still wiping the sleep out of his eyes. He doesn’t seem too used to doing press runs yet, but given that he’s normally a pretty relaxed guy (thanks, in part, to his steady diet of downers), he doesn’t seem all that different from when he first visited XXL back in January. He might’ve just signed to a major label, but he’s still doing things his way.

It’s been like that since at least 2015, when he recorded his first mixtape, Designer Drugz, with abundant features from Migos, Peewee Longway and Jose Guapo. Born in Newark, N.J. before moving to Candler Road in Zone 6 Atlanta around the age of three, Pablo started rapping because he was always the freshest dude in the clique, but got caught up with multiple charges from age 20 to 24.

Eventually, he graduated from the streets to the studio, hanging in the lab with Thug and Migos and recording here and there. In 2014, he released a song called “Go Get Money” and did a feature for Peewee Longway on a song called “African Diamonds.” Both records got positive feedback, motivating him to pursue a career of rapping instead of trapping.

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Seven solo mixtapes and eight collab projects later, the 28-year-old rapper has a fresh new deal with Gucci Mane. The deal came about when Gucci got home last year, and one of his producers, Honorable C.N.O.T.E., reached out to Pablo to let him know Guwop wanted to sign him. “Everybody was on me,” says Pablo when asked what labels approached him to sign. “[Gucci’s] best friend Pee [CEO of Quality Control] still mad at me for going with Guwop.”

Now, he’s ready to release Designer Drugz 3the debut album he put together over the last six months or so, on Friday (Oct. 6). He knocked out projects like Hood Wolf and South Dark in a matter of days earlier this year, but he took more time to cultivate a variety of “street” records and “album” records for this project.

“I developed a little bit,” he says when asked to explain the two types of songs. “When I first started rapping, there were records that were gonna get attention. When it comes to the album, it’s like smoothing it down a little more. You got to these folks, now you gotta show ’em different vibes. I tried to make DD3 an album for everybody.”

Songs like “God Damn,” “We Don’t Luv Em,” “We Can’t Stand Em” and “Chanel Swagg” are “for the ladies,” he says, while songs like “Do What I Wanna Do” and “Check” are more like what fans are used to hearing from Pablo. “This one’s just branching off. I’m not just trying to get the hood. It’s really just trying to get more people woken up to what’s going on.”

As for why he’s referring to this as an album instead of a mixtape, it’s simple: “Guwop told me, ‘When you call it a mixtape or an album, they judge it differently.’ Judge my shit differently. This is the album. It’s gonna be the last Designer Drugz.”

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