Actor Da’Vinchi has been a fan of hip-hop his whole life.
Interview: Bianca Torres
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
50 Cent’s pool of talented young actors got that much bigger with the casting of Da’Vinchi in Fif’s new series BMF. The 26-year-old actor stars in the show that’s based on the true story of the Flenory brothers, two notorious drug dealers from Detroit who dominated the crack and money laundering game with their crew Black Mafia Family before being taken down by the feds. Da’Vinchi plays the younger brother Terry “Southwest T” Flenory but so far, is most known for his roles in Grown-ish, Lethal Weapon and Jessica Jones. That should soon change.
Here, the Brooklyn-born, East Coast-raised actor discusses his role in BMF, working with his idol 50 Cent, loving older hip-hop and more.
XXL: When did you become a fan of hip-hop?
Da'Vinchi: Before I could even remember, at age 0. ’Cause, I mean, growing up in Brooklyn, all you would hear is Jay-Z like, “It’s a hard knock life for us” or “Anything” or “Jigga, what’s my muthafuckin’ name?” That’s why I used to think everyone was Jay-Z. I would hear a song, 2 years old, 3 years old, my brother would laugh at me ’cause I used to think every artist was Jay-Z. And Biggie.
So, you have an appreciation for old rap. What about the newer artists?
I listen to more of the old school artists more than the new school for sure. My old school list is crazy. When I’m asked about my favorite artists today, I’m like, “Oh, shit, that’s hard.” It would have to be Lil Baby, DaBaby, Gunna, J. Cole and Drake. Pop Smoke. Sheff G. I love Pop Smoke and I love Sheff G.
When you were a kid you started rapping.
I was inspired by 50 Cent, Tupac, Snoop Dogg and Jay-Z. I remember one time, I was listening to this 50 Cent song, “[Just] a Lil Bit” and I found the instrumental to it and I started writing to it, and I copied his exact flow. I just switched the words up. I was like 10 years old.
You stopped rapping in your teens and got into acting? Or were you doing both at the same time?
I was doing both at the same time, but I was just running into a lot of nonsense with the business, music-wise. Sometimes the business takes the fun out of things. It can leave a bad taste in your mouth. Acting just started taking off like crazy. So, I was like, I’ma do this. Who knows, I may come back into music.
You worked closely with 50 Cent. What was that like?
Man, working with 50 was a dream come true. Working with someone you grew up idolizing at one point. I have pictures of when I was a kid with the fitted and the durag, thinking I was 50 Cent, you know? And I used to call my older brother 25 Cents. We really looked up to 50 and all his music. His album, The Massacre, I could recite every lyric front and back. I told him how grateful I am to just be in this room and in this environment. He said, “Who would’ve ever known that one day you would be helping me take my career to the next level?” I was like, Oh, wow, that’s crazy.
What can you tell us about your character Southwest T? How did you prepare for playing that role?
I didn’t really switch. I tapped back into my childhood, I had a rough beginning, poverty, a drug-infested environment, so I really just channeled all that. I watched movies like Goodfellas, Paid in Full, all different types of movies.
And did you listen to any of the music from that time period?
I wasn’t even born then, but I for sure was listening to music from the ’80s like, Run-DMC. We made a whole ’80s playlist to really lock in.
Who’s on your current playlist?
J. Cole, Lil Baby, DaBaby, Gunna, old Young Thug. I like YG. He’s up there for me. At one point Lil Wayne, him and 50. He’s still on my playlist. And ’Pac is on my list. He’s all over my playlist. And Jay-Z.
Check out more from XXL magazine's Fall 2021 issue when it hits newsstands in October 2021, including our cover story with Tyler, The Creator, Lil Nas X's battle for respect in hip-hop, Wale talks about his album Folarin II, find out more about Maxo Kream in Doin' Lines, Bia reflects on how far she's come in her career and more.