BY Calli McCain Joe Crowley’s story mirrors the stories of many who grew up Downriver—for the most part. He graduated from Roosevelt High School in 2004 where he was a captain of the football team; he then went on to play linebacker at Wayne State University. For fun, he would freestyle rap for his friends, mimicking his favorite artists like Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, 2Pac and Big Pun. He went to work for Ford and after few years was laid off, so he moved around southeast Michigan and worked odd jobs to make ends meet until he found something more permanent.
Fast forward to Saturday, March 3, when Crowley a.k.a. Dagda will share the stage with Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, performing for fans new and old as the Wyandotte rapper reaches just one of his many goals on the way to making it big.
“I just decided to do what I was passionate about,” said Dagda, who chose his moniker after writing a paper on Irish mythology in high school. “A lot of people I’m in contact with now I’ve been in contact with since I was a kid. My family has been really supportive. That’s rare, especially in a blue collar area where, you know, you have to go to work.”
Dagda spent most of his free time rapping, booking as many shows and making as many connections as possible. After performing for about a year, he starting working with his manager William Ashworth; the two had met years before when Ashworth attended Roosevelt for a semester.
“There is definitely a Downriver market for music and entertainment,” said Ashworth, who works with other local artists through his William Ashworth Management company, or WAM. “It’s untapped, but it’s probably bigger now than it’s ever been before.”
The day Dagda talks to Y&. love, he has recently received confirmation that he will be opening for rapper Yelawolf on May 30 at St. Andrew’s Music Hall. Opening for the Shady Records-signed artist is just one of many small victories for the Dagda/WAM team, including being signed to Detroit hip-hop icon Paradime’s record label, Beats At Will.
“It’s funny, a year ago I was doing an interview on [radio channel 95.5's now defunct "Talent Night Tuesdays" show] and they asked me my favorite rapper,” said Dagda. “I said Paradime, and a year later I’m on his label.”
Despite having worked with some of his favorite entertainers in the industry, Dagda remains humble, recognizing how much further he wants to go in his career.
“What you have to remember is that there are no handouts here,” said Dagda, who produces local events as well as hosts Throwdown Thursdays at The Active Room. “We’re competing with all of Detroit and the surrounding areas. We’re in the rap capital of the Midwest. If you want something to happen, you have to show your face, you have to network.”
Ashworth agrees, the pair talk frequently of the importance of faith, positivity and staying grounded.
“When there’s negativity around me, I just use it as fuel for the fire,” said Ashworth, a southwest Detroit native. “It’s not worth it to be arrogant. We’ve grown up in sort of broken lives, we didn’t have everything we wanted handed to us. It’s refreshing feeling like we’re accomplishing something on our own.”
Currently, Dagda has a 22-song mix tape entitled J.E.A.H.:Jealousy Envy And Hate available for free download on his Facebook page (like the page, then click the “music” tab in the left column). He hopes to release his first EP or even a full-length album sometime this year. In terms of location, he has no plans of going anywhere any time soon.
“It was a long time coming for me to embrace Downriver,” said Dagda. “But I rep it hard now, I rap about it all the time. I love what I am, where I came from.”