Congratulations on earning the December Demo of the Month. How did it feel to finally be recognized for your work?
I was definitely very appreciative. I’ve been a fan of HipHopGame for a long time and I’ve always been watching and wishing for Demo or Artist of the Month. It’s a milestone and a stepping stone in terms of where I want to get to eventually.
You’ve been working on music for awhile, releasing free projects to a good reception. Is it ever hard to keep going?
Definitely, but if you’re passionate about it and this is what you want to do in life, I think you just keep doing it. There’s been times when I felt like it wasn’t worth it, but at the end of the day, I’m only 24 years-old. I think with my age, I should keep pursuing it. If I was 30 and I didn’t feel like I was where I should be, then it would be different.
What inspires you?
I just really love music, man. I hate to say it, but I feel like I’m better than a lot of the competition. A lot of the people that I hear right now, I feel like I have more quality than them. I don’t mean to diss them and I hear a lot of songs a day, but it sounds like the audio quality isn’t good or they just don’t make good music, period. I feel like I have something to offer fans.
On “Role Model” you talk about things you did, like going to college but still having fun. How important is it to show people that side of you?
That’s a success story and that’s what the album is going to be about. You don’t have to have the same carbon-copy story that everybody else has. People feel like they have to be a hustler or this or that because they see so much of that. I just want to stay away from that. I’m from a family of a lot of hustlers and most of my people went to jail, even my nephew. Most of my family’s in prison. Even though I hustled myself, I want people to know it’s possible to go to school and educate yourself. College is not the only form of education, but I want people to know there are possibilities out there to strive for and it’s not hard to do.
How do you feel your college experience helped shape you as an MC?
Honestly, for most people, I think college is best for networking. I don’t think you get too much of an education. I went to college for music management but there was never a music management course. I learned a lot of music history, like Beethoven and Mozart and Bach. I learned more about the history of music than music management. I feel like it’s helped me. The management course helped me deal with people in the industry, but I’ve been able to network with the right people who helped me outside of school. The Remedy, who did Rick Ross’ “Super High,” I went to school with them. They’re good producers. It’s pretty much for networking.
You have other songs like “Busy Making Money,” where you have intricate lyrics that draw the listener in. How do your songs come to life?
It doesn’t matter who the producer is. For that song, Illmind would send me the beat. I don’t write on paper anymore because I waste so much paper. I used to write a lot of lines and cross them out and shit. But it probably takes me a day or two to write a good song or whatever. Now I got a good pre-production studio and I would rehearse the song a few times before I even get to the studio because for me, it’s a waste of time if you go to the studio for four hours and you’re only working on one song. I try to get it down pat so I can one-take everything and do the ad-libs and all that. It’s a process but I do it all the time.
You don’t hear artists talking about taking their time with music and writing their rhymes. Why do you think that is?
I think everybody wants to be Jay-Z and that’s not me. I’m from the school where people took years to put albums out. Biggie came out in ’94 and ’97. I appreciate that. He put time and effort into creating something that he thought was great. With the internet, people think you have to put something out every week. If you put out something last month, it’s already considered old and I think that’s a piece of shit because it makes the quality of music bad. People are not even putting the time into the music anymore and then they freestyle crazy. I just think that people lost a lot of respect for their own craft, if you want to call it that for some people, and that’s just not me.
You’ve worked with some great producers like Illmind. How do you get beats from top-notch producers as an up-and-coming MC?
You just gotta politic. The way I met Illmind was basically through MySpace at the time. I told him I was doing a project and I emailed him some of the Dilla beats I was using and he liked what he heard and he set a price that was very reasonable and ever since then he’s been throwing me some joints. He then told me to hit up Khrysis and he put me on with Big Pooh from Little Brother and Pooh put me on to Chaundon and you just build like that. I think a lot of people lack an effective way to communicate. I see it all the time on Twitter, when they tell you to listen to this and they don’t even know you. I think they should build the relationships first. I built relationships with the right people and they put me on to other people.
That happens all the time, especially with mass emails.
I think people just don’t take the time out to realize that everybody’s human. I know when I reach out to bloggers and they’re going to school, I’ll ask them how school’s going and how’s their family. The human aspect is gone with all the texting. We’ve become desensitized and there’s a way to reach out to people and you still have to have the human aspect.
I agree with that. When you’re looking for beats, what do you listen for?
Just a feel. I’m a producer myself. I don’t like saying it too much. I’m not a great one but when I listen to a beat, it depends on how it moves me, man. I think that effective music has to move you in some way. It has to make you feel good or it has to make you feel sad. There has to be emotion to it and not just be background noise. When I listen to a beat, I mean the thing that I really love are great basslines and drums. But other than that, music just has to move me.
How valuable have your viral series like Mr. October been to getting your music out?
It’s been pretty big, especially with sites like OnSmash promoting it. It was a good period and a lot of people learned who I was as a person. There was no strings attached with Mr. October. I was just trying to do a good project. I would just go to the studio and spit and I think people saw I could play with this music like the other blog rappers. But I like to really craft songs and if I do a song with a producer’s beat, I might send it back to him and ask him to send something. I’ll say which part of the beat I don’t like and I’ll fix it in post-production.
What do you think the future is for hip-hop media?
I really don’t know. I definitely know that it’s not going back to print and stuff like that. I know that it’s not going back to magazines. I think blogs are still going to serve a purpose, I think it’s just going to have to come down to not downloading a record. The labels send the music to the blogs…The federal government shuts shit down for a reason. I don’t think there was a reason to shut the blogs down. They were getting their music from the labels. I think what’s going to happen is the blogs are going to be able to stay around but they’re going to have to have the streams instead of the free downloads.
Where do you draw the line for yourself as far as putting out projects for free download as opposed to selling them?
I was told the free downloads affect my ability to sell, but I know who my core audience is and I’m trying to expand on that right now. I would like to know that if I could put something out tomorrow, I could get 5,000 sales as an indie artist. I would like to know that if I put something out on iTunes tomorrow, I would get a decent penny for it.
How did the Long Story Short EP do for you?
It did pretty well. The crazy part is that a few of the blog sites that were supporting me went down. I put it out on the Friday after Thanksgiving and that hurt because I was depending on them. I should never depend on anybody but they served such a big part in viral promotions. It was sad to see that go down. But I’ve been promoting it on my own and doing email blasts and text blasts and I’ve been submitting it to the right channels. You just gotta keep pushing and I’ve received a few indie offers to put it out again. I’ve been thinking about releasing it with five new tracks on an indie label, a smaller label.
What do you want to give fans with The Success Story, which would be A Long Story Short with the added tracks?
I just really want to give people inspiration. I just want to motivate the people and I’m not saying I want people to go to college. I’m not saying none of that. I’m just saying to be the best at what you do. I know for some people, the goal is to be a bus driver. Not everybody wants to make millions. It’s just going to be motivation and nothing corny like that. It’s just going to be me going into my story and how I did what I did and how it’s possible for you to do the same.
What was the highlight of 2010 for you?
Probably getting this new position I’m in, my new job. I counsel juvenile delinquents. A lot of people probably don’t want a job like that but it’s rewarding. A lot of times they might not change, but you put the bug in their ear and the fact that you can change a person’s life like that is very rewarding.
What are your goals for 2011?
I want to emulate what Wiz Khalifa did, somebody like that. Even though I’m not a big fan of him, he did a lot when he was an indie artist like building a buzz on his own with his team or whatever. I feel like if we could emulate something like that, it would be perfect. I really don’t have no plans on going with a major. I mean, if I go major, cool, but I see them doing a lot of 360 deals and then dropping them. I would like to build my buzz. Somebody like B.o.B is a good example as well, somebody who has a target audience and he’s on a major label.