What do you think defines a Queens emcee?
I think Queens emcees have always been able to maintain a balance between being street and being artistic. Also, they’ve been able to keep it New York but give off an appeal that’s more universal, which is why they usually reach higher heights, whether it’s Run DMC, LL Cool J, Tribe or 50 Cent. Queens is a very diverse borough so I’m guessing there’s something there that anyone from overseas or out of town can relate to. It’s also very competitive, so we always took pride in lyricism, regardless of the era we’re in.
What do you think surprises listeners the most about you?
It depends on who’s listening. The really jaded, hyper-critical listeners are surprised that I’m not the typical “street corner rapper from New York”. There’s a little more depth than the punch lines and tough talk they’re expecting from us at this point. I’m not the typical boom bap underground artist neither. What they call “backpack”. Casual listeners usually respond to the musicality. I always get someone who doesn’t listen to Hip-Hop telling me they were able to connect due to either the message or some of the references in the music that they’re able to pick up on.
What’s the reality of a career as an underground emcee of your stature these days?
The reality is that you have more reach than you ever had but the market is more saturated than ever. So you get to be on the big stage but so does everybody else. With a lot of the blogs not highlighting the underground and some shutting down altogether, as well as a lot hip-hop venues also shutting down, the platforms are few and the attention span is short. You have to set up your own channels, drive the traffic there and monetize everything. Think outside the box.
What does it take to truly get ahead?
Make the right connections, whether honest people willing to work or people that are connected and can assist in what you do. Also keep creating quality content and persevere. Finally you need money. I don’t like asking for favors and prefer to pay people for services. That way you can hold them to a certain standard and surround yourself with talent. It all adds up to quality. If the fans don’t associate you with quality, you won’t last.
What’s your favorite non-rap album of all time and why?
There are a lot but I’ll say Marvin Gaye’s I Want You album. That’s the first one that came across my head. The instrumentation and the songwriting on that, the ad-libs, background vocals, everything meshes perfectly on that album. Marvin and Leon Ware did a job on that. I can’t think of too many albums that are more cohesive. I can imagine the engineer had to do a lot of work. Incredible mixing and mastering. Everytime I listen I hear something new. Would love to pull that off in the Hip-Hop realm.
What do you feel is the strongest line you’ve ever written and why?
I’ve written thousands of lines, so it’s hard to narrow it down or even remember some of them. Us rappers are always moving onto the next. Our next line is always our best line. Hopefully fans will listen to Ironworld and they’ll reach out and tell me which lines grabbed them the most. That’s really the ultimate test in the end. Whether you connected or not. If that happens I’ll report back.