Photo by EYIPhoto.com
Introduce yourself, crews, affiliations, etc…
First of all thanks for the coverage, I appreciate ugsmag.com for taking the time to cast some light on me and my music. They call me iCON the Mic King. I’m the emcee from Philadelphia. I have some affiliations and such but what’s most important to me right now is that I’m a part of Hip hop’s Third Renaissance. Oh yeah and…I’m so good at this!!
My introduction to you was through the Plague Language-Farewell Archetypes ep (2003) the track you did with did with [download#57#nohits]. That track literally blew me away (the best sample change up ever in a rap song). How did that collaboration materialize and why were there not more collaborations (the only other I know of is the track Final Lesson with Shoshin) or projects with the mc’s on that record?
That’s funny that that’s the song that put you on to me, but it’s also why I use every opportunity to grab the listener’s attention. Actually, I went to high school with Ceschi and David. Ceschi is literally the first person to take me to a studio and then he used to let me borrow his four track and I started making music that way. Back then they were just a band that covered a few different genres. David was the drummer and Ceschi played everything else. Eventually I got Ceschi into rhyming and then David came up later. It’s ironic to see how ill he’s gotten because we used to always make fun of him when he’d try to jump on tracks. Shoshin came into the fold later I met him at a radio station and we started a group called Konsentric Circles. The four of us actually have a considerable amount of material from the old millennium. As far as how the track came about David just called me and said come over let’s do a joint. That’s how it always happens with us he’s one of my longest lasting friends; whenever he wants to lay something down it’s nothing. I don’t really know anyone else that was on that record. Shouts to David he got recognized as one of the top 5 progressive drummers in the world in some drumming magazine recently. I got nothing but love for them kids.
After hearing that song I was really excited to hear some solo work. I know you released a couple cd-r but nothing really made it out internationally. What happened?
Well what I do on my own is much different than the stuff I do when I work with those guys. We all lean toward the more experimental end when we do stuff together. For a long time I was just doing the CD-R thing because of resources mostly. Then I released an EP on Beyond Space Ent entitled “Intricate Spectrum.” That was my first official shrink-wrapped and pressed cd. It didn’t make it too far out there again because of resources but it was enough to build somewhat of a cult following. I’ve done a few 12″s here and there and last year I released an album with Chum the Skrilla Guerilla of the Demigodz entitled “Mike and the Fatman.” That was the first record I’ve had with any type of promo behind it. In hindsight I think it’s all turned out the way it’s supposed to.
It seems like it has been somewhat of a slow build for you how come it has taken so long to release full-length cd?
For the most part it was resources and with experience I realize that I wasn’t ready before. My music was a little too dense before. The rhymes too complicated and multilayered, too many words in the bar, the beats not engaging enough. Don’t get me wrong I’ve always been an incredible lyricist but I spent so much time trying to show off my half-court shot instead of just taking it straight to hole. I’ve always wanted to make the perfect debut album, so no matter how ill the words were, I wasn’t ready before. If the music I’ve been making for the last two years is any indication I’m more than ready now.
What makes you think you are more ready now?
I feel like I’m one of the few rappers that continues to make drastic improvement. I turn the critical knife inward and chisel myself into a more perfect sculpture ever year and I finally feel like I’ve found the balance I need to make the type of music that both the people and I can feel with the type of quality and integrity that comes with the iCON the Mic King brand. I’m just all around more motivated and seizing the moment more than ever.
You have a new cd out “Rent Money Music II: C-Notes for the Car Note”. What can people expect when they listen to it?
The Rent Money Music series is basically just homeless tracks and features that I’m proud of. Starting with the 2nd one they will always be blended or mixed and it’s just a release to hold you over. With that said you can expect good music. No real themes, just good songs that didn’t make any of my other projects. I feel like Rent Money Music II is the best full release I have out as of now. A lot of people say this but I really feel like it’s better than a lot of people’s albums.
How would you describe your style?
My style is an ever-evolving thing mostly dictated by the beat. You know how rappers in the early 90s would be like “yo I got mad styles!” but they would only actually have one style? Well, I actually have a lot of styles. The constant through it all is high-density lyricism. I’m a lyricist first but I have off kilter styles, direct on beat melodic styles, raw in your face styles. I’d give you a list of who people compare me to but I’d rather you listen and decide for yourself. I try to stay dynamic with it to keep people from being bored. We’re in the 3rd Renaissance now, boredom is not an option.
You mentioned we are in the 3rd Renaissance. What are the first two? What are the defining characteristics of them and what is their legacy?
The First Renaissance was 1988. It’s defined by the sounds of EPMD, Public Enemy, etc. It was what everyone calls the golden era of hip hop. The First Renaissance laid the foundation with a lot of classic albums that still continue to influence hip hop to this day. I’m pretty sure we all know that era well enough. The 2nd Renaissance was in 1998; it was a more lyrical/independent age. It was defined by Lyricist Lounge and the Rawkus era. It was defined by Canibus, Wordsworth, Pharoahe Monch, Eminem, Company Flow, etc. This Renaissance very much laid the foundation for emcees such as myself.
In your words what defines the 3rd Renaissance and what will its Legacy be and how do you see yourself within this renaissance?
What defines the 3rd Renaissance is first of all the power of the people. Now more than ever the consumer has direct impact on what happens with the music industry. With their ability to download crippling the major labels and leveling the playing field between the majors and indies (albeit at a lower profit margin) the people now directly dictate who will be at the forefront of the music. The other defining element of the 3rd Renaissance is it will be marked by quality music. Not music that recreates 94-98 but something new and refreshing. New voices will emerge in this time and they will all bring something new to the table that makes you FEEL the magic you felt when you first heard PE or Tribe or Co-Flow or Mos Def but it won’t be the same old thing.
As far as my role in the Third Renaissance, I’m just a catalyst man. I make my music and I hope the people will place me amongst that pantheon of those will take us forward but if not, that’s fine by me. If not I’m happy to have pointed something out to people so they could move forward. Time will tell what my ultimate role will be in this.
Philadelphia is world renowned for its dj’s, what are the pros and cons associated with being an mc in a city with that rep?
Ahh…the city of brotherly hate. The pros are that it’s the hardest city to come up in and it gives you an attitude that prepares you for anything that a career in rap can throw at you. It gives you thick skin. It’s a very soulful city that isn’t as abrasive as New York but we very much have our own identity. The con is it’s also a city that won’t support you until you go somewhere else or get co-signed. I love it and will rep it til the death though.
To some you may be more well known for the altercation with Copywrite how have you been able to move past that and get people talking about you as the mc not the guy who punked Copywrite?
Yeah I think it’s silly but sometimes it’s the only thing people know about me and then by happenstance they’ll be at my show it’s that’s the only thing they can use to spark a conversation with me. So I just smile, we laugh about it, and chop it up a little more and hopefully they buy a cd so they can find out I can actually rap too. Personally I wish heads would just let it go. That was a personal issue that got made public, he’s since paid me the money back let’s all just move on.
What are the side’s of iCON the Mic King that make up the perennial lyrical Rubik’s cube?
I write multi-layered rhymes and there’s no type of topic I won’t touch. I’m just as adept at writing a story song as I am at writing a battle rhyme or something with emotional content. Everything is multi-layered and could stand up to poetic scrutiny. I’ve always been a fan of rhymes that you always get something new from whenever you listen to them so that’s how I write. I’m cryptic; I traverse the whole spectrum, and give twists that are unexpected. That’s enough color and dimension for a Rubik’s cube right?
You’ve toured all over the world. Any plans to tour Canada?
I’ve played Canada a few times. I’ve played Montreal, Hamilton, and Ottawa. I loved it every time! Canada is like a European country in North America. There’s so much support! I’d love to play all over Canada. I had one of the best sets of my career in Montreal opening for Souls of Mischief and EMC. I’d love to get back to Canada, promoters hit me up let’s make it happen.
What is your favourite hip hop moment?
This one right now; each moment I get to live my dream is a blessing so this one right now that has me talking to you is my favorite. After this when I go sit down and write a new song that will be my favorite, and so on and so forth.
What type of pressure is associated with your living up to the title of “the chosen one” bestowed upon you by your late great Grandmother? How has she influenced your music?
My great Grandmother always scared me to be honest so I didn’t really talk to her much. It took me until I was like 15 to get up the courage to ask her what she meant I was chosen to do and everything. So I wouldn’t say she has influenced my music in any way but I do live with a certain amount of pressure from my family. They’re actually very supportive so it’s not really pressure it’s more like they expect me to be someone special. My parents are both the first generation successes from their respective families so it’s just assumed that their child will be successful as well. With me pursuing my musical dreams rather than sticking with Computer Science it’s a big risk but I know in the end it’s my path to make them proud!
What’s next for iCON the Mic King? What do you want to accomplish with your music?
What’s next right now is just spreading the word about the 3rd Renaissance with my articles and music. I’m doing my best to make sure I have a big enough year so that my voice can be heard. It’s almost the middle of February and I’ve knocked out close to 30 new songs since the year started! So my productivity is probably the highest it’s ever been right now. I’m trying to drop something every quarter this year and do more parties than I’ve done any year prior. Ultimately, I want to make music that touches people and have them take something positive from it, whatever it may be. Right now I just want to encourage people to realize their power as consumers to change the world around them.
What question do wish people would ask you?
In general, not just with me, I’d like to see hip hop journalism take itself more seriously. I get a lot of cookie cutter interview questions where it’s like the interviewer clearly didn’t have much interest in the subject. When “Mike and the Fatman” came out the interviewers kept asking me about battling when I’d been retired for four years!!! If I did interviews I’d sift through every bit of available material on the person and basically ask everything that’s never been asked. I’d feel like I shouldn’t be interviewing the person if I didn’t truly care because otherwise it is a disservice to the reader and the artist. With that said I wish someone would ask me direct questions about my music. It’s easy to ask me about the sensationalized things around me, I wish people would listen to rhymes and ask me about the actual music.
What does it mean that iCON the Mic King is more of an idea than an actual person?
Someone told me that when I was chillin’ at the 5 spot at some show in Philly. I guess he meant I have some sort of mystique.
You state that hip hop is “a staggered genre that has arguably seen its glory days come and go”. I would argue that hip hop is fresher than ever with dynamic genre bending music for every listener. Why participate in a genre you feel is staggered?
That’s part of exactly why I participate. I’m not here to complain about it what’s wrong with hip hop, I make an observation then I lead by example in hopes to affect change. That’s what the Third Renaissance is about. Injecting, cultivating, and bringing to light the dynamic nature of what IS out there in hopes that more people grab onto it and support it and ultimately do it. There are a lot of things that make me tired and bored with hip hop. How many more times do I have to hear “Dwyck” into “Scenario” into “Choice Is Yours?” In fact it’s damn near 2010 why don’t I hear anything that came out after 1997 when I go to these events? How many more dudes can I watch mimic Eyedea and the The Saurus in a battle? How many more shitty snap songs with stupid dances can I endure? How many times are people gonna keep trying to remake Illmatic, Midnight Marauders, and Enter the Wu-tang? It’s time to let go a lot of that shit and move forward. I believe with the music I’m releasing this year I bring something to the table that encompasses that growth and if the people will support that than that is the best thing I can do is participate because in the end the influence will help hip hop progress into its new glory days. If not I hope that my voice will help who ever it is that will lead us gets heard.
You have a project coming out on the Montreal and London based Ninja Tunes records. It with an electric/hip hop hybrid group Robots With Hearts. How did this project materialize ands when is this slated for release? Is this your counter thesis for a genre that is stagnant?
Robots with Hearts is a project with myself and Animals On Wheels. He is signed to Ninja Tune, our group project doesn’t have a home yet. We have 11 tracks done right now, I spent most of December in Cambridge working with Andy and we just knocked out a lot of good stuff. However we’re preparing a masterwork and I think we’re going to do one long album and split it into 3 parts. Truthfully I don’t know when we can expect to be finished with it because part of the beauty of the project is I have no idea what I’m doing. I just sit with a track and play around with new ideas. A couple tracks are up now on the Robots with Hearts myspace (www.myspace.com/robohearts) we’d love to see what people think as we keep working and of course we’re open to hearing from labels that may be interested. I don’t know if it’s my counter thesis for the stagnation of hip hop, but it’s a very dynamic record that incorporates strong hip hop elements. Andy is a genius and he has been able to seamlessly fuse the two worlds together so far. I find myself excited to see what’s gonna happen next with the record, but the beautiful thing is that’s how I’m feeling about all the music I’m working on right now.
Any last words, stories, shoutouts etc….
Just some thank yous. Thank you to ugsmag.com for the shine. Thank you to all the supporters who have been supporting no matter when you got onboard. Thank you to the critics and haters you already know your role, keep it coming. Thank you to my team for holding me down. Thank you to my family for supporting me. Thank you to LOML for the inspiration, motivation, and for showing me the way. I.B. I-FLY. My name is iCON the Mic King folks….stay tuned with me…I’m so good at this!!! Peace.
“The Reintroduction” Mixtape: Mixed by Chum the Skrilla Guerilla (of the Demigodz)
You can find it on iCON’s podcast @ http://iconthemicking.mypodcast.com
Or direct download link the mp3 here:
Mic Check freeverse
Law and Order ft. Killah Priest (prod. Styalz Fuego!!!)
Scavengers of HipHop (prod. DJ Forge)
Dinosaur’s Anthem (prod. M-Phazes)
Marked by Melody (prod. Chum the Skrilla Guerilla)
I Can’t Wait (prod. Eyecue)
Sometimes (prod. T.E.c.K!)
Vice Grip (prod. Fifth Elephant)
Poverty ft. Blue Raspberry (prod. Styalz Fuego!!!)
My Best Move (prod. T.E.c.K!)
Card Puller (prod. T.E.c.K!)
Modern Day Slave (prod. Chum the Skrilla Guerilla)
Black Arts (prod. Tony Tank)
Master of the Universe (prod. Chum the Skrilla Guerilla)
Love is Love (prod. Styalz Fuego!!!)
Permanent (prod. Blastah Beatz)
Man of the Year (prod. Chum the Skrilla Guerilla)
For more iCON the Mic King: myspace.com/iconthemicking