A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, is your new album, and if I might say, my favorite thing you’ve done so far. I first came upon you because of “Jogger” with Open Mike Eagle. That song and video were dope and a real unique take on trying to get a woman’s attention. What has happened from that album to now? Why should people really give PremRock a listen?
I love that song, and Mike is one of my rap heroes, one of my favorite MC’s point blank, so that’s a nice jam to have in the catalog. As much as I enjoy that song I know I have gotten a hell of a lot better as a writer and a professional. That was the introduction of the conversational flow within myself which has changed and shaped my style quite a bit. Your listeners are people and people like to feel like they’re being talked to and not talked at or yelled at. On top of development, I’ve gone through quite bit as an individual and seen a whole lot of things unfold. That experience has been invaluable in making better art. I think I’m unique because to a lot of people I’m new and unheard or being discovered but I’ve spent years in the oven so to speak, whether it was open-mic, battles, touring regionally or overseas. So while the name may be new I’m polished and still developing so you’re getting a careful product any time I release something. I like to interweave fact and fiction in storytelling and think proves to make compelling stories you can get something out of. Oh, and Willie Green controls all the sonics so you know its sounding crisp.
It’s 2014 and you’re still dropping independent hip-hop records in the internet age, at what point to you get frustrated with the overabundance of acts that you’re competing for attention alongside? Do you find hard getting the quality projects you drop to get proper coverage with the fast food blog cycles?
I never think I get the coverage I deserve and I may never get that but I don’t complain and get salty when MC so and so gets a feature and my email gets ignored. One of the biggest steps forward for me as a artist is to appreciate the people who are there and not get caught up in who isn’t. That kind of mentality will eat you alive, and trust me I understand it. If the big headlines are meant for you, they’ll come, in the meantime continue building and strengthening relationships rather than chasing posts. Catalog over everything. Keep making good music and keep getting better. Everything else will come in time and if it doesn’t it’s their loss, you did your part. This isn’t to say ignore the business acumen at all, focus on that but don’t let a lack of attention dominate your energy.
The new record is definitely very fluid and cohesive from start to finish. Where did the theme of this album pull from? It’s definitely something I feel like is very enjoyed sitting, with big headphones on, zoning out. Was there a purpose in mood and beat selection?
I appreciate the fact you feel it’s cohesive because I agree, but I also fretted over this quite a bit. Usually what is my biggest fear of a shortcoming turns into a strength after I obsess over it for a little while. I used a whole lot of producers on this one but the cohesion comes from the selection and the work they put in as well. The theme came from a few different places, but mostly of hardship. Financial troubles, addictions, relationship complications, frustrations about my future all kind of peppered the theme throughout the writing process. I was able to get through quite a bit of it by making this record. The purpose mainly was to illustrate these things with a constructive eye. I think it’s ultimately a hopeful record but it has to go through some shit to get there. The mood hopefully achieved this.
The internet era has its huge pluses, like the fact that you frequently collaborate with Zilla Rocca, Curly Castro, and Open Mike Eagle. What do you feel is the common bond you all share that has had you all create several times over?
I’d have to say we all share a pretty similar view of how to approach hip-hop in general. We are also very different people who at times make very different music. If you gave any of us 20 words to use to say a certain thing I’m sure each of us would say it vastly differently. But the respect and passion for the art is there as a common thread. I’m a huge fan of anyone I work with, I probably shoot myself in the foot politically, but I simply can’t lie and say I like something when I don’t. I never have to worry about that with them, I love just about everything they do. We are also very independent, which isn’t necessarily by design its adaptability. Also, good guys and friends. I can’t really fake the funk and act like I like someone, so when I’m cool I’m being genuine. I love hanging with those guys above all.
“Junkie” and “Can’t Make it Stop” are two of the heavier songs, and both deal with addiction on some level. Where did those topics birth from? Having dealt with those struggles myself I immediately related and respected the points made.
Both of these songs we’re essentially free writing exercises in which I gave myself some parameters but really just went with it. Both of these songs we’re inspired by addiction and funny enough New York City train rides, which I think is one of the more overlooked tools in hip-hop’s history. I often look around and guess people’s back-stories on the train. Also a pervasive theme in all of my music can deal with addiction from time to time. It’s something I’ve dealt with and my family has as well, and something that will never ever go away in humanity. I sympathize with addicts and can identify with them to a pretty good extent. I like to give them a voice in my music as I can’t identify with the folks who despise them and consider them “weak” people, we are all weak and some of us are sick. It’s a tale as old as time and makes for compelling imagery.
You are currently overseas touring right now correct? What’s it like for you as an indie artist? Is it a full time job or do you have a 9-5pm gig as well?
I quite literally just got off a plane from Frankfurt, Germany a few hours ago after another amazing run throughout Germany, France, Czech Republic, Austria and Denmark. I’m very grateful for having the opportunity to travel like I do with my music but I also worked my ass off at doing it. Although I am on the road a lot, I absolutely have a day job, it’s just a little unorthodox and thankfully extremely flexible. I binge work at times and can really do too much by working a few gigs at once. I get creative and take temp jobs sometimes, I even posed as a Wedding Host and got $200 once (A decent grift if you got the chops to pull it off) I painted Ric Ocasek from the Cars’ house in Gramercy for $15 an hour, I’ve taken tickets at Venues, done data entry, stuffed envelopes and installed cabinets. But my main gig has always been at a Lower Manhattan hotel for the last 6 years in some capacity or another. I worked my way up from 5:30 AM breakfast server to the head of the Front Desk in line for a managerial position until of course I left for tour. Now I usually bartend or cater events for rich people because it pays well.
I served or met everyone from Noam Chomsky to Pharrell to Russell Simmons to Bill Russell to Pusha T to Bryan Cranston to Bootsy Collins to Alec Baldwin to Salaman Rushdie (It could really go on forever.) It’s funny most of the time and I can honestly say I was only star struck with Black Thought and Shannyn Sossamon (Google HER if UDUNNO) It’s exhausting and makes you question life at times when you run into a rich dickhead who treats you like shit, but end of the day, we need to make rent, and contrary to Ice T, Rhyme Doesn’t always Pay. I’ve worked three jobs at once multiple times all while booking tours, recording and writing music and being my own publicist/manager. I owe my work ethic to my parents but I also developed a lack of empathy for those who don’t have one. And it also makes me despise excuses in general, anything and everything can be done when you work harder than you ever have consistently.
You’ve played with a lot of great people, as well as been able to build and collaborate with some greats as well. Has a fan, have you had any experiences of meeting someone that you looked up to and fully “fan boyed” on?
Being a fan of the art form since as far back as I can remember, there have been many instances where I can’t believe how far I’ve come. I recall being young dumb and extremely drunk watching Louis Logic at a show in Philly and now I call Lou a friend, opening for Ghostface Killah in Syracuse or being at sound check with Masta Ace (every artist could learn from how professional that guy is) it never ceases to amaze me and I never take it for granted. I guess I haven’t really “fan boyed” out in a while simply because it’s incredibly enough, becoming commonplace to be working with such talented artists. That in itself is something I’m grateful for daily.
With the new record out, and having just come off of some overseas dates, what’s next for you as an artist? What are you setting your sights on next that we should look out for?
The next move will be to continue to hit the road in various routes throughout the states and probably Canada as well. I still need to pay a proper visit to my UK homeys as well. But also creating new ways to promote the record. In indy rap or music in general it isn’t about first week sales, it’s about the calendar year and what kind of impact you can make within that. I need people to hear this record and I need to create and maximize the reach the best I can. The internet and blog world has a short term memory but real fans of music do not. Give them every opportunity to hear you. You can find also find me appearing a few upcoming projects, collaborating with my Wrecking Crew brethren and on some international releases. Currently working on a collaborative record with the 2 Hungry Bros (Homeboy Sandman, Substantial, C Rays Walz etc). Expect something creative, wildly entertaining and a lot of well… rapping well. It should be a busy and productive year.
Okay. This last part is a sort of word association kind of thing. I’ll throw out some names and you say what comes to mind first.
Sean Price: P!!!!!!!!!
Gentrification: RIP Your Favorite Bodega
Curly Castro: Luminous talent, friend.
Russia: Let’s go there.
Wu-Tang Clan: The Greatest
Cottage Cheese: No thanks
Bandcamp: A great tool, lots of potential.
Any parting words for people reading this?
A major thank you to you Dr. Bloodmoney as well as the whole UGS collective. Many thank yous to everyone who continues to support my music, whether it be through purchasing it, telling a friend or coming to a show, it all makes a difference and assists in the big picture.