I had the pleasure, yet again, of chopping it up with young and successful artist The Real Simba. I first discovered Simba a couple of years back when his music caused a world wind across airwaves and stages throughout the states. Without hesitation, I linked up with Simba to release his distinctive story. Since then, his music has voyaged from state to state, and from country to country!
MJ: I know fans are fascinated to hear the back story of Simba. Tell us what life was like growing up as a child in Jamaica? Did it prepare you for your new life in Mount Vernon, NY?
Simba: I was born and raised in St. Catherine Jamaica and came to the states when I was 7 years old. In Jamaica I came from a one-bedroom house shared with me and about 9 cousins, brother, and mother. I grew up in the country side where people raised animals and grew plants as one of the main motives of survival. I spent time with my dad at his home in Central Village, perhaps one of the most dangerous places in Jamaica. That experience made me humble but it also made me a fight for the things I want most. It also matured me faster because I experience things normal kids didn’t see at my age. I came to Mount Vernon and the violence seemed nothing new to me because I saw it countless times in Jamaica.
MJ: The environment around you in Mount Vernon was and is horrific. You were exposed to the horrors and nightmares that no child should be. Rather than fall victim to that you chose an escape. Talk about your writing and how it ultimately became your savior.
Simba: Mount Vernon is hectic but I feel that if I grew up anywhere else it wouldn’t feel the same. I don’t think I’d appreciate many aspects of life that I do now. Growing up in Mount Vernon made me wise and how to carry myself. Mount Vernon hardens you, it makes you a fighter, and teaches you not to give up. At the end of the day I don’t want to die not having done something great. Living here helped me to set goals and also showed me the things that I don’t want to fall victim to. The main reason I work hard is so I don’t have to fall to the negative stigmas of my town. Ultimately my writing became the main reason for me to do so. It gave me something to dream for and gave me away to express myself. Music is my love and gives me meaning.
MJ: One of your very first records was a result of that escape, “Susie’s Story”. Was that the beginning of your career?
Simba: “Susie’s Story” means a lot to me. It’s a record I wrote from the heart. I wrote that for people to see how their actions affect people outside of their initial intentions. I’ve seen too much happen to innocent people and I just wanted to tell people of the tragedy that takes places almost day to day in my town. Initially that’s a story I wrote about a mother who lost her daughter to violence. Things like that break my heart and I found a way to express how I was feeling in a song. Sad to say I feel like it’s a story I’ve seen too many times. It wasn’t the beginning of my career it was just one of my first emotional songs.
MJ: Although you are young in age, you are very family orientated and hold that above anything else in life. What kind of impact does your family and their support have on your career?
Simba: Family is one of the main reasons I do this. Ultimately I want to be the one that helps my family to advance in life, and that’s because they’re the ones that motivate me the most. My brothers, cousins, my mother, and dad tell me all the time that I’m good at what I do. I also have my sisters always supporting me as well whether it’s buying my mixtapes or coming to my shows, they always show love. It’ll mean so much to me when I can give my family the things they deserve. I even have my little nieces and nephews singing my songs every time they see me. My family really supports me and pushes me to be great and I just want to do that for them.
MJ: You have experienced a tremendous amount of success in a short period of time, yet you are not flashy or egotistical like many other young artists. What keeps Simba humble, and grounded in his tracks?
Simba: Through my music I want to inspire people. I want to show them that we all have the potential to be great. I want to stay connected to the people. Though I love fashion and I always try to look fly in my own way, at the end of the day I don’t want people to see jewels and expensive clothing. I want them to first see me for who I am. I’d rather take that money and give back to the people. I’m currently saving up to build a basketball gymnasium for the kids of my town.
MJ: For those that are not familiar with Simba, and shame on them, talk a little bit about your style. What separates you from other young up and coming artists?
Simba: I make music that isn’t bounded by a year. I feel like most young artists nowadays make music that’ll last a few months then it’s gone. My music is something that’ll be timeless. There’s a deep meaning behind every word when I craft a song. Originality and personality is what separates me from other artists. My music is positive, fun, and intellectual because I am that way. I integrate my life, ideas, and personal views into the music. It’s my story I don’t know someone that has lived the exact same life as me.
MJ: Let’s get to the music! What is hot right now and available for all your fans?
Simba: “Ohhmyygoodness” was the single that first got people looking at me as an artist. It’s a catchy, fun, and also very lyrical track. It has the classic rap feel. The single “Blue Faces” is one of my breakout hits. It’s a single that’s being played all over the world right now. It integrates my playful, aggressive, and love for the music. All of these can be found on iTunes, Tidal, Spotify, Google Play, Soundcloud, etc. In both these songs you can hear my seriousness and determination. It just shows how bad I really want and believe in myself as an artist. It is also something listeners can be motivated by.
MJ: Give us a little inside scoop on some forthcoming projects you are working on.
Simba: “This Is Only the Beginning” is a project I am creating that collectively shows all aspects of my personality and just a peek at my life and who I am as a person. I give a Reggae feel on songs such as “Good Love”, a playful feel on songs such as “Come Up”, I share my love life on songs such as “Fear of Love”, and family struggles on songs such as “Yeezy Taught Me”. My music is me! It’s real and exciting filled with love, pain, and joy. This project takes you through all the phases of my life, my pain, struggles, love troubles, and family issues. I wanted to give the people something they can relate to as well as something that will let them know we all share similar stories. But those stories are what push us or drive us to be great.
MJ: As we wrap up is there anything else you would like to share with the world of Hip Hop?
Simba: I just want to thank the people for all their support and their love for my music. Ultimately, because of them it pushes me to be better knowing that I have people checking for my music and constantly showing love and support!
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MJ CHOPS IT UP WITH JERSEY’S RENOWNED GRAFFITI ARTIST LEON RAINBOW @Aerosoleon
Leon Rainbow is a Graffiti Artist and founder of Jersey’s biggest Hip Hop Festival, Jersey Fresh Jam. The festival was established in 2005 and has grown to be one of the most respected celebrations on the east coast of Hip Hop Culture and all of the elements. Each year Leon brings together aerosol artists from all over the world, indie and legendary emcees, deejays, and photographers. This annual celebration of Hip Hop is well known in the communities attended by babies, kids, adults, and families!
MJ: First and fore most I want to congratulate you on the continued success of Jersey Fresh Jam and making it a mission to celebrate the culture of Hip Hop. Share some history about the festival and how you came to play a major role in it.
LR: Thanks MJ. In 2005 one of my friends contacted me about painting at a warehouse he was working at. It was a young, hip company with big ideas and lots of blank walls. That is when I met Tom Tszaky, the CEO of the company Terracycle. This now Trenton based company was talking about worm shit like it was gold, and in a way it was. So they were taking worm shit, making a tea out of it, packaging it in recycled Pepsi bottles and selling it as plant fertilizer. Go to https://www.terracycle.com to find out more about the company. So when we met Tom, Will Kasso, Brandon Jones, and myself did a test wall. We have been painting the whole building ever since. It was important because it gave us a location to do classes, bring people from out of town to paint and throw events. Our first Jam was 15 graffiti artists from NJ, Philly, and NYC, a boom box and a few cases of beer. The first few years it was called the Terracycle Jam or The Worm Poop Jam until eventually we came up with Jersey Fresh Jam, a nod to the state’s agriculture campaign. Only we were growing a Hip Hop community. Things started out slowly and grew very organically. We started having music one year and that really made it into a festival. I still don’t know how it worked. I helped Pose 2 with Philadelphia’s Legendary BBOY BBQ and I just tried to create a similar quality event. It’s a little bit harder in Jersey because it’s a smaller market but we have made a name for ourselves and I am proud of what the event has become. Each year we try and do a little bit more and improve. Right now we have all 4 elements represented as well as vendors, and sponsors. It has evolved into a strong community Hip Hop event. We have had amazing artists like El Da Sensei, Cappadonna, and Masta Ace.
MJ: Take it back for our readers. How were you personally drawn into the art form of Graffiti? We hear so many stories of how emcees and deejays got their start, but it is very rare we get the history of Graffiti artists.
LR: When I was a kid Hip hop was big in the 80’s. I loved Rap, Deejaying, Breakin, and Graffiti and how it blew up on the scene. At the time I lived in San Jose, CA. Like many graffiti writers my first influences were books like Getting Up, Subway Art, Spray Can Art and the movies Style Wars, Wild Style, and Breakin. As soon as I saw Style Wars I was drawn to graffiti. Then I started tagging locally, Bus Hopping, as it was called at the time. We would cut class and steal markers and paint and tag the buses all over our city. Local influences were King 157, Picasso and Dare Wcf. In ‘92 I moved to New Jersey and graffiti was put on the back burner. I got into drinking and getting high. During that time, I just drew on paper in Black Books. I got clean and moved to Trenton, NJ in ‘97. I started going to school at Mercer County Community College for graphic design and walls in Trenton in 1999 and 2000. In 2003, I met Philly artists Pose 2, Joe Base, Sew and others. They really schooled me. I was doing it wrong, hahaha. There are certain things that are better learned from another artist than a book, magazine, or the internet.
MJ: I am curious to learn; do you dabble in any of other elements of Hip Hop? Does Leon rap? Your pieces of art offer a visual story with knowledge…I guess I answered my own question, but would love to hear it from you.
LR: Oh man when I was a kid I dabbled in Breakin. I have a lot of love for Dj’s and MC’s but I’m just not musically inclined. Rap and Poetry inspire me because the words are so visual but I only create visual art.
MJ: Hip Hop is for the kids! What is your reaction to that? How would you say Graffiti ties into that?
LR: Yeah Definitely. I always try and inspire the youth as much as possible. But I feel like sadly that they don’t want it. I guess with the internet things are so accessible. When I was coming up if you told me to stand on my head in the corner I would do it if I thought it would make me a better artist. Don’t get me wrong there are some young people that are passionate about Graffiti and Art. But as a whole not so much. I have done after school programming and workshops off and on for the last 15 years.
MJ: There is a plethora of unrecognized talent in Trenton, NJ mainly because of the reputation the city has. Do you think the festival is helping to diminish those stereotypes and spread positivity?
LR: Yeah. I feel that Jersey in general is just starting to get props. It is tough being between NYC and Philly. I think the city’s rep is what it is. It is a city that has crime. However, I believe that the graffiti and art scene in Trenton is spurring a lot of positive change. When the event started in 2005, the graffiti scene in Trenton was in its infancy. We had graffiti writers that came into town from Pennsylvania or North Jersey but we didn’t really have a tight knit community like we do now. Over the last 5–10 years’ people have been coming into the city mainly because of the arts and culture scene. There is great underground hip hop and rock scenes in this city, as well as a lot of talented artists both of my generation and those that came after me. I have a lot of love for the City of Trenton. It is a city of second chances and talent. The important thing that Jersey Fresh Jam has been is a melting pot. It has allowed us to bring in other artists, rappers, djs from all over, and showcase them to the public. It is truly a community event for people of all ages, races, colors! All just for the love of Hip Hop.
MJ: Talk a little bit about your own pieces and what they contribute to Hip Hop.
LR: For my fine art stuff I am working on a Dynamic Abstract series. They are brightly colored pieces that incorporate patterns and designs into cityscapes, characters, and scenes. For my graffiti, I try to be well rounded. Taking traditional styles, good letter structure, and color schemes and giving them my own twist. I like to do themed pieces where the background goes with the lettering and characters. I take a letter’s first approach. Basically, all the other elements support and exemplify the pieces.
MJ: As we wrap up is there anything else you would like to share?
LR: Go after your dreams, continue to improve yourself, get with people better than you that can school you, pay your dues and stay humble.
MJ: Much respect and continued success to you and Jersey Fresh Jam! Thank you for keeping the culture alive!
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Taylor Bee, Hip Hop Queen, Raising Awareness Through the Lost Element of Knowledge @BeeTV
Taylor Bee is a woman, CEO, Entrepreneur, and Activist who lives her life dedicated to Hip Hop and paying tribute to the culture via education and elevation. In a world sometimes consumed with negativity and fears, it is refreshing to celebrate an empowering leader!
MJ: First and foremost let me begin by quoting a simple motto of yours that invites women everywhere to shine, “Queenz Up!” How did this simple yet profound motto evolve?
TB: Well first and foremost thank you for having me on MJ, and let me commend you on the great work that you do. You are a true warrior for artists and Hip Hop as a whole, so Queenz Up to you! We know Hip Hop is male dominated like so many other things, and often times we as women in the industry are pitted as competitors against one another. I wanted the women in the industry to have a stronger bond in sisterhood rather than always feeling like we have to compete with each other. Most people know that I am affiliated with Hell Razah, Queen The Prophet, and GGO. Razah’s coined phrase is Wingz Up, so I started saying Queenz Up, naturally as a way to salute the ladies and build camaraderie with one another. Everyone loved the idea and “Queenz Up” has been spreading ever since!
MJ: You are an amazing woman who supports so many other empowered women in both personal and professional journeys, hence “Queenz Up”. Do you feel you are embraced by other women, young women, and teenagers?
TB: In most of my experiences yes, I am embraced by most of the young women I meet. I have encountered a great deal of young women who are so smart and have so many ideas and potential and some who are already bringing those ideas to fruition becoming young Entrepreneurs. As far as peers in the industry there have been some not so pleasant energies but that’s okay too that’s why I stay positive and continue to push “Queenz Up”. I feel everyone brings something different to the table and there is room for us all, I want us all to win.
MJ: Take it back for us. When did you first fall in love with Hip Hop? At what point in your life did that love transform into a mission for you?
TB: Well I am a true Hip Hop head! I can remember first listening to Hip Hop, the real emcees were on the scene like KRS One (who is my birthday twin), Rakim, and BDK. So that is the era I remember starting out and peace to all the real ones! But I would be amiss if I don’t mention the Wu-Tang Clan which is my favorite group of all time. I feel in love with Hip Hop for real when I heard Method Man spitting M.E.T.H.O.D. MAN! It was a wrap after that, and I’ve been die hard Wu fan ever since. In 2014 is when I really started engaging within the industry and met Hell Razah and everything I’ve done since sparked from that.
MJ: I want to talk about BEE TV, which is an incredible platform for so many people of all walks of life! Give us the who, what, when, where, how, and why of BEE TV.
TB: So Bee TV is my second child! I have always been the one to dig deeper and want to find the truth about real black history and overall truth about the world. I was promoting for Hell Razah at the time and on my page all you would see is my promotion and things about world history and injustices and different things like that. Something was brewing in me and I felt I needed a bigger platform to let it all out. So I came up with Bee TV: A Platform for the Truth, this was in June of 2016. Our Mission is to fuse conscious Hip Hop with the truth in order to raise awareness in the community. My first interview was with The Mighty Hebrew, and we did the interview in a park in North Philly and it was amazing and was so well received. The rest is history from there!
MJ: Being a woman who absorbs each element of Hip Hop as a way of life, I’m very curios to learn your thoughts on the stance of Hip Hop in 2018, from the music to the culture.
TB: Well I believe the music and the culture go hand in hand, and that is what worries me about Hip Hop in 2018. I believe the content that is being force fed to the masses is not real Hip Hop, rather a genre of rap that I classify as Trap/Pop Rap. I would not disrespect real emcees and the creativity that they all branded by calling this mainstream trap/pop genre Hip Hop. I’m old school and biased and I don’t have a problem stating that. I also feel as though these artists don’t even really pay homage or respect the older Gods of Hip Hop. So I have a strict policy of NO Trap/Pop genre music on my show, period! It is okay to have fun in Hip Hop and have a balance but their music in my opinion is straight poison, everything from the frequency of the beats to the not so lyrical content. I would be a hypocrite to have a platform promoting teaching and elevation and then play some of what’s being pushed out now by the majority of artists today.
MJ: What is underway for Taylor Bee? What are some upcoming projects or business endeavors we can look forward to?
TB: Bee TV has a lot in store this year! The Mini Series Bee Cause starts in March (official date TBD). The other Mini Series are open for Artists and Entrepreneurs as well. I am collaborating on a project with Uneeke Kenetic, an artist from Trenton, NJ. “Hidden Knowledge” volume 3 (dropping this summer), will feature myself on the entire album, and I have a few solo joints on there including the theme music that I wrote for Bee Cause. I am very excited about writing music again. That is something I thought I would not do again, and I have to say I owe that to Hip Hop class of 2018 (lol). it is so horrible now that it sparked me to come out of hibernation, and I wanted theme music for my show so who better to write it than me?! Also the God Uneeke Kenetic sparked me and my creativity has been flowing ever since.
MJ: “3 game”, play along …3 artists in your personal playlist? 3 influences, personal or musically? 3 places you would like to bring BEE TV to?
TB: 3 Artist in my personal playlist are Hell Razah, Wu-Tang Clan, and Nas. 3 influences both professionally and musically have to be Hell Razah, Rza, and Freedom Fighting Ancestors. 3 places you will find Bee TV is running programs that teach the youth the true and proper history, as well as giving them life lessons to help survive in this world. Bee TV will also grow to be a known pillar in the community for bringing empowerment and unity to all people! Finally, I’d like to see the Mini Series syndicated and being listened to by the masses, we all need more positivity in our lives!
MJ: As we wrap up is there anything else you want the world to know about Taylor Bee?
TB: I just want to let everyone know that anything you put your mind to is possible. Don’t let negativity and naysayers make you bury your dreams and aspirations! I do this from the heart and for the people, my word is my bond, and I want us all to win. Let’s learn how to support one another and genuinely build a better tomorrow for the babies! Thank you MJ for the opportunity to get my message out there! #WingzUp #QueenzUp
MJ: Thank you for taking the time out for this interview, Queenz Up!
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Mercy Gang Emancipates Hip Hop With Their Latest Album “M.E.R.C.Y.” (Murdering Every Rapper Coming at You) @MercyGang1
MJ here your favorite Hip Hop blogger! Tonight it is more than a pleasure, it is an honor to interview Pennsylvania’s and East Coast’s own Mercy Gang! Mercy Gang embodies the definition, lifestyle, and culture of Hip Hop. Album after album the group conveys unity, brotherhood, and Hip Hop in it’s true form.
Their latest album “M.E.R.C.Y.” is an imperishable work of art created with blended talent and a mastery of lyricism, beats, and straight bars! This album is in tribute to the group’s fallen soldier Hefty Metal…
MJ: Let me begin by thanking you for taking the time to chop it up with MJ. Its an honor, you’re an amazing journalist, and poet. Let’s jump right in and talk about the new album M.E.R.C.Y. You have some of my favorite emcees on the album as features such as Chris Rivers and Ren Thomas. Give everyone the who, what, where, when, why, and how of M.E.R.C.Y. What does the acronym stand for? Talk about the production. Talk about the cover art. Talk about the meaning behind it. How was it creating music and an album without the core member Hefty (RIP)?
MG: The acronym M.E.R.C.Y. stands for Murder Every Rapper Coming at You. It was an honor to work with some of the nicest lyricists in the game. Ren Thomas is like family, we have done plenty of shows with him and our brothers over at Sensi Starr so it was bound to happen. Our fellow Bax War brother Pryme Prolifik did the production on that record. As for Chris Rivers we chopped it up on the phone with him, sent him the track and he murdered it. We also have U.G from the legendary Cella Dwellas. He has been like a big brother and mentor to us since we went on tour with him, and Adlib in 2013. We wanted to work with some producers we didn’t get a chance to work with on our first album, but still keep that in your face sound that our fans were used to. We had some of the usual suspects like JL Studios, Level 13, U.G, Chris Fields, Nysom, and a couple of new producers like Holla da Schollar, Will Sully, and Pryme Prolifik. The artwork was done by the Soloist. We wanted to let Hefty know how much we miss him and that we know he is watching over us. This was a long and emotional 2 years; a lot of tears were shed working on this album without him. He was very creative and had such a powerful voice that was a big part of our sound. We appreciate the amazing poem you wrote for Hefty on this album; it really meant the world to us and his family.
MJ: What do you want fans to embrace most from this album? Tell us what three words would Hefty use to describe the album.
MG: We want the fans to truly appreciate the blood, sweat, and tears we put into this album. The three words Hefty would use would be amazing, compelling, and honored.
MJ: Will there be a M.E.R.C.Y sophomore album or trilogy?
MG: Yes, we’re constantly working on new material. Maine has a project with suspect from Marmel coming soon, and DJ Merc is working on a mixtape.
MJ: I have to share that Mercy Gang is in my top 5 of favorite Indie Hip Hop groups for many reasons! To begin each of you share the same core belief that Mercy Gang is a reflection of a family and true brotherhood. To further, the group has an incredible know-how and skill to combine individual unique talents into fused perfection! So often you hear of groups that break up or call it quits after a few hits or an album. 2017 Mercy Gang is still thriving. Share the secret of a successful group. Also what would you say are some challenges?
MG: Thanks MJ! That’s means a lot coming from you, being the Hip Hop head you are. We trust each other’s creativity and respect each other’s point of view as it comes to beats, rhymes, and life. We argue and bump heads like most groups do, but the love and respect that we have for each other and for our Mercy Gang Brand is stronger than our pride or any egos.
MJ: Listening to M.E.R.C.Y talk about how the group has progressed musically from previous albums. How would you like to further progress as a group?
MG: Just continuing to make the music from our hearts, and daring to be different. We’re not afraid to take risks, always giving our all on every song, verse, or hook. We don’t sit around trying to make a hit. We just let the music bring the best out of us organically.
MJ: Mercy Gang has shared the studio and stages with several major artists! Talk about a memorable time in your career that still stands out to you. Also, who would you like to add to that list of collaborations?
MG: We have had a few but the performances that stick out the most were the Staten Island shows where Method Man came on stage and started rocking to our song. We have also had the honor of rocking the stage with both Sean Price and Prodigy who sadly are no longer with us. May they both rest in peace. Our bucket list of artists we would love to work with, for Maine would be Redman and Nas. Paulie would like to collaborate with Eminem and Tech N9ne. We would also love to work with Philly’s own the 30 and Over League.
MJ: As we move into the new year give us some inside scoop on upcoming shows or other projects you will be working on.
MG: We’re working on some dates for a couple of mini tours in Canada with Marmel and with universal entities from MA, VA, and NC. We are working on another Mercy Gang album. Maine and Suspect are working on a project titled “Cross Boarder Connections Vol 2”. DJ Merc has a mixtape coming out, and we have a couple of surprises under our sleeve as well, so stayed tuned!
MJ: Let’s talk about support! I find it amazing how incredibly supportive and encouraging you are to other artists. I remember one show, our first time meeting in person, you arrived early, supported every single performance and performer, and even stayed afterwards to network. Why is that so important to you? How does that help you as artists?
MG: Well first and foremost I’m a fan of the culture so I love to see other dope artists, and we are always down to do build for collaborations. Networking is extremely important when you’re an artist, dj, promoter, manager, or even just a fan. So many doors can open up through networking. We’ve met some great people who share the same love and passion as we do.
MJ: I get called an ol’ head quite frequently because I debate and critique music that so many are quick to categorize or label as Hip Hop. When I think of Hip Hop I think lyrics, boom bap, knowledge, delivering a message, instruments, poetry, art, etc. I think of a 4-minute track with a hook. I think of catchy intro’s and outro’s. I think of longevity; I can go on forever. Tell me in your own words how do you define Hip Hop? Do you see Mercy Gang ever conforming to fads or trends?
MG: We will never conform to fads or trends, that’s just not us. Hip hop is a way of life for us! we eat, sleep, and shit Hip Hop…Hip Hop is a feeling, Hip Hop is competitive, Hip Hop is beats, rhymes, originality. It’s being true to yourself, and not trying to fit in.
MJ: I’m curious, how did everyone link up and create Mercy Gang? If it wasn’t for music where would you be right now in life?
MG: Maine did a record with Sway one of our earlier members, and Hefty came to the session and the three of them hit it off instantly. I was part of a group called Unstable Minds when Hefty reached out to me about joining the group. The original group consisted of Hefty, Maine, Ace, Sway, myself, Paulie, and Bagz. Our name was “The Mercenaries,” but Maine wasn’t feeling it so he started saying Mercy Gang and it stuck. We met DJ Merc at a show we did in Jersey and he was dope. So three months later Hefty approached him about being in the group and the rest is history. We still try to keep the essence of the original group by putting the former members on a lot of our projects. If I weren’t doing music I would probably be pursuing my interest in writing scripts for movies (Maine).
MJ: Play along with the quick 3…. Name three places you would like to tour. Name three artists in your playlist regardless of genre. Name 3 people who have influenced you both personally and musically. Describe in three words a Mercy Gang performance.
MG: We would love to tour overseas like Europe, Japan, and definitely the United States. My playlist right now has Redman, John Mayer, and Conway. Paulie’s playlist right now has Twiztid, Wu Tang, and Benny from Griselda. My three influences would be my cousin Sudan who I learned how to rap from. My mom who made me the person I am today and I would have to say the culture of Hip Hop. Three words to describe a Mercy Gang show without a doubt would be energetic, raw, and amazing.
MJ: Each member of the group has their own personal lives, where does the balance come in? How do you balance career and family? Sometimes in this industry to be successful in both is extremely difficult.
MG: It’s a thin line, because one is going to effect the other. For Paulie and myself we both have wives and kids, and both of our wives are nurses and their schedules are crazy. So when it comes to touring we have to work around our family’s schedule. But the thing that makes it work is the love and support our family shows us when it comes to our music, they know how much it means to us.
MJ: As we wrap up, is there anything else you would like the world to know about Mercy Gang?
MG: We would want the world to know that we love what we do, and we try our best to give our all on every track we do. We love Hip Hop! We love our fans, and we love making music.
MJ: I wish Mercy Gang a future filled with success and extraordinary accomplishments! Thank you for being true to Hip Hop, salute!
MG: Same to you MJ. We want to thank you for being our voice for Hip Hop. Continue to hold it down for us independent and underground artists. We salute you and it was an honor to do this interview with you.
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MJ Gets to Know Cuban Pete, England’s Famed Emcee of 30 Years @c75Designs
MJ here, your favorite Hip Hop Blogger! Tonight we will get to know England’s well-known and established recording artist, Cuban Pete. First and foremost, thank you for connecting with me and taking time out of the studio for this interview. Before we begin, I must share that in terms of travel I live through the artists that I interview. With that being said, tell me what life is really like in England! I want to know similarities, and differences of course with lifestyles and the music scene. I’m also curious what it was like for you growing up in England. Did you fascinate about the states, like most of us here fascinate about other countries?
CP: England’s different. It’s not as extreme as America. There’s always similarities though. I feel things are becoming more “in your face” as people and society changes. A lot of kids are crazy confident now because of this whole, everyone is a celebrity culture we’re in. People aren’t scared to make money by being stupid. They think all press is good press.
I can only talk about myself. I did always look up to America as the birthplace of Hip Hop, even though there is a great respect for the culture over here from most fans. When I started rhyming myself I was already involved long enough to know better than to try and copy the accent of it all. That’s been outlawed in the UK for years now! Although you still get the odd rapper, and more mainstream influenced who you would swear is from Atlanta but is actually from Sunderland. The ones caught up in the “stuntin and frontin” lifestyle.
A word to the US though; don’t listen to Westwood riding the grime wave to stay “relevant”. UK Hip Hop has been strong and unique for years before grime hit. Shouts to Hijack, Blade, Katch 22, Silver Bullet, Gunshot, MC Mello, Icepick, London Posse, Mud Fam, Task Force, and many others for paving the way and carrying on tradition.
MJ: It is refreshing to learn that you are part of the emcee crew, a true Master of Ceremony. You take pride in creating music that gives purpose, and meaning. Why is that key for you? I mean there are endless rappers who simply create music to make a quick, catchy hit. What separates you from that lane?
CP: When I was growing up it was about talent and skills and for most heads those are the real markers MCs are judged by. These “mumblesexuals” today can’t compare. When they decide they are fed up of being wack and try and step up their game lyrically their fans will feel like idiots for liking their wack stuff.
We all like having hits, and getting that recognition. To appeal to the mass public can mean a dilution. I think that’s changed somewhat. It’s not so much a dilution of the music these days, though obviously jumping on the latest trend helps, but it’s also a dilution of yourself. Doing anything and everything to stay “relevant”. It’s about finding a balance and being true to yourself.
MJ: Although you are “Old School” in a sense with your music, you do exude levels of uniqueness and originality so you are not boxed in or labeled as only creating one type of sound or style. So besides capturing the essence of true Hip Hop, what else does your music offer to listeners? What can they expect from you as a recording artist?
CP: I say I’m Old School because I’ve been into this industry for around 30 years. I grew through the Golden Era and I have that inventiveness and originality inside of me. But I’m still fairly new as a serious recording artist. I’m working with several producers on different projects that I want to have different feels. I want to create music that people recognize through the saturation of the market.
MJ: You mention that style is essential! Elaborate on that.
CP: I’m an artist. That translates through the visual and the audio. As an artist, an original artist, you have to have style. Style that people recognize as you. It’s not about fitting in its about standing out.
MJ: Talk about the fans and appreciation for music. I know the Hip Hop scene and culture overseas is incredible and intense!
CP: Any artists from the US who has travelled overseas will tell you how the love for the culture is greater over here. The appreciation is great. The music really brings people together. Most of the backbiting is just between the artists. Obviously there’s people who’ll love a Lady Leshurr but not know who Craig G is but that’s par for the course. Not everyone who raps knows their history but a lot of fans do. Don’t piss off a UK rap fan though (or even a UK rapper) because you’ll be dead to them from that point on.
MJ: Can you tell us what’s hot right now with Cuban Pete? Also what can we look forward to in the new year?
CP: I’m working on my promotion more, to get my work out there. I’ve just started a new website, www.nomadsstreetteam.com, with another talented artist on the FNBG Records roster called Just Write. Were trying to make it the next thisis50! And I’ve still got my www.c75live.com site of course.
I’m going to keep the singles and videos coming as well as my “Renaissance Man” mixtape, followed by my “Capital C Capital P” album, and my collaboration album “When Warriors Come Out to Plaaaaayyy”.
I also have the “Live Test’ ep with OneMike (T.E.S.T Squad), an as yet untitled project with NY producer B.Dvine www.bdvinemusic.com. I have several Gorilla Army projects and a joint album with the head of the army D.Original Mr.Blue www.hoodiswatching.com. Also in the works is an album called “A War Goin On Outside” with DJ WIZ (Wu Coalition DJ). That should keep me busy…
I design clothing and merchandise for Krumbsnatcha’s label Mind Power Entertainment at www.mindpowerwear.bigcartel.com, and Gorilla Army at www.gorillagearshop.bigcartel.com. I’ll be putting together something with OneMike called Kings Ransom. Me and Mike have been working together for a while now. He’s part of my C75 Live Crew and I’m part of his T.E.S.T. Squad.
I also have my hands full with my design work doing art covers, flyers, etc.
MJ: Lyrics or beats? As an artist do you have the opinion that one outweighs the other?
CP: You can use either to make a dope track but the best tracks use both. But I came in the game loving lyrics and wordplay, which is why I emcee instead of making beats I guess. Although I’d love an MPC.
MJ: Let’s talk collaborations. Who is on your list to share the stage or studio time with?
CP: Tragedy Khadafi is a possibility right now. Redman and Method Man would be a dream. I don’t really think about it like that though. Most of my collaborations have come about through talking and vibing, or a trade of skills like artwork for a verse. It’s been a mutual organic thing, as opposed to me pursuing or outright paying someone.
MJ: You have worked with many major artists, some of my top favorites such as Pacewon, Blaq Poet, and Krumbsnatcha! Did they share any words of wisdom, or drop any jewels on becoming successful in the music industry?
CP: Those guys have done it all so yeah I pick up things, like I do from most people I work with. But the main thing I get from collaborations is that feeling of competition. Proving I can hang or be better than who I’m on the track with. My collaboration album will be crazy!
MJ: Let’s play the 3 game so readers can get to know you a little better. Who is in your top 3 personal playlist? What 3 places would you like to tour? Who are 3 influences, personally and musically?
CP: 3? I had an 160GB IPod and filled it! My favorite album ever is “illmatic”. I have a best of M.O.P. I put together, and a best collaboration ever playlist. I can’t get it down to 3 artists, you’re crazy, lol!
Touring would be America, Brazil, and… I’ve heard Germany is live out there with the fans.
Personal influences come and go. Heroes are human and let you down. Musically though I’d say Redman, Wu-Tang as a collective, and the third is probably a D.I.T.C. or B.C.C. type collective. Only three is hard after 30 years.
MJ: As we wrap up, is there anything else you would like the world to know about yourself?
CP: I’m here to cut through the bullsh*t! You might not hear about me every day on these Hip Hop gossip sites but I will still be here in front or behind the scenes making moves. The race is not a sprint, the game is long.
MJ: Thank you again for taking time out for MJ! I wish you much continued success, salute!
Meet Jes Blaze, NY’s Own Ambassador of Hip Hop and the Airwaves @No_Filter_Radio @Jes_Blaze_
MJ here with one of NY’s top entrepreneurs making some heavy hitting power moves across the globe! I have the pleasure to chop it up with Jes Blaze, who is Hip Hop devotee, radio owner & host, event planner & host, and manager! First and foremost, thank you for taking time away from your upcoming showcases for this interview. For those that might not be familiar, tell everyone who Jes Blaze is…
JB: Jes Blaze is just a simple around the way girl that’s just been molded differently due to early life experiences. I’m a Biker (been riding for 10yrs), Mother and Wife. I’m extremely outspoken and a multi tasker. I always aim to help others, sometimes more than myself. I’m compassionate but don’t f*** with me or f*** me over!
MJ: I want to take it back and give the fans a little history. Tell us a little bit about your upbringing. I know that you are very family orientated, as well as a true New Yorker! I bet you get that a lot. What comes to mind when people tell you that? How do you define a true New Yorker?
JB: I’m the youngest of 5; 3 sisters and 1 brother. My brother tried his hardest to make me a boy. He wanted a little brother, got me and said I’m still going to treat you like a boy, hence my mental way of thinking. I have the mentality of a Man, yet always a lady. I was and still am spoiled being the youngest I always get my way. Family is everything to me! Whenever I leave New York to another state my New York accent, as they say gives it away. I’m Street Smart NY, survival of the fittest! New York is a grind state and everyone is always on the go so you have to keep up. They say if you can survive living in New York you can survive anywhere, and I survived leaving home at 15 when I thought I was grown. I was working by 15, and had a car and a crib at 16. It wasn’t easy but it built me Ford tough!
MJ: When would you say music became a key element in your life? Is there someone you credit that to? What point did you declare to pursue the music industry as a career?
JB: My brother, I have 3 sisters but was always with my brother. He would always play rap from the legends and make me recite the lyrics! From Slick Rick’s ” Children’s Story”, to Rob Base’s ” Joy and Pain” I loved it! I loved the energy, the beats, and the lyrics, I was amazed at how creative someone can be by telling a story. About 2 years ago I was asked to be a host for an online radio show. I did it for a few months and things went south. I decided it was best that I part ways but then I thought to myself “what now”? “Do I just stop doing radio, that’s it, it’s just temporary?” My husband told me to continue perusing it that I was on a good wave and people liked me. I agreed and said I think I can do this myself. I always push myself and challenge myself to new feats. So I went ahead and did extensive research about radio and just started my show. Of course there were many bumps along the road but I saw it as a test of my strength of whether I can do this or not!!
MJ: Let’s talk about the very first time you were live on the air. What emotions were running through you? Fast forward to the present, share the level of success No Filter Radio Show is receiving in such a short period of time throughout the U.S. and internationally!
JB: I was nervous as all hell! See I’ve always been shy, until one day I woke up and said “F*** what people think”! (Snapple fact) I kept thinking, “I’m going to run out of things to say”, or “I’m going to stutter”. But as time passed I started to become one with the mic! it’s sort of became second nature to me and I felt so comfortable and somewhat powerful that I have a platform and people are listening to me. I look forward to every Sunday to jump on the mic and share my thoughts with others. I’m beyond humbled at the success I have received.
MJ: I admire you, praise you, support you, and have the upmost respect for you. Not only have you taken the airwaves by storm by providing a platform for up and coming Indie Artists to be recognized, but you continue to discuss controversial topics and news the world would rather sweep under the rug and close eyes and ears to. That takes courage, confidence, and stamina! Why has it become a mission of yours to bring such topics to light? Have you experienced negative reactions because of that?
JB: Thank you so much for that! I appreciate you! Society keeps living with this blanket over their faces and unfortunately over their kids as well. I feel like so many things need to be addressed rather than forgotten about. that’s what “awareness” is about. So I figured with my show I’d take full advantage. Also I speak about things people only think about because they’re afraid to speak on it. so you can say I’m like a breath of fresh air for them. I’ve had some negative feedback, but opinions are like a**holes, everyone’s got them so I can only respect it and keep it pushing. See people need to understand that everyone isn’t going to like what you do or say and that’s ok. you just can’t allow that to define who you are. I stand firm by everything I say. My pops always told me “If you’re 100% certain about something fight to the death when it comes to explaining but if you aren’t, shut the hell up!”
MJ: Would you consider yourself a role model to young women and to women who are pursuing a career in a male dominated industry?
JB: I’d like to think so. there’s that saying, “Someone is always watching”. I tell young girls to be confident at all times! Stand by what you believe in and don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t do it. There are some men who are intimidated by strong intelligent women, I’m not one for proving to others but in this sense you have to go a little harder because you will be tested. Don’t fold!
MJ: Take this time to let everyone know about the independent showcases and contests you put on monthly for artists. You are doing so much more than providing an opportunity for artists to be heard, you are also providing them with the knowhow and confidence to progress in the music industry. Talk about that.
JB: My monthly showcases thankfully have been successful for about a year now. Again I love helping people and given my platform I wanted to give artists an opportunity to show what they’re really about. However, they perform not only to show their skills on the mic but for chances to win either a Thisis50.com article write up, studio time, or Interview. So it pushes them to go a little harder. I tend to develop a relationship with most artists. Constructive criticism is important! I tell them if you can’t take critique from me and are trying to make it up top, they’ll eat you alive! I’m honest about their music no sugar coating. if it’s bad I’ll let you know! I’m proud to say I broke an artist, Wyen Solo, into the U.S. from the United Kingdom. I opened up many doors for her and that alone lets me know that I’m doing what I should be doing.
MJ: Can you share with fans what’s coming up in the new year that we can expect and look at for?
JB: Blaze is always on the move and always cooking up a new idea or new way to help Indie artists. In 2018 you can expect some workshop events for artists to help themselves as far as presentation, speech and overall artist development. There will be more showcases, and a special event for DJs, because people forget who the life of the party is.
MJ: I used entrepreneur to describe you because you have your name and hands dabbled everywhere from modeling, fashion, the biker life, and if I remember correctly you were interested in a cooking show as well! You are also a wife and mother. How do you find a balance? What is the secret to a healthy relationship? Some think a relationship while in the music industry is taboo.
JB: Well my husband supports me 100% and also may be managing me. He’s going to be honest at all times and I would never have to question his opinion or loyalty. It’s about communication, it’s so important! It’s the common ground! I know I’m always dealing with men and men will attempt to come on to me because it’s a predominantly male environment, but that’s where trust factors in. My Son is extremely supportive; I actually have him listen to music that is sent to me for his opinion. So in essence I involve my family in my business, and they are my biggest supporters. My will Family always come first. My husband and I ride so that is a plus! Whether I go out alone or with him he understands the passion for it. I kind of gave up a little on the modeling because every gig I was offered they wanted me to be half naked. I’m a married woman and even if I wasn’t I don’t feel I need to show my a** to make it, my mind and face do enough…. The secret is sex, communication, and trust (and yes notice I put sex first)!
MJ: Tell me, in about a year or two when I come back to interview you, what will we be catching up? What is next on the list of accomplishments for Jes Blaze?
JB: Having my own studio for my show and having other shows and hosts. I want artists to come and drop some bars and create dope music…Shade 45 has been my end goal and I’m working hard towards that…More showcases in bigger venues and other states…Expanding No Filter Radio Brand out of New York, (already in the works) and to become rich not so much famous, but rich.
MJ: Is there anything else you would like the world to know about Jes Blaze?
JB: I’m just a humble chick that tries to do good at all times. I feel if you do without expecting anything in return it will come back 10 times fold. My motto is #PayItForward. I always look to help someone else out because some people really have it bad. I’m a go getter and I’ll never allow anything or anyone to stop what I wholeheartedly have a passion for. I just hope to continue inspiring others and being a positive force in this screwed up society we live in. #EveryMoveIzCritical
NO FILTER RADIO SHOW:
MARKIE3: LIVING THE DREAM
1212mag – First of all, thank you for taking the time to sit down with 1212 magazine…
1212mag – Where did you grow up?
MARKIE3 – Bronx ny
1212mag – What is your musical background?
MARKIE3 – R&B,Soul and Gospel
1212mag – When did you discover that you wanted to be a Singer?
MARKIE3 – In Church when i was on the choir as a diner and choir director.
1212mag – How long has music been apart of your life?
MARKIE3 – Since the age of 6 years old.
1212mag – Who is your childhood hero in music and do you still look up to him/her today?
MARKIE3 – Johnny Gill, Keith Washington, Bobby Brown, Tony Terry, Dave Hollister, Glenn Jones the list goes on lol.
1212mag – As an artist, what does Markie 3 represent?
MARKIE3 – Well as for the name markie 3 it represents the 3rd mark you see standing in front of you,the first two marks was not focus in life to busy caring about the wrong things in life. Now the 3 rd mark you see here you can’t not take his mind off what he is built to do, he is focus.
1212mag – How would you describe your own style?
MARKIE3 – Smooth, Soulful, Joyful, Love and Happiness.
1212mag – What message do you want to convey to people that listen to your music?
MARKIE3 – That love still exists, that we can still party with one another without hate, we can talk with one another without fighting. we can love our women and there is nothing wrong with becoming a man and leaving the childish ways in teenage years, there is nothing wrong with growing up.Yes we go through our ups and down but we can learn how to forgive…sometimes lol
1212mag – Out of all the songs you’ve recorded, which one is the most personal?
MARKIE3 – “Sorry”, “By My Side”, “Unconditional Love” and my new single “Back In Love”, just to name a few.
1212mag – Do you have any plans for 2017 that you can share?
MARKIE3 – Be on the lookout for the 3rd ep call back in the kitchen, radio show and clothing line and more H.I.E.ENT (hands in everything) We about business lol.
1212mag – In what ways has your newest music changed from when you first started?
MARKIE3 – I changed a lot.I was more into Gangsta music, insulting woman AND KNOWING THAT WAS NOT ME!(that was part of Markie 2 lol) Doing hooks that were whooo! crazy. I had dig inside and find me and become me who has more love then hate and for those who know me know what i am talking about.
1212mag – On your newest project, are there any collaborations we can look forward to?
MARKIE3 – Well so far i have one artist from queens rap artist name Jon-jon on the next single called ‘shouldn’t give her my number” i love writing reality music lol.
1212mag – Who’s on your iPod playlist?
MARKIE3 – To be honest Markie 3 of course and a few other R&B music along with some independent artist music.
1212mag – Is there anything outside of music that you have a passion for also?
MARKIE3 – Oh yes for those who know Basket Ball my top pick I was that guy and being able to help other artist grow and believe that you can do whatever you put ya mind to it.
1212mag – What is your greatest music memory currently?
MARKIE3 – Having the number one video on video city tv, being on different tv shows, hearing my voice on a song being played on power 105.1fm by DJ will and becoming the 2x singer-songwriter of the year and nominated again this year for the 3rd straight time in a row.
1212mag – Are there any shout outs that you would like to give?
MARKIE3 – Shout to my god cause without him there is no me. shout out to my h.i.e ent family, my uni radio family,NY undercover family, my London family, my family period, my supporters and friends
and alllllllll the haters thank you!
1212mag – Where can new fans find you at?
MARKIE3 – www.MARKIE3MUZIK.COM
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