26 Jan I-MC: Home Grown Hip Hop
I-MC considers his words to be another instrument on the track that simply fit Into the music where they belong. Moving into national events and touring in the coming year, I-MC and what can only be considered as his cult following are poised to make some very notable moves on the Hip Hop scene on a national and international scale.
You’re from the east coast, but a bit further up north than most may know. How did your New England upbringing affect your musical inclinations?
When I was younger coming up in Massachusetts, Hip Hop wasn’t something that really happened here. Everyone had love for Hip Hop but there wasn’t the opportunity a place like New York could provide. You really had to want to be a part of the culture and really chase after it. Shows were scarce and the opportunity to grow as an artist, when it came to anything such as radio play, performing, building projects, studio sessions… you really, really had to want to walk this path because a strong Hip Hop culture and community really didn’t exist. New England made me one of the hungriest artists out there because everything I wanted to be doing, for the most part, wasn’t happening here.
Who are your musical influences both inside and outside the realm of hip hop?
Inside Hip Hop, my biggest influences were Biggie, hands down; Big L, Big Pun, Method Man, Nas, Styles P, and Luda. You look at their careers and you find the dopest albums and verses hip hop has ever seen. Big, Nas, and Styles have arguably the greatest albums in Hip Hop and everyone else was just as raw on the mic.
Outside of Hip Hop, I have to say my biggest influence would have to be someone like Beethoven. That might sound strange to some, but to me, the man was deaf and still continued to figure out a way to write beautiful music. It’s hard to compete with that type of drive and add to that the opening notes to the Fur Elise are possibly the most moving in the history of music. In my mind, that’s what love sounds like and I believe that’s what he was going for. It’s because of artists like him that I strive to make the most ‘perfect’ music I can.
What is your involvement in the Boston Freedom Rally?
Currently I am one of the 12 board members and Head of Music for MassCann, the MA chapter of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). Myself along with a music committee put together around 40-50 musical acts for the two-day rally we hold each September. Our goal is to educate the public on everything marijuana and hemp related and raise money towards legalization. Throughout the year I put together a number of events related to the rally including benefit shows and rap competitions, Battle of the Bands to see who will perform on the next year’s rally.
There are a couple of hotbed issues in America at the moment. Legalizing marijuana is one of them. Where do you see marijuana reform headed for the entire country in the next few years?
There is a very strong possibility that marijuana will be legal in Massachusetts in 2016; there are a number of other states looking to legalize as well all across America. I know a few weeks ago, federal raids of state legal marijuana operations became illegal… meaning if it’s legal by state law, the DEA can no longer execute raids, which they had been doing on medicinal dispensaries. Really though, it’s gonna depend on who we elect as President. I know Bernie Sanders has come out in support of repealing marijuana laws so perhaps with him in office legalization isn’t so far off. I strongly believe within the next five years we will see at least 10-20 states with some type of legalization and hopefully within ten years marijuana will be legal. You could call it a pipe dream – pun intended- but legalization is coming and I don’t see much that will stop it.
You actively support groups to raise awareness of marijuana, including a track on your album ‘Bob Marley’. How did you become a vocal activist for the cause?
Of course, I love to smoke weed, so that was a big part of it, but let me give you a fact – not about weed but the mail version hemp.
It takes twelve years to grow a tree fifty feet, to grow the equivalent in Hemp would only take twelve months. Hemp, which has no business being illegal, can be used to make clothing, paper, rope, food, paints… and causes little to no damage to the environment compared to something like the paper industry, which is among the largest polluters on the planet.
When you learn something like that, how can you not be vocal about it?
When I started showing up at MassCann meetings, I was honestly just following the music. All I knew 4-5 years ago was every year Masscann put on a show that involved local Hip Hip in Boston and I had to be a part of it. When I finally got behind the scenes, I started to educate myself on marijuana and hemp laws and really learned how crazy it all was. Not only were the laws absolutely insane, but I personally know people that have been robbed and even killed over marijuana, which makes absolutely no sense.
I’ve been smoking most of my life and when I saw the chance to step up and actually work towards legalization I had to take it. Five years later and we are fighting to get legalization on the ballot of the 2016 Presidential election.
Anybody can be involved in this work and I mean anybody. So if you love marijuana, find your local NORML chapter and please become a vocal activist as well. Change will not happen on its own.
The title of your album is “Home Grown Hip Hop (617-802)”. Elaborate on the meaning of this title.
Weed is known to be able to grow almost anywhere, under the toughest conditions. It will grow without needing to be taken care of, it will even grow in the desert. I come from a place Hip Hop barley happens. I was raised back and forth between Massachusetts and Vermont. I had left the Boston area and moved up to Vermont for about 5 years. The area code for the entire state of Vermont is 802 so that’s Vermont’s calling card. 617 is my area in Massachusetts, including the coast where I was raised. A lot of people would always tell me if I wanted to do Hip Hop I needed to leave Boston and Vermont and go somewhere like New York. Me personally, I would rather grow the culture than just walk into it somewhere else. I was born and raised here, everything I know I learned here; my music is a representation of both these places. This is what Home Grown Hip Hop 617-802 coming out of Boston and Vermont – places people say Hip Hop doesn’t happen – sounds like and it sounds good, real talk. I’m trying to show the world Hip Hop comes from wherever you got the drive to grow it out of.
You host a show for artists under 21. In your opinion, what are the biggest differences between today’s new artists and ones from previous eras?
I think today you have a lot more to influence you than when I was coming up. Back in the day we had the radio, CD players, and cassette tapes. My parents wouldn’t buy me Hip Hop albums, so I would listen to whatever I could basically bootleg off the radio. Today in Hip Hop, every bit of music ever made is right in your hand, you can listen to every artist that’s ever done it and be inspired by them. I find young artists and new artists to be much more experimental these days. Some people hate it, which I understand, but to me, all music is good.
Where do you see the music industry headed?
Hip Hop is not that old when you really think about it, so there is so much more out there for people to try. I honestly couldn’t tell you what’s next for Hip Hop music but what I see that I don’t think a lot of people see is Hip Hop has been running on somewhat of a loop. That’s not a bad thing; it’s just things start to return to the roots. When Hip Hop started, it was real basic. Rappers weren’t even really a thing. You had the DJ and the emcee – if there was one – would simply hype the crowd. They didn’t need to say much, the music did the talking. Then we hit the 90s and lyrical rap hit hard, everyone had bars; if you didn’t have dope lyrics, you were nothing to the game. Now you look at Hip Hop the past 10 years and the simple style came back. Dudes ain’t saying as much, they letting the music turn it up while they hype the crowd and keep it simple. Then we start getting pulled back to the lyrics by artists like Cole and Kendrick. I expect to see a ton of different styles emerge in the next few years. A – because there is so much out there to try and B – because a lot of artists aren’t as concerned with a major label as they used to be and are figuring out how to make it, making music independently.
Has Hip Hop as a genre ‘jumped the shark’ in terms of how it is presented? What are your thoughts on the current commercial landscape?
It all just seems too much like a contest to me. Everyone trying to show out and show up the next artist. You got people with no talent blowing up because of a gimmick. A lot of dudes are after the paper and that’s cool with me. I can’t hate on anyone’s grind. Some of us though, we’re still in it for the talent. We still want that number one spot. Some of us still want to be the greatest and a dollar don’t mean nothing unless we get the respect.
This year I’m going in. All I’ve really ever done was work on talent, so now I’m putting that talent to use. Right now I just put out my next project called Kill4Die4 and with this one I’m coming after radio play and, trust, DJs are gonna want they hands on this next one. After I get K4D4 out, I got two other projects: Bass Head, a real dope Trap style project, and The Classic, which will be a Boston oriented boom bap style album. Music videos aren’t something I’ve done a ton of but I’m gonna be putting out as many quality videos as I can and add to that. I got 5-6 other tapes I’m constantly working on and you’re gonna see a whole lotta music coming from me in 2016.
Who would you like to collaborate with on a track?
I gotta say someone like The Weeknd. I already rap, so I’m always looking to mix it up. Having someone like him on a track would not only make for dope music but would be a real smart career move the way he has been killin’ it.
I-MC’s latest project can be heard via his social media links below:
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