Artist Spotlight: The 17th
Today I am proud to bring you one of the most innovative talents in hip hop today, The 17th. I have been literally amazed with the concepts and quality of his music so it was only natural to ask him a few questions. As a member of the collective Local-MU12 his name is gaining more and more exposure, or notoriety, whichever you may prefer. Look for The 17th to become a household name in the homes of every hip hop head very soon. Enjoy The Interview!
HHD: How long have you been writing? Performing? What or who got you motivated and inspired to start emceeing yourself?
The 17th: I started when I was 11. My father wasn’t too happy I took to hip hop music, and to the way I was living my life, and was trying to protect me from myself by tossing all of my music and rhyme books in the trash at 12 years old. I had spent endless hours writing and creating, but came home one day from school to realize it was all gone. Kind of the same feeling you get now when you haven’t backed up your hard drive and your computer crashes with all your tracks on it. Anyways, the negative energy towards my father fueled me to take this serious, so even though I hated him for years, I now thank him. He fed the monster.
HHD: I first heard your name when I got wind of the FREE EP? Is that your first project or do you have previous albums?
The 17th: This is my first officially released work. I kept my music to myself and my inner circle for years. I Treated it more like therapy than a career. But this past year I decided to put things out for the public. Whether it turns to be something big or not, I will always make music, and it will always be about the music, nothing else.
HHD: In my review of the FREE EP, I made mention that you also produced the majority of the beats? What kind of advantage does that provide you when making an album? Any disadvantages to producing along with writing? Which came first for you? Making the beat or writing to them?
The 17th: Ah man, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard an amazing beat that someone else made, but than the format throws me a bit, and i want the producer to go in and change it. Making my own beats is great because I know what I want, and don’t haves to consult with anyone to make it happen. Production is actually a passion for me just as much as writing is, so I see it as a huge advantage for someone to make their own beats. The only disadvantage I would say is that when you produce everything yourself, you can trap yourself in a box, and everything becomes too predictable, and songs start sounding the same. I think its important to challenge yourself to react to another musicians creations, and to step outside of your own realm to learn more about who you really are.
I actually started producing before rapping, and when I say producing, I don’t mean dragging apple loops into Logic. My first beat was made with a 12 key casio and a karaoke dual cassette recorder. I snapped my old headphones in half and used one ear as a mic cause the casio had no outputs. I would buy 10 blank cassettes for each beat, and lay each sound one at a time for 5 minutes thru, putting in new cassettes for each sound and laying each one on top separately all the way thru, with no looping, kind of creating my own track machine. When I heard what an 4 and an 8 track recorder was I hit the roof. Now obviously its all software, but I respect people who still dig for sounds, and production was my first love.
HHD: I enjoyed the whole EP. It was my favorite short release from last year. I was wondering if you could elaborate on one track in particular, The Product. What brought you to the point of making a song like that? Explain the concept of the track as it goes pretty deep, certainly one of your more serious joints.
The17th: I came up with that track after a session of anger management at a local anger management clinic. The topic of the night was about how we are a product of our environment. The wheels turned on my way home and I used the inspiration from the class towards making the song. Im always looking for places to pull information and inspiration from, i.e: movies, people, tragedies, kids, other music, etc. The concept is pretty simple, I just tell 3 separate stories about 3 different people, and show how the events in their lives lead them to do the things, and how they put them in the situations they are in. Nobody believes me when I say this and I don’t blame them, or care if they do, but the craziest thing about that track is that I wrote the 2nd verse before september 11th 2001, about a guy crashing into a building with a plane. I would probably get blamed for it if I was a big name artist at the time, which is funny. The first verse is basically about a kid who is influenced by his father, who owns guns, sells drugs, and disrespects women, and how his son grows to do the same. The 3rd verse was kind of inspired by my relationship with my father. I had just had a son when I was writing the verse and I ended up killing him in the song I guess, or I should say, the character did.
HHD: Local-MU12 is a collective of artists that you are in. What is the concept of the affiliation and how did you link up with the team? How is the group changing the way hip hop is made and perceived in your mind?
The 17th: Local-MU12 was started last year, hence the 12. It’s really changing the way we all view hip hop because normally every rapper wants to out do the next and out shine each other. The Local-MU12 is like a union of mcs who all strive to better each other thru either financial cuts, features, producing for each other, collaborating with each other and so on. Its really like a union of people who have the same common goal and help each other to achieve it. I linked up with Fokis of Loyalty Digital Corp thru a friend. Fokis is the brains that started this whole union. The guy is really a mastermind and the hardest worker i have met, and there is a lot in store for years to come, we promise….
HHD: This is a question that every body gets, but tell me how you are going to define success in being an emcee?
The 17th: Just by being me, thats all, Im not worried about what people download and view and buy. Don’t get me wrong, its nice, and money would help me live. But being myself, and true to those in my life is success in itself. As long as Im putting out music that I would listen to and like as a fan, than I feel I have succeeded, cause I’m a pretty harsh critic.
HHD: What has been the biggest sacrifice you have made in regards to making your music?
The 17th: The biggest sacrifice I have made music wise, was leaving NYC and not signing with Mobb Deep in 2001, when my son was born. I chose to come home and stop grinding for years so I could dedicate myself to raising my son. Between needing to keep a job as an aspiring artist and being a father, music lost the battle for years, cause there is only so much time in a day. But the greatest thing about music is, it has an unconditional love for the people who create it and the listeners. Its always there when you decide to come back to it.
HHD: You’ve already dropped a single, I Wanna Hear Me Some Me. It sounds like a fun track to make and there seems to be a high entertainment value on the music you make in general. How important is it to maintain that passion for making music, when compared to the business side? Does the business/financial aspect sometime weigh on that passion?
The 17th: Never. If I wrote music for financial gain than I wouldn’t be doing this interview with you, because you would probably hate my music. Nothing makes me more sick than seeing some clown waving money and sitting on a corvette with chicks in bikinis. Its shallow, and doesn’t last. Fads come and go. Its kind of selfish, but I think sometimes I make music for myself. It sounds kind of cocky, but nobody impresses me, so I put in my own cd to be entertained #narcissism …lol
HHD: Can you touch on your next project? What’s it called? When is it dropping? Is it a full length effort? How would you describe it?
The 17th: Ah man, this next one is something that I am really proud of so far. I hate to put a date on things, because than the music doesn’t happen naturally, but its almost done and I’m guessing Ill be finalizing it this fall or MAYBE this winter at the latest. Its called “Inside Jokes with Complete Strangers“. As of now, it features a few names you guys might know like Havoc from Mobb Deep, Skyzoo, Rockness of Heltah Skeltah, and Spoke in Wordz (who was featured in Rubbish on my EP, Spoke is super talented), it also features production from Phantom of the Beats, who is mainly known for producing “Magic Stick” for 50 and Kim. He has also has done a lot of work with Wu-Tang. Two of the songs from the EP (Local Artist & My Drug) are featured on the LP, since the EP was meant to be a short version of the LP. But it should feature 12 new songs as well. The topics range from Religion, to Neglect, to the New World Order, to just your basic lyrical battle track. Its pretty entertaining, honestly. It is definitely something I would listen to myself so far, and I dont listen to wack Hip Hop.
HHD: Aside from yourself, who else in the Local-MU12 collective should our readers be checking for in the near future?
The 17th: So many to name I would just direct everyone to http://www.loyaltydigitalcorp.com. The entire roster is up there. We are also doing a Loyalty Digital Corp compilation album now with Livin Proof, Maffew Ragazino, Sadat X, Fokis, and many more…
Make sure you watch out for the debut LP from the Local-MU12 entitled “Labor Day“. It will be dropping within the next few months. It features GLC, Torae, and a few other special guests. This LP is insanely diverse and very entertaining all the way thru. I am featured on 7 tracks and produced 5 of the 15. The single “Unhappy” is one of the lead singles, which has been released already.
Also, I have 3 videos in the works as well for Unhappy, Local Artist and Rubbish, all 3 should be dropping soon.