Artist Spotlight: Stryfe (2014)
As Stryfe (Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Website) gets ready to release his next project, Rare Form Vol. 1 in a couple of weeks, I thought it would be a good time to let the HHD audience get a closer look at a great talent coming out of Detroit. When I first heard Stryfe and Marc Byrd’s album, The Last Resorts, I was sold that this was a talent that we would be following for a long time to come. So enjoy the interview, enjoy the music, and tell a friend!
HHD: You grew up in Detroit which has it’s own rich music history, but what kind of music or artist would you say got your soul stirring to start making music of your own?
Styfe: Well, my father and grandmother had aspirations of being artists as well, so I’ve been around music all of my life. I actually thought for a while that I would be a singer, but as I got older, my voice reassured me that if I was thinking, I wouldn’t have thought that. However, the guys that got me writing on my own were definitely Bone Thugs N Harmony. The first rap I ever wrote was a parody to First of the Month titled Stay Sleep, and looking back on it, it was absolutely terrible! But Bone’s fast rap style definitely laid the groundwork.
HHD: When did you begin to realize the depths of your talent as an emcee and make that transition form merely a fan to an artist of yourself? Was there a moment you can point to?
Stryfe: I attended Michigan State University where I was connected with producers LaKaz and Big Perm. After recording my first few tracks and actually hearing myself, I knew music was something I had to pursue further. Shortly afterward, I started rapping in battles around the city of Detroit and Lansing, and the response from peers and fans was definitely a motivator. Where I really recognized my art; however, came with the completion of my album City of God. I set out to create a concept album that outlined some of my life’s experiences while simultaneously defining how I felt as an artist at that time. Cityof God was a definite milestone for me in recognizing what my true potential could be.
HHD: Now my first exposure to your music was your collaboration with Illingsworth, The Opening Act, but come to find out you had a couple more projects under your belt before that even dropped. Talk to me about the process of making your first record, Great Expectations. What was it like putting that project together? How long did it take?
Styfe: Great Expectations was an interesting process. I wrote most of it on my front porch or riding down 7 Mile on the city bus. At the time I was just trying to fit years of experiences in a few sentences. To be honest though, I had written so much material prior to recording, once I had the production I could crank out the song. I linked back up with my rap crew from high school, The Illiance. They had a label and studio set up. Like most humble beginnings, Great Expectations and many of The Illiance projects were recorded with simple equipment: a mic, the pop guard made from a wire hanger and pantyhose, mixer, and computer. I would catch the bus to the studio, not even knowing how I would get home. Man, there were like 13 members in the group at the time, and about 8 of us made beats. EVERYBODY rapped and we had in house graphic design, photography, and video. Anyhow, I was able to knock out the project in about a year with plentiful available production and feature opps to say the least, haha. In the end the label folded, but me and many of the groups members still stay in touch.
HHD: Now jump forward to 2013 and talk about your critically acclaimed project with Marc Byrd, The Last Resorts. How did that project come to be? How did you link up with Marc? What are the main differences between you as an artist in 2005 versus you in 2013 on this project?
Stryfe: I’ve known Byrd for many years, we were both part of The Illiance. The Illiance also included Illingsworth and the other members of Detroit CYDI. Byrd produced a few tracks for my album City of God, and afterwards he approached me about working on a project together. I definitely agreed because he’s got the bangers…haha, anyhow, at the time we felt that many of our peers in Detroit Hip Hop weren’t really recognizing our talents. It was as if we were good, but we weren’t good enough, so we’d only be mentioned as a last resort. Thus the name The Last Resorts. Byrd also wanted me to try different types of production and styles, so it definitely helped me grow and expand my limits.
I think the biggest difference between my beginnings and now is that I’ve really learned “how” to rap. By that I mean understanding my breath control, how I want to flow, how to better use inflection, etc. There are a lot of artists that can put the words together, but how they are performed is just as important.
HHD: You are part of a collective known as Local-MU12. Can you shed some light on how the collective is set up and how you got involved? What does being a part of Local-MU12 afford you as an artist?
Stryfe: I met an artist by the name of Fokis in Atlanta at A3C. After building with Fokis on music and the biz, he approached me with an ingenious way for us and other artists to pool resources, accomplishing more than we could singularly. Local Musicians United 12 was born and we’ve been making strides ever since. MU consists of working artists and producers, and we treat it like a union. Our members range from Switzerland to Connecticut and beyond. Everybody provides input, shares expenses and profits, and works to provide further opportunities. Teamwork makes the dream work!
HHD: Now at this point in your career as an emcee, how much time are you able to put directly into your music? Are you responsible for your own PR and such? How much time is devoted to that type of thing?
Stryfe: I do work a regular job that demands much of my time, so at times it can be hard to concentrate and get creative. Fortunately, growing up and living in the city of Detroit provides MUCH food for thought. Also, I work a rotating shift, so I am awake and about at all sorts of weird times. As such, many of my ideas are generated at random times, and I have to write them down before they are forgotten. Some things such as PR are afforded through the MU12 collective; however, I still do my own due diligence. Given that, I would like to be more talkative on Twitter and other social media platforms. At times I just feel that many of the social applications aren’t as engaging as face to face interaction, and I don’t devote as much time as I probably should.
HHD: What thus far would you say has been the highest point of your music career thus far? Is there something you can point to as a defining moment for you or is that still to come?
Stryfe: There have been some pretty cool moments, artists like 9th Wonder and Jay Electronica have both said I’m dope. Awards and the recognition are awesome! There have been awards, nominations, and honorable mentions, but I think that my most defining moment has yet to come. I look forward to that day when I’m in front of the crowd, and I stop rapping and the people keep singing the song…
HHD: This is the question that everyone gets but how are you going to define success for yourself as an artist and then as a man?
Stryfe: I think success as an artist is signified by being able to generate movement from your music. What I mean by that is if what you create can cause a noticeable reaction financially, emotionally, or otherwise, you’ve reached some level of success. Be it Eminem creating outrage with anti-homosexual lyrics, Nipsey Hussle being able to sell out copies of a $100 album, or Michael Jackson affecting so many that people danced in celebration of him when he passed. When you create a noticeable reaction from people, whether its positive or negative, you’ve succeeded in being recognized as an artist.
Additionally, I think success in life is defined by true freedom and happiness. When you have the ability to be able to do what you want, when you want, how you want, you’re successful. One of the keys to that is it does not have to be defined by being rich. Of course, money can help, but it is possible to be happy and do things that you want and enjoy without mounds of wealth.
HHD: You have a new project dropping with producer Illingsworth. When is that project dropping and what can people expect when they hear it?
Stryfe: The new project is Rare Form Vol. 1 and it is currently slated to drop on 6/3. It features production from the homie Illingsworth as well as Denmark Vessey, Marc Byrd, James H. Moore, Nolan the Ninja, and myself. Vol. 1 is the first in a series of at least 4 EPs and deals with real, everyday normal things like being broke and driving buckets. The project is really something that everyone can relate to on some level.
HHD: What else do you and the Local-Mu12 camp have in store for 2014 and beyond? Anything else that folks should be checking for?
Stryfe: Everyone is working and creating, so there is much fun in our future. The 17th and Juellz have projects slated for this summer, and another project is in the works with Loyalty Digital. Be on the lookout for the Rare Form Vol. 1 EP coming in June, and more to follow. Also, my cronies Detroit CYDI have been brewing some dopeness. Head over to http://detroitcydi.bandcamp.com check out IDGAF and send me thanks in rupees 😀
HHD: Any other comments for our readership?
Stryfe: Yes, be yourself, and don’t idolize those who do not know, care about, or intend to bring something positive to you or your life. PAY IT FORWARD AND BE GREAT!