Sydney Hip Hop Artist B Wise Putting in the Groundwork

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Given the star that is fast rising behind this super talented emcee from Sydney’s Western suburbs, his humble and calm demeanour serve as a juxtaposition against the attention and praise surrounding his rise in the local hip hop industry. B Wise is an artist with a keen sense of what and how his style resonates the current climate of Australia’s local hip hop community and is a creative that has a clear vision for what his sound needs to be.

As with most artists, there is no overnight sensation story here, with B Wise (aka James Iheakanwa), putting in the groundwork for well over a decade, starting his journey back in 2005. For this proud Nigerian Australian, hip hop became a way of expressing a side of his persona that would go on to capture the ears of many with his catchy and clever hooks delivered on a bed of infectious locally crafted tunes. From his first single ‘Like You’ to the quirky follow up ‘Prince Akeem’ ( paying homage to his favorite childhood move Coming to America) to his collaboration with producer Nic Martin on the heralded ‘40 Days’ single.

Gaining major industry respect amongst peers and producers alike, B Wise continues to create and collaborate with some of the best producers and artists of Australia’s hip hop community, Nic Martin (360, Seth Sentry, Pez), Raph Lauren (Jackie Onassis, One Day), Momo (Diafrix), Pro/Gram (Bliss n Eso, Hau) and Colourd Noyz, to name a few. In addition to putting in studio time, B is no stranger to fronting up on the stage and performing to thronging crowds in the thousands having supported acts such as G-Eazy, Souls Of Mischief, Jackie Onassis, Diafrix, David Dallas, Kid Cudi, GZA (Wu-Tang) and The Cool Kids to name a few.

This is the beginning of a long list of ‘outta the ballpark’ hits this driven, talented and grounded artist will continue to make as his career gains traction and a follow ship of fans of feel good hip hop from an artist driven by positivity. It appears that B Wise may well indeed be the hip hop prince we never knew we needed!

Hi B great to connect with you – how are you doing?

I’m doing well thank you for asking.

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Really intrigued and excited about your musical journey so far. Can you tell us a little bit about B Wise, who he is as an artist and how you would best describe your hip hop to the greater community?

Me as an artist, I would like to say I’m an honest one, with a fairly different story to tell. I’m strongly influenced by my upbringing and experiences. I project a lot of it in my music and also what I see around me on a day to day. The best way to describe my music is I’m a Monday – Friday artist. The music I make is what helps you get through the working week or sets the mood before the weekend hits. I would like to think there’s always something relatable in what I put out.

What are your perceptions on Australia’s urban music community and how has it embraced you and the sound you are creating with a career that is gaining positive traction with every release you make?

Well I can’t speak too much on the ‘urban’ community as I don’t make reggae, soul, jazz and all the other genres under that tag. I can say however, that the Australian Hip hop community is really thriving now, compared to the years I first started dabbling in music. There are so many artist from different cultural backgrounds like myself who are now contributing a more progressive sound and I love it. Due to some more established artist and the likes of triple J shining a light on what we have been coming with, the broader audience have received the work I’m doing well. On another note, I never imagined an Australian based hip hop act playing an arena on their own and just a couple weeks ago, Hilltop hoods played Acer arena in Sydney to over 12,000. Was a proud day for the scene.

Who would you say is your greatest influence / inspiration in your musical journey thus far and why?

There have been a couple over the years. But most recently I would like to say Kendrick Lamar. Been following him since 2011 and to just watch his progression and passion, the reality of bringing every one into his world. His story and his positive message always inspires me.

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What are you currently working on right now – current music, tours, collaborating?

I’m currently working on my debut EP at the moment. You can expect that around the June/July around the same time I should be announcing a tour.

When did you first fall in love with Hip Hop and how has it changed your life since then?

I first fell in love with it in about 1994. I was about 7 at the time. I heard ‘I get around’ by 2 Pac and it was all over then ha-ha. Still my favourite song till this day too.

I am a huge fan of your track Prince Akeem and love the music video that accompanies it. Is it true that it was made as a loose description of what you were told of your African heritage as a young boy growing up? Kind of tongue in cheek?

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Hah, yeah it definitely was true. It was a reference from a story my parents told me and my sisters as kids that our African heritage was of a royal one and it was a belief I carried for some time until my early teens.

If you could be a hip hop superhero, who would you be and why?

I would be Snoop Dogg, cause he is the coolest man on planet earth.

For more information on B-Wise visit:

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UgottaBwise

Twitter: https://twitter.com/UgottaBWISE

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ugottabwise

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/ugottabwise

( All images supplied )

 

Always Hip Hop

Ms Hennessey

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Sharnay Mkh – Sydney Slam Poet Spits Hometruths

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Standing tall with the pride and confidence of a young Queen, Sharnay Mkh is an undeniable force to be reckoned with. The 20 year old slam poet, law student and tutor is breaking down the walls in the poet community with her honest, sharp, raw and powerful prose focussing on hip hop, youth, world issues and everything in between that deserves to be heard on this platform.

As the 2015 recipient of the Bankstown Slam Poetry Olympics, Sharnay wowed the crowd at the recently celebrated 4 Elements Hip Hop Festival on March 19th at the Bankstown Arts Centre with prose dedicated to the current political climate engaging race matters, world affairs and hip hop culture in Australia and the world. Highlighting the grittier edge to poetry than vintage Wordsworth, this student of Shakespeare and Hip Hop loves the fact that slam poetry reaches a more diverse audience and engages the younger fans of poetry to think outside of the box.

She is passionate, driven and determined to make a difference through the power of the spoken word and as she shares a small portal into her journey as a slam poet thus far, it is clear to see that Sharnay is only getting started in a role that is guaranteed to inspire and ignite the fire of self-expression in those who follow her!

Nice to speak with Sharnay – how are you doing? How old are you and the area of Sydney you represent?

I’m great, thank you. I’m 20 years old, and I represent the Bankstown area.

I was so excited to discover your incredible talent for slam poetry at the recent 4 Elements Hip Hop Festival – you were incredibly powerful on stage (alongside your fellow poet in crime Shalice). Tell us a little more about yourself and how you discovered the world of slam poetry?

I’ve been writing since I was very young, stories, poems and gibberish; it’s always been a ‘thing’ of mine. I never really experienced slam poetry, until I started you tubing in high school. It was cool to see a different medium where people expressed their most inner thoughts. I never really had the courage to perform. I went to a BPS slam that was presented at Western Sydney University, and from there I was inspired. I managed to pen a poem that very night, and the very next BPS slam I performed for the vert first time. This was in September 2015. I didn’t think it would be successful, but I managed to score enough points to be runner up to one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met, Iman Etri. That same year we managed to win the BPS Olympics, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for meeting Shalice and Iman. When I’m not doing poetry, I’m trying to catch up on being a law student and a tutor.

You are a proud and beautiful young lady of Middle Eastern descent and command the stage and those that are on the receiving end of your poetry. This poetry is unlike what most of Australia’s greater public would be familiar with, as it is certainly more hip hop than Wordsworth. Can you describe your love of hip hop and how you combine with your love of poetry?

Well, first of all I’m a literature nerd. I like to read poetry in my spare time, but poetry is such a vast genre. It’s not just Wordsworth, Shakespeare, etc. Tupac, Nas, Biggie, Kendrick and Cole, they’re all poetry to me. I’ve been an avid listener of hip-hop since my uncles first exposed me to it, and it’s something I grew up with. The bars, the flow and the soul are in my blood. I try to combine them with my writing and performing. I want my words to leave a mark, and hip-hop has allowed me to do that.

How necessary or important do you feel slam poetry and its origins are for the youth of Australia in how they can express themselves and the issues they face on a daily basis?

Slam poetry is an amazing outlet. You’re angry? Write a poem. You’re sad? Write a poem. You’re happy? Write a poem. You’re in love? WRITE A POEM. Being able to tell your story through art is so important. You can change things for others, whether it is to make them happy or make them aware, poetry never fails in its aim of expression. Getting things off your chest is the greatest aspect of all.

Do you teach or run slam poetry workshops at schools or youth centres at all?

Alongside, my team members, Shalice and Iman, we have been running a program at two neighbouring high schools. Punchbowl Boys’ High School and Wiley Park Girls’ High School will be competing against each other in a slam at the end of this month. We mentor the students, we become an ear to vent to and we also help them become more confident with themselves and their expression.

Slam Poet Stage

Who or what would you say is your greatest influence / inspiration in your journey as a spoken word artist is and why?

My greatest influence would be my life struggles and my mother. I feel like I’m finally being heard. I’ve witnessed what it’s like to have no voice, and I never want to be in that situation ever again. My struggles mean I live to do better, feel better and want better for others. This is my goal as a spoken word artist.

What are you currently working on right now?

I’m working on my poetry and a fiction book, who knows? Maybe I’ll publish something soon!

Where can people come and see you or hear your work online or live?

At the moment, I do not have a YouTube. But my poetry can be found via Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/sharnaymkh

You’ll catch me performing at BPS!

Your hope for your poetry and the message it holds for those who read your work?

Poetry is a versatile medium. Everybody belongs. There is no style, no ‘way’, and no compromise. I’ll leave a stanza that was adapted from Lang Leav below. The mantra:

“For the world has given you poetry

So you must give it your all

And most importantly

GIVE IT BACK”

 

For more on Sharnay Mkh visit: https://www.facebook.com/sharnaymkh

 

Always Hip Hop

Ms Hennessey

Jah Tung – The Reggae Missionary

 

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His is a mellow and easy-going vibe with a sense of inner peace and a knowingness that his style, sound and purpose is that of a higher calling. Jah Tung embodies the essence of all the elements of spiritual Reggae, using his craft as the vessel for spreading positivity through lyrics and of course music.

Fast becoming a respected and sought after performing artist in Sydney, Jah Tung is amassing a follow ship of fans of his reggae, roots and  hip hop artistry since he first emerged into the scene back in 2013 with the release of the “ASD Mixtape” with All Systems Dread. As a fiercely proud independent artist, Jah Tung has identified with the lack of demand for reggae artists and the overall roots music movement in the community and has set about to infuse and create his sound and awareness of the importance and necessity of Reggae music to hold its own within the urban music industry in Sydney. Working with a plethora of solid local artists such as Smacktown, Soul Benefits, L FRESH The Lion and Matuse to name a few, Jah Tung has solidified his position as a respected reggae artist in the scene.

With an energy and positivity that radiates through his being as well as his music, Jah Tung is a refreshing and welcome addition to a growing and talented local artist roster. With the 2015 release of his “The Soulfood EP’ having put him on the map as a lyricist to watch, Jah Tung has a lot more than just an appreciation of reggae music to share with our community, but an overall message of unity and positivity that ultimately comes from the Most High!

Hi Jah, great to connect with you – how are you doing?

Give thanks for the opportunity Ms Hennessey. It is a blessing to keep the link with like-minded ones in this scene.

Really intrigued and excited about your musical journey so far. Can you tell us who Jah Tung is, your style and sound and what you hope your music will bring to the greater urban music community in Australia and on a global perspective?

I am a spiritual messenger on a mission to spread the word of The Most High, the word of truth, oneness and love. Jah (coming from Jehovah, Yahweh) Tung (tongue) is a name that holistically encapsulates my vibe and journey, not just musically, but in all aspects. I am a Rastaman, which, to me, means that I follow the natural order and believe in Oneness in all things, in accordance with the teachings of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I the First. I am a youth worker by day and a lot of my music is also aimed at the youth, as I acknowledge the responsibility and the power of influence that comes with the privilege of being a singer and player of instruments.

I see a lack of OVER-standing in regards to reggae in Australia, although it is currently growing rapidly, which is reflective of the social status and cultural awareness of the community. The sad truth is that Australia still has racism ingrained in its very core. Reggae music came from a time and place of cultural, spiritual and racial oppression and therefore is only now starting to truly be embraced by Australia’s masses, which I believe is due highly to the spiritual and cultural tensions being experienced in this country right now. The fact that after the initial Sydney vs Everybody release (Jan. 2015), people felt the need to address and even attack participants’ race, religion, fashion, skin colour and even accent, as opposed to their message content, skill, flow, delivery and sound, really highlighted the underlying issues. Again, after a performance only last week, I was confronted as I left the stage about whether I am Jamaican and why I am “hijacking” the Jamaican culture/language and using it for my advantage. This very idea that “a white guy singing reggae in patwah (patois) must be racist” is racist in itself and was never faced when performing and recording internationally or with Jamaican artists or other Rastas. Australia still very much suffers from a black and white complex and although the problems have existed for a long time, the real roots of these issues are only just beginning to surface in the last years and people, both locally and globally, are being forced to recognise Australia’s flaws and shortcomings. I strive to deliver conscious messages to break people’s misconceptions of race, faith, culture and of course music, one at a time. Truly a worldwide revolution a gwaan right now!

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What are your perceptions on Australia’s urban music community, encompassing the sub genres of reggae, hip hop, soul and so forth and what do you hope and foresee your role as being in this industry?

I believe, although there have been many greats over the years, Australia’s Urban scene is really only just beginning to flourish in its fullness. I am relatively new to the actual Hip Hop community, having only begun involvement around 2012, although perhaps the likes of Ernie Pannicioli would appreciate when I say that the spirit of Hip Hop has always been within. It was more about me recognising what Hip Hop truly meant, at a time where I could clearly see Sydney’s (even Australia’s) Hip Hop movement displaying unity and love across a range of mediums, sub-genres, fashions and vibes. The genuine Raspekt was extended to me same way, as I was welcomed into the movement, almost as an old, long-lost friend. I hope that I have, and continue to, provide valuable contributions of cultural, spiritual, lyrical and musical enlightenment to help complete the picture of Hip Hop down under, a picture that, I feel, is truly missing the backbone of spirituality and especially black consciousness, as well as the VITAL knowledge of its roots in reggae.

Who would you say is your greatest influence / inspiration in your musical journey thus far and why?

There have been so many influences that cross fertilise each other with inspiration that it’s very hard to separate them musically, spiritually, culturally, emotionally or intellectually. Musically, my first influence was Michael Jackson, as I used to dance before I could sing or play instruments. So the journey definitely began with MJ. Spiritually, obviously, His Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I the first is a cornerstone in my turning toward Rastafari philosophies.

And though all sources nourish and nurture each other, I must make mention of Akae Beka (Vaughn Benjamin of Midnite), an elder who, among many others, has been fundamental in the opening of my third eye and expanding of my consciousness although he would simply say “There are no teachers except for one’s own zeal to know…”

What are you currently working on right now – future EP’s etc?

I was blessed to record an album and even some music videos inna Berlin, Germany last year with the legendary Dirty Ragga Squad, which will hopefully be released soon!

I am also working on a mixtape of original “versions” on well known “riddims”. This means taking the familiar instrumentals and voicing my own lyrics and melodies on top from Channel One classics to modern hits by Chronixx, it will be a free downloadable mixtape full of big, recognisable tunes!

The best piece of advice you have been given and follow to this day?

Great question! Probably to keep a balance in all things. The duality of the Rastaman is that we keep the meekness of the lamb and the bravado of the lion! Too much meekness will see you trampled by the lions, losing the opportunity to connect again. Too much lion will stamp out the humility required to nurture the truth to the fullness. To know which situation require more lion or more lamb is the balance that we all strive to uphold. This principle can be applied to anything in life.

Any artist collaborations you are working on at the moment and if you could list your dream team of artists to work with who would they be and why?

Apart from the album with DRS which also features some local German artists, I have been continuing to collaborate with local Australian artists such as 316, RayJah45, Ras Bellyful and many more. I hate getting this question because inspiration comes in endless waves! I’ma list 10 cause it’s too hard to narrow down. 

*Akae Beka (Vaughn Benjamin of Midnite) – because NONE can come close to his lyrics OR his unfiltered, care-free, ‘non-performing’ delivery.

*Michael Jackson- need I explain?

*Quincy Jones- all-time favourite producer.

*Lauryn Hill- lyrical mastermind and one of my favourite voices to this day.

*Erykah Badu- just her entire vibe.

*Sly (Dunbar) & Robbie (Shakespeare)- well-known drum and bass section and composers.

*Protoje- lyrical mastermind.

*Kabaka Pyramid- lyrical mastermind.

*Ladysmith Black Mombazo- because I have always said that if I ever was lucky enough to work with these guys, I would probably happily retire from music with no further musical ambitions.

*Prince Ea- inspirational and humble poet.

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If you could be a hip hop superhero, who would you be and why?

Jah Tung! I don’t believe in this separation of greatness from man. I believe we are all divine Kings and Queens and that is all we need therefore I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

For more on Jah Tung visit:

Bandcamp: https://jahtung.bandcamp.com/releases

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/jahtung

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jahtung

( * All images by Christopher Woe)

 

Hip Hop and Beyond,

Ms Hennessey

6 Question Chop Up with Hip Hop Artist – NeeQ

He hails from Quebec Canada and now has calls Melbourne City home. Having being a part of the hip hop machine since the late 90’s, NeeQ’s influences range widely from French and American hip hop to Mauritian Sega music, which makes his sound and style a unique hybrid of culture and beat.

NeeQ aka Dominic Drouin, has been writing and producing his own music since a young age, and went on to be a firm favourite in the live music circuit in Canada with his own hip hop group known as the ‘Hip Hop Quebecois”. When the group disbanded, he went on to form a duo called NeeQ n Lucci and the pair came second in the regions Hip Hop Forever competition. For NeeQ, this win unearthed the performer in him and with his move to Melbourne thereafter saw him release his first solo album called NeeQ MusiQ and form a new hip hop group called Professional Underground.

Working his way up through the Melbourne hip hop scene as a relative newbie to eventually making his way on stage as support act to international acts such as Busta Rhymes and Ja Rule, NeeQ is an artist of focus, determination and tenacity to continue shining as an artist to watch in the Australian urban music industry. With a series of mixtapes under his belt, namely Coast to Coast and Play the Beat, which has been garnering him with a strong fan base thus far, the artist, who has signed with local label Holla Back has just released his new album Love on ITunes and is ready to evolve to the next level of his hip hop career. Read more about NeeQ and his journey thus far in our 6 question chop up ….

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Tell us who NeeQ is and what makes your of brand of hip hop unique?

Well I’m an artist who loves to show energy in every possible way. Wether on stage or in your earphones, I concentrate all I have into making every piece of the music puzzle as perfect as possible. I blend the heart of the 90’s era with the wittiness of today’s hip-hop. My style evolved a lot from my early debuts in Quebec, Canada and I think is still getting better every day. My influences include French and American hip-hop, Mauritian Sega music which gives my music a very unique touch.    

How long have you been climbing the hip hop artist ladder and what keeps you motivated to stay in the game?

Wow, it’s always funny looking back on how long you’ve done this for because it never feels as long. It’s something that I love doing and is now a part of me. I can say I’ve been working on my art since 1999. I was in many groups and performed in front of thousands of people since 17 years old really. It’s great to see hip-hop evolve and take different directions the way it has, so my motivation is to keep growing with it! Music is universal and I guess this is my way to contribute to the universal language that simply makes people happy.

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Tell us what projects you have worked on thus far and what you are currently working on? Where can we hear you and find you online?

I have released a few street albums across the years as all underground rapper would. This included two albums and one huge collaborations mixtape project. My first released album is called “ONE” which you can still find on iTunes. The single “My Generation” generated over 12,000 views and got radio play across Australia and websites. My newest Album “LOVE” just released and already is doing great! I have had the chance to tour Melbourne and planning a lot more until the release of “I Am Machine” in the next few months.

You hail from Quebec in Canada and have recently moved back to Melbourne to continue you music career – what would you say have been the stand out differences in the hip hop music communities in Canada to Australia and what would you say are both strengths and weak points of both?

You know, the game is very close to the same wherever I seem to visit. Back home though, I would have to say that the full hip-hop community sticks together more. Everyone wants to work with everyone to elevate the movement as one. This creates spectacular, jaw dropping songs! In Melbourne, I find that the scene is a little bit divided and would all move a lot faster as one major movement. The talent here is undeniable so it would take no time to be recognized and a major world hip-hop contender. I mean this is a competitive business so healthy competition is always a great way to raise the bar and keep progressing in the game. No doubt!

When did you first fall in love with hip hop?

I saw the video clip to Snoop Doggy Dogg “What’s My Name” when it first came out on TV, and from then it was on. I actually purchased the tape and had to listen to it in hiding because I knew the content was not something my parents would’ve been use to. Ha-ha. I then went to see my first rap show in the basement of a church in the neighbourhood and saw what local acts could do with music. That’s sparked something in me and knew that it was something I would love for the rest of my life.

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What do you foresee your role to be in the Australian Hip Hop industry and how are you going to ensure your music makes the impact you intend it to?

I’m from Quebec, Canada and have been living in Melbourne as an Australian for over a decade now. I feel like my role is to bring the multiple hip-hop scenes together and help the Australian hip-hop movement progress even further in its world recognition. I haven’t stopped pushing and performing for this art since I landed in Australia and I don’t intend to. It’s all about getting the right following and using today’s media tools to get them. I don’t give up and will continue to use different avenues to reach my goals.

 

For more information on NeeQ visit:

www.reverbnation.com/officialneeq

www.facebook.com/1NeeQ1

www.youtube.com/NeeQOneOne

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/love-ep/id1070895756

 

Always Hip Hop

 

Ms Hennessey

A Conversation with Motown’s First A&R Man – Mr Mickey Stevenson

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It’s a wonderful feeling to know you are speaking to a living legend of sorts. An individual who has, in his own infinite way, cultivated one of the most influential music labels of the century, Motown. Speaking to the iconic labels first A & R (artist & repertoire) man, Mr Mickey Stevenson, it is a guaranteed step back into the corridors of history into one of American greatest music success stories and one that birthed the music and sound of a genre, a culture and above all else a movement.

Mickey Stevenson is the consummate gentleman, old school and classic to his very core. As he shares some of his most exciting years as the man in charge of signing and developing artists like Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and Martha & The Vandellas to name a few, Stevenson also opens up about his early years performing with his brothers The Stevenson Trio from the age of nine, winning music competitions on stage at The Apollo in Harlem before meeting up with the man who would change the course of this budding singers path and hand him the fate as the creative force behind one of the biggest record labels in music history, Mr Berry Gordy. Stevenson and Gordy became a force to be reckoned with in Motown’s glory days, seeking, creating, shaping and defining the sound of artists that would become trailblazers of the RnB and Soul worlds, creating a steady stream of hit makers to soar up the charts.

Speaking to Stevenson about his time at Motown and working with the artists he was able to cultivate, it is easy to see that this was more than a job to him, rather a commitment to excellence and perfecting a craft that would indeed produce the excellence it did. His descriptions about the vibe and energy coursing through the vintage Motown recording studios is almost palpable, where you could almost imagine sitting and watching a young Stevie Wonder or Marvin Gaye create their magic before your eyes. It is a gift that Stevenson has, seeing the beauty in things, and one that he has utilised to his full advantage over his years where he has worn the hats of Mentor, Creator, Writer and above all else lover of music in its purest forms.

This interview was a definite tick off the bucket list for me and one in which I learnt so much from an individual that has so much wisdom and knowledge and joy to spread. Mickey Stevenson continues to give us life through his love of mixing history and music and bring it audiences today through his love of musical theatre and play adaptations. With a deserved star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame alongside his Motown family, a book that is sharing his journey to the next generation of music stars and a life filled with gratitude, rich memories and purpose, Mickey Stevenson is indeed a living legend!

Hi Mickey, so great to talk to you. How has 2016 been treating you so far?

I am well thank you and I hope you are too.

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A young Mickey Stevenson

Such an honour to speak to a man so embedded in music history – known and respected as the First A&R man of Motown’s glory days, a career that started back in 1959 and has helped created and bring to light some of the biggest legends in the music galaxy such as Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye to name a few! How would you best describe who Mickey Stevenson is and the life he has lived thus far?

Hahaha that’s a good question. Well I call myself a hunter. The best writers, producers, singers, engineers, I was always hunting for the best in these fields. You know it was a 24 hour job but to me it never felt like work, that’s the difference…. When you can enjoy what you are doing then it becomes bigger than just a job and you can do it 24 hours a day. I was in that intense mode and I loved every minute of it and finding people that would come to me say in an audition, they wanted to be a singer but when they sang the brought to me I would say “ Who wrote that song?” and they would say “ Me” and I would say “ I tell you what I’ll bring you in as a writer because you are not a singer”, and it would be things like that back then you know, some people would come with the whole nine yards but most often it would be one or the other. My job was to search for the gift that God has bestowed on these artists. These artists brought more multi talents to the table and there in turn we were able to develop the label so much more effectively and efficiently and that was great.

Let’s talk about those early days when you were signing all these incredible artists to Motown, all of them relatively babies in age and not knowing the amazing impact they were going to have on the music world – what was the energy like in the recording studios back then and just the artists various attitudes towards their artistry and place in the music community of the time?

In my book The A&R Man, I break it down very carefully on a few talented people so you could see all sides. Now when a few very talented artists would come in to the studio to audition, sometimes 30-40 people constantly, and that one person walks in that was worth that wait and blows you away you know what I mean. That energy was alive and when I hear the lyrics in their songs, it was truly indescribable the amount of talent and vision they all shared. My job was to put the best songs on the best people and it didn’t matter who wrote the song and wanted to sing it, for me, it was finding the correct piece to the vocal puzzle and it was that formula that made Motown as great as it was and made us all family.

Mickey Stevenson and the Lovetones

Mickey Stevenson & The Lovetones

More than an A&R man, you are also a celebrated songwriter and have penned some truly significant hits in the RnB world such as “Dancing in the Street”, which he co-wrote with Hunter and Marvin Gaye; “It Takes Two” (Gaye and Weston), “Ask the Lonely” for the Four Tops, Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” to name a few. What do believe it was that made these songs the timeless successes they are and what are the ingredients to writing the perfect song?

In all honesty when I write and I am sure this is for a lot of writers, I write from the heart. So I am not too concerned if the song is going to be a smash or anything like that, I am just in the moment and it will come out in whatever it is I am writing. When I write it comes from the feeling in my heart and before I hand it over to a singer I have to then decide who can deliver this feeling and now I got to pick that person and work with that person, so if I know that artist and their style it makes my writing job that much easier you feel me. The rest I leave it God, like I tell most writers, do all you can to your piece and then leave it alone, he will take care of the rest.

Looking back at your life in the entertainment industry Mickey and through so many different eras and trends in music, what would you say in your experience has been the most significant change that the RnB music industry has gone through since the Motown days and why?

I think the most significant change, which is odd, has been the marriage of the visual that is now drawn to the public. The visual gives the public more now than the lyrics did then, you feel me. It doesn’t have to be a great song to make you love an artist, it can be the way that they appeal to you, so I think the combination between visual imagery and of course the internet’s power and well there you go. Now I am neither for or against it but like I have always said, talents are given to you and it lies within your power as to how you use those talents and how you devote your time to mastering that talent. It is all different now, which is great, but it has definitely changed how artists become stars.

What is Mickey Stevenson doing today and what are your thoughts of the music industry as it stands today?

Well at the moment I am doing musical; plays and theatre, which is a great love of mine. I have some wonderful shows like “Singing from the Heart” which is the history of Billie Holliday, Josephine Baker, Lena Horne, all the great ladies of that era. You will love it. Smokey Robinson and I did some of the music together and it is just amazing. I love writing shows where history and music combine and thrive together so I write a few of those types of plays. And of course my book ‘ Motowns First A&R Man presents The A&R Man’ is doing great ( available on Amazon.com) and I have been offered some interest in turning it into a movie so I am thinking about it and I am happy about it all, things are looking good and I am very happy.

Mickey and Stevie walk of fame

Can I ask you what your working relationship with Berry Gordy was like and how you both got along in those developmental years of Motown?

I never came up in the RnB world, my influence was more of a pop background so I brought an element of light and sound and an almost live theatre type feeling to Motown and I was blessed that Berry Gordy gave me the freedom to use my gift freely. Our relationship was very special and I remember when we first met I had come in as a singer looking to be signed to the label. Berry was looking for an A&R man, which I had no idea what that was (laughs). During our first meeting I played him some of my songs and I thought he was digging them you know (laughs) so at the end I say to him “so which song shall we put on my first record”? And he looked at me like I was crazy (laughs) and says to me “record? Look I like your music man but your voice is shit”! Oh my gosh I nearly fell to the floor when I heard him say that ( laughs), but that was what we did you know, sought out the best talents in our artists and pushed their god given gifts to the forefront.

Mickey, Smokey & Berry

Smokey Robinson, Berry Gordy & Mickey Stevenson

What advice would you give to artists today that are wanting to become entertainers and be respectable music artists instead of one hit wonders?

My advice is you must make up your mind to absolutely devote the time to becoming great. You try it great, you will fall among the stars. Now to make that work you must know what you are doing with your time, be devoted and know that it will cost you but it will pay off in the end!

 

For more information on Mickey Stevenson and his work visit: www.motownsfirstaandrman.com

 

Mickey-Stevenson-Cover1

Buy Mickey Stevenson incredible book on Amazon.com or click here: http://www.amazon.com/Motowns-First-Man-Presents-The/dp/0692366334

 

Hip Hop and Beyond

 Ms Hennessey

A Conversation with Hip Hop Pioneer The D.O.C on NWA, Humility and Taking Care of Self First!

His story reads like a cautionary tale that stretches far beyond the realms of the hip hop music industry. It is a story of a man who has shared his extraordinary talents time and time again with the world and with his hip hop peers in a selfless manner and been overlooked for rewards and recognition that is rightfully his to bear, only to see them passed on to others to bask in glory. Don’t get it twisted, Tracy Curry aka The DOC is not a man who seeks acknowledgment, no, he is not in the hip hop game for that, but when you cast an eye back on his resume as one of the industry’s most slept on songwriters, producers and rap artist in his own right, one could be hard pressed to wonder why he has done so much and received so little recognition in return.

As one of the original members of 90’s iconic hip hop group N.W.A, Dallas born Curry arrived in the City of Angels with a focus on just doing what he was good at and what he loved, making honest hip hop with a cause with a brotherhood he loved. Originally beginning his career as a member of Dallas based hip hop group, Fila Fresh Crew, the group had four tracks featured on the compilation album N.W.A and the Posse, which was released in 1987. The same four tracks would later appear on the group’s album Tuffest Man Alive, released in 1988 with the group disbanded shortly after its release.

D.O.C was signed to Ruthless Records and wrote numerous lyrics for N.W.A’s debut album, “Straight Outta Compton”, Eazy-E’s debut, “Eazy-Duz-It” as well co-writing “Keep Watchin'” from Michel’le’s self-titled debut album, with all three albums produced by Dr. Dre. In 1989, The D.O.C. released his Dr. Dre-produced debut album, “No One Can Do It Better” and the album was very well received by critics. It sold well, peaking at number 20 on the Billboard 200 and went platinum, solidifying Curry as a sure fire hit in the communes of West Coast Rap. As life would have it and often does, what goes up must come down and with Curry as high up as the music Gods would allow, his life of superstar fame and rap star excess came to crushing blow as he emerged with critically damaged vocal chords after a horrific car accident in November of 1989 almost claimed his soul. Falling asleep behind the wheel, Curry’s car veered off the freeway and because he was not wearing a seat belt, he was thrown out of the rear window and slammed his face into a tree. His voice and life thereafter changed forever.

They often say you know who friends are when you are down, and for Curry, it was a continual life lesson learnt as he feel into a deep depression during his recovery process. The life and community he once felt so strongly connected to and was so loyal to, fell short of his reciprocation and the brotherhood he thought he could depend on left him where he laid, hurting from more than the lifelong scars that his accident caused him. The character of spirit of Tracy Curry is one to be admired as he is a man who is forgiving and giving, having been there for his NWA crew members after an accident and recovery that they turned their backs on, he held their brotherhood higher than what it was at the time, and has no regrets in doing so all these years later.

DOC is more than a survivor, he is a phoenix of spiritual proportions. The years of stolen credit for work he had done, no money paid for work he had done, and in industry support or acknowledgement for a period of hip hop history that was co –written by him is enough to make the toughest spirit succumb to anger and bitterness. For Curry, it fuelled the fire of personal growth and success on a higher level and has made him an individual who is above the trappings of fame and fortune, but one who walks in truth of a journey that is destined for greatness. He is a proud father of 4 ( his fourth baby, a son, is due to be born later this year ), he has created a comeback career that has seen him embark on international live speaking tours sharing his life’s journey with fans who want to know his truth, a forthcoming album and music and reality TV shows in the works and having made peace with his ex NWA brethren, wishing them continued blessings and success in their path of success and knowing that his was always meant to be go down a different path ….. And he is okay with that! Our conversation was one that has resonated deeply with me as there is so much that is human and real about what Tracy Curry speaks, his attitude is and always has been infectious and positive and his determination and belief in God and himself, well that just transcends the hip hop game entirely.

I am beyond blessed to have had a conversation with this legendary human and thank him so much for his continual voice, passion and ultimate contribution to our hip hop culture …. This is your time to shine Tracy Curry and walk a path that is authentically YOU!

Doc 1

Happy New Year DOC – how are you and how has 2016 been for you so far?

I’m doing fine Ms Hennessey and I hope you are doing fine as well. The New Year has started off really well for me, I have just moved back from LA to Texas and just found my girlfriend is pregnant with my second son so I am so happy, it’s really fricken cool.

Wow congratulations DOC that is amazing news. It is such an honour to finally get to chat with you – I was blessed enough to be able to catch your speaking tour in Sydney last year and man was it an education of the highest order for me. You have such an incredible, important and necessary history in hip hop and a story that is truly inspiring – do you ever sit back and think “how did I ever get through it all?”

Firstly, I am so thankful that the people in Australia were gracious enough to have me out there and listen to my journey, it’s a beautiful place and I really had such an awesome time there. It was a first for me to do this kind of tour and I thought it was really dope, the audience was really receptive and I really enjoyed doing it and some of the coolest things I noticed was that there were a lot of father and sons in the audience together and that was awesome to see them share that sort of love for the music and for the art that I created so that was something I really enjoyed.

You know what I am spiritual person and I believe everything happens for a purpose and I was actually thinking about this the other day, there are so many guys that are no longer here you know, Pimp C, Jam Master Jay, Eazy-E and Biggie Smalls, Tupac and all of these great artists and people who are no longer here and the fact that I am still here, there is a purpose for it and so I just try to recognize that purpose and do the right thing by it.

Looking back at your beginnings and your early days in Dallas Texas, knowing what you know now about the hip hop game and life in general DOC what do you think your advice would be to the younger version of Tracy Curry before he boarded that plane to LA all those years ago?

If I can tell that young dude anything it would be to know you’re worth son. You are special individual and if you know that then they will be hard pressed to take advantage of you because you love yourself enough to know what your worth is. I think I was just trying to prove to so many people that I was worth it and maybe even prove to myself that I was worth it, that I let people take things from me that really cost me in the long run, but like I said I am still here, I’m blessed and I got a new son on the way. I know that boy is going to be special and I will make sure that he knows his worth every day.

NWA

You were part of one of the most influential groups in hip hop history – NWA! You were instrumental in writing, creating and forming the basis of what that group was founded on yet as we went on to discover you never got the credit you deserved for all the writing and collaborating you provided on the NWA album and subsequent other projects you were to work on with Dr Dre following the groups demise. I remember being so shocked hearing you speak on your reality of being in NWA and at times felt a little robbed for you hearing of your experience yet being so amazing by your humility – how have you remained so humble in the midst of this storm for so many years?

Well I went through all of the emotions, trust me (laughs). I went through anger, resentment, frustration, depression all of it. But like I said to you earlier there are so many great artists that are no longer here with us, and I am still here, I realised I was so blessed that I had to let go of those feelings and find my own purpose before all of those bad feelings ate me up man. I had to look in the mirror and realise that God loves me because I am a good man, I’m a good person and I gave to that group because I wanted that group to succeed and the fact that they never gave back to me isn’t a testimony to them or me, I don’t look at it on those terms, I gave all I could for their success and I am happy for them, and now it’s time for me to give all I have to my success and hopefully things will turn out the same.

DOC, DRE & Eazy

NWA is the playbook group given to the beginner hip hop lover and it is a story and journey that is bigger than hip hop at times. Now that the story has been immortalised as the hit movie “Straight Outta Compton”, what are your thoughts on how the history that you are a part of has been captured by Hollywood and the fact that your role in the movie was as small as it was given your role in reality being larger than life? Is this movie an important legacy for NWA?

I think that the people that produced that movie did it for financial gain and that the movie from that perspective , and I’m just speculating, it was a way for the guys who already have a shit load of money, to make another shit load of money and it worked. It premiered all over the world for which I wasn’t given one red penny you know but such is life. You know I enjoyed the movie, I thought it was great, was it honest? Hell no! But it was good. I never thought that when I was leaving Dallas Texas all those years ago, moving to LA that I would one day be a character in a movie so it has its pluses but it also has its minuses. I hope that one day in the future I get to share my side of the story for the fans as there was a lot of valuable information left out of this version and it would really help the younger generation coming up now. You know the music industry is a dirty business and you have to be prepared so the things we went through would really be important to show. This wasn’t a truthful account of what happened in the reality of what life was like being a part of NWA and if I have to the revolutionary to the buck the system and go out in front of the firing squad so to speak and be a martyr for the masses I don’t mind that at all because I always seen myself as the kind of person who cared about hip hop almost more that I care about myself so if I can be the one who can make these guys feel some of the pain that I went through during the last few years, as this is my history and story too, then so be it.

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What are your thoughts on hip hop community today and where do you think it’s headed from a cultural aspect?

You know artists like J Cole and Kendrick Lamar are offering, in my opinion, a very bright future for hip hop art because they are being very honest and positive and conscious about what they are doing, as well as being really great artists. They are not just throwing crap out there to be sensationalised, they really are having an effect on our world socially and reflecting on the times we are living right now. We need to get a grip on ourselves and try to figure out how to better as a human family or we are all going to be screwed up. If the attitudes like Donald Trump are allowed to succeed in this world them my unborn son won’t even have a fucking world when it’s all said and done. It’s just going to be a world full of fear yet at the end of the day we are one human family striving to live good lives so I think hip hop right now, needs to be honest and positive and continue to speak the truths we need to hear and make people more aware.

Looking at your own solo rap career you were an artist on fire and you were one of the most sought after rappers in the game after you left NWA, giving us amazing albums such as your debut album “No one Can Do It Better” which was a number one selling album, of course the following was “Helter Skelter”, “Deuce”, which were recorded after your horrific car accident. Now you speak on those as a heady cocktail of drugs, sex and alcohol pushed to the limit” yet you were always determined to get in the studio and knock out the hits no matter what came your way. Are there any stand out moment DOC from those days that you can share with us on that particular time in your career?

The thing that stands out the most for me during those times is the way the way people who really loved me as an artist and as a person went out of their way to push me up even when I had no belief or love left for myself at the time. There were people who really worked hard at trying to make me know that I was worth it, you know, people like my friend MC Breed, who passed away rest in peace, he really worked hard to let me know that I was great and I really appreciated him and the people that cared for that.

All the Long Beach Guys were there for me, Cube was there, Ren was there, but anybody else acted like they didn’t care and that bothered me for a long time you know, as I put so much into their success that I just knew at some stage they would reach back and pull me up but that never happened and I had to go through so some dark days dealing with all that man and it wasn’t pretty (laughs). But now my spirit is free and I don’t hold anything against any of these guys and I wish them all the success in the world.

No_One_Can_Do_It_Better_big

DOC if I could be so bold as to ask you why do you think you have gone through this period of your life not being acknowledged or even mentioned or paid at some parts for the work you have done on such a large scale? What do you think it is that has made the men you started one of the most iconic hip hops in history with would want to shut you out of a success story that is communal and not individually earnt?

To me it comes down to a sense of power and so the men with the money have the power and the men with the power have the control and they are only interested in more power and control, The don’t have consciences that I want to make sure they do the right thing or to allow their legacy to get more light and sometimes that doesn’t include the truth, and that’s just the way of the world unfortunately.

What is DOC working on musically and creatively right now as you continue to forge ahead on your own path?

Having just come back home to Dallas now and the fact that my vocal chords started working actively again last year, praise God, I am beginning to work on a new record so I am really excited and blessed to say that and begin that process. I also have a round of meetings involving a reality show, which was sparked after this network found out about the speaking tours I did in Australia and the great feedback I received from my fans down there and they want to look at developing a reality show chronicling my comeback effort. So I’m back working and I’m working for DOC and for my kids and it’s the best feeling. So God willing I can bring Hollywood back to Texas and show em how it’s done out here.

If you could take 4 albums with you into the afterlife what would they be and why?

I would take “Biggie Smalls Greatest Hits”, I would take “Slick Rick”, I would take “No one Can Do It Better” and “Eric B for President” …..Because those men, these artists are probably my most favourite rappers of all time, they did so much for hip hop and for me as an artist and a lover of this music and I would have to take mine just so I could hear my voice again.

 

For more on the The D.O.C visit:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/WESTCOASTDOC

 

 

Always Hip Hop

Ms Hennessey

Fat Joe talks upcoming Australian Tour, being a Movie Buff and how Hip Hop has kept him Honest!

fat joe 2

As one of hip hop’s most respected and consistent artists who has churned out club anthems and Grammy nominated albums for the last 25 years and counting, it doesn’t get any realer than Fat Joe. The Puerto Rican / Cuban born rapper represents his New York borough of the Bronx to the fullest and has dominated the Hip Hop industry for years with his classic combination of hip hop infused party RnB hits such as “What’s Luv”, “Get It Poppin” and more that have solidified him as the club anthem king in nightclubs and across radio airwaves around the world.

However, Hip Hop is more than just party anthems for this pioneer who first burst onto the scene in 1993 when his debut album “Represent” thrust the Latino hip hop artist into the mainstream. Once signed to Atlantic Records in 1998 and releasing “ Don Cartagena” , “Jealous Ones Still Envy” ; “Loyalty” and “All or Nothing” up until 2006, Fat Joe became embroiled in one of the most talked about feuds in the industry with hip hop artist 50 Cent, a beef that latest a few years and was also the fuel behind one of Joe’s hottest hits “ Lean Back” feat Remy Ma and Terror Squad and landed him the number one hit in the US Summer of 2004.

Beefs and spats aside, Fat Joe has always remained at the top of his game and has collaborated with and created some of the hottest artists under his reign as Terror Squad Entertainment CEO. With his beloved crews D.I.T.C and Terror Squad, Joe is an artist who has never forgotten his roots of hip hop or paying homage to those that have paved the way for this inspiring and humble rapper. He cites one of his greatest influencers as being the late and great hip hop legend Big Pun and credits him for spearheading the sub culture of Latin American Hip Hop as a movement in itself. Joe has and continues to work with some of the genres hottest artists, from DJ Premier, KRS-One, Ashanti, Lil Wayne and Rick Ross to name a few going and has gone on to create some monumental single and album collaborations to date.

As an artist who has released 11 studio albums to date including “Me, Myself & I” , “The Elephant in the Room”, “Jealous Ones Still Envy 2” and “The Darkside Vol 1″, Fat Joe is also an accomplished actor who has appeared in various movies from Scary Movie 3 to Happy Feet and has made each role he plays on screen or in the studio as real and authentic as the man himself. As he prepares for his first ever set of solo shows in Australia kicking off January 22nd (this is his second visit to Australia) Joe is excited to be returning to a country that holds a special place in his heart. He is ready to bring his fans a show that will be all that and more and maybe a little something extra and can’t wait to share some new music he has been working on with the audience as well. Guaranteed to be a “ bring the house down’ type of show, Fat Joe can also guarantee that what you see and hear from this icon is just as he delivers it, no gimmicks, no hype! Joey Crack is the real deal – straight up no chaser!

fat-joe 1

Hi Joe, thanks so much for your time. Happy New year to you – how has 2016 been for you so far?

What’s up, what’s going on ( laughs) Man thank you so much, I’m alright you know, seeing another year in and feeling good about heading back to Australia for my tour soon so I am good ( laughs)

So this will be your second visit back to Australia correct? What are your expectations for your shows in Australia this time and what do you enjoy about performing out here?

Yes this will be my second visit back to Australia and I can’t wait. The last time I came out there it was for a hip hop festival and I got to perform alongside Game, Busta, Nella, Snoop – man it was incredible and I had a great time. The biggest and best thing about Australia is the people man, the people out there are so nice and have great energy and I got to meet some cool local people and hang out and I loved that so it’s a great thing and I can’t wait to come back.

Fat Joe 3

Joe your career in hip hop spans back many years and you have been a definitive pioneer in the genre. Looking back over your career which started back in the early 90’s when your debut album Represent was released in 1993 what do you believe has been the secret to your longevity in the hip hop industry and how do you feel you have evolved as an artist over these last 24 years?

Well you know I have never gotten a divorce from hip hop ( laughs ) so I have been in love with this game called hip hop and I’ve never lost that love for her so the secret for me is that my fire for hip hop is still burning. In terms of me evolving as an artist, wow, I’m almost like a scientist when it come to this music thing, whether it’s my sound or working on somebody else’s you know I eat, sleep and live music so it’s like second nature to me, it’s what I do and I love it.

You have given us 11 studio albums to date, worked alongside some of the dopest names in the game such as KRS-1, Rick Ross and the late and great Big Pun and Big L to name a few. You are also the CEO of Terror Squad Entertainment and represent for your crews DiTC and Terror Squad – many titles for one man to hold. Aside from all of those achievements Joe, who is the man behind Fat Joe and what is it that makes him tick?

Well there’s a women behind Fat Joe who always holds me down (laughs) so I got to give thanks and praise to her and there is a little giant behind me also, my 9 year old daughter who is like the fire behind Fat Joe so between my two ladies they keep me on point and make me tick know what I mean (laughs). You know I’m after greatness, I’m about creating a legacy and being referred to as one of the greatest of all time as I know I am one of the most under rated hip hop artists out there so being the best if the motivation for me and keeps me striving and pushing for more, until its etched in stone.

You are a Grammy award nominated artist who is also fiercely proud of your Latina heritage and represent for your culture to the fullest. What do you hope your legacy will be for the Latin American Hip Hop community?

I mean you know I just talk for the Latin American community in Hip Hop but Latin American music has roots imbedded in hip hop from way back in the day. Of course it is a much bigger movement now, with hip hop being the sub culture that everyone has a claim on, white, Asian, African everybody you can think of was born into this movement and make it theirs. I have always been proud of my Latin American heritage and just try to keep my head up high and represent respectfully and tastefully and make sure I represent my people the right way in hip hop at the end of the day.

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What are you working on at the moment musically Joe? What are your thoughts on the hip hop music community right now?

Music, especially Hip Hop has to keep evolving, we have to create younger and fresher music and artists so I welcome all of the newer recruits to the community and look forward to hearing their take on hip hop today. For me musically right now I just finished working with Remy Ma on our first “All The Way Up” which will be released in about 3 weeks so it’s hot and I’m excited to get it out there and the whole new album is amazing.

What is your biggest motivator in life?

Being in the studio. It’s the most comfortable I am in life, when I get in that studio and I write my rhythms. I forget about all the problems in the world when I step into that booth man seriously and it’s like heaven for me.

Can you share one thing with us here in Australia that we may not know of Fat Joe?

Hahahahah (laughs) I don’t know man, (laughs). One thing that people don’t know about me is that I am a huge movie buff, I love going to the movies so whenever I got my downtime I’m going to the movies. I love to see people die, violent movies and gangster flicks (laughs) so that’s what you didn’t know about me (laughs).

The greatest piece of advice you have ever received or given and why?

Wow that’s a deep one ….mmmm you know there are a lot of guys in hip hop that I look up to but this advice from KRS One, Jam Master Jay and LLCool J stands out to me the most I guess. LL Cool J always told me to “take your music serious”, Jam Master Jay (rest his soul) told me to “aspire to be bigger than I could ever be, raise myself up and strive for more” and KRS One always told me “to always give back to my community, always talk back to the kids and always show love” and I learnt and am so grateful for all of these guys and their advice and wisdom over my career.

 Catch Fat Joe on his first solo Australian Tour with Delta Bravo and Arena Ent this January.

Tix available at www.oztix.com.au

fat Joe tour

 

 For more information on Fat Joe visit:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/fatjoe

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/fatjoe

  

Always Hip Hop

Ms Hennessey