Artist Spotlight: 

Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts 
Current Location: Fort Myers/ SWFL, Florida 
Record Label: Aggravated Mayhem 

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When / how did you get your start in hip hop? 

I originally entered the hip hop culture as a graffiti artist in the fall of 2001, at the age of 11. At the  tail end of the 1990s, I used to take the train to Boston every day to meet my mother after work. I was  enamored with all of the wonderful artwork I would pass by and take in on a daily basis, the mystique  and anonymity of not knowing who these artistic legends were, and how I would frequently identify familiar artists I had seen previously as they would “get up” in different cities in the Boston metro area. The culture made it’s impression on me and I was obliged to make my own mark.   Only three years into my career as the leader of my own graff crew, the local police created a “graffiti task force” and took down every prominent graffiti artist in my city. My number eventually got called,  and the police coaxed a confession out of me with the promise of leniency, which I ultimately did not  receive. At the age of 14 I found myself sentenced to a year in an Upstate New York reform school, and it was there that I began my transition from graffiti artist to becoming an emcee, songwriter, producer  & visual artist. 

Are there any artists who inspire you in your work? 

As a multidisciplinary artist, I draw inspiration from all across the board. My inspiration to be a dope emcee comes from some of the usuals: Kool G Rap, Big Pun, Big L, M.O.P., DITC, Blaq Poet, Gang Starr Foundation and the continuing tradition of Massachusetts Hip Hop Legends. When it comes to my influences to rap, there are just too many to name. As a visual artist, I draw influence from people such as Keith Haring, Shepard Fairey, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cope 2, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol & plenty of others, as well. As a composer, I’d like to be the Bob James of this generation & as a producer, I’d like to name J Dilla, Madlib, Pete Rock, the Alchemist, Dr Dre and DJ Premier as  my heroes. As much music as I sample, I feel it’s only fair to leave behind a body of original compositions for the next generation to sample while keeping hip hop and the art of sampling alive.  

Can you describe your style in 5 words or less? 

Original, New-school, Yet Still Hardcore. 

What do you think is your best project to date, and why is it your favorite? 

I’d have to say that my favorite project to date is my concept/collaboration album with Blaq Poet  called “Cultural Revolution”. (Read our coverage of that joint here!) Long before the idea of that project was conceived, Sean Price and I had  become acquaintances and began work on what we had agreed was going to be an EP, although I  planned on extending it to an LP with the proper budget. I had spent the summer of 2015 stacking up a  budget for the project, but before we could record more than 2 songs, Sean Price unfortunately passed  away (RIP). The devastation of your favorite emcee dying mid-way into a project was difficult to  handle, so I stepped away from music for 3 years after that.  

The opportunity that I had lost with the death of Sean Price revealed itself again when I came into  contact with the legendary Queensbridge emcee, Blaq Poet. With a new chance to get my foot in the  door, I found myself coming out of my early retirement. Blaq Poet and I began work on Cultural  Revolution during a tumultuous period in our country’s history, otherwise known as the “Trump Era”.  The entire concept of the album amounts to a double entendre; not only did we anticipate the political chaos ushered in with Covid 19 and the “long hot summer” of 2020 intending to provide a soundtrack to the revolution, we also identified the fact that hip hop has started to stray too far from it’s original cultural standards. The identifying line between the genre of hip hop and all of it’s bastard offspring had blurred beyond comprehension. The plan was to provide a soundtrack to the street level social revolution unfolding, while we also intended to spark a movement that would deliver our culture from the hands of exploiters, vultures and gentrifiers: a hip hop Cultural Revolution. To draw a line in the sand marking where hiphop’s revolutionary influence ends  and pop’s hegemonic influence begins. Symbolically, we released the album on Election Day,  11/3/2020.  

I’d like to thank Blaq Poet for going out of his way to recognize my talent and entrusting me with  creative control over the whole process. Adding another classic to an already lengthy and impressive  discography is not as easy as it sounds, especially on a tight budget. 

What would your dream project be? 

I don’t really have anything specific in mind. I’ve collaborated on songs with Layzie Bone, Big  Twin, Sean Price, REKS, Termanology, Krumbsnatcha, Buckwild and more. I’ve got an EP with  Charles Hamilton under my belt and an LP with Blaq Poet as well, I’ve already completed a few of my  dream projects. I’d have to say, having the opportunity to work with any notable artist who would be  flexible enough to accommodate my label’s budget would be my dream project. We are thoroughly  indie and take the “starving artist” stereotype seriously here at Aggravated Mayhem Records. I’m just  looking for hip hop legends who could use another classic in their discography, so if any are reading  this feel free to contact me. I’ve got recording, production, mixing, mastering, cover art, publishing,  distro & everything else on lock, in house.  

You referred to yourself as a “multidisciplinary artist”, what does that entail?  

I’ve been refining my visual art talents since before I could walk or talk. The Naïve art style of a child evolved into graffiti handstyles, throwups and murals, which in turn evolved into album cover designs, digital content creation and merch designs. I handle the album artwork and merch design for every release on Aggravated Mayhem Records. Whether I sketch a concept out by hand and scan it into my computer or I’m designing it straight from Affinity, I’m trying to create something original that pops out at you from the sea full of other brilliant and attention grabbing album covers. 

I’ve been refining my musical talent since I started taking piano lessons in, what was it, first grade? Although I’ve since lost the ability to read music and I couldn’t get up on stage in front of a crowd and shred the piano like McCoy Tyner or Robert Glasper, those few years of musical  training acquainted me with the skills I’d need to become a dope producer and a growing composer  within a studio setting. I can hear the sound a key makes in my head and touch the corresponding key,  and I have a natural feel for chords and working them through chord progressions. As a child I also  learned the drums, owned a drumset, and played flute and saxophone in the elementary school band. As a teenager, I gave up the analog musical instruments in exchange for digital audio workstations such as  FL Studio and Pro Tools, not realizing that I would eventually come full circle back into playing  instruments.  

I’ve been refining my talents as an audio engineer since I started teaching myself the ins and outs of FL  Studio, and later on, Pro Tools SE. Through 13 years of trial and error, and no more than a handful of  youtube videos & tips from other producers, I’ve developed a few different mixing methods that bring  out the best in my songs and a few dope mastering methods that give my songs that professional  finishing touch.  

Which instruments do you use to produce or compose your songs, and which DAWs do you use to  mix?

My most important instrument is my drum machine/ controller. I use an Akai MPK Mini which has  2 octaves of mini piano keys and 8 drum pads. When I am using it to bang out a drum pattern, I open a  midi track in Pro Tools and hook it up to MPC Essentials and use it like you would an MPC  Renaissance. When I want to play a lead or something else, I would hook it up to another VSTi (Virtual Instrument) such as a synth or a rhodes piano. In my arsenal for instruments, I also employ a Moog  Subphatty (analog synth) which I use most often to compose basslines, and in other cases I use it as a  midi controller with standard key size. As far as analog equipment goes, I use a Neumann TLM 103  microphone, two analog 1176-KT Limiting amps (compressors), a Universal Audio Octo Core DSP  Accelerator and two audio interfaces, a UAD Apollo Twin and an RME Adi-2 Pro for Analog to Digital conversion.  

For Digital Audio Workstations, I compose all of my songs onto Pro Tools 11 while sometimes supplementing other programs into the process, such as Izotope RX7 & FL Studio 20. When I’m working with samples, sometimes I use FL Studio specifically for the Slicex plugin and then print the chops into Pro Tools and in other cases I chop samples in MPC essentials, although I find the latter to be more time consuming. While mixing, I use mostly Universal Audio plugins with the occasional Waves or Softube plugin. When I finish a mix, I either print the signal through a solid state compressor and then bounce it or print it directly into Steinberg Wavelab 9.5 where I administer the mastering process.  

What made you want to hone your skills in other artistic disciplines and venture into other genres? 

A: Multiple reasons, I remember back in the early 20 teens when I was mainly an emcee and still a second rate producer, there was a phenomenon in which everybody and their mother woke up one morning and decided to become a rapper. This unfortunate trend struck me with an identity crisis, not only the genre but the local scene became  flooded with mediocre acts and the oversaturation swallowed some of the genuine artists like myself up with it. People hear that you rap or that you make music and then they toss you into the same category  with the corny local acts without even giving your music a chance, which is understandable. Who  want’s to waste their time wading through 20 local artists music to find the one who might have talent?  In the long run, it all worked out because it pushed me to go above and beyond “local” and it gave me  no other choice but to incorporate new skills into my artistic endeavor. If everybody else is an artist,  how do I become a better artist? It made me start to focus more on producing, and over time composing original scores. It made me start to focus more on audio engineering as well as incorporating my visual  art skills into the equation. It made me focus on self investment as well, what separates an amateur  from a professional is an artist who has the confidence to invest in themselves. It also gave me the  incentive to build cultural capital & to make the kind of sacrifices to the culture that most profit driven culture vultures wouldn’t subject themselves to. Every legend has their baptism of fire in the struggle to overcome mediocrity.  

As for my venture into other genres, I’ve always had a love of jazz, funk fusion, classical music, soul  and even, to a certain extent, electronic music since I was a child. As we all know, hip hop producers  dig for samples to make beats. A popular place we dig for samples are in production libraries. After  years of being acquainted with the sounds of Brian Bennett, Alan Hawkshaw, William Tanner, and the  other countless mainstays at labels such as KPM, Bruton, Omnimusic, Cam and Coloursound, I began  to appreciate this music that we sample from not only as just a producer, but as a listener as well. It  inspired me to compose my own scores and instrumentals, not only because it is music that I’d like to  listen to myself, but because we need to replenish the crates with new and original songs for the next  generation to sample, as well. We’re reaching the point in hip hop where, there are so many producers  out there now that there’s no doubt we’re going to reach a point where every song worth sampling has  been sampled. What do we do then? 

Which artist has given you your favorite feature or collabo? 

Every notable collaboration I have done have  all been uniquely dope in their own way. Aside from the LP with Blaq Poet, I’d say my favorite collaboration as of yet would be the EP that I did with 2009 XXL Freshman Class Alumni and former Interscope Records signee Charles Hamilton. My reasoning for this isn’t because it was any better than any other collaboration, but because of the situation surrounding it. I originally linked up with Charles and we became friends around the time I was feuding with Talib Kweli (that’s a story you can read more about in my Wikipedia). Charles was the only celebrity that stepped in and asked for my side of the story and we subsequently became friends. One night me and Charles were shooting the shit, having a casual conversation and he asked me to send him a few beats. I sent him a few rough beats and within two hours he had me 3 songs worth of verses and a chorus that he sent me, free of charge. Later on I composed a few original beats and  recorded a few verses and threw the album together. As of April 2021, I still had yet to release the  album when I had a minor heart attack from stress and overworking. 5 days into my hospital stay I got  fed up, thinking how I had to make sure that Charles Hamilton project was released in case of my  untimely demise, so I ripped out my Ivs and snuck past the security guards and ran home 10 miles so I  could draw up a design for the cover art and get the album slated for release with my publisher. Due to  the urgency, I was only able to release 3 of the 4 songs, so I still have a chorus from Charles that I  might release on a song at a later date.  

Best gig you’ve ever rocked? 

Krumbsnatcha (Gang Starr Foundation/ Mass Hip Hop Legend) & I once crashed karaoke night at a  bar in Beverly, Massachusetts and rocked the house with some original music, the audience was thoroughly entertained. Krumbsnatcha & I also rocked a show that he headlined in Hampton Beach,  NH. Live performances are not one of my strong points, I’ve done shows and I’m comfortable in front  of a crowd but I don’t do them often. I should start doing more of them but Covid has not helped that  cause out one bit. Blaq Poet & I have spoken about the possibility of touring but nothing concrete as of  yet.  

Best piece of advice you have received? 

It isn’t quite advice, it’s more like something I’ve learned from befriending so many hip hop legends. Legends Don’t Hate! Two decades operating from within the hip hop culture has shown me little to no  acknowledgment from my peers, the occasional hater with no constructive criticism and it’s given me  lots of time to question myself. After having been acknowledged and encouraged by artists such as  Blaq Poet, Buckwild, Layzie Bone, Big Twins, Charles Hamilton and others, and being told by Sean  Price that he thought I could become the best all around artist of my generation if I applied myself to it, I started to pick up on the fact that true legends aren’t intimidated by a new generation of potential  legends attempting to establish themselves. Real recognize real, and talent recognizes talent. The best  piece of advice I’ve received is that hate is unbecoming of a music legend, and that part of being a  legend is supporting and acknowledging lesser known talent. 

Any advice for aspiring artists? 

My first bit of advice, make sure that this is for you. If you’re not willing to sacrifice blood, sweat,  tears, your social life, your sanity, and years worth of sleep to elevate your craft to the next level then  I’d suggest a different career. If you are willing to make the sacrifice to become a true artist, my next bit of advice is to not succumb to any hate, weak criticism or non-acknowledgement. There are a number  of artists out there who ultimately made the artist’s sacrifice yet still lack natural talent, and those artists often times rally together in cliques to try to undermine new talent or to make you feel invalidated. If  you put your head down and focus on working and refining your own skills instead of hating, someone  notable will eventually notice you and at the very least give you their nod of approval. As long as you  have the critics approval and the blessing of the pioneers and legends who came before you, you don’t  even need a large fan base or your peers acknowledgment.  

Open Mic/ Newest Album Release: “Audio Mural” 

On October 5th, 2021 Serious Truth released an album full of original compositions and instrumentals titled “Audio Mural” to critical acclaim (Foodsic Rating: 4.22/5). While strongly rooted in his parent genre of Hip Hop, Serious Truth takes us into a fusion of Funk, Acid Jazz, Electronic, Left Field Hip Hop and Neo Soul. Rooted in heavy boom bap inspired drum patters from your typical 4/4 to more obscure time signatures, Serious Truth weaves through this auditory masterpiece with any instrument you can imagine, from Fender Rhodes Electric Piano solos (Track 2: Aicha) to using his own voice to spit a 24 bar verse (Track 4: Higher Echelon). The Acid Jazz/ Jazz-Rock  Fusion inspired “Mustard Gas” (Track 5) features a Fender Stratocaster guitar solo filtered through the  Wah-Wah effect pedal. The colorful sounds, thick bass, punchy analog drums and wide range of talents  brought together in the process of creating Audio Mural makes it a must-listen for hip hop, jazz, funk  and EDM fans alike.  

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About The Author

By Brutus Maximus

Founder of Raw Side Hip Hop. Been rocking with the hip hop culture for over 30 years. Love the creativity, authenticity of the art and the culture as a whole. Shout out to the real ones making and supporting true hip hip and the artists who make it!