featured interview

Mic Handz handles business: 'I try to do more, and think less.' In our annual end-of-the-year feature, we always ask hip-hop artists what their plans are for the coming year. Most have a few, Brooklyn rapper Mic Handz had plenty. Besides his recent mixtape 'SAYYOUAINTKNOW' with legends such as Big Daddy Kane, Treach, Sean Price, and Tha Rockness a.o., Handz has got a lot more on his hands and sleeves. To name a few: T.H.E.M. Recordings, Alter Unit crew, a clothing line, video production, and -back on a music tip- an EP with Sean P and Jaz-O in the works. 'We all took an oath to stay focused and diligent in our pursuits.', Mic Handz explains his work ethic...

How would you introduce yourselve to people who don't know you yet?

Waddup Platform8470, I'm Mic Handz - good to meet 'cha (laughs)

(Laughs)

I mean I tend to tell people who I am and where I'm from and what I do. I like to create the environment where I can get people to respond to me, and that tends to let me know if we're gonna vibe. When I tend to say too much about myself I can seem to come off like a con artist (laughs) because I got my 'hands' in so many things.

Parents Just Don't Understand
 
We'll come back on that later, but first: How did you get in touch with the culture?

I first came in contact through my uncle Scott. He used to play Kool Moe Dee and Slick Rick in his room when he had company over or when he was getting ready. Or also through popular urban youth outlets like 'Video Music Box' and family gatherings.

What are some of your early hip-hop memories?

My cousin Roger calling me into the bathroom with a radio, telling me we gotta learn this song so we can perform it for our parents. Later on that night, he pulled out a tape and pressed play. It was Will Smith's (Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, ed.) 'Parents Just Don't Understand'.

Another memory is when me and my cousin Kimoni used to walk down to I&L Records on Flatbush Ave and Beverly Rd in Brooklyn and copped Ice Cube's 'Lethal Injection' and early Boot Camp Click tapes. Or being on Fort Hamilton in the youth centre for over night events for the teens, and Lee (Babyface Kaos) and Khalil (Mr. Man) of Da Bush Babees would come through and play us new material from the then incomplete album.

What made you decide to become a rapper?

I originally was a vocalist when I first ventured into music. But it wasn't until the 8th grade when I was approached by my friends who told me that we were gonna start a rap group in the back of the B16 bus going to PS 104 in Brooklyn. I remember looking at them like 'I don't rap'. They told me that I was going to learn to rap because this is what we were doing.

Thank God for Aaron Viera and Christopher Marshall. I still ventured down the road of R&B, where I realized that it takes me a day or two, maybe more, to complete and get a song recorded - granted this was in an analogue work space. With rapping, I could get 3 to 4 songs done in the same time span. It just seemed like the better option (laughs). From there, I began a love affair with words.

Sayyouaintknow
?
'I spit for my life' is a line you rap on 'Finally Made It'. Is that characteristic for a real rapper?

I can't speak on the characteristics of 'real rappers', but in speaking for myself, everything I do stems from rapping and vice versa. So if I was to stop the life I know, and the norm that I have established, it would simply cease to exist. So yes, I do 'spit for my life'.
?
That track features Big Daddy Kane. The album actually has a few rap legends. What does it take to persuade your hip-hop heroes to feature on your own record?

Funny thing is I didn't have to persuade anyone. They all seem to have developed a mutual respect for the person that I am. In turn, they had no problem contributing verses in effort to see me do well. These legends didn't just bless me with dope features. They each took time to talk to me and share insight and knowledge about the road they've travelled.
?
When you're recording a song with Big Daddy Kane or Treach, how do you start?

Well, there are two different approaches. With Treach, I had recorded the hook and the verse. After listening to it and knowing where I wanted to take the record, all I kept hearing was Treach on that song. So I reached out to him. He came by the studio and wrote and recorded his verse. I mean it's a great relationship. He called me and had me staying on the phone, while I guided him from the Brooklyn Bridge to the front door. I respect that beyond words could explain.

The Big Daddy Kane feature was a little different. He recorded his verse in North Carolina and sent it back to me. But Kane is fam. I was just honoured to finally be worthy of working with him. Both experiences were very humbling.

If you could've chosen one more rapper for the mixtape, who would it be?

That's hard to say. There are artists that I wanted on the project and they're not featured because I ran out of space. And my team didn't want me to completely burry myself under features. I have worked with just about every living legend that I have wanted to. I'm honoured to be able to say that because I feel like I was supposed to be in their generation. But I just couldn't get my situation together in time for that era. I was there though.

From Jack the Rappers and New Music Seminars, to Grants Tomb and Lyricist Lounge's, all the way to Washington Square Park in NYC or Hardcore in Brooklyn. You can look in the rafters and backgrounds of some classic videos and see a very young Mic Handz on the scene (laughs). Just happy to be that close to my dream and still refusing to wake up. And I'll say this: those that are not on 'SAYYOUAINTKNOW', please believe they have given me verses for my upcoming project. And I mean artists ranging from Tragedy to Jaz-O.

There's a Premier beat on the mixtape. What's your fav Gang Starr record?

I guess it would be 'Just to Get a Rep', although I've honestly embraced everything they've released.

Both Sean Price and Rockness Monstah are featured on the project. What's your fav Heltah Skeltah record?

Through all of the street bangers and grimy underground classics, my personal favorite -and Sean may throw me in the Camel Clutch for this- is 'Therapy'. That's my favorite joint.

Focused and diligent

An emcee you've been working with is Shabaam Sahdeeq. He's working hard at the moment, with a lot of recent and upcoming releases. You're connecting only with hard-working rappers right? Like Alterbeats said in an interview: 'I will not work for free with lazy rappers anymore, I haven't got time to waste...?'

Spoken like a true Alter Unit member. As a unit, Shabaam included, we all took an oath to stay focused and diligent in our pursuits. And yes, Shabaam sets a bar for us as both a family and a team. If you can at least start to work as hard as he does, you can't hope to finish half as successful and land half as much.

Shabaam Sahdeeq, General Steele, Sean Price, Rockness, Bekay, Skeezo, these are my 'bars'. They keep me focused and help me to aim high. My Alter Team is the same way, we talk and build and keep each other sharp. Me and my partner Innocent? talk about this all the time as well, as when we review our T.H.E.M. Recordings roster. Laziness will not be tolerated. We're looking for the variable pay-off and that only comes from hard work.

Alterbeats also said once: 'The game is fucked up. Nobody wants to invest money or pay you for beats, video or graphics, so instead of doing shit for free for other people you work for your own team. Is that the reason why you started some independent brands yourself?

That's funny because that's the very reason why we started Alter Unit with the Alterbeats. And yes, all of our brands are similar in that we believe in controlling our environment. We can no longer leave our fates in the hands or at the discretion of others - whether it'd be their availability or approval. I'd rather invest my talents, energy and skill into my own network.

You have different projects: your music, T.H.E.M. Recordings, a clothing brand, What's your secret? Do you sleep?

I don't sleep much. (laughs) I honestly have to keep a television going on to find sleep or to distract my mind from plotting and planning. It has become a second nature to me. I've also learned that over-thinking gets in the way of execution. So I try to do more, and think less.

You scored a deal with Sony Red Distribution. What's the impact of that on T.H.E.M. Recordings?

I did our deal through WhatevaOk/SonyRED. It's a blessing that the CEO's over there are great personal friends and long-time acquaintances of 'Christopher,' so the Mic Handz /T.H.E.M. relationship was a no-brainer. In 2013, you will start to see fruit from this relationship. The team over here at T.H.E.M. didn't want to bust too quick with the Whatevaok/SonyRED situation. That's for round two, where we have to show and prove our growth. I have been ensured that whatever support I need, will be there for me and my team.

What can we expect from Innocent?

Innocent? is an incredible artist as well as the co-founder and backbone of T.H.E.M. Recordings. If I'm the lower vertebrae, then he's the upper. Innocent? the artist has been working hard on his solo project 'Love it or Hate it'. He has released the lead single with Roc Marciano 'Time For Change' along with the Solo freestyle video 'ATM', both directed by Donald Robinson Cole III. Innocent?'s currently working on securing records with Method man and Styles P, and a host of others for his debut. The video for 'Say Cheese', directed by Last American B-Boy for Monstar Films is in the can and is being edited, so look forward to that as well as his debut on Music Choice.

You also touched on DuckDown earlier, what's your link with them?

Well DuckDown is family. Buckshot lends his wisdom as a mentor, as does my big brother General Steele. When he inducted me into the Bucktown USA family, the Duck Down love came naturally. Then Rockness inducted me into the official Boot Camp Click network, the rest is history. With DuckDown Management, there are a lot of things going on through Buckshot with this component of the business. I will be playing my part on the front line of this evolution.

God, children, family

What's the Fade 2 Black company?

Fade 2 Black is an associated company that has joint ventured with me on a few projects. My company is Soul Mazonz Films, so I don't want to confuse those two entities.

You've been commissioned by McDonalds and HBO, contributed to the rebranding of Sprite. How do you approach working not for yourself but for/with commercial giants?

As far as McDonalds and HBO, Herbal Essence, Bausch & Lomb and the Sprite projects go, these have all come to fruition through my long-time association with the great Wendell Haynes and Volition Music, as well as a past relationship with Bang Music.

When approaching these jobs, it's all about taking direction, getting out and delivering what is being asked of you, while utilizing your talents. You have to understand that it's not your brand, so you have to get out of your own head and look at the work more objectively than when you're making your own music.

What makes the world go round besides money?

Simply my God, my children, my family. The money is just fuel for those vehicles.

What more can we expect from you?

Everything and anything is possible. We have the movie and web series that I've written with my partner Winsome Lennon and the HHWU Blog, as well as the Real Hip-Hop Show podcast and mixtape series. The Mic Handz and UG Producer project 'CONsequences and Repercussions'.

The Fantomusic producer project 'Audio Drome', the Mic Handz and Jaz-O EP -currently untitled, as well as the Mic Handz and Sean Price EP 'Epic Phail', as well as the Alterbeats introduction of the Alterunit on the June 12th release of 'The Class Struggle'.

The Animal Pak project 'Don't Feed the Animals' and a whole host of features that are already finished. We also have an anti-mainstream radio movement coming to take the game by storm and the clothing lines That's a Good Boy, Studio Rat and Est.2013. We working!

 

POSTED 04|12|2013
conducted by cpf

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