By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
Never give up. Never give in. Miami makes champions.
Ten years ago, Wrekonize won a series of MTV rap battles for $25,000 and a recording contract with Roc-A-Fella Records.
The deal never materialized, and he spent his prize money on DVDs and pizza. But he never stopped working on music. And now his debut solo album, The War Within, is finally hitting the streets, the web, and store shelves across America.
With all the force of his label, Strange Music Inc.; his ¡Mayday! bandmates; and fans such as Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson behind him, Wrekonize and his homies are ready to rush back into battle.
New Times: How old were you when you moved to Miami?
Wrekonize: I was 6 years old, coming from the UK in a little spot called Richmond, Surrey, in London.
One of your songs says something like, "Seen I had British roots/Till I swang my rafiki bitch/Half of me is tribal."
My father's family is from Cape Town, South Africa. I'm mixed, half British and half South African.
What kind of music influenced you growing up?
My family was always really musical. They were listening to Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, and then Heavy D. All kinds of music. Music was always being played in the house.
Where'd you learn to sing?
I'd been doin' theater and music since I was a kid, like 7 or 8 years old. Both my parents were in bands, and my grandparents were onstage and comedians. Arts have always been in my family. Got interested in music early, and I was writing my own songs at 10 or 11.
How has battle rap helped you?
It's been cool. A lot of people know who I am off that. This November, the MTV battle will have been ten years ago. It's cool that people still remember it, they're familiar with me, but they have a certain notion locked in their minds because of it that prevents their getting to know the music. It can be a hindrance, but at least they're familiar with me.
What's the story behind the song "Anxiety" off the new album, The War Within?
It was written about some real-life shit I went through a few years ago, not expressing my emotions, not venting when stress hit. If you don't vent and let out what you're feeling... I had a serious anxiety attack during the early ¡Mayday! and been trying to deal with it through music. And on top of that, I meet people who have serious anxiety all the time, so it resonates with a lot of people.
What about "We Got Soul"?
That's the opener for the whole album. It slaps when you throw it on in the perfect way. The sample in the beat, the chanting, to me, it sounds like it's saying, "We got soul." I'm a fan of funk music, and I've always loved that phrase. It's like saying, "We alive, and we here to make it happen."
The Rock is a fan. How'd that happen?
That was dope. He's a Strange Music fan already. I saw him post about [rapper and Strange Music label boss] Tech N9ne a few times. When we put out "Freak," the Rock hit us back through Twitter, and it's just cool to know that dude appreciates. Plus, he's got, like, 4 million followers, so that's also a cool feeling.
Does the album deal much with themes of mental instability?
It's basically a journey through my mind, being put under psychotherapy, being hypnotized by a psychotherapist, and going through my subconscious and trying to come out a better person.