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 is finally hitting the streets, the web, and store shelves across America.
With all the force of Strange Music, his Mayday bandmates, and fans like The Rock behind him, Wrekonize and The War Within are ready to rush back into battle. Here's what he has to say as it officially drops.
Crossfade: Wasup, dude. You're on tour with ¡Mayday! right now. Where in the country are you?
We just played Modesto and now we're in Reno today.
How old were you when you moved to Miami?
Moved to Miami when I was six 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 raffiki bitch, half of me is tribal."
My father's family is from Cape Town, South Africa. I was like mixed, half British and half South African.
What kind of music influenced you growing up?
My family was always real musical, they were listening to like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, 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 been doin' theater and music since I was a kid, like seven or eight years old. Both my parents were in bands and my grandparents were on stage and comedians. Arts have always been in my family. Got interested in music early and I was writing my own songs at ten or 11.
How has battle rap helped you?
It's been cool. A lot of people know who I was 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"?
It was written on 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 it 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.
How about your song "Freak" with Tech N9ne?
Street Runner did the beat. He's a Miami homie. Him and Sarom made the beat. The original had a sample in there and Bernz walked in and said, "Damn, you should record that on some freak shit and have Tech on there." He's killer for that subject matter, and it just went from there. The song has a double meaning. There's women and dudes out there that take it to an extreme of freaky stuff in their bedrooms. That's cool. And then there's freaks that don't fit in or are outside the norm and on their own path.
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 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."
Where did you learn piano?
I'm not really all that good. My aunt used to be a teacher. I'm not, like, classically trained by any stretch of imagination. I just try to mess with keys and really play by ear and would like to get better.
How's it feel to have your album shrink-wrapped and sold at Best Buy?
It's dope for me, because Best Buy is getting smaller and shrinking the CD space. So just as far as the personal journey of getting an album out after 10 years, I'm happy to get my CD in the store.
What about people around the country putting up posters with your face on them?
Amazing. I've got street teamers in every city. And every time I meet them after all these years in the game, I'm superappreciative to have people promoting the album, because for so many years it was such a small team. It's a beautiful feeling.
The Rock is a fan. How'd that happen?
That was dope. He's a Strange Music fan already. I seen him post about Tech 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 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 come out a better person.
Accepting and overcoming environments and things in family past, and people around you, and loving them, and them loving you for who you are, and who you got around you.
I heard that "Green Funyons" song off the Rooftop Mixtape you did leading up to this. You still smoke weed?
No bongs no more. I have never hit a bong since the story that song talks about. Bernz really got me on that one.
Will you tour in support of the solo stuff?
Not this year, but maybe next year. Mayday's booked to tour throughout the whole year.
You did a track called Goldie Freestyle where you say "Dirty hippie creepin' leakin' out the mouth. Pull your shit together crashin' cribs and sleepin' on the couch..."
I had a issue with somebody in my circle and that was just my way of expressing my anger.
Another line you had said, "They throw genres and subgenres on us," and sounded like it was calling out the media...
I get a little irritated that maybe we're not involved with certain publications, or blogs that don't cover us, or cover us in a derogatory way. My whole crew are working hard and super diligently, and we're not getting the coverage we deserve, so that's me expressing my frustrations.
What blogs pissed you off?
I don't want to name any names.
The media is all fucked up and full of shit, maybe if you don't call em' out by name they never know how it affects people...
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Yeah, you might be right.
We went to Albuquerque and went to the exterior of the house where they film Breaking Bad. That was dope.