Interview - Michigan Based Artist, Breez
So this is an interview that's different to the others I have done over the years. (Apart from the subject of course) The difference is that I wasn't the one to initiate or even find the subject!
A month or so ago, I was contacted by Isaac Lymon who leads up a platform by the name of RaxPlay. He offered me the opportunity to interview artists that he helps gain recognition. And you know me, I'm always down for learning somebody's story. Especially when Hip-Hop is involved.
So that's where today's subject comes from. Much love to Isaac for offering the partnership, hopefully this is only the beginning. Speaking of today's subject, we head to the US State of Michigan to talk to a Hip-Hop artist that loves to explore the seemingly ever-present link between Hip-Hop & Sports, travelled more as a child than some people have in their lives and how his story shapes his music. We also have not one, but two Top 5's.
Ladies & Gentlemen, this is Breez.
C: So we begin, as always, at the beginning. Where were you born, what were you like as a kid and paint a picture of what life was like around you.
B: I was born in Southfield, MI. I moved to Ann Arbor shortly thereafter. Parents divorced by the time I turned 2. So I was always bouncing back n forth as well as moving constantly. I was a lot like my present day self as a kid: adventurous, curious, energetic and outgoing. Bikes, Basketball and Nintendo was my thing back then.
C: Okay so let's dig in to the environment. Ann Arbor, how did you see it growing up? And if I came over right now would I see what you see?
B: Perception is everything. It would all depend on the outlook of the individual but I'm sure there would be some similarities. At face value its home to the University of Michigan, a College town. But with a little digging you become privy to all of the subcultures. Skating, Hip-Hop, stoner and art are the most prevalent. It's a very diverse place. A melting pot. Some of everybody lives here. That's what I've always noticed. From your hippies to your organic food freaks, to the bums and even down to guys like me.
C: And what is a guy like you? You consider yourself a culmination of the aforementioned melting pot? Or did one or two subcultures take you?
B: I definitely am Ann Arbor at my innermost core. But I'm a survivor, a conqueror by circumstance. That's where 'The Journeyman' title came from. I've been through so much. So many fucked up situations. Jail, homelessness, poverty, you name it. I'm still here fighting, grinding to get to that greener grass on the other side. That's one of my most dominant traits. As a person I'm my own melting pot. With Hip-Hop, Sports, cooking and entrepreneurship making up the majority. Always an underlining of ambition. That'll never go away.
C: "The Journeyman" being your latest EP. We'll for sure get a word on that.It's clear you've had a lot of challenges to get where you are now, when did that begin for you? When was that first genuine life challenge. And did you "win" in hindsight? I put win in quote marks to say that I've found that negatives of the past can actually build the positives of the future.
B: One of my most earliest challenges was adapting. I was living in Guatemala during 5th & 6th grade and was pretty much forced to learn Spanish as well as assimilate to living in a 3rd World country. After getting back stateside another challenge I faced early on was getting into trouble with law as a juvenile and going back and forth to juvenile detention. School was also always a challenge for me. From getting suspended, to writing raps instead of doing homework or even missing classes whilst being detained in the aforementioned detention.
C: Why did you have to go to Guatemala?
B: My mom was always moving us around. She's doing the same to with my younger siblings. She's in the middle of a move to Cuba now.
C: May I ask why? Just a traveller at heart?
B: Pretty much and in love with Latin america/Hispanic culture in my opinion.
C: I see. So you mentioned your parents split when you were younger. What was your pops about when you were growing up? What was the relationship there?
B: My pops has always been working hard, usually on cars as far as I can remember. Still to this day. He's a lifetime mechanic. Dabbled in cooking early on. But that man is a mechanic. Gotta a good relationship with him. Not the best, but its solid. My parents went on to have 2 kids each. Well 3 for my mom (Lil' sis arrived '97). But yea, they are actively parenting. So we have good relationships, yet they have more pertinent issues to tend to.
C: I see, that's cool! So I want to step back to the juvenile stint. What brought that on? Because I can see the disinterest in school but obviously trouble with the law is a significant step up.
B: Just being a knucklehead. Getting hemmed up for petty shit. Running away. I'd get into wit Pops n leave the house, he'd call the police. Marijuana. Just dumb stuff.
C: Damn okay. So what music was playing during your youth? I assume being in Guatemala for a stretch you must've heard some good Guatemalan vibes!
B: I'm sure I did but it was never my cup of tea. In middle school I can remember listening to Luda's "Word of Mouf", Ja's "Pain Is Love" and "Nellyville"... Shortly after I went entirely off of the deep end and it's been a wrap ever since!
C: Nice nice. I actually did a podcast episode recently on Nelly. So what was the family into? And did you enjoy their tastes?
B: My Dad listened & still listens to a lot of Gospel and Old School Hip-Hop. My mom put me up on a lot of Badu, Lauryn Hill, D'Angelo, etc. Plus good oldies from the both of them. I rock with all of that stuff. It's given me a wide range and diversity in my music tastes. I did my own research though. Once I got a hold of Pac/Biggie CD's I stole from Pops, Big L CD from a kid at school; did my own searching and found out about Fabolous, Cassidy & Lloyd Banks it was over! It's never been the same since either. I started writing shortly thereafter.
C: Alright so that leads perfectly into your writing. You said you started writing early instead of doing homework. When did you start putting those bars on wax?
B: I want to say the first time I ever recorded something at an actual studio was 9th - 10th grade (2004 - 2005)
C: And how were those? If you listened back today?
B: Novice at best. Ambitious. I'm sure there was some some bars. We'll call them 'white belt flows'.
C: Great way to describe it! So how long after that time did you start taking music seriously?
B: I think I always took it seriously, but my first Mixtape didn't come out until 2008 so I'll say then...
And even then I wasn't that serious. I was as serious as I knew how to be. I thought I would get signed off MySpace. Or get a deal off of WeMix. I thought that once I dropped my Mixtape, Jay-Z would be calling a week later. After that first week it floored me and wised me up simultaneously. That's when I really started taking matters into my own hands & begun the journey as a Independent artist/Independent record label.
C: Ah so you're part of the MySpace generation! Nice. I'm always fascinated by that era. I think there were many artists with the exact same thought you had once dropping. But the difference between them & you is that you're still doing it so big ups for that. So that was your first reality check do to speak. 2 questions. 1) What was the first lesson you learnt as it pertains to being an independent artist. 2) What was the most important lesson you've learnt being independent?
B: Just consistently be consistent. If I take a one day off the next one day that I'm losing, that my music is not being pushed
C: I feel that. So let's get into your music. How would you describe the music you make? The tone, message, style etc.
B: I call it "Get Up Out the Ghetto" music. I'm broadcasting from the bottom, so that's what I'm giving you and every bar. But I desperately want to to reach the top so there's a lot of that as well. It's very lyrical and I'm trying to educate the black man. I'm also talking about a bunch of entrepreneurial stuff. That about sums it up, oh and a bunch of bunch of Sports references. Sports bars. No B Dubbs!
C: That's something I really caught when listening to your work. Stacked with Sports bars! Obviously by the name of your label it kind of confirmed it for me but I'll ask anyway. Where does the love for Sports originate from?
B: It's really just my first love. I fell in love with Basketball at the age of 2 back in '91. Ventured into some other Sports from there. But huge basketball and football fan all the way down to the College level, maybe even a little High School. And I'm always playing 2K & Madden.
A non music-related dream job for me would be an NBA GM
C: Ooooo interesting. That gives me a question but I'll hold till the end. So you told me before this that you're trying to release on a monthly basis. What is that process like to keep putting stuff out and trying to keep it fresh every time?
B: I stockpiled a lot of music last year. I'm really just putting bells and whistles on all of that stuff and getting it out.
C: So why did you stockpile originally?
B: It was never my intention, it just kind of happened like that. I've been trying to release monthly for like the last 2 years and it just has never worked out in my favor. Financial reasons are usually at the forefront of that. Now I record primarily in my living room, so that's saves me a bunch!
C: That's what's up! So you've been on this for around a decade now, you know your sound and continue to drop great bars. What are your goals for the future?
B: Closing in on two decades; 16 years to be exact. Great question. I want to be the best to ever do it. Inspire and enlighten on the way.
C: That's what's up. Okay I think that's a perfect time to end. But not after the question I end all interviews with. What's your Top 5?
Now I'm going to put you on the spot here, because I want two from you.The first is anything music related and you can be as specific or as blunt as you want. Could be Detroit rappers or Top 5 most influential to you. Whatever, it's your Top 5.
But the 2nd. Since you said you want to be an NBA GM. I want your All-Time starting five. Because I'm an NBA fan as well and I love a Top 5.
B: OK bet!
5 - 95-96 Shaq or Early 2000's
4 - Air Freight (2007 LeBron)
3 - 2007 Kobe or 2009
2 - 91 - 95 MJ
1 - 2001 AI
5 - '04 KG
4 - '03 Tim Duncan
3 - OKC KD
2 - T-Mac
1 - MVP D Rose/Prime Baron Davis
As far as Emcees. This is my Top 5 Alive bar-for-bar, no particular order:
3. Lil' Wayne
4. Andre 3000
3. Royce Da 5'9
Excluding myself of course!
C: Jheeze! I didn't mean two of each! But good stuff you doubled what I asked. Much appreciated.
Breez, it's been a pleasure. Thanks for telling me your story and good luck in the future. You will always have a place here.
B: No, thank you! Likewise. Blessings & continued success.
There you have it. That is my talk with Breez, I hope you all enjoyed it. If you want to keep up with Breez you can go to his website 4thandgoalrecords.com. You can peep his weekly freestyles here, his SoundCloud here & I'll embed his latest project "The Journeyman" below.
Thanks to Breez once again and thanks for reading.