I never knew I would fall in love with hip-hop or music for that matter.
If you asked me what I enjoyed when I was 12-years-old, it would be a combination of basketball (though I was never the greatest player), Taekwondo, and reruns of Justice League Unlimited, just to name a few.
Before then, I may have written a few verses here and there and rap music was always something that was played in my house since a young age, but rap, in my opinion, was always something for those “street dudes” on TV, and not for an average middle-class black kid like me, who was just focusing on doing his best to end up in college, and satisfy his Nigerian parents.
My parents didn’t want me to end up like some of the “other kids” in the city. The “other” kids were the kids, that no one likes to talk about, but we see them on the news, as someone we are taught to fear or scold.
However, 12-years-old was when my life changed for the better, and God realized that I had other talents besides academic excellence.
For the next 7 years, I did everything in my power to master the art of rap. My second oldest sister was a tomboy who played basketball and had an assortment of Hip-Hop & R&B from all periods back in the era when LimeWire was our form of the Gold Rush.
I watched documentaries, I recited rap lyrics to improve on breath control and flow, watched and re-watched more BET Cyphers, listened to music from all generations of Hip-Hop, studied poets such as Langston Hughes; but the most important notes I took were that I studied. If you were a great MC, that I admired, I made sure to pick out the best quality in your repertoire and added it to my arsenal.
I knew North Side Legend had to be my masterpiece.
North Side Legend wasn’t my debut album, but it was my first project with original music. I spent years writing and releasing freestyles over industry instrumentals, that finally was the time to show and prove whether I could create a cohesive body of work with well-structured records. I was up for it, no matter what.
I’ll admit, it took me a while to secure the funds to bring this dream to reality, but a stipend from a Washington D.C. internship eventually helped.
I am a firm believer, that everything happens for a reason as who knew that a producer from Portugal named P-Type, who is the same age as me, would reach out to a young black rapper from Milwaukee with no sort of internet fame, and offer to produce for him, because he saw his potential. I forever am in debt to P-Type for creating a sonic canvas for my thoughts.
The title North Side Legend emanated from when I was 17 years old. At that point, G Herbo was one of my favorites. He was an up and coming MC, and like many others, I was bumping the long-awaited Ballin Like I’m Kobe.
As the song “Eastside” plays, I heard Herbo say speak about how he and his homies were Eastside legends. At that moment, I realized, that for my debut project, I would have to pay tribute to more than just myself.
This EP had to be a memento, to not only what shaped the life experiences of me and my friends, but also those who are trapped at the bottom.
North Side Legend was more than just me, asserting my claim to being respected amongst Milwaukee’s greatest, but rather it was a story of the most deprived part of town in one of the most segregated cities in America.
The North Side of Milwaukee, was and is a place where black people are never allowed to express, their full range of humanity due to the “powers that be.” Now that isn’t to say that we aren’t human. We’ve still developed a culture and sense of belonging on the North Side contrary to what some liberals or conservatives might think.
However, as an artist, I can only report the truth. My people are oppressed, and I will let the world know that because no one else wants to talk about it. I know that I must also use the relative privilege I have as a college-educated middle class black male, to assist in telling the story of those that aren’t able to speak theirs.
Every song on this EP plays a purpose. There is no filler. Just like some of my favorite albums, 4:44, Humble Beast, Illmatic, and GKMC, every song is a part of one big picture. It would be ambitious to call this project a concept album, but I hoped to have some semblance of it with the skits from various movies and interviews.
At the core of North Side Legend is an idea, that many black people in this country are never given the freedom to determine their existence. We only make do with the options that is given to us, and that is considered “freedom” and “rights.”
We view America as a land of democracy, and freedom, not knowing it has committed atrocities and human rights violations, like any other.
If America is the wealthiest country on the planet, yet it allows its own citizens to live in neighborhoods, where the only food option is Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and Wildwood sodas, the drug trade is the only source of substantial employment, the health care is unaffordable, the housing is filled with roaches, and lead paint, the schools won’t nurture you to attend higher education let alone compete in a global economy, and the levels of PTSD exceeds rates in war-torn Afghanistan yet there is no mental health clinic in near proximity for rehabilitation, then what country are we truly living in?
I don’t have a rose-tinted view of America, because I know the ugly side that wants to shutter my people away, and act as if we don’t exist. That time is over.
North Side Legend is an EP about truth. Truth about me, my city, and the country that I reside in. Everyone wants to tell a lie, and I’ve came to dispel all of these fabrications and myths. Nothing more, nothing less.
I will continue to make music like this as Pac said, because someone out there must represent “the real.” I don’t make music to live up to anyone’s expectations, or to satisfy anyone’s demands.
I make music, because I have a lot of things to say, even after just 20 years of this life. I write what I mean, and I mean what I write. That is all.