We got another EXCLUSIVE Interview for you…
Here @ PinBoard we have been telling you about ESSO for a while now. Talented, skillful and innovative, ESSO is doing it all. With the recent release of his incredible third Mixtape “E3: E-Day” we wanted to give you guys a chance to get to know him a little better and get to know the man behind the Hip Hop…
Esso, Harlem NYC, 23
2. What does ESSO stand for and what’s he about?
I stand for the new generation the new way of life and the new world we live in. I’ve kinda named it Young + Ignorant. The old heads can keep grown and sexy. Not my style at all.
I’m about being successful on my own terms, living my life the way I want to live it and being a leader instead of a follower. That’s how I was raised and that’s how I’m going to die.
3. Before you got into Hip Hop you attended Howard University, what did you study and how did you find college life?
College was cool, I was an Advertising major. It was a good experience and I played Baseball while I was in school also so school wasn’t such a one dimensional thing for me. College was cool as an overall experience, but I kinda hated the whole school aspect of it. If they had colleges with no classes I might go back and get a couple more degrees or something.
Continue reading the interview after the jump
4. How did it [college] lead you to becoming ‘ESSO’? Was there a moment where you realized that this (making music) is what you wanted to do?
College really had nothing to do with it. If anything College took me more away from the path of becoming Esso if anything because I was more focused on playing baseball during that time. I don’t regret going to Howard at all though. I didn’t start really getting heavy into music until I was already back in NYC.
I think the moment that I really figured out that this was what I wanted to do was the first time I did a show and people came up to me afterwards not knowing me at all and showed me crazy love. Once I started realizing that people were feeling what I was doing I started taking myself more seriously. I always thought in my own head I was nice, but once I saw other people were getting it I started really goin in.
5. You won “Best Mixtape” for “E1: ESSOcentric” at the 2007 Underground Music Awards, that’s pretty dope – how did that feel?
It was a real good feeling. Felt even better to know it was voted on by the fans and not a panel or something like that. To have all of those people vote for me and give me an award was great. I really took my time with that first mixtape and I want people to be able to go back to that after I’ve gotten to experience some of those success and accolades that I’m really chasing and look at ESSOcentric like my Reasonable Doubt or Illmatic or Ready to Die. Not to say that the album won’t be on that level, but that was my first real complete project that we put out, and it says a lot that my first impression to the world won Mixtape of the Year. You always hear that its an honor just to be nominated…I don’t know about that. I want to win every time I’m nominated.
6. I was introduced to you and your music when you dropped “E1: ESSOcentric”; You then dropped “E2: ESSObama” and most recently “E3: EDay” < that’s already a serious stack of material – can you tell us a little bit about each project [including their interesting titles!] and what you were trying achieve when doing them/with them?
Really the titles were just my way of kinda bringing people into my world. Titles kinda bring you into the mood of what you’re about to listen to. So the more I can give you an idea of where the project is going through the title the more likely you are to know if you want to hear it or not.
ESSOcentric sounds kinda complex, like something that has to be explained. And at the time, it was my first mixtape so I was almost trying to explain to the listeners why they should be paying attention to me. Plus there weren’t any features on that CD so it really revolved around me, which makes it ESSOcentric.
ESSObama came out of me following what was goin on with Barack Obama before he even declared that he was going to run for the Presidency. He was a new Senator, everyone was saying he didn’t have enough experience, but at the same time he was on this meteoric rise through the ranks of politicians. You always hear that the music industry is politics and bullshit, so I kinda looked at Obama and felt like I was him on the rap side of things. I had only put out one mixtape at the time and I was already breaking break with Cipha Sounds, Sickamore, MTV, Unsigned Hype in The Source, cutting through all the other politicians in my own way. So that’s where that one came from.
E-Day was different because I took some time to lay low before I put out because I was getting a little drained. So I started thinking about everything but music. I ended up watching the whole Band Of Brothers series about the 101st Airborne in WWII that parachuted onto Normandy in 1944 and stayed in Europe until the very end of the war. D-Day was one of those huge moments that was the beginning of the end of WWII, and I looked at it like this mixtape needed to be the beginning of the end of my war to get to where I want to be as an artist. That’s where the military influenced cover came from also. If you look closely enough in the “O” on the mixtape cover you can see the soldiers silhouettes.
7. Is it ending in a Trilogy? Or is there more in this series to come?
Yeah the ESSOcentric series is over after E-Day. Time for something new. I don’t want to be sitting here at 30 talking about ESSOcentric Vol. 15! The whole ESSOcentric series was just my way of introducing people to me and what I’m about. Now that we’ve been properly introduced its time to move on to another level. I’ll still be doing mixtapes and I’m actually working on a new series already, but I’m also working on an EP and an Album and a bunch of other things that are gonna reach further than mixtapes can. I said on my very first mixtape “I aint gettin caught in the mixtape trap” so I been makin moves behind the scenes to make sure that we move on to that next level
8. What do you think separates you from other artists around at the moment? Who would you consider your peers or competition even?
I don’t really look at other artists as competition. They do what they do and I do what I do. I feel like I compete with myself to create the best music that I’m capable of presenting to the world. I’m my own harshest critic also so I think it works for me. I take so much pride in the projects that I put together that I almost dont care what anyone else is doing at the time. I don’t care who spit over whatever beat I may want to get on because their version is their version and my version is my version and they won’t be the same.
As far as peers musically, I want to feel like my peers are the people already selling records. That’s who I set out to compete with. At the same time, there are a lot of people on their come up that I respect. Skyzoo, Stimuli, Nina B, Mickey Factz, IB3, Miss Williams, Wale, Crooked I, Gage, Ciz, Oun P, Lydia Caesar are just a few of the names that you’re gonna be hearing in the next wave in the next few years to come.
9. As an independent artist, how have you dealt with the business side of things? With the promotion and generally getting your name out there etc…?
I’m real hands on with everything that has to do with my career. So as far as promotions and everything I’m out there. I make sure that I’m everywhere. You’d be surprised by how seriously people take you just by being seen in the right places. If I’m at a Diddy party, then Nas’ album release party, and then VH1 Hip Hop Honors in VIP all as an unsigned artist, then I must be doing something right, yanno? I just keep good relationships with people, and everything else really takes care of itself. It’s not just about who you know. Its who you know and what those people are willing to make happen for you. That’s the real key.
10. Do you think branding is an important aspect of your career and if so, how have you gone about branding yourself?
Branding is definitely important. ESSO is a brand. People expect a certain standard of quality when they listen to my music so I have to make sure that I deliver that. I think more than anything I brand myself every time people see me out or talk to me or see my MySpace or hear a song.
Its not one thing in particular that I would say more than another has built the brand besides being consistent musically. And people seem to think I put my clothes together pretty well…If ESSOcentric was crazy and then ESSObama was horrible the brand would be shot. But if both are dope and then I drop E-Day people are gonna be more likely to pay attention because the first 2 have given them a certain idea of what an ESSO project is gonna sound like.
11. Who did you listen to growing up?
I listened to a little bit of everything. Its funny because I can listen to songs and like half the time I know the original song that was sampled. Of course Michael Jackson, Nas, Jay, BIG, Pac, Snoop, Mary, Mariah…even back then I had good taste in music.
12. Who are you listening to today?
Producers. Beats Beats Beats Beats Beats. Other than that, I’m listening to all kinds of shit these days…Still some of those same artists I grew up on too. I’ve opened my ears to a lot of other genres though because I don’t want to listen to too many other artists and start going in their direction instead of my own. I been bumping the Daft Punk Discovery album pretty heavy lately, Keyshia Cole’s last album, all of Kanye’s albums, TI, and then my homies like IB3, Stimuli, Skyzoo etc. My iTunes is retarded
13. If you could collaborate with any artist(s), (dead or alive) who would it be?
Jimi Hendrix, Andre3000, Kanye, Jay, Nas, Big, Pac, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Prince, John Coltrane, Snoop, Lupe Fiasco, Beyonce, Kurt Cobain/Nirvana, man we could be here all day with that question
14. Seen as your second mixtape was titled “ESSObama”, we’ve gotta ask: What are you thoughts on Sen. Obama? And him getting the Democratic nomination and do you think America is really ready for ‘Change’?
I’m proud of Obama. I think its a great look for our country, and I hope we’re ready for some change because the last 8 years have left the US pretty fucked in the eyes of the rest of the world. I don’t want to get too political, because people have the right to vote for who they want to vote for.
15. Back to the music: “Anti-Backpack” off the new mixtape is a joint that’s got me all kinds of confused, simply because…I wear a backpack and I love this tune! lol! Tell us a little bit about it and the inspiration behind it? *Note: I do not have a Blink 182 album in mine!*
I actually really wrote that song to Britney Spears “Gimme More” instrumental because Danja killed that beat. I was obsessed with the beat and was tellin everyone how I was gonna kill it, and I just decided to have fun with it.
It’s kinda a jab at the way people categorize music and have categories like Hipster Hop and Pop Hop and Backpack Rap and all these other bullshit categories. Music is music. Its real tongue in cheek and it makes me laugh that so many people don’t get it. The same people that don’t get it are the same people that consider themselves fans of the highly conceptual highly lyrical hip hop and they don’t even get the concept or what I’m trying to do with the song.
16. Do you have a favourite ESSO track? If so, what is it and why?
That’s so hard to say, I’ve recorded somewhere close to 200 songs so having one favorite is pretty hard. I got a few though, Living Doll, Doin It Again, Coast to Coast, Dream Merchant, Change Your Life…the album records to me are on a whole different level. So once its time to let some of those go, then people will really see why I cant pick one concrete favorite.
17. Your third mixtape “E3: Eday” just dropped, so what’s next? What can we expect from ESSO in the next year or so?
Just expect me to continue bringing that quality music to you, I have a bunch of projects I’m working on right now, an Internet radio show I’ll be hosting starting in July, shooting another video before the end of the summer, and besides that I honestly don’t even know. I’m just gonna keep puttin my work in and staying hungry. The second I start feeling like I made it or I can chill is when I’m gonna lose. But expect an official project to be in the works very very soon.
18. London’s Hip Hop scene is blowing up @ the moment and we always want artists like you over here, so do you have any plans on hitting this side of the Atlantic at any point?
Tell any promoters you know to holla at me at email@example.com
and lets set it up. I’d love to get out there. Just make sure they pay me in pounds and not US dollars. Ha!
19. …Do you have anything you’d like to say to your UK fans at PinBoardBlog.com?
First of all thanks to SpeakerBox and PinBoardBlog.com for having me, I definitely appreciate it. Head on over to MySpace.com/esso
and get your FREE DOWONLOAD
of E3: E-Day if you haven’t already, go ahead on over to Youtube.com/essoTV
and see what all the controversy is about over the Anti-Backpack video, and other than that just keep supporting the music that you like and we’ll keep making it for you.
…And finally tell us:
3 things we don’t know about you?
My Gmail account is 94% full
I actually answer every message on my MySpace myself
3 things you couldn’t live without?
3 albums you’re currently diggin’?
Daft Punk – Discovery
Keyshia Cole – Just Like You
Kanye West – Graduation
3 songs that changed your life?
Jay-Z – Dead Presidents
BIG – Juicy
Nas – It Aint Hard to Tell
Make sure you show ESSO some love by visiting his Myspace
page and for goodness sake, download his mixtapes! You NEED them and er…they’re free!
Peace, Love & PinBoard x ESSO