As we watch unfathomable atrocities unfold on our door steps, in our schools and colleges and lives lost in pointless battles and wars there has always been one thing that is good for lifting spirits and hearts and that is music. Brooklynís Torae has enough heart, soul and enthusiasm to lift the spirits of many and he achieves that through his Ďfeel-goodí music. You remember the type, you know the wholesome educational Hip-Hop that started this s**t.
Graced with beats from some of Hip-Hops most coveted for his own projects, he is featured on a numerous albums belonging to others. Collaborations with Babu, Chaundon, Sean Price and K-OS to name a minimal few have you pondering whether this dude is actually having us over telling us he isnít signed. But the reality is, he really has yet to sign put his pen to paper in the business sense.
However here at HipHopDX.com we have a feeling that it will only be a matter of time before he is picked up by a label to reach the summit he is already close to arriving at on his own grind. Sharing his in depth industry insight and divulging what he thinks makes a hit record, Torae gave us a sneak peek into what being a musical craftsman is truly about. And that, my friends, is why we picked Torae as our first DXnext artist.
HHDX: First off I have to ask you with your presence in the game why arenít you signed?
Torae: Well that goes back to the good old word, politics. You know with the cats that get signed, there is a lot of co-signing, just a lot of people looking out for each other and looking o\ut for their people and not necessarily looking out for those that are the most talented, so to keep their name popping and keep their thing popping, they put their own people on. It is nepotism. So between the politics and trying to keep the money in their own pocket, they are not looking for the new talented cats, the cats that arenít necessarily affiliated with them. But it is all good, I will break through eventually.
HHDX: You are surrounded by infamous names in the game though like Cam, Jimmy Jones and DJ Premier.
Torae: But itís like in this new day and age and this new breed of Hip-Hop, I can have tracks with 9th Wonder, tracks with Khrysis and tracks with Premo but if I am not on the Kay Slay tape or if I donít have 12 Just Blaze songs or I am not in the Smack DVD and you know making that Ďtrendyí stuff, people donít check for you. Even though the people I work with get the respect, it is still that I am not the type of dude they want on the Smack DVD, battling and cocking guns is just not my cup of tea and just not what I am into.
HHDX: So what are you into and how do you want yourself to be perceived?
Torae: I just make good music for good people. I like to consider myself to be a pretty normal guy who goes around his day to day business and I donít like to use the term Ďblue collarí as Rhymefest ran away with that, but I am a blue collar. I am not riding around in a Bentley, I mean I might be riding around in a new Toyota or a new Lexus, but I am a dude that makes music from the heart that speaks to people. I want to make music that is timeless, you know long after the snap music is dead and the crunk is over; that is the type of music that I like to make. I listen to music that isnít only going to effect the generation of today, but the generation of tomorrow; just like it will effect the generation of yesterday.
HHDX: Do you find the industry is lacking Ďwholesomeí music right now?
Torae: The media as far as the radio and the video outlets are not trying to show anything that is outside of the normal, what they consider Ďnovel music of today.í I donít knock anything that they play but I do like to see balance and I feel that is what is lacking. You know you see the videos with the big mansions and the big cars, just show someone that is on the bus. You know show that blue collar, every day things that people can relate to. I mean we donít party all the time.
HHDX: There is a void of Ďfeel-goodí music, do you think that?
Torae: Yeah, there is no music that makes you feel good on the inside and make you feel warm and tingly.
HHDX: Why do you think that is?
Torae: Wow... this is my conspiracy theory right here [laughing.] There are a lot of reasons, the power is not in our hands per say any more and I am sure that the program directors, those that direct what we listen to, I am sure that is not what they like. Between the payola and the fact that this guy works with that guy, once you get into all of that the focus is off the music as you are just keeping the checks coming in. It is not so much that the people donít like the feel good music; they look at it more on a business aspect as opposed to on a feeling aspect. You know they look at it like Ďthis guy is going to spend this amount of records because we spent x amount of dollars on his marketing and that money will trickle back down into us getting radio spins,í So I mean it is a game of numbers, dollars and cents and I guess that music that comes from the heart seems to fall by the wayside.
HHDX: Do you find that too many artists follow other peoples blueprints rather than establishing their own identities?
Torae: You know what it is, when you come from a situation where you donít have much too begin with, not saying everyone from the hood donít have much, but a lot of us grew up with poor economical standing and havenít come from too much money. Then once you get the notion that if I do this the possibilities that I can feed my family and feed myself, seven to eight times out of ten you are going to chase the dollar. The numerous times that I could have made a record that wasnít from my heart or jumped onto the bandwagon so to speak that I might not have felt a lot about personally but it might have helped me provide a little better, it is hard to turn it down. You know how circumstances can be, cats have to get money and they follow suit, Ďif this is going to help me get a deal, this is what I am going to do.í
HHDX: Do you feel that way?
Torae: I am going to try and break the mold and show people that you can make music from your heart and you can feel good about so you can still win. I like to play the game but I am going to win by my own way and my own rules.
HHDX: What do you believe makes a hit song?
Torae: It is hard to pinpoint what is a hit song these days but it is very formulamatic, but I think nowadays a hit can come from anywhere, it just has to hit. There are people that I am perplexed how they have the number one record. Once a check comes in it is hard to say no. There are people and I am like Ďthatís a hit?í and then there are people with hit records that never get that push and I am like how did that record not make it. Jim Jones, who would have thought six years ago Jim Jones would have the number one record in the country when he wasnít even rapping and this is a personal friend of mine. You have artists like Redman who had an album come out, who is a proven hit maker and he got no promo for his record. The game is in dire straits right now.
HHDX: Do you think that the audience and consumers play a major part?
Torae: The audience doesnít really dictate what is going on, I think if the audience see something enough, they will start to listen to what is being played as it is playing. But for the most part it is the machine behind the music. It is the big corporation and the people who have the money to push certain types of songs because that is what they want us to listen to, they donít want us to be enlightened they donít want us to be say things that may make us grow and open our minds. Snapping and popping and drinking and all that, they just want us to stay in that same mind frame. They know what happens when we put our minds to it, it is just a case of give us an inch and we take 40 acres, so they really donít want people to evolve, they just want us to kind of stay brainwashed, walk around like mummies.
HHDX: You have some big things in the works. You are featured on like 8 albums coming up I believe, including Marco Poloís Port Authority.
Torae: Yeah I got a lot of joints and there is a lot of work I have been putting out. The last joint I did last year was with my group Coalescence and it was out on AV8 last year. Everything has been a stepping stone to get to where I am at. Right now we are in talks with another label that is interested and I like what they do and what they have brought to Hip-Hop. The upcoming albums I'm featured on so far though; we've got EMC's (Punchline , Wordsworth, Masta Ace & Stricklin) album The Show, KO's compilation album, DJ Babu's new Duck Season album, we're working on Chaundon's Ambitions of a Writer, Rawkus' Soundbombing 4 and Supastition's new album as well. I also just did a joint with Sean Price last week but I'm not sure what he's using it for.
HHDX: Now you turned down appearing on the Rawkus Top 50. Why did you turn that down?
Torae: The Top 50 is something that they have just started. They are going to do this online album with 50 cats and initially I was really interested in it because I know digital is the way to go and to see that Rawkus was being innovative and doing a strictly on line album, but the contract left a lot to be desired and it is a good deal for cats that are just on the come up and trying to get their name out there, I wouldnít tell them to turn it down. But I felt like, not to toot my own horn, but I felt like with what I have accomplished so far, it would be like taking a step backwards. I like to make progressive moves. But it is definitely a way to get your name out there and sell some records as Rawkus is great at marketing.
HHDX: How important has myspace been to you?
Torae: Myspace, man if I met Tom I would shake his hand and give him a big hug [laughs.] í15,000í friends but out of those I probably have maybe 6-7,000 that are really checking for me. Shout out to everyone who checks me on the myspace and it is so hard as I do try to check it three to four times a day, and I am always overwhelmed with what is in my inbox. It is hard to hit everybody back every day but I do eventually do get to it all and I hope I can continue to do that, but I get so much love on the myspace. I have fans that have old CDs that I didnít even know were in existence. People send me pics of them wearing my shirt and it is dope man. I make music from my heart and itís good to see people respond to it and like it. Myspace is a great marketing tool; it is a great networking tool.
HHDX: Have you met anyone worth mentioning through networking on myspace?
Torae: Well, besides fans, I have been kicking it with a lot of artists over myspace and it is always easy to get a feature, you hit someone up and they hit you back and we get it popping. I have had a lot of shows on myspace. You know a lot of promoters will reach out, interviewers will reach out through myspace and that has helped me keep the lights on too.
HHDX: What is the future for Torae then?
Torae: Hopefully we close the deal and we put together an incredible album. I have a lot of people that I work with and a few people who I havenít worked with as of yet who I would like to get on board for this project or maybe the next. But the future man, Torae isnít going to be going anywhere, there is always going to be great music coming from me whether I am signed or not. As long as people want to hear it I am going to do it. It is not about a dollar situation with me. I would make music if there wasnít a dollar in it just because I love it. I would perform because when I am on stage and I see that one dude that is mouthing every word or every verse, there is nothing in the world that feels as good as that. We did a show a few weeks ago at Piano, shout to Black Milk, Tanya Morgan, Skyzoo and Guilty Simpson and there was this one dude to the left of the stage and when "Get it Done", the Primo joint came on he lost his mind. I could see the excitement and he could have been on stage with us as he knew every word and that was so dope to me. That means I am doing something right and that is what I do it for. The fans keep you going man; they are the fuel for my gas tank.