The rap is game is like the crack game. And according to Esso, its also like the political game. Fresh off the release of ESSOBama: The Champagne Campaign, Esso is feeling like a million bucks. So early into his carreer and he's coveted a critically acclaimed mixtape in Essocentric: A History In The Making, which got him numerous magazine reviews as well as a Source "Unsigned Hype" feature. On the Champagne Campaign, Esso roams the streets which raised him, Harlem. DXnext takes a closer look at the NY emcee with endless potential.
HHDX: How you feeling homie?
Esso: I'm great homie, fresh off of releasing the second mixtape with Cipha Sounds & Sickamore, got a whole lot going getting ready to pop off. Life is good. I'm feeling like a million bucks right now
HHDX: Now this is Sickamoreís 2nd time around hosting your mixtape, how did u hook up with Sick?
Esso: I actually met Sick through a publicist my manager was working with at the time on the other artist he used to manage. He saw me perform at a show and set up for me and Sick to sit down. I played him like 20 tracks I had recorded and mixed myself in my bedroom and its been history in the making ever since.
HHDX: You only been in the game for a short period of time though, and your well above most people just starting out, what do you think contributed to that?
Esso: I can't give away too much game...but the first thing I ever did before I called myself really pursuing this seriously was study the industry...peep the angles. I really try and understand why certain things happen, how they happen, and then adjust my plan based on that. That and having a strong team of people around you who know their roles in the organization and movement are 2 pretty big keys to my success.
HHDX: Definitely, but rap wasn't your first pursuit as a career. Do you mind speaking on that?
Esso: Yea, I was playing baseball up until my junior year of college. I started playing baseball when I was 7, I got into rap when I was probably 12 or 13. So when I had a chance to play in college, I had to take advantage of it. But my school ended up cutting their baseball program, so I was kind of assed out after that. Right around that same time a couple different things started pulling me towards music, so I started taking it more seriously, and here we are today.
HHDX: That's wassup. Now, Essocentric vol. 1 was highly coveted by folks in the industry. Did you ever think you were going to top the success of Vol. 1, due to the curse of the sophomore slump? What separates Vol. 1 to Vol. 2?
Esso: Nah, honestly I knew that even though Volume 1 had a great response, there were certain things that I left out of Volume 1 on purpose. Like, if you notice on Volume 1 there aren't any features...so immediately if 5 songs on Volume 2 have features itís going have a different feel to it. The second thing was that Volume 1 was mostly industry tracks. ESSObama is mostly original tracks, so again it kind of switches up the dynamics. On top of just having time to grow in between CDs and working on different projects in the meantime. You're supposed to develop and get better as time goes on, not move backwards, yanno?
HHDX: Yeah definitely. Touching on the subject of more collabos, I've noticed that the NY underground is really united. Between you, Skyzoo, Sha Stimuli, Remo Da Rapstar and other folks that really show each other love. Does that affect the growth between each mixtape?
Esso: Yea... I mean working with other people only makes you a better artist. It's one thing to lock in by yourself and handle everything on your own, but to be able to reach out to Skyzoo or Sha (Stimuli) and work with them with everything that they have going on is a beautiful thing. I think some of us get the picture that other regions been showing each other love for a long time and its no reason we can't do the same. But wit me its not just NY either, I reached out to my girl IB3 who's down in Houston signed with Matthew Knowles and we did a joint for my mixtape also. I got love for anyone that got love for me, straight like that.
HHDX: But itís like all yaíll show each other so much love that itís starting to grow into this BIG movement. Everyone always spoke of NY not being united but yaíll proving folks different and you guys are whatís up next in NY hip hop. Sort of how the South came up a couple years ago.
Esso: Yea, hopefully it stays that way. You never know what can happen since we all got our different situations popping off. But I got genuine respect for a lot of people coming up in NY right now so if we can all come up at the same time and maintain our ties to each other its going to be crazy in a few years.
HHDX: With that being said. What's your opinion on the current state of hip hop?
Esso: As far as hip hop goes right now, I think weíre just going through a phase. Everyone's complaining about what's coming out, but unless there's fresh blood and new perspectives what's really going change? Since the beginning itís always moved in cycles, the east had it for a minute, then the west popped, now its the south's turn. As far as influence, hip hop and rap dominate pop culture so we're at a place we've never really been before as far as that's concerned. I don't know what the future holds for us, but back in the 70's when they called it a fad, no one could have predicted today. So I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens.
HHDX: What do u think separates you from other rappers in the game?
Esso: I think I don't really try to be anybody other than myself. And when it comes down to it no one else has really gone through my life but me. I know there are people out there who came up in a similar way, or know someone that I might remind them of so they identify with it, and that's what makes it good music. You can tell its authentic when you hear me. I'm not telling you one thing then you see me in the streets and itís something completely different. People have to respect that, I'd rather you hate me for who I am than love me for who I'm not.
HHDX: That's deep. Youíre a humble dude. Who do u consider your biggest influence artistically, and/or just growing up....that really influenced your career in rap?
Esso: I been influenced by a little bit of everything, but more than anything I'm inspired by people who accomplish things when no one expects them too. Like if you look at a Kanye West, who no one took seriously as a rapper, or Allen Iverson, who's about my size but won the scoring title in the NBA. People like that are inspiring. Purely musically though, I have to say Jay-Z, Nas, Biggie, Pac, Big L, Rakim, Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane. Its crazy, but I speak to Dana Dane almost every week...that's a dude that's been in the game over 20 years and he calls me his nephew now...that shit is kind of crazy to me
HHDX: Word. Damn that is kind of nuts. Because he is a big instrumental part in why rap jumpstarted and is why itís so big in our days. Now on a non musical question, what's the weirdest thing about E double S? Anything crazy about you most people donít know?
Esso: Hahahahahaha. The weirdest thing about me? I listen to a lot of music other than rap. Shit most people wouldn't expect like John Mayer, Joss Stone (and) Corinne Bailey Rae. It can't be all rap all the time. And I got over 50 playlists of instrumentals on my iPod (producers you can send beats to firstname.lastname@example.org Ė shameless self plug, ha) And I lose shit A LOT.
HHDX: Haha. That John Mayer album was classic though. Its good to hear people be so open minded about other types of music. Do you have any personal favorites when it comes to your own music? Or any song that youíve done, that you feel is too personal?
Esso: Out of my own music, I guess my favorites would probably be "I Love My Block" which was one of the first songs I recorded back in 05. Of the newer stuff, most of my favorites haven't really been heard yet. I got a song called "Vices" that's just about all the different vices people fall victim to whether it be alcohol, drugs or women...then "Time" off of ESSObama, which is about all of the different things that are probably all happening at the same time. I try to make music I like that other people can relate to also.
I had one song that I wrote right after Hurricane Katrina that I'll probably never put out, but I sent it to my family down in New Orleans and they really loved it. That one was kind of hard for me because my aunt was stuck in the convention center for a while and my uncle lost his house in the storm. Sometimes songs are just too personal for you to put in the public, but it was definitely one of those.
HHDX: So you do use your music as therapy?
Esso: I think sometimes its too personal, like even though someone else might have dealt with the same thing as my family did during that time, itís kind of hard with something like that because you don't want it to be taken as a publicity stunt or a come up off of someone else's pain. It is therapeutic for me personally because itís a way for me to deal with happened and express how I feel. I think music in general is therapeutic, whether it reminds you of something you went through, or takes you away from what you're going through.
HHDX: I definitely feel that. Do you have any last words?
Esso: First of all thanks to HipHopDX for the opportunity, of course I have to shout Sick and Cipha Sounds for holding me down on the ESSObama mixtape, my manager Ralph/One Of Ours Entertainment, St. Paul my right hand. I could be shouting people out for hours, but I'll just leave it at this: if you've ever shown me love in any way u know u got it right back from me. You could hate, I can't stop you, but why not spend that time doing something more productive? I'm gone...