Heartfelt subject matter seems to be a consistent theme with Cincinnati, Ohio emcee Easy Lantana. He’ll openly tell listeners lessons he’s learned during a four-year prison stint, vivid memories of his grandfather and his hopes to ascend within the Rap game. After Lantana’s roughly two-minute freestyle on Sway In The Morning in October of 2013, an impressed Sway Calloway issued the following warning to potential guests of the show hoping to follow Lantana:
“You motherfuckin’ wack rappers! Don’t ever come up here again if you don’t come prepared.”
Lantana says the secret to his freestyle prowess and connecting to listeners on an intimately personal level is a byproduct of both not over-thinking his lyrics and pouring his heart out in the booth. As a result he’s found himself on 106 & Park, ThisIs50.com and Street Sweeper Radio.
With a new EP on the way and what he calls “the whole city” of Cincinnati on his back, Easy Lantana reveals his early influences, how he increased his visibility and why fans are more likely to get him to open up in front of a microphone than a journalist’s tape recorder.
Easy Lantana Compares Improvised Freestyles Versus Written Rhymes
HipHopDX: You’ve appeared on both ThisIs50.com and Sway In The Morning specifically off the strength of your freestyles. How do you approach freestyling on these various shows?
Easy Lantana: Man, when I come at it, I like to pour my heart out with it. It’s just whatever thoughts I have at the time. I try not to over-think it and just go in for real. You can over-think it by trying to say the craziest thing, but you’ve really just got to say what’s on your mind. Everybody’s got their technique, but most of my stuff is just true to me…something that’s just real.
DX: Do you have a preference between pre-written material and going off the dome?
Easy Lantana: Nah. I was locked up for four years, so I used to have a whole lot of verses that I would write or put down. Sometimes, I’ll rap those and sometimes I’ll freestyle. To me, it ain’t really no difference. If somebody says a live 16, and they wrote it—or even if they didn’t write it—it’s still live, and it don’t really make a difference to me. Some people are really particular about that freestyling shit, but I think if it’s live, it’s live.
DX: Right, because some people do prefer one method over the other…
Easy Lantana: I guess that goes back to the pure Hip Hop type of thing. I understand it’s a new day. And a lot of rappers, you think they’re freestyling, but it’ll be a verse that they had written already.
DX: You mentioned having verses in your head while you were serving your four years. How did you hone your craft in that environment?
Easy Lantana: I mean, you know...shit, that’s when that memory bank…just having a mirror to practice in. I’m so repetitive with it. Once I come up with something, I just repeat it over and over and over. It just gets in your head.
DX: It’s interesting that on All Hustle, No Luck you had songs like “Get Me Rich,” which is self-explanatory, but you also have “Money Don’t Make Me.” What’s the balance between those as far as getting it but not being a slave to the money?
Easy Lantana: The reality of the world is if you want nice things, you gotta have money. Of course, I want money. But I’m not gonna compromise who I am for it. You can’t buy me. The money is just... With or without money, you gonna respect me. Of course, I wanna get rich. I wanna buy nice things—buy my momma a house. I want a fire red Ferrari. I want all of that shit. But that don’t make me. You take that money from me, and I still am who I am. I know people with money who feel and live a certain way, but as soon as that money gone, they don’t know how to function. They don’t know what to do. Certain people say money runs everything in this world. Money is important, but it ain’t everything.
Why Easy Lantana Reveals More Via Rhymes Than In Interviews
DX: You get personal on different tracks on the tape. On “Make It Real” you talk about your grandfather. You also talk about some of your own struggles in the title track “All Hustle, No Luck.” What makes you feel comfortable revealing personal details to listeners?
Easy Lantana: You know that’s just my style. What’s crazy is, I’m a private person. But at the same time, when it come to music, you can express yourself and say certain thoughts you wouldn’t say in a conversation. You may not have someone like that you feel like saying it to. But in music, I feel like that’s the type of shit that sticks with people. If you hear me say stuff about my granddad or certain stuff I’ve dealt with, it may be something you’ve dealt with before...that relatable type of music. I like to say things about what I’m going through, because somebody might be going through it too.
DX: So what do you think is the difference as far as how they relate to it if you’re saying these things on a song versus an interview?
Easy Lantana: Music just has a certain hold on people. If you make good music or their type of music, it’s a different allure. It’s a different pull towards it than an interview. You may love how I speak if I’m telling you it, but with that music—that beat, that instrumental—when you pour your heart on it, it’s just something that’ll stick. Music is special. You can be feeling a certain type of way, and you might hear a song and feel better.
DX: You’ve talked about having the kids from your old courtyard in your video, and staying loyal by doing features with guys who have been with you from day one. How much responsibility do you feel you have to be a platform those people you represent?
Easy Lantana: Man, I ain’t gone lie, I feel like my whole city is behind my back. It’s a responsibility, ‘cause they look to me to really get us there. We ain’t been there and we wanna be there, so they looking at me every time they see me doing something, and they proud of it. I’m giving them something to be proud of, like, “Yeah, I’m from Cincinnati.” I take it as a responsibility to make my home happy. It is what it is.
DX: How much do you think they look up to you like you might look up to a Bun B or someone else when you were on the come up?
Easy Lantana: I’m just getting started, but it’s something amazing. I be going to public schools and pep rallies to speak to kids in school. When they look at me, they’ll tell me they saw me on TV or heard me on the radio. When they see me, they happy. I can’t go outside without somebody just happy to see somebody doing something from up out of here man, ‘cause in Cincinnati, it’s hard to make it. They just proud to have somebody respectable in the limelight. I really just wanna push our whole city forward; I want other artists to get on. I take it very serious since it’s my home town.
Easy Lantana Reveals Plans For A New EP
DX: How long did it take you to get used to that, as far as being out in public and people just coming up to you?
Easy Lantana: I don’t know...it’s crazy, man. To come from just being locked up and all that, and then a year or two later to have little kids running up to you to show you love, it took me a second to kind of get used to it. But I just appreciate it so much. Just the fact that you could have somebody run up to you at the mall, it’s crazy. I fuck with it though.
DX: What would you say is the biggest difference from then with All Hustle, No Luck and now with Live From Lantana?
Easy Lantana: I actually dropped the Live From Lantana mixtape with about 15 original songs on there. Go check that out if you haven’t yet. It’s definitely a better body of work. I got a lot of new music, and I just put it out when I want to. But I’m working on an EP right now. It’s just the growth in my music and my sound. As far as the topics and shit, I really be putting time in to put thought into my music. I want mine to stand the test time.
DX: In a few interviews, you talk about the importance of hustling and getting out there. What were some of the specific things you did to establish yourself?
Easy Lantana: Man, just really just doing free shows, giving out CDs for free, taking pictures, getting on Twitter and Facebook and all that. I was just being consistent, waking up everyday on the same shit. You just gotta keep pushing for the opportunities and planning for your next move all the time.
DX: In this Digital Age, a lot of people would just be content to upload their single, and put it on Twitter…
Easy Lantana: Yeah, man. I don’t care how good you think your song is, you can’t just upload it to YouTube and think it’s on. It don’t work that way. You might get lucky, and it might work, but a lot of people think this music shit is easy though. Nah bro, you gotta be down for this shit.
DX: Talk about the song “The Boat,” and maybe the influence of Cash Money Records. I kinda picked up on some Mannie Fresh in the beat if I’m not mistaken.
Easy Lantana: Yeah, I was in love with the Cash Money era, what they used to do with their beats and how they used to... That shit was just so raw. So I got in the studio with Dubb, Fly and Mike. Them my guys for real, and I respect all of their talents, so we just put it together. It came out how it came out, and that shit hot.
DX: You said you’re in the studio working on a new an EP. When does it drop and what can people expect?
Easy Lantana: You can expect that raw feeling, man...that motivational type of music. I been playing it in the car, and just thinking how it’s really gonna push my whole brand and that Cincinnati sound. I’m showing people that there’s a different side too. All music don’t gotta be turn up music, but at the same time, you don’t have to be Talib Kweli with it. I wanna bring that authentic music back, that old Scarface, Trick Daddy and Cash Money. Those people were just original type of people.