Behind the Mic with Five Steez

Behind the Mic with Five Steez

Written by Editor

Topics: Behind The Mic, Music, Specials

@PreeJamaica goes Behind The Mic with rapper @FiveSteez. The independent artiste spearheads the Pay Attention live hip hop sessions with the an aim to popularize the genre. Along with partners, Steez operates the Gambling House Recording Studio located in New Kingston. The hip hop MC’s most recent offering is 8-track EP ‘These Kingston Times’.

What is the first track you recorded?
My first recorded track would have been when I was 13 or 14 years old. I remember it being something on the MOP ‘Ante Up’ beat. I recorded it myself… probably in a program called N-Track or it may have been Cool Edit – which I used most of the time in that era. 

Which high school did you attend? Who was your most impactful teacher?
I attended St. George’s College. I had quite a few good teachers but one that probably stood out more than the others was Ms. Anderson, who was the 6th form supervisor. She, unfortunately, passed a few years ago. I had a different relationship with her than I did with other teachers. 

What would you be doing if you were not an artiste?
Something drastic, quite possibly. 

State your stage name. How did you get that name? Were there other names?
Five Steez (@fivesteez). The name was derived from Five Star, which was my previous name. It is also the name of a British pop band and not the most original so I changed it to something people were already calling me – ‘Steez’. It made sense. ‘Steez’ is slang for style and I felt I had multiple styles and approaches… so Five Steez was fitting. 

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Rapper Five Steez

Who has influenced you musically and philosophically?
Musically: My influences vary. As far as hip hop goes, I’m most heavily influenced by Wu-Tang, Dead Prez, Nas, AZ, 2Pac, Black Star, Common, The Roots, Cormega, Big L, Big Pun and Canibus. In terms of dancehall, Supercat – and more recently Aidonia – could be considered influences. I love reggae music, but I’m not sure how it has influenced my style per se, [possibly] the sound of the music as you’ll hear when I ‘rock’ reggae samples or beats with that flavour.

Philosophically: I’m influenced by Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, Karl Marx, Peter Kropotkin, and Mikhail Bakunin. 

What is your favourite genre of music?
Hip hop. Favourite genre, hands down. 

Who are your favourite artistes (international & local), and why?
My favourite artistes include my main hip hop influences… and an artiste like Sade as well. Locally, I tend to feel Junior Gong’s music the most… Stephen Marley’s too. Massy the Creator is another artiste with some amazing music that I love; soon people will be hearing from him. I also love when Kabaka Pyramid ‘goes in’ – spitting straight lyrics. 

Who is your dream collaborator (artiste, producer)?
Dream collaboration… [That] would be with The Roots and Nas, who is one of my current faves that is still making music that I’m feeling to this day. Regarding producers, I would love to work with RZA, DJ Premier, Havoc, Alchemist, and Hi-Tek. 

Being a rapper in the ‘land of reggae’ cannot be easy. How does the average person react to this? Have you ever thought about hanging it up and becoming a deejay?
I’ve been doing this for quite a while now and I’ve found that people have grown to be more receptive over time. Whether it’s because of the changing times, the quality of my music or the accomplishments they’ve noticed. Of course I’ve thought of hanging it up before, but the reasons to continue always outweigh the thoughts to stop. This is what I do. And I’ve come a far way. I wouldn’t be an artiste if it weren’t for hip hop. As much as I loved dancehall while growing up, it never spoke to me the way hip hop did – it never felt like the medium for me. Dancehall is not an option [laughs]. I’m an MC, and I get a lot of respect from all over for being good at my craft. That’s the ultimate satisfaction.

What is your favourite thing to do (not music)? What is your favourite food?
I like reading. I haven’t been doing enough of that lately, but I’m getting back into it. I like ‘rolling up’ and drinking a Dragon Stout. My favourite meal is fish and bammy – I’m a simple man. 

Where is your favourite chill spot and preferred social media?
I hardly go out nowadays. My chill spot is the studio. My favourite social media is Twitter – although lately I don’t tweet as much as I did two years ago. 

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Five Steez in performance.

Which is your favourite track to perform? To recorded?
I’ve never thought of this before. I like performing them all [laughs]. I could say ‘Yard Nigga Rap’, I suppose.  Although it’s not my song, I’ve always loved the energy every time I perform ‘Kingston Invasion’ with TSD and Nomad Carlos. 

Tell us about your best and worst performances experience.
My Best experience was at Pay Attention in January [2014]. It was the first time I was performing and people in the crowd were fully participating – rapping along, and even doing my hooks for me. The show is held inside Club Indulge at South Beach Café, which is a small club so the energy gets intense. The audience clearly had got familiar with my music, because it was a very different reception than I got in August – just 5 months earlier.

My Worst experience was at a show out of town. The promoter didn’t deal with us (artistes) right. The event was poorly promoted so the turnout was bad and it was a huge venue. The show started late. I don’t think the backing band was paid. And they clearly forgot some of my music and just started to improvise during my performance. Even our rehearsals prior to the event were rushed – I figured because of the promoter’s budgetary constraints. It was a bad experience in many ways, but I took many lessons from it.

Describe yourself in one word.
Serious.

What is your latest project? How many tracks?
My latest project is ‘These Kingston Times’, which was digitally released on October 14 [2014]  on outlets such as Bandcamp, iTunes and Spotify. I also have another EP in the works – to be released in 2015. ‘These Kingston Times’ has 8 tracks. The next EP could have the same amount.

Favourite thing you own.
I’m not into material possessions that much, but I value the books I have. Knowledge is power. I like my laptop – it helps me get work done. And I like my microphone ’cause I use it to rap. 

Tell us something that isn’t largely known about you.
If they don’t know, I don’t want them to know. 

Who is your music crew?
I don’t really have a crew. I have my partners in Pay Attention – Nomad Carlos, TSD and Inztinkz. The latter two are also my partners in a studio we operate with Bravo and Massy.

Use one word to describe each crew member?
Nomad Carlos: Comrade
TSD: Wordsmith
Inztinkz: Scientist
Bravo: Perfectionist
Massy: Multi-talented

UNSOLICITED ADVICE: 
To government: Change or die.
To artistes: Stay independent. Control your art. Empower your community.

LIFE MANTRA/FAV QUOTE: “Take life one day at a time, enjoy the present moment”. I guess that’s my mantra and how I try to live.

PERFORMANCE & RECORDING RITUALS: I no longer have rituals [laughs]. I just focus my mind and stay away from alcohol and smoke. I, also, like to run on the treadmill the morning of a performances.

STEEZISM: “Yes, yes”. I say it on the mic sometimes and it’s my general generic greeting that I can use anywhere for anyone in any setting.

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