Five Steez

FIVE STEEZ: Interview With Jamaican Hip Hop Emcee

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Five Steez is among not so many Jamaican Hip Hop artists who are keeping Hip Hop alive in that part of the world. His music is being appreciated in different parts of the world. Steez is an independent artist on the path to accomplishment and he proudly expresses himself as so, a hardworking artist. He recently put out ‘Work’ a song he expresses his efforts in building a legacy and focusing on growth.

Steez is currently working with his long-time partner and producer Mordecai on a new LP which is due out soon next year to be precise.

Afroway caught up with the artist in an informative interview about the state of Hip Hop in Jamaica, his musical growth and achievements, and of course the upcoming project.

Afroway: Hey Five Steez, what’s good?

Five Steez: All is well. I’m happy to be chatting with you. I’m very grateful for the support as well.

Afroway: Let’s dive into this now, tell us about Five Steez…

Five Steez: Five Steez is an independent Hip Hop artist hailing from Kingston, Jamaica. I’ve been around for some time now with multiple releases stemming from 2010, namely the Momentum mixtape series with DJ Ready Cee and my original projects, War for Peace, These Kingston Times and HeatRockz. I think of myself as new school boom-bap… true school, rather… with my own twist on things… sometimes, it’s a Jamaican sound or slang, but moreso, a Jamaican perspective and reality that you’ve never gotten before in Hip Hop.

Afroway: What is the state of Hip Hop in Kingston or Jamaica for that matter?

Five Steez: The culture is very much underground in Jamaica. American Hip Hop music is popular, like all other pop music, but the local scene lacks the infrastructure and, by extension, the support that Dancehall and Reggae gets. There are many Hip Hop artists and producers but few opportunities. Some of us have been making a name for ourselves and there are crews in Kingston, Portmore, Spanish Town, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, just to name a few sections of the island. Hip Hop artists are pretty much all over. There are breakdancers here in Kingston as well as Ocho Rios. There is not much graffiti… we have other forms of street art though, dancehall posters etc… things that are not really tied to Hip Hop culture. There is also a small community of DJs and turntablists I became more exposed to sometime last year. Because there are not many outlets, the scene is still somewhat scattered and located in different pockets.

Between 2012 and 2015, myself and my partners in The Council staged a regular Hip Hop event called Pay Attention and that brought a good amount of media coverage and general awareness about the local movement for a while. It was a party and artist showcase and many of the most respected acts touched the stage at some point. Since then, I think the energy and vibe of the entire scene has somewhat tapered off, but I’m watching to see what the younger generation does. I’m in my early 30s and I’ve been on the scene for over a decade as a performer. I want to see what the teenagers and 20-sumn year olds do with it… many are into the trap vibe, which is expected, but I have my ear out for the MCs.

Afroway: How is it like being one of the key artists in the Jamaican independent Hip Hop scene?

Five Steez: It’s an honour and a great source of pride, but it’s also a huge responsibility and a burden at times. It’s also very humbling. It’s something that would give a lot of people a huge ego, but I’m aware of how far I still need to go and how much people expect me to succeed or look to me for guidance, hope or inspiration. In many ways, I’ve put on for the scene, by simply talking about the movement, helping other artists, and, most definitely, staging Pay Attention… that was us coming out of pocket and putting on a show for the entire community… time and time again. And we never made any money out of that lol… we definitely created a buzz, made a lot of connections, gained respect and cultural capital. But it was a burden. You pay the cost to be the boss.

Afroway: How would you describe your music; that is in your own definition?

Five Steez: Real music from the soul. That’s what it is. If it’s not that, it’s just me rhyming and having fun. But my music is always a reflection of my self, my life and my surroundings.

Afroway: Your latest release “True Original’ is one wicked track, and a great teaser of what to expect from the next project, what inspired this production?

Five Steez: I don’t know what Mordecai was thinking when he did this beat but I know when I heard it, I just felt to speak my mind with where my head was at at that specific point in time. So that’s exactly how I started my verse. I usually let the beat tell me what to do, where to go, what to say… I just zone out to beats and wait for something that feels right before I begin. So I would say the beat itself inspired the lyrics and the outcome of it all.

Afroway: Tell us about your music journey with The Council…

Five Steez: It’s been a long journey with The Council. While this name is only a few years old, we’ve all been linking musically for a little over a decade since we met at Gambling House Recording Studio circa 2004/5. That was the Mecca for local Hip Hop since then up until a few months ago when the property was sold. It went through different stages but in the last four years, it was The Council and a few other collaborators of ours that took over the studio and began doing our music there. There is even more history to The Council though as I’ve known Nomad Carlos since the seventh grade and we came up in a rap group together. It’s a similar story with Inztinkz and TSD… they both are high school friends and were also in a rap group together. So The Council, in a way, was a merger of two groups, or the remnants of them lol

Afroway: ahaha ‘Nothing Else Matters’, a great project you guys did, how was this project brought to life? Tell us a bit about what went into the creating of this project

Five Steez: The project was years in the making, given the history we have as friends, collaborators and event partners. Inztinkz is the mastermind behind the sound as he is the crew’s producer. He had the vision for the sound and he provided the beats. We pretty much wrote to what we felt… we would feed off each other’s energy… usually one of us would have a verse and/or a chorus or an idea for a song and we would just flow from there. Nomad Carlos actually lives in New York now, so some of his verses were sent to us… others he was able to record when he was here. We know each other for a long time and we communicate very often, sometimes daily, so the chemistry is always there in the music.

Afroway: You and Mordecai are getting back together for yet another project, to be released around 3 years after ‘HeatRockz’, tell us about your vision for this project…

Five Steez: I hope for this album to connect in a deeper and more meaningful way than all of my previous music. I’ve always had songs that are introspective, but I’ve gone more into that zone, with some inspiration and motivation added. This project is my most personal and honest thus far. It really is my story and I envision people relating to it and even seeing themselves through me. I want people to feel some happiness and hope after listening to it. I would, of course, love to see people buying and streaming the music and for it to gain critical acclaim and take me to a whole new level.

Afroway: What kind of inspirations should your fans expect from the 2019 release?

Five Steez: This album, Love N Art, should inspire people to want to live their best life… that’s the new talk, I realize… to pursue their dreams and seek happiness, peace and love above all.

Afroway: Do you listen to African Hip Hop music? Where would you place African Hip Hop?

Five Steez: African Hip Hop is right up there with Hip Hop from the US and any other territory. I’ve been exposed to Hip Hop all over the world so I know this as a fact. I don’t necessarily follow any specific country’s scene, but through collaborations, I have connected with a number of African acts and I’m definitely up on what they’re doing. Trabolee, Phlow, Modenine, The Assembly, Wakazi, Third Eye and Holstar are just some of them that I like.

Afroway: You’ve worked with the likes of Trabolee from Kenya, which other African act have you worked with and how has that influenced you as an artist?

Five Steez: I was featured on a global collaboration orchestrated by Awkword called I Am. It featured Modenine, Maka, The Assembly, Wakazi, Third Eye and Holstar. That’s Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia on one track. I’ve even done work with the label Nomadic Wax and was featured on a track called Super MC V2 that included Emile YX? and Mr. Riz out of South Africa, Incyt from Malawi, Babaluku out of Uganda, and Shokanti out of Cape Verde. Some of the acts from I Am were also featured.

I can’t say these collaborations have influenced me much as an artist… they were pretty much me sending my verses after a few conversations… it wasn’t like we’ve been in the studio together. But doing these collabs have made me aware of not only how global Hip Hop is but how strong it is in Africa. I have fans in Africa… blogs that support me… stations that play the music… I give thanks for that. And I’m in touch with some of these acts I’ve mentioned… I’m sure more collabs will happen in time. Maybe then there’ll be more of an influence… hopefully, I get to the continent and hit the studio!

Afroway: Are you a sample production based guy or not?

Five Steez: I tend to rock beats with samples. I like that sound and my kind of Hip Hop lends itself to that. But I’m open to all kinds of beats, I just have to feel then.

Afroway: Name an African artist you’d definitely sample in any way, or at any time…

Five Steez: I hope this is not cliché, but Fela Kuti for sure. Maybe Lucky Dube. I usually think of sampling older music. I’m being exposed to a lot of afrobeat lately… from all over the continent. There’s a local afrobeat event out here called Sankofa Sessions and the promoter Iset Sankofa… she studies the sounds of the different countries and gives these lessons while playing older afrobeat up to the modern stuff. I could see myself sampling some of those older sounds.

Afroway: Entrepreneurship comes as part Hip Hop, as an artist, what else are you involved in?

Five Steez: Well, I’m an independent artist. So I’m not just an artist. I am the manager and the label. I am the business lol. I also help to stage an event called The Apollo Series with my partner Simon the Writer. It’s a part showcase, part open stage. We’ve been doing it since January and this month will have our fourth staging. It’s a small intimate vibe with 200-300 people packed at a open air, rustic bar and restaurant. We intend to turn it into a bigger event next year, maybe with other related events as well.


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