Many artists and hip hop/rap listeners today often refer to the 90s as the golden age of Hip Hop. Although it was born in the late 70s/early 80s, hip hop grew into a huge culture in the 90s, of which is still influential today. The present state of hip hop and the rap world is a confusing place, where “mainstream” radio largely plays music with desensitized and overly sexualized lyrics, while there is a sea of other artists online and mainstream, trying to break through new barriers. However, this is not a debate between what’s real and what’s not. In my opinion, music is whatever the listener perceives it to be, and artists now more than ever are given the freedom of choice when it comes to the type of music and message he/she wants to create and disseminate.
This week I interviewed Crimdella for our weekly #FridayFeature on #OTDHipHop. Also known under the alias Black ZeusX, Crimdella is an up and coming hip hop artist/rapper from Harlem, NY. He is a known emcee in the NYC area, and recently dropped his self-released EP Bury Me in Gold Vol 1. After playing even just one or two tracks from the project, I was impressed by Crimdella’s rhetoric and delivery. Off the bat, he reminds me of Kendrick Lamar, using fast paced and deeply inserted punchlines and storylines, but is definitely his own artist in his own right. “I enjoy all genres of music, it actually plays into why my new EP is so musical because I love Alanis Morrisette just as much as I love Kendrick or Jay-Z. However, there's just something about hip hop that has been a part of me since a child. I have 5 older brothers, 2 of which heavily schooled me on hip hop and constantly played it around me,” said Crimdella.
I met Crimdella at Team Backpack’s Mission Underground event in Los Angeles in 2015. My girlfriend and I were waiting in line to check in, and Crimdella was doing the same. We didn’t get to talk much, but it was inspiring to see how quickly he reacted to joining street cyphers and talking to other media outlets at the event. Looking more into his work, I found that he is the youngest son of a legendary black activist and community organizer, was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha in college, and consistently blends raw emotional language into poetry. As stated in his artist biography, he’s here to pioneer a movement of honesty, ferocity fraternity, and monumental truth.
A true Harlem native with the proper Harlem attitude and style, Crimdella has developed his own sound and following, often seen at venues all around NYC.
“I grew up mostly in the 90's and 2000's although I was born in the 80's. I think growing up in Harlem back then was a lot tougher than it is now but it influences my music because it just is a part of who I am. I can't help but have a little Harlem swagger. My father's side of the family is from Barbados but he was a firm believer in our roots in Africa and that idea is a big influence on the music I write,” stated the artist.
Most notably, Crimdella has already opened for Nas and Wale, with a reputation for strong live performances. Also, despite having lost his father during the course of creating Bury Me In Gold Vol. 1, the Black God remains humble and relentlessly dedicated to his craft. To date, the project has over 4000 streams collectively via Bandcamp, Spotify, and Apple Music. “It was released September 30, 2016 on the birthday of my deceased father because the project’s title was inspired by him. I came up with it at his funeral. Right now the feedback has been amazing, a lot of people have told me how inspiring it is and how it raises the bar for a lot of artists I know. I love the feedback but I got a lot more work to do,” said Crimdella.
Personally, Crimdella is a representation of next generation hip hop. Although he grew up in a time after the culture and music’s birth, he is able to perpetuate hip hop culture and truth in his own and in the modern era. I really dig his track "Extra" off of Bury Me in Gold Vol. 1, which is the project’s hottest single. The hook is a banger, and the lyrics take me as a listener on a roller coaster ride of different topics. The music video contains an array of historic images especially related to African-American history and culture. “I met my producer MNDCFT back in November 2015 and that was one of the first beats that he sent me. I think I had the verse down by the time I got home and probably the hook as well. Honestly I just let it flow through me, usually it’s a spiritual process. I don't know where it comes from sometimes but ‘Extra’ really was a hard hitting beat and so I wanted the verses to be just as aggressive. I also wanted it to be hype and fun and one thing that I think I did is I wrote the song in a way where it’s just as chaotic and dissonant as the music, I wanted it to match the world that I describe in that song. Funny thing is I rapped that whole song through as well when I recorded it, meaning I didn't stop and fly hook or anything, I just powered through it. I think once you catch a vibe, and you come up with a name for your project and what it should sound like then it becomes easier to create the songs for it,” stated the artist.
Crimdella worked solely with MNDCFT as far as production for Bury Me in Gold Vol. 1, and it was mixed by Peter Lincoln (Extra, On Me, Ambi, Now or Never) and Paco Hanlon of Dirtylife Studios (Militant Milk, GOLD, Welcome To The World, Extra). The project was also mastered by Dan Millice and the cover art is actually an old photo of Crimdella’s father, but with some dope new illustrations done by Brooklish. Check out Crimdella aka BlackZeusX on his official website, and see/hear more of his music via BandCamp andYoutube (as well as music streaming outlets Spotify and Apple Music). Bury Me in Gold Vol. 1 is only the first of many projects that we can expect from this young man, revolutionary fun indeed.
OTDHipHop is an independent music blog and network, curated by Rapper/Blogger Jehzan Exclusive.