Aloha and welcome back #OTDHipHop supporters, artists, fans, etc. As usual, I’m writing this in between shifts at my full-time job, performing on the weekends, and taking care of things at home. Such is life as a young professional trynna make a name out here. But I can’t complain. Being a blogger for my favorite musical genre is the shit, especially because I get to meet and talk with some of the most inspiring, up and coming names in the underground hip hop scene. This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Hip Hop Artist/Rapper Watzreal, and conversed about his brand’s growth over the past year and his insight on being a DIY artist.
Born and raised in Berkeley, Watzreal is a 27-year-old artist, rapper, entrepreneur, and community activist from the Bay Area, CA. “The Bay gives you exposure to a lot of different cultures that most parts of the world are never exposed to. The diversity allows you to have more empathy for different walks of life, and a more mature understanding on the world at large which is evident in my music,” said Watzreal. A growing icon in his local music community and coined “one of the hardest working emcees in the Bay,” Watzreal got his start in music as a teenager through Beats Rhymes and Life, a nonprofit that uses Hip Hop as therapy. He then became part of the Return of the Cypher series, which acted as the foundation of his music career.
Like many DIY artists, Watzreal’s grind never stops. He’s constantly writing and recording new material, networking, and selling merchandise such as t-shirts, hats, stickers, etc to help fund his musical efforts, especially with touring. In 2015, Watzreal founded his own hip hop platform called “Watz Local,” focused around Bay Area talent. In doing so, he was able to get to know his local music community, promoters, and artists. Coupled with growing popularity from his first single, “New Bay,” which was released in late 2015, Watzreal remained a consistent performer and was offered his first touring opportunity in January 2016. “Since then, I’ve hit the ground running,” stated the artist. Heavily involved as a community activist, he also works as a Teaching Artist/Clinician.
See more of our interview below:
OTDHipHop: How did you get into booking shows and touring?
Watzreal: When I was releasing my first album, I ended up booking one of its first shows at the Honey Hove through Daniel Berliner. So many people told me I did such a good job running the show that I thought, "if I'm good at this, I should keep doing this." It also ensured I was constantly performing, and before that point, booking myself a show was spotty at best.
From that point on I learned a lot about networking and things naturally fell into place. And once me and Johnny Ventti agreed that I would have a monthly at his venue in San Francisco, "The Showdown," I stated meeting a lot of artists and promoters. I went from performing about 4 times in all of 2014, to performing 8 shows in Dec 2015 alone.
OTDHipHop: You’ve opened for big name and underground artists. How does it feel?
Watzreal: I got to open for one of my favorite local artists like Richie Cunning, Z-man, & Equipto & open for icons like Anderson .Paac, Warren G, Big Daddy Kane, and tour with underground hip hop legends like Chino XL & Afu-Ra and learn so much from them on the road. But honestly some of my favorite tours have been with great artists and great friends like Oscar Goldman, Unlearn The World, J-Scribe, Frank Vencci, Nick Ramsey, Baby Gzus, Snap Murphy, Z-man, Vocab Slick, DJ True Justice, DJ Too Tough, DJ 001, DJ Eyeball, Notiz Yong & MC Lyfe.
OTDHipHop: You're a great example of a DIY artist. Artists like G-Eazy who is also from the Bay has stated that DIY mentality is part of the Bay area's culture. Seeing your videos and social media, you definitely reap what you so. What is it like marketing your own brand?
Watzreal: It's funny you say that because I went to highschool with G-Eazy and it was literally his success that motivated me. I was having doubts about my music career and when I heard him on the radio is when I decided to give this my all.
I will state that's it's tough and it's not for everyone. My advice is to buy in small quantities for 2 reasons. 1 is you want to to test out the quality of the product. 2 is you want to test out how fast the product moves, in what areas is it selling in and to what demographics.
As most of us are DIY artists, we constantly have to wear many hats. A lot of people see this as intimidating, and artists become complacent. I see it as a challenge to myself to see if I have what it takes to make in music industry, because I know to make in this industry, everyone has to work harder than ever thought was possible.
For more on Watzreal, visit www.watzreal.com/
OTDHipHop is an independent music blog and network, curated by Rapper/Blogger Jehzan Exclusive.