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/
CREATIVE HUSTLE TOUR 2017 SCHEDULE
A Word from Jehzan:
Often, when people think of New York City, they think of popular streets and monuments. But there is a deeper culture within NYC's streets, especially as an iconic place in hip hop culture and what it means to hip hop history and rap music. New York is home to unfiltered expression, whether it’s the city’s fast-paced lifestyle or attitude, New Yorkers dare to be bold and different; of which hip hop culture and music has contributed to. With that said, this week’s #FridayFeature artist on #OTDHipHop is New York-based - RaSTATiiic. While he is still at the early stages of his music journey, this young man is serious about accomplishing his goals, and offers an alternative message in his music. In his name alone, there are multiple elements of his identity that make up RaSTATiiic - the hip hop artist, rapper, and creative mind.
A few weeks ago, I was approached on Twitter by RaSTATiiic himself, regarding promotions on this blog. I checked out some of his material and digged his “Hype” remix, and figured I feature him on my platform. My first question was “what kind of name is that, and what does it mean?” Known as “STAT,” for short, RaSTATiiic is only 19 years old and has been recording and performing on his own for about 2 years. Although he was born in Atlanta, GA, he always had close ties to family and friends in Brooklyn, NY. He currently resides in Newburgh, about an hour from NYC’s main metropolitan area. The rapper stated, “I named myself RaSTATiiic because ‘Ra’ is short for (Ra)madan (RAMADAN is my birth name). The STATiiiC part relates to electricity.” STAT went on to mention how he experienced multiple seizure-like attacks about year or so ago, with seemingly no explanation. He stated that the seizures felt like he was getting tazed or electrocuted; but after, he felt more enlightened like he started to have deeper senses and intuition, what he calls “woke.” For that reason, he added 3 “i’s” to his name, and thus RaSTATiiic was born.
#STATiiiCMADNESS Vol. 1 (hosted by @CaptainChardo) is the rapper’s most recently released project. The project’s most popular single is the “Hype” remix, with over 5000 plays on Soundcloud, and even more via other music outlets (Bandcamp, Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, etc). If there was a way I could describe his sound, it would be a mix between Kid Cudi’s enlightened flows about the universe and Schoolboy Q’s raw edge and catchy vocals. I think this unique mix is best showcased on my personal favorite off the project -
“Call Us The Plug” (Prod. by Tig). STAT’s major goal is to make a living off of his music but also seeks to delve into fashion, with hopes of developing a global brand. However, this artist understands that he still has a lot to learn. While the equipment and skills continue to develop, STAT remains self-sufficient in taking time with the different elements of a project, including directing and editing his own videos.
STAT currently has a solid local fan base from his town of Newburgh, but does a lot of work in Brooklyn and around the city. His Twitter account has over 2000 followers, and he hopes to increase it even more as he continues making music, videos, and other projects. Being near a major city like NYC, it might seem that opportunities are more easier to come by, because of all the creative energy around the area. But he mentioned some frustration on trying to “come up” in his local scene. “Often times, when there’s slots for local openers for major artists, it’s the same artists week after week,” said STAT. However, anything can happen in time, with the right work ethic and sense of direction, which is what the rapper believes as well. If anything, I think STAT’s biggest asset is his belief in himself. “I'm a leader and one of my goals is to turn a lot of the modern day followers into themselves and become their own person, and make them feel comfortable being themselves so we can make more leaders. But at the same time, it's ok to be a follower as long as you are following the right people,” said STAT.
At the end of the day, STAT believes he has what it takes to make it, and that’s all a true artist’s ultimately needs. He definitely has the creative ability and pays attention to other aspects of his projects, like photography and videography. His rhymes can take the listener on a trip to space with all his different theories and analysis; in time, it’ll be interesting to see how he further develops his artistic and entrepreneurial skills. Straight outta NYC...For more info on RaSTATiiic, visit his official website, follow him on Facebook, or Soundcloud.
OTDHipHop is an independent music blog and network, curated by Rapper/Blogger Jehzan Exclusive.