Possessing a unique, story-telling voice, the Brooklyn lyricist Thirstin Howl III, delivered his bars on Bernz’s new song ‘Vicious’. The two have distinct vocal styles, yet they combine seamlessly on a hard hitting, gritty beat. We got to know the emcee and founder of the Lo-Life movement in this exclusive interview.
You’re out in Brooklyn, right?
I live in Miami, but I’m originally from Brownsville Brooklyn.
So is that how you got hooked up with Bernz, being in Miami then?
Yeah, I met Bernz and the rest of ¡MAYDAY! through some friends.
Oh that’s awesome. So, what’s the music scene like when you compare Brooklyn to Miami? I know they’ve got two different vibes going on there, but whats your take on the two cities?
Two different worlds. I mean, its crazy to describe it. Brooklyn is hard, grimey, gritty, and rap is everywhere. Miami, you basically have to seek it out, you have to find it. You know? Its not as common as people would think, unless you know the people who are actually doing it.
The cities have different crowds, different everything. In Brooklyn I walk out of my house, I can smell hip hop in the air, I can see it. In Miami, you can see a palm tree and a coconut. You know? I actually see people, living it, its amazing because at least it exists.
I was just in Brooklyn a couple months ago, its an amazing place for music, an amazing scene.
Yeah the vibe there is like real energy.
That track you had with Bernz, ‘Vicious’ – he just released it, and everyone’s been super responsive to it. I’m a huge fan of it.
It sounds like you guys flow really well over it together, you both have different styles but it definitely meshes together really well. What kind of creative freedom did you have in your verse? Did Bernz already have the song laid out or how did he approach it?
Bernz had it laid out and I just had to follow his format so he set the pace and I followed his vision successfully, so it was pretty easy for me to do. All I had to do is put my lyrics together and make it happen.
Definitely. Just switching gears for a minute here, I just wanna talk about your Lo-Life movement. It’s been gaining a lot of traction, I saw it was on CNN‘s Fresh Dressed film, essentially just chronicling the history of fashion and hip hop, What do you see, or how would you describe fashion in your career? What kind of role has that played versus your music, or are they tied together?
I mean, it’s tied together for the entirety of hip hop. Fashion was always a big part of the entire movement of hip hop. It was just never broadcasted that way. From the beginning it went hand in hand with all the artists and what they were doing, from the graffiti writers, to the break dancers, to the rappers. It one-hundred percent always went hand in hand, but never was really emphasized like that. People never really spoke on it or sold the importance of it but it was always there; it always existed. It was always the fifth element without ever being said. Everybody had a style in fashion with what they were doing.
During the time when you were starting out that movement, the Lo-Life movement that is, was it your intention to start a trend or did the style you guys were wearing just catch on naturally?
We were just living our lives, being ourselves. I had no idea I was going to be an entertainer, I had no idea they would spread across the globe, those were never the intentions. We were just living life, we were more than anything trying to shit on the rest of New York who thought they were fly so we were making sure we were stepping out to be extra fly. And getting girls, that was one of the main focuses of being so fly. The girls loved it.
How did you come to choose the style of brands like Polo Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, versus something else?
It was an evolution of the brands, because there were many brands we touched before that. The styles of fashion and hip hop evolved from the sheep skins, to Kangol, and Adidas shoes. We were first doing all of the brands; Izod, Lacoste, Benatar, so it all started to evolve into what the Polo became. Polo really took the title because they were more consistent. They were bringing out more logos, more styles, bigger symbols, and things like that.
So, it evolved from everything that was already happening in New York City as far as style and fashion for hip hop. Before Hilfiger and Polo, Benetar was the really big one really. Izod and Lacoste styles were in so it was just the evolution of what we were wearing. Polo started giving you more variety, more colors, more styles; they became seasonal. I don’t remember a lot of brands being seasonal before. With every spring, they had a new line, every fall they had a new line. You didn’t see that much back then. Polo kind of introduced a lot of that, at least in my eyes.
How did the of this movement or project come about? How did you get the idea of the photo book?
We’ve been working on several projects for many years, several books and other things like that. All of the articles that were coming out in different magazines, from the Source, the Vibe, everything was basically pieces of my book that I was writing already. So, when people would need me I would just submit my writing and my photos. That’s how all of this came about. Tom Gould, who is one of the authors of the book with me, hollered at me. We got together and he took the new photos of the new generations and what we were currently doing. I supplied the vintage photos along with contributing most of the writing and involving other writers from Lo-Lives who could tell the history. Overall, it is a well put together piece that explains a lot.
It was never my intention for any of that. We were just living life and being who we are. Even me documenting all the footage and photographs happened unintentionally man. When I started actually doing some of the magazine articles where they printed my writings and photographs, is when I knew what I was on to and then I started archiving shit purposely. My archives right now are ridiculous. This book is not even a fraction of what I am sitting on.
I was just looking at some of the collaborations you have done over your career. They span across everyone, from Eminem, to Cypress Hill, Meyhem Lauren, just to name a few. Has there been a collaboration that has stuck out to you as one of your favorites, or one that just felt very natural and genuine to you?
Wow, mainly Shawn Price, Cypress Hill, Eminem, Old Dirty Bastard, anybody who I was a fan of. I am a fan first of the music. When I’m a fan and am able to collaborate with people that I respect and whose music I admired, it’s always big to me. There are so many, it is a very very long list. So I salute everyone. My catalog is extensive. I’ve got a new album coming up where I have a collaboration with Sticky Fingers, Prodigy from Mark Dee. It was real classical but it is going to really fuck people’s heads up.
Do you have a timeline for that?
I think next year because I have so much right now. I was supposed to release it this year but with the book coming out I am going to release a mixtape with that. I have other projects that I have also been sitting on. I did a project with the 2 Live Crew out in Miami. I am just waiting to see what actually happens from all the other things I am doing and I am trying to find the best situation and wait to put out that next album, which is called the Skillmatic Album.
It speaks volumes to your character as an artist that when you make your collaborations, you’re not necessarily out to seek just a hit song or something that’s just going to sound good. You are actually in it because you respect and support that artist as well, I think that just speaks volumes to your character.
I mean, I love it man. If I didn’t love it I wouldn’t be in it as long as I have. I never got in this to make money, I got in this for the respect, I wanted to be respected for my craft. That was always my first intention. I believe that any true successful artist that has stood the test of time, that’s how they are supposed to be, that is how they are supposed to feel about their music.
I do a lot of recordings for money and things like that. I am very well rounded and versatile to do anything that has to be done so I try to cover every aspect of what I am doing. I have to make money and there’s times that I do songs with people whose music I might not even like, but I understand this is a business as well. So I am able to cover all that ground without really looking back, continuing to move forward and then collaborate with people that I respect, like this Bernz project, the stuff I did with Wrekonzie and on the ¡MAYDAY! mix tapes. It has been this issue to everybody when we work together because it goes back to the same thing: everybody is doing it first and foremost because they love it.
Do you have anything else you wanna say about that track, Vicious, you are on with Bernz or anything you just wanna get out there?
I wish success to Bernz. Like I said, he laid out the platform for me to follow, you know I respect that as well, makes my job easy sometimes. Good luck with the whole project, the whole album and I would like to thank him for making me a part of it. Thanks to EFN, for including me on the project. I believe I was included because they respect my work and that is all I ever really want. I am sure we will be doing a lot more.
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