It’s been a long road, but Wrekonize is finally on shelves nationwide with his album The War Within.
We talked to the veteran emcee that started out as one of the most well-respected rappers in the battle circuit to get his thoughts on the album, why he feels like it’s his true debut, the overwhelming reception to The War Within and what it feels like to finally have a record get the push it deserves.
Is there anything that you’re not doing right now? What are you not doing?
Oh man. Yeah, I don’t know. The first six months of this year really felt like we locked ourselves in the dungeon and just started to prep for what would be a slam-packed rest of the year and it was incredibly stressful but it’s fun now because it feels like all these baby seeds that we planted at the beginning of the year are starting to bloom. Yeah, I don’t know. What I’m not doing is probably sleeping enough.
You released A Soiree For Skeptics awhile back, but would you consider The War Within your debut album?
To me it feels like it. The reason why I say that is because Soiree was put together with a collection of records that I had already that I was sitting on from working with ¡MAYDAY! in the beginning. I had done some tracks with Plex before I joined MAYDAY and these were records I was just messing around with when I was getting out of my last deal. I kind of strung them together with a couple of new joints and put it together and crafted an album out of it, but I didn’t like sit down from start to finish thinking it was going to be an album. Some of those tracks are just brought together whereas The War Within, we talked about it and it was conceptualized from start to finish just like “This is all going to be for The War Within,” excluding maybe one or two tracks.
It just felt to me more like I was putting together the album and on top of that now having a push with and it being promoted through the street teams and in stores, it makes it feel like my first official album to me.
The album is out and your face is at Best Buys everywhere, it’s on street corners all over the nation, how does that feel?
It’s cool except for when a poster falls on the ground and somebody steps on it, that kind of feels a little weird. It feels like when a voodoo doll gets poked by a needle. I’m just like “Oh shit! You stepped on my nose! Dude, like what the fuck?”
They say in marketing “You have to be on your own album cover” and it helps because when they put the promo everywhere your picture gets spread around and you start to realize who you are but that wasn’t really the intention it was just the artwork and how me and Decal came up with the concept for it. It’s a dope feeling.
To have a project pushed like this and in stores and it being so tangible, what’s it like to have this team behind you and to have that push?
It’s super-dope man. It’s definitely one of the best moments in my life to date in terms of my career because I’ve worked so long in the game. Anybody that knows my trajectory and my backstory knows that I’ve been making music forever so there’s weird moments where I’m in this “new artist” category or “here’s his debut album!” or like “That’s weird, I’ve been rocking with this dude for eight years!”
What’s good about how long I’ve been in the game is, it makes you appreciate what’s going on now. When I meet these street teamers at the show “I can’t even put into words how appreciative I am of what you’re doing for my project” and then everybody always comes back with the same response “Oh it’s just my job. It’s just what I’m doing. I rock with Strange all day. I’m on the street team!” I’m totally all about that but I have to put into words and express to them how it makes me feel because I’ve been working so long to get to this point. To have the support that I’m getting through Strange for a solo project is beautiful. It really moves me to near tears. The dope thing about having it happen after so many years is that you really appreciate every single nuance of how professional the promotions on this project are.
What has the response been like from the fans and fellow artists about this album?
It’s been really good! Right before the album came out I had a few conversations with Dave Weiner and Trav and some people that I was playing the album to and there were moments where I was nervous about “Damn, did I put too many different styles of music in this?” It’s a very diverse selection of music and there’s a lot of different genres and styles involved in the album and I was in a position a couple of times where I started to feel like “Man, did I go the right direction? Was I too sparse and all over the place?” but to me it just felt natural. I like a lot of different styles of music and I feel like my tool belt is very diverse so it just felt very natural to do that and so far the response has been very good which has been very settling because everyone seems to really enjoy the album.
Now I’m in that place where I was when we did Take Me To Your Leader where I’m like “Oh man I haven’t read too many negative things about the album, I guess not enough people have heard it yet.” Because you know, there’s gotta be some people out there who don’t like the album so now I gotta go on that hunt because so far it’s been good.
Do you have any favorite songs on the album?
A couple of people on Twitter have been asking me that. Since I’ve been working on the album for like six months I’ve gone through phases when I did have favorites at the time. First “We Got Soul”. To me “We Got Soul” was one of my favorites because the beat was the perfect combination of things that I love in hip hop music and was just able to go very autobiographical on it. Then I had another phase where “Can’t Be Alone”. I loved the beat I like the way the concept came up and there was that switch up at the end of the track which I really enjoyed doing. So that’s another highlight for me. Right when I got the album back and mixed and mastered, “Paper Trails” was one for me that was one that stood out and I wanted to ride out.
“Paper Trails” and “Can’t Be Alone” touch on social networking and how it has changed our psychology and behavior in society. As an artist you want to attain a certain notoriety because that sheds light on your art which sheds light on your celebrity which sheds light on your art and so on, but how do you feel about attention that you get when you’re just out and about and where is the line drawn for you?
When we’re out and about and we’re on tour it’s not really too strange because it’s a personal connection and you’re in the room with somebody and able to reach out and shake that person’s hand and they tell you how they feel about the music and that seems very natural. Then there’s the online moments which can be weird sometimes, where you have online friendships with some people, there are people on Twitter that I’ve never even met, but I know part of their life story because we talk on Twitter. Those are where it feels strange because of where we’re at with social networking. We’re able to build these relationships with people that we’ve never even seen face to face and that’s always a trip. They’ll come out to a show and I’ll meet that person at a show and I’m like “Damn, I’ve been talking to you for like three years now and this is the first time we’ve ever seen each other in person!” It’s a weird phenomenon having grown up in the dawn of the internet age.
What’s some of the weirdest shit that you’ve experienced with social media?
Definitely in the last year I’ve experienced people digging up old, old music of mine that I was like “Damn I don’t even remember putting that anywhere near the internet” and people finding it and putting it up on YouTube of like the first project I ever recorded when I was in high school and I’m like “Damn! How the hell did they even find that?” I’ve experienced some of that.
My mom also makes friends with everybody on Facebook so there’s been moments where people have come up to me at a show and said “Hey! Your mom said give you a hug at the meet and greet!” Like “Really? Okay, cool!” My mom’s stupid friendly on Facebook so that’s always been kind of weird too because there’s that weird blend of family and career.
This album has been added to a long catalogue full of Strange Music releases that’s full of great stuff. What does yours offer that no one else’s does?
It was tough because I have every album that Strange has dropped this year and they just kept getting better and better. Every album was banging, so it was a daunting feeling coming up until releasing this album because Rittz’s album was fantastic, CES’s album was dope as hell too, Kutt’s album, Lynch’s album was banging. To put an album out after that was definitely a daunting feeling.
I guess if anything I just brought another category of diversity to the roster and to the label and brought a different vibe, a bit more singing and there’s a couple of styles of records that are on The War Within that maybe weren’t touched upon on other projects. I guess just a little more diversity, as if we’re not a diverse enough label already.
You forged your career at the beginning as a battle rapper. How do you compare the feeling of being known as a battle rapper versus that of an artist?
Being a battle emcee is like, I’m not a very confrontational person, I’m an extremely peaceful person, a very passive person, so battling, when I was doing it 24 hours a day, that was a way for me to express that emotion of getting in and getting in somebody’s face, whereas I don’t do that in real life. I’m a very logical person. I’m not going fisticuffs on anybody on the regular.
So there’s a certain feeling there where you step into a battle and you feel like you’re in a colosseum and you’re about to do some gladiator shit, which is dope. It can’t really compare though to the feeling of meeting someone who has a song of yours that the song changed their life or it brings them to tears or they have a certain vibe that they got from a record. Those feelings to me last way longer than the reactions to a battle. The reactions to a battle are a little more short lived. It’s kind of like being a sports fan where you watch your team win the championship or you hate on the team because they beat your team and all that. Once that washes away I think that the impressions a record leaves as an artist lasts longer.
Yeah it’s not like Michael Jordan’s best game ever got someone through suicidal thoughts.
It still inspires! You can watch Michael Jordan in one of his highlight games and be inspired and be like “I’m going to go out right now, I’m going to practice, I’m going to kill it!” and stuff like that, but yeah I don’t know if you can look back during a time when you’re broke as hell and the power company is about to shut your lights off and you’re like “Damn, but Michael Jordan killed it in that game!” It’s like a different emotion. It still inspires too and it has its positives, but I got into battling just to become known as an artist.
I always wanted to be an artist. Battling was like a means to an end because at the time in Miami you couldn’t go to any of these jams and get attention just through your music, you had to jump in the ring, so that’s why I was like “Alright, I’m going to do it, because I want to get into the music business.” So that was always kind of a means to an end for me, but I did love it while I was doing it, but I was always aiming to be a full time artist other than a battle emcee.
What do you want this album to do for your career and what kind of doors would you like it to open?
After doing it for so long and trying to climb the ranks, what I’m obsessed with at this point is just to gain the respect from my peers and fans and to release records and do what I want with the music. Money and fame is irrelevant. Those things both come and go. They’re all nice and well and hey nobody’s going to hate on getting some money or getting a little fame and that’s all good, but I just like the respect that you get once you’ve pulled some numbers. Strange already gives us enough creative freedom to sink a ship but it’s nice once the industry respects you in a certain way, because you’ve made an impact, that they allow you to go out and do things that are a little off-the-wall or left-of-center because they trust you because you’ve made an impact in the marketplace. I’m trying to get to that point. I know it’s going to be a slow grind for and the numbers on my album aren’t going to be through the roof right away but that’s what I love about Strange and I love about our conversations with Travis about ¡MAYDAY! and myself, is that Strange understands what it takes to break an artist where a lot of other organizations don’t. I’m just chasing the respect to do what I want and to be able to go left of center when I feel like I need to.
For people who hasn’t heard The War Within and are still wondering whether they should give the album a shot, what would you say?
I haven’t got any hate on it yet! I would say from what I’ve heard from people online that there’s a record on there for everybody, which I think is dope. If you’re a skeptical person there’s at least one to three records on there for sure that you’ll feel to a maximum degree. I feel that it’s a super well-rounded album and I’m not throwing it anybody’s face, but I’m here to say “give it a shot.”
Listen to it, there’s definitely some records on there for you.
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