If you can imagine a five-year-old white boy boppin’ around his house rapping along with Snoop Dogg’s Gin and Juice, you’ve got a pretty good mental image of how the legend of Upgrade began.
“I’ve been rapping like…forever,” he says. “I remember the first song I was really into was Snoop Dog’s Gin and Juice. I was 5 years old singing and didn’t really know what I was talking about, but for some reason I really liked it.”
For those of us who know anything about Upgrade’s music, thanks to Snoop is in order (as if this is the first time..). A delightful switch-up from the hustlin’, hoe-fuckin’, bottle-poppin’ mess that is today’s mainstream hip-hop scene, lifelong rapper Upgrade stands by the idea that it’s cooler to write about what real people are actually going through.
“It’s very hard to get into hip-hop if you’re just the casual listener. Most of the stuff on the radio only shows one category of rap,” he explains. “As far as me getting my fanbase up and having people interested in what I’m talking about, I kinda take it as I’m gonna make the music that I feel is right for me. I can’t really change what I went through. People are either gonna respect it, relate to it or not be interested.”
True to honey badger form, Upgrade doesn’t give a shit what the mainstream thinks. He’s not willing to be anything other than who he is. He shamelessly admits that he hasn’t always been a talented, well-versed rapper; he still loves buying CDs (it’s the media between cassette tapes and electronic downloads–just Google it); and rapping isn’t as easy as recording a cheesy flow with a reasonably priced camera for a YouTube debut.
“It’s definitely hard to express what you wanna say,” he admits. “It’s gotta make sense with the next thing that you write about, and sometimes I know what I wanna say next but no word is giving me that feeling for a while, that’s kinda tough. Not only that, but then I have to fit the way that I would flow over the beat, but I’ve been doing it long enough that it’s not so bad.”
He’s not even ashamed to share his techniques of perfection.
“I hope nobody’s looking at me when I’m driving, because I definitely put on full concerts in my car,” he shares. “I see myself in Madison Square Garden when I’m in the car.”
Curious to see how effective this is? Head to Poughkeepsie’s The Loft for the Danksgiving Hip Hop Show featuring yours truly. Get there by 6 this Friday (November 16)! As a cherry on your Thanksgiving …ahem…Danksgiving pie, Upgrade is aiming to release a new mixtape, Free Music for Paid Listeners, at the end of November. It would benefit you all to hop on that. Plus he’s following me on Twitter, so you know he’s cool. Go on, give yourself an Upgrade.
Originally published November 14, 2012 on NewYorkSocialStatus.com