Hype: Testimony

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Photo courtesy of Mark Torres

Atlanta based emcee and producer Hype released one of the best projects of 2020. Coming to us courtesy of P.U.R.E. Records, “From Beginning To End: End To New Beginnings” is a soulful and introspective release that acts as an appetizer for Hype’s full-length debut solo album.

From Beginning To End: End To New Beginnings is produced by Soul Chemist, JKeyz, and Hype himself. The 6-track EP features appearances by J. Ivy and Antonio Roberson.

The Real Hip-Hop had an in-depth conversation with Hype about learning to maintain a positive attitude, having to make beats out of necessity, and his new EP, From Beginning To End: End To New Beginnings.

TRHH: Why’d you title the EP “From Beginning To End: End To New Beginnings”?

Hype: So, the story behind that was earlier last year I was actually working on an album. This was before my current manager came across me and I was just doing my music independently and whatnot. I was working on an album and that title was one of the titles for the album. I had some other titles I was kind of floating around with. The significance behind that title is, it just kind of describes the new phase of life I was entering into. The new chapter of life. I was coming up on my college graduation, getting a new job, and moving out. Life was just changing and that title describes and captures those moments and how I was feeling.

After I got with my current manager and he introduced me to his team, they told me that they wanted me to put out an EP later in the year. Basically, I just chose that title for the EP and took certain concepts that were going to be on the album and created an EP from it. That’s how I ended up with that title and those six songs. It was one of the titles that I had for what was originally going to be an album. It just kind of fit the moment and the whole theme of the EP.

TRHH: How old are you, man?

Hype: I’m 22.

TRHH: Wow. I heard the lines about graduating college but didn’t put it together. You seem really mature, man. You don’t seem like a 22-year old.

Hype: I get that all the time. Thank you, I appreciate it. I graduated on July 2.

TRHH: Congratulations, man. What’s your degree in?

Hype: Thank you. I got a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology.

TRHH: Biology? You going to be a doctor or something?

Hype: Nah, right now I work as quality control chemist at a production company.

TRHH: That’s incredible. You released one of the best projects of 2020; how did it feel to get such critical acclaim?

Hype: Ah man, thank you. That means a lot. For me, I feel like it was just kind of time for me to step out and show people what I was capable of. Before this, I started putting out music to the public in 2018. It’s been about two years now that I’ve been putting out music for the public to hear, but I’ve been doing music since I was 12. I think with this, it was kind of like a build up from when I started getting back into music. Once I got into college I kind of took some time off from music, due to the stress of college and I wanted to focus a little bit. But, when I got back into it around 2018 I realized how much I missed doing it and how much I wanted it to be what I do with my life. This EP really captures everything that led up to it, from graduating college and going through that journey of self-discovery.

I think once people heard it, took time with it, and listened to it, it really resonated with people in a way that just kind of led to the feedback that I’m getting. It was kind of unexpected because I’m not a big artist or anything. I wasn’t expecting a big response, or at least as much as I’m getting. For people to tell me it’s one of the best projects they heard this year, taking into account everything that’s come out in 2020, there has been a lot of strong albums, mixtapes, and EP’s, for people to tell me that I’m amongst some of the best, it makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing. Me speaking my truth and putting my truth into this project is really resonating with people the way that I was expecting it to. It’s a humbling experience.

On top of that, being able to have one of my idols, DJ Premier, to hear the EP and to really resonate with some of the songs on there as well, it’s been a defining moment in my career. I think this is the point at which I have the most confidence in my work. I’ve always had confidence in my work but I think this is the point at which that validation is starting to pour in more and more and it’s letting me know that what I’m doing is the right thing, and not allowing me to conform to what everybody else is doing and sticking to my lane and going based on my instincts is paying off.

TRHH: How’d you get the name ‘Hype’?

Hype: So, back in middle school when I first started rapping a lot of people didn’t expect me to rap. They didn’t see me as the rapper type. We used to do a lot of freestyle sessions and whenever I would jump in, people would go crazy because they just didn’t expect it out of me. I just kind of took that name based off of the crowd reactions. Everybody was kind of getting hype seeing me jump in those sessions with them. I’m just having fun with it, but at the same time, I like making music an experience, versus you just listening and it’s another project or another song that just comes and goes.

I like making my music an experience. I like the excitement behind releasing a project, putting out a song, and putting out a video. Building up to that moment and making that excitement last for a little bit, me picking that name takes in everything that I want my music to be. I want it to be exciting, I want it to have longevity, I want people to be ready for it when they know that I’m coming out with something. I think that name kind of forces me to live up to that. I took it from those experiences when I first started and the expectations that I have for myself. And then it’s just short and simple. It’s so easy to remember.

TRHH: On the song “Testimony” you say, “I know the lyrics are dope, I’m giving them smoke/At the same time I’m giving them hope.” How do you balance being lyrical while also giving the listeners messages?

Hype: I think that goes back to the kind of artists that I study, the people I look up to and the standards I hold myself to. I think that the two things can coexist very well when you know how to blend them. The foundation of Hip-Hop is lyricism, punchlines, imagery, and poetry. At the same time, Hip-Hop is for the people. It started out as a grassroots genre talking about what was going on in people’s communities and their daily lives. Staying true to those foundations of the art helps me keep a balance between a more lyrical artist, but also weaving in messages about different things into my music.

I’m one of those people who tries to be very involved. I like to read a lot and keep up with what’s going on in the world. It’s just kind of natural for me to want to talk about those things and give people that message, because I know there are people out here who want to hear that and people out here who need to hear that. Especially nowadays, people feel like the culture is over-saturated with things that don’t have substance. So, to be able to do that for people and be able to be that diamond in the rough that everybody is looking for right now, it really helps me keep that balance and keeps me focused. Between everything, I think that it’s just about knowing what the perfect middle ground is. It doesn’t take anything away from the art either.

When you look at artists like 2Pac, Nas, or any other artists who are political or have messages in their art, it has never taken away anything from their artistry. I think people are afraid to go that route because they think it’s going to take away from their artistry or make it hard to listen to. A lot of times it usually adds more to the artistry and gives it longevity and purpose. So, that’s why I’m never afraid to step into that box and do those kinds of things. It’s just about not being afraid to go there with it. I think when you do it and do it well people appreciate it, definitely. Testimony was definitely one of those songs where I wanted to show people this is what I do with my art and this is where I’m coming from with it.

TRHH: You mentioned Nas and you paid homage to Nas on the song “Hype is Like.” “Nas is Like” is my favorite Nas song ever. What inspired you to recreate that particular Nas song?

Hype: Oh word. I think for me, that song kind of gave me that feeling. Nas is one of those rappers that really inspired me to step up my lyricism when I first heard him. The first Nas album I heard was Illmatic back in 2014-15. The way that he does his music, his lyricism, the vivid imagery, it’s just the perfect balance of good music and lyricism. I think that when I got that beat, one of my friends who is a producer who goes by “Soul Chemist” sent me that beat and the first person that came to my head was Nas when I was listening to it. It sounded like something that Nas would rap over. When I started writing to it, I found myself falling into that cadence of the “Nas is Like” song. I kind of wrote the introduction into the song and adopted the cadences and flows that he was doing on “Nas is Like.”

I hit Soul Chemist back and was like, “I think it would be dope if you added Nas’ vocal scratches into the song and we have this track pay homage to Nas and DJ Premier.” I like to always pay homage to the people who came before and the people that inspired me. I kind of got that vibe from that song and decided I would take it in that direction. I got to perform for DJ Premier in New York and he’s really been rocking with it. He’s been playing it on Shade 45 every week since he first heard the song. I think I did it justice. I just wanted to pay homage to those two because those are the people who really inspire me to step up my art every time I write a song and put together a project. I study Nas a lot. He’s one of those people that has to get his flowers, and my way of doing it was paying homage to him in that song.

TRHH: Who else would you say inspired you?

Hype: Outside of Nas, I would say Jay-Z definitely inspires me, Kendrick Lamar, Jadakiss, and Rapsody. As far as producers, because I also produce, DJ Premier definitely, 9th Wonder, Pete Rock, and a lot of Kanye’s old stuff I studied a lot. Those are the people that I studied the most when it comes to Hip-Hop.

TRHH: Were you born and raised in Atlanta?

Hype: No. Actually, I only moved to Georgia in 2010. Before that I lived in Quebec, Canada, but I was born in Cameroon, which is in west Africa.

TRHH: That’s incredible. I asked because you’re in Atlanta and the only southern influences you named were Rapsody and 9th Wonder.

Hype: I have a few. When I first started I did listen to a lot of Lil’ Wayne. A lot of my influences are from New York or the west coast. I guess it’s kind of like my pocket and my style. I definitely do rock with the south heavy. I love Outkast, Big K.R.I.T., and J. Cole. I just kind of gravitate toward that New York 90s-mid-2000s sound more.

TRHH: You mentioned that you produced and you produced half of the EP; what made you decide to get into the production side?

Hype: I got into production because when I first started making music I couldn’t really find beats that kind of fit the style that I was going for. I would go on YouTube and search the internet, but I couldn’t really find anything that fit what I was trying to go for. I figured I might as well try my hand at production and see what I could do to craft my own style. It just kind of went from there. I started producing at 15-16 years old. I was just trying to figure out what my sound was and how I could craft my sound to be unique and true to who I am and what it is that I’m doing. It was just out of necessity. I couldn’t really find anything that spoke to me at the time, so it created the necessity for me to produce by myself or else I don’t think I would have continued doing music.

I would go on YouTube and the internet to try to find beats and a lot of it just sounds very generic. I just wanted to make something that was specific to me until I could really find producers I could work with. I work with a couple of other producers now, but for the most part I still do a lot of my production. I’ll collaborate with a couple of other producers, but I always want things to sound authentic to what it is I’m trying to do instead of trying to fit in a different box where I might not be comfortable or it doesn’t really speak to me like something I would do myself with my sound.

TRHH: What does your production workstation consist of?

Hype: I’ve been using FL Studio. That’s what I’ve been producing on since I first started. I have FL Studio, a keyboard, a drum pad, and some speakers. I’m trying to learn other production DAWS like Ableton and Logic. I’m trying to get into the MPC as of recently. For the most part, it’s Fruity Loops Studio. That’s what I work on and what I’ve been using since I first started. I’m very fond of it and very familiar with it.

TRHH: The message throughout End To New Beginnings is one of optimism. Is that something that comes naturally to you, or is it a place you had to work to get to.

Hype: I would say it’s a little bit of both. I’m just one of those people that once I have a goal set or I have something that I know I want to achieve, there doesn’t seem to be any amount of failure that could really stop me from getting it. it’s also something that I really have to work on because along the way things can get frustrating. It’s like, “Oh man, this isn’t going the way I want it to go. I’m going to quit.” At the same time there is a certain resilience that I have about myself that doesn’t let me give up on myself so easily. Just the way that everything happened with me graduating, getting a job, moving out, and then coming across my manager, getting to do this EP, meeting DJ Premier and all of that, it’s like a wave of seeing my hard work paying off all at once.

It’s just one of those things where you learn to keep the faith because along the way you see small signs of your work paying off. It takes a while for things to come to fruition and for you to see the light. I’ve never been the type to up and give up on something. I always keep going for it, no matter what I fail at or how many L’s I might take. I always have a forward-thinking mind because there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a daily practice of just staying positive and staying hopeful that things will pay off. Sometimes you can go months or years and feel like you’re not making any progress. I’ve seen it with a lot of other artists and some of my other peers in different areas of their lives where they feel like something isn’t paying off right away, so, they just kind of give up on it. It’s a daily practice of straying away from instant gratification and learning how to have that vision and focus and knowing that these things that you’re doing now are going to pay off in the future. Whatever failures may come your way are just a part of the process. It’s something that’s natural, but also there is work that has to be done.

You’ve got to keep a positive mindset every day that you wake up and try to keep pushing yourself. It’s definitely a little bit of both, but I would say that I definitely have that resilience in me naturally. I just can’t stop at a certain point if I feel like something is not working. It would take a lot for me to get there. It’s just not letting those days wear on me. That’s where the work comes in. Not letting those days wear on my mental, knowing when to take a break, step back and take a breather and go back into it. Learning how to pace yourself is more so the work. I’m one of those people that if I don’t learn how to pace myself I’m just going to keep going, keep going, keep going. I’ll be burned out before I know it. I definitely had to learn how to pace myself when it came to certain things.

TRHH: When can we expect to hear the full-length Hype album?

Hype: It’s in the works right now. Right now, it’s scheduled to come out in late May. The album is definitely in the works. Right now, the EP is out and it’s something to give the people and let them know what I’m about and kind of hold everybody over for a little bit. It gives me time to craft the album, perfect it, and make it sound the way I want it to. It’ll definitely be out around May. It’s going to be dope, I can definitely say that.

Purchase: Hype – From Beginning To End: End To New Beginnings

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About Sherron Shabazz

Sherron Shabazz is a freelance writer with an intense passion for Hip-Hop culture. Sherron is your quintessential Hip-Hop snob, seeking to advance the future of the culture while fondly remembering its past.
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