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iCON The Mic King Dreams of a Hip-Hop Renaissance One of the liveliest, sharpest and hungriest rappers of today's indie rap scene is Mike King aka iCON The Mic King. The Philly representative garnered fame as a battle rapper and with the 'Rent Money Music' release that caused quite a buzz over the Internet. Recently this Philly representative released 'Mike And The Fatman', a collabo album with Demigodz producer Chum The Skrilla that's been in the making for a few years, now being released on Uprising.

First of, how did the collabo with Chum the Skrilla come together?

I was on a break from school a few years ago and I was visiting my mom up in CT and I was bored and I saw Chum on-line somewhere one day and I hit him up like what's good and he was like 'Yo, I got beats' and I was like 'Yo, I got rhymes'. So I went up to his crib and he gave me the beat that would eventually become 'Fuck You Pay Me' on Intricate Spectrum. It was like he played me all these great beats and he was telling me about all these people how had been just sitting on them and whatever and I was like 'Ok, gimme that that and that' and we did a 12". The 12" grew into an EP and then an LP and there you have 'Mike and the Fatman'. The record grew out of a friendship though, that's the best way to make music.

You shopped a few labels for this project, how did you eventually get to release the album on Uprising?

Shout out to my man Carnage the Executioner for the look-out on that. In '05 I had a good year as far as touring and just getting the name out there and I sent the record to a lot of labels that I guess just weren't interested. Carnage told me to give the guys up at Uprising a call, I met with them in LA while I was on my way to Hawaii on tour and we just worked it out and made it happen. They respected my tour hustle and I respected their willingness to help me move forward.

Were you a fan of the 'Jake and the Fatman' TV-series?

Honestly, I don't even remember the show, I looked it up after we picked the name though. I never knew it was a spin-off from Columbo. Maybe I should Youtube it.

Rather than using the good-cop-bad-cop film noire thematics throughin and -out every single track, you rather used it as a loose thematic, a lil' guide for the album. Was it a conscious choice to step away from the full-concept album?

Nah, the theme really came together after the fact. We had like 5 joints done already and we were just trying to wrap it up because it was just supposed to be an EP. The first track that we did out of what ended up becoming the record was 'Madman' and after I came up with the name I was like 'Yo, this fits with the 'Madman' joint because I flip the same story from the cop chasing the killer perspective and that's how we got the title track. The rest of the theme is really just in the intro and the skits. Had we known we were going to flip it conceptually from the beginning everything would have tied in a lot better, we're considering doing another record that sticks to the theme a lot more like 'Prince Amongst Thieves' or 'Equinox' and maybe holler at Brewin and Po to bring back their characters from their stories on some crossover shit. It's hard to say whether we will do that because albums like that don't really have much replay value and it's like you have to listen end to end. It's hard to enjoy the songs outside the scope of the concept.

The album has been applauded by fans and critics, do you think it's your best work to date?

Sonically yes, lyrically no. Then again the syllables on the 'Madman' joint are phenomenal. I think it's a more appealing product than anything else I've dropped but I don't feel like it's artistically the best thing I've put out. That's not to say that it's not a dope record because it definitely is. I'm just such a perfectionist and I've grown so much as an artist since we made this. It's hard to keep that passion for a record you made 2 years ago when you've moved so far beyond it.

How much does the boom-bap aspect contribute to the album's 'success' do you think?

I think it contributes a lot because nobody cares about lyrics, they care about beats. Them hipster kids stopped analyzing Aesop Rock and they got MIMS in their iPods while they power-walk in Williamsburg wearing Nike Vandals. Chum provided me with some bangarangs. You can't really deny how bangin' the beats are on the record. That boom-bap style is what people want.

The music on the album is rooted in the 90s boombap era (The Second Renaissance), you're predicting a new Renaissance soon...who will be the 'carriers' of this Renaissance and what kind of hip-hop will be significant for this Renaissance?

Nah I'm not just predicting a Renaissance I'm taking my part in making it happen. Key players are going to be emcees like Pharoahe Monch, Lupe Fiasco, Elzhi, Supastition, Dezmatic, Emilio Rojas, Silent Knight, PackFM, Tonedeff, Yarah Bravo, myself. It's heads that are nice with the lyrics and flows but have a good grasp on how to make soulful music at the same time. See the problem with rap is that on the mainstream level after 50 Cent came out just de-evolved. These mixtape rappers sound like bad versions of Lord Finesse raps from like '92. However the production has matured and evolved into something much more incredible. In the underground we mostly had the converse happen. We kept making beats that sounded like '95 and while our lyrical talent has evolved a lot of dudes weren't making good music. The key to moving forward is to stop making dungeon music, make lively shit with new sounding music and good hooks and great rhymes. Rap is reaching a critical mass with awful songs like 'Throw Some D's On It' and 'This Is Why I'm Hot'. Technology has improved so much that people aren't going to buy that shit anymore and they are going to look for something good. Something they can feel in their stomach. Something they can relate to. The emcees I mentioned all know how to make stuff like that and over the next year they are all going to make big strides forward and the fans (the other key players) are going to embrace them because they are bored of the old shit. What will emerge is a 'new' form of hip-hop that the average person can relate to because it's not so much about rims, and candy paint, and clappin' fools and it will be coupled with good music that doesn't sound dated. 2008 will be the onset of Hip-Hop's Third Renaissance.

Don't you think the constant urge to 'go back to the good times' is a nostalgic reflex rather than an innovation?

I'm not calling for anyone to go back to the good times. I'm actually sick of hearing 'Scenario', 'DWYCK', and 'Come Clean' in every permutation possible. Those songs had their run, why are DJs ignoring so many other banging joints? I always feel like 'Nas Is Like' and 'The Love Song' deserved so much more burn. But that is neither here nor there. Why aren't these DJs playing more shit off PackFM's album? Or Tonedeff's album? Monch has plenty of new songs out that aren't getting enough burn. I don't mean commercial radio, I mean these underground DJs that are too cheap to buy vinyl now because they got Serato and all they playing is 'Scenario', 'DWYCK', 'Come Clean', and 'Tried By 12'. Come the fuck on, there is plenty of banging songs that aren't old enough to get a learner's permit. I'm asking for progress. Stop trying to remake Wu-Tang and Tribe albums. We have to move forward. Otherwise the messages that we all have will never get past those four thousand chance purchases.

Euhm, talking about Wu-Tang...both and only guest featured on the 'Mike & The Fat Man' are Wu-related, a coincidence?

(laughs) That makes my last answer look kinda full of shit. Anyway yeah it was just a coincidence. I was raised on Wu-Tang. Blue Raspberry on the old Wu shit is legendary so I always wanted to work with her. I toured with Killah Priest and he was who my label picked out of the list of heads I could get. It's kinda funny because they wanted to try and get me Method Man instead.

Is he your favourite Wu-member?

When I was younger it was definitely Method Man. That dude just always had that intangible cool about him. Mad charismatic and things. Now it's either him or Ghost. Method Man is mad impressive as a live performer. In fact I'd go as far as to say he is the best live hip-hop performer of all time. I like Ghost a lot for the same reasons as I like Meth, it's the charisma and the fact that they are very interesting people plus they've made some of the best hip-hop ever.

Is 'Enter The Wu-Tang' really their best album?

It's the only one I can listen to end to end. I skip around a lot on 'Wu-Tang Forever' and I didn't really check for any of the other albums after that.

What was the first rap record you bought?

The first album I bought with my own money was 'Tical' by Method Man. I was 14. It's the reason why you and I are talking right now.

I read somewhere that your aim is to make classic albums, have you made a classic yet do you think?`

Nah. I got some classic songs but no classic album yet. I haven't even released a true solo album yet. There are people out there that will tell you 'Intricate Spectrum' is classic. I think they are crazy though. I've finally zeroed in on how to make classics with my style so everything from here on out that isn't experimental is guaranteed classic. That's to say if I do an electronic album I don't know if that's gonna be classic but if it's straight hip-hop you can trust the iCON brand to deliver.

You're influenced by the Lyricist Lounge-era, which rappers do you mean in particular and did you attend any of the LL shows in NY? Were you a true collector of Rawkus releases?

Nah, I never went to any of the shows when Lyricist Lounge had its golden age but emcees like J-Treds, Breezly Brewin, Thirstin Howl III, and Wordsworth had me sharpening my punchline game. Wordsworth especially after he said 'You can't write without using 'like' what are you some type of valley girl?' I didn't say 'like' in my raps for four years. It wasn't just them though it was like heads you'd hear on the Wake Up Show too. That was my dream back then to just go up on Stretch & Bobbito or the Wake Up Show and murder it hard. I didn't go out and buy everything with a razorblade on it but I'm definitely a child of the Rawkus generation.

What Philly artists of today do you like?

I like Freeway, Beanie Sigel, Joey Jihad, Peedi Crakk, Cassidy, Dos-Noun, Verbal Tec, Last Emp, Musiq Soulchild, and iCON the Mic King.

And what Philly artists of back in the day do you like?

Tuff Crew, Cool C, Steady B... Yo, believe it or not, I'm a big Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince fan. There's a lot of shit I used to listen to when I was little at my cousin Rasheda's crib that I don't really remember what was what. I think I'ma have to go through that vinyl after I'm done with this.

You had your own Indieground label, does will you come up with a new label soon?

Yeah, I definitely want to get back on that but a label's success is all about money. That's something I don't really have to but now I definitely have the right emcees on my team that aren't going to get the right exposure so I want to continue to build myself up as the flagship artist and eventually re-launch it and get behind the careers of Awar, Dezmatic, Dos-Noun, Silent Knight, Verbal Tec, etc. I got a lot of hustle in me and I want to share my light with emcees that I feel deserve it.

You performed in Roskilde, how was that?

Last time I was in Roskilde it was really dope. Roskilde was my first ever show in Europe. Copenhagen was the first place I touched European soil. So Roskilde will always have a special place in my heart. Thanks for the love Denmark!

There's a new European tour coming up with Dos Noun, how did you and Dos Noun get together?

It was just the natural progression of things. Dos and I have similar backgrounds as emcees, similar hustles, similar subject matter. We were both the last man standing in our respective crews so we combine forces and pop muhfuckas' balloons. I get the shows domestically, he gets them in Europe. We just keep smashing shit together because we're the best ever.

There's a list of people you've had beef with, what are the main reasons for people hatin on iCON you think?

Jealousy. I rap really good, I'm good looking, I'm lucky, my mother loves me, and I'm arrogant. Those rappers don't rap well, they're ugly, they're unlucky, their mom's don't love them, and they're insecure. They are scared I will take their positions. I don't care; I'm here to change the game. I have a much higher purpose than anyone rapper I have ever had an issue with and I have to remain positive to achieve the goals I have set for myself so I wish success to all those suckers.

Should we ask you about Copywrite?

I don't really see the point. Is that dude relevant anymore? Much success to Pete. Good luck bouncing back kid. Have my money when I see you.

You worked in a computer company to pay the bills, it was mainly because of you having an accident right, so how hard is it to deal with that aspect of social security failure in the American system?

Yeah, there's no such thing as free healthcare here. It's the type of thing that makes me want to move to Europe or Canada or anywhere else. Our system is pretty retarded in that aspect and I'm not aware enough to harp on it. However with my job, what happened was I got used to having money after not having it for so long so now I have to hustle so much harder on this music shit to maintain the standard of living.

Because you recently been fired...can you live off the music for now or are you huntin for a new job?

I can live off the music but man I'm 25 years old now and I have dreams and aspirations that hustling CDs hand-to-hand isn't making things happen fast enough so I looked at my credit card bills this past Sunday and I was like 'Shit!'. Then I went on Craigslist and sent out 3 resumes and got a call back in 15 minutes. I had a 20 minute-interview the next day and was hired on the spot. So I have a new job at least until my credit card bills are paid off. In the meantime I'm trying to line up more opportunities to make the music work for me a lot better. I had to laugh at how easy it is for me to get a job even though I don't have a college diploma and I took four years off in my field. If only rap worked that easily.

When you're working, how did you divide time between work and your music?

Man honestly, it was hard. I didn't write much in the past 8 months. I wrote the bonus joints on 'Mike and the Fatman' during that period and a couple joints about my girl. Other than that I did a lot of correspondence during work hours and I did a good amount of touring. I think I did about 8 weeks worth of touring while I had that job. So it didn't stop my tour grind but it slowed down my creativity a whole hell of a lot.

You've worked with a bunch of producers. Who else, besides Chum, do you wanna make an album with??

Right now I'm working on my next record with this kid Blastah Beatz from Portugal. He has some bangarangs that are going to help me define where I'm standing in this upcoming Renaissance. I really just want to work with heads in my circle right now. I'm gonna do a record fully produced by Godamus Rhyme, possibly one with my homey Rob Viktum as well. I'm just trying to have my rise be paved by unknowns with crazy who have been overlooked. I'm not looking to capitalize off anyone's name right now, I'm just trying to make some incredible music.

I remember almost everybody on hip-hop boards and peer-2-peer sites checking your 'Rent Money Music' out (read: downloading) ... Did the internet help you a lot to make iCON a household name?

The internet is my number one asset. It's a lot of peoples but they are scared to admit it. The internet helped me keep my name alive when I couldn't get shows and it gets my music into people's ears. I love the internet. Shout out to Al Gore for inventing it. LMFAO.

You are (were) often labelled as a battle emcee, are you annoyed with that since critics often suggest an emcee to be one-dimensional by pinning you on that battle label... or are you proud with it as it means you kill other emcees with the mic?

I hate that shit with a passion. It's a 'Do y'all listen to music or do y'all just skim through it?'-situation. My discography isn't made up of even half of battle joints. Sure I'm fantastic at that shit but I'm no one-trick pony. Stop trying to put me in the Supernatural category. I'm so much more well-rounded than that, so just admit you don't listen to my records you just skim the press junkets. Bad journalism is another problem with indie rap.

You retired from battling, how come?

I got bored of it really and I lost my passion for it. Battling is something you have to leave 24/7. You have to be a Samurai with a sword that is constantly sharp. After a while I just didn't have anything left to prove and got more interested in mastering the live show and seeing the world sharing my music.

5 words on what a good battle rapper is...

Everyone that is not you.

Can you comment on the following groups/rappers/artists?

Organized Konfusion

OK, will always be one of the most innovative groups of all time. In a lot of ways I feel like my stuff picks up where they left off so it feels good to know Po thinks I'm nice.

Supastition

A lot of the time I feel like Supa is me if I grew up in North Carolina. We both got that "we don't take shit from nobody" attitude. I got a lot of love for that dude. Much success to him.

Yarah Bravo

Yarah Bravo is an amazing person and an incredibly talented musician and live performer, truly a one of one of a kind. She's the type of person that inspires you to be a better person. I got a lot of love for her. I wish her nothing but the best in life, she truly deserves it.

Vinnie Paz

En Passant. I hear he really packs it away at Denny's.

Jus Allah

Jus is a pure emcee. I look forward to the next shit he makes. Much success to him in whatever he does.

Mos Def

Mos is one of the most well-rounded artists to ever come out of underground hip-hop. I'm not really into his music anymore but I respect him for being such a self-made man and for being someone who is so focused on his various crafts. Much continued success to him as well.

What can we expect from you in the future?

Much more of everything. More music, more touring, more of everything. I'm about to launch the new version of my site and the focus is on dynamic content this time so there will be weekly updates for heads to keep abreast of everything I'm doing. That's where I've really faltered in the past in not giving people enough when they don't see me. Definitely two more releases from me before the year is out and other than that I'm just preparing for the Renaissance.

Shout-outs?

Yeah, I want to shout out the fans. Thanks for continuing to give me your support and your energy but it's what keeps me going. Check out 'Mike and the Fatman', if you're feeling it please support because how well this album does determines how much support the next one is gonna get and I just want to be able to come everywhere and share my love for this hiphop shit with all of you. Thank you to Platform8470 for helping me to get a little more exposure. Shout out to my girl, keep sharing your light with me and I'll keep sharing mine with you. I.B. I-FLY.

Peace!

Thanks a lot for this!

 

POSTED 06|01|2007
conducted by cpf

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