Hip Hop has undoubtedly become the most popular genre of music in the world. With the current resources and public platforms widely available, artists are able to create ways to garner attention and expand their fan base like never before. Underground scenes are popping up all over the country and Orange County is no exception. The Most Critical is making waves in the OC Hip Hop community with his talent, DIY innovation and grit. Not only is he making a name through his perseverance and music, he is also taking a proactive role in spreading positive consciousness and supporting his peers in the process. Jerk Of All Trades recently had a chance to catch up with TMC and get the scoop, and the results of the interview are illuminating!

JM:What is your advice for all of the people who may feel disillusioned by the current state of mainstream rap trends.

TMC: My advice to all those people would be to try and grow and evolve with the culture. There’s no turning back, so too much nostalgia can cause resentment. If the mainstream bothers you that much then tune-out the mainstream and dig deeper. There are so many artists out there still making great Hip Hop music, conscious or otherwise, that are not in the mainstream but are alive and thriving. Use the tools and find them. I’ve discovered so much good music through Spotify playlists. All the streaming platforms host  amazing artists you won’t hear on the radio or in the club. Consumers looking for better alternatives now have the opportunity to be digital crate-diggers and discover whatever they like. Don’t settle with being spoon-fed garbage. There’s so much more out there. 

JM: Are there parts that you find progressive and some parts that you feel are digressive and can you elaborate on it? What do you feel like you are bringing to the table that sets you apart from others in the game (past and present)?

TMC: I do feel there are progressive parts about today’s Rap, and digressive ones too. I would say the energy in today’s mainstream production is definitely progressive. The beats hit much harder, there’s a jovial, youthful, exciting spirit to the music that is so fun to experience. You can hustle hard to the music and escape the daily grind without dwelling on your troubles. I also believe the more catchy, simplistic lyrics has made way for more voices-at-large to be heard and express themselves – which is both progressive and regressive at the same time. More voices and perspectives diversify the culture, but also water it down because many artists, especially in the mainstream are not spending as much time on crafting quality, meaningful song and lyrics. The mainstream Rap is regressing the culture because it is celebrating catchiness over substance. So, the younger generation looking up to the artists naturally want to replicate what they hear, especially when the sound is accompanied by images of luxury, opulence, and power. Kids want to flash and shine like the rappers they love. But they aren’t aware of how much of that is a gimmick and merely an image. No one tells them ‘this isn’t exactly as real as you think it is… many of these guys are broke, depressed, and have compromised themselves. But that isn’t the mainstream’s responsibility or objective. So at the end of the day we cannot be upset. The answer is greater awareness of the truth of things. 

 

What I bring to the table that sets me apart is a balance of life that I express in my artistry. I love soulful, conscious, lyrical music first-and-foremost so that overflows from me. However, I do like money and being a fly-guy just as much and I’m ok with saying and expressing that. I love reflecting and introspective boom-bap, but I love going to the club dancing, acting a fool with my people to the latest Trap music also. Everything has its time and place to me and that’s what makes life, and music so beautiful. I aim to embody balance and I believe it comes out in my Lyricism. I may be speaking on consciousness or spirituality, or rapping with complexity, but I’m going to look cool and sound cool doing it. To quote myself “who you know can take a joint from Lupe – put it in a casket, then body-bag a Trap beat.” I want to do both. Because at the end of the day both sides – mainstream and underground – Trap and Boom-bap are dualities of the one Hip Hop culture. And I LOVE Hip Hop. 

JM: Hip hop and sports have always had a strong parallel. I understand that you coach kids in basketball, do you feel like coaching parallels the gratification you feel from making music and do you find inspiration for your music through that outlet?

 

TMC: Yes and no on the parallels. The main reason I dedicate the majority of time to my music is that I truly get a sense of gratification like no other from songwriting/rapping. Especially when I am in “flow” and the process is clicking on-all-cylinders. It’s almost unparalleled. Nothing really compares or parallels to me when its flowing. When it’s not flowing it’s way more frustrating because you feel like you’re forcing it and it’s not coming naturally. So, its definitely not as gratifying when that’s the case. Especially because I dedicate so much time to it. 

I’ve grown so much and realized gratification and frustration in new ways. Probably the biggest thing It’s taught is to let go of the attachment to results and truly love the process past that. I’ve taken way more losses coaching than my ego would ever like as a coach, player, and competitor period. But I don’t have too much control of the results in hindsight because there are so many other outside variables that affect the game. 

I do find inspiration for my music through coaching, again because when I’m flowing and gelling with my players and we’re enjoying success I feel more in harmony with the Universe, I feel more connected, I feel a stronger sense of communication that powers, reaffirms, and reassures my artistic communication.

JM: What is your opinion on the current local hip hop scene in Orange County and LA? I notice that you often give shout outs to other artists on social media, can you explain why it is so important to you to uplift others in the scene. 

TMC: I can’t speak much for LA because I’m not actively immersed in their scene. But obviously there’s a very rich history of Hip Hop in LA that’s only getting richer from my vantage-point. LA continues to produce legendary Hip Hop artists and lay the foundation for the sound and identity of the Southern West Coast. That’s a huge inspiration for us out here being so close to LA. But has also made it difficult for OC to distinguish itself and make its own name in the culture. At times, many outside the region simply group all SoCal acts as “LA Hip Hop,” where we definitely have, and want to make known, our own identity. 

The scene in OC is fresh and exciting, and certainly on the rise! There’s a whole community and there are names and brands known county-wide. I believe the boom of the Observatory has a lot to do with that. It’s become a regular stop for Hip Hop tours of some of the biggest artists, and even hosts festivals. That’s given a lot of exposure to local artists from OC as opening acts, and more so I believe it significantly raised the feeling of pride of the Hip Hop spirit in the county. 

I think that growing collective consciousness has spawned a lot of underground movements on both the artist and curator side trying to give a resounding voice to their Orange County. People are proud to say “Yo, I rap (or throw shows, or know/supports someone that does). AND I’m/we’re from Orange County,” like never before. It’s a blessing to be a contributor to this growing culture.  And crazy to see it happening before my eyes as an artist. 

People outside the County are tapping-in and recognize the dope talent and uniqueness of this place. It feels good to be apart of that crusade. All of us grew up out here in OC, not far, but not at all LA, with a deep and special connection to Hip Hop, but no real noticeable culture to identify with in our town. Artists, curators, and historians from OC that come after us and take it farther will look back and say this was period was a genesis, or a Renaissance, something.  Those unfamiliar or misinformed about where we come from should get a proper representation of what Hip Hop looks, sounds, and feels like here in OC – the Juice, as we know it. 

JM: I wanted to really make sure that I am highlighting your current project of One Take Tuesday. You have been putting out a new freestyle every Tuesday on Instagram since the beginning of the year, what gave you the idea to do that and how do you find ways to come up with new ideas to articulate each week to reach your goal of 1 song a week for all of 2019? 

TMC: One Take Twosday (#onetaketwosday on IG) was an idea that came from me desiring to execute a more effective and sustainable marketing strategy/campaign than I had at the time. In a word – I needed to get my name out there. That’s every independent artist’s dilemma to get to the next phase of their career. The compounded issue with that, you learn, is that sh–t is expensive af. In money or manpower. And the higher you aim to rise the more that it becomes an “and,” not a question of “or.” To start though, most of us don’t have either. I realized this demise time and time again: You pour your heart and resources, and money into a project – album, mixtape, or full-length single accompanied by the most industry-standard music video your budget can possibly afford (or more), release it to the world with the highest hopes that this is the one that’s going to take you from this level to that level, or at least make you the hometown hero, then…6 months later…you still can’t even get enough views to fill your small high school gym. Devastating. It’s absolutely crushing. On top of that, since you gave everything you had materially, it’s going to be another 6+ months before you can follow up with an equally satisfying effort. The cycle repeats itself until you get too exhausted from trying to no avail, or too much time passes you by and you cannot gain or maintain relevance.

With that being said, if you want to have a chance in the industry on any level, you have to think like the industry, not just the musician. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have an entity, or a team thinking like that for you. Again, most of us do not at first. That was the spark of the campaign. That level of understanding, finally. After countless unsatisfying results. The next inspiration was observing the current landscape of the ways music is consumed, marketed by my peers and contemporaries, and my place within it all, to determine what might work best for me in my world. I came to a few conclusions based on my personal experience:

1) Instagram is the hottest social media platform out, currently, for consumers and brands alike (the brands follow the consumers, and the consumers love Instagram right now. If I wanted my brand to grow in trend with the times it had to have an active presence on Instagram.

2) The power of video is stronger than it has ever been in history, especially for musicians.

3) Content…rather CONSISTENT content is King in order for any brand to prosper on IG.

4) As an emerging artist or brand on Instagram, you must utilize it as a media outlet in the same way as (and in place of) TV…no one is watching television anymore, everyone is watching Instagram…and television broadcasts shows. Therefore, an emerging brand such as myself must put on a show in some way, shape, or form to stand out in its infinite sea of content. In so many words, you have to give people something to look forward to watching consistently.

5) Music videos are obviously the key remote marketing tool for a musician aside from the inherent music itself…but that shit can get EXPENSIVE as we’ve been over. And without outside investors or funding…it can get ugly.

 Sometimes the words come to me on the spot and the verse manifests days in advance. Other times the words don’t come until Tuesday at 10 am (knowing #onetaketwosday is scheduled for 6pm release).But no what the time, if I’m not feeling the vibe the words don’t come out. It can be frustrating but 23-weeks in I’m learning to trust my greater intentions and subconscious mind that it will all come together and it has. Choosing the visual aesthetic, which has been equally important to the success of this endeavor, is just as freewheeling, but is undertaken mainly with the help of my ultra-talented lead videographer, Shawn Oddou or another of my trusted shooters if necessary.  I’m blessed that he and my team are so damn good at what they do. I get to reap all the perks of the publicity and facetime, but this project couldn’t have gained the momentum it’s built without their exceptional work.

JM: What is the fully felt movement all about? Is is a spiritual thing? How do you hope that you can make a difference in the world through this movement? 

TMC: Fully Felt is the complete manifestation of intention into fulfillment. Perfect Self expression realized. The movement is for EVERYONE on that path or in that search. I intend to be Fully Felt in everything that I do – that is to be understood, or at least do my absolute best to express what’s inside my heart.  I hope to be an example of someone who fought like Hell to be exactly who he wanted to be, left nothing unsaid, and shared a brilliant light with the world with the purest intention to inspire others to do the same.

IG: themostcritical
#onetaketuesday

https://soundcloud.com/themostcritical/sets/life-in-critical-times 

Article & Photographs: Jessica Moncrief