Welcome to ScienZe class. We know Brooklyn for many reasons and for many artists. Add the emcee ScienZe to that long list. His latest project, Divine ScienZe, is a brilliant, sample-heavy collaboration with the soulful producer King I Divine. Dressed in a Rocket Science NY tank top, two beaded necklaces and an African pendant, ScienZe’s down-to-earth attitude has yet to fade even in the face of local fame. Don’t mistake his soft-spoken tone as a weakness, though. He can lyrically hold his own and his music embodies the passionate and positive spirit of hip-hop.
RESPECT. caught up with ScienZe right before he opened up for Blu at New York’s SOBs. Aside from it being his first time performing at the esteemed venue, ScienZe took some time to discuss his musical evolution, working with Blu, his latest project and even the one time he met Jay Electronica.
I first got into you with the Simply Aesthetic project. When people discover your music, what project do most people listen to first?
The grassroot of my following was from 2010 when I dropped like five mixtapes. It was Ode to Dilla, Her Favorite Subject, Phone Tap(e), Hall Pass. I think Hall Pass got a lot of people into what we were doing. The first four mixtapes got the people’s eyes, then we got on 2DopeBoyz and we got onto more blogs. In terms of grass roots hearsay and friends and them telling people, I think it was the first four, five mixtapes. Hall Pass was the one where it was like “Oh shit, this dude is nice.”
What was it about Hall Pass?
The first four, five [mixtapes] was just going in. I just wanted to write, there was no real structure. Ode to Dilla was over Dilla beats and I remember for Hall Pass that I planned it. While I was doing these projects, I planned for Hall Pass. There was a theme to it. Everything was dope about it. Every track was a class, and I made it so I wrote about that. I made sure that it had a message, the cover art was dope. It was ill.
What’s your day job that helps fuels the music?
Right now I work at T-Mobile. Before that, honestly, having your own studio helps. I didn’t have to go out and pay somebody to record and mix, I do all that stuff myself. My brother used it a while ago, he stopped using it, so now I use it upstairs in my studio. So that takes out a chunk of money that you got to be spending. I didn’t even really know where all the other money came from, to be honest. I also used to engineer for people in the same studio, so I got money like that too. I gotta thank my friends and family for support.
Now, your brother is one of the most influential people around you. The same for me. My older brother got me into hip-hop when he first played The Roots for me and I remember exactly the point in time where and when it was. He would tutor me a lot in music. What’s that special bond between you and him?
My brother is nine years older than me. So when I was young, he was driving me to elementary and junior high, he would put me on to Wu and KRS-One and no radio. It was real natural and I liked the music he liked. I remember being upstairs, he lived downstairs and he would be DJing with his friends and I would hear the music he would play. I used to get in trouble for going downstairs. It was really influential in my life. And he taught me how to make beats when I was 9. He wanted me to help him make beats on this Casio keyboard. I mention “Casio keyboard” a lot in my lines because it’s really significant to me. You had to play a part of the beat on this side and then play another part on the other side, so I was helping him like that. He’d play the bass and I’d play the other joints. I started lovin’ it. He helped mold me into the MC that I am.
On your “Welcome” track on Divine ScienZe, you have this intro where this girl leaves a voicemail on your phone. I thought that was really precious. What made you decide to put that on wax?
[Laughs.] We were in the studio, me and Jazz Horn. That’s her name. She’s amazing. We were thinking about how to bring the track in. The voicemail wasn’t left from before. We were thinking how could we put it in as a voicemail so it’s something inspiring. So I told her to say something and it took two takes. And that was it, it was dope. It’s inspiring, even though I know how it was done. It’s still ill.
“Enjoy Tonight,” to me, is one of those joints that I could never skip. If I ever were to DJ, I’d throw it on at least twice a night. What joints for you can you have to let play?
Consequence’s “The Jam (remix),” Niggas in Paris, a lot of Dilla music … Anything from Clear Soul Forces, anything from Sene, a lot of projects from Blu … almost anything from Below The Heavens except “Juice N’ Dranks” … a lot of Tiron & Ayomari. I usually listen to up and comers. Anything from K.R.I.T I cannot skip. C Plus, he’s from Sacramento, he’s dope. Schoolboy Q I don’t skip either, or Ab-Soul. They’re ill, man.
What’s it like working with Blu?
It’s easy. It’s great working with Blu. That guy is beyond humble. We met during a show at CMJ week, I think it was 2010. And I told him “Yo, I spit some shit over one of your beats.” He was like “Oh, alright, send it. Here’s my e-mail.” Now, when artists say that – that’s it. I sent it, then his man e-mailed me back saying “Send the vocals.” Then I was looking at XXL listening to Below the Heavens and thinking “This guy is amazing.” I sent the vocals and then I remember around January 2nd, he says he’s shooting a video and he asked if I wanted to be in the video in Cali. He told me I had to come by the 6th, but that’s when you know that you take these steps if you’re serious about this craft. It would have been easy to say no, but I went. This cat’s cool, he focuses on the music. He doesn’t care if you’re on the come-up. If you’re nice, then you’re nice. And that’s real hip-hop.
Now aaronisnotcool directed Blu’s “Jesus” video, which is a really passionate track.
I love that video.
He also did your video “No Pressure” video and he did some videos for Sene and Anthm. How did that manage to come about?
Me and Aaron? That’s the dude that Blu was talking about when he said to come out to shoot the video. I met aaronisnotcool and we shot the video. We got each other’s contact and a month later I had a track on Hall Pass, and I said, “Let me see if Aaron is serious,” since I’m looking for videographers. I sent him the song and asked him “Could you shoot a video for this?” My man – after a week and a half – had the video for me. I was like “Alright, this guy is serious.” Then we started building as friends. That’s how I like building with people. When I went down to SXSW, I stayed at his crib and that’s when we shot “Song in a Glass.” After that came other videos. It’s real easy working with him because he loves his craft as well.
Would you say that you have a favorite verse?
How did Black Star influence you?
In high school, I didn’t listen to hip-hop. It was trash to me, man. But afterwards, I got to listen to Kweli’s Quality and the Black Star album and it pushed me. It was so beautiful. I can probably recite every lyric on the Black Star album. It was amazing. It made me feel like we can do this. It’s possible. It’s how I feel when I listen to “Thieves in the Night.” Yo! This shit hit me like a motherfucker. I started realizing that cats who like the same types of music usually ride together. So anyone who knows the lyrics to “Thieves in the Night” must be ill. I think that’s when Mos became my favorite rapper. It wasn’t Black on Both Sides for me.
What would you say your ultimate goal is in MCing?
That’s a good question. Right now, I want to be able to support myself and my family with the rap. When I started this, I just wanted to move the people. I just wanted to make music that people dig and influence people in a positive way. Of course there’s different things. It varies as you’re going along with this grind. I would like to supply everything that my family would need or want with this craft and get checks doing it, but that’s not the finer reason why I’m doing this. You know the feeling that music gives you? Basically that’s it. For me it’s very simple. I like things organic and natural. When things are organic and natural, whether it be relationships or friendships, things are easy. It’s easier to work with people and build with people.
Word. Finish this statement: Hip-hop needs more ___ and less ___.
Hip-hop needs less money and more soul.
What’s your relationship with Ski Beatz and Jay Electronica?
Ski’s the homie. I met him at the Dojo and I asked him for his card. He told me he didn’t have his card and he gave me his number. The first little impression was great. From then on, we went to the studio a couple of times. He invited me to the new Dojo a couple of times, I played a couple of his shows and it became a friendship. We’re gonna work when we both have time to do it.
In terms of Jay Electronica, I met him one time. He tweeted one time saying that “I’ve got a show down in DC and whoever wants to go, meet us at this address and drive behind us.” Me and my good friend, Amanda, we were like “What?! It’s not gonna be out there.” So we were like “Fuck it. He’s not gonna be out there.” We drove my fucked up car. We weren’t going to drive to DC, but we were just gonna just go. We drove, saw the car, we saw him and saw his peoples and were like “What the fuck? This is real?” We got out the car, the man embraced me, took my CD…after that, I couldn’t contact his ass. But it was ill. Hip-hop needs more love. Less money, more love.
On your bio, it said that you wanted to pursue “endeavors that will gives kids courage to dream and pursue all that they desire.” Could you talk about that a bit?
When I first started I used to knock the radio because of the type of things that the radio had out. It was a bad message. People on the radio don’t have to do it for the kids, they don’t have to watch out for that, but still that’s one of the reasons why things are the way they are now. In terms of the youth and how they interact with each other, how they act, how they approach women, has to deal with the music. It influences everybody. I met up with Halley Monelle (Halley Llama). She had an idea and she’s into education heavy. I’m not into education heavy, but in terms of the youth, I really dig that. We decided to do a Hall Pass tour, which was basically to go around to schools and use music to influence the youth to go to college. Actually, all of last year we were in Delaware and elsewhere. We did a 17-school tour in the fall, and in the spring we did five schools. We try to give back as well.
Do you see an absence of that? In terms of MCs’ involvement with kids?
If you think about it, hip-hop and music has always been like this. The youth still have to interpret things for themselves. We had Wu-Tang standing up, hoodied up, baggy jeans, but we still had to interpret it. We should still have some people who give a positive message here and there. That’s all I’m asking for. We really don’t have to make positive songs and all that, but we should drop things here and there, like that “Hollywood Divorce” song from OutKast.
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