Hip-hop is all about a good story and that special feeling. The first time you heard Nas’ Illmatic the hairs on your arm most likely stood up and you were sucked into the Queens emcee’s world. That was hip-hop with a purpose that upheld the integrity of the culture. Since then the genre has become a full fledged business, and that special feeling just isn’t what it used to be. Artists are no longer looking to tell their story. Instead, they are clamoring for a catchy hit that in a year from now will have no purpose. In an attempt to get that old thing back and rekindle the feeling hip-hop once evoked, a hip-hop birdie by the name of Peter Rosenberg played a record that reminded us why we fell in love with the game. “I aint trying to be a kingpin nigga, real talk, I’m just trying to pay rent…I’m just trying to keep my lights on, lights on.” Goosebumps, check. Song with a message, check. The sheer rawness of the lyrics mixed with the gritty sample, crackle and surface noise had us hook line and sinker. Sean Born, Low Budget crew member from Maryland, unknowingly pumped air back into those dying hip-hop lungs.
His debut album Behind the Scale can be summed up in one word– dope. The fresh production from Low Budget crew member Kev Brown creates a 90’s essence that loops perfectly with Born’s raw, unfiltered, “mural-like” lyrics. But who is Sean Born? The Maryland native first fell in love with hip-hop after his mom purchased him a boombox from the old record store Waxie Maxie’s. Inside the boombox was a mixtape featuring “I Know You Got Soul” by Eric B and Rakim, and that’s when everything changed. Sean was bit by the hip-hop bug. With influences stemming from Nas, Wu-Tang, 2Pac, and ATCQ; Sean Born began working on what became Behind the Scale. Born learned early on “life is painful; it’s not all about rosé and caviar,” he says. “The lil back road where I grew up made me,” and he knows the streets all too well. Born doesn’t shy away from it in his lyrics, but rather uses his past to relate to those who know the struggle of the come up. On the track “Go Hard” he speaks on that very struggle: “I’ve been at the bottom so long that the view is skewed/probably just the glass in the ceiling we view it though.”
Born may be telling the stories of the streets, but he is admittedly very “conscious of not being preachy.” “I’m just telling my story. I’m just another nigga painting pictures. It’s art; you know auto-tagging,” he explains. Behind the Scale is just that– a work of art. A canvas filled with heavily sampled music combined with raw shit that opens the wounds of the streets. As Born says, it’s for “people who care about the history and the art.” And Sean Born is definitely one of those people. Behind the Scale didn’t happen overnight, it was three years in the making and with the push of Kev Brown it all came together. So what’s next for the emcee? Now down with Mello Music Group, he’s sticking to the same recipe for his next project. Same formula, same team, same gritty Maryland style. His mantra is, “If it ain’t raw it ain’t real” and he’s sticking to it.
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