Mic Handz: The Man & The Music (Interview)

Mic Handz has worked tirelessly to make his mark in hip hop. From humble beginnings to becoming a part of the Def Squad family. He has created a brand and legacy to be proud of. I met Mic Handz three years ago at A3C. He was kind with great energy. His performance was stellar. He also killed a cipher with John Robinson and Shabaam Sahdeeq who would later become like family as well. Mic Handz is a genuine person to build with on life and the business. When I heard his project, The Evidence, it was definitely proof he earned his spot amongst the greats. The thirteen track mixtape featured greats like Sadat X, Rockness and Sean Price (R.I.P). It was gritty, authentic Boom Bap.

Mic Handz is more than music or a brand. He is a father, a grandfather a friend, a mentor, and so much more. On a more intimate note, our dear friend has been facing difficult times as he battles Chronic Kidney Disease. The hip hop community is unifying to help Mic in the form of fundraisers. We are truly appreciative he has granted us an interview to discuss balancing his career, while fighting for his life. This is not our ordinary interview. This is Mic Handz’s testimony.

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Photo Credit Al Karim

INTERVIEW

Thank you for granting us an exclusive interview. Let’s start with the music. Who are your musical influences?

Musically, I have always been inspired by a selection of artists, especially since I’m dual genre. I’m inspired by Luther Vandross, Barry White, Peabo Bryson, Michael Jackson, Prince, Case, Jaheim, K-Ci and JoJo. As far as hip hop, the royals are Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, Treach, Chip Fu and Busta Rhymes,

What motivated you to start rapping?

I was a singer before anything else. When the group I was in was disbanded, I wasn’t sure what to do being so young. My classmates Aaron Veira and Chris Marshall told me I was gonna join their rap group! Here I am!

What was it like signing your first record deal?

It was interesting cause it was a production deal thru Q Media through Warner Bros in 2003. It was dope. I thought my world was about to change, but nothing came of it. I actually recorded a whole project at Pyramid Studios in NYC. I never got the project out the studio, but that’s another story.

Now the road to the deal I have with Def Squad is interesting. I spent 8 years on the road and in the trenches with Boot Camp Clik learning the ropes and etiquette of being a professional touring artist. I kinda hit a veterans ceiling. I was still relatively new to the industry. I didn’t have 20 years of professional experience behind me, so my team and I needed to create a situation to start my own legacy uninterrupted by assumption and the plague of being “golden era”. It had to be beyond just having a golden era aesthetic and sound. My brand is very current in theory, also being somewhat of a vocalist in my approaches and song structure. My core Boot Camp built audience is far more Boots to the Ground hardcore, which is my core. But there’s far more definition to my sound, and I needed to pursue the opportunity to maximize on that. Steele used to always tell me, “You write songs. Why are you just doing what we do?” Rockness used to tell me, “You have the potential with your sound to get us the $50k shows, not just the 5-10k dollar shows that are associated with the current brand as it is.” I had to find another scenario through family and relationships. I was brought to the attention of Erick Sermon who was gearing up to populate and launch his Def Squad Records brand. And after influence from the incredible brand giant Kim Sermon and Gary in the EPMD management camp, I got a phone call from my cousin DJ Diamond the Artist and Erick jumped on the phone. He told me to make my way to the studio…and here we stand!

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Tell us about your best tour experience.

They were all incredible. I mean going to Madrid with Rockness, Sadat X and Craig G was sick!!! And then going out with Smif n Wessun and Mobb Deep (RIP Prodigy) on the “Hell On Earth” tour, which is unfortunately now historical being Prodigy’s last tour. I also went on tour with Planet Asia and Ras Kass, which was awesome. Asia had to leave to go overseas. Me and Ras worked the rest of the tour dates, until Asia came back. He gave me 45 minutes!!! Salute Ras for that! I believe I held it down!! And then just being on the road with my THEM Recordings family cause we do things on our terms… our way! And of course, the “Feed the Scene” shows on the Method Man and Redman tour was crazyyyyyyy! Just check the YouTube!!!!

Do you prefer The States or overseas?

I love home, but the overseas support is honestly where my name and career thrives. Italy, Germany, Madrid, Paris, Australia, it’s crazy the support I get in some countries I have yet to go. I mean I had a mural in Paris a full year before I even went!!! I’m loving Paris! And in Madrid was the first time I ever signed someone’s body!

You’ve been in the game for awhile. Tell me how much you think hip hop has evolved and what are some lessons you’ve learned along the way.

Well for the obvious, the digital evolution was game changing with the elimination of quality control, gatekeepers, “standard”, and the importance of professional quality materials in a game that was not flooded with Sharpie titled CDs. The unmixed MP3 uploads traffic became insane because the horrible and the elite were now on the same digital shelf space, separated only by alphabetical order. There was a time that if someone’s music got to the masses, it’s because it was of a certain caliber. You didn’t have to like it, but it was of quality. So maintaining a level of professionalism was a lesson to me on how I wanted to represent my brand. I think Hip Hop the culture is the same as it ever was. Hip Hop the genre? Now that is a totally different story. But hopefully culture will prevail.

Out of all your projects, which one are you proudest of as far as overall execution?

The “Hell On My Back: Heaven in My Wake” project is probably my favorite released project to date. Solely due to the production, growth and content correlating with where I was in life. It’s one of my most honest works. It’s also the last one my mom was here to grab a copy of.

You have worked with a diverse group of artists. Who would you like to collaborate with in the future ?

My bucket list is Rakim, Kool G Rap and Ne-Yo or Chris Brown.

Tell us about your involvement with Validated Magazine.

Validated Magazine is an awesome quarterly publication that prides itself on featuring the most valid veteran and up and coming brands, artists, and personalities in the world. Starting as a cover feature with my Def Squad family, I went on to become the Co-CEO and partner with the founder. I am extremely excited to contribute to helping him see his vision to its fullest potential and beyond. There is an incredible team of writers, designers, and printers who play a key role in expanding a brand that will secure our validated place in Hip Hop history.

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Give us your top five albums of 2018 that fans must hear.

Honestly this is rough cause I haven’t been able to listen to much in 2018. It’s been a trying year for me medically and personally. However; the Def Squad records launch project “Vernia” is incredible, my project “Blvcklist: Rise of The DayWalker” is out, Innocent? “The Graduation”, Juxx Diamond “Lord Knows”, Seed X Nottz “No Way In Hell”, is a must hear and Rockness Monstas “Rockness AP” album is incredible.. and Smif N Wessun got something very interesting coming with 9th Wonder that y’all may wanna watch out for!! That was just posted!!

Pursuing a hip hop career can be tough. Do you have any advice for aspiring hip hop artists?

Don’t stop!

Do you think technological advances have improved the reach of hip hop, or has it hindered maintaining an authentic fan base?

It’s a gift and a curse. World Wide Web made it world-wide for sure. But now anyone can do it. Fans get frustrated sifting through the weird to find the real.

Recently you were signed with Def Squad. What can we expect on future projects? Any features? Producers?

Many primary producers are Erick Sermon, Rockwilder and Tye Fyfe. And then my BLVCKMARKET LLC family, Sismographe family, my Whipsite family, as well as my partner Fantom of the Beat, and Aaron “Freedom” Lyles, DJ Static, Per C Wells, and Lyve 1-Oh. For sure these are the guys that got me here!

As far as features, you’re gonna have to wait and see. Erick has made a whole new arsenal available to me. I have already worked with K Solo, Xzibit, Bumpy Knuckles, Keith Murray and Erick Sermon himself to name a few. We haven’t even begun on the Mic Handz project yet!

I enjoyed your acting in the hot series RapStar. Tell us about your character.

My character Milly Bucks is a multiplatinum recording artist who is the bar for the rap game and his last album didn’t do the same numbers his first projects did. This opens the door for emotional and professional tensions that start to playout across the landscape of his world.

Any similarities between your character and real life personality?

Yeah there’s a ton of similarities, which is why I understand his journey so well. I just can’t wait to relate to his successes because I have prematurely related to all of his problems.

How did you land the role?

I cut an audition tape behind a Instagram post I saw for the casting and took a shot!

Can we expect another season? Any other TV or film projects in the works?

Season two of RAPSTAR meetings start in August, and I’m currently on the cast of PROJECT HEAT and I have a reoccurring role on the webseries HOME OF THE HITTAZ based in my neighborhood of Flatbush, Brooklyn. Definitely had to support and lend my energy to support the hood. They made me who I am.

You are a Jack of all trades. You also are an experienced videographer. Tell us who you shot videos for, and if there are any upcoming videos to look out for.

Wow, you guys are covering everything! Lol Well I have had the honor of directing Sean Price, Owoop the Don, Blitzkreig, Mister Live, UG, Chord Cordero in a Pumkinhead tribute video, Large Professor, and Mahogany Jones to name a few. There’s a ton of other vids coming up — TBA.

You posted a heartfelt testimony of your struggle with Chronic Kidney Disease. Tell us about how you’ve been coping. What’s your toughest challenge dealing with this as a hip hop artist, father, etc?

It’s been a very interesting journey, more so doing it in public. But I think for those watching me it’s necessary. I have known about my situation for 10 years, so anything this industry has seen me do, I have done with this on my back. With that sense of urgency, everyday had extreme value for me cause I knew they were, in a way, numbered before I’d end up here and compromised. Losing the weight, dealing with fatigue, days of nausea and pain, all take a toll on your performance as an artist. I have had shows I had to push through like this. Traveling on the road, and having to retreat to my room not to be seen going through my changes. And still get back to deliver Mic Handz, especially since I was probably also the promoter or the manager. So I had artists depending on me. I worked too hard to miss any of it. I pushed through until I just couldn’t anymore.

What’s your support system like during this difficult time?

My support system is amazing — my family, my children, and the woman who gave me my children have all stood by me through this ordeal. It seems like it’s exactly where she should be as I knew she would. Jana, thank you! Wendy you’ve been awesome support. Love you for that! My grandmother, my sister, and the energy and spirit of my mom helps. The knowledge that I have my grandkids, Iris and Lilly, also drives me to get well and stick around!

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Tell the people who don’t know how they can help out with becoming a donor. Do you have any info and/or fundraising events coming up?

There are events coming up. Thanks to Royal Flush who reached out to me and asked if I was okay with him organizing something September 1st at the Mercury Lounge in NYC. The fundraiser will feature The Beatnuts, The Lost Boyz , Mic Geronimo, Tragedy, Royal Flush, Black Rob, Ed OG and the Bulldogs, Positive K, Doitall, and Pharoahe Monch. Kangol Akir of the legendary UTFO has stepped in to spearhead future efforts on my behalf, while I focus on being well. LaConekta, NY-1, and News 12 have reached out about creating events in support. I’m humbled by the support and effort being forged in the name of my wellness.

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There are many people dealing with Chronic Kidney Disease. You seem to balance out your career and health and still be productive. Any words of encouragement for others who are having difficulty coping?

Find a support system. Listen to your doctors and balance holistic with western medicine. Be sure to follow your regimine. It is not a death sentence, it’s a lifestyle change. It’s temporary if you maintain prayer and research wellness.

You have a rich hip hop legacy. Tell the fans, friends, and family a message you think is important to share — can be regarding hip hop, health, and/or career.

My message is to be consistent. Perseverance applies across the scape of our lives. Unity is key. If you show support, the majority of those around you become indebted to be supportive. You have contributed to their progress and in-turn they will no longer view you as competition (the ones who aren’t insecure), but as an ally. Find your focus and obsess. Balance the rest of your world, but find time to obsess about the passion. It will translate in real actions. Love. Truly love with everything you are. Do it for no reason at all, no expectations I return. Cause one day you may find yourself with your survival on the line. And without it? Where would you be?

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Photo Credit Al Karim

Mic Handz …Words can’t convey the gratitude for sharing your personal struggle in an effort to bring awareness to others. I must acknowledge, I have other friends who are dear to me going through the same adversity with different types of kidney disease. It’s disheartening to say the least. It hurts to see my friends suffering, but seeing people come together to help save their lives gives us all hope. Please follow and share the links on how to become a donor and/or donate. Let’s use hip hop for a worthy cause. Love and light to Mic Handz.

Weekly Rap Gods thanks you for your contributions to hip hop and the community. We applaud your campaign. I personally admire your strength. We love you bro.

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Get your copy of “The Blvcklist” today at: https://michandz.bandcamp.com

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