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“Metaphorically Speaking” Interview with Metaphor The Great

Understanding what makes a rap artist intriguing isn’t that difficult. The formula is quite simple in fact. All it takes is a cable harness attached to the ledge of a building rooftop in the middle of Hollywood, apply Timberland boots to the feet of a lyrical fireball from New Jersey and you let him freestyle while he’s suspended in mid-air. Easy right? Not for most, but for Metaphor The Great, this is just another day on the job and yet another way to exhibit to the world the in-comparability of his creative talents and lyrical feats.

Metaphor on set of the HIPHOPDX Hollywood Freestyle Shoot
Metaphor on set of the HIPHOPDX Hollywood Freestyle Shoot

On January 7, 2015, Metaphor the Great tweeted that he had just wrapped up his video shoot with HipHopDX. The tweet, along with his others via twitter pertained to business as usual. The tweet remained untouched, no favorites were added, no re-tweets or mentions from any followers. Needless to say, the tweet was an understatement and no direct reflection on the amount of attention the video would receive once it finally aired March 4, 2015. Reportedly, the “flying rapper” had been re-posted on popular social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube) as well as receiving praise from the incomparable Erykah Badu and his loyal phornatics (fans of Metaphor The Great).

Erykah Badu showing love to Metaphor The Great on his recent Hollywood Freestyle with HIPHOPDX
Erykah Badu showing love to Metaphor The Great on his recent Hollywood Freestyle with HIPHOPDX

Initially, Metaphor The Great had gained popularity through the infamous beef with Tubesteak (better known as Carl Jones, Executive Producer of Black Dynamite) on February 5, 2009. Millions of viewers loved the satirical display of the rap battle between the two, so much so, that they had done research on Metaphor The Great, the artist. Upon finding him, they had become impressed with his delivery and style. But they had also been a bit disappointed that more of his catalog wasn’t available for streaming and download. Many fans had gone as far to express their frustration with the music industry, posing the question, “Why isn’t this man signed?” Metaphor The Great’s name emerged more consistently, popping up on the opening credits of Adult’s Swim’s, ‘The Boondocks‘ (Aaron McGruder), pacifying the cries of the seeming injustice against the lack of recognition for his outstanding talent. Metaphor had received both credits and praise for his involvement in hosting and releasing soundtracks for the ‘The Boondocks‘ with Hip Hop aficionados. But, no one had known much more beyond that about his resume. Timberland Boots

So, who is Metaphor The Great, really? Geographically speaking, he is a New Jersey native by the way of Greensboro, North Carolina. Lyrically and musically speaking, he is a genius, with the ability to play keyboard synthesis by ear of various music genres. Creatively, he comes up with unorthodox ideas like swinging from a cable harness to freestyle. Metaphorically speaking, the man is blowing up; see, ‘Phor. In actuality, he’s a genuine person, loyal, well articulated and just like everyone of us, he’s surviving. Recently relocating to Los Angeles, California, I was granted the rare opportunity to interview Metaphor and gain more insights on rap’s regular guy, the blue collar artist.

Where are you originally from? Where are you now? I’m from New Jersey. I live in California…on Skid Row, downtown Los Angeles. I moved here from Greensboro, North Carolina, almost a year ago.

Was the name “Metaphor The Great” given to you, or self ordained? It a combination of both actually. I rhymed with a lot of metaphors, so eventually the name stuck. People started calling me ‘Metaphor’ because my battle rhymes had so many metaphors in them. The manic part of my personality adopted “The Great”. Spitting

Are there any Hip-Hop artist that you would like to pay homage to? Who influenced you?All of ’em. I want to pay homage all of them because they have all influenced me. Especially the bad ones because they made me say “don’t be like that n-gg-“. laughs

Do you recall your first freestyle battle? No….yes…no laughs honestly, I don’t recall many. I was really young when I started rhyming, really young… but not the first, no. I think it was at a school dance in Linden, NJ. That’s the earliest I can recall.

Under what conditions is it okay for an emcee to decline to battle another emcee that challenges them? Shit…if he …she… don’t feel like it… laughs Well, I always felt you should never let yourself be bigger than the art in terms of ego. But, speaking for established artist… with the climate of today, a bigger known artist should decline if a lesser known artist attempts to battle him. The reason for that is the lesser known artist will attempt to do so to make a name for himself to add the battle to his resume, even if his flow was garbage and he suffered the loss. If there is no benefit to it for the known artist then I would say not to engage in it. The lesser known artist does things like that as a business strategy to become established.

When did you begin to notice that “Metaphor The Great” had established street credibility?
When I was younger, the older guys knew who I was …they would approach me like “oh, so you the one that rap?” Then I would battle them and beat them in the battle…they would get mad, and then I would have to run. Laughing I was small. They would think someone wrote it for me. They would yell and get mad and say stuff like “you ain’t write that sh-t” laughing they wanted to fight so bad. I was young and they were young adults, I was like 12, and they were in their 20’s.

Besides being gifted with words, do you have any other music abilities and talents?
I can freak anything on the keyboard-synth. Anything. I’m like… Baranford Marsalis laughing …But, no, I compose music. I can read a little bit of music, but I play by ear. 

When you record, do you “write” your songs as a songwriter would, or are your tracks “organized freestyles”? Sometimes both. With songs, I usually like to write because I want to marry the track. When I listen to tracks, I hear the words in the music and I write exactly what it says. I can’t understand how people don’t understand that or how it works. I write what I hear in the music. Its speaks to me.

Tell us more about the infamous “Tubesteak vs Metaphor” beef that went viral online?  Next question please. laughing

I know that you no longer consider yourself as a battle rapper, but do you get random rappers that approach you to “battle” them? No. laughing Not anymore

What was it like to work for Aaron McGruder and with The Boondocks team? It was dope needles! It was so dope. The whole, entire, Boondocks thing, was a miracle…I was in Greensboro. To have an opportunity like that, it was a miracle. And it was such a learning experience that I had to step out of hip hop artist mode. I had to wear different hats. I learned a lot about television, music, and film. It was a great learning experience. I had to compose music that wasn’t Hip Hop, like country western, like gospel, [theatrical] stage-play music, from ‘Sargent Gutter’ to ‘Jimmy Rebel’ (parody characters on The Boondocks), a lot of different genres. Some times we’d make these funny takes, or they would be be so amazing, but we couldn’t keep them because it had to correlate to what was happening on screen. That was a challenge for me because with recording music, you keep the best take. These take had to coincide. A lot of the people thought that I was just doing the rapping on the CD’s and mixtapes. From season three moving forward and few pieces on season two, we, JJ (Jonathan Jackson) and I did all of the music on The Boondocks. We also contributed to some of the music on Black Dynamite. No, it was music by Metaphor The Great on Boondocks…all of it. Music Director. I was doing all the music on the Boondocks, me and JJ (Jonathan Jackson). HollyWood Freestyler

My favorite character is Wunsler and Ruckus, they’re interchangeable to me. Which Boondock’s character is your favorite? Who do you relate with the most? The boys and Uncle Ruckus. Huey and Riley are a representation of a lot of black men in America. Huey is more proactive. Riley is too in his own way. They have the same intentions from different points of views. They both want to reach a black utopia. They are both progressive for the progress of black people in America. Their definitions and interpretations are different. Huey is all about being self-sustaining, wanting black to support black everything… officials in politics, black owned businesses, black love, black power, all of that. Riley is on some gold chains and expensive cars and b-tches! Laughing But no one can judge anyone. Success is not the same for one as it is for the other. That’s the duality of most black men in America. We have both of those things inside of us. We want to shine in the Maybach. You see a different side of us though, the Huey, say with the Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner situation and with the Obama election.

I heard this one line you used on a track entitled “Do That” you said…”its usually with my right hand, the murders wrote…but I write fire with the left call it second hand smoke”. I thought that was the ill-est line. How do you stay lyrically fit? There is no regime. I’m just overexposed to things. I just filter things. I’ve been doing this so long that is just how my brain has started to process most things.

Your fans (Phornatics) love your flow, you have a lot of hits online for people searching for your music, do you have any solo albums or projects available for download or streaming?
Yes, a mix tape entitled, ‘Season Phor: Outfromthebackground that’s on Bandcamp, and it’ll be available in other places in the future. Also, I’ll be releasing a soundtrack soon entitled. ‘Hoodiez’ Vol. 1 you can read more about that by visiting: hoodieztoys.bigcartel.com/mixtape
That will include Thugnificent (of The Boondocks) and myself of course.

Its been rumored that battle emcees sometimes have difficulty transitioning from their free-spirited-style to structured tracks, did you face of this conflict on “Season Phor” or when you are recording your songs? Does this often concern you while making a transition in being an indie recording artist? No it doesn’t concern me. I’ve been blessed with strong song structuring skills, so between counting bar and maybe a good bridge and hook, I have been blessed with with ability to do that, masterfully. Even the way that I write a lot of time, even my writing style, I can be real abstract with it. I am just free-styling on paper. Phor More

In your opinion has hip-hop market become so saturated that free-styling has become a lost element/art? What is your take on the current state of Hip-Hop? I think its good! I think its getting back to variety. Battle rap circuit is now on pay per view, that is huge! You still got Hip Hop in heavy rotation on radio. Hip Hop is still the biggest music genre in history. You got people that have never made it to radio that are making a lot of money. Most people don’t realize that. No one tells you that. Hip Hop is making billions of bucks in many ways. If you can break in that arena, you can do very well for yourself.

What legacy do you want to leave behind in your music? Be yourself. Whether you are an artist or a fan. Always be yourself. One issue I’ve had with music, Hip Hop especially… is this need to push everybody in to this status… pushing everyone into this “hood wealth” status. It started from
a “what I don’t have” mentality. Start where you are right now…you can work towards things but, you have to work towards whatever will make you happy. You don’t have to fit in anyone’s definition of what is considered “okay”. I want my music to be motivational. laughs Hooptie music!


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About Danielle Niecey

Danielle Niecey is a Content Contributor & Freelancer Writer for Music Existence Magazine. She is owner and writer for Blessed Bachelorette, an emerging women's lifestyle blog based in New York. Danielle is a published author ('Based On A Love Story'); Entrepreneur, Actress and Songwriter.

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