|Next Project:||4:57 Mixtape (Out Now)|
|Twitter:||Laws on Twitter|
In the hip-hop game, there’s confidence, and then there’s confidence. Using a debut mixtape to announce the arrival of “Your Future Favorite Rapper” is a prime example of the latter. Less than one year after the release of his freshman effort, it’s clear that Spring Hill, Florida native Laws’ self-assurance paid off big-time – having scored a major deal with J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League and Asylum, the 24-year-old emcee is well on his way to fulfilling the prophecy of that audacious title.
Already a favorite among our readers for tracks like “Number One” and exclusive freestyle “Daytona 500,” the rising star took his game to the next level in early March, when he hooked up with DJBooth.net to drop his sophomore street release, 4:57 (available for streaming and download here). Featuring such acclaimed cuts as “We Like It,” “Hold You Down,” and “Shining.” the project has, to date, proven a massive success, even managing to crash our download server during its first night on our front page.
In an exclusive interview with our own DJ “Z,” Laws steps into the Booth to discuss the differences and similarities between the nine-to-five grind and his new life as a major-label rapper, the inspiration behind his forthcoming “virtual duet project” with Sir Paul McCartney, and just how deeply his lifelong passion for the the written word – particularly that of bestselling horror novelist Stephen King – has influenced his lyrical style.
Listen to the Interview
Laws Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy, “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a native of Spring Hill, Florida, who caught the attention of many this past February with the release of his 4:57 Mixtape. Please welcome “Your Future Favorite Rapper,” Laws – how you doin’?
Laws: I’m doin’ well, sir. Thank you for havin’ me, I appreciate it.
DJ Booth: Absolutely – thank you for joining me inside the Booth for the interview. Our readers are more than familiar with the 2010 Laws, but I want them to get to know the ‘85-to-2009 Laws. Are you OK if we give them a little history lesson today?
Laws: Sure, sure, no problem, as long as we can skip all the parts about me wearin’ a diaper, and those parts that are embarrassing. But yeah, let’s just go ahead.
DJ Booth: [laughs] Yeah, no problem. OK, so track 16 on 4:57, entitled “Rock and Roll Survival.” On it, you said one of the reasons you started rapping is because you didn’t have very many friends growing up.
Laws: What I actually meant by “growing up” was, I had to leave the circle of friends I built, coming up in New York, when I was in high school, to come to Spring Hill. So, yeah, when I moved down here, I had nothing to do. And I first moved in the summer, and you know what it’s like when you move in the summer: you don’t know any kids, you’re pretty much stuck in the house all day ‘cause you have no way to socialize. Especially in not exactly a metropolis – I was kind of in a small community, so…
DJ Booth: You were born in Brazil, adopted by Puerto Rican parents from Long Island, New York, and then you moved to Florida, which is where you spent your teenage years.
DJ Booth: OK, so, as the story of your life has unfolded up to this point, have you found that personal identification, that whole process, has been easy or difficult, because of all the transitions you’ve had to deal with?
Laws: That’s a good question… my life has been just a lot of change. And it’s a good and bad thing, ‘cause when you’re in the middle of something you don’t understand how it’s shaping you, and I really do think that all the changes I’ve gone through have pretty much prepared me for any kind of adaptation I’d have to make in the future.
DJ Booth: Now, for fans of yours who are unfamiliar with your work pre-4:57, “Your Future Favorite Rapper” was the title of your first real mixtape release, is that correct?
Laws: Yeah, that was my first big endeavor.
DJ Booth: Considering your choice to run with that title, Laws, in the position you’re in now, it seems wise, because you’re succeeding, and you’re signed to a major label, but did you ever consider what that would have looked like, had the ascent to stardom taken longer, the process more drawn-out, for many years?
Laws: Anybody who knows me, knows that’s my character – I mean, at least now. By the time I finished that project, I held myself in pretty high regard. And I wouldn’t call it ego, I would just call it being able to separate myself from my music and look at it as a fan. I realized what it was I was doing very early on. I’ve been at this so long, and I’ve developed for so long, and I’ve been through so much that I felt that I was able to claim that. I felt that, at one point in time, I’m going to be someone’s favorite artist, ‘cause I’ve conditioned myself and I’ve disciplined myself in the studio, to be the musician that I am.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. So you’re saying that never did it cross your mind that you’d set yourself up for potential disappointment if you didn’t reach that apex?
Laws: Well, I guess it’s just like, everyone has the pretty girl that they knew when they were a teenager, that they never actually had the courage to get up and ask out no a date. You could’ve enjoyed something special, but you missed out on it, ‘cause you were too scared. And I guess I hit a point in my life with music, where I was like, “I’m never gonna have a regret again.”
DJ Booth: I like that analogy. I remember that girl in my life. Her name was Rachel Locker. I still regret never asking her out on a date.
Laws: You can ask her out now. Go get her!
DJ Booth: I have no idea where she’s at. I might have to Facebook her. [laughs]
Laws: Facebook! [laughs] You can find anybody on Facebook!
DJ Booth: Growing up listening to hip-hop, whose music caught your ear at an early age, which led you to believe that that person might become your favorite rapper.
Laws: Um… probably the first record that I heard that really gave me chills, was “C.R.E.A.M.” ‘Cause I remember listening to Hot 97 the night that “C.R.E.A.M.” dropped, and that was around the same time Cypress Hill came out with Black Sunday. They had a big record out, I don’t know if it was “Insane in the Brain,” or the Demolition Man soundtrack record, one of those records – but they played “C.R.E.A.M.” back-to-back with that all night, and I have this memory of sittin’ in my brother’s room, on his floor, we’re just hanging out and “C.R.E.A.M.” was playing, and it was mystifying to me. Just the whole song – the beat, the everything. I think that moment was when I really fell in love, and started to obsess over hip-hop.
DJ Booth: Let’s talk about the comparison between falling in love with hip-hop and having this ideal of what it’s all like, and actually being a part of it. Late last year, you signed a record deal with J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League and Asylum. Now, lots and lots of artists who are unsigned, they think that the day you ink that recording contract, that your life just completely changes when the ink dries on the page. They don’t know that it’s much different. Since you signed your deal, what has changed the most in your life, and how does that compare to the expectations you might have had going in?
Laws: What I expected was basically to have – I wouldn’t say more free time, but more time to spend on music. ‘Cause my 40 hours a week was really taking away from the time I could spend creating [music], ‘cause there was no time for anything else. And what happened was, once I was actually signed, the equivalent of those hours in the day just wound up being replaced with PR work, interviews, goin’ around and shakin’ hands and doin’ that stuff, which I realized was necessary ‘cause I was a new guy in the game. It wasn’t that I was expecting my life to slow down, but I thought maybe I’d have a little more time to spend working on the music.
DJ Booth: You mentioned the day job that you had, working 40 hours a week – what was that?
Laws: I was working medical records for a medical imaging place – X-Rays, MRIs, CAT scans. I always did medical office work, since I was out of high school. That was just the kind of job that I was holding, ‘cause it was the only thing in the area that paid decently enough that you wouldn’t have to be livin’ with Mom.
DJ Booth: Well, as you said, 4:57 pays homage to the last time you punched out of the clock. Based on this concept, we’re going to play a game called “Moment in Time.” I hope you like games.
Laws: I love ‘em.
DJ Booth: Great. I’m going to list three different times throughout the day. All you have to do is say the first activity or emotion that comes to mind, that best represents that time of day. Cool?
DJ Booth: All right. How about 2:30 AM?
Laws: 2:30 AM is just getting home from the studio, most likely.
DJ Booth: OK. How about 3:15 in the afternoon?
Laws: 3:15 in the afternoon is, starting to pump myself up because the day’s finishing, and the monotony of the day is coming to a close.
DJ Booth: OK, and what about 9:46 PM?
Laws: 9:46 PM is getting dressed, ready to start the night.
DJ Booth: As we both know, a law is a system of rules. So, are you someone who likes to follow the rules, or tends to walk a fine line when it comes to obeying them?
Laws: I was never a “draw inside the lines” kind of kid. I was always more interesting in creating and literature, more than stuff like sports. I was the reader, I was the bookworm as a kid. I became a socialite, but originally I was buried in text.
DJ Booth: You mentioned briefly that you’re an avid reader, always had your head inside of a book. How much did that play a part in terms of who you are today, as a rapper?
Laws: It’s huge, it’s huge. It’s everything. I was introduced to Stephen King at a pretty young age. One thing he doesn’t get credit for, ‘cause he’s popular fiction – I read a lot, and in my opinion he is one of the most detailed authors of all time. He has a way of describing things that I’ve never seen before, and [he makes] them very real. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but my stories are very vivid, and they’re very detail-oriented, and I kind of take cues from him in the ways he describes things, and picking out little things about a scene, and trying to really paint a picture. And that all comes from reading.
DJ Booth: I was gonna say, one of the things that makes listening to you tell that story so easy is, you have great diction. It’s really hard sometimes with artists, to follow what they’re saying – you want to, it’s just not clear. And with you, it’s so clear. Do you make a concerted effort to make the words so clear, or does it just come naturally?
Laws: I do, I do. I actually have a tendency to mumble a lot, ‘cause my thoughts kinda come pretty rapidly, so when I talk it’s like a broken dam – it just all comes out. [laughs]
DJ Booth: [laughs] Let’s jump into a few reader questions. We took a bunch, and I narrowed that list down to two. First one is from member Aussie Accents, from Australia – so you have fans worldwide.
Laws: Oh, beautiful.
DJ Booth: And he wrote, “Knowing that every quote-unquote ‘next step’ is an important step in your career, who or what do you rely on to make sure you’re always in the best possible position, both life and career-wise?”
Laws: I have to say, those are the people directly around me. I’m a very family-oriented guy, and my extended family is also very small, the circle of musicians I’ve come up with since I moved here. So, it’s about a group of ten or so people that I keep close to me, and they always keep me grounded, and they’re the first ones to tell me if I’m movin’ in the wrong direction.
DJ Booth: Which is very important, I agree. Next question comes from Jeremy of Toronto, Canada. Jeremy wrote, “How did you go about selecting guest features and producers outside of J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League for the 4:57 mixtape? Was it a matter of style, availability, cost? What played a role?”
Laws: As far as picking beats for any project, the way it works is, I get beats, I write to ‘em, I send ‘em to my circle of people, and if it gets the approval rating and everyone has a thumbs-up, then it goes into the pile of possible tracks for me to use for a mixtape, or any project. So that’s how we did 4:57. And yes, 9th Wonder did send me beats, and I received a beat from Khaliil, but if those 9th Wonder beats didn’t fit me, or the song wasn’t a good song, or the Khalil beat didn’t fit me, or the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League beats didn’t fit me, or anybody, they wouldn’t have been used. We kind of took the motto that it doesn’t matter who it comes from on this project – it’s just gotta be a banger.
DJ Booth: During that answer, you mentioned something about the track being unique, and while I was reading material about you, and I saw that you were doing a virtual duet project with Sir Paul McCartney.
Laws: Yeah. You want me to go ahead and talk about that, just elaborate…?
DJ Booth: Yeah, please do.
Laws: OK. That is something I’ve been working on for quite a long time. Those who are familiar with my work probably know that I’m a fan of ‘60s British Invasion rock, particularly the Beatles, I’ve been listening to it since I was a kid, I studied it, I combed over it. And I ultimately decided – I like Paul McCartney’s solo work a lot, and I feel that a lot of contemporary music fans may have missed a lot of great songs he did as a solo artist. So I figured, I’ll go in with my producers and rework a couple of the tracks. And that’s what we did.
DJ Booth: The process of thinking this idea up is completely different from actually going into the studio and making it happen. Has it been difficult?
Laws: It’s taken time. Let me put it this way: if someone were to give me a deadline and say, “Have it done by this day,” I wouldn’t be able to. It was just something that I worked on on the side. It started because there was a song I did – I’m not gonna give the name of the song, ‘cause I don’t want someone else flippin’ it before I do it – between you and me, Z, when you hear it, you’re gonna see why no one else could do this, what we just did. It’s pretty incredible. But anyway, it was just a song I did, and I rocked it, and I pretty much just went in right over the McCartney track, with no added drums or anything, and I played it for J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League and they were kind of like, “Yo, do some more of these – maybe there could be something here.” ‘Cause they know how much I’m into that stuff. So I did three or four more, and before we knew it, we had a little project going.
DJ Booth: Well, as a huge Beatles fan myself, I have to say, I’m really excited to hear the final outcome of this project. If I were to have a contact for Mr. McCartney, and I played for him this project, what do you think he would say upon listening to it?
Laws: I would hope he appreciated the time that I spent putting this together. People really don’t know these songs, ‘cause I didn’t pick, like, “Maybe I’m Amazed” or “Live and Let Die,” I picked more of his obscure album cuts. I would hope that he would understand that this is kind of like a fan’s dedication letter more than anything.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. And what better tribute to someone’s work than to do what you’re doing? I’d be flattered, If I were Paul.
Laws: Yeah, and I think if I were to hear someone doing what I’m doing, I would get a kick out of it. I didn’t just take his songs and sample them, and make a beat out of them, and talk about something totally irrelevant I’m actually goin’ back to the original song, and tryin’ to relate what he was talking about to my life, and kind of expand the songs, so it’s like a max version of the original.
DJ Booth: When do you expect it to be available?
Laws: Hopefully early summer. I think 4:57 still has a lot of fuel left in it.
DJ Booth: Yeah, it does. And, for anyone listening and you’re not familiar, you can download Laws’ 4:57 mixtape right now at DJBooth.net!
Laws: Thank you for doing what I should have done earlier.
DJ Booth: [laughs] Nah, it’s OK. I’m used to the plugs; it’s all good. So, obviously you’re gonna ride out this project for the foreseeable future. You have the aforementioned virtual duet project with Paul McCartney hopefully in the near future, and then, of course, your major-label debut album. This is gonna be a really, really big year for you. In terms of thinking forward. December of 2010 – what do you hope to have accomplished by then? You have about seven or eight months to work with, roughly.
Laws: I would hope by December, the LP is out, and I have reached that point in my career where I can start getting spots across the country, and have a decent amount of fans show up. I want to have it spread, man – when you bring up the new rappers and the new guys who are really carving their mark, I want my name in there. Then I’ll be happy. It’s not there yet, but it’s slowly getting there, ‘cause people are starting to listen to what I’m saying.
DJ Booth: Well, you know what? I hope that premonition is correct, ‘cause that’s gonna make us look really good, for getting’ on your bandwagon real early.
Laws: Oh, yeah, and like I said, I appreciate you guys postin’ it. Someone told me that, the first night, it crashed the download link or something?
DJ Booth: Yeah. Thank you for that, by the way – I never thanked you for messing up our servers. It’s incredible!
Laws: [laughs] That’s a first for me, too; I’ve never messed up anything in my life.
DJ Booth: Hopefully you don’t mess up too much moving forward, but that’s a good mess-up. As I told management, that’s a good problem to have, when something like that happens.
Laws: Yeah, that was exciting for me, man. The day it dropped, I was driving from Kentucky to Atlanta, and it was just a bad drive, man. My car was messed up – I had to go to a Suzuki dealership and get it fixed that day. I was dropping all types of money. My Blackberry got run over on the freeway, and on top of all that, I had to drive through the mountains and it was snowing, and I was just in a bad mood. And then I get home, I get back to J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League’s crib and everyone’s trippin’ because the server crashed, and everyone’s downloadin’ it, and it’s a Trending Topic on Twitter, and everyone’s goin’ crazy. That was the best and worst day of my life, you know what I’m sayin’?
DJ Booth: [laughs]
Laws: It was very dope. Really, really dope. You possibly prevented me doin’ something bad and taking people with me, so I appreciate it.
DJ Booth: Not a problem, not a problem. And as I mentioned before, you’re right: it is a marathon, it’s not a sprint, it’s a slow and steady race, and I think you’ve got a good start, my friend.
Laws: Me too, and I appreciate you guys having a hand in that – thanks a lot!
DJ Booth: Absolutely. Give everybody, Laws, a link to any of your social networks, so they can find out more about you.
Laws: Probably the best way to reach me is on Twitter. A lot of people found me on Twitter, and that’s pretty simple; it’s just twitter.com/lawshiphop.
DJ Booth: I appreciate your time greatly, I thank you so much for joining me inside the DJ Booth for an interview, and I wish you nothing but the best of luck, my friend.
Laws: Thank you, Z. Appreciate it, man.