“Before you have fans or notoriety, all you have is your music,” Anonymuz tells me over the phone on an unnaturally chilly August afternoon. “That has to speak for you more than anything else could.”
He’s right. All the talent in the world can’t help an artist who doesn’t have the drive. Luckily for the Florida rapper born Isaiah Joseph, that dedication to craft shows across an ever-growing catalog, which he’s been self-releasing since the early 2010s. The Broward County representative has amassed 198 thousand monthly Spotify listeners, whom he terms Rxdicals. His latest project, There Is No Threat, was streamed over a million times in less than a week.
Through honest introspection and murky high-energy beats, Anonymuz raps with a dead-eyed precision, stacking rhymes together with enough purpose of intent to avoid the pitfalls that many Fast Rappers succumb to:
“Never compromised to get a shot and I still won’t / But then I seen my mama cry and, dawg, I came real close / Have you ever tried to tell somebody you will blow / And watch ‘em look at you like you been hurt or a little slow?” —Anonymuz, “25 To Life”
Many a contemporary artist has built a platform on the display of raw honesty, but Anon’s specificity makes his brand more potent than most. An avid anime and video game fan, he cites Yusuke Urameshi from Yu Yu Hakusho (who he named his 2017 Urameshi EP after) and Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop. Both characters, he says, instilled valuable lessons in him while growing up: “Yusuke was all about not listening to anybody and setting his path. That’s what I resonated with.”
Over the past three years, Anonymuz’s determination and musical output have helped the emcee gain a legion of new fans, become a boss, literally, and receive assistance from a major soft drink brand. With Vice City, an album released in 2016, and Urameshi, an EP released in 2017, he saw his cult fanbase slowly grow beyond the confines of the internet. In March, Anonymuz delivered There Is No Threat, sporting features from fellow Floridians Sylvan LaCue and Denzel Curry, which served as the first release on his newly founded independent label Rxdical Records. And then there’s Sprite, which placed his latest singles “Greene” and “Rockstar” on their Spotify playlist The Sprite Way.
“People don’t understand how hard we worked to get here,” he says, confidently. “For not having any major push at all? I think we’re doing alright.”
No matter what life or the industry may throw his way, Anonymuz isn’t scared. He’s a radical of his own making.
Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: What’s your first music-related memory?
Anonymuz: Probably being in the car with my mom. She used to pick me up and take me to school. My mom had a different music taste from a lot of people because she didn’t listen to any popular music. She only listens to gospel and shit. She would play different covers and renditions of gospel and shit.
Describe your first experience with rap growing up?
It was listening to rap on the radio. I used to get babysat by this girl in Miami, and she was really into Eminem. She would always play that nigga off of this boombox she had. The first time I was ever able to appreciate it and not just hear it was those times when I was, like, seven to eight years old.
Earlier this year I tweeted that “rap is the nerdiest shit ever” and we had a brief conversation about it. What, to you, makes rap the nerdiest shit ever?
A lot of artists that are popping and coming up right now are pushing themselves and what they like. The same way that we were saying that Toonami had that gravitational pull back in the day, its influence is something that’s always gonna be in hip-hop. The nature of a lot of anime and the nerdier aspects of hip-hop are all rooted in the same things. Both revolve around stories of people who prove to the world that they’re capable of more than they may have thought. It’s nerdy, but it’s also cool as fuck.
Yusuke Urameshi is your favorite anime character. How did Yu Yu Hakusho—and anime in general—serve as inspiration?
I just watched a lot of Toonami growing up. I feel like in anime, especially older anime, everybody is unique and doing their own thing. The same rebellious nature hip-hop has rooted in anime. Goku was all about beating the odds and testing himself; Yusuke was all about not listening to anybody and setting his path. That’s what I resonated with, especially when it came to Yusuke. I’ve been setting my path through all of this.
How would you describe the ethos of your new album, There Is No Threat?
I was in the worst place of my life while recording [There Is No Threat]. No Threat was me taking a snapshot of my life and my mentality at that point in a year. I knew that no matter what life threw at me, I could mud that shit. There was no threat. I had to sit down and remind myself of who the fuck I am.
How have you used this energy to serve your grind as an independent artist?
That mentality is crucial to being an independent artist because there’s always something you gotta prove. There are insurmountable odds against you no matter what, so it helps to think, “I’m just gonna wreck shit no matter what.” The moment that I falter or doubt, it’s over with.
There Is No Threat is your first project released under your label Rxdical Records. What was the most enticing part of founding a record label?
It’s about structure. We’ve always had a DIY mindset. If you’re spending all this time knocking on doors and no one’s answering them, then build your doors and bust through the wall. Starting our shit was just about adding value and purpose to what was going on. I already had the perspective and had built the kind of fan base necessary to bring those physicals ideas to life, so we all figured, “Why not?”
What’s the hardest part of being an independent artist?
It’s a double-edged sword, man. You have to have that There Is No Threat mentality, but you also have to prove it to everybody. Sometimes I feel like Kanye West in the sense that I know I can do it, but if only you would give me a motherfucking shot. It’s all about people taking the risk on you and wanting to see you succeed. Before you have fans or notoriety, all you have is your music. That has to speak for you more than anything else could.
How did the “West Side Freestyle” video factor into that mindset?
I wanted to show motherfuckers what I could do and where I was from in the Westside of Florida. I like to make music for the summer. You have to have balance. I can put out stuff like There Is No Threat, but I can also put out stuff like this freestyle. Everything doesn’t have to be so serious all the time.
Companies like Sprite have noticed your hustle. How did they get involved in the promotion of your two latest singles “Greene” and “Rockstar”?
Sprite reached out around the time I dropped “West Side Freestyle,” actually. Their official account reached out on Instagram. They wanted to do something, so I sent them over to the team. I was already working on “Rockstar,” so we went from there. We wound up making “Greene” with them. Fun times.
I’m sure it felt great to have a company like Sprite reach out with zero major backings.
I’m glad you said that because people don’t understand how hard we worked to get here. For not having any major push at all? I think we’re doing alright [laughs].
What has Florida done to help you as a rapper?
It’s done the obvious things like affecting the way I move and the way I talk, but things are a little weird now. A while ago, that question was catered more toward having a specific sound. Now, with the internet, you can be somebody from Wisconsin that sounds like they’re from Texas. You can have somebody from New York sound like they’re from the Bay [Area]. Your area doesn’t shape your sound as much anymore.
Walk me through the recording process of “No Threat” with Denzel Curry.
My team and Denzel’s team have been close for years. It was all about introducing us to each other. That song came really naturally. I like to be able to meet people and catch their vibe, in the studio and life. Me and Denzel had a few phone conversations and linked in person a couple of times and got cool. I was working on “No Threat” at the time and said to myself, “Yo, this is hard.” I sent it to Denzel, and we got busy.
What does being a Rxdical mean?
It’s about not accepting what the world sees you as. Being connected through the internet can also be a bad thing, you feel me? Most of us live the most idealized versions of our lives on the internet, and that can influence people to change who they are or want to be something that they’re not or not accept themselves in the face of what other people think. I think it’s all bullshit. Being rxdical is accepting things the way they are and just doing you.