Some men are born great, others have greatness thrust upon them. And then others create their own greatness, piece their greatness together with whatever humble materials they can find: duct tape, hope, recording studios, drive, day jobs, creativity.
Early on, growing up in a Jehovah's Witness household in South Florida, surrounded by classic Motown music, there were few signs that a young Eric Biddines would one day become the Eric Biddines of today. By his own admission, "I was lame. I didn't talk to people before music. I was shy. I wasn't cool."
But while others saw a shy kid, if they saw him at all, the inside of Eric's mind was already bristling with art. Why did he need to talk to anyone when he could draw, write poems, all by himself? But then hip-hop started to seep into his life through the radio - this was during the era when Snoop Dogg and his west coast compatriots were firmly in control of the game - and the allure of rap, this immediately direct way of putting all those thoughts roaring through his head out into the world, became too great to ignore. Before long he was recording songs on a karaoke machine in his closet, sweating in the sweltering Florida heat, but even then he knew he had to do better.
"When I was 13, I had no internet, so I walked at least a mile to go to the newstand. We had this magazine that had a classified section, I found a recording studio, took the bus 45 minutes and knocked on the door. I just had this instinct to do things correctly. I've been invested since 13. I had my own CD before I had sex."
Too independent to ask his already stressed single mother for money, Biddines flipped a McDonald's salary into regular recording sessions and that formerly quiet kid began to find his voice. As he said, "It [rap] seemed like a mask, you could express yourself without you really being you," and using that cover Biddines began to really grow both as an artist, a person figuring out who he really was, and as a young entrepeneur. As a high school dropout, he had no other choice - the music was going to be his life and his career or...there was no or. That was all. The music was going to be his life.
As you might expect from someone who started paying for studio sessions by himself at 13, Biddines was determined to build himself as a business, even if the process was slow and sometimes grueling. A local crew, Cool Town Records, ran a combination ice cream truck/rap/drug dealing operation, and while they might not have been global icons, locally everyone knew that ice cream truck. The lesson was clear, and so Biddines also started local, selling CDs by hand, playing shows, until those day jobs were a thing of the past. He had made his own greatness from the ground up, brick by brick, song by song.
And so while it may seem like Biddines arrived into our world (aka the internet) a remarkably, fully formed "new" artist, the truth is he's been working for decades and the larger hip-hop nation is just now starting to notice. His style, a Southern gumbo that mixes equal parts Andre 3000, Big K.R.I.T. and a voice all his own, is only something that could have come after years of trial and error, work and improvement. That's what's so exciting about hearing Biddines work. He's someone who's never needed the mainstream's approval or support, so now that the spotlight's beginning to swing his way, we're seeing an artist who's artistically free in a way so few artists are because he really does only have himself to answer to. That's all he's ever had.
With the recent release of his last album,planetcoffeebean2, and an upcoming album with U.K. producer arriving this summer, it feels like it's only a matter of time before the hip-hop world notices a fearlessly original voice emmanating from Florida. But even if fame somehow evades Biddines, nothing will really change. He'll still be that 13-year-old boy flipping through the classifieds, looking for a recording studio, determined to build his place in his world, driven to create his own greatness.
And that's why Eric Biddines is a DJBooth Top Propsect.
[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. He also occasionally talks in podcast form and appears on RevoltTV. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]