Sometimes it can feel like artists move through the world in their own bubble, orbiting around each other but never touching, especially in hip-hop when biting and copying is a cardinal sin. But the truth is, music isn't made in a vacuum. Everything is a re-arrangement and remix of what's come before, and the best artists know how to draw on a world of influences and experiences and mold them into their own sound. That's why we've started
Real Recognize Real
, a new interview series dedicated to talking to artists about the real music and people that inspire them.
First up is North Carolina repper
. Fresh off the release of his
, Mez talked to us about his earliest rap memories, his unorthodox method for listening to albums, what other artist he's got on repeat and much more.
Who is the first artist or group that you remember hearing, which motivated you to pursue a career in music?
"B.I.G. was easily the first rapper I heard that made me want to rap. I was introduced to Rakim, EPMD and others beforehand, but B.I.G. was it for me. After hearing him I started freestyling. I was 5-years-old in '95 so "Ready to Die" was out for about a year, I guess, when I was in kindergarten. And "
" was my jointttttttt. I knew all the words. Still do. I was like nine when I wrote my first rhyme down though. Fourth grade. Still remember those raps, too."
Why? What about his music was attractive?
"It was the way I could see what he was saying. Even at a [young] age I could understand particular parts and see him painting a picture. I couldn't relate to any of it, of course, but I appreciated it. That in conjunction with his style on records really drew me in."
What was the last full-length album you listened to... from start to finish, uninterrupted?
"The problem with this question, for me, is the way I listen to albums is so unorthodox. I normally listen and find a song I enjoy and repeat that and study that before I move on. Because I make music myself I know that you can't fully digest a record that quickly. So I never try to. You can't gauge art in its entirety in a glance. Drake's joint, "Nothing Was the Same," was [last] September, so that's the last [album] I listened to in its entirety. It's been a minute though since I had the time to just post up and listen to a whole album like that. The first album I bought with my own money, after being able to pick it out myself, was "The Chronic 2001." I had a Sony Walkman portable CD player. I listened to that album all day every day. Plus my dad played it in the car when we were riding around. My parents eventually listened to it all the way through and confiscated it [laughs]."
For you, what makes for a complete listening experience?
"I need a full spectrum. I have to be immersed into something sonically gravitational but also intellectually compelling. I gotta feel like this might not be able to be done again by someone else. As for the experience itself I'm a huge fan of the car. I love riding in my car and listening to music. Sometimes if a song is at a good part when I stop, I'll sit in the car and let it play out. I like to be able to give music my full attention. Like in the '70s when people came over to just listen to an album. No cell phones, no TV, probably not much talking."
"Name a fellow new school artist, whose music you're currently listening to and would recommend to others."
is my dawg. I've been enjoying his stuff since we were in college together at Morgan State. I remember playing Capcom vs. Tatsunoko in his dorm room while he was making beats on his Roland Sp 404, I think it was. He's signed to Brainfeeder with Flying Lotus now. Proud of [him]."
Why Azizi Gibson? What is it about his music?
"He was actually the first person I ever saw make a beat on a machine in real life. The fact that he could rap and make beats was ill to me because I was learning to as well and I thought that was rare. That was in '09, when we were freshman and also listening to this dude J. Cole, who dropped a project called "The Warm Up." We were all intrigued when we found out he was making those beats as well."
Fill in the blank: I would lose my sh*t if I found out that _______ would like to collaborate with me on a record.
"3 STAX [Andre 3000] or Nas. I can't choose between [them]. But then if Mos Def or DOOM hit me? That's a whole 'nother story. [Laughs] This isn't a good question for me. I'm a big fan of music."
Name an occupation outside of the recording industry that you respect and think would be fulfilling in the absence of musical creativity.
"Engineering is what I went to school for. It's still so interesting to me that after a successful music career I plan to be involved in some way form or fashion. I work on my car all the time now and I'll tell you, that German engineering is sometimes an enigma. I do it because I love to though. I feel like my mind works in many different capacities and limiting it to just one is short changing my quality of life."
What do you have coming up in the next few months, which you'd like your fans and our readers to be up on?
"More videos, more music and more shows. Look forward to them all. 100 percent of my heart will be present in them all."
Thanks to King Mez for taking the time to talk to us, it takes a real man to recognize real. You can follow him
, and keep an eye out for our next interviews with Hoodie Allen, GoldLink and more.