Miles Ahead of the Rest – The Relic Interview by DocMaddox
Relic has been one of my favorite emcees since his debut on the scene. I have never been disappointed by any of the material he has created over the years. Whenever I play his stuff for other folks for the first time without exception they all go, “Who is this? He’s dope!” And with good reason. In an era of cookie cutter beats and rhymes Rel McCoy’s brand of lyricism and production are a breath of fresh air. I recently reviewed his latest LP Miles to Go on dasouth’s website http://www.dasouth.com/reviews/10229-relic-miles-to-go. Afterward I had the pleasure of performing an interview of the man himself. Aspiring artists take notes, the brother shares a lot of wisdom here.
Tell us a little about your song making process. Does making beat come first, or the lyrics? Or is the process more complicated?
It seems like the more music I make, the less time I have to make it. The creative time hasn’t exactly been in abundance lately. That being said, I’m usually in the middle of doing something else, like buying groceries or something, and I’ll have a idea that works, so I jot it down. From there, I’ll either continue to add to it, or wait until I have a beat that suits the concept. If it’s up to me, I would always write to the beat instead of trying to fit things together that work well.
How does making songs to your own beats compare to projects you do with other producers?
They’re both gratifying in their own ways. I love writing to other peoples beats. It helps that I haven’t spent hours sitting in front of my gear hearing the same beat over and over, and there’s something about hearing a new beat for the first time that sort of jump starts the writing process. Writing to my own beats takes longer sometimes, but then, there’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment you get when you do the whole song from scratch by yourself.
Like I’ve said before your production and arranging reminds me a lot of Pete Rock. Who do you draw your inspiration from past and present? Also on the mixing side of things are there any engineers you’ve studied or were influenced by?
Thank you for the compliment. I have always been a big Pete Rock fan. I’ve been inspired by all kinds of producers. Since the Queen Latifah joints that the 45 King did, all the way to Dilla and even newer guys like Oddisee, and Statik Selektah, I’m always challenged to make newer and better sounding stuff. Not really any engineers out there that I’ve studied per se, but a great engineer that taught me a lot, and helped me get started was Adam Messinger. (produced for New kids on the Block, Chris Brown, Michael Bolton, Justin Bieber ) Before Adam moved to L.A., he taught me the basics behind engineering, and helped me through the mixes on the first couple records I mixed. I owe him a huge thank you.
Can you recall when you realized why you wanted to be a hip hop artist? Growing up in Canada, was accessing hip hop culture a struggle in your youth?
I’ve wanted to make hip hop music since I first heard it. The idea of being involved in some way has been with me since I heard groups like GrandMaster Flash, Whodini and UTFO as a kid. The writing, and producing I’ve really only been taking seriously for about 7 or 8 years. Accessing hip hop was never really a problem, even in south Ontario suburbia. It was fun to go to the record store, flip thru the tapes and pick something at random, or something you vaguely know. Now it seems like that luxury is pretty much gone.
Your storytelling ability in rhyme form is impeccable. I put you up there with a select few emcees. Is that ability something you consciously developed over time or is it more natural for you?
Thank you again. I find it more difficult to write songs that are not story driven, or structured on some sort of topic, so I’ve been actually trying to do more of that. The random word play and witty metaphors are something I know I need to work on. I guess over time the way you do things alters and changes for the better the more you practice.
How is your music received in Canada vs the US? Is it a struggle to get noticed here in the US?
Toronto as a home market for hip hop is a great place. The crowds can be tuff, and we’re known as the “screwface capital” because of that. But on a personal level, I know myself to be someone who is really picky and critical about the hip hop I listen to, and that comes out of just having a high standard. I think that Toronto is the same way. We birth some really great talent here, and I think part of the reason for that is because it’s more difficult to please the audience. In terms of getting noticed, it’s difficult no matter where you are. I have noticed from the crowd response at the shows I’ve done in the States, that fans seem more loyal for the most part. I would love to do more shows down there.
So many artists have a facade, an artist persona and a separate real life persona. You seem to be transparent. Interweaving your family, faith and your love for hip hop seamlessly in your songs. Any comments about that?
I don’t have anything against artists using a separate persona, infact I think there is some of that weaved into what I do. But I do have a issue with trying to be something I’m not, in order to fit some kind of role, or to keep other people happy. I try to balance it in there somewhere. The songs are a way of expressing real life things, but keeping it entertaining is also key. It’s important to just be who you are I think, but I try not to let that get in the way of being imaginative and creative.
As an avid hip hop fan. I appreciated Relic’s openness and willingness to do this interview. He’s the real mccoy (corny pun intended) To learn more about his music check out his website. http://relic.bandcamp.com/ And pick up his latest effort Miles to Go and follow him on twitter @RelMcCoy .