This week marks the beginning of a new addition to the content we're bringing you at Freshmen Friday. From the very beginning I recorded all the interviews, originally only as audio back up. Going through that footage made it obvious that the voices we hope to turn up the volume on are better understood when visualized. This week we spoke with talented rapper, song writer, modern muse and fellow freshman, KEVIN HUSSEIN, to kick start the first of many video interviews...
Some people know me as SB, my artist name is Kevin Hussein. I’m 30 years old, from Bed Stuy / Bushwick, Brooklyn. Five years ago I was making music with this guy named Jonny on the Rocks we were in a good band called Rocky Business, that was a good five years ago. We were doing all different types of shit. I would say, what I was fucking with was more so art and street at the same time, it was it’s own thing. I was rapping, I was rapping these niggas down. I wasn’t even rapping I was making magic and spell casting. Now I work… well, I’m a published/signed songwriter to Sony. So I’m a pen for hire, I’m the man you come see when your shit don’t sound right.
FF – You’re just a muse?
SB – I am the million dollar muse (laughs). I think it’s innate, coming from Brooklyn. Especially the ones that grew up here or spent a substantial amount of time here, it’s just so in the air. If you’re from BK you’re either going to hustle, do art or do business, that’s it… those are the three you got.
FF – How did you learn how to do this?
I learned how to write music in jail. I went to jail for like three years for a crime I didn’t commit so I started going crazy, really crazy, like literally crazy.
So I kept fighting police, I was very angry. So I guess when you fight police they put you in a box, boom, locked in. Solitary confinement. I had to be there for over twenty-three hours a day, by myself. I had a cellmate and he would rap and shit, he’d be like your shit is hot, you can do this. So in the box the only person you can talk to is the person in your vent, so he was in my vent. That’s the only person you communicate with for like months. He showed me… he was already a rapper, so he kind of showed me how to do it, how to count the bars. It was really like music school. Over time and with training I got nice. So in jail when you get nice you can talk on the tier. So now every body can hear you, there’s like 50 tiers. The police really can’t stop that, they just start banging, so you go up there and sometimes niggas know your name but they mostly know your cell number. So I’m cell number 9, lets go! I’m about to get it! Then you spit it and niggas is fucking with it, like you’re shit is hot. Next thing you know you start getting requested in jail, like SB! Wake up! Get in the gate! Number 9! Get it in…
I was so angry that when I got out I chose music because I was like I got a plan for yall! Since I couldn’t go no where when I get the fuck out of here, I’m going everywhere! So I felt like music was the only thing that I could do that would get me everywhere, really quickly. And that’s exactly what it did.
To be honest the first person that ever helped me was Mark Ronson, he was the first. We was in some club, my man was like this nigga’s hot, there goes Mark Ronson, meet this nigga, like rap right now. I rapped, dead ass, in his ear. And then he just took my number down, he was really the first person to be like you’re a good song writer. I was like oh shit, I might be on to something…
FF – What’s one opportunity that you can say whole heartedly, without it you wouldn’t be here today?
SB - I think meeting Om’Mas Keith was like the best thing I ever did in my musical life. It was like, we had just came to LA, he was mad inviting, he was just like yo the shit you’re doing, the math of it is really, really complex like the rhymes and shit. So I have a hard drive of a grammy award winning producer, with a whole bunch of beats. And it was cool just for him to say that. And it just gave me the energy to keep going.
FF – Now do you consider yourself a freshman, sophomore or senior in your field?
SB – I’m definitely a freshman, I’m not a senior until I live in the jungle. I just email people lyrics like I don’t even have to do anything they’ll just be like this is the best! And I won’t have to hustle anymore so I’m definitely a freshman forever in art, period. Because I’m always going to try and do some fresh fucking shit, you know? That’s what keeps me going too, all these ideas got to stay fresh.
That’s how you survive, the individuality, the creation… that’s how you survive as a creative.
FF – How do you keep reinventing yourself and finding that inspiration?
SB – Never liking yourself (laughs). Because if you never like yourself you always try to do a better version of yourself.
And that way you don’t have to compete against anybody but yourself.
Like that is dead trash, I have something better than that. Then you’ll never stop. I wish I knew to harvest my magic more. When you’re a freshman you give out a lot of energy because you want people to receive what you’re doing, not being careful of who you’re letting into your creative space, the ideas you’re sharing. Because you just want a response, not knowing that these people have ulterior motives with your ideas. And then you see that back and it can crush you. I’ve seen a lot of creative’s just drop off of that, like oh they stole me idea and so on. So I would tell all freshmen; no one can steal your idea if you’re holding on to it hard enough. It’s just like hustling drugs, niggas can’t rob you for your pack if you hold your shit down. You aint gotta tell them where your stash at, you aint gotta tell them where you get it from, you offering that information and you’re wondering why you got got. For the men it’s instinct. And for the female artists it’s intuition. That’s the sixth sense that we’re tapping into anyways. Some niggas don’t even have to say anything I’ll just know I’m not fucking with you. And for the women, when you feel like he might be a clown, then he’s probably a clown, that’s it, cut it off and keep it moving. And for the ones that feel right it will be right, trust me it works. Most niggas who snaked you, you knew that they were a snake.
FF – Name three people you can recommend me to talk to that inspire you and you know them personally?
SB – Johnny Nelson, that’s my favorite nigga on earth. And Scrilla Chinchilla, Scrilla’s like a genius without even knowing it and he has one of the most purest hearts. Ntu Fara, I like her sophistication. To me, that’s why I love working with them, the black female voice is the strongest voice in the whole entire verse, it’s like the mother of the earth. Whatever a black woman is saying, whatever perspective she comes from, people pay attention. She’s (Ntu) bringing this sophistication and it’s very new, or it’s like a part two of… what is already being said about women who understand what’s going on from in the streets level and from a higher perspective, she has such a worldly view of everything that’s going on. It’s almost like a female Nas, where you’re just creating this creative. Illmatic wasn’t about drug dealing, it was about what he sees. And that’s what it is… this is what she sees, this is how Brooklyn is changing, this is how things are developing, this is what it was. She has a message. There are so many stories on the block, but the story that y’all get from the block has been so… that’s not it.
There are so many million stories there that haven’t been touched on and I’m going to hit those, we do so much more that hasn’t really gotten to the surface yet. And that’s where I’m pushing it.
FF – Yeah, now that I think of it all the successful black men were successful because they showed a different side to that one story that keeps getting repeated.
SB – Biggie Smalls, that double diss! That’s the one! He could do mad flows. Biggie was like you need to get this money! Sky is the limit, it was all a dream… he was telling kids they could do whatever, they could get it popping. And then ‘Pac was coming in telling niggas how to move, like oh they’re out here doing this, coming at the actual structure of things and how society is and how to move as a young black person. And you gotta respect Jay though, Jay kept it moving. Jay-Z is a great rapper, he has a great rap story because he told them from the beginning I’m getting this money and that’s all he did was kept getting this money. Jay-Z never compromised Jay-Z, he makes fucking money, he goes and gets that money, he raps about how he’s going to get that money and that’s it. But that’s a different kind of revolution. That’s why I have respect for Puffy, just seeing him bring out all the people he worked with. That’s a blessing, that’s what the arts are supposed to do. These people are in better places then before they met Puffy. The stuff that you’ve done with them, no one can take that away. When you make these creative things they’re there forever, and now you exist forever.
as told to: Olivia Seally // video: Olivia Seally