By Aaron Brown
Rap. Real rap. That’s what I bring to you today. Sleep, an underground hip-hop artist from Cincinnati, OH and me, discuss musical inspirations, his hopes and dreams for his music and The Fraternity. As one of the founding members of The Fraternity, an eclectic mix of artists, producers, and DJ’s that spans the nation, Sleep has a unique vision for himself and The Fraternity. With new projects underway, and new members coming to the forefront, Sleep has his hands full as he has a real life outside of music including a full time job and raising three children. So we cruised Wal-Mart for the better part of an hour.
On my way to the meeting, I found myself listening to Rev. Williams, a track from Sleeps debut album Lockland 95, in an effort to get my mind right for what was to come. I’m not just a writer, I’m a fan. And now, I feel like a friend. The excitement I felt at meeting an artist whose career I have followed since his early days and the inception of The Fraternity and his role in II-Man Cypher, and tracks ranging from, Leonidas and Game of Thrones at the beginning of his career all the way to Government Assistance (a track from his newest release, The H.W. Bush/Clinton Era), is indescribable. As the excitement fades, I begin my questioning.
How did you get into the rap game?
I’m not like a whole lot of rappers. I didn’t start rapping at a young age, when I was a kid or anything. I didn’t write my first rap till I was like 22 years old. I wanted to be in the NBA. That was kinda my thing, I was a basketball player. I went to NKU, which is a college in Northern Kentucky, and I met this guy, he was my roommate, and I didn’t know anyone else at school. He was actually a rapper, like he rapped in high school. The first day we moved on campus, into the dormitory, he showed me a video he had done, and it was him, and he was, you know rapping at this talent show, and he was really good.
Since I didn’t have any other friends, he would always rap in our dorm room. One day he was like, “Man, you should try it.” So I did. I ended up being pretty good at it. So on weekends I would go back to Cincinnati, and I would show my buddy, Caine, his name was Chris, but his rap name was Cain. And he had already been rapping a little, so we just started writing raps back and forth and we kinda just did that for like 7 years. And we never let anyone hear it. We never put out any music whatsoever. I mean we would make like mixtapes or whatever and we would listen to them, just us you know. And then one day, we saw something on the internet with DJ Green Lantern, and he was Eminem’s DJ at the time, and he was doing a mixtape for unsigned artists, like the dopest of the dope. You had to submit your music for selection out of like thousands of other artists, and our song was selected. Six months from then, we did our first mixtape for release, The Hunger Games and then came Lockland 95, and it kinda just went from there.
What motivates you? Where does your drive come from?
I mean, I don’t do it for money or nothing, because you spend more money than you make. The response that people give you from the music, helping them through something, making them feel some type of way, that’s the biggest thing. You know putting something out there people can like and listen to, even compare you to other “real rappers.”
People say you sound like Jay-z.
I get that a lot. I don’t understand it. Nah hes not even one of my top rappers. I’m a much bigger fan of like Tupac, Kendrick Lamar, from the newer age, Nas, Eminem. Eminem is actually my favorite rapper. But no, I hear the Jay-Z stuff all the time, I think it’s just the voice-tone.
When you aren’t rapping, what do you do?
Video games. I’m a big gamer. I’m really kind of a nerd. I like to read a lot, stuff like Stephen King, Games of Thrones. I have a full time job, and my kids keep me pretty busy.
What are some of your musical influences?
I don’t even listen to a lot of hip-hop to be honest with you. I listen to the big releases, the J.coles, Kendrick Lamar’s, Kanye’s new album. I like Chance the Rapper a lot. Obviously Eminem. I listen to a lot of 90’s rock. Stuff like Matchbox 20, Rob Thomas, Counting Crows, you know stuff like that. I do hip-hop, so like I scrutinize it really closely. So it kills it for me. Because I do it, so I can’t listen to it like a regular fan. They can just listen to it and hear what they hear, but I like pick it apart. If things don’t make sense to me, I can’t listen to it, so it like kills the whole album for me.
What are your plans for The Fraternity?
Right now we are just adding a few more people, and we are releasing a Fraternity album. Everyone won’t be on every song, because there’s a lot of us, but you will hear everybody on the album. And we are going to star pushing it everywhere we can. We are releasing a Fraternity Cypher here soon that we are going to do a video for. So that’s dsefinitely gonna be pretty dope. So we are definitely still going forward with that, we just had some legal stuff to take care of and that took a lot of time. So that’s whay that was kinda on a freez but that’s all over. So we’re all set.
So is The Fraternity a label?
Right now it’s just an imprint. I would never want to do the whole label thing unless I had backing from like a “bigger” label, for distribution and things like that. But that will come. That’s why we are working on the whole album, to build up interest, as far as the whole imprint. So right nw we aren’t pushing it as a label, it’s just an imprint that we own, well that I own right now. And, you know if we get some offers in the next year or so, that is the goal, to be a label.
After we spoke for a while, I turned off the recorder and we continued conversating. The conversation was so natural and relaxed. Some of us fans forget that the artists we listen to in the car, the videos we watch on our lunch breaks, these are real people too. They have lives. Families. Hopes and dreams, just like us.
on facebook as Sleep the fraternity fraternity