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Get To Know Jesse Gray

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Thanks to artists like Lecrae and NF, Christian rap is in an entirely new space, somewhere between highly anticipated and highly appreciated. Their gritty, realistic look at uplifting that comes partly from a Christian lense but also in the streets around them, has given birth to a generation of artists influenced by these aesthetics and boldly pushing forward to bring the genre further than ever imagined.

One of these new artists is Jesse Gray, a Denver-based rapper with an intense and diaristic style that immediately captivates you upon listening to what he has to say. His recent release, “Catch Me If You Can” balances understanding with despair, utilizing past experiences to paint a haunting portrait of when things start spinning out of control.

We’ve spoken with him about “Catch Me If You Can,” the Denver rap scene, and more in an exclusive interview

Who Is Jesse Gray?
I am a 21-year-old rapper from Denver Colorado. I’ve been writing since I was 14, wrote 6 albums worth of music over the years and am finally ready to drop some music. I’m a creative guy who loves rap that tells a story  whether through a focused storytelling song or a concept album. 

How did you realize that you wanted to rap? 
I grew up in a Christian household and we went to church every Sunday. We almost exclusively listened to worship music. All of the songs that I heard were “positive” and meant to be encouraging, but when I was 14 it didn’t satisfy me anymore. I felt alone in my feelings, as many of us have, and I didn’t know where to go.

One day in the summer, I was searching around in Pandora and found this artist, Lecrae. My mom hated rap at the time, and he sounded like a rapper. So, me being a rebellious teen, I wanted to check out his music. The first song that came on was called “Prayin For You” and it brought me to tears. For the first time, I heard music that wasn’t just saying “everything’s okay” when I didn’t feel that. I heard music that I could relate to deeply, and I instantly fell in love with the vehicle of rap. That’s when I started writing my own songs.

Define “Catch Me If You Can” for me. What about your life is so fast that you want to slow down? 
“Catch Me If You Can” was written while I was in college. It was a really dark time for me, depression was hitting me harder than ever before in my life, and I had fallen out of contact with both friends and family. School was stressful and I didn’t know where to turn, so I fell into drug use. The only way I knew to deal with how I was feeling was to escape it.

At the time I had also lost motivation to write music, which brought me even lower. I felt like I was falling, like I jumped out of an airplane to skydive, except the ground never got any closer. I felt as if I had no direction in life, and no means to control my destiny. I was living fast and making rash decisions, and yet the days seemed so long. This song is a plea to anyone who cared for me, if you see me falling please, catch me if you can.

How do you bring your personal experiences into your music? 
For me,
it’s all about conveying emotion. The song “Prayin For You” had a huge impact on my life and opened my eyes to the fact I was not alone. Whenever I’m feeling something, whether it be joyful or upset, I try to write my feelings in a way so that others can understand and ultimately relate. It helps me understand myself better putting feelings into words, and the goal is to help others with similar feelings. Some people have journals or diaries to make sense of how they feel; I have music. 

What’s the Denver rap scene like? 
Honestly, I haven’t been to many shows or collaborated with anybody down here as of yet because I’ve just been honing my craft first. But I’m excited the begin exploring what the local scene is all about. There are a lot of talented people here.

What are you looking to accomplish in 2020? 
This is my first release, and I’m looking to begin building a fan base this year. I want people to talk about my music with folk who are struggling, I really just want to help people. I’m also looking to strengthen my pen game and work with producers on-site more than just over email. I think that stuff is so cool, collaboration is something I’m hyped for because all my time writing music I’ve been solo.

What are you working on at the moment? When can we expect more music?
I am working on several different projects, but one of them is coming very soon. It’s a full-length album, and “Catch Me If You Can” is the second track on it. It’s called “Limbo” and I’ve been working on it for quite some time, now it’s almost complete. I’m so incredibly excited to show it off, I’m proud of this album and I hope it makes a positive impact on people, and I hope it gets head nods and stank faces.

Interviews

Q&A w/ @MidnightCyphs: Talks Beginnings, Journalism, Inspirations + More

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It’s hard to find dope, genuine creatives in today’s industry, but one that we’ve grown to personally know and connect with is Michael DeBlasio out of Queens, NY. Michael currently writes for ITSBIZKIT.com — and formerly AllHipHop.com and MissInfo.TV. His organic and passionate approach to journalism is what separates him from others and has garnered him the attention of some legends in his field, such as Elliot Wilson, Rob Markman, Mikey Yi, and of course, the ‘Biggest Blogger In The World’ — ITSBIZKIT.

Mike also wears two other important hats. Publicist and studio manager. In 2020, he established his own PR company, deblazeo PR LLC. He then leveled up to his own office space in Studio 17, a recording studio based in Brooklyn, NY. A few months later, he found himself taking over the role as the studio’s official booking manager.
So of course you know we had to get an exclusive Q+A with Mike, where he speaks on his beginnings, what inspires him, his future endeavors, and much more! Check-in below!

Q: How did you start your career in journalism?
– In 2014, I had a friend who was rapping and we were brainstorming ways to get his music more traction. At the time, blogs / sites were still the #1 source of people getting their music. So I thought, how do we get him on these sites? So I started my own, [which I shall not name because I plan to revamp it somewhere down the line] and from there I started blogging heavily. Unfortunately I was new to the WordPress game and my site got shut down for too many copyright infringements. I then connected with ITSBIZKIT in 2015 because he was looking for writers and he took me under his wing. Biz God taught me almost everything I know and connected me with a lot of people. Because of his referral I started to write for AllHipHop.com — where I learned more about journalism and not just blogging. At the time, this was my 9-5, so I took the craft very seriously and learned all that I could, connected with whoever I could, and attended as many events that I could. With my work ethic being recognized, and a lot of help from networking on Twitter, my name started buzzing and around 2017 is when I felt I actually have my foot in the door and my work is starting to pay off. I have a lot more to learn and accomplish, but where I envisioned myself to be when I first started in 2014 is where I am now. But the real work has just started for me!

Q: How do you define “journalism”?

Obviously journalism is different depending on the field, but to me in Hip-Hop, it’s the journalist’s job to bring light to up-and-coming artists on their respective platforms. With many publications fully focused on mainstream artists and their news, I like to go in a different direction and write about those who people may not know about alongside the big names. Helping unsigned artists get recognized was the reason I even started in the first place and will always be my main reason for writing.

Q: What / who inspires you?

Everything about Hip-Hop. It’s more than just music. It’s a culture. There’s a certain cloth you have to be cut from to make it, which I can relate to being a self-starting journalist. Many artists I listen to also inspire me. Mainstream and unsigned. I may not relate to their exact struggles but I can relate to the struggle of wanting to make it on your own and doing anything possible to guarantee your dreams. A perfect example is Nipsey Hussle (RIP). Everyone that knows me, knows he is my #1, and was long before his tragic passing. Him as a man and artist gave me that motive to take that leap and begin my career. His words and music have been my hussle and motivation since I started, and forever will be.

I am also inspired by my fellow writers. I am blessed to be a part of a circuit of writers that genuinely help each other, and keep one another afloat. These are people I can say are really like my family that honestly care for one another’s well-being and work. And I am forever grateful for that.

Q: What are you currently working on?

I have a few things in the works but what I can speak on is my upcoming, fourth “Midnight Cyphs” compilation. These are projects I put together with artists I like and personally know, with original fresh songs from them. My first three were successful, but with this next one, I plan to do things differently. This time around I plan to create with the artists in actual studio sessions and organically cook up. I also hope to do 2-3 visuals, and ultimately a show with the featured artists. It’s still in the beginning stages but I hope to drop in the fourth quarter of this year.
I also have a few more podcast appearances secured, so be on the look-out for that as well!

Q: Drop a gem for anyone who is aspiring to succeed in your field.

Man, just be real and transparent. Don’t come off as a writer who is doing it for clicks / clout but because you really care for what / who you’re writing about. Also build genuine relationships with fellow people in the industry; artists, managers, writers, etc. A lot of the music world is who you know, not what you know. However, with that being said, learn as much as you can about your craft! There’s always more to learn.

I also pride myself in being a writer that is not just “behind a computer” — so I attend events, studio sessions, industry parties, etc. as much as you can! NETWORK! — You never know who you will meet and how they can put you in position to win! Which will ultimately put you in a position to help your people win! We’re all in this together!

Be sure to connect with Mike on all social media platforms: deblazeo (IG) / @MidnightCyphs (Twitter).

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Artist To Watch

Meet bilingual HipHop Artist HULKSICKO!

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HULKSICKO!’s interest in music began during his high school in his hometown of Bronx, NY. After an injury and surgey led him to put a pause on a promising basketball career, the Bronx native decided to dedicate his training towards music. HULKSICKO! recorded his first song in the summer of 2017. He recalls watching videos on how to use auto-tune for an hour and by the end of the night he had created a very rudimentary track. He chuckles stating, “It was trash.” The independent artist stayed the course and persisted to create for 3 more years before finally finding his sound. His musical style and sound is very unique in that it is inspired by a combination of the trials and triumphs of an East Coast upbringing. “Most of my music is melodic and uptempo, which I think is dictated by the beats I choose. In terms of lyrics they can go right or left depending on how I’m feeling, and where I’m at. I like to tell people about parts of my life even if they can’t relate to it, because the real fans are going to relate. Those are the types of fans I want around my music.”


Find out more about HULKSICKO! In the interview below:

Q: What inspired your artist name?
A: My name was something that I was given/came up with. It’s two words, the first part HULK comes from a joke my teammates would make cause I would still lift even after basketball practice was over. The second part SICKO I came up with my bro Noah, and I just ran with it. I had to add the exclamation so that people could feel me.

Q: Do you have any other special talents?
A: Another talent I have is that I speak Chinese. I visited China twice and went to 10 different cities while there and lived there for a whole month at one point. The fact that I speak Chinese influences some of the harmonies that I think of while making music. A lot of my early fans thought I used to live in China because of the fact that I spoke it so wel!

Q: What impacted your decision to pursue music?
A: I chose music cause it allowed me to express myself. I didnt’t necessarily know how to voice what I felt because I didn’t have people to talk to about it. Same way when I was young and angry, I would listen to music to help get me out of certain moods. It aint always work and sometimes the lyrics in the songs made it worse but that’s how I knew music was impactful.


Q: What got you noticed?
A: I don’t think that I got noticed for my music right away but for what I was trying to do with it at first. I was heavily pushing the idea that I wanted to live in China and make music there and a lot of people who didn’t understand music gravitated towards it because it was something they had never seen before.

You can check out his music on Spotify, Apple Music and all the major platforms. You can check out his music videos on Youtube!

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Features

June Poole Is Young, Swaggy, And Sexy

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When it comes to music June Poole is definitely the next artist up! Originally from the Bay Area June has a swag unlike any other artist and there is no denying that this young man has major sex appeal! He is young, swaggy, and sexy! All the ladies love him! Recently, he decided to move to Los Angeles to where he feels he needs to be to further his career. Many of us have been paitiently waiting and the wait is almost over, June finally announced that he will be releasing the music video to his latest single titled ‘Red Flags’. Stay Tuned!

Stay connected with June Poole on his social media linked below to be up to date on upcoming projects and events! Learn more about him and his journey with the QA below!

Instagram: @jpooole

Youtube: June Poole

Q: Who or what inspires your music? 

A: Drake, PND and Chris Brown because of their music and I also look up to them as well. I’ve actually been compared to Chris Brown before, as well as Jeremiah. 

Q: What made you start taking your music career more seriously? 

A: It wasn’t until the pandemic hit that I started putting my all into my music. I just decided to stop playing around and go for it! It just hit me one day that life is too short so why not spend it doing and going after something you love, which is music for me. 

Q: What is one of your biggest accomplishments so far? 

A: Opening for the migos back in October at a homecoming event!

Q: What are you currently working on?

A: The music video for my latest single “Red Flags” and getting adjusted to my recent move to Los Angeles. I moved here for more opportunities in the music industry. I’m currently taking dance lessons, vocal lessons and working on my overall stage performance as well. 

Stream “Red Flags” NOW!

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