Milwaukee's Prophetic wants to keep it real
With an endorsement from Pharrell under his belt, the local rapper looks ahead
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After blowing up his home scene in 2008 with Mo’ Profit, Mo’ Progress, Milwaukee MC and Umbrella Music Group label owner Prophetic spent 2009 getting himself discovered beyond city limits, most visibly with Pharrell, who recently pledged his endorsement on YouTube. Prophetic’s combination of conscious-style lyricism and club appeal has made him perhaps the only act that can stand on both sides (north and east) of Milwaukee hip-hop. His ability to cross over to the business side of the rap game is what makes him Milwaukee’s best bet for a national breakout at the dawn of 2010. The A.V. Club caught up with Prophetic before his January 15 show at BBC to talk about what’s next.
The A.V. Club: That YouTube video with Pharrell got the scene buzzing. What’s your relationship like with him?
Prophetic: We’re really just two artists that have become fans of each other. Basically, he came across my music and liked it. It’s a nice relationship. He’s introduced me to a couple people, a couple places, a couple magazines—basically showing me different avenues I can go though in order to gain better exposure. It’s basically just like I have a friend in a nice place.
AVC: What’s your ideal setup in the music industry?
P: It would be great to achieve success in my solo career, but my main focus is to get the label off the ground, and allow that to open doors for me. Ideally, it would be for us to gain distribution so we’re still able to operate how we operate, still release our own artists and music while having that machine behind you, to be able to aim at a lot more people than we’re accustomed to.
AVC: How’s the follow-up to Mo’ Profit, Mo’ Progress coming along?
P: I’m recording at the moment. I plan on releasing something in 2010, maybe in spring—probably another album. I’m about seven or eight songs in; I don’t know if all of those will make the cut. I’ve been working with [producer] Jonathan Frost and my home producer Adlib. I also have some tracks from WrighTrax and Mike Payne.
AVC: There’s a lot of talk lately about the emergence of the Milwaukee hip-hop scene. What’s your take on that?
P: It’s getting a lot better from when I first started two years ago. The segregation is kind of slowing down. I came from the North Side, but the only hip-hop scene that I ever knew of was on the East Side. Like, we went over there for shows and networking, and it was a college scene, a mixed community. The more that me and the people I was working with started coming over there, people started realizing you can get your voice out on the East Side. Now there’s a nice blend.
AVC: Will the national spotlight ever shine upon Milwaukee hip-hop?
P: I would hope so. It’s crazy; it seems that Milwaukee doesn’t have that light that people want it to have, a lot people claiming it like, “Yeah, I’m doing this for Milwaukee, I’m doing this for the city." And then there are people that leave the city then come back, and people kind of look down on them for not making a move within the city. It’s kinda like, I represent my scene but at the same time I have Umbrella to worry about. I’m trying to get us on. It’s kinda like once I have the door open, I’ll be able to make opportunities for my city.
AVC: You’re credited as being one of a few artists in the city that appeals to both the North Side scene and the East Side scene. Is crossover something you consciously work into your music?
P: I’m not conscious of it, but it is something that I do look for. I walk the line between what’s called conscious music, the Lupes [Fiasco], the Commons, and what appeals to the masses. I don’t stress it because then it wouldn’t be natural. And that’s me—I grew up on the North Side, ended up going to Marquette [University High School], then MIAD, so I’ve been around a lot of different people from different walks of life growing up. I’ve had a chance to connect with just about everybody. I try to write songs with commercial appeal, but at the end of the day, it has to be about what I’m doing. I’ve been rich, I’ve been poor, I’ve been up, I’ve been down. So I’m able to speak on some lavish things and some not-so-lavish things. At the end of the day, I’m an unsigned artist, and as the saying goes, I gotta keep it real.