Philly’s Finest – King Syze (Interview)

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King Syze is one of those lyrical brothers who works hard at his craft. He doesn’t release inferior product. His work ethic wouldn’t let him. I’ve been a fan for many years now so it was with great pleasure I had the chance to interview him. Peep the outcome below:

Me – Lets talk about your childhood in Philly. Did you grow up in a happy home?  Do you come from a small family? Does Philly have a large Puerto Rican community?  

Syze – I grew up in the Olney section of North Philly. I was the youngest of 4. Overall it was a happy home but definitely had its moments. My father was in prison most of my childhood and mom was always at work trying to keep things above water. I was basically raised by my brothers and the guys around the neighbourhood. Since I was always the youngest around they always made sure I was good. Philly does have a big Rican community called Hunting Park. Although I didn’t grow up there I was born in that neighbourhood. My father ran those streets in the 80s.

Me – How was the city back then? Where did you grow up? I’ll be honest all I know of the city is what I see of the streets in the first few Rocky films.

Syze – The neighbourhood I grew up in was East Oaklane/Olney. The neighbourhood was a hardworking neighbourhood filled with labourers and hustlers. Some good blocks and some bad. East Oaklane is a great neighbourhood surrounded by bad ones. Olney was a mix of good and bad. Now it has turned out to be just another bad neighbourhood in the city.

Me – What kind of child were you? I always like to ask because I think those early years can be a good indicator of the person you become and the eventual direction you take.

Syze – I was always an easy going kid. Since I was the youngest I had to be. I being the youngest around I was always just put places. If my brothers were somewhere that’s where I had to be. Although I was easy going I always had my own opinions about things. I played baseball and football until my early teens but got into music. 20 years later I still love it.

Me – What was you first experience of the culture? Did a family member or friend introduce you? How did it make you feel?

Syze – My first experience with music came from my brother Planet. As kids he was the one that was really into hip hop. Collecting tapes and vinyl back then. So he was a big influence to all of us. He wrote my first verse for me when I was 12. Back then we had a team of mc’s. It was Cylox, Des Devious, Jedi from the original Outerspace & crypt. Even my fam Vocab would get into the Cyphers and rip it. Cylox now known as Iron Kong was a huge influence on my music. Although he was older than me he always treated me as an equal when it came to music. He alway gave me confidence when I was thinking otherwise.  We made a group called I Spyes with Cylox, Des Devious and myself. We had a few demos but couldn’t really stay on track after that. Lawrence Arnell would come around here and there. He’s also another one that was older than me but always treated me as an equal. I always looked up to him and we still make music together now. Adam 12 of Dead Pigeons was the first outsider to let me record music then. I recorded my first song ever with him when I was 13. The song was called ‘Mc’s Try’ featuring myself Jedi of OS and Planet. I’ll always give Adam props, that was huge for me back then I was just a kid.

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Me – Out of the 5 elements which was the most alluring to you?

Syze – I was never really into hip hop when it came to the elements. All I ever wanted to do was hear all the new music that came out and rap over instrumentals. My friends were into graffiti and deejaying. That wasn’t really ever my thing. Over the years my favourite thing about hip hop is making the music, that feeling of accomplishment when a thought in your head is turned to audio.

Me – Ive read that some MC’s are very shy about their style until they’d perfected it. Were you like that?

Syze – Not really I always approached music as expression of art and always had the mind frame of “some people are gonna like it and some are going to hate it” no matter what you put out so when I started recording my own material I was always confident.

Me – Coming up in the Philly scene must’ve been an education in itself. Where did you polish your craft? Cyphers?

Syze – We would have cyphers around the neighbourhood all the time. If I was with Cylox we were rhyming, if I was with Planet we were rhyming. That’s all we ever did. We played touch football and rap. That was how it was around my neighbourhood growing up.

Me – Where were the best spots to hang out back then? Bobbito’s Footwork?

Syze – Since I got into music really young I hardly ever ventured out of my neighbourhood but when we did we went to Bobbito’s Footwork. All the illest were there. Guys I looked up to. Paz, Planet and Kamachi were known for ripping shit up there. I met a lot of artist there although I only stepped on stage once. The first time I performed live was a few years before that and at Houston Hall at Temple University with Adam 12 and Outerspace. I was just a kid scared an all that but I got on stage and did my thing in front of about 20 people. It felt like I was on top of the world ha.

Me – Your connection with the Outerspace fellas seems like a really family bond. Where did you meet them? Were they already rhyming by that point?

Syze – Most people already know that Outerspace consist of Crypt, who is my older brother and Planet who is my brother in law. He was concierge family even before that. The connection to Planet goes deeper and further in time than just us. His parents knew my parents, his grandparents knew my grandparents from all living in the Hunting Park area I told you about earlier. I met Planet in East Oaklane. My mom fed him, his mom fed us. That’s how deep it goes. True family way beyond music.

Me – Lets talk about the release of your first 12 Street Poetry. How did that come about? Was there an over whelming sense of achievement seeing your name and music on record?

Syze – Street Poetry was my first piece of music release officially on a grander scale. I have recorded a lot of music before then but Street Poetry was the music Paz felt was good enough to be put out. It was dropped in 2000 on Superregular records. Seeing my name for the first time on a piece of vinyl was an incredible feeling. That’s when I really knew I loved being a part of music. 15 years later I still get the same feeling I got from Street Poetry every time I put something out. A sense of achievement is an understatement.

Me – From the OS crew to JMT. How did that happen? Vinnie Paz seems like the real deal, how much of an impact has he had on your career and membership of AOTP?

Syze – Planet was the first to meet Paz at Footwork. Since I was always around I met Paz the same way. I met Paz in 97-98. We all became close friends through music but family through real life. We were all really young hanging out drinking 40s at parties and rapping. It would be Outerspace, Paz and Louis Logic and myself just chilling. So that’s how we met as far as being friends goes. When it came to music Paz always had a plan in his mind that music was what he was doing. I’ll say this now and I’ll say it anytime Paz is no doubt the reason I have a decent fan base and music that is heard around the world today. Back then we didn’t  have it easy like today. We used to actually have to make something decent and have a plan in place for it to be heard. He knew how to do all that. Today you put something on your laptop and release it. Besides the business mind he had and the music and skill to back it up. He introduced me to 7L & Esoteric who also influenced me through the years. Their music was so incredible. I always wanted to be like those guys. I guess it was unfair I was getting advice and music from JMT, Outerspace and 7L & Esoteric while other guys had to learn on their own or from artist that didn’t have a clue. 2003 Brick Records put out Machine Gun Rap. Outerspace, Paz and Esoteric laced it with 7L producing all songs. That was huge for me to be rocking with them and Paz made that happen for me.

Me – How did the Babygrande Records deal come about? Was putting out albums over there a positive experience or a mixed affair?  

Syze – The Babygrande thing was a double edge sword but an experience overall that was good for me. You learn a lot dealing with a shitty label like that. I had to track them down for money that was owed to me and a bunch of paperwork that I don’t care much for. The good thing about the deal I had the distribution to really be heard. So it was good and bad. That experience made me think twice about putting music out with a label. Since then I’ve done ever thing on my own.

Me – After the Babygrande Records situation you dropped the Collective Bargaining & last year the Union Terminology albums. Do you enjoy the creative freedom being your own boss brings?

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Syze – Doing things on my own was a whole new experience for me. Releasing music on your own can be good and bad depending on what’s important to you. To me being able to do everything on my own terms is what’s important to me. On the flip side of that putting out material on your own has a lot of challenges in itself. You really have to learn how to do things like promote, take care of art work, videos, singles and interviews. Financially it’s a tough thing also because there’s no advance. Everything you do you pay for but I’d rather that than dealing with other people.

Me – On all your albums titles there’s a union theme.  What do you do for a living? Am I right in saying you’re an active member of a trade union organisation? What have you learnt from being involved?

Syze – I was a teamsters for 13 years until I recently left work. Most of my music was based off my life. I’ve never been the artist to front about what he was doing. So I was a teamsters and my music took on the roll of a hard working individual. Now I’m homeschooling Dad/musician and couldn’t be happier. Last year I’ve done more music than I ever had done because I’ve had the freedom to do so.

Me – From your online presence I can tell that your family is the most important thing to you. How does having them and the commitments it brings balance with the life of an MC?

Syze – Yes I’m a full time family man so balancing things out can be challenging but I get it done. I have a great wife who supports my music 100 percent. She always has and alway will so that makes things easier too. I’m grateful for my family and they will always come first.

Me – Year Of The Hyenas with Reef the lost Cauze is one hell of a ill collaboration album. How did that come about? I get the feeling from many listens it was organic project. The chemistry was perfect.

Syze – Reef is an incredible artist and human. I met Reef about 10 years ago and we were immediately friends. About 7 years ago we started a project together that never was finished. A lot of that music is on my mix tape Overtime. We both ended up being apart of AOTP and Reef has been featured on all my albums except The Labor Union so we’ve worked together plenty of times before this EP. AOTP dropped two albums last year so we decided to do an EP together and the response has been great. Reef is a professional in the lab. More than any other artist I know.

Me – Any plans for a part 2?

Syze – Maybe, you never know what the future holds.

Me – What does 2015 and beyond hold for you? Anything we should be expecting?

Syze – Right now I’m working on a 3rd project with my brother Skammadix. So right now I’m just focused on that and to everyone reading this get ready for that new Jedi Mind Trick album “The Thief And The Fallen” out 6-2-15 and that new Czarface 2 album coming out 6-16-15. Look out for the new Outerspace album “Lost In Space”. Peace, Syze.

https://twitter.com/kingsyze
https://www.facebook.com/kingsyzemusic
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/kingsyze/id14050025
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/jedi-mind-tricks-presents…/id287337045

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