Photo by Diana Burmistrovich
Following a cyclical dip in the standards of hip-hop and rap -– a time ruled by artists cultivating lyrics teeming with unflattering vulgarity and uncoordinated flow -– it's refreshing to see an artist staying true to themselves.
“The scene goes in waves and right now, it's just time for all the greatest to come out,” says STU CAT, who sits on the white sofa at Sanctum Studio in Chinatown while frequent collaborator Chucklehead spits bars that Ned “Mr. Leedz” Wellbury sits patiently mixing.
As he denounces the passing trends prevalent in hip-hop and rap music, he smirks as he continues to write in his notebook. Combining his laid-back Miami flow and his love of Boston, Stu Cat creates the same catchy hip-hop heard on the radio served with a side of depth. His intrigue in the Northeast hip-hop scene drove him from Miami to Boston and, later, to join forces with Leedz Edutainment in 2009. Now a dozen mixtapes deep, Stu Cat is set to release his full-length Beware of the Cat on April 24.
I sat him down to talk about his hopes to transgress the current state of hip-hop, why Miami isn't Boston, and the lovie-dovieness of the Boston music community.
Where are you from and how did you end up in Boston?
I ended up in Boston because I was working with some cats on NME records. I saw the scene around here, I checked it out and liked it. I wanted to build with Leedz, who provides shows and we wanted to take it to the next level. Left the whole NME situation alone and branched out. After I left, I started a label and got in contact with Leedz, who hit me up with a three-year contract. One of the first shows I did was with Freeway. I was always in Leedz' ear and was always like I want to work with these artists and we made it work with artists like Yusef and Chucklehead.
Tell me a little about how the city of Boston influences your rap.
The city of Boston influences my style like hands-down. In Miami you're used to people selling dope and being at parties. Coming here you meet people from all over the world and you establish good relationships. Just the city itself, the championship sports team, everyone's going somewhere. Beautiful women, museums, culture. If I can leave my mark here, get the city to embrace me, then I'll be at a good place in my life.
You see people these days coming from all over the place and every individual place has its own distinct flow. How do you mix your Miami self with your Boston flow?
I like to put life in words. I don't like trends, I don't like what's cool. In Boston, the slang here is from the heart. The demeanor of people here in Boston is really unique and I just picked up on that, it influenced me to stay unique. To create the trends rather than follow them.
I bring the laid-back Miami lifestyle. People always forget that Florida is the South but it is, and we love our stuff American-made. The souped up part of culture is what influences me. In Miami, everything surrounding the dope game, all thats around is drugs and undercovers. Everyone always thinks of Miami as being solely South Beach, but it isn't all fun all the time; people forget all about the hood there.
What do you notice thats distinctly different about the Boston hip-hop scene than any other?
Here its more artists that are hands-on with being a rapper: their lyrics, their beats. People here are really going at it: like UGK, Dr. Dre, you won't see too many rap battles but you'll see rapper at shows. They come to shows – They come as fans. They love creating. There's a lot of love here from artist to artist, you can't find that anywhere else.
What do you think about the direction that the rap game is headed?
It used to be like 300 hundred artists out there that you used to love, but now there is like 1,000 to choose from. This is just like back in the day when there were thousands of bands putting out good music, but only the strong survive. The scene goes in waves. The time is now to just bring out the greatest. Artists shouldn't be trying to jump on the bandwagon. These Southern trends – these are all just fads and then people put on these personas. There's a lot of artists out there who aren't looking for the longevity. There's artists out there right now just trying to make a buck, not trying to last it out.
Do you make your own beats?
No, I stopped making beats. I rely on my boys Rob Whittaker, Fall Sid, Teddy Roxpin, Bug Eyes. I work with Matty Trump, he's a very wise dude. He put me on the underground scene out here. Peter Beatz out of Dorchester, he keeps people level-headed with that music out there. He keeps the music coming.
In your "Living My Dreams” video, theres a DJ Shadow poster on your fridge. What inspires you to make/choose the beats that you do?
I don't go for anything particular. I put life in words so I'll use the beat if it moves me. I'm a big fan of giving the beat what it wants. I'm a rapper but I listen to a lot of old-school ballads, Betty Wright, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye for my inspiration. As far as hip-hop I love the true hustlers. I go into the studio and say play me beats -– I'm not looking for anything in particular, I'm just trying to build creativity the natural way.
What artists coming out of Boston inspires you?
Masspike Miles, and everyone in his crew. People forget that Boston can be really hood, and theres some really serious stuff coming out. Phanelia and .357 keep it real too.
Beware the Cat wraps up in a month and a half, ft. Chamillionaire, Action Bronson, Teddy Roxpin, Rite Hook, Yusef, I got people I really like on the album. I'm a patient dude, I look at life for what it really is and it is great. Shouts out to Miami down South. Shout out to Rusty Pendelton, the creator of UnRegular Radio. He motivates people and garners support. People should support that, he keeps the wave going of underground artists. He supports everyone that he likes, he wants to give people the motivation they need to listen to new artists.
Photo by Diana Burmistrovich