Similar to most artists, New York’s own Jesse Abraham finds Hip Hop to be a creative outlet to express himself, but for him it’s so much more. Instead of him finding Hip Hop it’s truly like Hip Hop found him and their relationship started from a very young age. From Dr. Seuss to writing rhymes instead of sonnets for class assignments, Jesse embraced the elements of rapping long before he could fully understand what they were. His sound today screams classic Hip Hop at its core, and given his environment as a youth it’s not surprising to find out who some of his major influences were.
For a well educated individual you might expect that this emcee experienced some of conflict between rhyming and education that the majority of his peers did; however Jesse was quick to let DXnext know neither schooling nor Hip Hop were a means to an end and Hip Hop is not something he considers to be an actual career. While chatting with HipHopDX, Jesse touched on just about everything from his formal education and what he’s doing now as a partner in a tutoring company to his first proper show which was opening for Public Enemy, earning himself an award as Lyricist of the year in 2011 and also to how his forthcoming album will bring water to the needy.
Organic Interest: “I was raised in Manhattan in the early 80s and I was exposed to Hip Hop in a really organic fashion; as it was growing up I grew up right alongside it. Graffiti and break-dancing were all around me as a kid so I took to it really quickly so when I was three or four years old and music would come on I would pretend to break-dance. Once I started developing an interest in language around seven or eight it was, again, a really organic transition from being interested in Dr. Seuss and sing song childhood poems into Hip Hop rhymes. I have a book of poetry I found from when I must have been like seven and there’s notes from the teacher who was frustrated with me. She was like, ‘Jesse doesn’t conform to the structure that we always ask him to do and he always rhymes.’ I thought that it was hilarious at seven or eight I didn’t want to write a sonnet or whatever and I was writing bars.”
New York Sound: “I do have somewhat of a classic sensibility. All my Hip Hop heroes were from the last ’80s and early ’90s so there’s not a lot inside of me that’s emulating a lot of the contemporary New York guys. You know KRS-One, the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Run-DMC those are the guys that really taught me, not just about Hip Hop and lyricism, but about life. To me that is New York; it’s not 2012 New York but that to me is New York Hip Hop.”
In The Past: “In 2010 I put out three projects actually: a mixtape in January called Alfabutter that was a compilation mixtape with me and a bunch of other rappers but I’m on every song, then in February I put out a mixtape called XS, which was just me, and then in October I dropped Bars and No Bull. I put out the One Day EP last March and then I put out the One Day LP in June 2011 and the LP was definitely an album. A song called “Always and Forever” from that ended up on XXLMag.com and it was, ‘a banger,’ they said.”
Music And Water – A Charitable Initiative: “This next project is my new album which is coming out this fall and it’s called I Am Water. All the proceeds, every dollar that’s generated from this album that’s singles, sales of the actual album itself, CDs, merch, t-shirts whatever that has to do with this album, 100% of the proceeds go to an organization called Charity Water. Charity Water is a great company of people who help bring clean, safe drinking water to the needy people all around the world. What’s really cool about it is that you get to track and see where your donation and contributions go. If you go and buy the single for a dollar or if you want to be super awesome and spend 100 bucks, I’m going to update you with specific information about where that money went and who it’s helping.”
A Single Of Duplicity: “The single ‘Back Off’ is very indicative of what the entire album is about. One of the themes running through the entire album is notion of duplicity and the concept of contrast. When I heard that beat it was so bouncy and so positive and fun that I was like, ‘I have to come with something aggressive and hostile over this because it’s too joyful.’ Yeah, it’s an aggressive song and it gives me a chance to share a dimension of myself that I haven’t shared yet, which is a very human trait, actually being angry. I took some hits in 2011 and I figured it was time to speak on some of it so I thought this would be a good opportunity. Plus, to dig further the beat that was sent to me actually was titled ‘Back Off’ originally. It wasn’t until last week I actually hit up the producer and was like, ‘Why did you call this beat Back Off?’ He told me this whole story about when he was making this beat he was being confronted by people in his life like, ‘Why are you making music?… You should be doing something else!’ I was like, ‘Wow! That’s what I actually wrote about.’”
Fizzling Out Not Once But Twice: “BTU was one of those things – my crazy college fun group. We were three friends from high school that ended up going to the same college and we liked Rap. There weren’t that many Rap groups at our school so we played a lot of parties and in the local bars or whatever. We made a demo of like six songs but fizzled out after a year and a half. I wrote a ton and it taught me a lot and we recorded on Acid – the program not the narcotic. I went to Emory [University] in Atlanta for two years and I transferred to Emerson [College] in Boston and that’s where I joined Preacher Fund via Craigslist where they were lookin’ for an emcee. They were an improvisational Jazz – Funk – Hip Hop band. We’d get book to play crazy long shows with like three-hour sets and we didn’t have any actual material. I just freestyled my way through like half of it and it was crazy. That also fizzled out after a year and a half after recording a little demo.”
Dodging Trouble: “I just didn’t want to make some mundane type business card so I made the Metrocard thing and it was eye grabbing to the point where the head of marketing for the MTA actually wrote me a page long cease-and-desist letter but I did not cease nor did I desist. What he specifically wanted me to do was to remove it from my website and I complied, and he no longer wanted me to place them on the subway because he viewed that as littering which I respectfully disagree with on the legal side but I complied. So I no longer flood the subway with them or have it up on my website but I still use them as business cards and I’m comfortable with that decision. The hats I have were another legal risk I supposed. If I get to the point where the [Los Angeles] Dodgers and Major League Baseball wanna come after me that’d be awesome and a huge milestone for me.”
Awards Show: “I took home a nice diagonal piece of glass with my name on it that said ‘Lyricist of the Year’ from the 2011 Underground Music Award, which was quite a thrilling occasion. To be honest with you the nomination was really where the heart of the experience was, ‘cause that means there’s somebody out there that has the industry stance, who’s surveying the land cause it’s a nationwide thing and the fact that I was even nominated was a amazing for me. One Day was also up for ‘Indie Album of the Year’ and I did not win a piece of glass for that one but again the nomination was phenomenal and I was up there with absolute legends – I kept on waiting for an email for them to be like, ‘Yeah we made a mistake. Sorry we just copy and passed your name by accident.’”
Big Things Poppin’: “In 2002 I opened up for Public Enemy and that was like my first proper show in New York. I mean like bein’ back stage with Chuck D – he was so instrumental in my foundation and formation as a writer when I was a kid. That was a monumental moment for me like, ‘Wow! I’m really about to hold this mic and rap on the same planet as this guy!’”
Education vs. Music: “I have never viewed music as a career. It wasn’t like ‘No, I don’t want that,’ I just never considered it. School to me wasn’t the means to a career either it was just something I kinda had to do. I get into conversations with people about it now and some heads are like, ‘Look! If you don’t put your entire life into music, if it’s not all that you have, if it’s not like you either live with it or die with it then you’re not going hard!’ I was like, ‘Okay, I can see that and I can understand that perspective. What about the opposite or the notion that I don’t need to be doing it and it’s not a necessity? I have other means of getting food and I do it strictly out of love! I do it ‘cause it’s a passion and I really value and appreciate it. Isn’t that just as hard? Isn’t that passion just as necessary?’”