Rokamouth Talks, How He Joined Pro Era, Capital Steez, Making "Godmind", & More
I connected with Rokamouth from Pro Era. Rokamouth is an artist and producer that has contributed to shaping the sound of New York Hip Hop. His sound is unlike any artist I have interviewed before, more old school compared to the new wave rappers I usually interview. Rokamouth has been in the game for a long time and has some gems for all of you trying to turn your passion into your profession.
Where are you from? What made you want to get into producing music? And what was the music scene like in your area growing up?
I’m from Midwood/ East Flatbush in the borough of Brooklyn, New York City, Kings County. It's a blessing to be born and raised here as an artist to witness the transitions from the late 90s leading into 2020. Music is and was a melting pot of cultures for me growing up. There's a mix of energies and frequencies. Every corner and car you pass is playing music from all over the world attracting me to partake in making my own. Music has no language barriers for me, although I only speak English currently, I’ve never trapped myself in one genre.
How did you first get into creating music?
I give a lot of credit to my family for my love of music. There is a lot of talented kin around me, who exposed me to music and art. At a very young age, in elementary school I started with violin lessons then tap dancing, percussions, then I discovered even more about music and art. While in high school I began finding ways to educate and become more creative on my own. I taught myself to play with drum machines and turntables in my free time creating music.
-Not only are you a producer, but you're an artist as well. What made you want to start putting lyrics over beats rather than just making them?
I started writing my lyrics over my production because my goal was not to limit myself, as just a producer or artist. As an artist and producer, I have collaborated with other artists using my various talents to advance my musical career.
How'd you join one of the most influential rap groups to ever emerge from New York, Pro Era?
Most of the members of the Pro Era and I lived in the same neighborhood or attended the same High School. I’ve known Dirty Sanchez the longest. Us and JAB grew up around the corner from each other. I sat right next to CJ Fly in Spanish class the few times I did go. Then the following year I moved a block away from Capital Steez who was starting just school with us. As time passed I would post my music online and get feedback from other musicians at school like Joey Bada$$, Powers Pleasant, Supa Slackas, and the band Phony Ppl. We started to have rap cyphers and shooting music videos in our school hallways and neighborhoods. Other highschool kids would start arriving to join in with us on the movement that was starting. I eventually got carried away with the movement, not doing my school work and had to transfer to a nearby high school in my junior year to get back on track with school. By the time I was preparing for graduation, the movement grew and Pro Era was beginning to form the following summer. My relationship with the members of the group is ongoing.
7 years ago we lost Capital Steez, one of the founders of Pro Era. Steez was an artist who was beyond his time not only with his music but his visions well. And what was your relationship with Steez?
Steez was the first to motivate me to be a rapper and provide constructive criticism of my music. He was also the first rapper to rap over my beats other than myself. I remember meeting him for the first time on our way to school and he insisted I was a rapper, we had a short argument about it. Steez was able to see me as a rapper before I did, he spoke it into existence. He informed me about all the up to date new Hip Hop artists and how he was a rapper making freestyles for youtube. We would trade instruments and new music he could rap over instrumentals and I learned how to sample them. We spent time studying and partaking in the growing New York City Hip Hop scene around us with other Pros. As we hung out more he would start skating and riding bikes to rap cyphers. He started to lose weight and changed into an even more confident Jamaal to inspire us to change our lifestyles, to improve our spirits and minds. He lives forever in our hearts and minds.
You're featured on "Third Eye Shit" produced by Chuck Strangers released in 2012 on Joey Bada$$'s debut album "1999". That song has 10 verses, and is 12 minutes long. Run us through how that song came together?
The recording of the “1999” album was my first experience being in a professional studio. Premier/Quad Studios has so much history, you can feel the energy even if you're not aware of its history. I can remember admiring all the artists in the room showing a side of themselves I've never seen. Then it was then my opportunity to give it a go. I recall feeling like I was getting a random adrenaline rush and anxiety as I stretched my words in place for each bar. Thanks to Joey for giving us all the opportunity to showcase what we had on the track. It was just one of those moments when everything and everyone came together to make it happen.
You and AK from The Underachievers collaborated on "Godmind" a song that you also produced. Can you run us through making that beat? How did you first connect with AK, and how did you end up collaborating on that song?
AK just happens to live blocks away from me, a coincidence or divine intervention. I knew ISSA years before skateboarding. I would run into him at skate spots, tearing up his board. I met AK through Underachievers, our birthdays are a day apart and people often mistake us for close relatives. AK had a home studio in his basement and I had a mic and beats; we got together and recorded the song there, “GodMind” refers to elevating your mind and using your mind to empower yourself.
You, Joey Bada$$, and Chuck Strangers teamed up on "Start To Finish" released on Pro Era's only mixtape "P.E.E.P. The aPROcalypse" released in 2012. Can you run us through working with Chuck and Joey on that song?
I remember being shocked that Joey wanted me on more songs at the time. I honestly didn't even consider myself as a rap artist. I thought my voice and was not what people wanted to hear. I was happy as hell that he did ask me! It gave me extreme confidence with my vocals and my approach to writing music. It meant a lot coming to me from Joey, he was a real rapper’s rapper in my eyes and ears. Joey and I had enjoyed talking about other genres of music like house electronics and reggae music. We would mimic them and I decided to bring that vibe into the process of making start to finish. Working with Chuck and Joey on that song was a wonderful experience.
You've been in the music game for a long time? What do you think is the best way to get in the game as an artist and/or a producer?
One way is to teach yourself about the music game. Learn and know how things are made and work. Create something from an idea. Try to reach people's hearts and minds with your creations. Love what you do, and put love into it, be self-reliant. As an artist or producer take control over the direction of your work. Connection to your audience who listen and support you.
What can we expect from Rokamouth for the rest of 2019 and 2020? Any upcoming projects you're a part of or working on that we should be aware of?
I've taken the last months of 2019 to collect my hard drives and to create new compilations of productions I’ve recorded at my home with the help of some engineers on the mixes. This year I made sure I got a lot done to help my peers on their projects and hope to collaborate with more artists next year. I also took time away from making music to venture on using my art skills as a screen printer to create merch, cover art for myself and other artists. I plan to continue and have more art shows in the New Year. I enjoy mentoring others and I don't have an issue sharing my experience with other artists I meet, it also helps me in the long run. I hope to always have something new to add when making music and art.