|StarPower, hip hop artist|
I had a crush on him in 7th grade. He was a bad boy with too much brainpower for his own good. A few years ago when I reconnected with many old junior high school friends, I learned he stuck with hip hop and was also a teacher. I went to a few of his shows and was sold on his in-your-face lyrics. I added him to my "Men of May" UrbanErotika lineup. Now he's taking those skills to teach in Qatar. We fueled up with burgers and soccer at Bill's Bar and Burger then headed over to The High Line to discuss.
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Introduce yourself and tell us about art, your discipline.
Rod, R-O-D. I always spell it out because I went to a workshop one time and the guy told me I don’t enunciate well enough he said, “It sounds like you’re saying ‘Roz’” so I always say, Rod – R-O-D. Yeah, Rod AKA StarPower. My art is hip hop – writing and performing. My discipline is discipline; discipline’s changed my life, discipline has made me the person I am ‘cause I had none of it and now it’s an addiction. So yeah, that’s me.
So, you’re a hip hop artist. Is there a message to your music?
Yeah, definitely. The message is to be an individual. A lot of hip hop used to be dangerous, it used to be about “I don’t give a fuck” but it was not give a fuck for a reason. Now they’re not even trying to not give a fuck anymore so I’m not gonna give a fuck for all of us. My message is you’re here once, don’t leave anything on the table, don’t regret anything. There’s a million things that you could be rapping about but they don’t do it. And if you’re in a position, like in my position, I’m just a no-name rapper somewhere, I can say what the hell I want and I’m gonna rap about it. My message is just you’re beautiful, the world is beautiful, it’s also ugly and disgusting and you need to speak about all of it, in detail, that’s how I feel.
Now, introduce the world to StarPower. How was he born?
Man, StarPower… I used to call myself Rod the Immaculate—it was a horrible rap name. Then I was in a group called The Dugout so we all had baseball names. I was the Power Hitter ‘cause I was so aggressive, I was going for the homerun every time. And then Merc one time was playing with my name and he was like The Power Hitter, Star Power Hitter, StarPower and I was like, “I’ve been waiting my whole life for that name.” I was like that’s me. Let’s do it. That’s when that was born. Maybe O-six’ish…
Explain what StarPowering is and how you came up with it.
StarPowering is when you take a picture in a superhero pose, each hand on your hip, so you’re making a triangle with each arm. And you find something you enjoy standing on top of. That’s really what it is—something you really enjoy standing on top of or a situation where you’re just having fun. You could be on the ground in a situation you’re really enjoying. I’ve been taking pictures like that for a while. I went through my phase where I was big douche and I would take every picture with my middle finger up. I thought that was cool and then when I looked back I was like that wasn’t cool at all. And I used to do this thing where I just put my chin up real high, you know, chuck it up, and then I added the arms. I used to stand like that sometimes and my wife was like, “Why do you stand like that?” then I started taking pictures like that, automatically. The first time I did it was the one where I was around my way and I was standing on the two poles around the fire hydrant. And I was like, “I always take these pictures, I’m gonna call this ‘StarPowering’”. (laughs)
You said discipline is your discipline and you’ve been doing it for a long time. Do you have a vice? What’s your artist’s vice?
I speak in ways or I rap in ways that people might feel are disrespectful. I’ve been censored by artists that would be considered edgy themselves. Whatever I say and how I say it, people wanna censor it sometimes. I don’t have a filter when I rap. I’m not gonna have a filter. I refuse to have a filter. I think even the most so-called dangerous artists nowadays have a huge filter. That’s my vice—I don’t care how disgusting it is, I don’t care how brutal it sounds, I think it needs to be said. That doesn’t mean that I feel that way all the time, I may just be speaking in character… a lot of times, I am speaking in character. That’s my vice—all vices will come out in my songs. Everything. You’re guaranteed that shit.
Was there a moment, and if so, what was it, where you knew you’d made the right career choice or the right choice as far as the type of art you would create?
Recently. After not doing it for a while, I was like when I decide to do it again real tough, real consistent, will I even make sense in the landscape of what’s going on? And every time I did drop something people were with it like they always were. If you’re truly doing you, you’re the only person who could do you, you’re gonna get felt because they can’t get that anywhere else—that’s what I realized. I have something no one can get anywhere else. That’s why my new record is gonna be called, All Else Failed, cause I waited, I waited, I waited and no one did anything close… I was 30, 31 and I was like fuck it I’m the only one who could do this—I knew it was the right decision.
What’s your opinion on the term “wordsmith”?
Wordsmith… anytime I hear something with “smith” at the end I think “cocksmith” (laughs) one of my favorite words, cocksmith, but uh, wordsmith…
(laughs) Yeah, how do you feel about people describing themselves or being described as a “wordsmith”?
I feel like someone has to describe you as a wordsmith. Someone describes themselves as a wordsmith? I don’t think they’re much of a wordsmith. (laughs) They could use something else to describe their “wordsmithery”. (laughter) I don’t know about that term, man, because I’ve seen people and I’m like oh that’s a wordsmith but few rappers, you know, few artists that I felt are wordsmiths but it’s an all right term, I have nothing against it.
What stereotype do you fit?
Oh man, a bunch of them. I’m a pretty much, tatted-up rapper. I go in the inner city and teach every day and I use hip hop slang, I rap and everything like that so I fit all of those stereotypes. What other stereotypes? A little of the militant Black dude—got “Unforgivable Blackness” tatted on me, talk a lot about hating police, and I hate police, I sure do, I don’t hate a lot of things but I come close to hating police, so yeah I fit those. Tupac said black people don’t like police so don’t try it, yup, I’m one of those black people, I don’t like police. I fit all of that shit right there.
Do you consider yourself a teaching artist?
When I think of teaching artist I think of something different, I think of someone who’s pursuing art as their main objective and they know that they have an ability to teach also. I consider myself more a teacher… but I don’t really separate the teaching part from the artist part now, I never really thought of it until I got older and I was like I’m always telling a story, a story with some type of moral to it, some type of theme so I feel like I’m always teaching now. I consider myself a teacher or an artist.
You’re on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”. What’s the one topic that you would have to phone-a-friend for?
I have to narrow it to one?
If you got more than one that you need help with, go ‘head…
Yeah, I would need help with Authors, um, Types of Plants, yeah, definitely Types of Plants cause I love trivia and stuff, I’m really good at that stuff but those are my weak categories, yeah, Literature, Types of Plants.
Word association. And now that I’m looking at them, I feel like I’m setting you up with some of these but we’re gonna do it anyway. All right… Money.
Is the baby going to be a citizen of Qatar?
The baby will be conceived in Qatar, pretty sure. Yup, possibly born there.
Tell me about Qatar, how that came to be.
Me and my wife felt like it’d be cool to live in a different country but coming from our backgrounds we didn’t have the money. But teaching has afforded me so many different things that I never would’ve dreamed of. I never got to study abroad; I was like I should try to teach abroad, and with me, thought to action can happen really quick. Same thing with her. We never thought we’d be in the Middle East—I was very anti-Middle East at first. I started knowing some people who were in Dubai, Abu Dhabi… I wanted to go to China and South Korea but that didn’t work out so when Qatar hit me up and I did the research I was like this place is awesome, man, I’m in there. You know what happened? Kanye West is my favorite rapper and I found out that he shot a video there, a movie, it was some ridiculous, ostentatious, 7 screens—that’s how you have to view it—and he did it in the city that I’m gonna be working and teaching in, Doha, Qatar, [but] not even in the city, in the complex I’m gonna be teaching, Education City, and even further it’s gonna premiere on my birthday of this year. I was like get the hell outta here, November 19th in Doha, I’m in there. Yeah, that’s Qatar. Where water’s more expensive than gas.
In any language, what is your favorite word and why?
I like pussy in English (laughs) that word is stimulating, can’t front. I like a bunch of words though. I fall in love with words, definitely pussy, the word, the thing isn’t too shabby either. Um, I like melancholy…
The sound of that word? The meaning?
I like how it looks, how the letters look and the colors that I see when I hear it, yeah…
As a teacher, what’s something that your students have taught you?
To remain a kid. Not to remain a kid, but to keep all that childlike enthusiasm about everything. You know, when I send a kid to take something to another teacher for me and the kid gets 10 or 12 feet from my classroom and then decides to jump up in the air and then run for the next 15 feet and then stop, I’m like, “What’d you do that for?”
Cause they wanted to (laughs)
Yeah, cause they wanted to (laughs) that’s awesome. That’s what they do, man. I do a lot of those things as an adult more than a lot of other adults I know, but it’s still not like a kid, so I think about that all the time. And a kid, they’ll make something they’ll be so proud of it and they’ll be like, “here look at this”, they’ll show it to you. As adults though you have that false modesty and everything. You did something and you love it but you don’t show it the same way a kid does so they taught me to keep that with me.
For you, what’s the connection between exercise, diet, art and creativity?
Stay stimulated all the time. Discipline and stimulation. For all of that stuff to work you have to be really disciplined and, that discipline, I enjoy it. It’s kinda of masochistic, but I enjoy it and I like to be stimulated all the time. I think I have to be. When I’m not stimulated, I think I’d get depressed so exercising, being creative all of that stuff keeps me really, really stimulated, so that’s everything to me.
One out of three, a mani, pedi or facial?
Facial. Yeah, definitely the facial.
What is the most useless piece of advice you’ve received?
It’s not useless though cause I’ve thought about it more lately but I guess at the time that I heard it, it was “You’re lucky you have this job so stay in it so you could retire early and have your pension” and that’s it. There was nothing mentioned about joy and any of that shit, it was just be safe, not gonna be rich, don’t try to be rich but you’ll be so-called comfortable and that’s that. And then die whatever amount of years after your pension. What the hell?
So it wasn’t useless but you didn’t particularly wanna follow that advice.
No, I didn’t feel that, and I haven’t followed it.
I want you to complete this statement: If my muse were an animal, it would be…
It would be a real tough unicorn. Like a real gangsta tough kinda unicorn, know what I’m saying? Like picture a unicorn and then make it tough, kinda dark, like “I know I’m a unicorn but don’t front on me. Don’t front like I’m some just soft magical thing”, a real tough unicorn… who would like to be a giraffe sometimes (laughs).
Ok, so a really tough unicorn who wants to be a giraffe.
At times, yeah. A real tough unicorn.
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