Brooklyn is known for its rich culture, heavy Indie infused Hip Hop, and fine, gourmet music flavors. Here is where anyone in the world could find a diverse mixture of sounds, faces, and styles. Artists call this place home, the hub of creativity, the place where lyrical gods and goddesses are raised. It’s the perfect nursery for some of the best made, never to be heard over the radio tones, beats, and rhymes because they’re a little too potent for those who aren’t married to the culture.
Hip Hop artist, Iam Popula, born and raised in the eccentric hood of Clinton Hill, Brooklyn has embraced his own beautiful music evolution, creating a style all his own. It’s reminiscent of the misunderstood sounds of Brooklyn bred Afropunk, fused with the humor of Biz Markee; kinda stings a little like a good old fashioned New York curse out, but smooths over nicely like shea butter sold by the sistah with the tall dreaded hair wrap on Saturday afternoons in the park.
Popula comes from the hood, but he dresses like a hipster. Drugs, violence and whatever other stereotypical artifices prevalent in hood culture were on the threshold of his future. But destiny and a little logic planted a seed in the membranes of his imagination, generating a new dream worth living.
“My industry age is 28,” he laughs. “I’m 34, I’ll be 35 this year.”
He’s a Leo, which means he doesn’t need anyone else to tell him that he’s the sh*t, because he already knows it’s true.
The mic becomes his wife on stage, as the live, ride or die band, Sunday Belts, intoxicates his stream of thought, overflowing into the crowd. Each song has its own character and possesses him differently.
“Emotionally, I’m kind of numb when I’m on stage. Spiritually, I think it’s always there. I think when you bring a piece of yourself to the puzzle and then you have three other brothers [the band] bringing themselves to the puzzle, to the music. It’s a spiritual thing. It’s like prayer.”
It’s not that deep. There’s a bit of inspiration, the beat is made and the lyrics come. It used to be about crowd pleasing though. Popula admits when music was brand new, making the people dance, clap and cheer drove him to a point of dissatisfaction. He started off in the third grade trying to be like Kid n’ Play. But with maturity and a good long hug with individuality, the artist let it go and blossomed into something much more refreshing and original.
“I think [it happens] when you come along and come into yourself and get to know you,” he says of his growth. “I think the best part about when I was brought up and when I went to Africa when I was young and I was there by myself for a while. So I was pretty independent there in the sense that I thought I could take care of myself. So when I came back home, I wanted to find out who I was. I wanted to be me.”
Popula spent a few years in West Africa with his mother, who was there helping to build schools. When he returned, he lived with his father in North Carolina, until he passed away when the artist was 11 years old.
In New York, he felt that there was a force that created an environment where he had to choose a group to associate with. But in North Carolina, he became is own person and learned what it meant to be an individual.
“Once I was able to do that, I was able to do music that was different. And it wasn’t about ‘What do they want to hear?’ It was more about ‘What do I want to put out there in the world? What message do I want to portray?’”
The transformation didn’t occur overnight. In fact, it wasn’t until two years ago he Popula became comfortable putting his own sound out there. For 10 years he was recording those records, but hadn’t been sharing them with his audience. A bit of therapy and a bigger dose of love, originality overflowed onto the stage.
“I don’t like genres, I don’t like labels. I just feel like I make music and I make so many types of music. I just like the fact that I can make music and make any type of music. I want to show people that you don’t have to be stuffed in a box,” he says “Every album is different, every project is different. I think that’s more my style. I do things to be different, to stand out. I just want everything I do to be original.”
Like a true artist, Popula wants his work to remain his own, untouched by greedy, poisonous corporate hands. If he could change anything about mainstream music, he says he’d revamp the record labels because they are responsible for perverting artists’ music.
“I’m starting to think it’s deeper than just that’s what’s hot. I think they just want to personify the coonery and bafoonery because that’s what’s going to keep n*ggas killing n*ggas. And that’s what’s going to keep society looking at us like, no matter what we do, we still n*ggas even though we have a Black president, even though we have a lot of successful Black people. They can put that on TV on any given time and throw that in our face. It’s not just with music. Its on television, its on radio and Internet. Maybe I’m wrong. I know I’m not making that sh*t and they’re not pumping up the artist who aren’t making that sh*t.”
“My thing now is I want to be able to prove to people that you can make your own industry and that a little bit of money goes a long way. And help people fulfill their dreams. I believe that’s my calling.”
If you ever get to see him perform live, be sure to request “My Band Makes Them Dance” It hasn’t been recorded and probably will never be, but it’s a play on Juicy J’s original version, but gives major props to his live band. Each time they perform it, it’s different because he freestyles the lyrics. Genius.
His next album, “Vintage Frames and Fadoras,” a jazz inspired Hip Hop and R&B project is set to be released in the spring this year. The album includes popular track “Cooler Than.”
Check out IamPopula’s music here.