Madhattan: «At sometime in life, you have to choose whether to sink or swim».
We interviewed the New York rapper, Madhattan who told us about his background, his latest project “Sink or Swim”, his idols, Jadakiss and Styles P, his relationships with ElCamino, Ice Rocks, Fastlife and the rest of the Big Apple underground scene.
Peace Madhattan, thanks for your time. It’s really appreciated.
We would like to start by asking you to tell us something about your background: what are your cultural origins? What area of New York are you from? And how has it influenced your growth?
MADHATTAN: “Peace ya, appreciate ya for having me. My background is Irish/Sicilian, but in all actuality I just consider myself to be a New Yorker. I’m born and raised in Lower Manhattan, and lived there for the majority of my life. To this day I still spend most of my time in the same area of New York where I grew up, even though I have no problem traveling pretty much anywhere throughout the city.
The city is a big influence on me as a person and when it comes to my music. Obviously I got my name from my city, so it has to have played a major part in my life. I love where I’m from and I wouldn’t change it even if I could. New York has a way of testing you on a daily basis, and that ends up building up your character.
I feel like everyone defines themselves to some degree based on where they’re from, and I’m definitely no different. The biggest influences my city had on me was giving me a work ethic, strength, hustle & resiliency. There’s not one day that goes by where you don’t see pure examples of any of those four things, and not just in my borough, but throughout the entire city”.
What are your earliest memories of how you approached this culture? How and when did you start making Rap music more seriously?
MADHATTAN: “My earliest memories in Hip Hop have to be listening to Hot 97 on my mothers stereo, either that or being in my boys crib as little kids and his older brother putting us on to all the new music, just from him blasting it.
New York is a loud place so also just walking around outside you’re gonna hear music from everywhere, cars, stores, somebody walking with a boombox, or you’re just in the park and somebody got their radio outside listening to music. I started taking rap seriously recently. I’ve been rapping for 20 years, and would have told you in the past that I was taking it seriously the whole time, but to keep it 100, I didn’t know what taking it serious meant until recently”.
“I actually started rapping by battling kids at lunch in High School and pursued it as a career from that point forward, but I never put the amount of consistent time and effort into it that was needed to make things happen until now. Once I started treating going to the studio like I was going to work, that’s when things started falling into place for me, and that’s the type of attitude that I’m going to continue to have going forward. You get out what you put in, and you can’t run from doing the work. ”.
Recently, you released a new project called “Sink or Swim”: what inspired you to give this title to your album? How was this album born and how was its recording process?
MADHATTAN: “I called the project “Sink or Swim” because we all get tested in life, and thrown into those situations where we are faced
with the choice to either sink or swim. Those defining moments in my life have made me the man I am today and I’m always grateful for them.
I think people need to embrace the times in life that force us to struggle cause those are the situations that really test your strength and build your character.
“This project came about, just through me constantly recording. I had dropped several projects in the past, but they were more on some just straight rapping shit.
I wanted to put together a body of work that signified who I was as a person, not just as a rapper, so I would just write & record personal records here & there and add them to the list of potential songs for an album. The funny thing is that half the songs on the original tracklist for the album got scrapped and replaced with more recent songs that I felt fit the aesthetic I was going for with this body of work””.
Why did you choose to only have El Camino as a feature on the album? And how was the connection with the Buffalo rapper born?
MADHATTAN: “I didn’t really specifically choose to have only ElCamino on the project, we have a lot of music together & this song “No Shorts” had a lot of significance to the storyline of the project.
Anybody who’s stood on a corner or a in a lobby with the intention of making some money understands the phrase “no shorts” and the type of mentality that comes with that and ElCamino is cut from that same type of cloth so it was perfect that he was able to put a verse on this record.
I linked with Camino, while I was doing a record with Benny The Butcher on an IceRocks beat (“Friday the 13th”), for a project we put out called “Brown Water Bible”. Me and Camino ended up doing a song for that project also called “Designer Drugs” we been cool ever since then. Thats like really my boy though, I will hit him just to check in on him and shit and he does the same for me”.
One of your most significant projects is definitely the “Brown Water Bible” Lp! Do you agree? What’s your bond with the producer Ice Rocks, who orchestrated the whole album? And what was it like working with him throughout the album?
MADHATTAN: “Brown Water Bible” is such a dope project to me. I got to work with a lot of artists who are damn near superstars right now, and it’s the first time I got to work with my bro IceRocks on some rap shit, even though we’d been cool for 20 years.
Me and Ice put that whole tape together and it all happened organically. That was a dope process and it’s always great working with a producer of Ice’s caliber, someone who’s a student of the game and is always perfecting his craft”.
You also collaborated with the MC, Fastlife for the entire “No Politics” Lp: How do you know each other? How did this collaboration work in your opinion?
MADHATTAN: “FastLife is my bro, we met at one of these shows in the city and been cool ever since, that’s my boy we would be cool and still are cool even if music isn’t involved.
I thought are chemistry on “No Politics” was amazing, we were both in the studio every session trying to out do each other and compliment each other at the same time. Fast is a great dude, proud to call him my friend and I’m glad we were able to give the world something like “No Politics”.
It looks like the N.Y. underground scene is reinvigorating right now, what’s your perception from the inside? Why do you think the New York scene has lost its influence in the last two decades? Who are the major New York rap artists at this moment?
MADHATTAN: “The scene is definitely coming back to the forefront, in my opinion it never really went anywhere, there just wasn’t as much people paying attention to the type of music that we were making. I’m hype that the scene is getting a light shone back on it, and I’m excited for the future.
I think there’s a lot of dope Artists in NY right now, but obviously Rome Streetz got the ball and is running toward the basket at this very moment. Other than that Flee Lord been doing his thing something crazy, FastLife, Starker, YL, G4Jag, Dusty Reynolds, Bub Styles, Blass89, Emilio Craig, Plex Diamonds, Tango, ODawg, Rim, Musalini….shit if I forgot anyone pardon self, but I fuck wit the town I just want NY to win”
What are your other projects that are most important to you? And why?
MADHATTAN: “I think every project has held some type of significance to me, it just all varies. Some taught me things I needed to know about putting music out, some taught me other shit. Every project has been important to me they all are like my kids.”
If you could choose any 3 features and 1 producer for your next album who would they be? and why?
MADHATTAN: “I definitely would be able to die happy if I got features from Jadakiss, Styles & Camron. Jadakiss and Styles are my favorite rappers and basically raised me through there music and that goes the same for Camron. The one producer I would love to work with is Alchemist, I don’t think anyone has been as consistent killing shit on the level that he has in my mind he is the GOAT producer.
What will your next important steps be?
MADHATTAN: “You can expect A LOT more music, I’m constantly in the studio working, and I’m always working on my craft, trying to become the best possible artist that I can be”.