MUSIC MONDAY ARTIST INTERVIEW | Monday March 27th, 2023 | Fë Nelson
Few artists come to the scene and can bring versatility, skill and bars. But for this artist, that is not an issue whatsoever. He is bringing that and some. He brings versatility, skill, bars, production and stage performance. The artist, currently known as Businessman hailing from Amsterdam, is taking NYC by storm one stage at a time.
We connected with him, and here's what he had to say...
Fë: Congratulations, you recently performed at the Culture weekend with the Mor. Bookings agency. They crowned you as one of the best performers of the night. How does it feel to have others recognize your music?
Businessman: Thank you so much. I got a lot of love from the audience. I am humbled that the culture embraces what I do. In new places, it goes like this: The only white person in the room, I am invisible, like a lost tourist. Then the DJ says, "give it up for Businessman! (air horn) Then you see everybody's thinking, "Whud?!?! Oh shit! He's got the mic! No! The cracker's going to rap!" I never assume it will be a walk in the park, but I grab that mic, I work hard-hard, then they are astonished because it's good. They start to head-bop, even sing along with the hook. After the show, always fist bumps, hugs, and new friends. I never had hecklers. They feel I respect the culture, and I get the respect back.
Fë:First and foremost, Let's start with the basics, explain your name, Businessman
Businessman: For many years, while making music, I also ran my own business with personnel. Whoever knows, it's a constant uphill battle, keeping a business afloat and feeding 15 families every month with real consequences if I fail. "Paid tha cost to be the boss" is actual. It's a wealth of lyric subject material for hip-hop. Hence the moniker.
Fë: What do you do?
Businessman: I rap, I write, I make beats, I produce, I play the instruments, and I'm a live performer. I do all.
Fë: How has this shaped your artistry?
Businessman: I'm originally from Amsterdam. It is a small town, and the hip-hop scene is small, self-indulged, distrustful of strangers, mediocre, and very reggaeton-oriented. There is no open mic culture, and groups of friends and the local music industry stonewall the scarce places to perform. In Amsterdam, they don't understand my shit anyway. It's EDM county. I visit New York regularly and perform here, where it is open, welcoming, and always interesting for fresh new hip-hop. See it like this; in Amsterdam, hip-hop is pop music. In New York, hip-hop is culture. At some point, if I want to make my music for real, I have to be where it happens. As a former entrepreneur, I also had to make a plan. So I emigrated to New York. It was an excruciating experience. I was interrupted by the pandemic, and it took me three years. Now I'm here in East Harlem overlooking the Manhattan skyline, living my best life, I performed with fire, and now we have this interview.
Fë:What is music to you?
Businessman: Music has always lived inside me. I remember in kindergarten, I must have been 5, the class sat in a circle, and each had to say something about themselves. One liked to play tag or football, another said his cat, and I said: "I have a concert in my brains." It was hilarious to the toddlers, but it was the truth and has stayed the same.
Fë: For those that have never seen you perform live, explain your music.
Businessman: It is hip hop, it sounds big, fat, dramatic, it has super high energy. Hooks like anthems. It is meant to be performed live. It's hip-hop, but hard to tell what kind of hip-hop. It's different. The sounds are gory, and the beats are off-standard, with no loops, samples, or rental beats. There always is a critical message, often political. No "for the ladies" shit, no smoke praise. Zingers that make you think while grooving hard.
Fë: What is your creative process?
Businessman: Like the kindergarten scene, I always got music in my mind. Always. I make what I hear. It is a concept, a fragment. I always have a few of those floating around. I start recording what I hear, half turns out to be corny, and the rest is cultivated. Then comes a long, iterative process that takes months. I revisit songs many times. Everything except the essential concept may change radically. I record everything live, so I must learn to play the song. Some parts are redone 30, 50 even 200 times to get it right. This way, the song grows on me. There's a lot of work in each one. Much later, I learned that you're either a rapper or a beatmaker in hip-hop, not both. Kanye has cleared a lot of roadblocks for me, and I only knew once I saw the Jeen-Yuhs documentary.
Fë: Where do you draw your inspiration?
Businessman: I find watching artists at open mics and showcases super inspiring. You get a mixed bag of everything, but it's fascinating how people, at different levels of their development, shape their creativity differently. It's wonderful. What I love about the underground rap scene is how diverse it is. There's always something to learn. There always are authentic artists who are good and have all the intangibles. Besides that, ideas can pop up anytime, and I put them in a note on my phone.
Fë: What is your favorite part about being an artist?
Businessman: Performing live. I love tinkering with my songs in the studio, but performing live is the best part by far. As a live performer, the essence of this art is to have the audience and I embody the song together as a collective and become that unstoppable fire. That's the goal. At Culture Weekend, we caught that fire. A few days later, at a showcase for CQ DJs, the fire was even bigger. More significant fires are coming. I can foresee it.
Fë: Talk to us about your song, "Way Up"?
Businessman: This is a song about negotiating with cowards. It often happens in business life. It is like pushing a rope. The first line, "I tell these fucking hoes, look, my finger's on ice," I got a gold & diamonds BMW ring on my middle finger. The insults keep building up from there ... "I tried to pour em châteaus, stupid bitches want fries?! Yah!" as people hardly understand the value they squander. Mind that these 'hoes' and 'bitches' I talk about here are men. And not the bravest. I respect women as complete equals; I'm a feminist. So I'd never call women bitches or hoes. Musically, I wanted to see how far I could stretch the arc without a beat or bass while keeping it bouncy.
Fë: You have some fascinating sounds on the track, even your cadence and pronunciation. Why? Why be so eclectic in your approach to music?
Businessman: Hah! That is the vacuum tube synthesizer. In "Way Up," I play rhythm guitar through it. It got this prickly squeaky lemon flavor. Nobody uses tubes because they are unpredictable and hard to use, but they give you unique, different sounds every time. No one does this. In hip-hop, I only heard Vince Staples do it once in "Lift Me Up." I use tube synths in all songs and the modular. I make all my sounds myself, with no samples. I want the sounds to be as lively and funky as possible. On some tracks, even the 808 hand clap is handmade. Cadence and pronunciation: I'm originally from Amsterdam and not a native speaker, some of it may be unintentional hahaha. But for me, rap is part of the beat rather than on top of the beat, and that's how I architect lyrics too. Eclectic? I make what I hear in my mind. My hip-hop taste spans everything from 1988's Public Enemy to 2023's NY drill. I'm not good at following rules. Besides, there are 40 to 60,000 songs released on the streamers every single day, yet there are 1000s of things to try that I don't hear anyone do. Pioneering is far more interesting than adding goo to an ocean of goo.
Fë: Do you produce as well?
Businessman: Hell yeah! I produce my own, of course, but I would LOVE to produce other creative and authentic artists. I have the vision to make an artist sound different, grip what makes an artist special, something they were unaware of or didn't believe they could, and lift that. It's one of those boss skills that got under my skin. Since the gigs at Culture Weekend and after, artists I admired now ask me to collab. So the start is there. In a few months, you will hear my producer tag "BUSINESS PAPER" pop up in underground hip-hop productions. Producing for others will tenfold my reach.
Fë:Why is it vital for you to explore different sounds the way you do?
Businessman: I want to surprise myself when I hear my music. Or else I lose interest long before the song is completed. That's why the songs are so different. Also, if it's too close to its genre rules, I immediately want to make something else of it. For example, if I make a Travis Scott-type song and do it well, it's only 5% as good as La Flame himself. So why waste my time? Some tracks I made even started as an attempt to unravel how Missy Elliott, Kanye, or Kenny Beats constructed a specific beat. Once I understood, I veered off into the unknown. Surprising myself also surprises the Public with something fresh.
Fë:What do you want people to remember when they hear your music?
Businessman: That it was unexpected, the hook sticks and the performance was straight fucking fire.
Connect with Businessman
CEO of Indie Flex Music.
Music Industry Professional.
Musician, Producer & Songwriter.
Host of The Indie Flex Show
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