While many independent artists have sought project funding from various places, from corporations to street entrepreneurs, Miami MC Stack$ has been able to keep his business in the family. The blossoming SoBe Entertainment label has released albums for singers Brooke Hogan and Urban Mystic, while 21-year-old Stack$ has honed his rap skills as the labels first official Hip-Hop artist.
While Stack$ family enjoys financial comfort after his father, Cecil Barker, sold a successful aerospace company, Stacks wants his music to speak for itself. Despite good intentions, his debut album has been a long time coming due to various challenges namely people not believing in him as an artist due to his social status. Now with the professional involvement of Swisha House V.P. Michael Clarke in management, Cash Money in marketing, and new distribution through Universal, Stacks is up and running with his first album.
What is it really like to be privileged in an industry that banks on the struggle? As much as someone may want to brush him off based on his lifestyle, Stack$ is one of the good guys in the industry. He took some time to tell us about his personal and professional battles in releasing his album, and exactly how it feels when money and manners conflict with the importance of street cred.
AllHipHop.com: You have quite an interesting story. Youve been very privileged in certain aspects because of your family. What were your earliest influences in Hip-Hop? What were the first things that made you say, This is the life for me, its what I want to do?
Stack$: I really wouldnt say it was the life for me or what I wanted to do. I respected the art form – its what I loved to watch and what I bumped to. My earliest influences [were] Dr. Dre, Tupac, Biggie, Big Pun, Rakim, KRS-One, Nas – people that laid the foundation for Hip-Hop basically. I fell in love with all of the freestyling, just creating something off the top of your head and making it dope for somebody to admire, that to me was art.
Somewhere down the line I started looking at Hip-Hop and the industry, and I know certain people come from certain backgrounds and they may claim this, but theyre not really telling me anything about themselves. Its a dance song or stupid bulls**t. Major labels really grab a hold of an artist when he is finally starting to come into himself, learning where he was at, and they change it completely [which] f**ks his entire career up by portraying something hes not. I had a hold of my project and a lot of people thought I was something that I wasnt. They were like, We need a girl song first, you gotta do strictly girl songs and Im like, Thats not me.
Theres a lot of complicated crazy and confused things about my life. Prior to [moving to Miami] my life was completely different from where I am now. I wouldnt have this watch on, my hair wasnt even like this
AllHipHop.com: You did start at a different place, your father made some major moves in his career that affected your life.
Stack$: Yeah definitely. Specifically when we moved out to Miami, we were riding in the streets and we came up with idea of coming up with a label SoBe Entertainment. There were some people in place at the time who worked with the company who saw me as the boss son, like, How are we gonna brand him? We dont f**kin know what to do with this kid or how he is. Im like, I have my own ideas, just let me roll with them. Nobody believed in me, so I sat there and my project was shelved.
For three years I was still working the streets of Miami, getting to know the people who were blowing up now on the radio as they are and I was like, Damn, this is frustrating. I know I got something to offer the game. So how do I start? I started doing a lot of tracks, producing tracks, coming up with song ideas. I came along to Scott Storch, we met and he said he wanted to executive produce my project. Im like, Thats a good start, then I got a hold of Mike Clark, V.P. of Swisha House, to manage my project, and he really believed in my music. T. Farris listened to it and cosigned on it like, The kids dope, people just dont know what he is. Hes good, hes just gotta go his own avenue.
Then it got to a point where I had a track called Money Over Here produced by Steve Morales, and Im like, Whats the most off the wall thing I can do? The first thing I was released was a ballin type video with Puffy called M.I.A. where we had a drop top video. Im like, Im in Miami, Miamis concentrated by dope boy music. Whats the craziest f**king thing I can do? Im gonna release a dirty South song, and Im gonna put one of the best on the track with me and thats Lil Wayne. Lil Wayne is one of the best Southern lyricists around right now hands down. He got on the track, then all of a sudden my songs started to get wind of Cash Money.
Cash Money got a couple of my tracks – we live in the same building, they moved there after Hurricane Katrina [and] I had just never got a hold of them. We were talking the same s**t, they were like, It just seems fit that you come with us. I signed off on the contract last week and now its SoBe/Cash Money/Universal distributing my debut album.
AllHipHop.com: What inspires you and wakes you up every morning to do this?
Stack$: The crazy and confused part of my life that ties the suburbs and the streets together. People will automatically be like, You didnt come from the streets, how can you tie the streets together? There came a point in my life when I started visiting, seeing and participating in the streets – as crazy and confusing as it may sound. The people I grew up with abandoned me, they started thinking I was becoming something that wasnt me [or] that I was trying to put on a front that wasnt me. I love Hip-Hop and I love the people who Im with right now who are on the come up with me. I love them, and Im gonna stick with them.
Some of those tracks are felt throughout the album, overall its my personal story and journey through Hip-Hop. I never really imagined it was gonna get to this point where so many labels and producers would be associated with it. But I guess when I put my hard work into it after four or five years, I think my hard work has paid off to where theyll hear this album and be like, I understand where the kids coming from, I feel him.
AllHipHop.com: What do you feel is your biggest challenge to overcome with getting yourself out there?
Stack$: My biggest obstacle is getting people like yourself to write about me and take me seriously. My biggest obstacle was the four years I put into this, which is to get with the DJs and literally have fun talking with them. Let them know that youre real as a person before you even lay your music on the table, then when you lay your music on the table theyre like, Okay, Im starting to feel this kid. Hes really got some talent, I like him as a person and I really wanna put him on. Just getting those people to put me on, thats all I needed.
I went to every market and visited, I put a lot of work in and sacrificed the majority of my life just bringing the music out because I believe theres a lack of Hip-Hop right now with real stories and artists emerging. I believe that with Cash Money aligning with my label, along with the artists that were signing, theres some real stories that are about to be told. Were trying to create a second generation Motown, and its only proper to do it in Miami because Miamis the melting pot of the world. Theres so many different cultures, and as a byproduct of that its gonna be a fusion of lots of different music.
AllHipHop.com: The image that you put out there is this really nice young man. Do you feel that theres a place for nice guys in Hip-Hop?
Stack$: Of course, I mean theres alter egos and different sides of everybody. I am a nice person, [but] you cross my family or I somebody I love and cherish you can guarantee I aint gonna be a nice person. Im gonna f**k you up. [laughs] There is that side of me that feels the haters and feels the sides of people who really doubt me, and those emotions are felt throughout certain tracks. But for the most part Im very blessed and fortunate for what I have.
When I meet people, people are people regardless of what they have. What matters is the substance of [a person], their character. A lot of people that I met coming into Hip-Hop [had me thinking] the game was horrible and f**ked up in general. It just took time to meet the right people, and when I met those right people who had those qualities I was like You know, the games not really f**ked up, there really are some good people left, I rely on those good people, [they] make good things happen and positive things work. So were at to where were at now.
AllHipHop.com: What do you say to people who say, You dont have to pay your dues, you can do anything you want?
Stack$: Thats true. I can do whatever I want, and a lot of people say, You could do nothing – a lot of people say, He can do whatever he wants, sit on his ass and chill. But Im looking at entertainment right now – I have a vision, Im sorry. I see things a certain way, and the way theyre being portrayed isnt how it was when I was growing up as a kid, and I was entertained by certain peoples performances, movies and songs. I felt inspired.
I dont really feel the inspiration right now in Hip-Hop and I feel like my company and myself, we have an obligation to the second generation coming up under us. We pay respect to the movies and artists that came before us to make movies and legendary things that people will remember forever. Thats what I want to be a part of and remembered [for].
AllHipHop.com: I hear you say Im sorry. Do you feel that you have to apologize for your privilege?
Stack$: Nah, I dont have to apologize for anything. Im gonna tell my story at the end of the day though. Im just saying Im sorry if people dont like the thought of me. A lot of people dont even meet me, they hear about me and automatically get pre-conceived notions like This is some rich kid, hes spoiled and just looks at music videos and says I wanna be a rapper. He thinks hes a thug, hes got nobody behind him and a pot load of money so hes buying up everything he can do.
Thats not me by any way, shape or form. I love Hip-Hop, I love music, I love making music. I think Im good at what I do, and the people I align myself with are some of the best. I know I love their music, so if were making music together it could only make more music. But I genuinely love Hip-Hop, and believe Hip-Hop is in a point of crisis right now to the point of where there are no more stories being told.
My story, to me its never been told. So if Im coming from the direction that Im coming from, Hip-Hop has never seen this before ever. Being in Miami which is starting to develop as the second Hollywood, and the critiques that the South has no lyrics and lyricism generated I think myself and a lot of the cats [Im with] is gonna be a real power force for 2007. I think its gonna really attack the youth and bring the youth back to Hip-Hop.