Hip-Hop could be considered the most innovative genre of music, always bringing a new perspective to the surface. Erreon Lee is a rising star stepping into the game on his own accord. The rapper lives in Dallas, but is known to bring an East Coast vibe to the mic, no doubt accredited to his diverse background.
The both street- and college-educated rapper has dropped three mix-tapes: The Day The Game Changed 1, 2, and 3. Lee also dropped his first album, The Surface, in January. The young trailblazer is making a point to steer the Hip-Hop game in an upward direction, with a slightly different scope of what the game has been missing in lyrical contact.
AllHipHop.com: So you’re originally from Oklahoma? How long were you there? Do you remember it at all?
Erreon Lee: I was born in Tulsa, yeah, I was there up until grade school and I was like six. Then my family moved to Louisiana with my stepdad. He was a football coach. I was there for another six years, until I was 12. Then my family stayed in Tulsa for about two more years through middle school. And I went to high school in Fort Myers, Florida… it’s about a hour outside of Miami. I moved around a lot. Then I moved to Texas my senior year in high school…been here ever since.
AllHipHop.com: So all that moving had to have really shaped the artist that you are, with so many geographical influences.
Erreon Lee: Right, it did. I believe it’s a benefit I might have up against other artists, you know, not just being from one region, but just having moved around makes me more of a well-rounded person as well as an artist.
AllHipHop.com: Why did you guys stay on the move?
Erreon Lee: My stepdad and my mom parted ways, so we moved back to Tulsa. And a lot of people don’t know about Tulsa - they think it’s a bunch of Indians runnin’ around, but Tulsa is like a little California to me! They dress the same, the accent is kind of the same. I’m not saying they bite off Cali people, but a lot of people that are in Oklahoma have family from California. A lot of my family, you know when it gets back into the tree, they come from California. But yeah, it’s real gang affiliated, man, where I’m from on the north side. A lot of the California gangsters, when they wanted to lay low they moved to areas like Little Rock and Tulsa.
So it’s been like that since my mom was a kid back in the '70s. All my cousins and everybody like that are involved in all that, and I was headed down the wrong path. My mom saw that and didn’t want me to end up like the rest of my family members. We had no positive male influence in our whole family. So she went to a job fair out in Florida, and it turned out she had enough college credits to get a job teaching. She came home one day and was like, “We’re movin' to Florida!” We packed up and left the next week. Being in Florida made me more well rounded, being around different cultures. I look back and I’m happy I got a chance to move out of Tulsa, so I didn’t end up like everybody else.
AllHipHop.com: What did you have planned for yourself before music?
Erreon Lee: My life was pretty much centered on basketball. My mom tried to save up as much as she could to send me to all the good Nike basketball camps. A lot of my smarts come from her, too. She went back to school and finished up on her MBA. She was business oriented; she was always telling me about the business and marketing world, so it was something I took a liking to. After that, I said if I go to college I want to study business marketing. I most definitely wanted to play basketball in college, but I broke my ankle my senior year in high school. I tore it up pretty bad, so the interest from colleges kind of went away. I still went to school though, and that’s when I was really focusing even more on music.
At that time, I was thinking I really could be better in music than in basketball. I still wanted to go to school, but I wanted to go to school for a reason I could still use for music. I chose to do business marketing and get into the field of like how to become an A&R for a record company. Everything is so independent these days, the role of an A&R is kind of dissolving. So if I could be my own A&R and learn how to market myself, I could use my degree for music and not just have it for nothing. I’m about six months out from getting my bachelor’s degree right now; I just took a semester off because I’ve been doing so much traveling.
AllHipHop.com: So you got some Hip-Hop is in your blood, too. Your dad was the former DJ for Vanilla Ice, DJ Earthquake?
Erreon Lee: Right! My dad did some stuff for Vanilla Ice, NWA, D.O.C. Music has always been in my blood, and I really grew up a sports guy. I played football, basketball, baseball all through grade school. But my thing was really basketball; I always did music as a hobby. But I started taking it seriously when I was about 17 or 18 years old, people started telling me you might be able to do this for real, like as a career. They really started believing in my skills and ever since then, I just been trying to polish and get better.
AllHipHop.com: When you really started working on your music seriously, you were in Dallas. But your music style is not typical music for the Dallas scene. How did you deal with that clash?
Erreon Lee: It was kind of difficult at first, because my style is a little bit different. I just tried not to look at the negatives in it and use the positives like, that’s good because I sound different from everyone in my region so I may stand out a little bit more because I’m not doing what everyone else is doing. At that time, I was just doing like freestyles and things like that but when I was about 19, I put out my first real mixtape just to throw it out there and see how the public would receive it. It was called The Day The Game Elevated. And when I put it out, people were like, “Ok I see what you comin' wit' now!” and I don’t feel like it got enough respect for it, I thought it was pretty good for my first mixtape. So I was just like I gotta go harder!
So I put out The Day The Game Elevated 2 a year later, when I was 20. Now people were like, “Ok, I really see what you doin’ now.” And right after that I was like I just wanna do an album; I was tired of doin mix-tapes. I knew it would take a long time to put out the kind of quality album that I wanted to. So in between Elevated 2 and my album which is The Surface, my viral buzz really started goin out of control. People were ordering t-shirts from my website, the hits on YouTube, and the blogs started noticing me.
I had a fan base that I really didn’t want to keep waiting because I knew The Surface would take a little more time and development, so I put out The Day The Game Elevated 3. It was just a small, 10-song project that I put out. I did that when I was 21, pretty much releasing something every year. I just released The Surface on my 23rd birthday. It has all original music on there. I think it really just represents where I want to go as an artist, and it’s a story about where I came from, and it was perceived well with the public. So that’s where I am now, getting more exposure and touring those songs.
AllHipHop.com: I notice your ‘Game Elevated, Surface’ concept. Explain the next level, smart rap concept you’re bringing to the table.
Erreon Lee: That’s exactly what it’s meant to be. The Day The Game Elevated was a confident title. It wasn’t meant to be arrogant, but it was a confident title you know, about a young independent in the game trying to raise the standards. The Surface, and even the single off the album, “We Here” doesn’t say we made it or we’re on top or anything like that. It’s just…I’ve surfaced, you see me, I’ve arrived, I’m here and it’s time to get recognized.
AllHipHop.com: Your YouTube is WarriorTV… You call yourself The Warrior…
Erreon Lee: Yeah, that’s my alias. It really represents me as a person. My stepdad gave that to me when I was younger cuz I just didn’t stop. He said I was a warrior. Even if I was having a bad day, I just stick through it. I just keep a warrior mentality all the time towards life. Ironically, that’s what they used to call me on the court, too, 'cause I’m pretty nice with that rock. [laughter] But with music, I think it’s the same way. It just represents the struggle of the market that I’m in trying to break through doing the kind of music that I’m doing. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I just keep that warrior mentality about me as I go through things.
AllHipHop.com: You recently did some work with one of the hottest DJ’s in Dallas, DJ ASAP. How was that?
Erreon Lee: DJ ASAP, man. I remember when I was 18 standing in long lines in the cold, tryin’ to get in the club, waitin to see DJ ASAP break records I’ve never heard before. I used to be like, man, I can’t wait til he’s spinnin my records. And it’s all happening now. He’s always showing me love, and he got behind the whole project. He just believes in everything that’s going on around me, and he’s been a good accomplice to have on the team because he has a really great ear for what people want to hear. He’s taken somewhat of an A&R role, and we bounce ideas off each other between him and my management. It’s just a great team and I’m lookin forward to the future with DJ ASAP. That's most definitely my official DJ out here in Dallas.
AllHipHop.com: You have your first performance on a bigger stage coming up in Austin for AllHipHop’s Breeding Ground Showcase at SXSW. How are you feeling about it?
Erreon Lee: It is gonna be my first time on a bigger stage. I’m most definitely ready for it. I’m ready. I’m always ready to turn up. When them lights come on, it's showtime. I can only imagine the energy of what it’ll be like. I can’t wait personally.
AllHipHop.com: We’re all looking forward to it! It’s been real talking to you. See you at the show.
Download Erreon’s mixtapes and album at www.erreonlee.com and follow him on Twitter (@ERREONATION). Expect a high energy show from Erreon Lee on AllHipHop’s Breeding Ground Stage at Kiss n Fly in Austin this Friday, March 16.
Other Breeding Ground performing artists include Big K.R.I.T, Travis Porter, Smoke DZA, Chevy Woods, and Future. The showcase will also feature performances from Mystikal, Trae The Truth, and Juvenile. See you there!