(AllHipHop Features) “Big up the Gods, we don’t disrespect them,” flows Stro on “Big Ups,” the opening track of his new LP Grade A Frequencies.
The song includes the 20-year-old lyricist showing love to the gods of rap – like The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur – by carrying on the creative legacy of those legendary emcees through his own art.
In the second part of my interview with Stro, the Brooklyn-raised rapper/actor explains why it’s important for him to acknowledge the Hip Hop giants whose shoulders he stands on.
Our conversation also covered his opinion on the internet-influenced way of life and its effects on modern-day rap. As a devoted student of Hip Hop and also a member of the Millennial generation, Stro offers a unique perspective about the culture he loves.
AllHipHop: You pay a lot of homage to Hip Hop legends throughout the project. Why is it important for you to make sure you always show love to the people that came before you?
Stro: I understand the power of being young. That’s all we are as artists now. We’re passing down that frequency and that energy. That’s why on the intro, “Big Ups,” I didn’t get too preachy and say, “You gotta respect the OGs.” I just simplified it and was like, “Big up the gods. We don’t disrespect them.” I made it like a little turn-up record.
These kids today, I don’t know what it is, but they want to be so rebellious that sometimes they disrespect the foundation. That scares me because I grew up on Hip Hop. I grew up being a student of and being surrounded by this culture.
I’m saying the same thing that Pac was saying. I’m saying the same thing that Biggie was saying. I’m saying the same thing all my heroes were saying, but these kids will listen to it from me because I’m closer to their age group. So I drop their names in raps just to remind kids.
There are certain kids out there that may never have heard a Pac or B.I.G. record. That’s fine as long as they’ve heard a Kendrick Lamar, a J. Cole, a Stro, or a Joey [Bada$$] record. We’re preaching the same message from our perspectives. It’s literally the same frequency being passed down. So I think it’s important to keep these names in the minds of the youth.
AllHipHop: I saw you tweeted that a lot of the music out today is kind of dumbing people down. This is a conversation we’ve been having in Hip Hop for a long time. Do you ever see the culture going in a different direction? Not necessarily just Hip Hop, but music in general.
Stro: I don’t know with the internet. You heard of this rapper 52 Savage? This dude is an older black guy from Texas. But he’s actually rapping. He’s joking, obviously. But the internet is promoting him to the point where he’s about to get a deal. I can see it. There already on, “We gotta put 52 on the Freshman list.”
When you live an in an era like this where the internet… I don’t know where the culture’s going to be. Now we’re taking jokes and making careers out of them. Peace to everybody. I ain’t dissing nobody. I’m just saying this era is very weird in that sense. I would like to say, “Nah, the mumble rap ain’t going to go on forever.” But you just don’t know with the way this generation is.
That’s one of the reasons I made Grade A Frequencies the way I made it. I wanted to put the substance back in music. I’m aware I might lose a few fans with this project because it’s different from my previous work, but I plan to gain a whole lot more. The jokes are cool, the turning up is cool, we in the club, everybody’s doing drugs, but let’s get back to the substance of the music.
AllHipHop: Do you have any more acting gigs on the horizon?
Stro: I’ve been auditioning for a few joints. But I’m really on my music stuff. I feel like the energy you put into stuff is what you get out. One thing about acting is it’s great, but sometimes you got to leave for two to three months to shoot a movie. That’s putting the music on hold.
Right now, I’m really trying to get in touch with the people and my true supporters, so I feel like I got to stay here. Musically, I’m in a creative space. Things are aligning. Things are connecting. So I’m just focused on the music like crazy. I’m sure I’ll act again, but it has to be something I really want to do. It’s got to be a role where I feel like I really got to be part of this.
AllHipHop: You’re just twenty years old, but you’re pretty much an industry veteran at this point.
Stro: I’m a struggle rapper. [laughs] That’s a better term.
AllHipHop: Nah, when I hear “struggle rapper” that makes me think of struggling as far as lyrics. That’s definitely not you. I’m not accepting that one. [laughs]
Stro: [laughs] Appreciate that.
AllHipHop: From your experience of being in the industry, what piece of advice would you give to someone that’s an aspiring entertainer?
Stro: I’m still climbing up myself, so I don’t got no crazy, elaborate advice. I would just say take yourself serious. That’s what I’m on right now as an artist. I finally understand you got to take yourself serious. People are only going to take you as seriously as you take yourself.
That’s why I’m not so quick to give out a feature because a dude might ask for a feature. You mess with him personally, so you give him the feature for free or for the low. You put your all into that verse and put the song out, then after that, he’s not even rapping. He’s on Instagram fooling around or using the Snapchat filter with his tongue out. He’s not taking himself seriously.
That can throw people off because you never know who’s watching. You even mentioning a tweet, I didn’t even know you were watching the sh-t like that. The old me would have been on Instagram playing around – “Yo, I’m on the block. I’m outside. Look at me. Look at what I’m doing.”
As an artist, I just gotta be an artist. I can have fun and enjoy life, but at the same time, I got to understand it’s a brand I got to promote. I got to keep people in tune with the music. That would be my advice. Not just artists, anybody, whatever you’re doing in life, take it seriously.