The Life and Grind of ESSO

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What’s up, AllHipHop? Allow me to introduce myself and get all the formalities out of the way. I'm ESSO, Harlem's own Certified Grinder / Breeding Ground Alumni / Unsigned Artist / Mogul in Training / Whatever you feel like calling me today... approached me about doing a journal to give you a bird’s eye view of my life and grind, so that's exactly what I'm going to do.

So why me? What have I done to deserve this? Good question. For those of you who check out the Breeding Ground you might recognize me from earlier this month (October 2006)...I just released my first full-length mixtape "ESSOcentric Volume I: History in the Making" hosted by Sickamore (A&R Director at Atlantic Records/80's Posterboy link), I'll be in the November issue of The Source magazine as Unsigned Hype (following in the footsteps of B.I.G., Eminem and a few other household names), I was the winner of the "Dont Quit Ya Day Job" Tournament of Champions on The Cipha Sounds Effect on SHADE45 at Sirius Satellite Radio, opened for Howard Homecoming's Yardfest concert October 13th, and the list goes on, but I'm not really here to brag about what I've done.

This journal is probably going to be the sort of thing that 10 years from now I can look at and be proud of. Most of the time all you get to see is the finished product, but its not until you get to a "Driven" or "Behind the Music" that you really see what it took for that person to get there. So this is kinda an early version of that, but the difference is, instead of other people looking back, reminiscing about "back then" you get to see it as it happens. You're gettinfg in on the ground floor, so strap up and get ready for the ride. It's going to be interesting, that I can promise you.

So just to give you a recap of went down in September, I released my mixtape "ESSOcentric" (which by the way is available wherever you cop your mixtapes - SHAMELESS PLUG). The CD has gotten flawless reviews on some mixtape sites and a lot of love in the streets.

I treated my first mixtape like my first album because the way this game is right now, there's no such thing as a "faith" deal. No one is going to take a chance on somebody unproven just because they have talent. So what I did was basically make my version of an album over other people's beats, and a couple originals...but every song is my own concept and has its own identity separate from the original version.

I also got the word in September that I would be featured as Unsigned Hype in the November issue of The Source (whatup Fahyim, Julie and Ced?). I passed Fahyim (Editor-in-Chief) a promotional CD in The Source offices earlier in the year way before my mixtape was done. We ended up running into each other at another event and he told me he really liked my material, but he thought I was already signed. When I told him that I wasn't and that we hadn't even started deal shopping yet, he immediately wanted to put me in Unsigned Hype. Unsigned Hype has predicted some of the biggest artists in the game so I'm honored to be a part of that legacy. For the clueless, B.I.G., Eminem, DMX, Mobb Deep, CNN and Common are all Unsigned Hype alumni.

Sept 29th I went up to SHADE45 for the last round of the "Dont Quit Ya Day Job" Tournament of Champions on The Cipha Sounds Effect on SHADE45 (shouts to Cipha, Angela, Moti and DJ Wonder). I went up against The Choirboy from NJ, who's got a pretty big record out right now on the NBA 2K7 soundrack called "Catch My Breath." I played "Creep 2007" from off of my mixtape, which kinda got knocked because it was a remake as opposed to an original song. The audience called in and votes went to ChoirBoy so I had to rock first in the freestyle rounds. Thank Sirius I could curse in the battle, because I went in for blood in the freestyle round.

So the judges voted and I won. Now my joint “Bein Me” is in rotation on the show, which is a real good look (BDS...look it up if you don't know). Shouts to Choir and his team, we going to be getting some work in together real soon. Some of the judges for the entire tournament included Leah Rose (XXL Magazine), Jerry Barrow (Scratch Magazine), Omen (producer), Chris Green (Sony/BMG), Deric "D Dot" Angelittie (producer), and's own Jigsaw (just so you know that there were some heavy hitters involved)

One of my favorite weekends of the year has to be Howard’s Homecoming, the college I attended. Seems like the whole world stops and everyone is at Howard. This year was the first time I was back as an artist, definitely a change from being there just to party and catch up with friends. I performed on Friday afternoon at Yardfest, which is a free concert right in the middle of the campus. I left from New York Thursday night so I could get settled before performing on Friday afternoon. Friday morning my homey came down from Detroit to wild out with me for the weekend. He didn't know he was going to end up being my hype man for the show, but s**t that's what friends are for, right?

The show was crazy, a little bit of administrative drama backstage, but luckily my dude Will from Vibe Magazine held me down and we were headed into the Green Room to get ready to hit the stage. I wanted to bring my girl IB3 out with me so we could perform a track we did together called "Whas Poppin 2nite" that's been getting a lot of love lately, but it was too last minute to get her up from Houston so I had to hold the show down myself. Even though I know most of the people in the crowd had probably never heard my music, by the end of the show I had some people singing along, which was a real beautiful thing (the front row was wit me, I love y’all 4 that)

I'm glad I had the opportunity to come back to Howard and be on the other side of the Homecoming concert. Its crazy to think that a year before I was in the crowd watching Jeezy, Juelz, Jim Jones and 3-6 Mafia and a year later I opened for Trey Songz, LeToya Luckett, Monica Kelis and everyone else that was there. Shouts to DJ Drama who was backstage with Willie Da Kid from Aphilliates Music Group. I told Sickamore to put a copy in Drama's hands, but I just might have beat him to it...

The rest of the weekend was exactly what it was supposed to be. Anyone that's been to Howard Homecoming knows what I'm talking about...GONE!