Indie Music Monday Interviews

Articles from Indie Music Bus

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Interview with Jesse Abraham

2011 UMA Lyricist of the year Jesse Abraham was born in Manhattan as the first child to two public school teachers. He grew up in the downtown neighborhood of Tribeca, raised on the city’s hip-hop culture and the eight-track tapes his parents introduced him to as a youngster. At five years old, Jesse was writing and, by the time he was nine, recording demos on cassette tapes. The authenticity of his music now reflects his growing up in New York in the ‘80s, right alongside the groundbreaking hip-hop of Run-D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys. He quickly developed an affinity for rhyming, wordplay and rhythm, walking the halls of his Hebrew school reciting lyrics by KRS-1 or A Tribe Called Quest. Between the ages of 10-14 Jesse lost his father, an uncle and two of his best friends in unrelated incidents, turning towards writing to cope with the tragedies. A published poet at the age of 15, Jesse suddenly realized his true passion was for hip-hop, inspired by such artists as KRS-1, Kool G. Rap and OutKast. However, it wasn’t until he went to college at Atlanta’s Emory University as a philosophy major that he began to realize that he wasn’t just writing lyrics, he was composing songs.

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Describe what the Hip-Hop scene is like in your city:

The hip-hop scene in New York City is incomparably luminous, yet simultaneously relatively restricting. It’s like living in the world’s coolest zoo. I’m surrounded by, and fortunate enough to be a part of, a truly inspiring community of talent. We push one another to grow and achieve, and every time it seems like we all know each other, some event will occur that reminds us that the NYC underground hip-hop scene is nearly infinite in its reach. There are artists of all types, and some are fantastically talented and innovative, yet many of us are separated from a true fanbase due to the amount of musicians that inundate the scene. Additionally, there are so many artists willing to perform for free, simply to obtain exposure, that most promoters don’t want to bother to pay you unless you put up the bar guarantee for the night or you are extraordinarily established. This fosters an interesting sense of competition amongst the artists, as we’re all elbowing for recognition, sustainability and exposure. The beauty of NYC is that talent rises to the top, and that seems to be a permanent feature of this city’s artistic scene. But sometimes I think it’d be rad to actually live in a forest or jungle.

Do you have a special place to write or is it spontaneous as you are going about your day?

I write all over the place and at varying times. I write on the subway a lot (on my phone) and occasionally I write at the studio. Usually I write rhymes sitting on my couch on my laptop – I haven’t written a song with a pen and a pad in a while. My handwriting has become atrocious and it deserves to be mocked.

We recently had the honor to check out your new track, "Connections", what inspired it?

Thanks for checking that out. That joint was, I believe, the first one I ever worked on with K.O. Beatz (the song’s producer), and we’ve since knocked out about a dozen tracks together. He actually named the beat ‘Connections’ before he sent it to me, and he seemed interested in me sticking to that theme for the track. My girlfriend and I were temporarily broken up at the time, so the song is largely about maintaining a connection with her despite our separation, but it’s also about the overall sense of unity and oneness that I believe joins all of us. I don’t really believe much in categorization of matter in general, particularly regarding the separation of people. All is one, yep.

I have this impression that you might be good at scrabble. Do you often win at scrabble?

Ha yeah, good call. I’m pretty awesome at scrabble. But everyone cheats nowadays by memorizing lists that they look up on the internet so I’ve retired. But yeah, ‘za’ is a real word. It’s short for ‘pizza’. Use that.

What do you do for a living?

I manage and co-own a tutoring company in Manhattan and I’m a musician. I spend most of my time tutoring kids throughout the city, but I spend a solid chunk of my week rocking out to some administrative work and bookkeeping for the company. And rapping.

On October 13 you have an event, Pre-CMJ Showcase at Bowery Poetry Club. What exactly goes on during an event like this?

I have no idea ha, we’ll have to see. A bunch of people will be smiling, some will be bored, some will get drunk and dance and others will have their phones in their hands a lot. And some of us will rhythmically utter language into an amplification device for the amusement of these fortunate participants. I’ll have fun; I like playing at Bowery. Kinda feels like doing a show at my high-school lunchroom, all familiar and such.

We know you would perform just about any where, but what would you say is the dream venue?

Madison Square Garden. easiest question ever ha.

Why do you offer all of your music for free?

Because I want as many people to be able to enjoy it as possible.

Upcoming Shows

10/13/11 - 9:00 PM
Pre-CMJ Showcase at Bowery Poetry Club (308 Bowery) featuring Jesse Abraham, Kosha Dillz, Dama Nilz and more.

10/22/11 - 2:00 PM
Official CMJ Showcase held at Sidewalk Cafe (94 Avenue A) featuring Jesse Abraham, C-Rayz Walz, Wordsmith, Rasheed Chappelle, L.I.F.E. Long, The Sleepwalkas and more


Official Website