Stephen Redhead looks to be on the cusp of stardom. The Capitol Heights, Maryland native has already performed on BET’s “Campus Invasion Tour”, battle local emcees on Washington, DC’s WKYS and WPGC radio stations, and appeared in the CBS online series Jericho and the Notorious B.I.G. biopic Notorious.
Redhead’s comical brand of Hip Hop has been featured online in Ebony, The Washington City Paper, and the popular webseries The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. His self-directed music videos have shined a spotlight on the Howard University graduate as well.
The child savant-turned-recording artist is definitely one to watch, so get to know Redhead in DZI: The Voice’s latest exclusive Q&A.
Yohance Kyles: When did you discover your voice as an artist?
Stephen Redhead: I discovered my voice during my years in college. I had written a lot of lyrics in a storytelling format since high school, but I believed I learned how to perform and develop my delivery and style that best represents me during my college years.
YK: You excelled in school at early age. Was there ever any pressure from your family to pursue a career other than music?
SR: There were talks from my parents about me becoming a lawyer, and I’ve done a lot of jobs working in law firms with many attorneys. After a while, I realized that I wasn’t particularly interested in the operations of the judicial system, and a lot of my friends who went to law school literally hated it or couldn’t find a job after graduation. I felt that, at my age, I should be looking for something that makes me happy that I could own and develop into something lucrative. They’re starting to come around on this, but they trust my decisions overall.
YK: How would you describe your musical style?
SR: My musical style is considered a combination of Kanye West and Eminem. It has a lot of storytelling, but is also comedic and has a fair amount of sarcasm. It can be particularly aggressive or playful. It is geared toward kids like me who grew up being told “no” all of the time and have decided to do what they want regardless of obstacles they faced. It also has a lot of video game sounds in the production.
YK: How did you connect with producer TDeezy for your song “Kickback (PreGame)”?
SR: I found out about TDeezy from his work on “Gold On My MacBook” by Trinidad James. I checked out some music that he had online and did a freestyle over the song. I contacted him directly about purchasing another beat I heard from him. In the process of that, I heard another one and decided to do a simple mixtape song to it, and that was “Kickback (Pregame)”. I wanted to test how our sounds mesh together.
YK: You recently did a freestyle over Beyonce’s “Bow Down”. Why did you decide to tackle that track?
SR: The funny story about that song was interesting. My friend Niama is a grad student in London, and she linked me to the Beyoncé song the day that it was released. She suggested that I should do a freestyle to it. I wasn’t too sure about it since I was working on my own project, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.
Once I found the instrumental, I loaded up the track and recorded very fast and released it the next day. I noticed that my version was spreading around Facebook just as fast with some comments suggesting that they preferred my version more than the original. After another talk with my content manager, I decided to record a music video for the freestyle. I released that video two weeks later. Hopefully Beyonce’s camp doesn’t find me and kill me. She’s dope! [Laughs]
YK: You went through a couple of label and management situations. What did you learn from those experiences?
SR: I went through different management situations once I graduated college and moved to New York. I was kind of thrown into the industry very fast and managed to see and hear everything on how executives look at artists, what they’re looking for, and the types of business negotiations that happen. There were a lot of bad times and good times. I remember being told “nobody owes you anything”. That stuck with me really hard, and it made me sure to be more hands-on in my situations to get things done the way I would want them to be. You have to know yourself and the game to survive or else you’ll be exploited for another person’s gain who claims that they believe in you, but may in fact not have your best interest at heart.
YK: You’ve gotten the chance to open for the some big names in Hip-Hop like Slum Village, C-N-N, and Masta Ace. What did you take away from sharing the same stage with those acts?
SR: I took those experiences with the idea that if I work hard enough and make the best music that I could, then I could be the headliner of these shows and tour the world like them. I appreciate every fan that I get. I’m the type that would stay in the venue after the show and meet every person that wants to talk to me. I want to feel the people’s positive energy and have a connection with them for inspiration.
YK: You are a self-professed Hip-Hop head. What do you think of the state of the culture in 2013?
SR: In my opinion, it’s in a great shape because the underground is the mainstream now. The Internet now has the power to take an otherwise unknown artist and have them on the cover of magazines or in a national television show. The fans actually have more of a choice on who their stars are.
The cons of that situation is there is a lack of a filter on what’s being spewed to the public and our children. Today’s parents are getting younger and they may not know how to police the negative images from reaching their kids, especially due to the rise of technology. Now that everything seems free and openly expressive, the envelope is being constantly pushed for better or worse.
YK: There has been a lot of attention paid lately to rap artists’ content and the public reaction to what some see as offensive lyrics. As an artist do you ever worry about how the public will interpret your lyrics and does that affect your writing?
SR: In relation to my own music, I make it pretty clear that a lot of the things I say are ironic and sarcastic. I always look at my writing a certain way on how it should be perceived by others. As an artist, I understand that you wouldn’t want to censor your own creative expressions, especially for people who may not even listen or appreciate your work. However, if you are a citizen of today’s society, there has to be a level of tact. If you completely disregard that, then you should be able to face the repercussions of that.
YK: You’ve had some experience in acting. Do you have any plans to do more work in that field?
SR: I feel that the world is a stage, and we’re all playing a role to keep the story going. I definitely plan to do more acting in the future, but for now, I would like to keep the music going as a foundation.
YK: Do you work in any other artistic mediums?
SR: I do a lot of work in film production for clients, such as directing music videos, commercials, and short films.
YK: If you could only listen to 5 music artists for the rest of you life who would choose?
SR: That’s a tough question. If I had that choice, I would pick Jay-Z, Kanye West, Ratatat, Andre 3000, and Phoenix. They all bring a certain feel and style to the table that’s not one dimensional. I can put their music on to fit certain moods whether I’m upset or hype from joy. I hope to make music for those spaces myself.
YK: What’s next for Stephen Redhead?
SR: I’m currently working on an EP called Exactly via my newest venture with SFE/Fontana/Universal. I’m taking my time with it to make it one of the most impactful projects from my catalogue. I hope to have it finished by the winter of 2013. There will be more videos to be released, some of which to be on my VEVO channel. I don’t know what’s definitely in store for me, but I’m willing to step up to the challenge. I’ve seen it all through the good and bad, and I’m ready.
For more info about Redhead click it
To connect with Redhead follow him @redheadpg
Check out Redhead’s videos for “Bow Down (Freestyle)” & “Baggage”: