2016 was dedicated to elevating BINACT from hobby blog to viable music platform. In 2017, I stepped outside my comfort zone and attended a ton of local shows in my city. It all started with me networking to create buzz for the first BBTB: Anniversary show. After the figurative curtains closed on that, I started getting invites from local artists and promoters. In April I came out to see a Hip-Hop show in Tapps' Fountain Room and was blown away by H3RO, the headliner. After hearing him rap his hit "Freedom" and the soul-stirring "Jezebel" I made sure to tell him what a great job he did. He appreciated the compliments and passed me my first free "journalist" CD and told me to check it out.
One full year and countless shows later, I'm proud to say I'm a huge fan of H3RO's music. Columbia's self-proclaimed Hip-Hop savior is coming up on his sophomore album release. He's hit some rough patches and encountered some hardships. Tragic H3RO is here to show his fans that heroes aren't always perfect behind their masks.
BINACT: How have you maintained your spot in the music game for this amount of time? What keeps you motivated?
H3RO: In 2007 I started this to prove people wrong. People love an underdog story and I saw, and still see, myself as an underdog. Contrary to popular belief I'm still fighting to make it too. As I watch Hip-Hop's trajectory over the past few years, my longevity is a testament to the "last of us" conscious rappers.
My motivation comes from those who lost the drive to keep making music. I have peers that simply gave up due to lack of drive. Constantly creating, promoting, and funding your own projects gets tiring. I'm still on my path to success and I keep myself motivated to show those who gave up that the work of artists is not in vain. I'm very blessed to have a great job as well. I can give 100% to my day job and 100% to my music which is something few people get to experience. I'm truly grateful.
BINACT: Do you think there's room for conscious rappers in Hip-Hop or has the genre met its quota?
H3RO: Yes there's plenty of room for conscious rappers because there will always be a market for conscious music. Immortal Technique taught me that there's a market for everything. So my job is to seek those looking for my music.
BINACT: You call yourself "Hip-Hop's Superhero". Do you still feel like it needs saving?
H3RO: No I don't. At one point I felt threatened by newcomers. I spent years learning cadences and crafting bars for certain types of Hip-Hop to get recognized instantly. I've learned that Hip-Hop isn't dying, it's expanding. I have to make sure I'm keeping the market for my brand of Hip-Hop alive and connecting myself with those that want to consume my music.
BINACT: What's the hardest part about being an independent artist?
H3RO: Aside from what I mentioned earlier, the hardest part is building and maintaining momentum. That comes with making improvements to your artistry and your circle. There's no way you'll be able to succeed as an artist without learning and making important adjustments in your life. Keeping a smart and involved circle helps you avoid complacency and creates the momentum all artists seek.
BINACT: Tragic H3RO is an album that addresses some issues you experienced in your personal life. What did you learn while making the album?
H3RO: I always look back on my 2015 release, Between The Panels with a slight sense of regret because of the way I rushed it. This album made me practice patience and perfect execution. I made sure to do all of the strategic due diligence for this album: outlining themes, working closely with my engineer, and tying up loose ends without moving quickly. Tragic H3RO clearly defines my superhero alter ego while watching the character struggle with huge issues.
BINACT: Describe your experience working with the artists featured on the album.
H3RO: I enjoyed working with everyone featured. Some artists I've been rocking with for a long time. Katera and TWN (Voydd) are pretty special because I started out as a fan of their music. V Renee (803 The Clique) is an artist you recommended and I was pleased with her contribution. Alex Gray and Cole Connor have been influential people in my circle that I previously mentioned. Supastition and FatRat are my mentors. I look up to them and appreciate everything they've done for me. Christou is someone I've worked with for many years. Unifying artists in the city was the driving force behind these choices.
BINACT: Would you like to share your opinion on the recent Free Times article about local establishments' treatment of Black/POC music acts?
H3RO: It's not easy to book shows in Columbia because venue owners are afraid of having things like Hip-Hop in their establishments. New opportunities don't just fall out of the sky. It takes a lot of networking with people in the city to use their spaces. I can't even lie. I came into the game privileged so that gives me an edge. Since I want to see Hip-Hop flourish I try to do everything I can to share my resources. New Brooklyn Tavern staff and management are like family to me. I'm building a good relationship with Tapps so more Hip-Hop can be present. I've seen what you do at Indah Coffee and that seems to be going well.
It frustrates me that we continue having this conversation. I've attended and put on numerous local shows that result in success. Every year Columbia has the Love, Peace, & Hip-Hop festival that embraces the culture and brings a huge crowd. The event is safe and no one gets hurt. I don't understand how venues can't see that our culture isn't something to be inherently afraid of.
BINACT: I know I hit you with a lot of tough questions but this last one is easy. What are you listening to right now that isn't Hip-Hop?
H3RO: Haha okay. You can catch me listening to Pokemon soundtracks, anime theme songs, and Sade at any given time. Throw some Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu in there too. The music I was raised on always puts me in a good mood.