SOTBMusic: HS Interviews Speed on the Beat

As with my interview with Drizzle Sez almost two years ago, I decided to turn the mic back on myself for a bit. Sure, I can write about these things. However, there’s a better way than just hearing me play judge, jury, and executioner on what’s said/what’s brought up. I asked True God and Shokus Apollo to ask me some tough questions and let people get to know me even more. After all, you can’t be a great interviewer if you’re unwilling to let people into your thought process.


Apollo: So what’s been going on lately, man? You’re a man of many hats–father, artist, journalist, et cetera. How do you balance everything?

Speed: Truthfully? I don’t balance things as well as I’d like to sometimes. I prioritize my mental health and my family above everything I do. Wearing as many hats as I do sometimes, I’ll neglect some things, specifically my music and the site. During the end of the summer of 2018 through, maybe, December, I kind of went on a sabbatical from the site. I couldn’t do that, look for a full-time job, finish up Son of the Beast, and–most importantly–be as amazing of a partner and a father as my family deserves.

My views and readership, not to mention my social media presence, it all suffered a bit. I never really did this for views, though, so that didn’t faze me much. I’m getting better at finding a balance, though. Anyone who says that they’ve got life figured out by the time that they’re 30 is a boldfaced liar, straight-up.

I thank God that I have a great support system in place that’ll kick my ass back into gear if I start to drift too far off the path I need to be on.

True: Well, that’s good that you’ve hit the ground running with the site again. What motivates you with speedonthebeat.com? And what level of assistance has your support system given you to stay on the path?

Speed: I’ve said it time and time again. I like to be the guy behind the scenes. I know that it’s ironic to feel that way, considering I’ve dropped a slew of albums over the past decade and have had my hand in many a production. However, I take more joy in helping to put other people on and putting readers onto artists that they would’ve never heard of if it wasn’t for me–or someone like me.

I’ve had my moments in the sun on this site, that site, that one over there, too. I’ve gotten a decent amount of views and streams and all of that stuff. I just take more pleasure in using my platform to get someone else noticed for their talents than using SOTB to gas myself up. I do dislike when people act as if I don’t have a nose for talented visionaries, but that comes with the territory.

For every dope artist or visionary I’ve featured, there’s been someone who fell way off after being featured on here, It’s just the nature of the beast, I guess.

Apollo: True.

Speed: Now, with regards to the support system, they’ve helped with everything. Drizzle Sez, Gingawd, and that crew, they’re always down to tell me truths in jest to make me laugh about crazy situations but also make me think things through. DAR has provided me a springboard for ideas and a brotherhood. My kids keep me going the most. Without my kids, I probably would’ve been stuck in a rut for months, maybe even years. I look at them both and I’m like “nah, I can’t let whatever bring me down.”

That’s not saying I can’t do things on my own. Sometimes, however, you just need an extra set of hands.Without friends and family and friends who are like family, I’d be a lot worse off than I am right now, that’s for certain.

Apollo: Without family and friends to keep up grounded, a lot of us would be worse off. Definitely. Speaking of family, your last three albums–Mama Young’s Son, Papa Speed’s Boys, and Son of the Beast–all feature your family on the cover art. What’s the motivation behind that?

Speed: Family is a big part of everything I do, especially musically. I’ve mentioned that in every interview, from my interview with Big Sto, who I’m still in line to interview soon, to my interviews with True on The Speed Report. With Mama Young’s Son, I wanted to do a sequel of sorts to Unhinged. 

With Mama Young’s Son, which dropped two years exactly after Unhinged, I showed more of the aftermath and the healing while dealing with my mother’s death. Also, I wanted to talk more about finding God while still rejecting so-called “organized” religion.

Papa Speed’s Boys was a short project that was dedicated to my kids, two of the lights I’ve had in my life since their births. Nothing more, nothing less.

And SOTB, I wanted to talk about my father. He wasn’t exactly that great of a guy. He had his anger issues, drinking problems, abusive tendencies, and so on. That album was more of a “yeah, I can be messed up sometimes, but I can’t ever go down his path.” I use what he gave me, both the negative and the positive, and made myself a better person in spite of him being the way he was.

I don’t hate my father. I’ve just striving to never be anything like him. In using My Hero Academia as a bit of a backstory for SOTB, I put my feet in Shoto Todoroki’s shoes for a bit. Granted, my dad didn’t beat the crap out of me if I wasn’t able to surpass a certain point. He did beat the crap out of me on occasion, though.  I empathized with the character and wanted to frame about half of the album in that way, growing from a fucked-up situation and becoming my own man in spite of the things that went on in my childhood.

Apollo: I understand. So, these covers tell stories of their own. Dope approach. What’s next for you, LP-wise?

Speed: No clue. I’ve been around music my whole life. I’m at a point now that I don’t have much else to say. I’m at a point where I don’t want to tarnish what I’ve done over the years just to fit a quota or something along those lines. Yes, I use music as my therapy. Part of therapy is growth, though. You don’t want to continuously go back to the therapist with the same issue. This may be the first year without an SOTB album since 2010, 2011. To be fair, it’s only January, so things can change. Right now, though, I’m good on my own music.

Apollo: I feel you on that. And yes, it’s early and things can change. Where the beats at, though? DAR fans have asked where the SOTB beats are on DAR releases.

Speed: I talk to True about this a lot, since he’s always asking me this. I need a spark to produce and record. There’s been a lack of production on DAR projects, yes. But, it’s not because I don’t give a damn or that I’m being lazy. It’s probably that I give too much of a damn and would rather there be nothing at all than a half-assed beat. People deserve my best. If I can’t provide that, I don’t provide. That said, I think that 2019 is that year where I find a spark, from somewhere.

Apollo: That SOTB and Apollo tape will be nothing but PM Dawn samples.

True: We’d welcome a return to production, that’s for sure. With the recent projects released, and the heavy nature of each one, what’s your favorite moment in making the 2018 albums?

Speed: My favorite moments are doing “Office Space” and “Jojo’s Song.” With “Office Space,” I went through some hell in my work life in 2018. I was let go from a job I’d been at for a bit under five years only to remove myself from another, far more stressful, situation four months into that gig. So, I wanted to create a song that voiced my frustration with my work life. Crazily enough, a few weeks after that song released, I began work at a new gig that’s so much better than anything I’d been accustomed to over the years. That’s not a dig at any of my previous employers. They had their strengths and weaknesses. However, for the first time in a while, I’m happy. Plus, the song didn’t fit as much within the My Hero Academia framework for the album, so it was fun to step outside of that for a bit.

With “Jojo’s Song,” I’d never made a track dedicated to my oldest kid before that. That song was a shining moment from Papa Speed’s Boys. That album, I didn’t promote as well as I should have–life happens–but that song sticks with me.

True: Both of those albums tell different stories. I think they’re a testament to your growth and some of your greatest work. Speaking of greatest work, do you have any favorite instrumentals you’ve done?

Speed: “Destined” from Soul Revival still strikes a chord for me because of where I was in my life. DAR was in its infancy stages and I wanted to prove myself and push myself. Everything that went on personally, I poured into turning that song into an emphatic anthem.

“Redemption’s Reprise” from Death of the King is another beat. It was based off of a loop I had lying around. At the time of making that album, I was coming to terms with a lot of who I was, mentally and physically. I was realizing that I wasn’t the best father and I wanted to do something about that. Like, I was always in Jojo’s life, but sometimes I wasn’t as present mentally. On top of that, I began to come to terms with my mental health. So, I gave that track all of my love, my anger, and all of my sorrow.

Finally, “Good Feeling to Know” from Baltimore Commercial Break. I remember that you said that, at the time, it was the best track I’d ever put out. I love the beat and the chops and the digging-in-the-crates feel to it. It also takes me back to before Mama Young died, mainly because the track was officially released on digital platforms two days after she died.

Damn, it’s been four years already. Time flies.

True: Definitely a long journey. So many moments and songs to speak on that really show where you were at the time. All of the wins and losses. They’ve all shaped your journey. As who you are, how important is it that you’re constantly growing and learning lessons.

Speed: Infinitely important and always important. I want to learn all that I can before I leave this world behind. I want to pass my knowledge onto the future generations. Plus, I don’t want to be the same man at 31 that I was at 21. At least, I don’t want to make the same mistakes I made then.

For example, I used to drink. I made some mistakes and learned some tough lessons. Now, after being sober for four years, I know that I’m better for it. If you’re not learning, you’re stagnant and run the risk of becoming obsolete.

Apollo: If you’re not learning and growing, something is wrong. I want to get back to the music for a second. In 2015, during the second wave of DAR projects, you were actively in the studio more than you’d been. Do you prefer the booth to the home set-up? Do you approach things differently, depending on the process?

Speed: It depends. With the solo stuff, I’ve always wanted that grit behind it. That’s why I intentionally do things lo-fi and DIY. Like, I could go to the studio and ask them to add some filters on it, but it’s not completely authentic. It’s not as raw. It’s not that I’m lazy or hate the studio. I just prefer for my solo work to have that feel to it.

I approach studio work the same, regardless the location. I do, however, love bouncing ideas off people. In the studio, it’s easier to do that versus having a group chat or an email chain and doing it that way.

True: Keeping with that second phase, what’s your favorite moment from that time, the Genesis and Exodus sessions? Most readers of DAR and SOTB know little about that time and how important it was in building the brotherhood.

Speed: My favorite moments were more so after the albums were done and we were performing across the DMV at venues, open mics, and all that. It was right after my mom died and I had to deal with a lot of stuff. Performing and being around the team, it helped take my mind off of the darkness and kept me from losing my shit more often than not. In the sessions, I’d have to say the entirety of Exodus and its recording.

True: Exodus was so much fun. Everything that went down, especially the fact we supported one another through the good and the bad, it was amazing. Switching gears–and this is the hardest question to ask–with your life seeing as much change as it has over the past five years, what are the biggest takeaways through everything?

Speed: My biggest positive is probably more of a zest for life or whatever you want to call it. I always knew that life was finite. Hell, I used to fear death. But, then, losing what I lost and almost losing more than that? On top of gaining another light in my youngest son and everything from there? It made me appreciate every moment I have on this earth–even if I’m not out here smiling like a jackass every second of my life. I know I have a “resting nigga face” a lot of the time. Plus, I’ve learned to not hold onto the past all of the time. I let it inform my present and future, but I don’t have the energy to hold onto everything I’ve experienced.

Apollo: I get that.

Speed: Now, negatively, I’ve learned that some people you think are down for you are quick to change up on you, even when they say they’re supportive of you. I had someone who I’d been friends with for years go the other way because I joked with them and they got offended. It wasn’t even, like, an offensive joke. I just sarcastically responded “no shit” to something they said about me and a situation I found myself in. I apologized for offending them, and they were still like “nah.” So, we cut our losses and kept it moving. I wish them nothing but success and I still support their endeavors. But, I know that me being who I an and how I am and them being how they are, it can’t mesh in the long run.

True: As someone who’s lost a few friends to life changes, I totally understand that. Let’s switch up for the final question. Let’s talk sports and sports entertainment. What are your feelings on the NBA, the Super Bowl, and wrestling?

Speed: What, no baseball love?

True: No.

Speed: Fair enough. For the NBA, I see the Warriors winning. Sure, they’re not running roughshod over the league like they normally do, but they’re complete. There are no real deficiencies there.

Super Bowl-wise? I’ll be honest. I sometimes feel like a traitor for watching the NFL while still standing with Kaepernick. But, I abate that feeling by using football as a bonding exercise with family and friends while still talking about injustices during timeouts. Best of both worlds, sort of. I’m hoping the Chiefs win it all. I’m tired of Tom Brady and Drew Brees.

With wrestling, it’s a bit different. I don’t keep up with wrestling as much as I did during the early part of the 2010s or when I was younger. I still frequent LordsofPain or Wrestling Inc. I still watch the occasional pay-per-view or live show. It just doesn’t appeal to me as much anymore, though.

I do think that AEW will give us another WWE alternative. That’s always good. But, they have to tell us how they’re different and show us how they’re different. Cody Rhodes and his team are smart, though, so I have few doubts. What’s helped “alternatives” such as ROH, NJPW, and even Impact is that they’ve been able to say they’re not WWE and then show how they’re not WWE. Same for Lucha Underground, but that’s a whole different beast.

WWE-wise, I do like that they’re trying different things like a heel Daniel Bryan, Brock Lesnar showing kinks in his armor–such as the Survivor Series match with Bryan, Becky Lynch, Black wrestlers getting some shine. Granted, I don’t want or need to see Bobby Lashley pat his ass while Lio Rush does his impersonation of Bobby Heenan fawning over Lex Luger when he was The Narcissist. But, I’m on my Issa Rae shit with WWE. I’m rooting for everyone Black, just about.

And, even though you didn’t ask, I see Manny Machado getting far less than what he wants. The MLB seems hellbent on not letting players get mammoth contracts over the last few years. Call it the Chris Davis effect, maybe. I don’t think the “Johnny Hustle” comments hurt as much as pundits think…but owners and GMs are finding holes in the logic that Manny is worth over $30M a year.

Speed on the Beat

Whatever you need to know about me, you can find out on speedonthebeat.com

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