When Sto hit me up and said “Speed, I want to interview you,” I was pretty elated, since I knew Sto would give me a dope interview. Plus, I needed to talk to someone about where my head was during Mama Young’s Son. After it was finished, I thought “man, I need to return the favor,” since he has a pretty incredible mind about the music game himself. A few months later, we were finally able to get it done. Below is a transcript of our Q&A.
Speed: How would you describe yourself to someone who isn’t familiar with Sto the Last?
Sto: Boombap rap advocate, video game enthusiast, 6’5 and too tall for his own good.
Speed: Why do you do this?
Sto: Back in high school my cousin gave me three rap albums. Sivion’s Spring of the Songbird, Surreal and DJ Balance’s Future Classic, and Braille’s Shades Of Grey. After listening to them, I was blown away by how no one was talking about these albums solely because it wasn’t popular enough. I spent high school, college and even now reviewing records that I believe the masses are sleeping on.
From a PR standpoint, I hate to be this guy, but artists just do not take the marketing portion of the hip-hop industry seriously. even artists that I’m a fan of have no clue how to genuinely navigate this. I’m not saying I’m a pro but I’ve been studying this since college and observed rollouts and mistakes made. I want to see YOU succeed.
Speed: I’ve definitely learned my fair share from your posts over the years–and have had my own thoughts affirmed by you and others out there. Feels good to not be talking in a vacuum. So, how long have you been doing this?
Sto: I’ve been writing about hip-hop for eleven years and I’ve been doing Artist Development for the last three.
Speed: What prompted you to start recording? Was it a moment of “I can do this better than XYZ,” or was it born out of a moment of cyphering and you said “hey, lemme get in this?”
Sto: It mostly came out of needing to vent. I guess I felt I could always rap better than some of the more “popular” acts. But, it mostly was from needing a place to vent emotionally and just loving how I felt I sounded over boombap instrumentals.
Speed: You record, write, and offer talent management. How do you do it all and still manage to maintain a sense of clarity? For example, does you rapper side ever conflict with who/what you’re writing on or working with or vice versa?
Sto: In terms of clarity, I feel–as corny as this sounds–I’ve always been for the culture. I want to see hip-hop do well. I want to see the lesser-known artists get the respect and props they deserve. I’ve never let my rapper side conflict with the business. Most people don’t even know I make music like that and my end goal in music isn’t to “blow up.” I just want to provide for my family and let people know what’s really going on and, again, vent where I need to.
Speed: Does your being from Ohio make you feel like you have a sense of duty to cover artists from the area or not?
Sto: I do feel I have a sense to cover artists from Ohio because Ohio is a slept on community in hip-hop. DonWill from Tanya Morgan, Theory Hazit, Hi-Tek, Jean P, Devin Burgess, Wonder Brown, MOOD, and many, many more have left a legacy in hip-hop. Still, though, hip-hop as a whole sleeps on us. So, I try to cover as much Ohio music as I can.
Speed: Do you have any horror stories from interviews you can share without completely blowing up someone’s spot?
Sto: Thankfully, most of my interviews have been awesome. The only horror stories I have are from the string of interviews I did in NY a couple years ago when it was cold AS FORK. It literally has scared me away from New York until it gets warmer.
Speed: How do you deal with artists who don’t want to work, either after you wrote on them or after you mention you charge for consultation?
Sto: I really only get bothered when people don’t respect my time. What artists don’t mention is when they are in my DMs and I’m giving them all types of game and I don’t get so much as a shoutout. Then, they turn around and every time they have a question they’ll expect me to just stop everything.
Nowadays, I kind of just ignore artists who expect to work for them for free. I know my self-worth now, I’m not beating myself up (entirely) when someone calls me out for being a “hater” for not giving them all this game.
The thing I’ve learned is this: artists want to use me, my peers and the like. There are some that want to genuinely build, but there’s this expectation that we’re supposed to help artists make a profit while we sit back. To be frank, that’s BS. If you aren’t trying to work, that’s fine. But, don’t blame us for trying to make a living just like you.
Speed: Going back to the music, what can people expect from your album?
Sto: Boombap, personal raps, no features on the EP–which is produced by Nu Vintage. But, I intend to collaborate with all the artists I’ve built with on my full length.
Speed: When and where can we get it?
Sto: For now it’ll just be on Bandcamp for you to download and own for free. When? I’m hoping late first/early second quarter.
Speed: I love that you champion Bandcamp. It’s such a dope platform. Though I still see most of my revenue come in from streams, there are certain projects that I can’t upload on DSPs like Spotify. They’re saved by Bandcamp. Plus, the whole “pay what you want” aspect? Bruhhhh! Anyways, before I start to sound like an ad…writing-wise, who are some of the people you look to for inspiration, hip-hop and otherwise?
Sto: Amanda Mester, Trey Alston, Yoh, Justin Ivey, Layne Weiss, Clarissa Brooks, Dart Adams, Donna Claire Chesman, Dylan Cooper, I.S Jones, Jake Milfence, Michell Clark, Terrence Sage, Donnie Skillz, Andrew Martin, yourself naturally, my mom, and sooooo many more.
Speed: That’s one helluva list, my dude. So, when you’re not rapping, or writing about rap, or helping someone who raps get on in some way, what do you enjoy getting into?
Sto: Video games, eating pizza, running, and watching basketball
Speed: Who are some of your favorite artists?
Sto: I’ve a lot. Here’re some. Theory Hazit, ManChild, Cas Metah, Fly Anakin, Dilated Peoples, Hiero, Little Brother, Rapsody, Kendrick Lamar, Kev Brown, Oh No, Jean Grae, Black Thought, Apollo Brown, and Chris Orrick. But there are a million more.
Speed: Let’s go a different route for a bit. We’re both gamers, even though I’m sure my son could whoop me in Smash Ultimate nowadays. Do you agree with folks saying that Fortnite should give credit to the creators of some of the in-game dances? Chance, BlocBoyJB, and others’ve brought this up a little while ago and there’ve been some cases, but nothing concrete yet. Matter of fact, Alfonso Ribeiro just lost his case on the Carlton Dance.
Sto: Truthfully yes, the gaming industry–especially Fortnite and Epic Games–is making more than enough profit to pay the artists that they’re making money off of. And if I’m correct, they’re actually charging users for some of these dances. In which case, they should definitely be paying the creators.
Speed: Yeah, the V-Bucks and/or the Season Passes unlock/purchase most of these dances. It’s crazy. So given that our government is seemingly pulling more BS out of thin air these days than ever, where do you stand on Trump as a leader?
Speed: No lies detected. How would your ideal president lead the country?
Sto: That’s such a loaded question.
Sto: But, at this point, I just want a President that will actually fight for equal opportunity for everyone, job opportunities for everyone, to fix our education system, to actually love women and minorities–the list goes on and on. To sum up, I just want a President that gives a shit.
Speed: This one’s kind of old, but considering the waves made, it’s kind of timely still. What’d you think of Ye and Scorpion, reviewer to reviewer?
Sto: Ye was a tad better than The Life Of Pablo, which I also thought was bad.
Speed: Those beats, though!
Sto: Drake, per usual, worked the system to his benefit. Releasing a double LP ensures guaranteed profit in the streaming age. However, give or take a couple of “bangers,” it was half-baked. And I would bet money he made some changes after Pusha came after him.
Speed: Concurred. Where do you see your brand in the next few years?
Sto: Truthfully, it’s just about being consistent, keep writing about music the majority sleeps on stuff like that. If I’m being honest ,I expect to be succeeding, learning and getting wins with Taste Creators. Hope to take the brand international and, like I said, it’s just about being consistent in the work and grind.
Speed: Finally, where can people reach you?
As an added bonus, check out Sto’s tribute to indie legend Praverb from 2016.