The face of hip hop has changed over the past few years. In the past, if you weren’t from NYC or LA, it was a struggle to get your music heard. Little by little, other regions started getting in the spotlight. Over the past few years though, the south has stolen that spotlight and shined it directly on themselves, as far as the mainstream goes. For that reason, the south in general probably gets hate it doesn’t deserve. Probably my current favorite hip hop group resides in the south (Cunninlynguists) and more and more southern artists continue to make noise on the underground scene as well.
One such artist hailing out of Virgina finds a nice balance of soulful melodies and his own southern flavor, Thad Reid. Thad’s been making a name for himself on the scene with an endless hustle and consistent flow of quality music for the masses, most of which is of the free variety. One of the more pleasant and down to earth cats I’ve had the pleasure to speak with in awhile, Thad discussed his past, the south and the hustle of making music in this over saturated day of age….
Thad Reid: In no particular order I would have to say Snoop, Biggie, Redman, Nas and Jay-Z.
W: Aight, I get sick of asking “tell us a little about yourself” with the very first question of every interview, so that was needed. Since we got that out of the way, ummm….tell us a little about yourself….or better yet, some background on yourself.
TR: Well I’m from a small town in Southwestern Virginia about 45 minutes north of UVA. I was raised there and it was also there where I first discovered hip-hop. Unlike most artists, I didn’t start writing and performing music until I was about 17 and it was then when I actually gained enough confidence to start flowing in front of people. From there I formed a group named “EMP” with a couple of friends of mine, and we started recording and putting together songs.
After a couple years the group disbanded and I linked up with JJ Jenson, Doujah Raze and the rest of the Trilogy Records family in the DMV area. Those were probably my most important years because with them I started to learn a great deal about the music business by doing shows, radio promos, and just overall making records. They helped introduce me to a larger audience by putting me on a couple Doujah Raze records titled “The Breakoff” and “Virginia” respectively. After JJ and Doujah decided to move shop to NYC, I stayed behind and started working on mixtapes and what would essentially become my first solo project. Since then I have been working on establishing the Thad Reid brand and also developing as an artist so I can put out the best music I can.
W: Your music is a nice blend of the down south sound with the east
coast type of beats and music, how would you describe your sound to someone who hasn’t heard you before?
TR: It’s funny because for the longest time I could never answer this question. If I had to describe it to someone, I would tell them that my music is an eclectic blend of unique songwriting and soulful melodic beats with a strong focus on content and wordplay. It’s basically my story told from a country boy perspective combined with a big city hustle.
W: It seems in this day of age of the ‘net, one could argue that the regional boundaries are even more blurred than they were, say 10-15 years ago. In some other circles though, one could argue that they are even more pronounced among the mainstream and the south’s dominance on the air waves, what is your take on that?
TR: That’s a good question because I could go either way with my answer. I think realistically the boundaries ARE blurred but some people have made it pronounced due to their bitterness towards the success of the south. Let’s just be honest. Mainstream Hip-Hop music has moved into an era where people just want to have fun, dance, and forget about all their problems. Right now, the majority of music that happens to capture that is coming from the south. High demand causes mainstream to play those records. And what does that come back to? Money.
From a business perspective, if I’m a label exec and I’m looking at the numbers, I’m going to go with a product that I think is going to be the most successful. From an artist and/or consumer perspective, I want to hear the best music available. It’s an f’d up conflict, but that’s the reality of it. If I’m an artist and I want quick money and short term success, I’m a give the label and essentially the people, what they want. If I want longevity, I’m a put out what I feel is the best music I can offer and not become a one hit wonder. Fortunately because of the internet, I have an outlet in which I can do that without the need of commercial radio. Even if I can’t get any spins in my home market, I still have the ability to reach someone out in California who appreciates the type of music that I do. Being bitter takes too much energy… just adapt with the times and utilize the technology to your advantage.
W: I’ve always found it interesting (in a good way) when an MC chooses to use his given name for his stage name, what is your reasoning behind that?
TR: When I first started out I went through a rolodex of stage names that I won’t even get into because they are pretty embarrassing. Then one day I was having a conversation with Doujah about it and he said, “Why don’t you just use your real name, I think that would sound better.” After thinking about it for a sec I realized that he had a point. Ever since then, the government is what I’ve been going with.
W: You seem to be on an endless grind as far as mixtapes and you give them away for free. How do you think that approach will help in the future? Is the fact you give away your music an acknowledgment to the over saturated hip hop playing field? Do you think you almost have to give away music for free to even have a chance to be heard?
TR: I think what you’ve stated pretty much sums it up. Because of the extremely over saturated hip hop playing field, no one has a lot of confidence in independent hip-hop artists. Just think about all the individuals you know or know through someone else that’s trying to “get in the game” and their music and/or presentation is terrible. Most people wouldn’t even download it much less buy it so I feel as if you have to establish some credibility with the fans that you can make consistent, quality music. In order for them to even consider giving you a chance, it has to be something where they feel like they’re not losing anything by listening. Once you gain loyal, confident fans who support you in what you do, it won’t be a problem for them to spend some money to come to a show, buy your album or even go see your acting debut at the movies. I would equate it to kind of like a Test Drive.
W: The grind you have demonstrated is among the most impressive I’ve seen on the net. With the business approach so drastically different now than what it was ten years ago, how do you go about tackling the issue of getting your name as a brand out there to the masses?
TR: I think the key is consistency, combined with an understanding of the business and being a step ahead of everyone else. Obviously the music model is moving towards more of a digital base, so I try to concentrate a good deal of my resources on that. Building relationships is a major part of this business and the internet gives me a platform to establish those without necessarily being in NYC or LA. The other great thing about it is that I can execute those things without the need of a major label or budget.
W: Your first album, Memorial Day, was a tribute to the tragic events that happened on Memorial Day, 2000. How has that night driven you to be who you are today?
TR: Musically, it has provided me with the drive it takes to keep moving forward. I told my man Demetric (RIP) that I was gonna make it happen just hours before he passed so that in itself serves as motivation. From a personal standpoint, it’s humbled me greatly. I used to run around town reckless thinking I was invincible but now when I see an accident on the side of the road it makes me cringe. It sounds cliché, but you can never take life for granted. You should always appreciate the ones who care about you the most because you really don’t know when your time or theirs will come.
W: How have you grown as an artist over time and from one project to the next?
TR: I think my songwriting and lyricism have seen immense growth since my first project but the main thing with me is that I’ve become comfortable in being who I am as an artist. I used to think that I had to rap hard or use hard beats in order to gain respect and show people that I was nice. I’ve never liked the “backpacker” label so I tried hard in letting people know that that was something I was not. Over time though I realized that there’s nothing wrong with creating your own lane and having meaningful content in your songs. There is a huge market for that and its becoming something that people are wanting more of these days.
W: The new project, Commonwealth Muzik, has a nice blend of new to the old sounds. What is your take on this project compared to some of your past work?
TR: I personally think its my best work outside of “NBIS 2.7: Blue Collar Muzik”. I’m really loving the feel of this project as the production is all original sans one track. It definitely showcases my growth as a songwriter, lyricist, and really as an overall artist. To sum it up, it’s a chronicle of my life as an independent artist in VA. It’s Commonwealth Muzik baby!
W: What do you got going on in the upcoming future?
TR: Gotta slew of new material coming real soon. For all my house/trance/dance listeners, I have a big house remix of “The Reason” dropping officially in the next several days so look out for that. Also I’ll be dropping a new single AND video titled “Payday” that’s going to make a lot of noise this summer as well as some future collabs with some well known artists and my man Akshan.
W: Any last words for the future fans?
Just holla at me! You can get at me on a variety of social networks like www.twitter.com/thadreid, www.myspace.com/thadreid or www.imeem.com/thadreid to connect and listen to my music. Yes I do manage those sites and I’m always receptive to conversing with the fans. Make sure to get that “Commonwealth Muzik” and any of my previous material as they are readily available and free of charge. Thanks in advance for the support and continue to expect constant, consistent quality new material from Thad Reid in the near future.