Protojay is a rapper from NYC, living in Harlem. He’s a member of “The Almighty SORS” and is about to release it’s first project, after having for many years shared its music on the internet.
VIEWS has met the young rapper to discuss it’s vision of music, his ambitions and it’s first EP « Senseigod:CSDF ». Here we go from France to Harlem, meeting a promising artist.
Hey Protojay, first of all, how would you introduce yourself ?
I am Protojay aka Senseigod from the SORS gang. Straight out of Harlem World , NYC. Born in the Mecca of hip-hop (Bronx) and raised in the Mecca of Trendsetters (Harlem).
How did you come to music and especially rapping ?
Well I been rapping all my life. Cliche but in all honesty I been rapping for as long as I could remember. I started doing poetry in the 3rd grade at PS30 located on 128th and Lexington Ave which actually landed me in a book that later on got published and released to the public. The name of the book was “Poetry in Performance” if I’m not mistaken. From then on I always kept a pack of sticky notes with me and wrote down any type of poetic ideas that came to mind. I then started indulging in music around the 4th grade because that’s when I actually started to understand what I was listening to, due to my parents advising what I could and couldn’t listen to and that made me more interested in the messages that music held. I noticed music was just poetry with a cadence that the instrument provided and that’s when it hit me that I wanted to rap. It’s funny because that’s what RAP stands for (Rhythm and Poetry). I didn’t start taking music let alone rapping serious until I was 20, 21 years old because that’s when me and my friends noticed during our cyphers we were actually impressing each other rapping on other peoples beats. We would literally find the instrumental of the hottest track of that period and freewrite to it just to display our version to our friends. So we thought to ourselves « Hey why don’t we impress the world and make our own music” and that’s how SORS was created.
What place does music take in your daily life ? I noticed that you haven’t a lot of tracks on the internet, wether you’re performing alone or with the SORS, but each track is extremely rich, we can feel that a lot of work was putted in it, and each track has its own atmosphere and message. You’ve chosen quality over quantity, even if that means less exposition ?
Music is my sanctuary. Sometimes it’s the only form of expression I have when I can’t explain it in a face to face conversation. Wether it’s one person or an abundance of people (Laughs). to be honest I listen to myself on wax on occasions when I am having trouble understanding something or an incident I’m encountering again. It either reminds me that I was there before and I know how to go about it or it reminds me where I was at so I can keep going. It’s my motivation. I always learned that good artist make art for themselves before they even consider making art for anyone else.So I make music for me and it just so happens there’s a group of people that can relate to my music which is awesome because I am literally reaching people without even encountering them in person. Even the people that can not relate like the music because it’s a story. Some people like hearing life experiences and that’s fine with me. One thing I always made sure I did with my art is give it quality ! People will only take you as serious as you take yourself. This music is a part of my life so I treat it as if its my job.Hopefully I can get paid for it soon (Laughs). I have recorded over 150 tracks in my career but only a few made it to the world because you can have all the talent in the world but if your business attribute is crappy, you wont get heard.
It sounds good but it holds no weight which is what we call microwavable music. It’s hot for a little and then its cools off faster than it was heated up.
It’ll be in one ear and out the other which isn’t good because that’s like throwing money away. Music is an expensive field especially if you want to take it seriously. You can’t rush greatness so although my notoriety isn’t on a famous platform I am happy, I’m building a foundation to where I have a cult following. People like me for who I am and what I can present. Not just an artist you like just because he’s known. I want to have a story behind my success and not someone who just blew up off of some sort of luck. It’ll just feel better in my opinion, and I’m grateful for every step im taking and learning from. I’m in the midst of completing my first EP “Sensei:CSDF” which will be dropping in January and I’m so excited to display the growth of me on that.
It’s great to see you saying that, because we always read artists telling the world that they just wanted to make it and make a lot of money. How is it to be an aspiring rapper in a city such as New York, in an industry where it’s extremely hard to make it, and where competitiveness is at such a high point ?
Becoming a rapper in NYC has always been difficult because everybody knows this is where it all started. With that being said, people feel like they are automatically granted a “get on for free” card in the music business but it doesn’t work like that. Making music is easy but then it’s not and here’s why. You have people that are able to dig deep inside themselves to explain their life to people with no holds barred. They can relate to those they never met in their life or even bring people into their element when their voice is heard. That is a talent that very few can do. Then you have the people who just talk on tracks. It sounds good but it holds no weight which is what we call microwavable music. It’s hot for a little and then its cools off faster than it was heated up.
In New York a lot of artist feel like they are nice out the gate and there is no room for improvement which prompts a lack of collaborations or support for other artists. Sadly nobody wants to listen to their competitors story due to fear of them being better, or fear of helping them get to the goal faster than themselves. It’s easy to get on but from the way it sounds nowadays, you can’t get on if you sound like you’re from NYC. Hence why a lot of NYC rappers are taking the lighter road by emulating down south sounds and using other stories but their own to get on. There is nothing wrong using a flow from down south in my opinion, as I use them as well but it becomes an issue where rappers from NYC are losing their finesse while doing it. Dave East is a prime example of a great NYC artist that uses down south flows but still has that authentic NYC talk and aura. Not too many people can cross cultures like that but it can be done. It’s just a matter of getting it out there in the right hands and working hard for it instead of following a sound that isn’t apart of you in the least bit.
Could you tell me a bit more about your inspirations ?
My inspirations in no order has to be Nas, DMX, Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Jadakiss. All lyrical with a message in almost every track they made. I also got to put LA Capone, god bless the dead, but that dude made me want to work on my delivery and flow. All of my inspirations as you can see either has flow, wordplay or longevity in which I want to have. Slowly but surely I’ll get there though at almost perfect level (Laughs).
I want to be noticed for my passion which is music. I want people to remember me by my style, charisma and music. I want that before the money and I always felt like that.
Being born in the Mecca of hip-hop must influence the way you feel about music and its message. And we can feel that New-York influences your music. So I wonder, having that special link with this art, what is your main purpose performing it ? I mean by that, what is the fact that you hope to achieve, so important to you that if you’d reach it you could stop making music with no regrets, knowing your goal is achieved, that you’ve done the duty you gave yourself ?
I want to be noticed for my passion which is music. I want people to remember me by my style, charisma and music. I want that before the money and I always felt like that. The money is going to come but it doesn’t matter if you aren’t happy with what you are doing. There are people that work jobs that they don’t want to and get paid nicely but it’s not what they want to do. One thing my bro Rell Marlee said is “A lot of people have ways of making money but there are very few people that get paid for their passion”. For me to get paid for my passion, to help my people get on their feet, family see places they never saw and to be able to walk the streets comfortably would be the perfect life. That would be a true story which would sound stranger than fiction to me if someone told me that happened to them (Laughs).
What do you do for a living for now ?
I am a part time worker at an electronic store called BEST BUY. I’ve been employed there for almost 6 years and that was honestly my first job ever.
So you told me that you’re first project will be released in January. What will “Sensei:CSDF” be about ?
Yes, yes ! This january and it will take you on a walk with me and my hypebeast life. Where I’m from and how I move. It’s an autobiography about the journey I chose to take and how I became the person I am today. Tracked out with some energetic, turn up, mellow and easy riding sounds. CSDF stands for “Campout Shifts and Dope Fits”. My projects will be released as if they are movies with different chapters and parts.This chapter of Sensei is the autobiography of my steps. Hey, the next one may be the chapter of my full blown success but the future will tell and I’m excited to see how it unfolds.
We’ll be waiting for CSDF to come out and we’re looking forward to share it then, that seems like a nice ride. I was wondering if you knew any french rapper, or anything about the french rap scene ?
Ah man I don’t but I’m more than interested to hear some ! I’m familiar with grime music but I’m not sure I’ve heard artists from France.
It’s either you’re for the government or you’re for the people.
On a different topic, I was wondering what was your vision of the american society today ? Seen from France, it seems to be an extremely tensed context, with Trump and the election coming, with the cops killing black people, which are basically the major things we hear about America nowadays in this side of the Atlantic ocean… So I’m really interested in your vision of the American society in 2016, and in the way you feel in that society.
America has always been a land built off of the blood of Blacks, Latinos and various races.It can go much deeper as to the history on why but to pinpoint why America is in the state it is in is because of social media. Social media has exploited the monsters of this country with evidence on political bodies and the government itself. It has been proven that the people are NOT first, no matter the circumstances. The food chain of people is exemplified more than ever and the truth is started to hurt people to the point silence isn’t an option anymore. When someone lies to you and you let them know the truth the only thing that person can do is show their true colors or be labeled a weak human because they aren’t being themselves. That’s what is going on in this country. USA is being shown for what it really is and the people in it have no choice but to choose sides. It’s either you’re for the government or you’re for the people. It’s a good thing tho, because in order to solve an issue (whether you agree or not) is to understand the problem at hand. We see the problem and we are going to fight but at least we’re in a state of rebuilding. It may get worse before it get any better but it’s progress.
As a young artist and worker, with such a life philosophy, where do you see yourself five years from now ?
Touring… Living in PA with my family and partying in New York City with my friends and loved ones. I refuse to see anything else
I’ll see you in five years then !