About Me

Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 20 years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, and B-movies. Part time ninja. Kicked cancer’s ass. My memoir, ChemBro, is out now!
See my complete profile

Hot Features

What Do You Do When an Artist You Love is Revealed to be a Dirtbag?

The Future of Live Music – Why I Feel There's Reason to be Excited

From Brooklyn to Anchorage – How Half of an NYC Indie Band Ended Up in Alaska

Tales From The Crates
The Story of MC Skat Kat

Subscribe to the
Weekly Email

Artist Of The Week - Top $ Raz
Monday, March 16, 2009

Growing up in Far Rockaway, Queens, Top $ Raz knew how to rap before he even attended his first day of school. “My brother used to blast Hip-Hop music all day long,” he remembers, “and if I didn’t learn the words to Biggie I would be exiled out the room.” A pretty rough sentence for a kid who was only six at the time, but it was that influence that not only led him to Hip-Hop, but to some very specific types of Hip-Hop. Top $ Raz explains, “my brother made sure I valued and understood the essence of the music and never let me get into the cookie cutter stuff.” While in second grade, when he was just learning how to write, Top $ Raz penned his first rhyme and he hasn’t looked back since. This week I caught up with him to find out more about the depth and diversity of his work, where he gets his incredible stage presence, and the inspiration behind his video for “King.”

Adam Bernard: Let’s start out with the basics. Why should people be excited about Top $ Raz and want to check out his music?
Top $ Raz: People should be excited about my music because it’s real without trying to be. I never feel like I have to be conscious or uplifting, if I’m in that mood then that’s what you’ll get. Sometimes I feel like being an asshole, or just coming off like I’m the man on tracks and I don’t feel the need to explain myself. As people we have different sides to ourselves and shouldn’t feel any way about it, because that's life. People have degrees and that’s what my music shows. I am a real person on every track. Nothing is forced, it’s all organic and it comes from the heart, as corny as that may sound.

Adam Bernard: Your album is called The Narrative and as you just noted your work features a wide variety of topic matter. Where did you find the inspiration for some of these stories?
Top $ Raz: My inspiration comes from my surroundings. Things haven’t been so great for me in my life, but I thank God for the struggle cuz it’s beautiful. There can be no art without struggle. Our best musicians and artist were all depressed. So yeah, I just take everything I see and spit it back out. Take for instance “SSDD,” that song gets a lot of people because they actually see that shit everyday in their neighborhood. They know I didn’t make it up, all of it is so true, and that’s how I get the heads bopping at the shows, cuz people know it’s something I actually saw. The same goes for songs like “Chicken Spot,” it’s real shit. I wrote “Chicken Spot” after Stack Bundles died, realizing that he had been killed after hitting up a KFC. I started to think about all the chicken spots in my hood and how they’re just a place that attracts sin, whether it be drug sales, fights, robberies, and not to mention the food'll kill you dead. So when people in poverty hear that track, they get it, and those who don’t know are intrigued by it because they know it's real.

Adam Bernard: That’s dope. You also have a video out for one of your singles, “King.” Something that I find really interesting about it is that the song is a braggadocio track, but the video shows a lot of humor. That kind of a juxtaposition is really rare. Talk to me about the concept behind it and how you got permission for some of the bigger scenes, like the one in the grocery store, which was HILARIOUS.
Top $ Raz: Yeah, see I was going to do a video for “SSDD,” but I was thinking nah that’s too serious, I want to have fun, cuz by nature I’m just a clown. Anybody who knows me knows I’m a serious joker. I like to keep my music mostly serious, though, so I wanted a video that showed that other humorous side to me. I also wanted to show people that emcees need to just have fun and stop taking themselves so seriously. After all, we do this music because it’s fun and we enjoy it. The concept was basically I am the king of Far Rockaway, but no one has seemed to get the memo on that. It was an homage to Coming To America. It’s a funny thing about getting permission for scenes, shit like that can really tell you what kind of town you’re in. For instance if we were in the city, them stores would’ve wanted permits and money, but out in Far Rock where there really ain’t much to do, the people were just happy I asked them and were more than willing to let me use the grocery store, same with the barber shop. That’s another thing I wanted to do with the video, bring pride to Far Rock. I mean yea it’s fucked up out there, but we can still have fun. We’re not living like complete savages, there are Black owned businesses out there and really cool down to earth people that I wanted to show in the video

Adam Bernard: I first became aware of you when I saw you perform at one of Conscious’ Bondfire shows at the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC. You had a tremendous stage presence. Whose shows have you studied and what kind of preparations do you go through before a show?
Top $ Raz: Strange enough, I will be going to my first real concert on the 19th, The Roots, so whatever I do on stage I learned from folks I see everyday at the Dub, or the Nuyorican, or Bowery. I’m just learning from what I see, what to do and what not to do, what moves connect with the crowd and what doesn’t. I also just remember to have fun up there because if you’re having fun the crowd will have fun, they will feed off your energy.

Adam Bernard: Why is live performance so important to you?
Top $ Raz: The live performance is important because it’s what gets CDs sold! {laughs} Nah, it’s good to connect with people. People want to see you and feel like they know you, that’s how you get fans for real. The internet is cool, but there’s a difference between shaking hands with an emcee and downloading his track off Zshare.

Adam Bernard: Finally, I have to know, how’d you come up with the name Top $ Raz and why did you decide to go with the $ symbol rather than spelling out the word?
Top $ Raz: The name has evolved over time. It was just Raz for a while, just an abbreviation of my government name, Rasheem. Then I was doing this verse and I was like “Top Dolla Raz,” and it worked. I liked it. It made me think of the other names from the past that were like that - Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Kool Moe Dee, etc. The $ sign just looks better on paper. Top Dolla Raz is a lot space, it looks awkward.

Related Links

MySpace: myspace.com/farrockchamp
Website: trashcanmusicproductions.com
YouTube: Top $ Raz - King


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:39 AM  
  • At 3:20 PM, Blogger YC The Cynic said…

    Top $ Raz is definitely deserving. Dope music and a good personality,plus a young dude. Which is an unbeatable combo.Potential thru the roof!

  • At 3:55 PM, Blogger Unknown said…

    Top $ Raz's music is off the hook. He is on the right track to becoming a great MC, I look forward to seeing his progression!
    -India R. Guy

  • At 3:03 PM, Blogger Homeboy Sandman said…

    raz was already that deft on stage without even ever seeing a roots show? nutty.

Post a Comment
<< Home
My Book
Embracing Beastmode
to Beat Cancer

Click here to purchase

Latest Interviews

Valley Latini

Jessie Wagner



Magazine Articles

Rocko The Intern

July 2010 - January 2013
    Older Posts                 Newer Posts