One can almost smell the stale St. Ides when watching “Huzzah,” the low-budget Youtube breakout video from Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire. With a mouth full of gold and a neck draped in layers of wooden beads, the Brooklynite is a welcome resurrection of the hardrock impulses of hip-hop’s golden age. Like Kool Keith or Redman before him, he’s the sort of rapper who can bust heads and crack jokes in the same breath, operating with a weirdly warped, usually drunk and sometimes self-deprecating sense of humor without ever coming off as soft. Also, he can rap. And he raps well and in tightly wound, syllable-heavy cadences. “Publicist asked what’s my gimmick? I said ‘goin’ in.’” His just-released Lost In Translation mixtape, set to beats pillaged from the late ’90s catalogs of underground producers like El-P and Necro, is a similarly charged exercise in finely sophisticated low-brow street rap. eX chopped it up with Hive about the origins of his name, the politics of New York rap and his love of coloring books.
Stream his mixtape:
How did this all start for you?
I have the typical story, it ain’t much to cover. I’m not trying to be that dude that’s like “Yo I went through so much shit.” I did go through a lot of shit. But I ain’t trying to sell no sympathy story. I’ve been through what I’ve been through and my music is the result of it. I was like 13 and I just started writing to express myself and turned to rapping because rapping was the cool thing to do at the time.
What was the concept behind the “Huzzah” video?
We made that video for like $400 and that video is really just like our way of life. You could come to my crib any day and that video would be happening, that’s really what we do. We have this shit called the 40 Orgy where every Sunday… this is when all of us had a job so Sunday was me and my homies’ mutual day off and everybody would bring 40s, everybody would bring liquor, everybody would bring food and we’d just come watch sports, make music or whatever. Just fuck around. When it came time to shoot a video I [was] like let’s just do the shit that we do in the crib, let’s record this shit and turn it into a video. Just keep it natural. And it kinda resonated with people. I guess that’s how everybody else lives too. Everybody ain’t rich and poppin Cristal and shit.
My crib is like the hub. Me and everybody just hang out at my crib. If you come here any time there’s music playing, somebody’s recording, we getting creative, trying to figure out a video, we do whatever. We do wild shit in here, we play video games, we fuck bitches, we color. We just have mad fun in here.
Did you say you color?
Yeah, I color a lot. All of us color. A bunch of gangsta n***** coloring.
Like… with crayons?
Hell yeah! Coloring’s a really serious thing in this crib, son. We don’t play with that shit, you gotta come hard. Niggas be really on they Picasso shit coloring. We get drunk and we just got mad coloring books. Coloring and NBA 2K that’s the serious business in the crib. I live in a project mansion, son. I’m chilling.
You use a lot of old El-P beats on the album. How did you end up linking with him?
The whole El-P thing is weird because I know him now but when I did the album I didn’t know him. I was just a fan. He winded up hearing “Huzzah” and he’s like, “Yo I like the record you did we should hook up and do a song.” That’s how I got cool with him, but outside of the remix to “Huzzah” [which features El, Das Racist, Danny Brown and Despot] I’ve never actually done a song with El-P. Everything else [that he "produced" on the album] is just an instrumental I found. I was just in the crib rhyming over shit I liked. It just so happens that I [came to know] one of those people.
Are you going start hopping on more original productions now that you know guys like El and you’ve got this little bit of buzz?
I got a little bit of buzz?! This is buzz?! [Laughs]
Well… you’re on blogs.
I don’t know man. People be bugging me out. I went to the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival and Kanye West performed and obviously I can’t be incognito. I’m 6’4″, 250, I wear all this shit on my neck, I have big gold teeth, I dress crazy. So when I came in there everybody was like, “Oh shit it’s eXquire!” That shit scared me! ‘Cause I didn’t really think people knew who the fuck I was. This shit bugs me out because I ain’t gotten no money for this shit. When I hear the word “buzz” I just imagine like, money. But yeah I’mma keep doing what I do. I’m still gonna go about making my music the same way I’ve been making it. A lot of people send me beats and if I like it I’ll rap over it.
I think what helps me and hurts me at the same time is that I don’t really know much about a lot of these I guess music aficionados that are cosigning me. I don’t even know who they are or the so-called importance of them putting my shit on their site or whatever. I’m not smart yet as far as internet shit.
Yeah I saw you had been throwing stuff up on Bandcamp for a few years that went completely unnoticed.
Yeah, it’s weird right? It’s music from like three years ago.
What do you think pushed you over to the point where people started taking notice?
I don’t know, I just think the timing was right. People started gravitating towards the music because it was an alternative from what everybody else is doing. I also think people are more receptive to it because it hasn’t been a rapper from New York in so long and now you’ve got a group of us who are dope. So it’s like “oh shit, him too? oh shit, him too?” I just felt it was the timing moreso… I wasn’t talented… at the time when I was trying to email my shit to blogs they wasn’t hitting me back. I always thought I was nice, I just figured it was some politics. I didn’t know how the shit works.
It’s crazy how the New York rap blogs seem to be the last ones to get up on New York rappers as of late.
That’s not crazy to me at all. It’s typical as shit, son. That’s just New York. Why you think every rapper from New York want a major deal? Because you can never be hot in New York without a major deal. Everybody’s famous in New York and everybody’s somebody. The only the thing that makes them listen to you and perks their ears up is if you have outside validation. Look at Vado for instance, he was rapping forever. I heard of Vado mad long before people was talking about Vado but nobody wanted to listen to him until he got with Cam['ron]. He needed that type of validation. That’s how New York is for some reason. We don’t support somebody who’s just dope. So they’re not gonna put me up until everybody else puts me up, they’re not gonna cosign me until everybody else cosigns me. It’s weird timing. They kinda want to act like they’re first but they don’t be first. It’s some weird shit, son, it’s just New York. I ain’t mad at it, it’s just where I’m from.
Is that something you’re aiming for? Are you chasing the major deal?
Nah. I mean I’ve had meetings but nothing came of them. Honestly I don’t really care either way. I want money and shit like that but there’s more than one way to skin a cat. I kinda feel like the old model is playing out and if the old model don’t make sense to me then I don’t want to follow it. I’m pretty sure I could be perfectly fine selling a couple independent records. Or I don’t gotta rap at all. I don’t have to rap forever, rapping is what I do it’s not what I am. I’m just having fun and making music. I’ll worry about all that shit as it comes. I like to perform, I like to rap, I like to record. I got that far. I do want money and pussy and cars and shit like that. Of course, every dude wants shit like that, but it ain’t the end all be all of what I’m doing. I’m not running around dying to get a record deal. I could have one tomorrow if I wanted one, it’s just not that serious. And I couldn’t be Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire on a major. They’d definitely change my name. And I like my name.
How’d you come up with that name?
Um… my name means duality. I’m old school, I like rappers whose names mean shit like KRS-One. My name means the juxtaposition between being ignorant and being intelligent and that’s what I try to display in my music. I try to say poignant shit but I say it in an ignorant way. I just try to keep that balance so anybody can listen to me. I always liked 2Pac for that. He would say some really intelligent shit but he would put it into terms that jail n***** could understand. So that’s what I was trying to do with the name. My name was Mr. Exquire and I was like “eh.” So I just put the Muthafuckin’ in the middle because it sounded cool. And I capitalized the X because it means the unknown. And DMX is my favorite rapper so I kinda threw that in there.
You mentioned that you guys all had jobs. Do you still work a day job?
No, I don’t work no more. I haven’t had a serious job in like two years. I was a bouncer for a little bit of time, I got fired from that shit. My boss was wild racist and one day he was poking me in my chest so I had to grab him up. I used to work in a fucking garage. You know the parking arms? When you go to get the ticket? I did that shit. I was mad tight in the booth because I’m big as hell and the booth was mad little. You can’t walk, you can’t do nothing in there. shit’s terrible. I got fired from that shit too because I got in an argument with one of my supervisors over some bitch he was trying to fuck. I don’t think I’ve ever had a job I didn’t get fired from. Then it got to a point where I was just like you know what I’m just gonna try to rap. Just take like a year and go with rapping, just try my best to do it. It’s kinda happening, so we’ll see. I still got a far way to go. I’m not gassed off this shit, that’s when you lose. It’s like Wile-E-Coyote. He don’t ever fall ’til he look down and realize he in the air. If you keep running and you don’t pay attention to that shit you gonna make it to the other side of the mountain.