When the mic goes dead in the middle of a freestyle routine in front of a crowd, rappers quickly find out just what kind of an artist they are. Many artists have what's now known as an "8 Mile Moment." Just like Eminem's character in the movie of the same name, they freeze in place, and time stops. They'll actually feel the sweat bead on their temples and think they hear each individual thought from every audience member that believes the very moment represents the end of their career. For many, the experience is enough to have them drop the mic and flee to the confines of the bar to drink the memory away.
Not Shuicide Holla. When he was named the 2013 COMA (Cleveland Ohio Music Awards) lyricist of the year, he came on stage to bless the crowd with some of that talent at the awards show and obliged with no hesitation. But, as so often inexplicably happens at local hip-hop events, the microphone pulled a «Rice Krispies» move and started to snap, crackle and pop. Holla, ever the showman, simply put the mic down and addressed the crowd with no sound system behind him. You could›ve heard a pin drop.
The rhymes he laid down that night included references to his family, his roots and his upbringing. The story he told has been rehashed hundreds if not thousands of times in rap music, but the delivery of this young wordsmith is what separates Shuicide Holla from his contemporaries. He stalked the stage, reminiscent of a young Black Panther with a high top fade. He has a rapid-fire delivery that's consistent with what's popular these days but there's a certain precision to his delivery as he annunciates so clearly, it's easy to catch all the lyrics. In that respect, he has more in common with Nas or Jay-Z than Bone Thugs.
And all of a sudden, what started as a very surface level performance at an awards show became a spoken word chronology of the life a young black revolutionary. It was obvious that this young artist had more to offer than charisma and one-liners. In one fell swoop, he turned from Will Smith to Bobby Seale, and the room felt more like Oakland in the '60s than modern Cleveland. While he looks like the Fresh Prince, his heart is all King.
When asked about those who might see him as someone who puts style before substance, Holla admits he has to pay some attention to style. As he puts it, if music is too deep, you'll actually «push a listener away unless you speak to them in a way they like listening to. Hence, [you have to have some] style. He's the equivalent of a Trojan horse if you will. Lure in the listener, and then when they get comfortable, drop knowledge.
Anyone who's seen Holla walk into a club knows that it's an experience bordering on excess. He has an entourage of managers and bodyguards like an artist who has been in the public eye for years. He immediately posts up in the epicenter of the club. There's a star power behind him that seems to scream Billboard charts. It's that swagger and confidence could offend some, possibly even turning them away before they can see the artist and activist that lurks within. And that's when Holla refers them to his catalogue.
After releasing three installments of his mixtape series, Holla has just issued , a mixtape that shows a good deal of maturity. "I had to be one hundred percent sure I could hit all aspects of this music art before I was confident enough to release full songs with original concepts," Holla says.
On "Go For It," a track buried deep on , Holla writes eloquently about his upbringing.
"I spoke on being removed from my grandparent's house at the age of 6, being adopted at age 13, and being placed into the system where I remained until I was 18," he says. "I just went into depth on personal experience and let the people feel my pain and relate because I know there are plenty out there just like me."
Holla credits super producer Matlock for improving his music game. Matlock has worked with artists like Lil' Wayne, so he has a knack for helping artists balance style and substance. He's worked with Holla on tunes such as "Hey Gurl" and "On a Cloud."
"He has definitely played a nice role in my development, mainly in getting me ready for the monster of an industry that›s out there,» says Holla.
And with his "8 Mile Moment" behind him, Holla certainly appears ready for whatever hardships the industry might present.