The form of blessing pronounced by an officiating minister
at the closing of a divine service.
EGreen is a compelling blend of big-city swag and small town grit; attributes one might come to expect from a successful east coast rapper. But EGreen does more than just repeat the same delivery exhibited by some of Brooklyn’s finest spitters, he combines that skill with the confidence and charisma percolating in Florida’s hip-hop scene to create a niche which is entirely his own. I was able to lock in a short interview with the Beckley, West Virginia native and review his latest mixtape The Benediction in this TricycleOffense.com exclusive.
Justin Umstead: So tell us a little bit about your hip-hop career.
EGreen: My hip-hop career began when I started college in Marietta, OH in 2004. I didn’t really become very serious or dedicated to it until about 2006 when I teamed up with an artist by the name of AhYo from Beckley, WV to create a group named I.D. So far, I’ve completed three solo projects entitled: Never Look Back, The Benediction, and Bury Myself 4 Music along with 2 collaborative mixtapes: Welcome 2 The Jungle featuring Beckley’s own Stakmillz and The Grown and Sexy featuring AhYo and Unique. I’m currently working on a new project called Face2Face.
JU: How has your career progressed and where would you like it to go?
EG: Over time, I’ve discovered my reason for being a hip-hop artist and the message I want to express through my lyrics and stage presence. The artist I am today is largely due to life’s normal ups and downs – including life-changing deaths in my immediate family which were particularly challenging. Through my experience, growth, and maturation you can definitely get a sense of the improvements I’ve made through my material! My lyrics, flow, and delivery have done a complete 180 from 2004 to present day. I’ve also shied away from doing music for money and began to do it more for the message – I’m all for the “bringing back” of real hip-hop. I hope to open the eyes of the music industry to West Virginia’s artists and every other underrated artist in the world!
JU: What is your favorite part of being an MC?
EG: My favorite part of being an MC would have to be…the effect our words have on the people and their lives.
JU: I notice you travel frequently between Beckley, West Virginia and St. Petersburg, Florida. What are the challenges of doing hip-hop in WV as opposed to FL? Which one feels more like home?
EG: Being an artist from West Virginia is a great challenge in and of itself! I’ve performed in New York, Ohio, Virginia, and Kentucky as well as my home states and I’ve found that being from WV automatically puts you in the category of underdog. While performing at the Coast 2 Coast mixer in NYC, I was able to talk to platinum producer Rockwilder and Lil’ Flip. Both told me that being from WV meant that I had to bring it harder than the other guy – we have to prove ourselves even more than the average MC! West Virginia will always be home to me but Florida, the fans, and the people of Florida make “the sunshine state” feel even more like home.
JU: Which local and industry artists do you feel had the most influence on your style?
EG: I look up to local artists for their grind – artists like the Warheadz, Will Payne, Dirty Hun, and Nauseous. As far as industry artists go – It goes without saying that I’ve been influenced by the lives and the music of the lates: Tupac Shakur, B.I.G., and Big L. There’s also Nas, Jay-Z, Talib Kweli, A Tribe called Quest, and Lupe Fiasco.
JU: Where do you think hip-hop is headed in the future?
EG: I was at a point where I was scared for hip-hop but now I believe we are about to see a better state of hip-hop as well as its production. Very soon…
Off the record, EGreen pegged The Benediction as one of his most valued projects – and after listening to his mixtape it’s pretty obvious why that should be! I happened upon his newest project almost by chance and I’m glad I did because I feel like EGreen imparts a style which is unlike anything else I’ve ever encountered from West Virginia. He can admirably be described as a local rapper who sounds nothing at all like a local rapper; a champion of both underground music and staying true to one’s roots.
A cursory listen through EGreen’s The Benediction is likely to elicit at least two responses from your typical audience. The first will be “Wow, this is a really great mixtape from New York/Philly” and the second will be, “For a New York/Philly rapper, he sure mentions West Virginia quite a bit in his music.” Both impressions are misnomers: EGreen currently resides in St. Petersburg, Florida but his lyrical content is proudly West Virginian. This 24-track offering – meticulously mixed by Beckley’s own DJ “Nasty” Nate – is an exemplary effort of lyrical dexterity, clever wordplay, and quality hip-hop.
A majority of The Benediction’s production gravitates around “boom-bap,” New York-style bangers and some of the South’s heaviest street anthems and club tracks. This should be no surprise coming from an artist who eagerly reels off East Coast legends as his main influences! EGreen combines the attitudes of artists such as Jay-Z and Big L with the sensibility of artists such as Talib Kweli and A Tribe Called Quest to create a persuasive yet realistic direction to his art; I don’t think it would be an over-extension to mention or hint in the grimy street styles of Slick Rick or Rakim as another characteristic of E-Green’s influence.
The project itself is rather long – it clocks in around 1 hour and 15 minutes – so instead of reviewing the mixtape in its entirety I have selected my “Top 10” tracks for the review and cheated around that by including 5 extra “honorable mentions.” I would like to take this opportunity to say that DJ “Nasty” Nate did an impeccable job enhancing the mix with record skips, sound effects, and artistic blends throughout the project and one can’t get a worthy appreciation of that unless they listen to the project all the way though: so this goes without saying but listen to this one all the way through!
#1 – “Can’t Hear You”
This Bravestar Productions banger is the introductory track to The Benediction. Combining DJ Nasty Nate’s record skips and gunplay sound effects with semi-confrontational overtones, EGreen doesn’t waste any time explaining exactly why the haters don’t even deserve a footnote. He deftly mocks his detractors with witty wordplay like “Here’s Tommy n***a, and I ain’t talkin’ Bunz/ Guess Im’a dead-beat father, cuz I ain’t claimin’ sons/” and “Transformation/ Optimus / At 19, stopped threats, started promises…”
#2 – “A Million (On My Mind)”
This trance-inducing track slows the tempo down and allows EGreen’s “dirty state” influence to shine right on through. “A Million” focuses on Green’s will to succeed, the challenges he has faced along the way, and shunning short-term thinking in favor of long-term goals and success.
Honorable Mention: “Underground Freestyle”
This track picks up the momentum and delivers a slightly faster vision on the same subject but it does so with an entertainment approach as opposed to the deliberate and serious tone expressed in “A Million.”
#3 – “Blast Off” (ft. Keenan Rainer)
I immediately picture this track coming from the stage of a jam-packed hip-hop show – both the energy and the showmanship potential of “Blast Off” make it a huge opportunity to create rapport and engage a lively crowd. Punctuated by gunfire and turntable cuts, the energy on this fast-paced track is simply off the chain. Not only is the hook catchy – “Blast on, blast off/ It’s lyrical warfare” – but it also features Keenan Rainer who flips smooth bars such as “If I am not a miracle, go and ask my ladies what I’m doing/ This is smoother than a Maybach Mercedes…” One of the best tracks on the mixtape.
#4 – “Flava In Ya Ear”
This track is my “hands-down” favorite and I think the reason for that is a combination of things. First, EGreen’s presence here is unmatched – I firmly believe his comfort level, swag, and BK-inspired delivery couldn’t have been better complements of one another on any other track. The entertainment factor is amped, his lyrics are powerful, and the mix is immaculate. The beat also happens to be one of my East Coast favorites. This track is a “must hear.”
#5 – “Closer” (ft. Icesis)
Icesis is an incredibly talented singer with a ton of potential – In fact I could probably go on for a whole additional article about some of the amazing material she has floating around. “Closer” is probably the most commercial and radio-friendly track on the album and it’s a straight “club track” with an infectious beat and balanced mix. Entertaining and catchy!
Honorable Mention: “DreamCloud” (ft. Icesis)
“DreamCloud” is a more poignant track with a somber commentary on relationships and self-empowerment. As a bonus this track is produced by S Original – a highly skilled producer who occasionally sets his roots down in West Virginia from time to time (whom I’ve also had the privilege of working with personally).
#6 – “Dreams Money Can Buy Freestyle”
“Dreams Money Can Buy” is a textbook example of early 90’s hip-hop; everything about this track from the samples in the instrumental to EGreen’s raw delivery brings to mind Jay-Z’s technique on albums such as Reasonable Doubt and In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. EGreen’s East Coast flow shines through on this one with bars such as “Just movin’ too fast, don’t respect yourself/ Can’t expect the best if you neglect yourself/ Can’t judge another when you ain’t even self checked/ I’m tired…but I ain’t lose a breath yet.”
#7 – “Pesos”
EGreen dishes out another grimy street anthem with “Pesos” which features an unforgettable hook “I be the next young brother, fresh like none other/ Laser dots in they eyes, call it a glaucoma…” and undeniable thug audacity which just makes the track even more fun to listen to!
Honorable Mention: “She Will Jam Session”
Popularized by Lil’ Wayne and mainstream radio, spitting over this one means you have to bring twice as much to the table. I feel like EGreen applies his owns style and successfully steers the track away from its original subject matter while presenting us with a convincing rap which is also plenty entertaining.
#8 – “Take A Shot (Remix)”
“Take a Shot” slows down the tempo and offers us a soul-bearing glimpse into EGreen’s views on relationships. Warming into the track with “Girl, I can’t lie I hate you/ Never thought that the greed would overtake you…” EGreen soberly describes a relationship which is fading away rather than falling apart. For anyone who has ever experienced the pain of a relationship which drags on past its mark, this track will definitely hit home.
Honorable Mention: “Lonely Too (Remix)”
EGreen presents us with a solitary verse on this Drake remix, but with quick wit and wordplay like “Face to face, creating the movies/ My teeth hurt, she’s too sweet/ The remedy, thank you for creating the new me…” it is definitely one which you will not want to miss!
#9 – “One More Chance (Remix)”
EGreen revisits the subject of relationships with this short interlude. Bringing back his trademark East Coast flavor he spits “What they want, when they want, what has it come to/ when couples say I love you/ Only when mistakes is made, secrets are kept better than vows in these present days…” I really like this track because it showcases Green’s talent for educating as well as entertaining.
#10 – “The Motto (Remix)” (ft. JP, Will Payne, and Jarod Yungin)
Both this track and the honorable mention below pull in EGreen’s southern influence and prowess with club-type tracks. “The Motto (Remix)” features a diverse cast of talented artists who all bring their “A” game over a dope YMCMB production. Holding the longest run time on the mixtape at nearly 6 minutes, this track is able to pick up a momentum which doesn’t trail off until the clock runs out – a great way to end a remarkable project.
Honorable Mention – “Beat That P***y Up”
A somewhat raunchy overture for the ladies which boasts one of EGreen’s steadiest and most confident flows.
You can download a free copy of EGreen’s latest project The Benediction here. I want to thank EGreen for the opportunity to review his latest CD and I also look forward to listening to his current project Face2Face coming soon! Make sure to like his Facebook page here and follow his Twitter account here!