Over the past couple of years, we’ve all been getting more and more exposure to the madness that goes down in the streets of Chicago.
Not only has the media taken a step to give the city more coverage, but we are able to get an impression through artists such as Chief Keef, Lil’ Herb, and more as to what the daily lives are like for citizens of the city.
Upcoming artist MoBo The Great has been working hard to bring a new light to the Chicago music scene, and she’s already had one hell of a co-sign…the one and only Jay Z.
At age 16, the emcee, who only happens to be a female, had the story of the century when she was brought up on stage by Hov to rap for a packed arena in 2010. The craziest part about it all? He did it again this past January when he recognized her in another crowd.
Even though that story certainly helped her garner in some new fans, her confidence can also be backed up by the fact that she is a true lyricist. She is reflective of an 80’s MC Lyte as she speaks on real life subject matter, mixing it with a unique swag that sets her apart from being considered just another female rapper.
Mo is about her artistry, and it can be seen in her visuals for videos such as “Law Of Attraction” and her latest track “Suck It.” Aside from it all, the one thing you can take away from one conversation with her is that she definitely has a bright mind on her. She is very aware of her surroundings in Chi-Town, and even has some wisdom to share with those criticizing the area’s drill music culture.
Read below to see my latest #DontSleepHeat conversation with MoBo The Great, and check out her video here.
How did you get your start in music?
I was a writer in school, and I always wanted to be an artist. Growing up my influence was Kanye because he was like the only one who I could really relate to, and around that time everyone was wearing the white tees and the oversized shirts and stuff like that. He was the suburban kid that still had a little bit of street swag to him. I always was writing music, I didn’t start actually recording until around 2010, which was after I got on stage with Jay for the first time. I didn’t have access to a recording studio. I’m originally from a really small town, so we don’t have things like that, so I didn’t have access to it until I started recording with my friends in their closets. I eventually started recording in Chicago.
I really want to hear the Jay Z story. How exactly did you get chosen by him to go on stage…twice?!
My grandma actually bought me tickets for Jay’s Blueprint III concert in 2010 for my birthday, when I was turning 16. She actually came to the concert with me, which was weird because she’s this cute little Polish lady, so imagine her at a Jay Z concert! We were sitting originally in the 300 level section, and I remember all of the ladies standing up to sing Trey Songz since he was the opener with Jeezy. I remember everyone was singing “Neighbors Know My Name,” and it felt so surreal to me. I just remember sitting in my seat, watching the support he was getting and feeling like one day that’s going to be on that stage. I kid you not, one minute after I thought that, I just felt this energy. I’m a firm believer in the law of attraction and speaking things into existence…
Ah, just like the track!
Yeah! Exactly! That’s exactly where I got that from. So, I thought that to myself. When I said that, there was this energy that came over me that made me want to leave where I was sitting and go down to the lower levels. So, I basically walked down and ended up sitting right next to the stage. When I look back, I think I was actually sitting behind Amber Rose, without knowing who she was because it was right around when her and Kanye first started dating. So during the show, he did this intermission where he’ll point out whatever a person in the audience is wearing and let them know he appreciates them for coming. I had this Florida Marlins hat, and he saw it and asked me if I wanted him to sign it. I was like “Yeah, I want you to sign my hat!” So he asked if I wanted a hug, and they let me come on stage and I told him I wanted to be a rapper like him. He looked at me and said, “You wanna be a rapper? Well go ahead and spit some shit, but don’t take over my whole show though!” So he had his band play the music, and I just start rapping. That moment just changed my life. So when that happened, I figured anything you can do once, you can do twice. This year in January, I had front row seats to his show, and he actually recognized me. So he brought me up on stage again, and told me, “You were 16 when you rapped for the first time? Let’s just keep it going!” What you saw on the video is exactly how it went, and he took down my number afterwards.
Did Jay give you any words of advice as far as your artistry?
One thing he mentioned was: don’t listen to anybody because everybody is scared. I think that’s a piece of advice that I treasure more than any other person’s advice. In the situation, no matter what career you want to pursue, or no matter how big or small, there’s always people who want to give advice and put their doubts on you. They’ll be like, “oh, I can’t do this, so I don’t think you can do this.” So he’s telling me not to listen to anybody because they’re scared to take chances and take risks. So just believe in yourself. I think that’s the biggest piece of advice that I take with me every day.
How has that experience impacted the way you go about making music or being an artist?
I wouldn’t say it’s really effected my music because I think I’m a great musician, in my own opinion. So, it really hasn’t changed how I make music. If anything, it’s changed my personal life a bit, and it changes the way I handle business. I’m a little bit more business-minded more than I was, and I’m able to understand how things work a lot easier. I’m able to understand the politics that come with the music business as well.
In your videos for “Law Of Attraction” and “Suck It,” I noticed that you don’t have the swagger of a straight female rapper. You make it pretty clear that you are just a rapper, and the gender isn’t as prominent.
Yeah! I’ve always been like that. Before I was making music videos, growing up I always just naturally had some swag. I think that we just kind of worked on the transformation of making sure that I’m not too streetwear-ish, where I can be misinterpreted about my sexuality. It’s kind of creating a balance where I can still have the swag of a rapper without conforming to a Nicki Minaj or Lil’ Kim. We still want to add a little bit of sexiness to it because we don’t want to give off the wrong perception. So, I take a lot of pride in my fashion senses. That’s the most important to me aside from my lyrics. I definitely think as far as the fashion, I stand out a little bit more.
You have a bit of an 80’s swag mixed with a new school flavor, in my opinion, from watching your videos. You almost remind me of a modern day MC Lyte.
That’s great! I’ve never heard that before. Being versatile is really important to me. I hate calling myself a “female rapper,” because I really think I’m just an artist. You don’t call Kanye a male rapper. We’re all artists. Even though I’m a female artist, it doesn’t make me. A lot of my inspirations and influences come from the men. I think that’s why I’m able to rap how I rap. I’m able to have the flows switch up, and not do that bubblegum rap stuff.
Who’s on your personal list top 5 dead or alive overall artists that have influenced your style as an artist?
I would say Jay, `Ye, Common, R. Kelly, and actually Soulja Boy.
Really? Soulja Boy?
Yeah! I think a lot of people would laugh at that. That’s me going back to my fashion, because I’m very big on swag. I think to me, swag is a lifestyle. It’s more than an adlib or they way you dress. It’s how you talk, how you move, how you walk. It’s the food you eat. It’s the car you drive. I think when Soulja came out, between him and Based God, they just have the whole swag movement. Everything is just swag now. I think Souja influenced me in terms of the lifestyle I live of the fashion choices that I have. Not more so the music, though.
If you could put an album on repeat, what album would you choose?
It would be probably Jay Z’s American Gangster. It’s a tough choice between that and Kanye’s Graduation because that’s my favorite `Ye album. I love that album. But AG is so powerful, and the samples are amazing. When I found myself not feeling the best, I would always listen to Jay because the struggle was there. Then to be in his music and see how he’s progressed from talking about drug dealing and seeing him now, you can see the subject matter is growing up. You feel some type of emotional attachment to this artist because you’ve been following them.
If there’s a record label or rap clique that you could find yourself fitting into from any era, which would it be?
I could fit into Rocafella. I mean I don’t know! Rap cliques from the back in the day were sometimes violent, and I don’t really see myself in a group like N.W.A! (laughs)
There’s been so much going on in Chicago in recent years, that no one can fathom except those actually out there. How do you feel about the current hip-hop scene out there and how the music is influencing the city?
I have mixed reviews on it. Chicago is very divided, in terms of the music scene. It’s either you’re a drill artist which would be like King Louie, Katie Got Bandz, Chief Keef, Lil’ Durk, or you’re a conscious rapper like myself, Chance The Rapper, etc. You’re either A or B. I think that as far as the violence, a lot of people don’t really fuck with drill because they feel like it promotes violence. I think that it does, but there’s a fine line between it. Nobody bans Jay Z from performing in NYC because of drug references. Nobody bans Lil’ Wayne in New Orleans because of his blood references. But in Chicago, a lot of the drill artists can’t even perform in their own city. I think that that’s sad because it stops them from being successful. Even though their music is violent, they can only speak on what they know. If that’s the way a person is living, of course that’s what they’re going to rap about. I’m supportive of that, but I think it’s a fine line when you’re embracing it and promoting it since that’s what keeps it going. I respect it, though, because there are some drill artists that I like. But I think that it’s a fine line between making music about your life and music that promotes negativity.
Chicago artists in the drill category can’t get shows in the city. Herb has to travel to the East side of America to Philly and other places to get shows since they won’t let him do it. That’s sad because he can’t even get support from his city. They ban you everywhere. How can you get out? How can you make a profit if it’s like that? What if you’re a rapper who can’t perform in the city and you don’t have a manager to support your stuff? In order to get out, you kind of have to keep doing what you’re doing to get out. It really is a trap when they say “I’m in the trap.” You can’t get out without doing what you have to do to get out. It’s a big contradiction.
What are your plans for the rest of 2014?
I plan on releasing my mixtape FTP really really soon. I ‘m still getting a couple features for it. I plan on releasing another video in the next couple of weeks. I will be dropping a song I have with Katy pretty soon. Basically just releasing visuals and prepping the tape. I wanna go on tour and get a couple of shows in outside of Chicago and just capitalize. Hopefully if everything goes well, I can get a contract finalized. I think it’s every artist’s dream to get signed, whether they say it or not. I just want to keep pushing and making music. I want to gain a steady fan base.