Local emcee Sincere Life, born Craig Smith, has taken a risky path in his journey as an artist.
While many rappers nowadays focus in on melodies or making bangers, Smith has kept his focus on carefully constructing lyrics, realizing metaphors and spinning tales through his lyrics.
In this week’s Conversation Starter, The Badger Herald spoke with Smith about his road less traveled, as well as performing and his future project.
The following interview was edited for style and clarity.
The Badger Herald: For those unfamiliar with you, how did you originally get into rapping?
Sincere Life: I’ll try to keep the story short. Mainly, I always liked hip-hop, I always liked rap.
My cousin actually rapped. I looked up to him, I wanted to be just like him. I started writing raps. They were terrible raps, not good at all. Actually knowing that even though they were bad raps, I could make words rhyme. That was the bug.
The stuff I was going through as a kid, losing my dad, and all of that type of stuff just growing up, it helped me transfer them into emotions, and transfer those feelings. It helped me deal with a lot of that stuff when I was able to write it out.
In a nutshell that cultivated everything that I am as far as the artist now, and what hip-hop means to me. It definitely saved my life, and has the power to save and change lives.
BH: You’ve recently released your latest project. How is it different than what you’ve worked on in the past?
SL: With the Sincere Life project, that was just an album I needed to get all of the music I put out.
I never really put nothing out on iTunes, or got it out on the streaming sites. It was mainly putting together a group of songs that were original works that I can put out, that I can make money off of as well as that would coincide and make a good sounding album.
BH: When you put the project together, how much emphasis did you place on track selection and song order?
SL: The hardest part really was narrowing those songs down to what I wanted to put out and what sounded good. There were way more tracks than the 14 or 15 that I put on there that I wanted to put on there.
You’ve got to pace yourself, you’ve got to choose which ones are the best and you’ve got to choose not only which ones are the best but which ones fit. There may have been a song that was really good, but if I have two or three songs that sound similar already, I don’t want to flood the project with too much of the same sound. I would save it for later, or use it on another project, or use it for the next project.
BH: What’s your favorite song on the album?
SL: Definitely it would be “Three Kings.” “Three Kings” is a song that I thought about … I actually got the idea, if you remember Rick Ross put out a song with Dr. Dre, and I believe some other real pivotal hip-hop guy, and the name of the song was “Three Kings.” I got the idea of the song from that, the song from that idea. I wanted to make my three kings [metaphorically represent] money, power and respect.
I was just really proud of that because it was one of those songs, one of those challenging songs as far as writing. I had the idea, but I didn’t know how I would formulate it into the words. When it actually all came together, it was actually to this day one of the songs I’m the most proud of.
BH: That’s a bold move, writing a song that awards careful attention to the lyrics. It’s not something a lot of emcees are doing nowadays, is that something you ever think about?
SL: I was actually going through that today. Artists, they doubt themselves, they doubt their art. The depression comes in. You hear what rap is today, you hear what hip-hop is today, and you see what’s getting popular, and what’s blowing up. I’m obviously not that, or I’m not that so much.
With that being said, at the same time when I doubt [myself], there’s also a lot of people that show me love, and support me, and want to see me up there, want to see me do better, and do appreciate my talent, and appreciate my music.
BH: I also saw you are opening for Tech N9ne on Oct. 13, what does that mean for you?
SL: Anytime you can open up for somebody on the level of Tech N9ne, really any [national] artist that comes to Madison, it’s always a blessing. Especially somebody of Tech N9ne’s caliber because he is an independent artist. That’s just inspiration in itself.
BH: Can you tell us about any tracks you’re working on now?
SL: Yeah, definitely. With this next project it’s actually King Poetic II. It’s like music you can ride to, so to speak, if you want to describe that. I’m trying to find the best way without saying it’s commercial. It’s definitely not me switching up talking about bottles and girls and stuff. That’s not the case.
It’s still the lyrical content. It’s still the flows, it’s still the metaphors, it’s still the word play. I would say I’m having more fun now, so now I can do that over a beat with a lot of 808s in there. I can do that over a beat that I can probably play in a club, and everybody will get amped to. They’ll probably love the beat, and then they’ll catch the lyrics later because maybe I’m rapping fast or maybe it’s too metaphors, or too lyrical.