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Voss: Straight Outta L-Town.

January 30, 2014
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Voss2013smallText by Chesney Davis. Top images by G.W. Miller III. Bottom images by Darragh Dandurand.

Sweat drips from Philly-based rapper Voss‘ forehead, nose and chin. Dressed simply and chicly in a black tank top, simple gold chain, grey jeans and boat shoes, the 25-year-old rapper bounces from one end of the stage to the other, even jumping off to sing the chorus to his recent single “Tarantino.”

The room is warm and energetic, with fans pressed against the stage upstairs at Milkboy for the MC’s last night of his Reservoir Dogs tour.

Bouncing hands are up in the air and rarely come down, except when Voss closes his set with a word of appreciation for any support and a vow that he will continue creating great music for those who want to hear it.

The crowd wants to hear it and Voss knows why. He says he takes pride in his writing.

“I don’t make fast food rap,” he says of his lyrical ability. “I want to make something you can feast on but you can still enjoy. The taste will hit you right away but then you will taste a new flavor the next week.”

Though the rapper is good at feeding the needs of his audience, it is never at the expense or limitation of his creativity.

“I just rap, I rhyme words,” says Voss, whose grunt-like voice is streamlined with precise delivery. “I don’t see why I should limit myself to one type. I understand the commercial importance of finding a niche but I’m too eclectic to put myself in one lane.”

He says he started listening to hip-hop when he was 10, becoming a dedicated fan of legends like N.W.A., Public Enemy, Rakim and Big Daddy Kane. He reminisces on his first rhyme as a 14-year-old, called “Straight Outta L-Town,” a humorous ode to his hometown of Levittown, Pa., which he spit over N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” beat.

“A lot of my friends heard it and laughed at it and thought it was funny,” Voss says, “but then people started telling me I should really start to rap.”

At the time, Voss says he was only joking around. He didn’t think he could ever be like his favorite rhymers. But after listening to more obscure artists, he began to feel there was a place for him in the rap game.

“There are more lanes to hip-hop than just what I was hearing initially,” he asserts. “So, I started building up from there and I just became more confident in my ability to write serious rhymes, just because of the people telling me I could do it until eventually I believed them.”

At 16, Voss started performing and recording. He also started battling. In 2012, Voss took the stage at BET’s 106 & Park Freestyle Friday, winning five times in a row, earning him Hall-of-Fame status.

Fellow rapper Taizu has seen Voss in action many times. The two went on tour this past fall.

“He’s good with crowd control,” says Taizu. “He knows what songs to pick for what environment. He knows what’s going to get people excited. He knows what’s going to get them to throw their hands up. He plays on to that really well, which is important as a performer. The ability [to] tune into the crowd and give them what they want.”

Even with all of his steps toward success, Voss says he’s still learning as he goes, dealing with the challenges being an up-and-comer can present.

“You got a guy still making Eminem jokes in 2013 and if I can get that same guy to buy a shirt at the end of the night —which is what happened — I can do anything,” he says. “Those obstacles are always going to present themselves but at the end of the day, people respect talent. So if I can show them that, I have nothing to worry about.”

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