Skip to content

Chapter Three: The Darker Side of Voss.

March 12, 2015


Voss recently dropped the third installment of his Book of Michael series, titled Heavy is the Head, so our Greta Iverson caught up with him to discuss his music and how he’s grown as a rapper.

What inspired your most recent release?

Terrible things. I wrote the majority of the records on this EP during a dark time in my life, when I just wasn’t in a positive space mentally. It definitely shows. It’s my most personal and revealing work to date. I just felt this final chapter in the trilogy should be the most “raw” in that way, the most “real.” So I saved these seven songs for Heavy is the Head because it just made sense. It’s not a record you can listen to any time, for the most part. Definitely gotta be in a certain mood. But I wanted to give people something to relate to while letting these songs be my therapy, so I put it out there.

You called it the last chapter in a trilogy. Will you continue doing projects with chapters or sections in a similar way?

Not too similar. I don’t wanna overdo it to the point it’s gimmicky almost. Obviously my “book” is not finished yet and hopefully won’t be a for a while, knock on wood. But I thought since I had so many songs written for my album already it would be a good idea to take the ones that either had uncleared samples and/or just didn’t quite fit the aesthetic of the LP and still release them as EPs. The album won’t be in a chapter/section format, pretty sure I’m done with the book concept, although I do make some references to it in a couple lyrics on the album still. I’m about to release physical CD copies of the entire “Book of Michael” collection on one disc, all 20 tracks.

Is there a common theme throughout The Book of Michael? What story do the three chapters tell?

I would say the only real constant is the fact that each song on each chapter shows different aspects of my personality, to the point that by the time you listen to all three chapters you’ve heard almost all of me. There’s the cocky braggadocious side, the introspective side, the self-loathing side. It’s all there in these 20 tracks. I didn’t want the EPs to be too strict in their themes so that it was like a rigid concept but you can see a pattern. Chapter 1 is the ambitious, kicking the door down EP for the most part. Chapter 2 is a middle ground between continuing that attitude and hinting at the darker side of myself and my world. And then Chapter 3 is pretty much the whole darker, sadder side of things.

When you’re writing your music, how do you think people will respond to it? Are you composing with a particular person in mind?

I definitely don’t think about a particular person when I write … MOST of the time. If a specific person inspired a song or verse or line, of course I think about them, but not necessarily their reaction when/if they hear it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about how people in general will respond to certain songs though, not gonna front with that “I don’t care what anyone thinks” attitude. But at most, it will be something like “some people may not get this message” or “no way this will ever be on the radio” and then I just shrug it off and keep writing.

I think one of my strong points is I can write almost any type of song well. Diversity is the key to longevity. I can do fun party songs, lyrical “look how well I rap” songs, storytelling, personal introspective songs, whatever I’m feeling at that time and whatever the beat tells me to write. So yeah, I’ll think about people’s responses and I like to have balanced releases that can affect different types of people. But at the end of the day, I’m gonna put out what I believe in and what I want to put out as the bottom line.

How has your audience changed since you first broke into the industry?

Hm…I think that depends on when you would say I “broke into” it, or if I even have yet really.

I guess you could say my first big break on a national scale was doing the 106 & Park battles on BET in 2012. That’s what led to me getting my first deal and the most national exposure at once that I’ve had to date. That definitely got me a whole lot of new fans. But the issue was they were fans of my freestyles about some guy’s clothes or their mom, not as much my music since they hadn’t heard it. A common problem with being known as a battle rapper when your true gift and passion lies in songwriting is the majority of fans who know you from battling either won’t give your music a chance, or they won’t like it if you write actual conceptual songs since they just wanna hear more aggressive battle-like rap.

I definitely noticed my audience change as I distanced myself from the battle scene after the whole 106 thing. I see it as a good thing because it filtered out those who weren’t really into the music, and that’s what I’m most focused on, and will be forever, always have been.

As far as the actual music itself, I’ve noticed that with the more artistic risks I take with beat selection, song concepts, even videos. I’ve lost some more one-dimensional fans, who only really like one type of hip-hop. But I’ve gained so many more fans just by being diverse and touching on multiple lanes in the art form. I’ve learned how to appeal to guys who wanna hear clever entertaining bars, girls who wanna dance to catchy hooks, kids who wanna learn something when they listen, people who wanna relate to a personal experience in a song…and it’s awesome to watch my audience expand and progress along with me. Growth feels even better when you have a large group of folks growing along with you, and that’s what #TeamVO is all about.

While staying in the self-proclaimed “dark time” in your third chapter, was there ever anything that interfered in the theme that you had to set aside?

I wouldn’t say that I was purposely forcing myself to stay depressed because that’s unhealthy. But I will say that what I wrote the songs in chapters 1, 2 and 3 were all written at different times spread out before I even had a plan for them. At a certain time, I started setting aside the sadder songs for the third chapter. I wanted to keep this third one with a distinctive mood to it. Yeah, I mean, I think the chapter thing is gimmicky as it is. I just stopped at three because I felt that was a good place to stop it. Now, looking ahead, I might shy away from doing a strict theme like that because it in some ways it can be confining. If I put out a volume one or a chapter one without a plan, it won’t work out. It needs direction.

Do you ever consider how your audience is going to respond to your release? Do you ever keep the commercial side of it in mind?

I can’t lie and say that it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, this is something I intend to live off. In the back of an artists’ mind, when they want to live off their art, they will think about the mass populous of it. This last chapter is not commercial at all but I felt I was something needed for me. The response is what I hoped for and people can relate to what I talk about.

You take a very honest approach to your genre. How do you think that impacts the scene? Hip-hop is definitely changing but you maintain personality and a sense of realness in your music. How do you think your peers and your fans react?

Honesty is important to me. I think a lot of times, to reach a larger group of people, especially in a genre like hip hop, the melody, the hooks and the beats are as important as the honesty. I’m definitely very honest. I have no fear of anyone calling me “soft.” There’s this fear in hip-hop that makes you feel like you have to be tough and I think that’s ridiculous. I definitely respect hip-hop. I’ve done my homework. I love it. I also believe in progression. I’m not going to be rehashing these same tired concepts other guys do. I think the impact I’m leaving is that honesty can be a powerful tool and can even be marketable. Honesty and marketable sounds weird together but I’m proof that it can be [together]. This last track on this EP is super honest but it has this super classic hip-hop beat. hopefully take some cues. If they don’t, that’s fine, because I’ll keep standing out. “Raw” is a great way to describe it.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: