by Alex Shtaerman
Few rappers come into the game armed with an arsenal as potent as the skill set brandished by the 24 year old Brooklyn native known as Stimuli. The younger brother of Hip-Hop producer Lord Digga, Stimuli has been sharpening his sword since the age of twelve. While other kids were watching cartoons and trying to make it through junior high, Stimuli spent afternoons tagging along with his brother and hanging around the studio with The Juice Crew. At the tender age of fourteen he would get his first chance to roc the mic appearing on the Masta Ace track Ain’t U Da Masta in 1993. At this point he was hooked.
For many years to come Stimuli continued to hone his skills and study the game in hopes of living out his childhood dream. The dream would soon become a reality. In October of 2003 the standout MC was featured in The Source Magazine’s long-running Unsigned Hype column and has since gained significant recognition and respect throughout the industry. With several mixtapes to his credit and a movie role in the works, Stimuli is gaining momentum at a blistering pace. As The Source Magazine’s Gotti so eloquently puts it, “this Brooklyn MC is destined to stimulate heads much more than drugs. And it’s only a matter of time before Stimuli is available over the counter”.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Hanging around your older brother Lord Digga and The Juice Crew at a young age, what kind of influence did that have on you?
STIMULI: It had a very big influence on me. Me being a kid and writing rhymes at eleven and twelve, I was sort of like any other kid but at the same time I was around people who were making music professionally and that gave me the thought that music may be something I may want to do as a career. Also these were people that I was a fan of so, I wouldn’t say I lost the awe; but when you get to see them in the studio and see their work atmosphere; I mean, they would come around for barbeques and at the same time I would get to see them put albums together.
I was around the Symphony video, which was a part of history, and meanwhile I am thinking in my mind that this is something I could do for the rest of my life. When I got to high school I wasn’t thinking in the terms of getting a regular 9-5, I was still trying to live out my childhood dream. For me to be doing what I am doing right now; I always sit back and think to when Ace would call me up and say “yo, we gonna be on the radio tonight, make sure you tape BLS”, and I was on the Kay Slay show last week, so it’s crazy, I’m thankful for everything and ain’t nothing really happen yet.
RIOTSOUND.COM: You were on a record with Masta Ace at the age of fourteen; how did that happen?
STIMULI: I was always hanging around the studio and Ace picked me up from school one day. I was real hyped; I was in junior high school. He had an idea that he wanted a kid on this joint called Ain’t U Da Masta, so I was going back and forth with him doing the intro; just me getting in the booth was a crazy experience. Then there was another joint called Crazy Drunken Style where I came up with some of the chorus. I almost had a verse on there but Ace felt it sounded too much like a posse cut. I’ll probably punch him in his face when I see him, it could’ve been the start of my career, I was fourteen; but, you know.
RIOTSOUND.COM: You say your ultimate goal is to reach people through your music; it seems a lot of artists today tend to overlook that, I was wondering what your take on that was?
STIMULI: I always thought about it as a platinum album being one million people reached. I never think about it just with the money because I’m never going to eat what I’m supposed to eat off of this thing. If I get one dollar for every CD, that’s nothing compared to what the label is making. For me, I feel Jay-Z got more power than the President when it comes to the youth. It may seem exaggerated but if you think about it, rap artists have the power to change fashion and to redefine whole industries.
The influence we have right now on advertising, on commercials, on television, on just the kids period is staggering. If the most popular rapper decided to kick some political words it would be cool. I feel like our voice is so strong that all I gotta do is grab the knuckleheads and I can sway them in any direction. I mean, I’ve watched one person do it for the past five or six years to the point where he could say anything – stop dinking, stop smoking – wear button downs, don’t wear jerseys – and the kids would follow. Our voice is so powerful that I gotta be in the forefront, I can’t just sit back. There is no way I could have chosen any other profession knowing I have this gift that I have been given. Hopefully I can learn the business side enough where I can match that with the talent and reach the people; which does equate to sales and money but at the same time you are reaching the masses.
RIOTSOUND.COM: You recently landed a film role, how did that happen?
STIMULI: It’s a film called Move The Crowd; it takes place in North Carolina. The production for the joint is on hold right now, they trying to get some more funds and recruit some bigger actors and they trying to also get some bigger rappers in there. Actually it’s good for me that production is on hold right now ’cause the bigger my name gets the better chance I have to keep my part. I play a northern manager who heads down south; it’s not too far from my character ’cause in the film he’s a laid back dude. For me acting is kind of natural although I’m just realizing now that I have to learn how to create a character and create a role. The next time we go back in I’ll probably have a little more knowledge of that as far as working with the whole movie thing.
The way the role came about was really good ’cause I actually beat out a dude that had the part already. Omar Tyree, who is the director of the movie, came to New York looking for people for the soundtrack and he had about 80 rappers audition to his beats. I spit one verse and left before he even announced the winner and then he called like three weeks later and was like – you didn’t even see who won the thing, I was feelin’ your whole swagger, come down and record for the soundtrack and you can audition for the part. So for me that was the biggest thing, not knowing how things can work out and having an opportunity come about like that.
RIOTSOUND.COM: You said acting is natural for you. As an artist, what enables you to go from music to film and be successful?
STIMLUI: As artists we almost play a role all the time. When you hit the stage or you’re out on the street you are already assuming a character. A lot of times these directors and these movie writers they see that we fit with what they are writing since we are already living a certain lifestyle. I see a lot of times they give rappers roles that are similar to the way they already act, like in Belly, for example. But then you have people like LL and Will Smith who took it to the next level; they have played roles out of their normal character.
For LL, when he filmed In Too Deep, he said he had to go away for a month to get out of the God character. He created that role to the point where you’re walking around every day feeling like you really God. That’s talent. That’s something I don’t think most rappers understand when you really get deep into acting it’s a whole other game. It may seem easy to make the initial transition but once you get into actually developing characters it’s a whole different world. You can’t just go through the same motions, your whole way of thinking has to change and that is something I have to learn and it is something I do not take lightly.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Your flow is extremely refined; how were you able to attain such a high degree of skill from the time you first started rapping?
STIMULI: I was a big fan of Twista, Jaz, Kane, Jay; the quick tongue rappers. That was my thing. When I was eleven and twelve for me to get the older heads to even pay attention I used to just rap real fast. For some strange reason it gave me that breath control and that swagger, so even when I slow it down, I still kinda got a little flow with it. I learned tricks like rhyming on your back to expand your diaphragm, I’m also an athlete so I keep my wind, I don’t smoke, so that all helps too.
Me studying the game is what really helped me out though. I have such knowledge of different styles and different people and how they adapt to music. For example, Busta Rhymes talks about being the missing instrument on a track. Like when the Fugees first came out I listened to Lauren Hill and I was like – yo, she sounds different on every song; and I just studied it. I studied how Jay and Nas would just make a marriage with certain beats. I think a lot of people today, they hear a beat and they just jump on it the same way every time. What I try to do is challenge myself and work to tailor my delivery to the beat and to the music. Even when I get on other people’s songs, people say that I take over the beat and make it sound like my song. Anyone can do freestyles; I take my time with it and try to make it something that is going to catch your ear.
RIOTSOUND.COM: How did you get the name Stimuli?
STIMULI: I actually have no idea. I used to smoke back in the days; I used to write a little graffiti here and there. I think it was just one of those names that came out of nowhere. I was tagging up and I had the little cloud over the I. Then next thing I know I said it in a little cypher and it just got accepted. Since Stimuli means response, I thought it would be something I could use with the music; so I transferred the name over. In today’s world, anything I do musically, I am trying to get a response out of people; I am trying to get you to feel it as well as hear it. So far I have been doing pretty good.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Your new track that is getting a lot of attention is Stop What You Doin’ with Punjabi MC, how did that collaboration come about?
STIMULI: Stop What You Doin’ got 30 spins last week across the country. I don’t know how it’s doing what it’s doing. We had the Billy Jean sample and Vanilla Ice sample in there; Suge Knight called a couple of radio stations recently and tried to shut it down ’cause of the Vanilla Ice sample. That track is not even my record; it’s a Punjabi record that I came across that the producer Tigerstyle did and I just jumped on it like a freestyle. After people heard it, they were like – you should do a second verse. So I did a second verse, we put it on a mixtape and then it got pressed on vinyl and the track is now just picking up doin’ its thing.
I heard that everyone who heard it and has something to do with the original record approves of it so that’s cool. We’ve been getting a lot of attention from it. I just thought it was something cooky like an international thing and now we have some labels looking to clear the sample who are interested in picking the record up. And I was like – it doesn’t really represent me – but what do you do.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Last week you were a featured guest on Kay Slay’s show on Hot 97, what was that like?
STIMULI: It was cool, my first time on Hot 97. A learning experience, I’ve never had an on-air interview with a well known DJ. I was there with another rapper, Blackout from the Bronx, so I kinda took a back seat being from Brooklyn and they was vibin’ on they Bronx thing. Slay was comin’ at me at little bit – said I was a little too cool. I was just trying to show my personality and I was really waiting for the rhyme session. I knew he hadn’t heard me before. He heard about me but he hadn’t actually heard me and I’m ready to show the world what I can do.
So that’s all I was thinking, trying to have enough time in order to spit. ‘Cause I’ve heard unsigned people up there or new people up there and they talk all cocky and they be sayin’ they the nicest and they got 50 deals on the table and then they rap and they sound like garbage. So I was just trying to keep the humble but confident attitude. I haven’t listened to the tape yet, Slay was trying to call me old and he had some jokes on the air but overall it was a great learning experience. Everybody said I did my thing on the rap side and he played some of my tracks. Now I am familiar with Kay Slay which is a great milestone, a couple of months ago I wouldn’t have even foreseen this.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Who are some of the artists that you listen to and enjoy?
STIMULI: I would say Soulchild, Usher, R. Kelly; I still listen to Jay, Eminem. I am waiting for the new Jadakiss album, that’s probably the only album I am looking forward to. Other than that, I am basically just vibin’ to old stuff like Donny Hathaway; I still listen to A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Outcast, I don’t know, music is dead right now, so that’s about it.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Now that you are getting recognition as a skilled artist, what are your plans for the future?
STIMULI: For the next couple of years I am really looking to figuring out my home as far as a major and putting out my first album. I want to call my first album The Emotion Picture, which I want to be a classic album. So that right now is my main focus. The business side is where the worries come in because I gotta deal with radio and picking the right singles and stuff like that. I don’t want to over focus on that but I know that’s going to be the main thing after I close the deal. In the next couple of years I want to put this album out and after that you can’t really predict which direction it’s going to go in, but at the same time, that’s what’s going to determine where everything ends up. So if I don’t do it with that, I’m going have a couple of problems.
I am focused on putting together a good album not on just giving people a commercial single because I feel if I do that it will pigeonhole me. I’ve seen a lot of artists get caught up like that. I want an album that has street credibility but also I want to reach a lot of people so I need those couple of tracks that will bring me to the masses. It’s the toughest thing in the world but I feel like I can do it. The more I keep gaining momentum, the more of a fan base I’ll get and the less stress there will be on that first single. Hopefully I’ll get some features, an R&B remix or something like that. I did this joint with Janet a couple of months ago so I am trying to continue with that and just trying to keep it going. There is really no way to predict where everything is going to go but I got a feeling that I’ll be Ok.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Anything else you would like to mention that the fans should be looking out for?
STIMULI: The main thing I’ll mention is my website ShaStimuli.com. The site will really give everyone insight as far as where I’m going, what I’ve been doing, my new mixtapes and everything else. Right now I got the Let Me Show You The Way mixtape; also the Follow My Lead mixtape is out right now. We’ll probably put something else out this summer just to keep the buzz going and probably we will also put out another record or EP. We just gonna keep it going.