Mullyman bw

Pardon The Introduction: Baltimore's Mullyman

With an array of artists cloggin the digital waves that make the music industry go 'round, it's nice to cross paths with grass-rooted talent. Baltimore bred Mullyman, born as Kevin Muldrow, brings raw lyricism to the game, denouncing "swagged out" tricks and gimmicks, while also having an insight for maturity and pure unity amongst the music industryespecially when it comes to his D.C. and Maryland surroundings.

It all started popping off in '09. Videos such as "I Go Harder" earned rotation on MTV Jams, MTV2, and Music Choice. Mullyman had a chance to nationally put on for B-more when he was featured on MTV Jams' Hood Fab segment "D.C. Vs. Baltimore" edition, where he competed against Wale. He even got his proper placement on HBO's soundtrack for The Wire, where it only makes sense.

Now the Baltimore rapper continues to build up success. With his recent mixtape release with DJ Whoo Kid, Mullyman vs. The Machine, Mullyman isn't slowing down for anybody, for the battle is not over. In this conversation with VIBE.com, the Baltimore lyricist talks about his successful jump start, the beef between D.C., Maryland and Baltimore,  his views on hip-hop's current antics and more.  Diane "Shabazz" Varnie



 

 VIBE: Your first single was with The Clipse and then you worked with Freeway. How did you get to that moment to have your first single be with a well-known artist?

Mullyman: I had been grinding back in Baltimore and killing the underground scene. My partner at the time reached out, conversation started and we was able to make it happen. That’s how that came about, based off of my buzz and just having a business associate. We just made it happen. We put the songs out and got a lot of love for ‘em. It was a big thing for me at the time, because no Baltimore artist had ever really did those type of big cameos like that. The energy of just making moves, the conversation started, they was down and we made it happen.

You started off in the freestyle circuit and that’s something we don’t see too much today. We have 106 & Park's Freestyle Friday but do you see that type of raw style coming back to hip-hop?

I believe that good music will never get lost, no matter how much they try to saturate it or dumb it. You can tell fly by night music. I try to stay to the core of good music. Freestyling and true good music to me is the foundation of the whole culture. I feel like as long as you stay true to the integrity that the hip-hop culture is based on, it’ll always be there. Now you can see it with the artists like Drake, J. Cole, Wale, all these dudes are going back to that whole element of hip-hop and being successful with it.

We’ve had rappers in the past try to make the transition out of the freestyle circuit to actual rap careers. Some were more successful than others.  How did you transition out of the freestyle circuit to making solid songs?

Your mindset for battling is different than the mindset for making a radio hit. So the hardest thing is putting your mind towards what the audience is going to be when you’re making that type of track. I had to put myself in different mindset, so what I did was I conquered that. I got in the studio, figured out how to adjust to pleasing the radio audience, the club audience, and came out of that and now we’re here. Where I have songs that have been on the radio, songs that have been played in the club and just used that whole battling platform to get to that next level. It’s a difficult challenge, but most of the battle rappers stay in that circuit. But I was never really a battle rapper. I was a dude that had talent and used that as a platform to make a name for myself. I think I’m more known for my songs that are on MTV and on the radio.

Your mixtape Mullyman vs. The Machine talks about your struggle and everything against you. Would you say you’ve won that fight yet?

I’m still in that fight. I feel optimistic and I feel like I’m winning the fight, but I’m definitely in the thick of the fight. Naturally, I want to take this thing global to the 100,000th power, where I want to be a household name everywhere. I’m in the thick of the fight. I know I have what it takes. I know I come from a place where it’s never been done as far as hip-hop goes. We’ve never had an established, global Baltimore hip-hop artist and I want to be that first one to break in the door and do it for my team. I feel good so far to have MTV showing me all this love to have all the sites, and to have you guys showing me love. It feels good, I’m feel like I’m in the thick of the fight, I’m up to the challenge and I’m winning, but I have a lot further to go.

One of your struggles will be to put Baltimore on the map. Baltimore likes to be disconnected from the DMV scene. Do you have problem being attached to the DMV area?

Nah, DMV is something I stand up and rep to the fullest. My DJ is in D.C., me and the D.C. artists are close. I understand from a business perspective people see your region as your region already. Like if I say "I’m from Baltimore," they say “Oh you right there where the president’s at.” “You right there, then you listen to Go-Go.” Sometimes they don’t really know the difference. Me understanding that and trying to globalize myself, I understand how important it is to support that movement and be a part of it. And as one of the leaders of that movement, to rep it to the fullest. One of my DJs, DJ Gemini, he put out a record produced by one of my producers MBAHlievable called the "DMV Dream Team." We actually put that together just to show that unification and show how much I support. It’s something I stand for, behind, understand, and represent to the fullest.

So why does Baltimore like to be detached from DMV and Maryland all together?

It’s ignorance. The more you have understanding, the more you wanna travel, the more you wanna unify. The more you wanna build, so you can get more fans and you can get more love. I understand that the only way that our region can make it is because Baltimore alone isn’t big enough to have enough fan support for some bigger business people to invest in. If people come to our area, they’re more likely to come to D.C. first. So what you gotta understand is instead of trying to be exclusive, an exclusive approach is weaker than an inclusive approach. If you try to separate yourself sometimes you kill your fanfare, because what you’re gonna have is people saying “Ok, you’re over there, well we’re over here, and this is what we’re riding with.” But, if you build and you work together, then you can have people say “Yeah, well we’re all together, so I’ma support all of it.” So usually that division comes from ignorance. The more you get out and travel the more you realize your hood is just like the next hood. You got things that’s alike, you got things that are different, accept those alikes and differences move on and just represent hip-hop culture. I’ma always be Baltimore, but I’m DMV as well and it’s important that I represent both and stand for both of them and understand that without doing that I decrease my chances of accomplishing my goal. 

You recently moved to Atlanta, what’s the reason for the move?

Where I’m from, there’s never been an artist that made it and I think because you stay in Baltimore and you’re locked into that whole mentality of that’s how everything is, when actually it’s different from what Baltimore teaches us. The radio isn’t very supportive in the area of creating a star. It creates a local star, not a megastar. So, in order to break that you gotta get outside of Baltimore, understand what’s really going on in the world then really be around people that can really help you that don’t casually stay in Baltimore. Now I can have meetings with people from MTV and bigger entities. Everyone has a house in Atlanta, other artists, bigger businesspeople, and make bigger moves that I couldn’t make back in Baltimore. You can see by the acceleration of everything that’s been happening in a few months with the mixtape with DJ Whoo Kid, Mullyman vs The Machine. All that’s just came from that energy of moving outside of Baltimore and having a better understanding of what to do. So that’s what that move’s about.

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Music Sermon: The Groundbreaking Sprite and St. Ides Hip-Hop Campaigns

Today, rap music is used to sell everything from electronics to tax filing services to nut butter grinding machines at Whole Foods. We understand that hip-hop culture is essentially the root of everything cool and hip in culture, period, and it’s been commodified and appropriated within an inch of its life. But in the early ‘90s, the genre was far from Madison Avenue-friendly. Aside from the groundbreaking deal between Adidas and RUN DMC, brands didn’t yet see full value and impact of hip-hop…except in the food and beverage industry.

Beverage companies centering campaigns for the urban demo around black music was nothing new; Coca-Cola had ads featuring artists such as New Edition and Anita Baker singing their hearts out for the cola in the ‘80s, and Schlitz Malt Liquor had a legendary – and hilarious - run of spots featuring The Commodores, The Four Tops, Teddy Pendergrass and more through the ‘70s and early ‘80s. However, in the early ‘90s two brands put their entire business on hip-hop’s back, by not only building their brands but spring-boarding the recognition of the music and artists as a marketing and advertising tool: Sprite soda and St. Ides malt liquor.

In the ‘80s, Sprite was languishing behind competitor 7Up when parent company Coca-Cola decided to focus on the youth market, and the quickly growing hip-hop culture was part of the strategy. African-American ad agency Burrell Communications tagged hip-hop acts for a series of spots that began a long-standing marriage between the brand and the culture, starting with Kurtis Blow in 1986. It was one of the first national TV ads to feature a rapper.

KURTIS BLOW - 1986

In 1990, the brand kicked off the “I Like the Sprite in You” campaign, using rap acts that matched the soft drink’s bubbly energy, starting with Heavy D & the Boyz before partnering with Kid ’n Play the following year. The ads featured the artists clad in lemon-lime fare, rhymin’ about lymon.

HEAVY D - 1990 KID’N PLAY – 1991

With Kriss Kross, they turned it up a notch and had us crunk inside the Sprite can. Edgy. Also, this was catchy as hell.

KRISS KROSS - 1993

Then in 1994, a young brand manager from Clark Atlanta University named Darryl Cobbin had an idea for a new direction: Gen X was about authenticity and independence of thought, not following the hype. Sprite ditched the pop-friendly crossover acts and identified more “authentic” rap artists – lyricists with street and cultural cred – to rep the brand. “Lymon” was also out of the window, as they moved away from marketing taste and towards marketing attitude. (Cobbin later spearheaded the iconic, yet grammatically questionable, Boost Mobile “Where You At?” campaign.)

Gone were the bright yellow and green sets, because while the new slogan said, “Image is nothing,” it was all about image. Bright and shiny was traded for dark and gritty. Now we were in the studio; a fly on the wall for freestyle sessions. In the first spot of the series with Grand Puba and Large Professor, Puba closes with “First thing’s first, obey your thirst.” It’s legend even within Coca-Cola that Puba ad-libbed the phrase that then became the brand’s tagline that remains to this day.

GRAND PUBA & LARGE PROFESSOR - 1994 PETE ROCK & CL SMOOTH – 1994 A TRIBE CALLED QUEST – 1994

The “Obey Your Thirst” spots also took us the street corner, the club, and inside the ring when Sprite resurrected the legendary KRS One vs. MC Shan battle.

KRS ONE & MC SHAN - 1996 NAS & AZ – 1997 THE LOST BOYS – 1997

By the late ‘90s Sprite had spent roughly $70M on the “Obey Your Thirst” campaign, tripled sales, and commanded a majority market share of the citrus category (which also included 7Up, Sierra Mist, and Mountain Dew).

Sprite had also succeeded in becoming an official and established part of the culture. They were family. The brand further expanded into urban youth culture through a partnership with the NBA, while continuing to evolve the creative of the rap campaigns.

KOBE BRYANT, TIM DUNCAN & MISSY ELLIOTT – 1998

Near the end of the decade, Sprite explored the overlap between hip-hop culture, comics and martial arts with a series of posse spots based on Voltron (representing all hip-hop regions) and the 5 Deadly Venoms (with all female emcees).

VOLTRON SERIES - 1998 5 DEADLY VENOMS SERIES – 1999

Over the years, Sprite has continued to be one of the most consistent brands in hip-hop. We’ve grown accustomed to spotting the logo everywhere from music festivals and shows to the background of BET’s hip-hop cyphers. They revitalized the “Obey Your Thirst” campaign with Drake in 2010 and paid homage to the greatest lyricists in rap with the “Obey Your Verse” campaign featuring iconic rappers and cans with classic lyrics in 2015.

SPRITE "Obey Your Verse - Cooler" (starring Rakim) from SHOUT IT OUT LOUD MUSIC on Vimeo.

St. Ides’ run with hip-hop doesn’t have the same happy ending as Sprite’s. The brand’s usage of rap petered out in the mid-90s after wide backlash and a series of lawsuits.

For St. Ides, hip-hop was the brand campaign. It’s how they built their business. The brand was introduced in 1987 and their rap campaigns launched in 1988. The malt liquor 40 oz., with significantly higher alcohol content than beer at around a $2 price point, was already a staple in lower-income neighborhoods and hip-hop culture. The “Crooked I” capitalized on that.

Parent company McKenzie River secured Ice Cube as their anchor spokesperson and tapped West Coast producer DJ Pooh to spearhead advertising creative. Pooh lined up a veritable who’s who of additional West Coast rappers over the years, including Geto Boys, Cypress Hill, Warren G, Snoop and Tupac; plus the thorough-est from the East, including Eric B and Rakim, Wu-Tang Clan, Biggie and EPMD.

EPMD & ICE CUBE - 1991 GETO BOYS & ICE CUBE – 1992 ERIC B & RAKIM - 1992

Unlike Sprite’s campaigns which were first jingles and still felt like commercials, even when elevated to trading hot bars for Obey Your Thirst. St. Ides spots, however, looked and felt like straight up music videos with album-worthy production and flow.

ICE CUBE – 1993 MC EIHT – 1994 NOTORIOUS B.I.G. – 1995

Complex even named Wu-Tang’s St. Ides spot “Shaolin Brew” as one of the collective’s 100 best songs! (But at least it’s ranked near the bottom; #97.)

WU-TANG CLAN - 1995

In fact, in 1994, the brand did turn the hottest of the joints into an album, with the St. Ides promotional mixtape dropping at your neighborhood liquor store. It featured full-length songs about getting twisted off the malt liquor from Ice Cube, Wu-Tang Clan, Scarface, MC Eiht, Snoop Doggy Dogg, and Nate Dogg.

The Snoop and Nate track is low key a jam, still. Homegirl in the background starting at the 10-second mark is a whole mood.

This blatant marketing of malt liquor directly to black and brown youth wasn’t going to go unchecked indefinitely. It was all irresponsible, even while being genius for the demo. In 1991, the Wall Street Journal listed the St. Ides ad campaign among one of the worst of the year, which probably didn’t matter at the time since WSJ readers weren’t St. Ides’ base.

In 1991, Public Enemy released Apocalypse ’91: The Empire Strikes Back. The album featured “100 Bottle Bags,” a direct criticism against malt liquor companies marketing specifically to urban communities “…but they don’t sell that sh*t in the white neighborhoods.” Shortly after the release, St. Ides found itself in Chuck D’s crosshairs, and he fired the first in a series of big shots against the brand, marking the beginning of the end of their love affair with hip-hop. An 80-second radio spot featuring Cube used a sample of Chuck’s voice without his permission. The ad had already aired over 500 times on rap radio shows when Chuck sued St. Ides parent company McKenzie River for five million dollars (they settled out of court).

Then, St. Ides and McKenzie River fell under legal scrutiny from the New York State Attorney General in 1992 for using verbiage like Cube’s lyric “Get your girl in the mood quicker, make your jimmy thicker…St. Ides.” to suggest the malt liquor increased sexual prowess. Can you imagine the think pieces if that spot ran today?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcZ3Fs9758E

They were later in hot water with the New York AG’s office again, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco (the ATF) for advertising perceived to the be targeted towards minors, with complaints that it glamorized gang affiliation and promoted sex. After having production completely shut down for a short while and getting hit with heavy fines, St. Ides tried to clean up its act, adding “drink responsibly” messaging into the spots.

By ’96 the run was over. Hip-hop was growing up, getting money and moving towards more sophisticated alcoholic beverage choices. Alizé and Hennessy, anyone?

The relationship between hip-hop and alcohol never ended, of course, but has continued to evolve to match the evolution of the lifestyle. We don’t go to the corner store no more, homie (save a brief return in the early aughts of Four Loko). We’re toasting to the good life with premium brands, some of which are now owned by the artists.

We can look back now with the wizened, woke eyes of maturity and possibly scrutinize our artists selling out at the expense of the community, but for the young and burgeoning hip-hop culture, both the St. Ides campaigns and the Sprite campaigns opened the door for the power and commodification of hip-hop and consumer brands. For better or for worse.

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Police Forced A Bronx Woman To Give Birth While Handcuffed

A Bronx woman who was 40 weeks pregnant went into labor while in a holding cell. The police then took her to a local hospital where her wrists were handcuffed to the bed and her ankles shackled. The doctors at Montefiore Medical Center urged the patrolling guard to remove the restraints stating it would harm the mother, but the guard persisted.

According to a lawsuit filed, the woman has asked to remain anonymous. “I haven’t made sense of it myself and I’m not ready to explain it to my child,” she said in an affidavit.

The woman was 27 at the time endured an hour of excruciating labor pains before the guard relented and freed one of her arms. Jane Doe was only fully free nine hours after giving birth.

“The fact that pregnant women and women in labor would be subject to the most draconian treatment imaginable, particularly when they stand accused of a misdemeanor, speaks volumes about the macho culture of police departments and corrections,” Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said.

A judge arraigned Jane Doe in her hospital bed for violating a protective order. The woman's lawyer Katherine Rosenfeld explained to the New York Times the order stemmed from a protective-custody case involving her former partner. Ms. Doe spent almost 30 hours in protective custody.

“The fact that they disregarded the medical advice of doctors suggests that they didn’t use any humanity and sort of blindly followed what they perceived to be the policy in the Patrol Guide,” Ms. Rosenfeld said.

READ MORE: The Federal Government To Launch Database Tracking Deadly Police Encounters

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A Man Claiming To Be El Chapo's Nephew Threatens To Have Tekashi Mother Deported

In the never-ending saga of Tekashi 6ix 9ine, The Daily Beast has obtained a voicemail recording of a man alleging to be El Chapo's nephew and using the proposed connection to threaten the rapper's mother with deportation.

“His brother lives there. His mother lives there. She don’t even have no f**king papers,” he can be heard saying.

Jose Avila left a 49-second voicemail on Nov. 15 after the rainbow hair rapper failed to show up to an appearance he was promoting in Austin, Texas. At the time, Tekashi was on probation for a sex video stemming from 2015 involving a 13-year-old girl. Avila threatened to use his connection to have Tekashi placed in jail.

“I know a lot of government people and I’m going to send his ass to jail if he doesn’t come to Austin, Texas, today. He f**king makes me lose money already.” Avila said. "He needs to f***king come and be a fucking man. Or I’ll put his ass in jail.”

Reportedly, Tekashi wasn't made aware of the threats of imprisonment, but he did know of the supposed family connection because Avila texted Tekashi's booking manager, Tasea Ferguson.

“My uncle [is] in New York,” Avila reportedly texted. “Guzman Loera... My uncle sons control all USA.”

El Chapo's full name is Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera and he's currently on trial in Brooklyn. The allegation Avila leveled proved to be false. El Chapo's attorney Jeffrey Lichtman denied knowing of any nephew by that name.

When Tekashi, real name Daniel Hernandez, finally got in contact with Ferguson, he was brought up to speed and took to social media to announce he wouldn't be in Austin, Texas that evening.  “I spoke to the promoter, Jose Avila with Avila Music. We are going to be in business. I am coming back to Austin, Texas.”

Surprisingly, after Tekashi was taken into federal custody on racketeering charges, the Daily Beast reports Avila was in the courtroom and doted upon Tekashi's mother, who is often referred to as Nati. He even posted a picture with him. In the coming weeks, Availa also claimed he was Tekashi's manager. A source close to the rapper quickly dismissed the comment.

"There’s nothing to manage. Danny’s in jail.”

READ MORE: Mos Def Calls Tekashi 6ix 9ine  The Most Depressing Sh*t He's Ever Seen

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