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 industry—especially 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.