If you ask the average rap fan if they remember Mellow Man Ace, or Kid Frost and his debut album Hispanic Causing Panic released in 1990 on Virgin Records, they’ll probably look at you strange. Many people don’t even realize that Latinos played a major role in influencing the formation and formula of early Hip-Hop. The legendary rap group Cypress Hill broke multi-platinum records, and they’re considered to be among the main originators of West Coast and 90s Hip-Hop.
California and Texas, have been the stronghold for Latin American rap for years, and the top indie artists have been expanding their ground. This episode I’m in the West Coast with one of Cali’s most dedicated, the Liquid Courage Capodecina himself, Mike Theory. Check out the interview below.
Introduce yourself to the viewers! Let them know your name, and where you’re from.
My name is Mike Theory. I grew up in East LA & Whittier. Spent most of my time going back and forth during my younger years.
How long have you been making music?
I’ve been making music for about 13 years.
Your music covers a lot of different styles. Who are some of your biggest inspirations?
I grew up listening to everything from The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, to Tito Puente and Grammy winning merengue singer Elvis Crespo. Honestly, I’d have to say my biggest music inspiration is DMX. It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot was the first CD I bought on my own.
California maintains a database of gang members called CalGang, they actually had Nipsey Hussle classified as an active gang member when he was murdered, despite the turn in his life. I’m not going to ask if you’re gang affiliated, but you were raised in gang territory and you know the culture well. Would you classify your music as gangsta rap, and do you feel Hip-Hop will always be intertwined with gang culture?
Yes, where I grew up the gang culture is heavily active. Hip-Hop comes from the streets, so of course Hip-Hop and gang culture will always be intertwined.
What’s your personal goal with this music. Are you trying to be #1 on Billboard, or just trying to feed your family?
Having a #1 on Billboard would be dope, but that’s not what drives my music. I started making music as an outlet, and I continue to make music for that reason.
What do you like the most about songwriting?
I just love the process. It allows me to express things that I normally wouldn’t talk about.
Do you start with the lyrics or beat when creating a song?
I’m always writing, but for the most part everything develops when I’m listening to beats. I begin with the hook first.
What are the key elements listeners should be getting out of your music?
Who I am, and where I’m from. I give listeners a piece of Mike Theory in every song.
How do you feel about Hip-Hop today and where it’s headed?
I love it. Just like anything else, I could deal without certain parts of it, but Hip-Hop is still growing. In my opinion that’s a good thing.
I’m seeing more artists who want to go, or stay, independent. What’s the biggest challenge for you in the indie music market right now?
Keeping solid people around me, and networking with the right people. But whatever is thrown my way I just find a way to take care of it and keep moving.
Reaching people in this digital era involves social media and a lot of networking. What are your thoughts on the promotion opportunities available now for indie artists?
The opportunities are everywhere. In this digital era everything is so easily accessible. It’s about putting your money in the right spots.
What are your thoughts on the resurgence of West Coast Hip-Hop? Where does the new generation of West Coast rappers fit in with the legends of West Coast rap?
It all feels great. It’s good for Hip-Hop in general that the West Coast is still producing top artists, and unity is something we need now more than ever. We fit in perfectly with the legends. There are so many different West Coast sounds now.
Tell me about your No Guarantees album and the making of it. Is there a specific backstory or message behind this project?
The album is just what the title says, No Guarantees. Nothing in life is guaranteed. With this project I wanted to reflect on my side of things.
If you could work with any artist who would it be?
Living artist? That would have to be Belly or Dave East.
I’m hearing you have a new LiQ clothing line. What inspired your interest in the fashion industry?
LiQ was created because I like to dress, and what better way to stay fresh. I’ve always been a brand, so I’m expanding the vision. It’s also another way to create. From music to fashion, I love the process of creating from start to finish.
What advice would you give to indie artists who’re hustling to get where you are?
Where can our viewers follow you on social media, and where can they buy your music?