Mr. Hyde, Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013, in New York. (John Minchillo/AP Images… (John Minchillo / AP Images…)
If those new Coors Light commercials with Ice Cube haven't amounted to much laughter, at least they have borne the Coors Light Search for the Coldest contest. It's a competition to find the best battle-rappers from different cities across the country, and, after the recent finale in New York City, Chicago's own Mr. Hyde came out on top. Among his spoils were $20,000 and a verse from Bun B to go along with a beat from DJ Drama.
Hyde, named Robert Hyde, grew up in South Bend but now lives in Lawndale. the 28-year-old is both a producer and a rapper, so he has his hand on every element of the track. RedEye caught up with Hyde to ask about his rap origins, recording with DJ Drama and putting on for Chicago.
On his younger days of battle rapping: Growing up, I used to compete in, you know, battle-raps with my cousins. I grew up listening to them, so as far as MCing and battle-rapping, it's always been there. ... It's kinda brutal when you have cousins, and you're doing that, because they can pretty much talk about the secret stuff that no one else knows about. So growing up in that form, then, you know, I kinda went off to the musician role, played piano, the drums, and that sparked my progression to artist.
On wanting to make every part of the song: As I was working with different producers and seeing what goes into production, seeing how Frank Crawford was producing the track or making the instrumental ... there was so much to that songwriting process, it definitely is what brought me back to "Hey, I wanna be involved in everything from start to finish. I wanna produce it, I wanna make it, I wanna articulate it and rap it."
On his songwriting process: Every time I go to make a song, it's like a movie to me. It's like a production. So when I'm making a beat, I already have a movie in my head of what this is gonna go to. ... One day down the road maybe I'll get involved in some soundtracks. These all go hand in hand ... so after I'm seeing it, being able to articulate what I'm seeing via rapping, and then being able to have everything that I'm putting together--rapping and production with engineering at the end--I can make it, "Wow." A "wow" moment.
On the city-by-city competitions, and the NY finals: Definitely exciting to get in city by city. It was exciting to perform in front of my own crowd in Chicago. ... It was very humbling, and it gave me alot of confidence. ... I've never been to New York, so that was a first for me. Being able to go to a city where I've never been, the birthplace of hip-hop, and be able to represent Chicago--and come home with the gold as well,--was extremely, extremely breathtaking.
On what's different about battle-rapping: Battle-rapping is definitely specific to the environment you're in now. ... When I was battle rapping with my cousins, sometimes there was somebody that was beatboxing, sometimes there wasn't a beat, but pretty much what you're doing is doing rhyming, you know, off the top of your head, freestyling. But you're looking to insult your opponent, and that's what makes it different from just jumping on the track or a song that has a specific theme ... like being in the club or being with your girl or maybe just having fun, instead you're insulting your opponent.
On nerves during the contest: I definitely was familiar with the environment, but I was nervous beyond belief. Anyone who says they're not nervous before a show isn't passionate about what they do, you know? I played football for a while, even a little in college, and before every single game, I still had the same level of nerves regardless of who I was playing or what the circumstance was, because I wanted to do well ... I wanted to represent Chicago well, and I wanted to win.
On his song with DJ Drama and Bun B: The process is actually done. I was able to go out to Atlanta and record with DJ Drama, record in his studio. Bun B, he was unavailable, so we just sent the song to him, and he put his verse on there. I actually spent alot of time with DJ Drama when I was out there, was able to even attend DJ Don Cannon, another legend, attend his birthday party. You know, (Young) Jeezy was there. It was an amazing weekend. Definitely being able to record with DJ Drama and his critiques and stuff, it was very "Whoa," it was a "Whoa" moment. He actually listened to the upcoming project, listened to some of my music, and he was impressed and liked it, so that whole interaction put me on 10.
On Chicago hip-hop right now: I'm excited where Chicago is, and it's motivating. There's a lot of great music coming out of Chicago, and it's nice that we're finally on a national spotlight, where we haven't been in a while. Not since Twista and even when Kanye made it big, these artist have been out for a while, but now we're in a place where hip-hop is a focal point. ... Lil Durk, King Louie, who, I wanna get him on a record so bad. I definitely am a big fan of King Louie. Mikkey Halsted, who I had the honor and pleasure of working with on one of my mixtapes, he's a beast. ... It's just like Chicago is getting some response that we deserve. You talk about how the talent has changed in hip-hop: Chicago has always had talent, just the fact that now people are started to recognize it and realize it, and it's bringing some unity to where, well, you say, "Let's get on hip-hop as a city, and take it over."
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