Rick Whispers is a native of Albany who has been making music and rapping for over a decade.
Whispers hails from the world of bands such as Judge, Sick Of It All and Minor Threat, and grew into freestyle battling and eventually creating his own rap songs. He most recently played alongside Recon, who we interviewed awhile back.
We sat down with Rick Whispers in advance of his latest EP, Drifter, which you can download for free over on his bandcamp.
Get better acquainted after the cut!
Introduce yourself. I’m an indie artist originally from Albany N.Y. I enjoy making new songs on a regular basis whether it’s with a band or a drum machine or doing an entire record with one producer. I’ve been creating hip hop music since 1996, whether it was making pause tapes with producer khil on a cassette deck to traveling all over the country to do tours, spot dates, or records with other artists. You can follow my site for any information related to shows or upcoming releases i’ve got in the works.
Listening to bands like Judge, Sick of it All, Minor Threat but producing rap music is really quite the interesting use of influences. Did you ever create hardcore or rock-driven music? When I looked at the roots of both hardcore punk music as well as the hip hop that I did listened to as a kid, I heard huge similarities in both those styles of music.
Both are born out of poverty, anger, injustice, etc. When you break down the lyrics of Sick Of It All, Judge or Minor Threat and compare them to groups like Public Enemy or rappers like Ice Cube, you come down to the same components, the same neighborhoods and some of these artists probably lived on the same blocks as one another.
I did use to create hardcore music when I was about 16. I was in a few different bands and continue to dabble here and there but I’m pretty picky on what I want to make available for the public to hear so it’ll be a minute before I release anything with a band.
The bands H20 and Madball for example are two of my favorite bands of all time and they had this message that is so real to me. I remember the first time I heard the record Ball of Destruction (Madball) and I could relate to what the lyrics said so much so that it drew me further into wanting to listen to more hardcore music. I remember going to shows at the QE2 or traveling all over the place at a very young age with all the older kids to see bands like Cro Mags and Agnostic Front, but we’d be listening to rap records the whole way out. I’m pretty sure it’s extremely universal – if you were to ask any hardcore kid what he/she listens to besides the bands they are going to see theyd give you a list of hip hop artists like Slaine, Jaysaun, Saigon, Joell Ortiz… the list goes on and on.
How did you get into freestyle rapping? When did you first get started? What were some of your early experiences or introductions to creating music like? I skateboarded basically every day of my life growing up and I still do skate, just not every day like I did, and that brought me into big city environments such as Boston, NYC, CT, Jersey – all over the damn place – and anywhere that was happening you’d see people rapping in parks we’d be skating.
Washington Park in Albany was a huge influence in my life because they’d have huge ciphers of dudes freestyling all summer long. I love the feeling and soul in freestyle; to me its the heart of rap period, the rawest dynamics and feeling you can get in any music out there.
I started watching and just studying fools and how they started out their verses, how to do punch line raps etc. and after a while I was like fuck it I can definitely do this and I just did one day and I could do it surprisingly well. I freestyled for a really long time before ever sitting down to write my first song or attempt to structure out measures and bars and organize anything on paper. To this day, sometimes I don’t write anything at all sometimes I’ll go into the studio and if the music is grabbing me just right, i’ll knock out a whole joint off the top of my head in like twenty minutes.
Do you produce your own beats or is your focus on vocals? I have produced my own beats in the past but I’d much rather focus on vocals and engineering/structuring the song.
What’s your most recent album? What was the recording process like? Where did you record it? Who did the graphics for it? My most recent album is called Drifter, and it’s an EP that was released by ILL ROC RECORDS, which I am giving away for free here.
The recording process was real fast for this album. I had a couple songs left over from a record I did called Rough City which will be out on ILL ROC later this year and so on to that I added another five joints produced by Raw Threat, Jack of All Trades, Vinylcologist, PJ Katz and my homie Craft with a few vocal features from JB, Animal Cracker and Sev Statik.
The recording process was basically me doing most of the vox at my home studio and having them mixed and mastered by other prodcuers and studio engineers as I don’t like to mix my own music.
The graphics were done by my man Sev Statik and he did an amazing job on the layout/CD design. I will have extremely limited special edition physical copies of this release which will only be for sale at my live shows.
Do you perform locally? Who have you shared a bill with? I’ve performed locally over the past decade with anyone you can think of from PCM, IBC to Fword crews as well as tons and tons of bands… I’ve also toured nationally and shared the stage with acts like Run DMC, Slaine, Jaysaun, Wu Tang, Terror, Brick by Brick, Craig G, DITC, Gangstarr, Born Low, Weerd Science, Zack Galifianakis, Bundy Blunts, White Owl, Earth Crisis, Lord Willin, Panic, Danny Diablo, Diesel, Stress the White Boy, Adlib, Sean Price and Lords of Brooklyn.
I have a show coming up on July 7th at 7pm on Dutch Apple Cruises with Brick by Brick, Shyste, Iron Bar Collective, Animal Cracker, Still I Burn and DJ Tone. Tickets are still available.
Do you remember your first gig? How did it compare to your last? My first show was at my high school with three friends I grew up with and we played in front of over one thousand people in a gymnasium it was the craziest shit that I’ve done in my life. I remember I wanted to puke all day until the first record got dropped. It was the weirdest feeling ever, I loved it. My most recent show was fun as hell. I played at Bogies with Recon and Cockpunch, Reign Supreme, Surrounded by Teeth, Guardian.
What type of shows do you like to be in attendance for? Honestly I like all shows it doesn’t even matter what type of music is being performed because I’m studying people on stage while they do their thing, taking mental notes on how I can add things to my live show. In my opinion when you stop doing that type of homework, you should stop playing out because you’re over it.
What are some of your favorite local spots for eats/drinks/music? Buffalo Wild Wings in Clifton park, Chipotle (not Moes), New World Bistro, Bogies, Iron Gate Cafe and the Point.
What do you get inspired by? People who are living their dream. I know that sounds cliche but I am driven by the people I surround myself with and they keep me motivated and positive to excel in every aspect of my life.
How much of your day is dedicated to your craft? From the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep at night (usually four hours a night), I am on email, text and any social network or site I can use to my advantage to spread the word about my music and whats going on with my career, as well as actively trying to book shows and writing down random thoughts into outlines to become songs later on.
Anything else you’d like to add? Support Upstate Black n Blue shows, Mike Valente, Bogies bottles and beats every thursday night hosted by tone and Shyste, The farm recording studio, All in Merch, DOOD COMPUTER, ILL ROC RECORDS, EZEC, Phil Frost, The Acacia Strain, Seasons Skate Shop and Fuzz Records, Pitchfork Clothing, Shocker Tattoo. Devotion Measures Strength/PMA/XXX – Thank you for the opportunity!