by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
The birthplace of Michael Jordan. Heaven is a Playground. Lincoln High School. Chris Mullin. Bernard King. Fly Williams. Streetball legends and NBA stars. Success stories and cautionary tales… The list of Brooklyn’s impact on the game goes on and on and on.
When the calendar shows November 1, The Brooklyn (that’s right, Brooklyn) Nets will put all the hype, gentrification and Jay-Z hoopla on the backburner and finally hit the hardwood to partake in the city’s biggest game since ’73, beginning a new era of basketball in New York. Based on the history of the game, having an NBA team in Brooklyn seems long overdue and despite the natural fit, it all seems surreal.
It didn’t even seem possible. New York City has forever belonged to the Knicks and when the deal finally went through and construction began in ’10, the thought of a team in Brooklyn still seemed like a dream, especially with all the controversies, delays and doubt surrounding the building of the Barclays Center.
Fast forward to 2012: The building of the Barclays Center was completed, Hov rocked the place with an epic string of performances and everywhere you walk, people are rocking black and white Nets fitteds and t-shirts in anticipation of what will hopefully be a new winning tradition in New York. When the opening buzzer sounds and the Nets officially touch the court to kick off the regular season in front of a sold out crowd, everything will come full circle and the dreams of all Brooklynite hoop fans will finally become a reality.
For SLAM, the uniqueness of professional basketball in Brooklyn has provided us with an awesome opportunity to do something we’ve never done before. We could have gone the traditional route, brought on one of our many writers and given you a piece on the history of Brooklyn hoops and the Nets; but you’ll be able to read that rhetoric a thousand times over heading into the season. Instead, we’re celebrating by teaming up with our friend and renowned DJ Mick Boogie, adidas Originals and XXL Magazine to bring you Brooklyn Originals, a mixtape composed of all new, fresh content from an incredible array of Brooklyn MCs.
The full mix will drop October 31 and in preparation, SLAM will be bringing you interviews with some of the artists involved over the next few days.
Yesterday we had Maffew Ragazino, who also dropped “Got2 Love It” the single off of his upcoming EP White Gold and Brooklyn Originals. Friday, we had the super talented Nitty Scott, MC who gave us an in-depth Q+A and yesterday, MC Lyte premiered her brand new song on SLAMonline.
Today, we have Troy Ave who is considering leaving his wife (the Knicks) for his mistress (the Nets).
SLAM: Your name has been ringing bells recently and you’re doing it all independently, how did you get to this point in career?
Troy Ave: When mixtapes really started blowing up, I asked a DJ how much it would be to get on a mixtape and he told me something ridiculous like two thousand dollars so I told him to, “Hell no!” and I hung up the phone. I took twelve hundred dollars of my own money and made my own mixtapes and started selling them on the streets and going to spots where they sold mixtapes and that’s what really started my independent career.
SLAM: You hustled your way into a huge picture at the adidas store in the Barclays Center…
TA: Crazy, right?
SLAM: How did that happen?
TA: It’s that hustler’s ambition, man. It’s basically living out our raps and having respectful relationships with people and people recognize that. A large majority of people won’t recognize that because they’re not built with that hustler’s ambition or mentality. Some people may shy away from it but every now and then you get someone who lives up to and is a stand up, one hundred person who builds solid gold relationships. Sometimes these things work out. adidas was doing the whole campaign on famous Brooklynites and it made perfect sense. When people go into that store, everyone will know Troy Ave. It looks dope and it feels even better.
SLAM: How did growing up in Brooklyn shape your work ethic and the person you are today?
TA: It made me go after things aggressively, Brooklyn in itself has an aggressive nature whether it be in business, a social setting or sports. Growing up in Brooklyn, you see a lot of struggle, you see a lot of pain, you see a lot of poverty and there’s a cycle, you see it from one generation to the next. You see the graduating class of ‘96 and the class of ‘04 and they’re both in the same situation–struggle and growing up to be nothing. I didn’t want to do that, I didn’t want to be living with my moms, not owning a car or driving a Honda Accord. I wanted more.
Growing up in Brooklyn allows you to get that. If you grew up in Idaho, you might not know that there’s different people out there. You probably grow up, work on a farm, drive a pickup truck and you’re happy. Not me, I saw people coming through in a Benz or a Bentley and other people who grew up to be successful but a majority of people didn’t have that. I always wanted to stand out so I had to go about doing what I had to do to stand out and be different.
SLAM: There’s a lot of really dope MCs who are coming out of the borough right now, all doing their own thing. You’re holding down the streets, how does it feel to have that lane on lock?
TA: It feels good, man, it feels incredible. Actually, to be honest, it only feels incredible when I do interviews and people talk about it. Being from Brooklyn, it’s like being in the eye of a hurricane, it feels crazy but it looks crazier on the outside. I’m doing too much to even step back and think, ‘Man, this is Brooklyn!’ This is the home of Biggie, the home of Jay-Z, Fabolous.
There’s a lot of people who come out of Brooklyn who are dope because NYC is one of the toughest markets in the world and Brooklyn has spawned some of the greatest MCs. To even be mentioned in that is really cool, but I don’t even get to step back and relish in it because I’m just too busy doing what I do.
Who better than me to represent? I embody everything–not to be cocky or anything–but I embody everything that people would want to represent New York.
SLAM: So you’re oblivious to the whole movement because you’re so focused on your career and working towards your goals?
TA: I’m just doing me, man. It’s not like I’m acting or anything, this is just me. I’m rapping about the way I live. It’s like if you get dressed and you got on some dope sneakers, and someone will point ‘em out and you pay it no mind because you already know! Or if a basketball player dunks on three people and everyone goes crazy, like “Oh my god! How did he do that!?” He just jumped, that’s what he does, it’s natural.
SLAM: Speaking of basketball, you make a lot of references in your music. Has the game had a big influence on you as an artist?
TA: Yeah, i used to play basketball when I was a kid. My favorite players are Allen Iverson and Michael Jordan, favorite team was Knicks, now it’s Knicks / Nets. New York City is the mecca of basketball and I’m from New York City so of course it has an influence on me.
SLAM: I’m gonna presume you’ve been a Knicks fan your whole life….
TA: Yeah man. It was passed down to me, my daddy is a Knicks fan!
SLAM: What’s good now that the Nets are in Brooklyn? Where will your allegiances lay?
TA: Oh man…I’m gonna have to say no comment (laughs).
I don’t know, man. The Knicks is my wife and we have a rocky relationship and the Nets are my mistress (laughs). The Knicks aren’t committed to excellence man. C’mon, Pete! How do you sign all these old players!? C’mon, man! I’ve had my heart broken too many times by the Knicks.
SLAM: Do you think the Nets are going to be a better team right out of the gate?
TA: Nah, i don’t think so. The Knicks are still a better team but the Nets give you hope, the Knicks are still a better team. Right now, it’s really about championships at this point, I don’t care about Playoffs.
SLAM: You just finished the Bricks in My Backpack series. What’s the next step? Where do you see your movement heading?
TA: I got a new project coming out, it’s a spinoff of my Bricks in My Backpack series called BSB. The Bricks in My Backpack projects were more like street albums and cinematic, this one is going to be a straight mixtape featuring Avon Blocksdale and Sevin. Those are my friends and I just called my homies and said let’s just rap.
Again, coming from Brooklyn and being from the street you find your awareness to the snakes and the rats and it makes you paranoid to certain shit. I know I’m in the music industry now, but I take the same mentality. A lot of rappers are like, “Troy Ave I want to be down with you! Let’s do a song!” and I don’t really mess with them, I work with my friends. I would rather do that and put out high quality music than put out a song with someone who may turn out to be disloyal like you see with other camps.
SLAM: All your music, relationships, artists you have with you, all that is organic then…
TA: Yeah, yeah definitely.
SLAM: Do you think that helps bring you fans since they know you’re being honest?
TA: I think a majority of people are attracted to my music because it’s good, quality music. A lot of people don’t catch 80 percent of the stuff I rap about because they’re not of that lifestyle. Just like when I was a kid and I would listen to Biggie or Jay-z or Jeezy when he first came out I didn’t get it because I wasn’t in the streets yet. I caught most of it because it was good music but I didn’t realize the depth of it until i got into that life (allegedly) and started doing the street thing.
Most people are attracted because it’s good music. It’s not struggle rap or gangsta shit, it’s just good, dope music. It just so happens that the message is what I know and I talk about the streets.
The other percentage of people who are attracted to music are down because they know it’s the truth, like “Yeah, son really did that! I know him, look at the details in his raps, he knows what he’s talking about.” And they put other people on and say, “You need to listen to him, he’s for real.” You always have people listening to wack music because they think the artist is a real person but that’s my goal: I want people to listen to my music because it’s good and then you understand the depth of what i’m saying. First you get their ear, then you get their heart.
SLAM: What makes you a Brooklyn Original?
I was born in Kings County Hospital and I can speak and represent for the people. What a lot of people want to talk about and want to do, a lot of other Brooklyn rappers want to talk about…it’s like a false sense of reality. They’re exaggerating and making stuff up. I’m an actual success story, I can show you how to go from zero to one hundred. I can show you how to get from the bottom to the top.
I’m actually successful, it’s not, “Oh he raps, now he’s got a bunch of fly girls and fly clothes and cars.” No, I was actually doing that before I got on. That’s the difference between myself and a majority of other rappers. For other people it changes drastically when they get on, but I’m going to keep on doing what I’ve been doing, only to a higher degree.