Artist Spotlight: Emilio Rojas
Emilio Rojas is a familiar name to those within hip-hop circles and it’s only a matter of time till he achieves wider fame. The half-Venezuelan, half-American rapper/writer with boyish good looks and a magnetic personality is riding high on the critical success of his most recent “mixalbum” with DJ Green Lantern, The Natural.
Rojas checked in with us to speak about his classic New York City grind, building a fan base, working with comedian Donnell Rawlings and growing up in working-class Rochester.
DrJays.com Live: You’ve been in the New York rap scene and working hard for some years. Where are things at with you right now and what’s up next?
Rojas: “I moved to Brooklyn maybe four years ago. Since the move I’ve really been working on crafting records and making sure the product was real dope, you know. Its only really been during this past year that we (me and my management team, Same Plate) have been working the records as far as getting them heard. That being said, I couldn’t be in a better situation. DJ Green Lantern and I have just solidified a musical partnership, so he’s going to continue to be involved in everything that I’m doing. The response to The Natural was so amazing that it just made sense. And I’m very blessed to be able to work so closely with a legend like him, you know? Right now we’re actually about to start the follow up; got some great things lined up for that.”
Your musical releases, including Recession Proof and The Natural (with Green Lantern), get a warm reception from even the toughest hip-hop fans. Your flow seems effortless and the versatility of your subject matter appeals to a wide audience. How long did it take you to develop and master the way you rap?
“I mean, for me, the flow of the rhymes has always been the most important part of rapping. I grew up listening to cats like Kool G. Rap, Nas, Big Pun, etc. who are all just masters of structuring their rhymes so they flow perfectly. I definitely attribute a lot of my sound to them. It’s great to be able to appeal to the average listener and silence the biggest hip-hop nerd critics at the same time. I don’t think a lot of artists have been able to walk that line, and that’s definitely what I’m trying to do.”
What do you think it’s going to take for music fans outside the online hip-hop world to recognize you?
“I actually have a lot of momentum offline, as well. One thing that sets me apart from my peers is that I have had a presence on radio. ‘Bold & Arrogant’ got a decent amount of burn at the mixshow level and support from a lot of major urban areas, including NYC’s Hot 97 (DJ Enuff and Peter Rosenberg, etc.). I couldn’t be happier with the response. I’ve also had videos on various MTV networks (Jamz, Tres) and opened for a lot of major artists. I haven’t only been making a career online; we’ve accomplished quite a bit offline, as well.”
Your “60 Moments” segments with Donnell Rawlings are definitely entertaining. How did that collaboration come about?
“That was actually my manager Jonathan [Master] and Same Plate’s radio gangsta Jay Andino‘s idea. I was always a huge fan of the Chappelle Show, so when they approached me with the concept, naturally I jumped at the opportunity. That dude is a genius. We sat there and filmed for about three hours while he just made fun of me. It’s crazy how some people to this day don’t get the joke. I get comments on my YouTube like, ‘Yo, I can’t believe you let him talk to you like that’ and texts to my phone saying similar things. That was so much fun. To this day I still haven’t seen any other artists do something like that.”
You grew up in Rochester, a blue-collar town in upstate New York. How did your upbringing in a working-class environment affect your outlook on how to measure success?
“Rochester is a part of me. I remember being younger and seeing all the news about the Kodak layoffs and how it affected the community. People had no way to support their families. Since then, the city has been on somewhat of an economic decline. All the companies that used to call Rochester home, whether it was for production or to house corporate headquarters, have since left. You go downtown and it’s just empty. It’s really sad actually because there was so much potential. But greed beats out potential 99-percent of the time, I guess. Unfortunately, that’s the situation with most of the cities in this country. Unemployment is crazy high and we’re in the middle of this ‘recession.’ It’s looking more like an engineered economic collapse to me. You got the powers that be fudging the numbers and encouraging us to do X, Y and Z because it will help the situation. They are saying employment is picking up, but that’s only because they’re not counting people who stopped looking for work. There needs to be drastic change in this country. People aren’t held accountable and the only things that ever change are cosmetic.”
You’ve worked with brands like 10.Deep before. Would you describe your personal fashion style as being more on the “streetwear” side?
“Yeah, I did the lookbook for 10.Deep a while back, and ‘Bold & Arrogant’ was in the trailer for one of their lines. I’m a fan of streetwear, for sure. I keep my style pretty simple: v-neck tees, raw denim, nice sneakers, nice jacket and a nice watch. You can wear whatever you want if your watch is nice, haha.”
One of your hottest tracks is “Bold & Arrogant.” That’s how you describe yourself (and definitely how you come across!). Is that how you like your women also?
“Haha! ‘Bold & Arrogant’ will haunt me forever! I definitely have a cocky side when it comes to music. I like to consider myself more informed than anything. I know my strengths, and I know my weaknesses. It just so happens I’m more vocal about my strengths, haha. As far as my women—I like a good mix. I don’t like a pushover and I don’t like divas that walk around like they are above it all. Women, just like men, and life, need to be balanced.”
Listen to “Bold & Arrogant”:
Watch Emilio go head-to-head with Donnell Rawlings in the third episode of “60 Moments”:
To keep up with Emilio Rojas, be sure to follow him on Twitter.