Hailing from Corona, Queens, New York City native Creature has been a fixture in the independent Hip-Hop scene for years now. He’s worked with everyone from The Beatnuts to Atmosphere to Common to Saigon to MF Doom and performed with the likes of Mr. Lif and Percee P. In 2005 Creature released his full length debut, Never Say Die, and this year he followed it up with both an album, Hustle to be Free, and a book, The Underdog’s Manifesto. This week RapReviews caught up with him to find out more about his DIY (do it yourself) work ethic, why he feels music is too safe nowadays, and what special “offices” you might find him at in and around the city.
Adam Bernard: Let’s start with the basics. What makes you Creature?
Creature: Creature started off as something that was kind of a joke with my sister then it just became me. It had so many meanings to it. It wasn’t limited to any race, religion, or creed, but could encompass race, religion, creed or whatever. It’s me. Plus it’s just a strong name. It could be Hip-Hop but it doesn’t necessarily have to be Hip-Hop. So it’s a universal name and Creature is a human being that’s living through his music and his creativity at his best.
AB: Your latest album is titled Hustle To Be Free. How does that phrase represent you and your work?
C: It’s the aesthetic we ascribe to. First Never Say Die was never giving up. When it comes to “Hustle,” anyone that knows me and understands what I do realizes that I’m a guy that actually lives off of his music and every day, day in and day out, grinds, so it’s really more than just a catchphrase, it’s a lifestyle. The “to be Free” part is about being free from the jobs you hate, being free from situations, becoming more self-reliant and stopping the complaining. It’s the whole DIY aesthetic, we try to encompass that and be the epitome of it. We try to inspire people and keep ourselves inspired and motivated, as well.
AB: In that same vein you also have that series of shows titled Fire Your Boss. How did those get started?
C: Fire Your Boss came about the same way our records came about. I did a lot of shows throughout New York City, throughout the country, and even overseas, and we realized that with some shows we do we don’t necessarily like a lot of the acts, or there’s too much politics going on in getting shows. We feel if we can go out everyday to sell our music why couldn’t we make a monthly event where we’d book our own shows and bring the acts that we like. Fire Your Boss is all tied in; Fire Your Boss, Hustle to be Free. Fire Your Boss is saying fire your boss to become your own boss, do it yourself, we’re not here to sit around and complain and moan about things that you have power over that can change. January will be our first anniversary, it’s really building and we hope to keep doing it. We meaning me and Marvelous, Marvelous is my co-defendant in doing the Fire Your Boss parties.
AB: In addition to all this you’ve written a book to help artists, The Underdog’s Manifesto. Tell me about what inspired it.
C: I was getting a lot of press and accolades for my grind. MTV2, Starz network, Village Voice, yourself, a lot of people just know me from hustling my music. We figured you have to document your history so it doesn’t get diluted or watered down, so someone that never did it doesn’t wind up writing about our experience, so we decided to write The Underdog’s Manifesto. It’s definitely meant to show artists that you can be a working artist that lives off of his or her art and it isn’t necessarily a millionaire. A lot of people just really want to be working musicians and live off of their artistry.
“I’m telling people to realize that you can do what you want if you’re a motivated person and you have talent. “
AB: How do you hope it affects up and coming artists? If they all follow your lead won’t you have more competition?
C: Nah, I don’t look at it as competition. I’m not telling people to come out and sell CDs in the street, I’m telling people to realize that you can do what you want if you’re a motivated person and you have talent. The key terms are talent and motivation. I want to enlighten people and make people realize if you really have it it doesn’t have to be like “yo I gotta quit music because I’m not making a million dollars.”
AB: Never Say Die came out in 2005. How have you grown and changed since then?
C: You know it’s funny, I’ve grown in the aspect of this is a guy who had success off of the first album, so 12,000 records later, selling em hand to hand, this is what you got. Doing 80-100 shows in the past couple years, this is what you got. Getting the press and running all around the country selling his stuff. I also think the new album is more in tune with my rock side a little more. I used to sing in a hardcore punk band and I think you can hear the rock influence a little bit more. It was on the first album, but it’s a little bit more defined on this one. And to me, I like the new album better. It’s a step up. I think the production’s better, I think I’m flowin better, I think the subject matter is still strong and it’s growth. When I did the first album I was doing the album I just wanted to do, now I have it narrowed down to what I want to do and what people like me doing without trying to cater to any specific crowd.
AB: With the new album you also have some crazy samples on there, too, including Michael Richards’ comedy club meltdown.
C: Yeah. (laughs) It’s like this, I have this theory, it’s something that KRS-ONE said, you create the environment, it’s not just about the rhymes and the beats. The song “Reckless Eyeballin” that you’re talking about, back in the days in the south a black dude could get killed just for looking at a white women, so it was called reckless eyeballin. I wanted to create the environment. I’m definitely not being anti-white, I’m just saying what’s going on and creating an environment of what’s happening. I have some nutty samples in there, but I think we did em tastefully. I think music is too safe right now. Let me explain what I mean by safe. Everyone is killing everybody on their records and everyone is doing something that’s supposed to be shocking, but the topics, and I’m talking about mainstream music because some of the underground music is a little more edgy, are kind of safe. It’s meant not to offend. It’s meant to be placed in a nice little box and people will take it. I feel like the world is not safe, all that shit is happening in real life. For my music I like to reflect society and, to a certain extent, what’s going on. Let’s talk about this shit. As much as I want people to know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, I want them to realize there’s a lot of bullshit before you see the light. There are a lot of stops and you’ll appreciate the light more.
AB: There are a lot of MCs in your area looking for that light. What are some of the pros and cons of being an MC in NYC?
C: Well, right now the term we use is artist-preneur, we’re artists who do more than just music. The pros are it’s the most diverse city in the world and you meet people from all over the world on a constant basis. Every day of the week there’s something to do, someone to meet and someone to network with. The cons are that it is a little flooded in that aspect and you become a little nauseous of hearing the same things regurgitated, but if you’re in a big city what are you going to expect? Someone that has a hit record, say Soulja Boy, now, unfortunately, the labels who are signing people, all they’re going to sign is someone that sounds similar to that. There’s no balance, but that’s not just New York City, I feel that’s the world in general. The pros, though, like I said, the pros are that you’re in one of the biggest cities in the world. All the labels are here and every day there are people from all over the world in New York City. You get a chance to meet them and network and get your music out there. The cons, there’s a lot of politics, it’s flooded with a lot of people that probably shouldn’t be doing music, but hey, what are you gonna do? Keep striving.
“I don’t think you should rhyme just because you can put words together.”
AB: Yeah, and some folks need to learn there are jobs in the industry other than rapper and producer.
C: Yeah, the mailroom! No, I agree, I think the big problem with a lot of people is that they feel like they have to be in front. I don’t think you should rhyme just because you can put words together. I don’t think you should take up people’s space and time if you know you don’t have the passion or the talent. You can do something else. Or if you’re like sixty years old still trying to rhyme and you don’t really have it you should probably invest that energy into someone that has more talent and is more relevant at this particular time.
AB: Now, what’s this I hear about FatBeats and you spending a little bit of time there?
C: Oh yeah, that’s one of the offices that we operate out of. We like to say Bagel Buffet more than FatBeats. The Bagel Buffet is on 8th Street and 6th Avenue, it’s between FatBeats and Lifetime health food store. We spend a lot of time over there. There’s a very eclectic bunch of people who travel through there and we like that area. We like The Village. The Village is historically known to be diverse in its surroundings and it’s artist friendly in some aspects. We try to stay where they’re gonna support the artists.
AB: Switching gears a bit, you’ve worked off quite a bit of weight recently. When did this become a priority in your life?
C: It was no priority. The funny thing is it was just eating better. I stopped eating meat again. I eat raw foods and vegan cookies. Plus I’m ballin again. You put ballin with a better diet and you lose a bunch of weight. 50-60 pounds later it’s “oh shit you lost a lot of weight”! Performance-wise I can now perform by myself for longer without any hype man or anybody backing me up. It just feels better. In general, you get a little older, you want to be in shape. The reality of it is being fit your mind becomes freer. I feel more creative. Lose forty pounds they call you a sex symbol / get a drummer son, sex the cymbal. (laughs)
“I listen to rock just as much as Hip-Hop. When I was 14 I dyed my hair orange and got a mohwak.”
AB: Ha! What are some of the untold stories of Creature? What would surprise people to learn about you?
C: Everybody knows I sung in a hardcore band. I think a lot of people that know me personally know that I’m in an insane amount of rock music. I listen to rock just as much as Hip-Hop. When I was 14 I dyed my hair orange and got a mohwak. Then I cut the mohwak down just to have the front of my hair. It was all shaved and just the top of it was a peak. It was a peak of orange hair.
AB: That must have been a sight to see. Is there anything else you’d like to add to this interview?
C: Anyone who bought anything from me, I appreciate the support. Because of them I can continue doing what I love doing. And look out for me, I’m about to hit the road hard.