Very few people like to wake up at 5am, but for the hip-hop world it’s time to wake up TO 5:am. 5:am is an emcee from New Haven, CT, known locally for his lyricism, aggressive style, and aversion to current trends. His latest album, Say Suttin’ Else, was release last month, and is available as a free download on BandCamp. On the heels of the release of Say Suttin’ Else, RapReviews caught up with 5:am, and learned more about the album, as well as his thoughts on what happened to hip-hop’s edge, and how he managed to get through a time in his life when he lost nearly everything. 5:am also told us about a show he did in Vegas, because what happens in Vegas, gets revealed in our interviews.

Adam Bernard: First off, how did you come to be known as 5:am?

5:am: It’s actually a semi corny story. My real name is Sam, and on my high school class ring I got my name on the side, and one of my buddies, I was over at his house, and his mom asked why it said 5:am on the side. I liked the name. I kept it.

AB: Your new album is Say Suttin’ Else. The cover indicates there’s no swag, no ratchet, no molly, no YOLO, no “turn up,” and no “sheesh.” Why was it important for you to get that message out before someone even presses play?

5:am: I think it works both ways. I’m not against any type of music, because I respect anyone that makes money off their music, and anyone that likes to create in a positive manner rather than causing physical harm to people, or other detrimental ways to get whatever is inside of you out, but there are people who feel the same way as me, and who just don’t like a lot of the current stuff that is going on in hip-hop, so I think it’s nice that people can see the album cover and see the stuff that they don’t like isn’t on here. Also, vice versa, if you like the whole swag movement, and stuff, my music is probably not for you, and my album cover can facilitate that before you even have to pop it in and hate all these lyrics that are going on, and me rhyming, because that’s another thing that, I don’t know, man, it’s kinda gotten away from even rhyming, which is weird for me.

AB: Do you feel hip-hop has maybe lost its edge?

5:am: In the stuff that’s played on the radio, and on television, yes, but not… one of the things I’ve always said is hip-hop, in my opinion, never got wack. It never even got stale, it’s just you have to FIND good music now. When I was growing up 2Pac and Snoop Dogg, they were on the radio. They were, in my opinion, very good, and they were all over all types of media. Now it’s a different kind of rap that’s out there, that’s in everybody’s face in the media, but I think hardcore hip-hop still exists. Even, like speaking of stuff with an edge, there’s still a huge horrorcore audience that’s out there, and community of people that make that music, so I don’t believe that it ever lost an edge, I just think you might have to look harder to find the edge. That’s coupled with (the fact that) anyone can make music now. You don’t have to pay to go to a studio. You can make quality, and horrible, sounding music right in your living room if you choose to.

AB: You can make crap right where you sit!

5:am: You can! Some people don’t know what compression is, but like I said, it’s so easy to make music now, so it did get oversaturated, and there’s a certain type of music that makes the most money, and it just so happens to be music that I’m not that big a fan of, but some of the people love that music. In my opinion there’s still music for everybody that exists, it’s just I don’t turn on the radio and then complain about the music on the radio, because I know what’s on the radio, and I probably don’t want to listen to it, so I don’t subject myself to music that I don’t like. A lot of people will turn on the radio and then complain about it, knowing full well that what’s gonna be on the radio they’re not gonna like. It’s an odd thing to me.

AB: I remember back in the day more than half of Howard Stern’s listeners were from people who hated him.

5:am: Yes. People calling up, complaining about what he did, and hating what he did. That is true.

AB: There’s a lot of aggression in your music, but from our interactions you don’t seem like an angry person. Where does this aggression come from, and have you always been able to harness it for musical purposes?

5:am: To answer it in a different way, that’s why I’m so nice in real life. I just put it all into my music. I’m never sad. I’m never not in a good mood, because, in my opinion, I know where to put it, and that’s into my music. I feel like people who can’t get it out of them, those are the people who might fly off the handle. All energy that comes into you, you have to get it back out of you, and I just do it through music. Some people, they’re in the gym until they pass out. Me, I just really really like to write, and that’s the way that I get things out of me, so all my aggression gets trapped in the music, and I’m not necessarily saying that everything that I say is positive, but I feel like I get it out of me in a positive way, and I’ll never be one of those people that climbs a clock tower and starts taking people out.

AB: Let’s talk about the video for the album’s lead single, “Let Up.” What inspired the idea to basically fight yourself?

5:am: It came from the chorus. When me and, actually I’m not sure if people know this, and I might be putting him on blast right now, but me and Sotorios of Political Animals live together, he’s my roommate, so I was sitting around bouncing ideas off of him, and we both kind of came up with (the idea of) what if you ask the question to yourself, and it’s kind of like you’re in the basement figuring out should I do this, should I do that? I think a lot of artists go through that, like I’m doing what I want to do, but if I did a little bit of maybe what I didn’t want to do could I get a bigger audience and then continue what I want to do and maybe subject them to that after? It’s almost a bait and switch, you know what I mean? Should I just try to make some really poppy music, and should I say swag, should I rhyme party with Bacardi?

AB: My God, that’s my biggest pet peeve.

5:am: Me, too. I even have, it’s a song that didn’t make the CD, but there was actually a part on some song I did where I rhymed the words girl and world, and I never do that. I went back and caught myself after, so I did a skit on how I was just like, “I apologize, I don’t do this often, but I fucking rhymed girl and world on this. I didn’t mean to, it just came out that way.” Back to your original question, it was just trying to come up with a cool concept of how to do it, and then the director, Edwin Escobar, I had to ask him if he COULD do it when we came up with the concept. I can’t say enough good things about him. We shot the video in three hours on Thursday, and when I woke up on Friday he gave me the video, done, in my inbox. I approached him about each thing, can I rap at myself in the mirror, and have me in a different outfit rapping back at me? He pulled it all off and made it look incredible.

AB: At one point on Say Suttin’ Else you discuss everything you’ve been through over the past few years. This has included losing your job, your girlfriend, your dog, and even having your house robbed and losing all of your recording equipment. How on earth did you stay sane through all that?

5:am: I’m just one of those positive people, man. I’m not gonna say I wasn’t angry. I’m not gonna say that if I’d found out who did it I would have been like “hey man, no problem.” It really would have been a problem. I lost over 120 songs, but what I did, and how I think about things, and how I think about everything, really, is if I just sit there, and I’m mad, and I’m depressed, it does absolutely nothing for me to get it back. I went out to pawn shops, I looked on CraigsList, I looked on everything, I couldn’t find (any of my things). In my opinion, they stole my music equipment to use it. They took the sound-proofing off the walls. I’m not gonna say I wasn’t angry, but you come to the point where you have to think critically, and say me sitting here being angry, being pissed, is going to do absolutely nothing for me to get my stuff back. It’s not gonna make it reappear. Me sitting around depressed is not gonna make anything come back. You just have to, it’s not necessarily the choose to be happy thing, but it’s in that direction of I just can’t see sitting around being mad, and moping around, and shit like that. That doesn’t appeal to me, so I was kinda like “alright, I gotta write a couple new songs, finish up this CD, and put it out.” It happened, and you can either dwell on it, or keep moving. With keep moving I write new music, and I get stuff done. If I chose to dwell on it I’d still be mad and telling everyone about how much music I lost that they’ll never be able to hear.

AB: As happy, and as nice, and as unwilling to be sad as you are, if a Connecticut artist were to come out and you were to recognize all of the beats from the songs that you lost, would someone be coming after that dude?

5:am: I would have to give a no comment as to not incriminate myself later. {laughs}

AB: Let’s close this interview with something far more positive, and less potentially incriminating. Tell me about the most interesting, or random, opportunity music has afforded you.

5:am: Going to Las Vegas for free.

AB: Whoa, whoa, what happens in Vegas gets told right now. Tell me about this Vegas trip.

5:am: Basically my buddy Donny Menace moved out there. He started battling, and is really big on the battle scene.

AB: He paid for you to go out there?

5:am: He had someone who did. I won’t say the money came out of his pocket, but me and my boy Kryptik went out there, because what it was, he gave us one free ticket, and me and Kryp split the second ticket. We were out there for five or six days. We did a show out there for about 200 people. It was just a really good time. The tables went well. Everything went well. It wasn’t free, but literally my entire trip cost me $40. I really like playing craps, and in Vegas everything went right. That was probably the most fun that I’ve had doing this so far, just being out there, promoting a whole bunch, putting up stickers everywhere we could. Definitely made the most of the show. Sold a whole bunch of CDs out there, and you got to feel that rap star type thing for a second knowing that you’re being flown to Vegas. It was a real good thing.

AB: What was the most you won in any one game of craps?

5:am: $600.

AB: Whoa!

5:am: Let me put it out there, I don’t have money like that, it was just one of those things where it just kept going right. With craps, when you win your money stays on, so you have the opportunity for it to just keep going, and when it keeps going it’s a good thing. I promise this is no racism, but in my travels through the casinos, if a small Asian woman has the dice, you put your money down. It goes right. I can’t explain it, it just happens right.