This week marks the release of rapper Seez Mics' new album Cruel Fuel. You may recognize Seez as part of Educated Consumers or his years on the high profile freestyle rap battle circuits. Seez's new album, released on the late underground rap icon Eyedea's Crushkill Recordings, features as much traditionally sharps lyricism as it does innovative genre bending over production that's almost entirely beatbox based by producer Max Bent.
We're premiering Cruel Fuel's newest video "Serotonin Sweepstakes" and spoke to Seez about the making of the video as well as how he first met Eyedea and the bonds that underground hip-hop forms.
Where did the concept for the "Serotonin Sweepstakes" come from?
Well, the song's concept came from walking around, coming up with a clever rhyme scheme and thinking "no-one's used that." I would just write until I felt like I was done with an idea. I felt the rhyme "manifestations of obsessive compulsive behavior misinterpreted as intelligent" and, for whatever reason, couldn't come up with a rhyme scheme for it. I thought to myself "Why make this any clearer than it already is?" I love that line, it doesn't rhyme with anything, but I love the cadence of it. It's interesting because when I got the first beats from Max Bent two years ago, they all clicked into something I already had going, and as I wrote that song, it became really clear to me that depression, anxiety, all of those things are genetic like anything else: weight problems, alcoholism, addiction or height. I think that's something scientists are coming to understand. As I hashed out the song, I definitely have my issues with chemical imbalance, I came up with the concept of "Serotonin Sweepstakes," you sort of get what you get. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don't.
The album Cruel Fuel is coming out on the late Eyedea's Crushkill Recordings. Do you recall your first time meeting him?
Yeah, I was going to college at the University of Maryland and was the biggest Atmosphere fan on the planet. A kid booked Atmosphere to play at the University of Maryland and I was the opening act. Eyedea and Abilities were touring with [Atmosphere rapper] Slug. I knew Eyedea had won [prestigious freestyle rap battle championship] Scribble Jam the year before, and, since the Internet hadn't happened yet, I wanted to know what happened at Scribble Jam. We hit it off, and when I asked him, he said "I got served by Brother Ali, it was great." He was very cool about it, wasn't salty. We hit it off there and a couple years later, there was an MC battle in Seattle called Brainstorm. Eyedea and I were staying in the same place and for four days we shot the shit and became friends. A few years later we started to tour when them when I was in Educated Consumers, and Crushkill Recordings put out the last Educated Consumers record. They're all really good people.
How much of Eyedea's influence would you say is on this record?
I'd say a lot just in the sense of, I always had the desire to make an album that didn't necessarily have to rhyme, but I didn't want it to be some "the sky is orange" bullshit. I wanted it to be genuine. But, if I started to do something I thought maybe people might thing would be weird, not to let that fear prevent me from pursuing that angle of writing. That's something I got from Eyedea. I got inspired by Eyedea to not let fear prevent me from making good choices.
That in mind, when writing Cruel Fuel, was there ever any hesitation before diving into certain subject matter?
It's funny, there's a song on the album called "What Your Head Will Hold." Everybody's had bad stuff happen, that song was like a trash can for me to throw all the bad things I've never talked about in a song into, in hopes getting it off my chest and draining the wound would allow me to deal with it better in my personal life. I think, throughout this album, I realized how cathartic and genuine not being to embarrassed or ashamed to discuss something is a great reason to write a song about it.
Putting this new album out, do you ever have people still commenting on your battle history?
Yeah, I battled Rhymefest at one of the Scribble Jams. There, I thought it was pretty clear that he won. I thought it was close, but I thought that he won. People comment on it and say I did better. But, that's the thing, for me to even be able to say I went head-to-head with that guy and held my own, that's a great experience. I know he's involved heavily in politics now and he's ghostwritten for some people.
Where did the title Cruel Fuel come from?
Sometimes you just start saying shit, you're having a conversation with a friend of yours and a clever sentence comes out. I honestly couldn't tell you the first time I thought of it, but when it popped in my head, to me it means when you look at all the problems that are going on in the world, a lot of people have external reasons for why they should be happy but they're not. Like, "I have a car" or "I have a house" or "I'm not starving." For whatever reason, people are hesitant to look inwards.
When I started to reflect on why I wasn't happy or why things weren't going so well like Eyedea's passing or bad relationships or having a ton of debt, even when those things weren't happening and the coin was flipped, I just wasn't feeling right. I had a very fucked up childhood and I became addicted to the headspace of being stressed out or being angry in a relationship. What I realized was, when you're abused as you're growing up and you get fueled by things not going well, there's a cruelty in that. You internalize that external cruelty and that becomes what fuels your engine. I wanted to make a record where I explored how that happened to me in hopes other people realize "Yeah, when I was 12, something fucked up happened and that's really shaped my outlook and caused me to react certain ways in social environments and I need to stop doing that and have a healthier fuel coming into me and driving me to do good things."