Representing the west side of Chicago, Supa Bwe is a multi-talented artist on the rise. Following the success of his debut album Finally Dead (which received critical acclaim and reached number 3 on ITunes), the artist has just recently released his new single ‘Koolaide Man’ and spoke with ONE37PM’s Mike Boyd on this round of ‘Checking In.’
Boyd: I really like the song ‘Koolaide Man!’ Talk to us a little bit about that song and how it came out.
Supa Bwe: A lot of my songs I don’t really rap about subject matter it’s more like an open diary thing. It’s a really cool track because I tapped in with my homie Autumn who is one of the underground kings right now, and we came together and made a really competitive Hip-Hop track. It’s not really about flexing or exalting my status, it’s more like check out our rapping abilities. I feel like it stays true to the nature of Hip-Hop which is competition.
Boyd: What’s it like trying to make it in Chicago right now?
Supa Bwe: Chicago is crazy! It’s super diverse. We’ve got the drill scene obviously which leaks into everything, and we also have a very earthy Hip-Hop scene, and an experimental Hip-Hop scene. We’ve got a lot of cats coming up. There’s a lot of talent bubbling right now. Chicago has always been a very strange scene. Sometimes we’ll have a lot of talent bubbling up and the whole spotlight, other times it will kind of go away. Right now because of the virus everybody is in the same position. We’re screwed! You can’t do shows and kick it. So as far as the pandemic goes, just like anywhere else, the scene isn’t really existing outside of the internet.
Boyd: Are you messing around with TikTok?
Supa Bwe: I just made a TikTok for the first time so I’m super late on it! I think TikTok is now and definitely not a tool to sleep on, like the older rappers that didn’t include SoundCloud in their repertoire from 2013-2015. They missed out on money and fans. I’m a little older—I’m 31 and I’ve been doing this since I was 17. I’ve had a long and fruitful career in Hip-Hop. I’m trying not to fall into the ‘older guy’ trend of whether this works or doesn’t work. As you get older you become more conservative, and Hip-Hop is very ageist. If you aren’t a super hot 14-year-old rapper, people aren’t really trying to give you their eye or ear. The older cats are really quick to discredit the younger guys. I think it’s important for all of us to come together and treat Hip-Hop as a precious resource. To circle it back to TikTok, I think it’s the lame that people are trying to discourage others from using it.
Boyd: For anyone that’s new to your sound, what song should they start with to get to know you?
Supa Bwe: People say that I’m an R&B warlord. I’ve got R&B cuts, but then I’ve got songs like ‘I Hate Being Alive’ which are my showstoppers. All the clips you see of me live are probably gonna be of that song. You can’t go in and try to understand an artist. Just feel it. Sometimes as an artist you get boxed in. If you come to my music don’t expect just Hip-Hop and rap only. I’m an artist! Come ready for moments!
Boyd: It’s crazy how quick people are to put you in a box!
Supa Bwe: Yes and how detrimental it can be to your career! That prevents a lot of us from crossing over and ever becoming mainstream. When you are stuck in a pond, it becomes a case of ‘this is my pond’ and the only way I can make money. I would say Chicago for example is under a monopoly in a sense, where there are certain entities who have made it to the top and hold the keys to the music scene, but unless you know them, you don’t get access to those advantages. You have to build by yourself. When it comes to awards, and branding we’re limited to what we can receive.
Boyd: You are speaking a lot of real stuff!
Supa Bwe: I’m passionate about it! I don’t just rap—I’m an audio engineer, I produce, manage, and mentor etc. Hip-Hop has fed me so much, so I put my money where my mouth is. It’s important that we socialize Hip-Hop. We need to relegate our resources, and make sure these labels are giving kids dental insurance, 401k’s, and Pro’s so they can collect their royalties and such. I didn’t learn all this stuff until I was 28-years-old, and I had already been in the game since I was 17. Missed hundreds of thousands of dollars because nobody told me. It’s a treacherous thing but a beautiful thing.
Boyd: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or producers that want to make a music career right now?
Supa Bwe: You’ve got to have tenacity, access to some sort of mental health assistance, and you have to move with integrity. Tenacity is the ability to not be subject to mental fatigue. Mental health has been my biggest struggle, with that (a career in music) you have to be mentally fit. Be ready for the ups and downs. Have a good work ethic and be humble. Have a good rapport!