The name El Greco may bring to mind the classical painter from the 15th century. The nature of the canvas and the stroke of the brush may give the impression of a renaissance man. A man who reflects passion in his art and whose art is a testament to the dedication he brings to the genre. El Greco AKA the Greek is a man with such passion. Not really fitting into the world of Hip Hop from either side of the tracks, his music reveals a struggle that most have not known. Dual Racism. Not nearly white or black enough to be called one or the other and coming to this country during the time after slavery and not knowing much about what actually took place and yet being singled out because of the color of his skin. Yet his olive complexion was not fair enough to be accepted by the southerners and resulted in more hostility due to ignorance of a culture and a people. Not to mention he’s a rapper!!???
This is his story, his struggle and his life.
AM: What’s up man?
El Greco: Nothing much. I’m good
AM: How long have you been in the game?
EG: About 9 years
AM: What was the draw to Hip Hop?
EG: I have two older sisters and they were my biggest musical influences. They listened to hip hop, 80’s rock and a lot of other stuff. When I was growing up, that’s all I would hear from their rooms. I remember listening to old school stuff like LL and Run DMC. That was my first influence to hip hop. When I was a teenager, I had Snoop Doggy Dogg’s tape Doggy style and the song Murder Was The Case was the first joint I was able to rap all the way through. I use to carry around DMX CD in my pocket. The joint Stop Being Greedy changed my life. I could tell you where I was standing and what I had on when I first heard it; It was kind of the way Pac makes you feel. I got goose bumps. It was enthralling and it spoke to me. Eventually, I knew I had to be a part of hip hop. I was battling and stuff like that and by my senior year I was pretty good at it. I starting doing mixtapes and rapping to industry beats. I started doing music in my parents attic and Level 3 Productions was born literally because it was on the “3rd” Floor and I wanted to make music that was a step above the rest, I wanted to do music that meant something. I then met Tom (engineer and studio owner) and started recording in his studio in 2003 and I’ve been recording their ever since. The way I met Tom is funny story. When I was looking for studios, I made an appointment with Mary, the receptionist/co-owner at Sound Lab. I went to see her on Friday and was blown away by the studio and we made an appt for next Friday. I had a mixtape with a industry beat and a rap called Rap 101. The appointment was with Chris, one of the engineers. Right before the session was about to start, Chris BREAKS his wrist when he falls in the studio. I saw that as a bad omen and then Tom, another engineer/co-owner came in later and it was like I always knew him when he came in the door. I was very comfortable with him. If it wasn’t for Chris’s accident me and Tom would have never met and now were tight; he’s even part of the label.
AM: Where did the name El Greco come from?
EG: The name was given to me by my classmates my senior year in high school. When I was studying classical painters, my classmates were already calling me the Greek and when we began studying the painter El Greco, it stuck.
AM: Tell me about growing up Greek in the US…
EG: It’s been an experience. It definitely shaped who I am as a person and an artist. I am happy that I grew up here because it made me wise to it. Today it’s a lot more culture. However, back then it was black and white and nothing else. In Greensboro, there was a very small Greek community. White kids liked me because I was white or they didn’t because I wasn’t as “white’ as they were. Black kids, either liked me because I was different or they didn’t like because I was white. I always felt that I was different. My ancestors were fishing on boats when they were lynching black people, we really just got here in the early 1800’s.
AM: How often do you perform?
EG: I’ve only done a few sets with a few musicians around sound. I haven’t really played out. Probably more cities outside of Greensboro have heard of El Greco due to the success of the single.
AM: Tell me about your music and the singles?
EG: I released an EP with Immigrant or Citizen, Steel Dreams and Alright. The EP did well then we went back and released Alright as a single but it was competing with the EP. So, we re-released the single Steel Dreams and made an alternate version and it got to number 12 on Billboard. Then we released Get Up On It and it was a club track. Steel Dreams has such a different sound that it was hard to categorize. Get Up On It made it to the top 10 and stayed on the charts for a while. We even got some ringtones in the UK through Zidcom. I don’t how in the hell that happened because we didn’t release in the UK. We made it into the top 100 in Billboards for radio airplay. We probably sold a total of 6000 CDs combined. A lot of these were retail and from CD baby and iTunes.
AM: What’s next for El Greco?
EG: Well the album is coming out it’s called The Alpha is the Omega. It should drop in May and we are looking at being distributed through Galgano music distribution. We also have a group project called the Wolf Pack. It features DVS, Merv Hage, I.S. and myself. Merv Hage is really nice on the mic. I.S. is lyrically incredible and DVS is just as nice on the mic as a producer. The name of the project is called The Equinox.
AM: Where do you see Hip Hop heading?
EG: I like to think it’s headed towards Lupe Fiasco’s direction. It’s not musicians ruining hip hop but the suits who are ruining it. 50 year old “white” men who are pushing what’s hot right now rather than that real hip hop that keeps the culture alive. I think it’s headed back to where it was. That’s why I named my album The Alpha is the Omega because the beginning of Level 3 is the end to all the bull shit that is being pushed right now.
AM: Who would you love to work with?
EG: I would love to work with the greats like Em or Mos Def, Talib and Lupe. I think that real recognize real. They would say this kid is the truth.