PremRock: Killing Your Idols
The Boss Ladies of IXiiV have worked in this industry their entire adult lives, and they can safely say it is a rarity to come across an independent artist who is not only serious about his art, but also serious and smart about the business of that art; someone who is respectful of how the game is played, but also resilient enough to not let it completely cloud his beliefs and values. When meeting Markus Debuque, or PremRock as he is known in the music scene, that rarity becomes a reality.
Vicki and Suz have had the pleasure of doing business with PremRock a few times, and the experience was the same every time – a collaboration was completed with a driven, respectful, appreciative, and punctual artist.
After seeing him break away from the herd last April to go out on his own and experience all that Europe had to offer an indie MC from Brooklyn (via Philadelphia), it was clear he’d be perfect for IXiiV’s Spotlight On… series. When PremRock announced he would be leaving on another European tour, Kill Your Idols, this fall with producer and friend Willie Green to promote their latest collaborative effort (they officially set off across the Atlantic this past Monday), the Boss Ladies knew they needed to convince him to fit in a quick interview. Ever the professional, Prem made the time, offering our readers an insight into his recent successes, touring outside the US, and what it truly means to be a Do-It-Yourself artist.
We now turn the Spotlight On…
Earlier this year you changed your name from Premonition to PremRock. Was there any meaning behind the change, or was it just a natural evolution?
There were a few reasons behind the change. One being a lot of folks called me “PremRock” anyways, as a nickname that kind of naturally occurred. I always dug it. There are also quite a few “Premonitions” around the globe, and it’s a name I chose very early in my career and doesn’t necessarily reflect me as much anymore. I am no longer the stoned kid who chose the name in the back of 10th grade Chem. class.
How would you describe your sound?
I get the oddest of comparisons… None of which I ever seem to agree with. Personally I think my sound has the sensibilities and backbone of the classic hip-hop sound but with a new-age understanding of where the culture is now. I don’t like being called “boom-bap” or a throwback style, but if people fail to find a better description I guess it is what it is. I think I am creating what is the natural progression of an artist raised on every kind of music, but shared through a hip-hop medium.
How did you get your start?
I simply loved hip-hop from the earliest moments I can remember hearing it. The syncopation of word and drum mesmerized me since age 5 or earlier even. I grew up in the suburbs, so as I got older I had to dig a little deeper for the things I wanted to hear. But, my paycheck went to vinyl, CD, live shows, and magazines every week. I practiced every night in my room, bought a beat machine at 16, and just everything became a work in progress from that point on.
What inspires you?
Everything. Everyone. Pain, doubt, smiles, cries, all of it. But, inspiration and creativity for me are not exactly hand-in-hand. Creativity is a chore at times and inspiration can come from the most unlikely places. I’m inspired by my peers, my friends, family, travel… all of it.
This past April you embarked on your first European tour. What was the overall lesson you took away from that experience?
Wow. I took so much away and I am still piecing everything together to be perfectly honest. The world is just a vast, vast place, and to not take any opportunity to see it firsthand is a mistake I refuse to make. I think absolutely anything and everything in the world is attainable. It sounds foolhardy or whatever but anything is possible. I mean I was unsigned, funded by fans, friends, and family, and rocked from London to Istanbul, making fans and friends along the way. And I just did it. Put in the work necessary and made it happen. Suddenly, things seem less intimidating.
How do you feel that experience affected your music, and you as an artist in general, if at all?
It’s changed me a lot. It’s changed the way I look at definitions of success and the opinions of my peers. The scene just shrunk when I returned. No offense to anyone in particular, but I just don’t care about the same things I did before I left. Getting attention from the music world’s gatekeepers who supposedly I “need to” just means nothing to me anymore. If I keep doing what I’m doing I’ll gain that recognition, and, I mean, goddamn traveling the world and performing? Meeting incredibly interesting people, drinking the local ales, and meeting beautiful women in like nine different countries kind of trumps being on blog X or opening up for MC so and so. If your goals aren’t these things then that’s fine, but I’m living a hell of a life and I’m doing it myself and on my terms.
What is your least favorite part about being an independent artist (i.e. social media upkeep, constant touring, lack of funds, rehearsing, etc.)?
Well… In a perfect world, I would be paid enough to sustain myself off of strictly creating and performing, but we all know that is a rare case these days, so I have adapted by learning the ropes of social networking and marketing myself. Of course lack of money is an issue, and it always has been for the artistic community, but I would say the frustrating part has a lot to do with the way independent artists are treated in this country. We had the courage to spurn stability in order to follow our dreams and we are expected to give away our music for free. Having seen other circumstances in Europe where they truly value the arts (and believe it or not support them!), it becomes a little frustrating, but nevertheless seeing so many joined in the struggle, and when [those] people succeed, it’s encouraging.
What is the biggest sacrifice for your craft?
At the risk of sounding super pretentious, the answer is everything. I kind of sacrificed everything I possibly could to take a shot at this. I certainly could have pursued a number of different avenues career-wise but knew in my heart of hearts I wouldn’t be able to give it the attention that it deserved while making a legitimate push at my passions. Relationships suffer, finances suffer, and although I’m sure there is a way to make it all work together, that’s what I’m living in right now which is a state of transition and figuring things out and that’s what’s coming through in my music.
What’s been the best advice you have received thus far in your career?
The best piece of advice has come through a number of people, both in the music world and on the outside looking in. Anything to the affect of “never stop doing what you’re doing” to “just be yourself” certainly rank very high. But leaving home and taking my music elsewhere was the best decision I could make and the best advice folks had ever given me. So I salute those who made the leap before, and I will help those who choose to take it next.
What’s the worst criticism you’ve received and how did you react?
The worst criticism I received was from a blog who reviewed my first album, The Build, and it was an unfavorable one. The thing that stuck out was that they said something like I “did little to separate himself from the pack of indie rappers out there.” And that was tough for me to hear, but hey, it’s fair for that person to feel that way so I built from it. The worst thing you could ever call me is ordinary. I actually printed out the review and hung it on my doorway so I saw it every time I left my apartment. I’m weird like that, but it motivated me.
Tell us about your best “Damn the Man” experience.
Haha well… Let me start by saying “Damn the Man!” I’m not sure I have a definitive moment, as I believe my career has become one big “Damn the Man” narrative haha.
Earlier this year you took on Europe as a solo artist. Now, with Willie Green, how do you think this second go-round will differ from your first tour? Are you approaching it differently than last time, and, if yes, how so?
This go-round will certainly be more efficient. The first trip was a lot about me experiencing other cultures with a touch of cliché “finding myself” as an artist and whatnot. This one is about calculating the spreading of a piece of music and reaching fans and places we simply can’t do over here in NYC. I approached it more business-minded with a product I have enormous confidence in, and knowing a lot of people from the previous trip has provided a softer landing in some respects.
Where will you and Willie Green be touring while in Europe? What are you most looking forward to?
Myself and Willie Green will be beginning in Paris, then moving on to other cities in France such as Le Mans and Strasbourg, before moving on to Prague and various cities in the Czech Republic, and finally ending in Bosnia!
I’m looking forward to Bosnia the most, no question. They have a great energy out there and a scene that is ripe with enthusiasm for hip-hop – that, to me, is all you need. It certainly isn’t a popular stop for touring artists, but it’s supposed to be a beautiful and unique culture and certainly is one to add to the resumè of dope places seen and rocked.
Will you be connecting with anyone you met during your last tour while over in Europe?
Yes. A lot of relationships I built with the last trip are helping to cultivate this one. Folks like Submass Crew in Paris, Dees Chan from Tours, France and Oliver Lowe from Domazclic, CZ have been instrumental in making this particular trip happen. Oh… and we get to link with NY MC iLLSpokinn who hosts Freestyle Mondays here and set it up in Prague as well, that’s going to be dope!
You recently signed a one-album deal with west-coast-based Isolated Wax Records. How did that come about and how have things changed for you as an artist since then?
Myself and Willie Green had the idea of pitching the record to a few indies we had in mind. Isolated [Wax Records] stood out because it is run by artists we respect and they have a presence on the West Coast, which is a tad out of reach at the moment. They expressed great interest and thought the relationship was ideal, we agreed.
To be honest I wouldn’t say much has changed. I still push myself as consistently as I always have, working on my set, emailing fans, and trying to create music. It just has helped the overall confidence knowing I have someone across the country that believes in my work like they do. And being signed to a label just sounds cool… as long as they’re good folk and not completely jacking your artistic life.
Your latest project, a full-length collaboration with Willie Green, aptly titled PremRock & Willie Green, was released on Wednesday, September 28. What do you want fans, both new and old, to take away from this record?
I want the fans that have been there to take away the growth that’s being displayed with this piece of work. And I want new fans to hopefully recognize the quality of music we’ve made here, have been making, and will continue to make in the future. As an objective listener I want you to take away different things from the record. I want the listener to take away the struggle put into it but, more importantly, that hope is the reason the album exists and the push behind it is so strong. I definitely bled a bit on this one and I hope it isn’t lost on the listener.
What does the name “Kill Your Idols” Tour (the same name as Track 7 on your new album) mean to you and what made you both choose this name for the tour?
“Kill Your Idols,” aside from being the name of NYC punk band from a while back, is a name we decided we both liked enough for the name of the tour. The phrase means be yourself. Don’t try to be a second rate version of the artists you idolized. They are and were people too, they made mistakes, they mad bad records, they weren’t perfect. You could never be them, the same way they could never be you. So “Kill your Idols” is not a negative statement in any way, it is a cry for individuality. It’s not meant to disrespect any one of mine or your idols, let the reason you loved them be the reason you create. If you’ve got to kill them to do it, then so be it.
What is the biggest mistake, in your opinion, independent artists make?
Becoming independent artists. Bazzzzzzzing! Just kidding. I think the biggest mistake is a lack of professionalism by independent artists and blaming it on being indie. Like if you go to an indie hip-hop show and it’s sloppy, late and unorganized and they just say, “well that’s indie hip-hop for ya!” No… it isn’t. Just because you do it yourself doesn’t mean you can’t do it yourself right.
What advice would you offer other artists trying to accomplish similar success (i.e. touring across the pond, signing with an indie label, collaborating on an LP with a fellow artist)?
My advice is pretty simple: work your ass off, be professional, and if you have a shred of self-entitlement in your DNA, please lose that. Respect your fanbase, the culture, and the venues that host your performances. Carry on a tradition of being talented and respectful of those who did this before you. The world doesn’t revolve around you, you won’t be “discovered,” you have to earn the title of “MC” and be a good person. No matter what people say, it is entirely too hard for humans to separate the art from the artists… so don’t be a dick.
There is no doubt this tour will be a great success, but we all know getting through it is half the battle! An artist goes nowhere without the support of those around them. How can folks here be a part of this exciting tour? (i.e. how can they help out)
Folks can donate to our Kickstarter and receive all kinds of great stuff from the road, as well as some unreleased stuff we’ll send out prior to, or during the trip.
How can people get in touch with you?
I’m pretty accessible and love to interact with folks. So gimmmmmeeee a shout!