Mercury Rising is a series of in-depth interviews, focusing on talented artists, entrepreneurs and tastemakers in and around D.C. and Baltimore.
7uca is a lyricist based out of Owings Mills, MD just outside of Baltimore City. This past November, he released his “Pink City, Motel” via his 7FigureLife$tyle imprint, the follow-up to the quietly-released, but excellent, “My Most Violent Year EP.”
The son of a military serviceman, 7uca spent his childhood between Georgia and Texas, where he developed his passion and talent for music and rhyming. Before he set foot in a studio for the first time, he honed his skills in cyphers, battles and as the pen behind other rappers’ songs.
On growing up in Georgia:
“It’s where I started. When I moved to Texas, I lost the drive to do music. When I moved back to Georgia, I got that drive back. In Texas, I was listening to old-school music, whatever my dad was listening to: the Isley Brothers, Brothers Johnson, Earth, Wind & Fire and stuff like that, but I didn’t really have the drive to rap, and I didn’t want to sing. When I moved to Georgia, my mom was listening to all that stuff, [plus] Outkast, Snoop Dogg. Outkast were the ones influenced me the most.”
On writing his first rhymes:
“When I was seven, I first wrote a verse to “Wheels of Steel” by Outkast. I just basically changed Andre 3000’s words and made it apply to me at the time. That was my first time writing. My uncle had this CD where he was making beats on this Fantom keyboard my aunt had bought. It was a really expensive keyboard with software where you can make beats and stuff.
When he left to Virginia, he left his CD, and I took the beats and started writing songs to them. I went to school and played them for my friends and liked them. I went and played them for some older guys – they took the CD and never gave it back.”
During middle school, 7uca gained a small bit of fame in the neighborhood by ghostwriting for would-be rappers. He dominated cyphers and a local rap group gave him his first opportunity to record lines that he had kept to himself, given away, or rapped at the lunch table.
On his last rhyme book:
“I was started being known as the kid who could draw and could rap. They already knew that I was into music, so they were like ‘write something for me’ or ‘what did you say that one time?’ Then they would play their music for us.
“At first they were just taking my rhymes and using them. I knew it was petty because I had a rhyme book and around them it went missing. And then I said no more, so I never wrote them down anymore and I haven’t wrote a rhyme since. I’m just going to rhyme in my head, because they stole my rhyme book. I thought I was going to get signed off that rhyme book! They were terrible rhymes, so they could have them.”
On writing from other perspectives:
“They had me rapping like that, and I was really good at that because I had a good imagination. I heard somebody made a gun line, so I was looking up guns and trying to make gun lines. I had a great imagination so I could make really good lines, so that’s why I was just giving lines away. They really showed me how to be serious about it.”
In 2005, he moved to Baltimore county, hungrier to write and record. That year, his favorite artist Kanye West released Late Registration, a masterpiece which brimmed with storytelling that was as aggressive and socially-conscious at it was humorous and relatable. Wests immense success with crafting songs that were both self-aggrandizing and brash motivated him to let his own guard down and make music that was more personal, while retaining the lyricism he has developed for years.
He released several mixtapes under the alias iLL WiL Barber, before settling on the name 7uca, a name given to him by a friend, referencing Luca Brasi, Vito Corleone’s savage hired gun in The Goodfellas. With a newfound energy and a strong team behind him consisting of high school friends Howie, $mokey, JonyB and Ryan, as well as KJS, whom he met online (who he still has yet to meet face-to-face since he lives in California), 7uca released several EPs and mixtapes.
On his first releases:
“Jony started producing so I wouldn’t have to rap on industry beats anymore. I was tired of doing these freestyles. I’m wasting good material on those beats, and nobody was really retaining them because the original songs were better than them. He was already making beats since high school and he was sending me beats.
“We put out our first project, ’28 Blunts Later,’ and got some okay reception. We didn’t get what we wanted out of it, so we started putting out another album. The original concept was “Weed and Samples,” with loops of samples, and have this really monotone flow. I was actually at the gym with Smokey, and we were talking about it, and he said he didn’t like the title ‘Weed and Samples.’ and said “maybe we should make an acronym out of the word weed, ‘and that’s how we came up with Winning Each and Every Day. After that, we dropped an EP called “Cold Creek Manor,” and then we dropped an album called “What.Lies.BENEATH.”
With nods from local outlets — most notably Patisdope — 7uca and 7FigureLife$tyle continued to evolve, improving with each release, and slowly gaining recognition. His most recent work, Pink City, Motel, is his most mature and focused work to date, due in no small part to the cohesion of his crew.
The album is an ode to his vices (primarily women) as well as his life experiences, which he wrote to accompany an unpublished screenplay. JonyB provides the majority of the dense, head-nodding, production. With the exception of “…beaches,” featuring Baltimore emcees Jordxn Bryant and Rickie Jacobs, 7uca flies solo on each track, relying on his ability to write and harmonize his own hooks.
^ Pink City, Motel Cover
On the concept behind Pink City, Motel:
“‘Pink City, Motel’ means women, vagina. It’s a motel, it’s accessible. It’s based on a screenplay I wrote about a guy who was in love with a girl who was a prostitute and a stripper. She’s not necessarily easy-minded, but she’s a good girl. They struggle with their feelings for each other. There’s the ridicule and judgement of them being with each other. She’s scared to trust him because every guy she’s been with has been a pig. I wrote a soundtrack for that. I said my vice is women, so I wrote about experiences with women I’ve met in my life.
On the meaning of his track “D.R.A.M.”:
“D.A.M.N. stands for Dream About Me Now. That clip in the song was saying, “we’re all going to die now,” but what are you going to leave when you leave here? I wonder if I can make them dream about me now while I’m living, instead when I’m dead and gone.”
Ultimately, 7uca is not in it for the glamour, but for the respect of his peers and to be revered amongst the greats. His ear for beats, passion for lyricism, and storywriting ability is a rare
On his legacy:
“I feel like I’m headed in the right direction to be a respect-worthy emcee, to be considered one of the best to do it – one of the best artists to put projects together. I feel like that’s a gift on its own. Not only a song, but for it to flow, for it to feel at whole sonically.”
On being a ‘rapper’:
“Everybody is a rapper now. I don’t call myself an emcee for that intention. I like to call myself a rapper, that’s what I do. I say emcee, because I’m a lyricist. If I had to have my own set genre and subgenre – you have your trap rappers, alternative rappers – I guess I could fall in between emcee and then story-writer and conscious-minded, in a sense.
“Then I have that artistic side of me, that’s so heavily double-entendre’d. You’d have to know me personally to know of the rhymes, it’s encrypted. If you knew me, you’d say “this makes way more sense,’ because it sounds like I’m just saying cool lines, but I’m actually saying a little bit more.
On where he will be in 5 days, 5 months and 5 years:
“In five days, I’ll be at work. In five months, I will be hopefully in SXSW. In five years, I’ll be a signed artist. I’d have an album or two out, with a big single out by then. I know an indie label is more likely because of me wanting to keep control and stay who I am, and not willing to take any outside influence. I’m so self-centered about my music. I know what I want to do, if I don’t have you in my inner circle, I don’t want you. If I ask you to come in, then I’m open.”