Searching for something. Something better. Something devastatingly dynamic and willing to oppose the day with skill, talent, beauty and the hardcore. They exist. A conglomerate of Original artists that have compiled their worth at the latest oasis of Hip Hop music making, Goblin Music Studios. Here in Astoria, Queens, a core of criminally unknown MCs (Spit Gemz, Starvin B, G.S. Advance and others) and one gifted singer (Carmen Indhira), wield all the tools supremely—lyrical and vocal dexterity, diverse content, distinct vocalizations all embalmed naturally in the Realness. This is the Opposition…
The Music used to drive us and propel us. Turn us through the corners of oppression into fruitful halls of obsession. Rewind us forward with the excavated crate, then propelled forward with verses that gotta be rewound again. The MC on the clutch, flowing through the chopped jewel and looping us in our cultural road has been swerved off by the riches. You swore there was a bag of gold on the road. So elusive you keep it real by BET curbing, pop radio averting, hairpin curving to crash into the best of today that’s alike innovators past.
The settled exhaust reveals Starvin B, an MC without the lust of fame and gross tender; instead illegally rendering 99 percent thoughts in perfect rhyme flow. The Indonesian/Irish native of Queens has spent nearly his entire life rapping, merging the lines of raw talent and developed skill into unrecognized excellence. With 3 LPs (The Stash, ’09; Uplifted, ’10, 4am International Dopeness, ’11) independently released before riding the Goblin Studios switchback through a stash of bangers on last year’s The Food Chain. Now then, Starvin B navigates us through the causeway that led him to being part of The Opposition, creating his most focused and lyrically dexterous work to date, Something in the Water and the MC life.
Starvin B: I was born in Woodside right across from I.S. 125, a junior high school. That’s where I was born. Grew up across the street from there then I moved to Sunnyside, 49th street. But I’ve moved around the last couple of years whereever the rent was affordable, Jackson Heights, Forrest Hills. I thought about MCing listening to [A Tribe Called Quest’s] “Scenario” over and over. Startin to feel like I could do that. And it’s bugged out that I got to become personal friends with Sadat X cuz that’s the first dude that I tried to copy his lyrics, like to learn the words. Press play and stop. What did he just say right there? [Brand Nubian’s] “Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down” I did that with. Also doing that led me to wanting to write my own rhymes. I realized all I gotta do is sit there and grind with a pen and paper creating my own words. It’s kind of bugged out that out of all the people I could meet at Goblin studios it would be the same guy that I started to learn from by putting their verses on paper. I just loved Hip Hop and it came natural. I been doing that since I was 13 with construction paper and the tape thing since I was in the 8th grade. My music, my voice. I recorded it in my boy’s basement. Sampler making beats with Tales from the Darkside. Real Hip Hop! So I was always like make your own music and sell it yourself. There was an article in the Daily News when I was thirteen about how I used to sell music to my other classmates and stuff like that. (http://articles.nydailynews.com/1995-08-22/entertainment/17976378_1_summer-vacation-rap-songs-york-area)
Sunez: How did you become part of the Opposition?
Starvin B: Spit Gemz hit me up on Facebook. ‘I saw what you do. It’s dope.’ I get a lot of messages like that and I check everybody out. I never got a message from somebody that was like ‘wow, dude is really ill.’ I checked son out and was like ‘Dude is really ill too!’ I just really respect that he’s a hardcore writer. That’s rare when it comes to Hip Hop. It’s a sport so there’s a lot of different aspects. You could be an excellent writer but you just don’t have an aesthetic to convey that to a large audience because it’s just too much for drugged people to understand. Spit Gemz can do that. He can still communicate with you when he’s spitting it like that.
Sunez: Gemz said the first video he saw you in was at a barbershop Late Nite went to.
Starvin B: It was from that video. He hit me up and we made some music. Turns out one of my oldest friends from my neighborhood is his cousin. Once we made that connection I kind of know you a little better. I know your family. His cousin I’ve known since 5, 6 years old. So we met up and the first day we linked up Goblin Studios was not a studio yet. It was just a computer with a mic to record in about 2010. It was maybe September, October 2010. They was just building it. They had one guy constructing the booth that we all rap in now. All that was going on. Gobbie I met back in the days hanging out rapping. I was like yeah, ‘you was on the Beatnuts albums.’ We used to see each other from time to time and many people at Goblin I remember from High School days and just growing up out here, doing the same thing, same type of network so then that formed a little bond. It was easier. We weren’t complete strangers. We all knew of each other. We took it from there and Shaz [Illyork] came in the picture through Spit. I wasn’t there all the time either. So I was like in and out but the first time we recorded that record “Get Some” and shot a video in the same day. That’s what we all ask for as artists. Let’s just get it out. That’s what I’ve always felt I was lacking. I’m not a video guy. I’m not necessarily computer savvy when it comes to editing. I’ve taken shots at editing my own videos but Spit Gemz is ill with it. You seen the “Fly Creature” video. The guy can edit videos. It’s been a blessing meeting that guy. He’s been through his wild shit too and just trying to make it off his creations. You gotta respect that. Somebody who wants to help and push me, I’m honored. I gotta do the same in return.
The mind made the environment but we only hear the rhyme. Bags of cassettes sold in 1995 everyone knew it could be gold then. Today they never listen and lackluster low beams light the Real. Starvin B is so comfortable with this that Hip Hop’s rebelliousness is his natural way in his record making today.
Sunez: There are virtually no hooks and choruses in your songs. Something In The Water literally flows verse per verse.
Starvin B: We just met but if you knew me better you’d know I’m a smart ass. My way of being a smart ass with the no hooks thing is that everybody keeps telling me I gotta put hooks on records. I just feel like I don’t have to do anything that I don’t feel like doing especially when it comes to repeating myself over and over again. I like choruses. There are some choruses where I’d think it’d go well. With structure and all that it shows you could put together a song. I agree with that completely but I would not call choruses my strength. My choruses aren’t gonna be what makes me stand out as an artist. I’d rather stick to what I’m good at as opposed to, ‘Hey, go to this formula.’ Cause you know what, sticking to a formula is something else I don’t agree with in Hip Hop. Who told us that we have to do anything? Why do you feel like you have to do something? Who do you owe that to? This is your creative offering. You don’t have to do anything. And when people say, ‘do you want to succeed? Do you want to sell a bunch of records?’ Yeah, but I’d rather make something honest that you might like on your own as opposed to me trying to strategize and make you like my record.
Sunez: Why title the album “Something in the Water”?
Starvin B: There’s always been a certain feeling when you’re hearing a record and you know it’s from Queens. I feel like all these records have that Queens style rap once you hear the beat. Just like the joke where everybody’s messed up and you say there’s something in the water, this is a positive spin on that. There’s something in the water. We all make music like this. As opposed to there’s something in the water we all get public drinking tickets and into fist fights.
Sunez: How did you go about choosing the final tracks on Something?
Starvin B: It really is because it all sounded great and each song sounded like a banger. It had the right neck movement to it. The flows are pure. I just like it like a pure Hip Hop album. You just have that feeling like you’re on the corner. And it’s drunk and you feel like how I felt that day—ehhhhh—even to the people that weren’t drunk. This is just dirty.
I feel comfortable releasing an album in that it’s a moment in time that’s passed and I’m not getting any younger. I don’t want to hold anything too high in esteem and say, ‘this is my baby and I want to make a lot of money off it. I want to do the right thing marketing wise.’ Yo, I could do another album that would be as good or better. So let’s get this out to enjoy for the people that are already looking for it and asking for it. We owe that to them. Let the world hear the music.
Sunez: A more free approach yet more structure as your catalog progresses?
Starvin B: I think that has a lot to do with the people, my engineers Spent Dnero and One Take, helping me like when it comes to recording them. It’s become more serious now that we have a studio we can go to with the same people we work with day in and day out. A new face all the time is something I was dealing with on the earlier records. Whatever studio was available to work with, a new person each time but now this is like a real team. So that’s what you’re hearing.
Sunez: You have the classic “99” track? What’s your experience with the Occupy Wall Street Movement?
Starvin B: I didn’t really stay out there and do that every day. I would not front like that. But I did say I did owe a contribution to what they did to at least let people know that there are a lot of people that feel that things aren’t going the right way. And that does represent me so I felt like I owed it to just acknowledge that back through music. And I had something to say. I don’t necessarily believe in all the same things that the OWS movement believes in. But what I do believe in is people unifying and showing they have a voice. Things are not being run the right way, our society is messed up but what it all boils down to in my opinion is the root of peoples’ minds. Where our minds are at and where we let our minds go. I’m a victim of brainwash. Like this thing I’m going through without my phone I lost. Never in my whole life, I’ve never felt like I cared so much about an object. I need this object. Kind of crazy but it is the connection to the rest of the world. But I’m still alive and I don’t have a phone. So where are our heads at? If we want to get together and be in communication there are other ways to do it like sticking to your word.
Sunez: Goblin Studios has lots of young talent and you did a track with a precocious Aye Wun.
Starvin B: “Slanted Eyez” is the ode to Asianness. Aye Wun is cool. He always looked up to me and treated me like an older brother ever since I met him. He definitely is doing his thing on the creative side. I know it’s hard when people won’t even give you a shot because you’re Asian looking. You gotta get checked on street cred and shit. We grew up in Queens. People try to punch you in the face. ‘You little Asian rapper.’ So what you say right there? You gotta be on guard and I know how it is. I just acknowledge him as a good person who’s shown me nothing but respect.
Sunez: What was your mindset making Something?
Starvin B: I’m not a saint when it comes to partying. I was going pretty hardcore with the partying. The last two months of 2011 I was not here or there. I was constantly fucked up. That’s where that started. That “Something in the Water” song I woke up and I had a foul hangover. I still had liquor left. I gotta get out of this funk. Things was on a downward spiral, not going right. I’m just getting twisted, trying to numb it out. I wake up and I’m, ‘let me try to write a song.’ I’m in no condition to write a fucking song at all. I started drinking the liquor to get rid of the hangover. That’s disgusting. I didn’t even brush my teeth, just started fucking drinking again. Disgusting.
Sunez: Do you feel you need to suffer in order to create?
Starvin B: Not at all. It’s just a happenstance. It’s just me taking a bad situation and trying to make it better to be honest. It wasn’t intentional like, ‘I’m gonna get wreck for the next couple of months and see what I can do.’ It’s just the way it went.
Hangover to pass over the bag of gold on the road to get back home. Replenished with water filled with trace minerals that Starvin B seeks to filter his thoughts out throughout. Introduced to Hip Hop via his Irish mother handing him a Public Enemy tape, there is the immediate addiction to his fluidity as on the last verse of “Secret Weapon” smoothly sailing, “I make cadavers/ out of average entertainers/ I’m savage with the disappearing acts/ that no magic act/ can match with…” The perfection of a Starvin B verse begins with a breath control that is only halted by his decision to halt. There is no 16 bar count but a completion of a thought in all its brutality. MCing.
Sunez: How do you practice the MC craft?
Starvin B: The only thing that’s worked for me and I’ve gained improvement is just in doing it. Even if no one is around to listen to me. If you haven’t been on your regimen then you have to start kicking rhymes, playing beats, reach a little bit. It’s freestyle basically. If you want to improve as a rapper just freestyle when no one is there, just in case you suck. That’s what separates any athlete or anyone that succeeds. When no one is looking they are doing what you expect them to do. They’re doing it. A lot of people say they’re a rapper but they gotta have the right music or this—there’s no excuse at the end of the day. If you really want to do it you’re gonna do it. And you never know when you’re just playing around like that you find that one sentence that becomes a whole song.
Sunez: How and where do you write your rhymes?
Starvin B: Mostly I write at home because it’s where I dedicate most of my time. I just turn on a beat and open a text edit in the computer. I’ve been doing that for the last five years. Throughout my life, I’ve had countless rhyme books, writing in text messages on the phone. Send it to one of my boys and now it’s copy written [laughs]. It doesn’t really matter the method. I don’t really have a preference. Sometimes I do it in my head if I have the time and I just go over it and over it in my head until I have it.
Sunez: Do you bring verses to the studio to put beats on them?
Starvin B: Verse first then looking for a beat? Nah, I don’t really do that. To be honest, I don’t. I’ve never done that. I could make a rhyme in my head with no beat. I won’t search for a beat. It’s wherever it matches. I won’t even think to use that rhyme until I hear a beat that matches.
Sunez: Then when that beat comes along that matches that rhyme?
Starvin B: Exactly. I never would take a verse and say, ‘let’s make a beat around this verse.’ Something interesting. I wouldn’t be against it. Like I said, it’s a sport. The more competitive you get with it you don’t ever want to be able to walk away from a situation saying I didn’t have rhymes for that. You don’t want to do that. If you just don’t feel like rapping for that moment that’s cool. Then you won’t feel bad. But if you heard a beat that you were stuck on that’s what you don’t really want to get caught doing. As an artist and an MC, it’s happened to me. You’re unprepared and off your dean. You have to have something prepared for each situation so if something’s not a match or if you want to structure a beat around a verse that’s a challenge that won’t even present itself because there will be a beat that inspires you for another verse.
Sunez: Are there certain tracks and beats you are particularly looking for?
Starvin B: Drums are always important. But whatever inspires me. I don’t have a set base of beats that inspire me. Sometimes I want to rap on an old R&B song or on some Doo Wop. I hear that and it’s cool. It’s not even Rap related. I’ll hear that in my head and maybe that’ll inspire me. The beat I hear in my head I would write to. Something that matches. And that rhyme might never get used. Lot of rhymes never get used.
Sunez: What artists influenced you?
Starvin B: Every artist from the 90’s you can think of. I could say one but the more you get asked that question you start to think you can’t give credit to just one person. Somebody might have subconsciously affected you that’s constantly being played. Sometimes a rapper that you hate the most is influencing you. Cause you can’t stand listening to this bullshit.
Sunez: What do you do?
Starvin B: You gotta become the complete opposite and you’ve been influenced. We always say the guy you like and it’s not necessarily true. Unless you biting. Like, ‘I love this dude so much I wanna sound just like him.’ That ain’t cool.
Sunez: It seems like an anomaly that there are brothers still rhyming with attention to the Art.
Starvin B: There’s always gonna be a genuine love for Hip Hop because it’s a beautiful thing. Maybe these are individuals that are having the same experiences that we have now. They go through the same things and relate on that level. That’s why it doesn’t really surprise me. I think it’s that great. I think Hip Hop is that great that it should be celebrated and done over in many different ways. Even that pop culture. That’s their interpretation of life, so be it. I feel bad for you but you should still have the right to be able to do that. So I’m not surprised that there are people that do hardcore rhyming. This is an amazing thing. I dedicate this much time in it I expect the next man to. And trust me there’s millions of rappers out there. Not necessarily performing or putting albums but just putting pen to pad for the love of the spoken word. There’s millions.
Sunez: What’s the plan now?
Starvin B: I’ll deal with that as it comes. I’m not someone who necessarily markets himself. And someone will look at me and say ‘you make rap music and you’re not marketing yourself?!’ My mind is not designed to do that. I’m designed to make music. My plan is I just want to maintain a level of life that’s normal and still be an artist. Just convey a message that I decide is worthy of noting. Keep conveying my message, try to make a positive thing and make a nice life out of it and not even go crazy and become some huge mega star. I’m not looking for that side of Hip Hop. I think I can communicate with a certain fanbase as an author. Every once in a while drop a project and keep it funky like that. Make a living and some other ideas, maybe work on a movie or something, do something else creatively. Been writing screenplays and stuff just for myself to read. So I’m trying to just use this as opening another door and take me on another journey in life. I’m just looking for the next journey. For now, this is it. This music thing I enjoy it thoroughly and keep doing it. Then work on the next one.
There is the science of learning self through Art, perfecting one’s ideas just as one’s expressions continue to peak. From the confessions and intentions revealed on “Sickside Audio Asylum” to the journey of his pen on “World Cup,” Starvin B is his namesake, not as a deprecating notation, but of a successfully embraced integrity. Starvin stays hungry and is owned by no one and rhymes freely over every beat that is in accord with him. Rappers don’t rap this way no more. They stopped the car, abrupted the traffic flow and snatched at the bag of gold on the floor. Starvin B turning away instead, went to find his home, Hip Hop, addressed at Goblin Music Studios in Queens. And them other rappers? Did they receive more gold? No, the points disappeared and there was no one left to listen to them. Starvin B will tell you it just was a bag of dead pussycat.
NOTE: Additional reporting by Earth Izayaa Allat.