Habeeb is an emcee and battle rapper from Richmond, Virginia. To just categorize him as those things would be a mistake on my part. He is a young educated black artist that graduated from Syracuse University and meshed plenty of his Richmond origins with things learned from university to share his stories in different forms of media, in most particular with performing. He has been featured on World Emcee with other Southpaw Battle Coalition rappers like Cane, King Fizzle, Henny L.O., and recording artists Illa Styles and O-Z.
Habeeb has a solid resume for his battle rap career battling Smack URL alum like Radio B, Xcel, and Madface along with battling Southpaw brethren such as Henny L.O. and Breeze The Poet twice. I had the opportunity to learn more about his views of the local music and battle rap scenes as well as learning his creative origins.
Jay: How did you being writing?
Habeeb: I began writing after getting a composition book from my cousin. The first rap in the book was about a breakup. I was freestyling prior to then.
Jay: The city of Richmond has been in a form of a renaissance. Richmond, Virginia always had a divisive past in its creative scene even down to the art of battle rap. Battle rap is naturally divisive due to its competitive nature. In the past, it was slightly a rarity to see a battle rapper well known in one league not show love or battle in another league. It felt like when Scott Hall and Kevin Nash transitioned from WWF to WCW in the nineties. To continue the wrestling metaphor for this question, now we see the best wrestlers like Kenny Omega from AEW wrestle in different factions while still appearing on AEW every Wednesday night defending all the titles he won from those factions. Do you feel like the “Forbidden Door” phrase where in this case certain leagues don’t show love and refuse to collaborate with each other disappeared?
Habeeb: No. It’s entirely up to the battlers. A lot of battle rappers are coming up through leagues now, sot the leagues breed their own talent. No need to crossover anymore. When I was doing it, it was rapping on any league that would get you. They weren’t breeding talent they were looking for whoever was hot. It eventually became a thing where if you were skilled enough on the RVA Rap Elite cypher platform, you would battle on Southpaw. HOWL does the same with their leagues.
Jay: Could that be said as well for the music scene? Instead of WCW vs WWF or modern-day wrestling, AEW vs WWE, do you use more of the “turn up” melodic rappers supporting the lyrical miracle emcees and vice versa?
Habeeb: No. Especially with Richmond in general, you got to know somebody that would want to work and collaborate with you. It’s not as unified as it could be.
Jay: You were a part of the Southpaw Battle Coalition Road To Supremacy tournament and were eliminated in the final eight against Will Jung in a split decision. The semifinal matchups are Preme versus J Morr and Will Jung versus Big Jinya. Who do you have winning it all?
This was Habeeb in the first round of Road To Supremacy versus Leek Bucks from New York
Habeeb: It’s difficult to say. Preme has been performing really well. Preme struggle with high-pacing punchers. Morr can be that, not often, but he can be that and it can stir things up. Will Jung and Jinya can punch at the same rate. Will punch quicker and his scheme can be better. Will has to show up like how he did against me to win the tournament. If he does and if he has beat Jinya, I can’t see him beating Preme. Whoever wins J Morr vs Preme can win it all. It’s his toughest battle so it depends on what he can bring. You can’t sleep on J Morr. If J Morr puts out a battle like how he did against Rob, it’s a battle of preference. Preme is definitely showing the epitome of skill level right now with having perfect 90s in the first two rounds.
Jay: Who are some people that you would still want to battle?
Habeeb: I still got a lot of battles to take. Bravo whenever we’re ready. The Preme matchup of course is always on my radar. For the newer guys, I would say Bakarii Kennedy or B.A.S.I.C. would be cool. The way Bakarii talks makes it a competitive competition for sure. I mean, a Nick F battle or Jinya battle would be crazy. A Madface rematch would be dope. Venom from B.Y.B battle league. I battled a lot of people that were on the tournament prior and I wished that the card had more different faces.
Jay: In my article about your Tales From The West City album, I said verbatim, “One thing I did notice while listening to the project is that the production wasn't as boom-bap heavy as I thought it would be for a battle rapper making music. There is more involvement from the string and bass instrumentation families on songs like Groov'n. Habeeb singing more than I would have expected. The production of Habeeb is very promising for his first album.”
Can you tell me more about what went through your mind while producing Tales From The West City and why you chose said instrumentation?
Habeeb: The capability that I have on that comes from when I went to school and learned how to arrange music. When you break down the type of battle rapper I am, you can do the same with my music. Habeeb doesn’t do what everybody else does.
Jay: What’s next for your solo discography?
Habeeb: For solo, I’m doing a short film for Tales of West City. It’s stepping into a new zone as I further utilize my college background. It’s really telling a narrative about my story and I’m glad to give a visual representation so I can package it in a unique way.
Jay: Talk about the IAMI collective which involves Robalu, Torian, and Logos. What’s the history behind the collective and what has each member been up to after the Danger Zone project dropped last December?
Habeeb: They’re working on their next project. It’s a collective started in 2015 that knew each other from VCU or high school. We eventually went to different avenues. We’re not just artists. Everyone else has a background in painters, poetry, entrepreneurs, film. No one is just one thing. We just so happen to just all rap since that’s how we first bonded. It’s probably the smallest thing that we do because all of us are multifaceted. Like Robalu, he'll pull up to music events and battle rap tournaments to primarily draw and paint so artists can have them and use that as some form of promo. There’s an album coming out on October 24th and a video from that project will come out on Halloween. We’re young black educated artists. There will be a later project around the end of the year called Habeeb and Friends so be on the lookout for that.
Jay: What were some lessons you learned through college? How did it help with your artistry?
Habeeb: You can change and adapt which is a weird thing you learn from college. That was my favorite part. Metting people from different countries and being foreign to their different cultures can create conversations so we can teach each other about our origins. I love being able to learn and to be educated. That lesson carried over into the hip hop and battle rap realms I'm in today. One thing that made me love Road To Supremacy was the tournament vibe because you can learn from others after they get off stage and how to take criticisms so you can do better in future rounds or tournaments. You can go to a hip-hop show and it's actually harder to do that because the performer may come off as braggadocious during and after their set. To me, there really isn't much room to grow at those shows.
Jay: Who are some indie artists that you would like to shout out?
Habeeb: WEGOTNOW. The Association of Great Minds (Radio Blitz, Michael Millions, Nickelus F, Easalio, and Cole Hicks), Mutant Academy (Fly Anakin, Big Kahuna OG, Henny L.O., Unlucky Bastards, Ohbliv, and everyone else from that group), Slim Kartel, DogFuq, Black Liq and Tribe 95.
Jay: What’s your greatest no and why?
Habeeb: My greatest rejection was when I got rejected by two colleges before I got accepted to Syracuse. When I got those two rejections, it made me understand that it’s about people giving a fuck. Once I realized that I began to see things more like an institutionalized system. It showed me that things can be a game. The reasons I was rejected for was things that I couldn’t change. It was the first form of rejection when I got to that point in time and I would see similar patterns as I ventured out in different avenues.
To stream Tales From West City on all platforms click HERE
Visit his website: https://habeeb8.webnode.com/
Follow him on Instagram @habeebami
Written by: Jay Guevara. @justinhisprime on all social media.