Underground Hip Hop Interviews: Cuban Pete, MC From Across The Pond
Cuban Pete was born in 1975, in the Midlands of the UK. He now resides in the North East region of the UK (closer to the border of Scotland) where he gives all his magic to the artform of Boom Bap Hip Hop. He started off as an open mic performer and soon transitioned into a recording artist. But his talents don't stop there, he also provides cover art for other people's albums and runs his own blog as well (in which he uses to builds a community of artists and for the Hip Hop culture). He mostly works with US artists, which is a surprise, because the UK has a wide variety of Hip Hop talent.
His cover art is extensive and helped him network around the globe with other artists and producers. He has done artwork for: Krumbsnatcha, Hell Razah, BigBob (RIP), artists affiliated with C75 Live, and many others like Solomon Childs, Singapore Kane, and East Coast Killa Beez (much more, that is just naming a few).
Just because he works with mostly US talent (musically) doesn't mean he hasn't worked with artists from the UK, he's worked with (to name a few); Ramson Badbones, Arise King David, and Ill Of Writes. He brings a smooth classic flow that brings more scheme patterns than most artists of this ilk (as well as an ability to rhyme a bit faster), but like all with a more classic spitting style, they pound the pavement with lyrics. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did!
First off, thanks for the opportunity of allowing me to interview you. Your reach in Hip Hop is pretty vast. You have been an affiliate of many entities of both international and within the UK. You seem to be very supportive to the Hip Hop culture and do your best to be a pillar that tries to hold it up as well. I admire that about you. How did some of those affiliations come about like T.E.S.T. Squad and Hellrazah Music Inc. How did they find you or how did you find them? Why are they significant to the whole C75 movement and what is C75? Tell us about it, seems to represent a whole gang of artists, including yourself...
Well C75 Live is my thing. Named after Cuban and 75, the year I was born. It’s me and some likeminded artists that work together to promote each other. There’s B.Dvine who is a producer/MC. OneMike is an MC, I’m also part of his T.E.S.T. Squad crew. And Nary Da Producer who produces.
I got down with Hell Razah and his Ghetto Government Officialz movement through Menace OBEZ, who is ODBs half-brother, but I stepped back from that situation recently to concentrate on C75 Live.
How did you start doing Hip Hop? What drew you to Hip Hop and what influenced you along your journey? What artists did you find yourself first getting into growing up and how did they play apart in how you make music?
I first started listening to the music back in the 80s. Artists like Fat Boys, Salt n Pepa, Eric B & Rakim, Public Enemy, etc. Back in the day I used to go through the thank you list on an albums cover and listen to artists that were shouted out. This helped me expand my listening experience very quickly. It was the funk, the wordplay. Being opened up to others experiences and environments. The party music was great but I also learned. I listened to artists like KRS, Brand Nubian, X-Clan, etc. They helped shape my views and grow as a person.
What is the feeling you get after making an album? How did that change throughout the years as far as like the difference between making your first album and one of your matured efforts that made you feel really accomplished? How did your artistry progress through the years and what makes you proud about your progression?
I think it’s just confidence. I like to think I’ve improved as an artist so I’m happier when I put something out there. Improved writing and delivery-wise but also recording techniques, equipment, etc. But I’m also a perfectionist so I can dwell on the little imperfections sometimes. Which makes it nice when I get positive feedback.
You have been on some tracks with some OG heavy hitters like Erick Sermon, Blaq Poet, and Krumbsnatcha; how did those come about? Which track with a high caliber artist are you most proud of and why? What songs of yours are your favorites? Which album of yours do you feel really defines who you are as an artist or maybe some particular songs?
Krumbsnatcha is more than just a feature artist. That’s my brother and we work together on a lot of projects. Our upcoming album ‘Mic Assault’ will be the high calibre artist collab I’m most proud of. That all started like most of my collabs with me doing artwork for him. I don’t really hit up random artists to try and collab to ride their wave like some of these artists out there. And the whole leased feature thing leaves me cold. My features normally come from a trade of services or just building. I’ve done like two tracks where I’ve not actually interacted with the artist beforehand but those were more taking advantage of a situation type thing. Done to test my creativity more than anything.
I only did the hook on the Erick Sermon track. B.Dvine was working with some rich kid who put the money up for the feature. I never got to meet Erick with it all happening overseas but he said my name in his verse so that made me geek out a bit lol.
What is the defining feature that separates UK artists and the US as far as music goes? Where are you most popular internationally and where are all your fans from? What do you do to show appreciation to your fans?
I do seem to work more with US artists and America makes up a big part of my streaming figures. Germany supports me most when it comes to CDs. I just find US artists easier to get along with. Not sure why to be honest.
I love my fans and supporters. I do plenty of free music and I’m trying to be more interactive with my online content.
Have you ever dabbled in the production side of things? Who are some of your favorite producers that you have worked with? How did those relationships form and are there any new producers that you would like to work with that you feel you could easily get the plug on?
I did one beat myself. Just to see if I could. It was only a basic loop of a speeded-up sample with some drums added but I used it for an anti-racism track I did called ‘Hate Britain’. But it's a whole other skill set I'd rather leave to the professionals to be honest.
Most of the producers I’ve worked with I’ve met online and again it’s often been through an exchange of services thing or just building. I prefer organic relationships. Dvine and Nary keep me laced in house. BoFaat is a dope German producer I’ve done a lot of work with. And I’ve done a few one-off projects with producers like DJ Iceman, Loka, and Falling Down.
BigBob was a producer and friend I was working with a lot until his passing recently. I was doing artwork for artists on his Elite Sounds International label, and we finally decided to work on an album together, which I will be completing in his absence.
Who in UK Hip Hop do you have an ear on and who in the US as well? What catches your ear and what do you think is an important factor every artist should have to be considered good at their craft? What do you possess that you feel makes you good at your craft?
I listen to a lot less music from other people now I’m concentrating on my own. I use my spare time to create. It depends what mood I’m in if I want something more lyrical or vibe, UK/US, etc. I miss the funk. I have go to artists I’ll check out new projects from like Flee Lord, Ransom, Griselda, 38Spesh, New Villain, Da Flyy Hooligan, Triple Darkness, among others.
Artists need to be able to capture your ear in the first place. There’s so much oversaturation you need to stand out. And please stop dropping an album a week. If you are a good artist, you don’t need to worry about ‘relevant’. That’s what promotion is for when you drop your music.
I feel my writing sets me apart. I try and vary topics too. Not just 100 tracks about selling coke. Not even one to be fair, cos I’m honest too.
What inspires you to pick up a pen and write a song? Is it because of something from the past or present that you have or are going through? Walk me through some of your standout songs and what influenced you to write them, if you will...Are you an artist that experiences writers block or are you able to sort of create something from thin air often times? Does writing come easily to you?
I find it hard to just write bars anymore. I fare better with a topic to go at, and I like the challenge of it. Normally something just pops in my head inspired by the beat. I can get writers block often though. I need to be in the right frame of mind. When I am its easy.
‘Hate Britain’ came about when Brexit was happening. I had a racist boss who watched Trump videos at work, and I just wanted to make my stance on racism in the UK clear with no nonsense lyrics.
‘Lies’ was written during covid lockdown. It’s not the anti-mask anthem you might think but more a general track about how we get lied to by everyone throughout our lives.
‘Hypocrites’ came about when Lil Nas X was first popping and was inspired by the hatred, he received from many in the Hip Hop community who hate racism and racists but feel free to spread hatred and ignorance about other people and groups without seeing any hypocrisy. I don’t support bigotry from anyone.
‘Black Excellence’ was me giving props to the originators of the culture of Hip Hop. Talking out against those white people who love the art but not the people who make it and the ones who think the empowerment of black people is some sort of threat to their own existence.
You are also a blogger and designer, what made you want to push into those realms and where can we see some of your work? Does that mean you design the art on your album covers and /or for others as well? What do you see yourself doing in order to further yourself into these realms?
I started off with the design work first. I’ve always done my own but did it for other artists first as a business. I used to do custom clothing too like graffiti jackets, sneakers, and caps. It was through doing that I got the contacts to help me create music. I had C75 Designs for the artwork and C75 Live for the music, which eventually I cut down to just C75 Live.
A lot of my artwork can be seen on my website www.c75live.com which I set up mainly to advertise my work but is where I do most of my blogging at the moment. Though I’m struggling to find time more and more now.
What is some of the upcoming music you have coming out in the future? What made you gravitate towards doing it? What do you hope to accomplish with your music from your present and into your future? What do you want people see that you did with your music and why is this image or idea so important to you?
I always have several projects on the go. I’m about to drop my ‘The Year Of The Rabbit’ album produced by BoFaat. I’m now working on the ‘Mic Assault’ album with Krumbsnatcha. There are albums produced by B.Dvine, Nary, Hanzo Bladez, Spion Liape, DJ W.I.Z., and BigBob. And a multi producer project I’m working on.
I just enjoy making music. Hopefully making people think sometimes too. All I ask is people enjoy my music and maybe see the world from a different perspective. Empathy is needed more than ever.
Do you have any plans to be a part of any live performances in the future or do you strictly feel that recording music and releasing it is good enough for you at the time being? What is the difference between a live performance and recording a song, which one is more gratifying for you and why?
Hopefully Krumbsnatcha is coming to the UK at some point so I’m sure we’ll arrange something then. Obviously theres nothing like seeing people in the moment loving and responding to you and your music but live is temporary. I’m a collector type person so I love the permanency of a final recorded product. Especially a hard copy.