With fake trappers and starved-looking teenagers occupying much of the emerging landscape, Fast Life stands out amongst the current crop of up-and-coming MCs. Armed with street knowledge and voracious lyricism, he delivers gritty East Coast rap in the vein of cats like Roc Marciano and Conway. Be it cautionary tales of dope dealing or braggadocious assertions of supremacy over the rap game, Fast Life’s brand of high-octane hustle raps will satiate underground heads and casual lyricism indulgers alike. Despite only just recently launching his career, cosigns from artists and industry vets indicate that the Queens native is surely here to stay. Debuting with the El Camino-supported Fast Life EP, he has since come out with his acclaimed follow-up mixtape Distribution Derby, and is presently working on perfecting a debut album.
A pair of projects and several collaboration with high-profile artists in the scene already under his belt, The MC’s steady rise doesn’t look to be stopping any time soon, and I sat down with Fast Life last week to talk about his short yet already prosperous career.
How long you been rapping?
Like officially rapping, rapping?
Nah, like freestyles and shit.
Pshh, I mean honestly I can’t put a date on it or anything like that. I’ve been into music for a long time since probably I was a kid, 12-13 years old. And rapping, I don’t really know, I always fucked around and wrote rhymes you know, bullshitting. I never really took it serious until last August, where I just started really writing rhymes and goin to the studio and recording shit, you know what I mean?
So you dropped your debut project the Fast Life EP at the end of last year. What got you to actually start taking it seriously, actually going to the studio and recording?
I would say my cousin Skelz. We’d be in his car just freestyling over beats and shit, just fuckin around, and from there I was like fuck it let’s get in the studio, record some tracks other than fuckin freestyling in the car.
And that shit came out dope
Yeah I just had a whole bunch of ideas, a whole bunch of rhymes I had written in my phone that I had just stacked up in there so we were just goin through beats. Met a couple dudes that I built relationships with like Won87 and Luis Blue and we just started working.
You’ve already managed to connect with cats like El Camino and Benny on tracks, plus I saw you were at Bronson’s TV show earlier this year. How’d you manage to build all these relationships in such a short amount of time?
Before I was rapping I was known for other things. Honestly though I just reached out. The first person I met was Meyhem Lauren. I was actually just on the Lower East Side eating some burgers and I see him just walking around, and was like holla at me you know, I got that, and he was like “here’s my math let’s link up”. He’s a good friend of mine from before the music.
Then after that I reached out to Conway, he was the first dude I reached out to and was like yo, if you ever in New York just holla at me, I’ll take care of whatever it is, smoke a L, whatever the case may be. And he hit me back and was like alright cool. From then it was pretty much history.
Do you have any music with Conway?
I don’t. I’m thinking of working on something, but nah I don’t have any music with him. I would love to though.
You’ve gotten three tracks on the radio already right? Initiation with Skelz and Tango & Cash with Sauce Heist just recently, and then Losing My Religion with Benny earlier on. Can you describe how it feels, hearing your shit played?
That shit is big man, it’s like a dream come true. I grew up literally listening to the radio, Funkmaster Flex and DJ Green Lantern on Hot 97. People would come up there after midnight and just freestyle you know? G-Unit, Dipset, Roc-A-Fella Records, all different MCs would go up there and do their thing and for me to get my own shit on it is like a blessing. I haven’t even absorbed it yet or realized how big it is yet cause everything is still brand new to me, but the love that I’ve been getting, everything’s been fuckin dope.
The DJs have been playin my shit, PF Cuttin played my joint on his East New York radio show. I know my man Esco played Goodfellas, the joint with Lord Juco out in LA on his Breakbeats & Rhymes show, and everyone’s just been showing love, the receptions been good. To hear my shit on the radio is just crazy.
That’s dope. You got artists that’ve been around for years that’ve never gotten their music on the radio and you’ve already managed to.
Honestly, if I can give any advice to anybody is just don’t be shy to reach out and just email people and DM people and leave comments. Like people leave comments, fuckin shit like “oh listen to my song, check out my Soundcloud”. If you really appreciate somebody and you really like their work yo hit em in the DMs, tell them that you’re a fan of their work, ask for their email that you can send something to.
Don’t try to force it though, people have lives but at the end of the day motherfuckers who do fuck with music will take the time out of their day to listen to your shit. You just gotta communicate. It’s 2018, it’s the day & age of digital communication and if you can’t do it you’re getting nowhere.
Who are your biggest inspirations as MCs?
I grew up listening to Nas & Biggie, they were how I was first introduced to hip-hop. People I can listen to on a daily basis that I feel inspired by: Styles P, Conway the Machine, Roc Marciano for sure. Anybody that’s just pushing the limits. Even dudes like Kendrick Lamar. I don’t really listen to a lot of his music but when I hear it on the radio, it’s not just mumble-jumble rap. He found a way to make lyricism and put his message put through the mainstream way. Kendrick was underground with dudes like ScHoolboy Q who are lyrical dudes, they’re not no hokey-pokey rappers.
There’s been some debate regarding the value of underground music in the digital streaming age. Cats like Roc Marciano and Mach Hommy put their music up for sale digitally for $30+ which some fans have gotten frustrated about. What are your thoughts as an underground MC on the value of art in the streaming age?
I’d say get it bro, there’s people sellin 1/8s for 35 and theres people selling 1/8s for 80 you know what I’m sayin? Someone’s always gonna buy the shit, if you have this loyal fanbase following you and your art is what is is then people are gonna buy it. That’s not gonna stop people from posting your shit for free on on Youtube or Soundcloud or wherever.
But a dude like Mach Hommy or Roc Marci, what they’re doin is just shedding light on the fact that you can do it yourself. They’re saying, I can charge 50 bucks and my fans are gonna pay for it because they’re loyal fans and they appreciate the art that I’m putting out. Maybe a million people won’t buy it on iTunes for 99 cents but I’ll have 50 motherfuckers buy it for 100 dollars and I’ll make my little money and I’ll be able to keep doing my craft.
I think it’s good for small independent markets, especially with the up-and-coming underground scene that’s forming right now. That’s a big movement goin on, and I think it’s good. I think they should charge 1000 dollars if they could. Not sayin to take advantage of people but at the end of the day, if you feel ya shit is worth a stack who am I to say it’s not?
Exactly. It’s so subjective, there’s no definitive way to put a value on it and say, “oh it can’t cost more than this much.”
Bro you have people buyin records and selling em on Discogs for like 5000, 10000 dollars. You have people goin on eBay and reselling Supreme. The people make the value, if the album or music is held to peoples’ hearts dearly then of course it’s gonna be worth more. Dudes like Mach also release shit for free too—that’s the give and take. They’ll give you some shit that’s gonna reel you in and then drop a 50 dollar album and you buy it because you want that craft. You want to hear what that intelligent mind has to say.
Your project Distribution Derby has a lot of racing themes, there’re the car propaganda samples plus the Wacky Races-inspired artwork. What was the inspiration behind all of it?
My name is Fast Life so everything I try to do with my projects is just gonna be incorporated with racing, cars, all that shit. I got a project with my man Zoomo called Grand Prix, that was the first inception. It was supposed to come out probably in place of Distribution Derby but we’re still tryina perfect it. Distribution Derby came along cause I had some songs with a few people that were features. I had like 4-5 features that were all mine and I didn’t want to put em on the Grand Prix tape cause those tracks weren’t produced by Zoomo, so I figured why not just put out with me and another person on every track. It’s people I fuck with, people I’ve done songs with.
Then I was like yo let me think of a title, and I always fucked with cartoons cause I was born in 91 so I always watched those Hannah Barbara cartoons after midnight on Cartoon Network, old-time jazz cartoons and shit like that.Wacky Races was one of my favorite shits, and I also grew up in the Playstation era with the Destruction Derby so I was like you know what, let me do a lil “Distribution Derby”. Like a little drug take on the Destruction Derby, the Wacky Races, everybody’s featured on it so it sounds like a race, everybody’s scrambling. The gasoline propaganda, it’s like the slang you know. Gas is known as weed, so you can see the little subliminal messages in the skits and shit.
Trevor Lang is a real threat with the artwork. Did you just hit him up or how did that come together?
Trevor had done a project for my man Infamous Mobb Flee, and he had done the Sauce Monk joint too and he saw I was workin with these artists and we just followed each other, started liking each other’s pictures and reached out to each other. He was like yo, how would you feel about a project or whatever the case may be, so I had told him that I had something in the works but it’s not fully set up. He was like just give me an idea of what you have and I can make it come to life, put some artwork together to inspire you to finish the project. I told him about the Wacky Races, Distribution Derby, old-time feel and he sent me the cover and I was like yo let’s make this happen. When he sent me the cover he also sent me a picture of the first prototype of the cassette so I was like we should do cassettes also.
Did he make those?
Yeah. Trevor was in charge of the art, he manufactured everything he dubbed everything, did the OBI strip. If anybody needs some art you know, he’s that fuckin dude. Plus he’s mad chill, and super professional.
You’ve worked with The Historian, Won87, Benny, etc. Who are some other producers/rappers you’d want to work with?
I’m down to work with everybody bro. Who I would want to work with? I would definitely like to work with Alchemist, that would be a dream come true. Everybody wanna work with Alchemist. Pete Rock, DJ Premier, dudes who got that original boom-bap sound, not generic but who built their own lane, they’re the classics. New age producers though, cats like Evil Dewer, Brain Orchestra, Vinyl Villain, DirtyDiggs are producing some ill shit. They’re gettin these artists on their songs, pushing their music. Another dude is Chup the Producer, he’s a fuckin threat.
Artists I don’t know, whoever wanna work with me really. I’m real organic you know, this shit gotta be natural. I’ve reached out to a lot of artists, lot of artists have told me numbers, lot of artists have told me yo we should work and never hit me back. But a lot of dudes also show a lot of love and yo, whoever wanna work just hit me up. People I want to work with I’m gonna hit you up obviously, so I’m ready to work with anybody. I’ll work with Lil Yachty, you know what I mean?
So you said that Distribution Derby came out in place of Grand Prix, is that still coming soon?
Yeah, we’re still workin on a couple of tracks but it’s coming along really really nice. All I can say about the Grand Prix project is that it’s probably gonna be like more of an album type feel. I’m not gonna have too many features on it, probably like 10 full songs and three features on it at the most. I just want to give people more tracks with two verses and hooks where they can really see my skills, and put some ideas down instead of just rapping about random drug paraphernalia and flashy living. Get some stories out, some conscious shit out too.
In anticipation of Grand Prix as well as Fast Life’s pair of appearances on Zoomo’s own upcoming project, make sure to listen to his newest single “Redrum” produced by Observe of Loretta Records.
For those looking to support the art, Distribution Derby CDs are available now at Fast Life’s Bandcamp page, and Loretta Records announced June 1st as the preorders date for Fast Life EP cassettes. The New Golden Age of rap is here. Make sure you’re plugged in.
ALL PHOTOS BY @PAPANICKS