Armed with a razor-sharp pen game and nearly a decade of experience, Niagara Falls emcee John Creasy is carving out his own slice of the boom-bap renaissance currently sweeping the East Coast. Four projects already under his belt this year, his work ethic is only matched by the stream of grimy quotables present in his raps. Coming off the release of At All Costs, his second project with San Diego-based producer Won87, the Man on Fire himself took some time to break down his origins as a rapper, the inspiration behind his recent work ethic, and what to expect from him before the end of the year.
You’re based out of Niagara Falls, New York. Were you born and raised there?
Yeah, I was born and raised in Niagara Falls, New York. 716 all day.
Growing up were you still listening to what was coming out of the city at the time or were you more involved in the local scene?
Yeah, growin up I was basically listening to everything from New York City. DMX, The LOX, Jay-Z, Nas, Biggie. Tupac too. I grew up on a lot of old school hip-hop since I’m based on the east coast.
Your name is John Creasy. You’ve released mixtapes called Man on Fire. Does the film have a special significance to you since its themes are so central to you as an artist?
I feel like the names John Creasy and Man on Fire mean that you kill everything you do. I love that movie so I basically took it and turned it into my rap name. It’s like a metaphor for me–I’m the man on fire. John Creasy, Piff all day.
As an emcee who’s been releasing music for 7-8 years now, what’s the most significant change you’ve seen in the underground scene since you started your career?
The difference? If I knew then what I know now I would have been doing a lot of the stuff I do now back then. I feel like the underground scene is coming up again though. It’s about lyrics, it’s about beats, it’s about the producer-artist relationship, nahmean? It’s about real music coming back. It’s not just about getting on a beat and saying “A-B-C-1-2-3” and then you popping, but now it’s actually back to telling a story, wanting people to know the lyrics instead of just rapping something over a down South beat. There’s a transition, old school came first, and then the trap stuff, but now the old school coming back so that’s what I like to see.
I was listening to your interview with Rebel Radio earlier today and you talked about how you’re making music and all that because you love rap but was there a specific moment when you went “ok, I’m gonna start recording and getting this art out there”?
Yeah I mean just rapping and being around my boys. I grew up with a lot of brothers and cousins and they always told me I could do it, and one day I just started taking it seriously. You can’t wait for talent so instead of just doing it for fun, just to do it to say I rap, I had to sit down and say “this is what I want to do and I’m bout to make this my career”.
Going through your discography I noticed a stylistic shift between your older and newer music, especially on the production front. What inspired this change?
I always rapped like that, but I feel like I went through a phase where I tried to keep up with everybody, doing what everybody was doing. But I grew up like I said on old school hip-hop where it’s all about lyrics so I’ve always been rapping like that. The last three years I was like I can’t do this no more, I need to get back to what I’m actually talented at doing. Anybody can do that type of music so you have to separate yourself from what everyone else is doing. You have to do what you know how to do.
You and Jamal Gasol are undoubtedly the standouts in the Niagara Falls scene right now. Is there anyone else from the city that heads should look out for?
To be honest, I feel like if it ain’t Piff it ain’t nobody else. I’m not on no other, but there’s no support in Niagara Falls so you gotta stay focused on what you doing. I’m not gonna say there are no artists in Niagara Falls but I feel like me and Gasol are doing what we need to do for the area.
Building on that, both of you have music going back almost a decade in an underground scene where a lot of those coming up started releasing music only a couple years back. Do you feel as if you have a different perspective on making hip-hop because of your larger amount of experience?
Yeah I mean I’ve seen a lot, dealt with a lot of ups and downs. I would say it’s an advantage. Going back there was a lot of “oh you poppin cause you got the best beat or they doing this or he doing this” but you have to do what you know how to do, and be yourself.
Thanks to the attention the Griselda crew’s been getting recently from the industry I feel like heads have started to pay attention to what’s coming out of upstate a lot more. How important would you say that they have been to the local scene?
Yeah definitely. I know Benny, he’s my boy. I used to record there in Buffalo back in the day with them when I first started music. It’s a good look. You want to see people around you do great, and Buffalo and Niagara Falls are 20 minutes away. Niagara Falls and Buffalo ain’t the same but if they can do it we can do it. Let’s put our city on next. Them doing what they did has had a big impact right now, we really needed it to happen.
So far this year you’ve dropped Now Or Never II, At All Costs, Genesis, and Power. That’s four projects in around six months. What inspired this increase in output compared to other years?
I feel like in order to make an impact you gotta just keep dropping and staying consistent with it. You can’t really lapse up because if you wait too long they’ll forget about you and start looking at the next person because they’re dropping. Everybody just drops mad stuff so in order to get my name out and link and network with people I gotta get my name out with music that people want to hear. I would say that I’ve just been motivated, I’m still working on projects right now too not to mention. I’ve been working man.
You’ve got two projects already with Won87, a supremely talented producer I had the opportunity to interview at the beginning of the summer. What about his production made him stand out to you?
His beats got that soul, where you can actually say something. His beats are just different. I mess with his melodies, there ain’t a lot of drums in there–he’s the loop killer. His style’s different man, I love the way he puts the beats together, the samples he uses, how he flips it. There’re a lot of samples he uses that people wouldn’t even think “oh he used that”, but the way he uses it is dope. That’s my man, shoutout Won87.
To end off, you have four projects out so far in 2018, most recently dropping At All Costs with Won87. Is there more to look forward to this year?
Yeah. The second book in the Bible is Exodus, I did Genesis already so I’m about to drop Exodus next. I got Rob Deniro on that. I would say that’s coming late October. It’s coming though. Got a couple guest features on that joint, couple eye openers. I’m just trying to work.
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