IamIsee Speaks


By Gentle Jones, AllHipHop.com
originally published in the Gannett News Journal

IamIsee (Chris Stevens) has been making hip-hop records since he was a teenager. Once a reckless kid from Fairfax who boosted candy bars; now, as an adult, he boosts sound and EQ levels while he has worked with a variety of artists, including best-selling producer Scott Storch.

A private man whose life is shrouded in mystery, IamIsee doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve, though his work ethic shows through his international catalog of tunes and projects like the soundtrack for the forthcoming movie "Planet B-Boy," which will hit theaters this year.

Where are you from originally?

My mom was living in Zaire when she became pregnant with me and was evacuated because of a rebel insurrection. She came back to the states, where I was born in Wilmington General Hospital. I currently reside in Newark, Delaware. Married with a kid, Al Bundy steez.

When did you start making music?

I took piano lessons as a kid and drum lessons, but never excelled at either. I started writing at around 12 and producing at 15. So I've been involved in the creation of the element of rap for 18 years.

I heard when you were a kid you stole a case of Game Boys and hawked them, then used the loot to buy a necktie for eating at a fancy restaurant. Is that true?

Probably. We used to steal everything. I remember years ago driving around with a friend stealing packages left on the doorsteps of people vacationing during Christmas.

What happened with your first rap group, Grace and Divine?

That was a long time ago. Mike Lowe and I chose different musical paths. I became IamIsee, and Mike stopped rapping and just did beats while Scott Storch was doing beats for me, too.

How did you meet Scott Storch?

I met Scott back in '93 at Ruffhouse Records through Kam Houff. He was working on The Roots' album "Do You Want More?!!!??!" Him and Kam were also working on an album for Sony, and I had a production deal to develop material as one half of Grace and Divine. I was 14. It was fun being around those cats. Sony eventually dropped Kam, who is now a writer with EMI, and Scott went on to fame and fortune. Kam bought equipment with his advance money, and that is when I really began making beats and fully arranged songs, lyrics, hooks, etc.

Did you ever release any of your work with Scott Storch?

I did independently. We were always around each other or in the studio, so he would test beats on me or a song would just happen. One of the beats he did for me later ended up on Dr. Dre's "2001." I went to Scott's house in Miami last year and hung out with him at the Hit Factory, too. He said next time I'm in town we should cut a record. I said, "Yeah, I know you're crazy busy though." To which he replied, "I'm never too busy for a friend."

How many of those tracks which you made together do you still have copies of?

I have a few of them. No masters or anything.

How much material did you release with West Chester label Creep Records when you were signed to them?

A four-song EP, and I was supposed to release a full-length album called "Adamantium," but they kept jerking me around. I finally threatened to pursue legal action, so they pressed my album up real quick to keep me under contract. When I got it, the bar code consisted of all zeros. They didn't even give it a real bar code, so I knew they weren't serious about pushing the album. I think they wanted to sell me to a bigger label, but they never did enough work to generate interest.

Did you start your own record label after Creep?

I started my own and also signed a one-off with this Cali label. I tried to make it work, but it was only me and another cat, and I was spreading myself thinner than Lara Flynn Boyle. People don't really grasp how much effort is involved in this industry. The art of creating music and the business of getting it into the hands of the people that listen to that specific kind of music is a daunting task. Long story short: Kam Houff and I had a falling out, so he quit his mixing duties for the Cali label album. So I took what I had and reproduced the album myself. But then my business partner quit, so now my own label is belly-up as well. So I got screwed out of the same record twice. Now I'm in limbo but still finishing the album.

How many songs are you sitting on right now?

A couple of albums worth. I am sitting on a mountain of tracks. I have a new album, "Chop Suey," coming soon and an instrumental album "Autobot Jazz Music" as well. I also am doing production for a French artist named Kayna Samet on Universal Music France. I work on music every day and will, God willing, until I die.

Do you own the masters to everything?

I do now. A lot of songs I recorded in the past are lost or held for ransom. That's a horrible feeling.

You've had a pretty broad range of experiences in this business haven't you?

I met a lot of people being in studios like Ruffhouse and later on Sigma and Dr. Dre's studio in L.A. Snoop Dog and Ras Kass and cats like that. Common came to where I lived in Philly when Scott Storch was shopping beats to him and we drank beer, freestyled and saw who had the best "Ghostface Killah" impression. I used to go to the Wetlands in N.Y. with Scott a lot. I rocked on stage with The Roots, Talib Kweli, Jill Scott and The Jazzyfatnastees. I met Rakim. He was on the same train as I was going out west. We talked about music, and he gave me his home number. I called him once, but he was out of town. I never called again.

What do you feel Delaware is missing currently?

That is a complex question. I don't watch MTV or B.E.T. (especially after they refused to play De La Soul's video), and I don't listen to the radio, so I can't go to a bar or a club for the music. I would say the venues are an issue. It depends on who you ask. Some people like cover bands and happy-go-lucky sing-along groups. I don't limit myself to one area. You have to go out and rock all over. You gotta rock for complete strangers and not just the same group of people over and over. I'm old-school, so that's just how I see it. Never let anything hold you back. If you really love making music, then you will make it regardless of financial gain. If you're just in it for money, then approach the situation with a strong business plan and sink or swim. You can do both. It's tricky.

What else does the future hold for you?

I am currently writing the theme song for a movie that hits theaters in March called "Planet B-Boy," directed by Benson Lee.

You can watch the trailer at www.apple.com/trailers/ independent/planetbboy or visit their Web site www.planetbboy.com.

Also, the King of Kings Foundation has asked me to cut a track for their upcoming DVD No. 2 and "The Soundtrack" CD. The organization strives to spread a positive message to youth and adults about the trials and dangers of drug use, gang violence, etc. They're working on a book and film deal, expanding their speaking circuit and will be appearing on Oprah. Some of the other people associated with the DVD are Alicia Keys, Ice-T, Naughty by Nature, C Murder (Cash Money Millionaires), Free and Bruce Jay (Def Poetry Jam Founder). www.kingofkingsdvd.com.


Anonymous said…
IAMISEE is the illest since Rakim.


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