Proseed - “As emcees our egos have a tendency to put ourselves at the front, but every musician I know that’s had success has put others before themselves.” - Stereo Stickman

Proseed “As emcees our egos have a tendency to put ourselves at the front, but every musician I know that’s had success has put others before themselves.”


Skillfully bridging the gap between old school Hip Hop and the contemporary lyrical landscape, rapper and artist Proseed has carved out a unique and impressive career across the past decade or so.

We were blessed with the chance to interview the creative entrepreneur, to find out more about his journey, what inspires the music, the essential values to maintain within the Hip Hop realm, and plenty more. Here’s how it went.

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Hi Proseed, thanks so much for the interview. For those new to your music, how would you describe your approach?

I like to describe my music as hard-hitting, heavy lyrics hip-hop rooted in the Golden Age. For young listeners, that probably sounds foreign, but it means my influences go back to the late 80s to mid 90s when some of the most popular emcees had something important to say; a message. It also means I like heavier drums, and beats with swing, and although I don’t sample much any more, my production still leans toward traditional instruments & looped melodies.

Some in the past have asked, almost sarcastically, if I ever make a beat without piano chords, and the answer is “yes.”

Songs and Seven Blunders is stunning, Represent in particular a captivating, brilliant introduction to your sound and style. What does the project mean to you and what does it ‘represent’ in terms of your artistic journey?

Thank you. In two words: continual growth. If I listen back to what I was doing 15 years ago with my debut album, Quintessential (2007), and compare it to what I’m creating today, it’s like two completely different people and musicians. Every album I’ve done since has showcased greater maturity and humility.

It’s been nearly 6 years since my last full length release, and it would be easy during that time for anyone watching to question whether I cared about making music any more; I probably questioned it myself. But, in truth, the hiatus had more to do with getting a proper footing career-wise and handling business for my family. Now that I’m on solid ground, and have been for a few years now, combined with my experiences and observations, Songs and Seven Blunders was a natural outcome.

How do you find the right music to back up your stories and performances?

Great question. I do most of my production. I did it all on this project, as well as the album prior, There Goes the Sun (2016). Finding it is spontaneous in nature. Often times I’ll just start playing the keys and something clicks. I’ll get the drums down after that, or if I’m playing the guitar, I start with a drum loop just to play along with, and once I have a solid WIP production-wise, I begin writing.

Some of my writing is what I like to call a conscious-freestyle, that is, I’m rhyming about no particular subject, but there’s an underlining world view like the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, which colors every line. Other times, I’ve got a story to tell, like in Pulled From the Undertow, which shares the story of two strangers, one dealing with student debt, the other struggling to make it as a waitress, while in other songs like Never, Always, it’s more personal, but poetic as I highlight the irony in the chances and opportunities I’ve never had, but always had at the same time. I think that’s a universal idea; one we all can relate to.

How do you decide what topics to write about, or do you just let the creative gears start things up and see where the moment takes you?

This depends, but one things for certain: if I’m not living and experiencing and observing, I’m not writing. It’s not possible. I’m a reader, so what I read plays a role, too. Parts of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle inspired That’s the Truth. An article on the student loans & payday loans racket inspired Pulled from the Undertow, and What Did You Learn? is a modern take on the legendary folksinger Pete Seeger’s classic, What Did You Learn in School Today? It’s not unusual for me to start writing without a set idea, but one evolves in much the same way a melody does.

Do you ever second guess yourself as a writer, fear of revealing too much or saying the wrong thing?

It’s an interesting question. If I listen to some of my older music, there are parts where I cringe. But I can remember feeling confident about those lines and verses when I wrote and recorded them over a decade ago. While I’m not that far removed from say There Goes…, my first release on my label, Surface Level Records, Depth in Shallows was released in 2013. I love every song on there, and am confident in what’s said.

Writing is fundamentally about expressing yourself. I can’t speak for all writers and lyricists, but I don’t want to hold back. There are plenty of areas in life where one would be fine to hold their tongue, to reserve their thoughts, but for me, writing is where, to quote the legendary Alkaholiks, “I can’t hold it in, I gotta let it all out.”

“Writing is fundamentally about expressing yourself.”

Which song from your repertoire would you recommend to new listeners who only have time for one, and why?

iZombie. It’s my most popular song to this day, and I released it before the eponymous show ever came out. It’s a social criticism targeted at the tendency of some to spend all their time on their phone, even when “spending” time with others. We’ve all been there, and most of us, including myself, are guilty of it to some extent.

I think the track captures my ethos, which is to have a message and make sure it’s relevant, though I’ve toned down the criticism in recent years.

You started emceeing at just 14 years old, do you remember one of the first bars you ever wrote?

Not at all, but I know I was imitating someone, the bars likely had some expletives, and they definitely were trash.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from being part of the hip hop community for so many years?

Show respect. I had a falling out with a few musicians I came up with a few years ago, and I take full responsibility. It taught me a huge lesson, though, and it centered me at a time when I wasn’t really sure who I was any more.

Respect has a lot of meanings. Part of that lesson has taught me that the culture is about the community, and not about myself, my own aspirations and my own opinions, and to always be cognizant of the fact that songs express different meanings to different people.

As emcees, rappers, whatever title you want to give us, our egos have a tendency to put ourselves at the front, but every friend & musician I know that’s had success in this business has put others before themselves, and that’s a lesson that can be carried forth beyond musical ambitions.

Huge congrats for the ten year anniversary of SurfaceLevelRecords. What first prompted you to start this up, and how have things evolved over the years?

Joining forces with like-minded individuals and complementary skill-sets is the best move you can make in music. I started SLR with my comrades Fortified PhonetX. We had been doing shows in Pittsburgh and a few other cities together for some time, so it was a natural fit. Some artists from the original roster have moved on, but most of the founders are still a part of the crew, and our plan is to expand our community with more artists, creators and all-around good people.

How do you balance your own creative pursuits with helping out other artists – how do you manage the line between influence and inspiration?

I don’t have a formula, but I definitely believe in pushing the art of my friends more than my own, and that’s something that’s taken me more years than it should have to learn. As they say, what goes around comes around. I draw inspiration from that engagement. But, as a lyricist who’s been crafting verses for more than 20 years, I’m long past the point where something I hear influences me to the point where I’m switching creative gears. That sense of stability came with finding my own voice.

What values do you hope to bring to contemporary hip hop?

Respect. A respect for the people, movements and ideas that came before me. I still prefer my old school hip-hop over most of what comes out today.

Curiosity. Always explore new ideas, read books, listen to other genres. I love the blues, and it relates to the spirit of hip-hop, which is really the creative expression & recognition of the experiences and perspectives of marginalized voices.

What’s your greatest ambition at the moment?

To spend my life in the service of others. I don’t know how well I’m doing in that regard, but at the heart of things, that’s what I’ve always aimed for, even if it’s just in the form of a song that reflects what someone is going through.

Can fans catch you performing live this year?

Absolutely. Look for the Surface Level Records 10-year anniversary show in Pittsburgh in the fall. To stay up to date on it, join us at or follow me on Songkick to know when and where I have shows coming up.

Is there anything else we should know?

  1. It’s been Music by Proseed for nearly two decades, but it’s time for a name change. I’ll let everyone know ahead of time when I make the change, but a change is coming.

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Check out Proseed here or via Bandcamp, Reverbnation, Sonicbids, Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.

Rebecca Cullen

Founder & Editor

Founder, Editor, Musician & MA Songwriter

One response to “Proseed – “As emcees our egos have a tendency to put ourselves at the front, but every musician I know that’s had success has put others before themselves.”

  1. aunt darcie here derek. i loved your songs. still have a proceed shirt. keep up the goo9d work and love to all of you

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