Veteran New York rapper Torae is our latest WCS HipHop50 guest! Read on as our own Todd “DG” Davis goes over our questionnaire with Torae to bring you his perspective and hip-hop experience.
First things first, this year (August 11th) marked the 50th Anniversary of Hip Hop — What exactly does that mean to and for you?
Torae: It’s incredible to see the culture that I grew up in and love celebrated in this way. Hip Hop gives us a purpose, we get so much great music and so many magical moments, it provides a way to provide for ourselves and our families. I couldn’t be prouder seeing it recognized in this way in its 50th year.
To quote the late, great The Notorious B.I.G., “You never thought that Hip Hop would take it this far!” — Was this something that you ever could’ve imagined?
Torae: I don’t think I ever gave it this type of thought. I didn’t care that the world wasn’t recognizing Hip Hop because it started in the parks and in the street. That’s where the community was. When I was coming up, it played from the cars that drove by, the radios people carried in the streets, Video Music Box on TV. Honestly, that was my whole world at the time anyway.
What are some of your fondest, most stand-out moments / memories from your lengthy tenure in this thing called Hip Hop?
Torae: A few stands-outs for me; 1st, I’d say, as a teen being at the 112 “Only You” Remix video. See the guys of 112, as well as Puff, Big, Ma$e, Total. That was crazy! My first ever concert was TLC at MSG. They were my favorite group when I was younger, so getting to see them on stage was crazy. A recent memory that I’ll always remember was being at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards, and watching the Hip Hop 50 tribute. It was amazing in itself, but when my name showed up on the screen that was mind blowing.
That said, what are your future plans and / or goals throughout the remainder of 2023, going right into ‘24?
Torae: Well I’ll be dropping my album in 5 years, so I’m excited about that. Producer Marco Polo and I got back in the studio and cooked up a new project, Midnight Run, (that) dropped September 22nd. So the plan is to get that out, promote it, tour it and then get back in the studio to start working on my next solo album, which I hope to release in 2024.
Switching gears here, what exactly do you want people to get from your music?
Torae: I want people to get excited, get inspired, get motivated to do whatever it is you want to do, or be. Some of my stuff is just high energy vibes. Some is more lyrically dense, so you have to sit with it longer. Some is storytelling that you get to create these images in your head around. There’s no one specific zone, so the best answer I could give is to just get in tune with it.
On a more serious note, are you happy with the current state of Hip Hop?
Torae: Hip Hop is in an interesting place, on the mainstream level I see specific agendas being pushed. That’s troubling. At the same time, I see artists that I came up on from the ‘90’s pushing past what age limits and expectations we once thought there were. Nas dropping albums regularly, LL Cool J headlining an arena tour with guests Queen Latifah, Rakim, MC Lyte, Method Man & Redman etcetera. So, I see it as an amazing time to continue to build Hip Hop into where we feel it needs to go. There’s an underground, there’s the legacy artist space, there’s a new artist space, there’s the major label game, etcetera…but overall, Hip Hop is just old enough that the people who know it and love it have no say so in what happens.
What do you feel has and will continue to be the key to your longevity?
Torae: I do the things that I’m genuinely excited about and love. That, keeps me motivated and excited to continue to contribute at a high level.
Do you have any other outside / additional (future) aspirations, maybe even completely away from entertainment?
Torae: Aside from entertainment, I’m big into community projects and working with the youth. I could see me working more in that space in the future. I also have real estate on the docket, and possibly a brick and mortar juice bar / health store.
What’s an average day like for you?
Torae: Nothing I do is average and no two days are alike, but some daily mainstays are recording my two radio shows, “The Tor Guide” and “That Raw,” on SiriusXM. Daily meditation, and at least knocking out some push-ups is a must. From there, it’s anyone’s guess. I could be in studio writing with a chart-topping artist or on set filming a scene with an award-winning actor. I keep a full plate and an adventurous day.
Please discuss how you interact with and respond to fans…
Torae: I try to utilize social media for interaction as much as possible; replying to comments, liking photos, reposting and following, are some ways I engage. I’m rebuilding my website now, and want to have a community based forum there as well for the true supporters.
What is your favorite part about this line of work? Your least favorite? And, why?
Torae: Being an artist and a creative is great; seeing how your art impacts people is very fulfilling. What I don’t like in the industry is filled with people that look to take advantage of others and convolute the business.
Your lead single is entitled “The Return,” and it’s produced by Marco Polo — Tell me about this particular track; how did it come to fruition?
Torae: Marco and I have a great chemistry dating back to our first album Double Barrel released in 2009, and even before that honestly. “The Return” was really an organic creation; we weren’t necessarily looking to make a comeback track, he was just playing beats and that one stood out. I started writing and went in the booth and everything just started coming together. Ironically, it was one of the first songs we did for the new album. Feedback has been great thus far. I think it’s what our supporters look for from us.
Any “parting” words for our readers?
Torae: Just a thank you to everyone that supports my work. All the fans of Torae the rapper / songwriter. Everyone that checks me on the radio. Maybe you’ve enjoyed me in a movie or TV show…just want to show my appreciation. Love.