The Rhyme Perspective: Stephen Maddox
First and foremost, who is Stephen Maddox?
I'm just a regular dude. Firstly I am a follower of Christ, A husband, a father, a pediatrician and every now then an emcee ;-).
Where do you reside?
I grew up in North Jersey, and then lived in NYC for 10yrs and now I reside in CT.
How long have you been immersed in hip-hop culture?
My first hip hop memory is my dad bringing home the 12" single for "The Breaks" by Kurtis Blow I was four or five yrs old at the time. But I would say I didn't not become real hip hop head until 1986-87in junior high. I started rhyming in 1989.
On your twitter page it states that you are a pediatrician. What impact does your profession have on your lyrical content?
Having a medical/scientific background really helps in the vocab department. Adds a lot of words to my repertoire plus I can pronounce them correctly haha!
How long have you been a pediatrician?
Almost 8 yrs now.
I was first exposed to your freestyling talent via Twitter. What interested you in the art of freestyling?
I used to write rhymes in junior high but couldn't recite them well. Then in 9th grade I started making beats. Beat box beats that is. I would layer different beatboxes over one another using a double cassette deck two tapes and headphones plugged in the mic jack on my boombox. At that time my mom would have killed me if she knew I wanted to be a rapper. I would make beats when I was home from school on vacation and she was at work and of course I wanted to rhyme over them. In order to get the rhymes done before she got home I knew I didn't have time to write so I just started doing little silly raps over the beats off the top of the head. They were so wack at first! But eventually I got the hang of flowing. By the time I got to college I put the homemade beats aside and would rhyme in ciphers at parties. Then friends would challenge me by spitting words at me to incorporate in my rhymes or flip through pages in the phone book and point to stuff for me to rhyme about. When I got to med school one of my best friends got turntables. This was right after the time Supernatural was hot! He had had a radio show for a few years in NY and he would freestyle off of topics the fans would call in and give him. He's a real inspiration to me in terms of freestyling, him, Craig G, Mad Skillz, Black Thought and a few others cats who freestyle well off the head. Anyways, after my man collected a lot of vinyl we decided to have some sessions where he would mix instrumentals while I rhymed. Next thing we knew we were making live 90 min freestyle mixtapes literally! not like the stuff you here today. I was on Okayplayer a lot back then (my aliases were Bananaman and Stevelove for you old Okayplayer heads) and through the boards there I connected with lots of folks and was able to send my tapes all over the country. Those were some fun days.
Do you have any tips that you can share with the masses that revolves around freestyling?
Freestyling, truly freestyling off the dome is an artform in itself. You must practice. I flow fluidly now but in the beginning it was rough. You want to get at a point that while you are spitting a line you are mentally 2-3 lines ahead already. One thing I do is think of the next rhyming word I want to use first and then fill in the sentence behind it. It's very easy to get caught up in repeating the same phrases over and over again. Study a dictionary. Expand your vocabulary. Challenge yourself topically, rhyming about yourself or dissing other cats is easy. Also I hate seeing battles where the dudes are cursing all the time. That's wack to me and tells me you are not that good. Content matters a lot to me now. I spent about eight years away from the mic from 2001-2009. God had to rewire my mind state. Now I rhyme mainly about Him or family related topics. Real grown man stuff.
Do you have any plans to release an actual album in the future?
Many folks have told me I have to do something. Honestly I have no plans. I dream of doing another live freestyle mixtape series, I even have a Dj in mind who might be down but when you got a family everything takes a back seat. Honestly I would feel blessed just to freestyle with some of my favorite emcees and call it a day after that. Whatever God wants from my skill I'm willing to give though.
Do you feel that mood is closely related to the music that we listen to?
It depends on your personality. Some folks can listen to anything and not be that affected. For me, I had to give up listening to a lot of hip hop. It takes me to dark places mentally and spiritually. That was extremely tough to do. Having spent my formative years and younger adulthood in the golden era of hip hop and being entrenched in the culture, it was very hard to stop listening to some of my favorites. But I find enough fulfillment in a lot of Christ centered hip hop these days to keep me going. Plus in a lot of ways I experienced so much dope hip hop live and on the radio in the good old days that it is hard to feel like I am missing anything out there now.
How can the masses get in contact with you?
You can hit me up easiest on Twitter and if you wanna hear an old man get busy go to Bandcamp page. Beats are courtesy of my homeboy John Brockenberry. Some tracks have a little editing by him but all the rhymes are one take of the top of the dome freestyles.
Any final words?
If God has given you a talent use it! but that is not enough. He gave it to you for His glory. Glorify him! And if you ever see me in a cipher take notes! hahaha!