by Dan Emmons
The past six months have been a wild ride for Philadelphia emcee, Mike Voss. Working a “shitty day job” in the middle of nowhere (New Jersey), Voss has managed to keep his ten-year rap career alive. He claimed five Freestyle Friday victories in a row on BET’s 106 & Park, signed with Black Ink Management and Music Group (part of the New Legacy Enterprises family), and played at SXSW. Voss has gained coveted opening slots for major hip-hop names like Ghostface Killah (May 12th), Pusha T and Raekwon, and scheduled an album release through Universal Music Group Distribution provided by BIMMG. In a minute of downtime, I got a chance to sit down with Mr. Freeze himself in his new, rap-funded apartment in Philly.
“Right before I got that job in May, I tried out for the BET thing and made the cut -and they called me in September. Right after I won my second week (on BET), I got fired due to ‘inconsistent performance’ (from day job). I can’t say the name of the company because they paid me a lot of money not to slander them, severance package or hush money, whatever you want to call it. So I won my five weeks, retired and moved in with my engineer, Ron Swerdon (member of Kim Jong Ill),” says Voss.
Acting as his own manager and booking agent for his entire career, Voss chose to hand those responsibilities over as of this year when he signed with BIMMG. “Its such a relief, I’ve been doing this thing now for ten years and no one taught me anything, so I had to learn (the business) on my own. If I had a mentor, someone who was really up on the business side, when I was a kid, I feel like I would be a lot further than I am right now.”
On the other hand, Voss explains, since he did it all on his own, he doesn’t owe any favors. “Now that I’m with Black Ink, and I have a team of people that give a shit, Isaac (Gordon), Catherine (Torbert) and everybody else, it feels amazing. I am paying my rent with rap.” He added that since the networking and booking is no longer his responsibility, he can enjoy himself at shows and concentrate on the music.
Riding on the success of his five consecutive wins from Freestyle Friday on BET, Voss got booked in Texas on a bill with The Game and Nipsey Hussle at SXSW, when other people had some bad business. “I had the time of my life. The showcase I was a part of, the business end was messed up. This guy in Houston, his name is Chris Ford with Star Scream Entertainment and he is a crook,” adding that he had every legal right to say his name, “(he) was basically taking money that wasn’t his and The Game and Nipsey Hussle wound up not showing up to the show.”
When faced with that adversity, Voss played the show anyway and was glad he did. “We still had people there, the sound was amazing at Emo’s East, and after that I got to meet so many people and partied my ass off.” When reflecting on the trip and the nonsense he had to deal with, Voss kept things in perspective – “It’s bigger than the show. Just the experience of being there and meeting some of the people I did, I am definitely going back next year.”
Unfortunately, Voss did not get to stay in Texas long. The Champions Tournament for BET’s 106 & Park Freestyle Fridays was scheduled to film only days after his show. Winning in the first round, but coming up short in the second, he was relieved to be done with the competition. “I did the March Mayhem all star tournament when I lost to this kid Charron from Canada. Shout out to him- I think he won legitimately but I went down swinging. Battle rap isn’t my thing, and I’m happy to be done because I got so much coming up musically and show wise that it’s not really a set back.”
On April 28th, Voss dropped the music video for “Mr. Freeze”, a single off his track produced by ASK?. The single is meant to build the hype around the album he is currently in the process of recording. “I have over 20 tracks written for the album already. We will record all of them, pick out what fits and put everything else out as a free EP,” Voss explains, adding that his management is working on an East Coast summer tour followed by a winter tour with dates in Ohio, Boston and North Carolina .
There will not be any features on the album as far as rappers. Voss has done collaborations with many emcees, but likes to keep his albums solo. He wants the focus of the album, including the response, to be directly on him as an artist. “I don’t want people to listen to the album because somebody else is on it.”
However, he does want to include vocalists and has two in mind. First, his engineer/roommate/landlord Swerdon. Second is an up-and-coming R&B/Hip-Hop artist, Milton, who like Voss, is a member of the CORFU Collective. “Corfu is a group of like-minded outsiders that thrive off inside jokes. A group of like-minded outsiders that say a lot of really mean shit to each other, but only mean like 50% of it, but put 100% effort towards helping each other out. Not only getting our names out there but also having as much fun as we possibly can while doing it. Am Down, all heem no heche.”
Other notable experiences of Voss’ include playing The Fire with Astronautalis and Sims from a group called Doomtree, which sold out. Voss feeds off of his audience, “the crowd was so open-minded and open-armed and was ready to take in everything I had to offer. That was one of the few shows where I really didn’t feel like I had to earn anything, which is nice once in a while. I just walked out and they were ready.”
He also added opening for former Def Jam recording artist, Wax, at The Trocadero in 2011 to his list of favorite shows along with two major hip-hop emcees in 2013, Pusha T and Raekwon, on separate nights at The Blockley. With an opening slot (for Raekwon), Voss still played in front of 200 people, stage dove, brought his hip-hop artist friends Skrewtape and Sean Cov on stage for a song, and got one of CORFU’s biggest members, Tray Digga (weighing in at around 240lbs), to stage dive along with him, being that it was his birthday.
For all fans of hip-hop, be sure to check out Voss. He is riding a wave of success that seems to be rolling into a great future for the 25-year-old emcee. Take a look and listen. Head to The Blockley, even, because he’ll be there opening for Ghostface Killah on May 12th.