Exclusive: Black Cobain Talks Rising Rap Scene In The DMV, Premieres ‘Hunger’ Visuals
by Alley Olivier
Black Cobain had a comfortable living working as an athletic director at a neighborhood Boys and Girls Club before he decided to pursue his dreams of music. A graduate from Virginia State University, the rapper wrote because he enjoyed it never expecting a career to blossom from it. “I didn’t ever dream of pursuing music,” he explained seated at the bar of the hotel restaurant. “I was just doing it just to do it. I used to write a lot and stack up my notebooks.”
We both order tea and dive right into his experience of being in the Big Apple after performing at SOB’s for Hot 97’s first “Who’s Next” series of the year. Getting on the stage right before headliner Ty Dolla $ign, he was excited and ready to take on the nonchalant New York crowd. “I felt amazing. I was in control of that crowd, even though 1,000 people didn’t put their hands up. I was looking at them in their face and I knew they was feeling it.”
Now, the Board of Administration front runner has plans for a full takeover. With five mixtapes under his belt, Cobain is putting out his first visual of the year to show his fans and those who may not know just how hungry he is to claim his rightful spot in hip hop. Get to know Black Cobain and watch the official video for “Hunger” after the jump. – Alley Olivier
Black Cobain: Man, I was scared out of my mind. Once I decided to tell my friends that I actually wanted to rap and go in the studio, I put out a mixtape and I got a reaction out of people. Right around that time, I got introduced to Wale. He was flying me out on a weekdays; I was missing work and shit. I named the first mixtape Now or Never because I felt I had the opportunity to actually pursue it. Am I going to stay here and be confined to working a 9-to-5, or am I going to go out there and pursue my dreams? It took me like three months to really make a decision.
What was one of your biggest fears?
Black Cobain: Maybe not being able to take care of myself the way I was and move the way I wanted to. You go through some growing pains when you’re looking for your next dollar opposed to knowing when it’s going to show up in your bank account. I lost a lot chasing this dream, but I also gained a lot because I never had the opportunity to travel the world and see different cultures and go international. I ain’t ever have no passport. I got a passport and I got a few stamps now, so I feel like I got something more beneficial than just money.
Definitely. What are some of the early lessons you picked up on when you first got in the game?
Black Cobain: I learned that networking was the number one tool, and I’m still learning that. I’m not the type of person that wants to talk to everybody; that’s not my personality. But I’m learning how to do it and it’s becoming more easy to me.
Can you name a situation where you felt embarrassed as the new kid on the block?
Black Cobain: I was touring with Wale on the Ambition Tour and I was opening in Austin, Texas. The show was running late, so it was like two more openings and they were already screaming his name. The DJ got up there and was like ‘Ya’ll ready for Wale,’ but it wasn’t even his turn to go; it was my go. The crowd got hype and all that then this nigga named Black Cobain come out. I went out there and they were looking at me crazy for like the first two songs. I wasn’t that comfortable at that point and they threw me into the fire. It prepared me to even come to New York and perform because if you don’t have a big record, they’re just going to stare at you, but I went all in.
So before a show, what are some of things you do to get ready?
Black Cobain: I used to smoke a lot and drink a lot of Hennessy, kicking it with my friends. But [at the Hot 97 event], I have a song on my mixtape called “Glory Road” and I’m talking about my mom. She’s never been to New York and we kind’ve just reconnected our relationship. I haven’t seen her in a long time and she just got her life back together, so they surprised me by bringing her up here. I was really just kicking it with her yesterday. I didn’t smoke or anything, said a prayer before I went up there and it was one of the better shows of my career.
How did that feel? Was it the first time you were performing in front of your mom?
Black Cobain: Yeah, that was the first time she seen me do anything.
What would you say is the biggest difference between the DMV rap scene compared to New York?
Black Cobain: To start off, just knowing that hip hop is still fairly new where I’m from. It was all Go-Go music in our communities. New York been had a hip hop scene and have had so many legends come out of here. The first person to get signed was Wale [from the DMV] and that happened in like 2004, so our scene is new. The tastemaker things they do in New York is just starting to happen in DC; we’re apart of making history. Now you have Wale signed, Fat Trel signed, and I’m on the verge of trying to get a deal and that’s big.
Now that you’ve released Perfect Contradiction, what’s next? Are you looking to put out a full-length project this year?
Black Cobain: Yeah, that’s the goal. We’re going to start working on the album within the next few weeks. We’ve been lining up producers we want to work with.
What are some collabs you’d like to do this year?
Black Cobain: Man I love some west coast rappers. I fuck with Dom Kennedy and Nipsey Hussle. My dream collab is with Erykah Badu, man. I would want to work with Rafael Saadiq, Q-Tip. I would want to get a track with Pusha T just to stamp that for the whole Virginia, and I know it’s coming.
What has been the most important piece of advice you’ve received thus far?
Black Cobain: I just got a lot of faith. I put it all in God’s hands. I’m not going to say I’ve lost everything, but all the things I thought mattered most, as far as your bills stacking up and your whip – I found myself staying in hotel rooms. Like now. it don’t matter. I’m starting to fall in love with the process more, and I always stay hungry.
That said, for “Hunger” what was the vision you had for the track and video?
Black Cobain: The vision for the track was simple: never run somebody else’s race. You have to focus on your life and know that God has a plan for you. You know, a lot of time people get caught in comparing their life to how others live. No matter the class you’re in–poverty, middle class, wealthy–you have to stay hungry like you never had shit because nobody wants to see you win. I wanted to show the real, show the pain, paint the picture of what goes on day to day and being able to overcome the odds; to show life as we know it. It’s rare that artist paint a picture this vivid in their video nowadays. We just wanted to take it back to the essence.