Showrocka is an artist, educator, and preservationist of hip-hop. For much of his life, he has lived in two worlds, educated among the elite while growing up in urban poverty. Laser-focused on creative and technical skills of rap music, Showrocka has made a name for himself in the musical underground, building a community of like-minded artists. In this interview, we explore his life straddling two worlds, his rise to Hip Hop valedictorian at Pendulum Ink, and how he is leading emerging artists in the independent space.
Showrocka’s Start in Music
Showrocka: I started rapping in the late 80s in New Haven, Connecticut, a place I’ve always called home, aside from a brief stint in Staten Island and school for four years at the University of Pennsylvania.
I was raised primarily by my mother. Since she wasn’t much of an athlete, she bought me a Boombox and a Salt-N-Pepa tape. I was only in kindergarten or first grade, but from that day, I knew I would be a rapper.
My style is a modernized boom bap with grimy melodic hooks. Think Get Rich or Die Trying by 50 Cent. I always focus on complex lyricism and witty punchlines to make you say, “Aiyoo, rewind that back!”
Understanding the Music Industry
Showrocka: At first, I used to get frustrated by what I perceived to be a lack of talent or “real hip hop” on the radio, but then I changed my perspective. The music industry is a business. Its primary concern is to market what sells. I may not always like the cringy autotune, lack of diverse subject matter, and promotion of self-destructive behavior on a grand scale, but I realize it’s just a money grab. It’s up to us to keep hip-hop pure by making the music true to its roots and finding the right demographic who wants to hear it.
Rap Theory Education
Showrocka: I love teaching at Pendulum Ink as it gets to blend my love for hip-hop and my love of education. Many people don’t know I graduated from an Ivy League University and have a double Masters degree from a school in my hometown.
My experience at Pendulum started as a student, taking classes on advanced rap techniques and trying to open some doors in the industry. After rapping my ass off for eight months, I was eventually named the first ever Hip Hop Valedictorian and earned an assistant teaching position. I just wrapped up teaching my summer school class, and hopefully, by next year, I will be teaching a full semester.
Every day, I get texts and DMs from excited students who’ve discovered a new verse or identified something we’ve learned in class in a popular song. I know I’m making an impact because I can see the interest in Pendulum and lyricism, in general, growing in real time each day.
Showrocka’s Advice for Fellow Rappers
Showrocka: The songs you hear most are the ones that have the biggest marketing budget. Even things that look like they’ve gone “viral” out of thin air, usually have a backstory involving some industry connection, behind-the-scenes promotion, or pay-to-play element. Don’t confuse talent with visibility, and don’t think you’ll get any motion without spending money. Focus on your craft, then on identifying your target market. Lastly, don’t be afraid to invest wisely in your career. I’m not talking about fake followers or views. Do your research.
Behind the Lyrics
Showrocka: “What If I Told You?” was just a beat King Vir2ue sent me one day saying, “Show, can you hop on this for me?” Pause. Because the beat had a bounce to it, I envisioned women dancing and figured I’d use the track to pen a cheeky ballad about treating women right or risking them falling into the arms of a “work husband.” It’s not based on a true story.
This song has some of the most complex wordplay I’ve ever written, which, in hindsight, is pretty dumb considering it’s a radio-style song, but it was fun to write and even more fun to break down for people and watch their reactions. I have a video explaining all the entendre and easter eggs on my Instagram page.
Showrocka’s Best Bars
Showrocka: This always changes, but right now, it’s: “How you let these cats with no bars imprison ya mind? These, infinite lines from a wordsmith… lyrically I’m cursive… Meaning you young ni***as ain’t learn this.” I feel like it explains the game as we see it, what I stand for, and even hints at the age divide.
Showrocka: “Thank God for the Grimy.” This was created during a period when I was listening to nothing other than Griselda and Nas. I initially wanted to name it “Thank God for Griselda,” but my homie Tennstacks talked me out of it. He said, “You’re giving them too much credit. Your style is your own.”
Aside from being a fan favorite, this is the album where I cultivated “my sound,” the griminess of Griselda beats, the catchiness of a 50 Cent hook, and the longevity and lyricism of the Wu-tang Clan.
Showrocka on Educating Artists
Showrocka: I do see myself as a leader and source of knowledge in the underground rap community, especially online in what I refer to as the “Instaground,” a term I coined to identify emcees freestyling and cultivating a boom bap presence on Instagram. We’re typically older than the Tiktokers, and we don’t dance.
All jokes aside, I often give advice and critique to other emcees who solicit it. However, I don’t so much think of it as an obligation. I do it because I’m a nice guy, and I love hip-hop. My only obligations are to stay true to myself, protect the craft, and uphold the Pendulum Ink standard of lyricism. In doing so, I can’t help but educate my peers on mistakes I’ve made so they don’t follow in my footsteps unnecessarily.
Misconceptions About Showrocka
Showrocka: Sometimes people hear my gun bars or street life tales and write me off as promoting violence and destruction in my community or that I’m trying to be a fake thug. My life is an open book. I went to Choate Rosemary Hall boarding school on an academic scholarship, literally attending classes with Ivanka Trump. None of this, however, stopped me from having to live most of my life in an impoverished urban environment. I’m a dichotomy. And while yes, some of the “tough talk” is just golden era-inspired braggadocio, a deeper listen to these “gun bars” will reveal triple entendre, metaphor, and social awareness with meaning behind it all.
Showrocka: My greatest accomplishment was becoming the first-ever Hip Hop Valedictorian at Pendulum Ink. Many will follow, but there can only be one first.
Showrocka: In 2023, you will see a group project with PONYC, a group comprised of myself and other Instaground emcees (Star & Lyphe, Din, R.Cineus, Spek Arson, Royalty, Bison, and Daphya). You also MAY get to hear an EP dropping with Grafh’s Dope Gang Producer, Jay Dubh. Grafh has a crazy verse on the project as well. Other than that, expect to see at least a single dropping every month and a few live shows here and there when time permits.
Showrocka: Something I never get asked is how I stay relevant. People think being a dope lyricist is enough or getting a famous co-sign is the key. The real answer is working hard every day, even when you don’t feel like it. I’m sick right now with a summer cold, but this is meaningful to me, so I honor my commitments.
Furthermore, when I say work hard, I don’t mean putting up a social media post on release day. You have to talk to people, go outside and network, send hundreds of emails, show love to other artists, and research every day to see what’s working and what isn’t. That’s how you apply pressure. It’s not luck.