Article & Photography by Andrew Mangum
Welcome to the first edition of The Early Tapes – an edgy take on independent music journalism with a focus on true photo-journalistic coverage. Sit back and enjoy as we travel with our first guest, Seez Mics, from a day of rehearsal to a night of true hip-hop performance.
Nostalgia. That’s one word coming to mind as I ride into downtown Kensington, Maryland. Rows and rows of storefronts, offering antiques and artisan coffee, whiz by the passenger’s side window, as Nicholas Policy, better known as Seez Mics, drives down to the Old Town Market.
Serotonin. That’s the second word coming to mind while I wait patiently for Seez Mics to fuel up with coffee and herbal tea from the local market. Person after person passes by, offering ear to ear smiles and a delightfully toned “Good Morning”.
With herbal tea and coffee in hand, we’re on our way to Gigs Guitar Studio on Howard Avenue where Max Bent, producer, and beat box extraordinaire, finishes setting up speakers for their rehearsal space. Seez and Max will be joining artists Drew Scott, Butch Dawson, and Ceschi as part of the opening acts for the well established hip-hop artist, Cage during his stop at the Baltimore Soundstage.
Max’s iPhone is loaded with the show set list, pulling all of the performance tracks from the ”Cruel Fuel” album he produced for Seez. Quickly jumping into performance mode, Seez Mics stops after each track to reflect on how to transition into the next song.
Max and Seez have over 20+ years of experience making music together and it truly shows as we transition from the rehearsal of their set to the actual night of their performance. Arranging music with his mouth, Max sets the tone for Seez to conquer the stage with his lyrics. As a pair, they create a high energy performance weaving their styles together to portray a unique hip-hop performance.
In a hip-hop culture where most artists are performing to their pre-recorded track with a DJ, Seez Mics brings more flavor and spontaneity working with Max, who lays down a crowd pleasing beat box solo, fresh with vocal scratches and melodic hums reminiscent of a Koyaanisqatsi film.
Here is what Seez Mics had to say in an interview prior to his performance:
When did you first get into music?
I learned to read and write much earlier than most of my peers, but I never had any inclination towards instruments. I remember scribbling (what I assumed to be) clever phrases a lot as a kid but didn’t get into actually making music until I was around people who could play instruments or make beats. I met my homey Max (producer on “Cruel Fuel”) when we were 14. He is an amazing beat-boxer, so it was easy to freestyle with him and we spent pretty much our entire teenage years working together in one group or another. So to answer your question, I was an accomplished scribbler as a toddler but didn’t get into actually making music until my late teens.
You have a great storytelling approach in your music, what comes 1st – the story or the beat/production?
Thanks for the kind words! I’m open to whatever process yields a good song. My preference is to wait until I get a beat that suits a vibe I’m already constructing so I usually have a phrase or two chambered in preparation for the right beat, but some of my best stuff was unplanned and completely in the moment.
Why make narrative music?
The human brain eventually processes every experience as a story, whether that story is actually true or not. I tend to write about things several moons after they’ve actually happened, so my brain has already formed the narrative about my experience and thus why my music has a narrative tilt.
Where do you get your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from coping with my mental and emotional issues in a constructive way. And appearing to be so unapproachable that everyone leaves me alone so I can watch TV in peace. But mostly the coping part.
Any significance to the title Cruel Fuel?
“Cruel Fuel” explains why humans have historically been on a downward spiral towards self-destruction: we are generally fueled by negativity and that tendency has been exploited by manipulative monsters. Also, I have bad eating habits so maybe I came up with the phrase “Cruel Fuel” after eating country fried steak at a Denny’s near BWI.
Not many people make songs about rape or dealing w/ rape. I read that this album was about being honest & facing fear. Can you elaborate at all?
Rape is less about the physical act than the mental exertion of power. I was involved in a few relationships with mentally abusive women; I ended them but a lot of guilt ensued which made me feel weak since I knew ending them was the strong thing to do. From what I read about rape victims, I was experiencing some of the same PTSD symptoms so I made “Never Apologize To Your Rapist” in order to deal with the guilt. It worked; they’re terrible people and I’ve found peace with having ended things.
What was your vision w/ the project?
My vision was to cut the shit I had created for myself as “Seez Mics” and start figuring out why I am a generally unhappy person. Stop subconsciously seeking out dysfunctional relationships and start having a better relationship with myself. Stop saying or doing what I thought people wanted me to say or do and start using spoken word lyrics when I grew bored trying to rhyme something with “panhandler.” Stop making so much money from my music and start burying myself under crippling debt just so I can complain about capitalism in front of 7 people in Pittsburgh. So far, so good.
Also, and more importantly than my individual goals, my vision was to keep a light shining from and on Crushkill Recordings. Crushkill Recordings was started by my friend Eyedea (rEYEp) before he passed and it’s the label that put out “Cruel Fuel.”
What do you hope the listener walks away w/?
I genuinely hope the listener walks away with the understanding that life is very hard for everyone, regardless of what they look like or where they’re from. Stop looking around and thinking, “I feel bad and they look like they feel better, so I’ll make them feel worse.” I’m a white male from the suburbs and I guarantee 90% of the people reading this wouldn’t trade places with me if they knew what my life has actually been like beyond what you’d assume from my skin color or childhood zip code. I don’t want (or at least no longer want) a pity party, I want you to know I’ve had it rough and so have you so let’s accept we all come from stars and can become them again if we set aside the petty finger pointing.
However, I know the smart money is on humans destroying everything including ourselves.
My favorite track is “What Your Head Will Hold”. The production is unique but classic & your words seem uplifting. I would classify this song as an essential track for new listeners to your music. I think it gives people a great overall view of you as an artist. If you could make an essential listening Album from your own work, what would be your top 5 songs on that Album?
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many people on a wide spectrum of personalities chose “What Your Head Will Hold” as their favorite song from “Cruel Fuel.” It’s far and away the most personal song I’ve ever made, so I was worried that it’d cross into TMI territory and turn people off; however, Max and I did a great job of creating a Blues song that is specific to my story while remaining relatable to all. My personal favorites from “Cruel Fuel” are M.O.M., Becomes A Ghost, Human Farm, Cruel Fuel, and Post Pathic Profiteers feat. DJ Abilities.
And likewise, if our world was going to end, what 5 songs from any time period or artist would you want future generations to hear?
I have an existential melt down when trying to narrow down a list of my favorite artists to a list of their essential songs, so I’m going to pull a diva move and answer your question on my own terms:
1. TV On The Radio “Dear Science”
2. Aceyalone “A Book Of Human Language”
3. Beck “Morning Phase”
4. Diamond District “March On Washington”
5. Anything Seez Mics ever said/did/thought/felt
What is next for you in 2015? Any goals you hope to reach?
Seez’s 2015 Goals:
1. Get everyone on the planet to listen to “Chrome Bills.” I co-host a podcast called “Chrome Bills” with my friends Chuck and Steve. I know that while my music is incredibly impressive on a technical level, it isn’t for everyone. Listen, everyone: Chrome Bills IS for everyone. It’s hysterical. It’s insightful. It’s intoxicated. Did I mean to say intoxicating? Download an episode and listen to find out! Check out Chrome Bills on iTunes and/or SoundCloud.
2. I’ve been working on an album with Cubbiebear. He and I work well together, plus he’s very popular, so I plan to hang on to his coat tails for dear life.
3. I was the MC in a group called Educated Consumers from 1999 – 2013. I’ll be releasing a best of Educated Consumers in the summer of 2015. We made 5 LPs and 3 EPs, so there’s a ton of material and I’m currently having a panic attack just thinking about which songs to choose.
4a – 4f. Get a new back, definitively prove that god is a man-made construct much like the circus or a cubicle, convince Dan Snyder to sell the team, nod approvingly as the Wizards championship parade rolls by, be a good friend to my friends but a better enemy to my enemies, and give a copy of “Cruel Fuel” to Riley Reid who will find my brooding nature charming.
Please check out SeezMics.com and find “Seez Mics” on all the social media outlets that you use to stalk exes. Peace!