Supreme-Intelligence has been rapping for so long he doesn’t remember the exact moment he decided to become an MC. As the son of Ghostface Killah, he was raised on the sounds of Wu-Tang Clan, and at any moment, a family gathering could turn into an impromptu cypher. Supreme would watch his father and older brother rap while frequently getting off his own flows. In this environment, if becoming a rapper wasn’t inevitable, it was something very close to it.
Soon, observation and casual rhyming morphed into studio sessions. By 2014, he was in a freestyle video with his father and his brother Sun God, and he was on his way to following in Pretty Toney’s footsteps.
But, by the time he enrolled in Morgan State University to embark on a college career — a course he’d charted for reasons other than his own wishes — Supreme had stopped rapping. Around that same point, he had a falling out with Ghostface, the man who introduced him to the music he reluctantly abandoned. Filled with regret about his decision to focus on school rather than hip-hop, it was a while before Supreme picked up a mic again.
Spurred by an inventive way to re-engage with academics and his rap career simultaneously and the death of Nipsey Hussle, Supreme once again picked up a microphone a few years ago. The result is Love Jones, a new EP filled with emotional transparency, nimble flows, modernized boom bap and intermittent words of wisdom from Ghostface, whom Supreme had reconciled with over the last two years.
Released after a near fatal battle with COVID-19, the project — named after the iconic 1997 romantic flick — is a cathartic one for Supreme. He examines his past romances, his relationship with his pops and more. Looking down the road, he wants to push his art forward while mirroring the name his father gave him.
“I always tell people ’cause he named me, I got to live up to that every single day,” Supreme said. “I learned a lot from him.”
For this month’s edition of First Look Friday, we talked to Supreme about his new Love Jones EP, fatherhood and more. We also premiere the video for his new single “Prince Akeem.”
Being the son of a rapper, your reasons for becoming an artist are kind of self-explanatory. But with that said, when did you first get started?
Supreme-Intelligence: I can never really pinpoint that exact moment, ’cause I’ve been rapping all my life. But when I started making it serious, pursuing it as a career, it was my sophomore year in high school. I wouldn’t tell nobody I knew how to rap. I would keep other opinions away from me. I didn’t want to get discouraged. As soon as I put stuff on YouTube and like my other family can hear — like that’s not in New York. Some of my friends started coming across it and was like, “Yo, I need like, want to hear this again.” And then when I seen them, my friends, like one of the heroes. So that’s when I just started to like make more music [and] pursuing it as a career.I grew up watching my pops, write music all the time. And as soon as I wake up he’d be in the kitchen writing or my brother’s writing or my sister’s singing. So we’ve always been a musically inclined family.
Did you guys ever have cyphers in your spot? Like at breakfast?
[Laughs] Yeah, of course. My older brother used to rap about everything.
Your father has a one-of-a-kind style. Would you say he influenced your approach to music at all?
The best trait that I see that comes from him is the ability to story tell. He’s like the illest storyteller, you know, in any game when it comes to that, but he could walk to the store and make it sound ill. Just coming from that, the way I break it down, I can’t deny that that definitely comes from him. He’s the greatest with that. Him and Slick Rick, the greatest.
So it’s been a long road to this project, and you’ve mentioned the way that school affected your rap career. Can you elaborate on that?
I went to school ’cause I was the first person in my immediate family to go. So I wanted to be a role model to my sister and show my mom that people could do something different and just change the dynamics. When I got to my junior year I couldn’t take it no more, ’cause I wasn’t doing it for me. I was miserable and really depressed because I liked making music, but I was making so much noise with music before I came to college that I started feeling like, if I never made this step that I probably would have been excelling in that area. I had to snap back into it. My junior year, I switched [my major] to sociology.
My old chairman told me, “You gotta find how to make this work for you.” After that, any presentation, any essay, any project, I would just write a rap for it. It was so easy after that yeah. I just wrote a rap and then I sent it to my man Kenny so he could make it grammatically correct. And I’ll just give it to [his professors]. That was one of the main reasons why I graduated and one of the main reasons why I started rapping again.
How long did it take you to record Love Jones?
It probably took me about four years. And that’s a long time only because my emotions with this tape was everywhere. And I don’t like rushing my music. So whenever I feel like I got writer’s block, I won’t revisit that track. And sometimes it’ll take months to me for me to revisit it. Love Jones originally started [out about being about] a lot of my old relationships. That was probably the main reason why it took so long. ’Cause I don’t like rushing my music when I’m going through songs and I had to rewrite a lot of the music.
What do you want your fans to take away from the music you’re releasing?
I like speaking about my experiences, so… just whatever my experience could teach somebody in that moment, whether it’s going to get past the life, you’re saying trying to get past something in life or just overcome any obstacle. I love speaking about what I’m going through. Problems is relatable. Everybody’s got problems. So any problem that I’m trying to get over, I’ll express that through my music and [I know there is] somebody in the world that’s going through something similar and got the same feeling.
You’re a new father. How has that changed you?
It definitely made me more wise. It gave me a lot of insight on how to move. A lot of insight on how everything’s not perfect. I had to think about a lot more how basically he was growing up just to understand the situation, not to make excuses for it or anything, but you gotta get that in play. There’s a lot of people, especially with a Black background, that don’t got peaches and cream in their background. We grew up real hard. So I had to take that into play and just really learn how to accept what’s unfair in my life. That’s a real big part of me right now, trying to accept something because a lot of things that happened to you, as I said, and as long as you keep dwelling on that, you know, you stay in that same state, stay stagnant.
You get very personal on the project. What song was the hardest for you to record?
The most difficult one was probably “Thankful.” Not really because it was difficult to make. It was very transparent what I was talking about. I wanted to play that for my pops before I put it out there. So it took me a while to get him situated so I could play it for him because he’s very busy. I ain’t know how he was going to feel about it. That had to be the hardest one because I couldn’t finish the verse. That’s why I ended it like that [laughs]. So that was the hardest one. It was the most emotional one.
You mention “Thankful,” but did you end up playing the whole new album for your father?
Yeah. I played the whole thing for him. He liked it. He couldn’t really describe the flow. He just kept saying I kept going on all the beats, ’cause I don’t really like making hooks. He said it got the Love Jones vibe. He knew exactly where I was going with it. It was a good review.
Peter is a writer and editor who covers music, movies, and all things dope.
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