Photo by Jesse DeFlorio for Okayplayer.
First Look Friday: Get Familiar With The Far Out Sylvan Lacue
Artistry is represented by a person's experiences, tragedies, successes and more. Reflected in the pages of their rap book or drawn out in a music video — the act of creation is dripping with personal pride, blood, sweat and tears. For Sylvan Lacue, the Dade County MC formerly known as Quest, the art that resides within him is dripping with new wave appeal that is nothing like what would come to mind when you think of Miami rap music.
With his song, "Fall From Grace," already receiving applause and praise from rap blogs and music publications — the 25-year-old lyricist is quickly becoming one of the leaders who is bringing pride back to his city. Backed by impressive wordplay and consistent skills, Sylvan Lacue is also fueled by strong energy and an effortless, quick-fire flow. After beginning his rap career in 2009 with several releases, which included the critically acclaimed Searching Sylvan, Lacue signed to Logic's Visionary Music Group before forming his own WiseUp collective.
Abandoning his deal with Visionary Music Group enabled Sylvan Lacue to reconnect with his Miami roots. "I find my calmness in times of uncertainty by myself alone during late nights," he explained in a press release. "I can pray, speak to God and remind myself of what's most important. I mentally operate better when I'm left alone." An almost impossibility, as the MC is heralded for his painstaking detail and creativity in his "Fall From Grace" single, which stems from his forthcoming Far From Familiar project due this spring.
Erase the idea that Sylvan Lacue is coming to be the next coke kingpin from Miami, a la Rick Ross, as he is more likely to be the boss of reality rap from the 305. We here at Okayplayer were fortunate to get some time with the WiseUp wordsmith to introduce him to our audience via First Look Friday. So, sit back, take a breather and read about Sylvan Lacue's origins, why Jay Z is his most influential rapper and how he is far from familiar from those in the rap game.
Okayplayer: To music snobs the world over, you are making an impact on both sides of the U.S. What is it that Miami is seeing and hearing that the world has yet to discover?
Sylvan Lacue: I would have to say… hunger. I have never heard anyone outside of Miami really display a sense of hunger the way that Miami artists do. It’s really special.
OKP: For those who have a passion for music, they honed their skills and practiced their craft. Who are your most cherished influences in music and why?
SL: I would have to say Jay Z is probably my biggest influence because he personifies preeminent skill to me. He’s the one guy, in my opinion, who really embodies practicing your craft and continuing to evolve over the years. I’m also heavily influenced by Coldplay and Kanye West, mainly for their sonic prowess. I study their musicality religiously. I absolutely love how their albums are reference points for different sonic periods in their careers. That in itself is inspiring as shit to me.
OKP: Your song, “Fall From Grace,” is very dope sounding and paired with some fresh lyrical content. It has placed you on the radar of music snobs who have a heavy presence in the industry. Can you talk about how life was for you while developing as an artist in Florida? How did you react to your first bits of press?
SL: Developing as an artist in Miami was very interesting, as I started recording music when I was around 15-years-old by myself during the high school music recording program. So, I was able to really start experimenting with my sound early on and freely without worrying about time constraints. I emulated all of my favorite rappers until I had their style, flow and presence down to a key. After that I used that information to learn more about what I could and couldn’t do.
I was really into MC’s, so I was all into the early club tapes and East Coast rap, while everyone else was stuck in the Lil’ Jon and the Eastside Boyz era. The first bit of press I received was from illroots and 2DopeBoyz back in early 2009 and, to be honest, I flipped my shit! It was truly amazing. Around that time, blogs were becoming a steady outlet for the underground, so it was beautiful to see my name on a website that profiled something that I created. I was only 18, but it meant a lot to me.
OKP: Can you also talk about the importance of the music industry scene in the 305 and where you see it evolving in the next five years?
SL: In Miami, the game is to remain as authentic as possible. There isn’t too much more than what we give to the listener and we love it that way. I believe that our authenticity and hunger are what keep us more interesting than anything else. In the next five years, those in Miami will be moving more towards consistency and unity. I see a bunch of artists evolving into their own fully, plus I see us beginning to push our sound even further and redefining that Miami feel.
OKP: There is a strong lack of diversity in the entertainment business, so how does being an artist of color fit into your musical narrative?
SL: Well, no matter what, I’ll be an artist of color, so it is mandatory that it all fits into my musical narrative. This is especially true considering that I usually pull inspiration directly from my real life experiences.
OKP: What are some elements that you’ve learned about yourself that comes out in your music?
SL: Mainly, I’ve learned and cultivated the ability to be aware of my own self and what I am experiencing. I’ve learned to not be in denial about any of it. Those feelings are what enables me to be so brutally honest in my music — whether it comes down to telling my story or just expressing my beliefs.
OKP: What was the first song that you ever wrote entitled? Can you talk about what it was about?
SL: It was entitled, “Speaking My Word,” and I only vaguely remember the verses. It was pretty much geared around my thoughts on the situations happening around me. All of it was mostly personal, but it was a dope first attempt. I had to be no more than 11-years-old, so there wasn’t too much to talk about at the time [laughs].
OKP: How can your music speak truth to power in an age where people are so quickly digesting sounds and disposing of artists in a nanosecond?
SL: Really it’s all about conveying my story and staying true to it as much as possible. Music in this day and age comes and goes, as is the trend within the industry. It’s no longer special or interesting to make music because literally anyone can. My own ace in the hole is to continue telling my story through the music as vividly and authentically as possible.
People cannot resist a great story, as those are the ones that are remembered and end up lasting forever. Some of our favorite stories will never leave our memories, so as long as I can continue to tell my story and make great music — I can continue to inspire my audience and those around me.
OKP: Collaboration is uniquely a key to the success of certain creative individuals who wish to change the game. Who would you want to work with in the new year and why?
SL: If I could work with anyone this year it would have to be Jay Z because… quite frankly he’s Jay Z.
OKP: What is the overall message that Sylvan Lacue is trying to present in his music?
SL: To wisen up and embrace your journey towards whatever it is that you seek in life.
OKP: Can you break down the inspiration behind your Searching Slyvan mixtape? Could you speak on the creation, production and the album’s most impactful song?
SL:Searching Sylvan was inspired by wanting to being detailing the struggles that I had over the course of two years as a young man and struggling artist. Because of the platform I had I wanted to use it to tell a story so vividly that people would hold onto it forever. The creation was pretty scattered and sporadic, but the idea overall became concentrated after a certain amount of songs were executed. I think the album’s most impactful song would have to be “Hunger,” because it is full of just tenacity and skill. Overall, it is at its finest a showcase of my talents and what I am capable of at a high level.
OKP: How do you see yourself changing the music industry for the better versus all of the bad stuff that goes on within it?
SL: I believe the best way to change things is to become the change you, yourself, want to see. One of the main things I seek to update is the potential longevity of emerging artists. In this current climate, artists aren’t encouraged to take the long road to success. Everyone wants it now, quick and fast. We all — across the board — need to slow down a bit and realize what is going on around us. I want to change this new idea of the industry. I was to destroy the notion that our art is only appreciated as much as our attention span allows it to be appreciated. It all starts with creating a culture of consistency, exemplifying skill, expressing forward thinking and originality, plus having a story that inspires and instills desire to be the best version of yourself as much as possible.
OKP: If the reader’s learned one thing from this First Look Friday chat with Sylvan Lacue — what would it be and in what octave would it sound like?
SL: [Laughs] It would be, “Man… that Sylvan sure is a wise one,” said in an impressed tone.