Recently the rapper Sneakas has released his new mixtape, "Hebonics 101". You can download it from the artist's website, in free download. Here is the interview we have made to him.
Princelion: Introduce yourself to our Italian readers. What does Sneakas mean?
Sneakas: Sneakas is my rap name; it was given to me along long time ago because I am a huge Sneaker freak, I have about 250 pairs of sneakers and I got that name cus every time I would go out with my friends, I would have a different pair of hot sneakers on. We changed the spelling to Sneakas, cus I thought it was cooler when I was young, and it just kind of stuck.
You were a still a boy when you moved with your family to NYC. Did you feel a cultural difference coming from Israel?
I was 11 when I moved to NYC, and it was a huge change from Israel. I had lived in D.C before, so it was the language as much as it was the culture, but it didn’t take me very long to fall in love with this city, and now I call it home for over 17 years. Also, I’m still very close to Tel Aviv and all of Israel, so I spend a lot of time going back and forth between the two, but NYC is my home base for sure! That’s why our next video “Summer in the City” is an homage to New York and everything this amazing city has to offer in the summertime.
When and how did you start? How did you get involved in the hip hop culture?
I started getting into hip hop when I was 12 or so. I was playing bass in a rock band and we started getting heavily influenced by Rage Against the Machine, and from there I got into Arrested Development, and then A Tribe Called Quest, and after that I was hooked. I stopped playing bass and started writing rhymes. That’s all I would do all day- try and flirt with girls, hang out with my friends, and write rhymes, it became my life.
Let’s talk about your past projects. You had a one year tour in the Middle East in 2003-2004. Which countries did your tour touch? How did it go? Why did you choose the Middle East for a tour?
It’s a funny story actually, my mother convinced me that I should do a year abroad program with my school, and I was like cool let’s do it. I had already worked a lot in Israel and had a lot of very talented friends there like Shi 360, and we all just started working together and making music. From there I linked up with a guy named Liron Teheni and Liron and I started doing shows all over Israel. I think in that year I must have done over 100 shows! It was amazing, and so much fun, and that is how my first solo album “In It For The Change” got started, just making music with people that inspire me out in Israel, and then bringing that crazy dope sound back home to NYC.
Did this tour influence your decision of being part of the “Peace in the Middle East Project” with Mazzi? Could you explain to our readers the project, its aims…
The “Peace Project” came along a few years later. I had read about what M.C. Serch, and the dope Dj Waleed Coyote were doing, and I wanted to be involved. I reached out to Waleed and he introduced me to Mazzi. The rest as they say is history, me and Mazzi vibed really well and made dope music together, eventually it got to Serch and he became deeply involved with the project, giving insight and ideas for songs, helping us choose beats, and just being a great mentor. Serch and I have been in close contact ever since, and he has been a huge influence on me as an artist, and also a friend, really he is huge part of my journey to this point, and I feel very lucky to have him in my corner and schooling me on how to make classic music.
In 2008 you released your debut album “In It for the Change”. What has changed in your way of making and of living music, your view of life, from your first album and your new Mixtape?
That’s a great question! In It For The Change was all ME. It was my beat selection, my contacts, me doing everything and choosing everything. I had good people by my side like Al “Boogie” Gordon and “Bassy” Bob Brookman who mixed the album, but a lot of the choices on what made it and didn’t was me, so it was like I learned how to make records through that album. It took four years to make that album, and many songs that we created didn’t make the cut, so it was a learning process, and from doing it all myself like that I learned how to make an album, how to make records, and really grew up and found my voice as an artist. With the mixtape, I have an amazing team by my side. M.C. Serch guides me and gives me advice and his thoughts on the music Jeff “JHO” Horowitz is my right hand man, he helps me with everything and is a great resource to have and also one of my closest friends. Elliot and Jared from Sunnyday Entertainment are these two amazing dudes that work their ass off and bring so much knowledge and love to the project that the mixtape wasn’t me, it was a collective process with amazing people involved and I think you can hear it in the music, its organic and so dope. This team makes me work hard cus I know that they will do anything for me, so I know I have to bring it every night, so it was made as a mature artist with an amazing team, that’s why the mixtape is so dope!
Let’s talk about your Mixtape: What’s Hebonics? What does it mean? (Is it the NY Jewish vernacular language, a mix between English and eastern European languages, as Yiddish?) Do you speak Hebrew at home? Or Yiddish? Or none of the two?
“Hebonics” is a play on the word “Ebonics” which was made very famous by an amazing rapper named “Big L” that passed away some years ago. Big L made this record Ebonics that inspired me, so I thought it would be cool to do a Hebrew/Jewish Ebonics, or “Hebonics.” That’s how the idea came to mind. Then it became a challenge of if I could rhyme his exact flow and rhyme pattern but in Yiddish, it wasn’t easy, but I did it, and I kind of feel like its an amazing feat, like it shows people what I can do, even though it’s short it’s ill! And I don’t really speak Yiddish, but I do speak Hebrew fluently, I can’t rhyme in Hebrew but I speak it about as well as I speak English, and yes I do speak it at home.
Why did you choose the great Peter Rosenberg of Hot97 to host your Mixtape?
I think Peter was the perfect fit. I met him through Mazzi and Peter is a dope dude. He really loves hip hop, and really knows his shit, and aside from that, he is Jewish and has had so much success in his world. I was very fortunate that Peter liked the music and wanted to host the mixtape, in my opinion there was no other choice, Peter is the MAN!! So I was happy to get him involved. And anyone that knows Peter knows that he KNOWS hip hop and he never does anything to sell out, so it was like, “Yo. Peter like my music enough to host the mixtape, that’s amazing, lets do it!!..lol”
You’ve had many feat. in the Mixtape, especially with the best American Jews and Israelis artists: why did you choose them to collaborate with?
Anyone that is on this mixtape is someone that I am a fan of. I am a huge Fan of Ill Bill, I am a fan of Solomon, and of course M.C. Serch. I like to work with people that I really respect and that I think are super talented, and everyone that is part of this mixtape is very very talented and respected, so it was made by only great artists, which made it a special project, and something I am very proud of.
Who produced Hebonics 101? The beats? Are all the lyrics yours?
Every lyric I have ever said is mine, I never rap anything that I don’t write, so yes I wrote all my verses, and everyone else that is involved wrote their own verses. I work mostly with a production company called H.I.T.M productions, they are out of the Bronx and they are all very talented dudes. They are on my next project, and will be on every project I ever do, H.I.T.M is family to me!
Are you planning to release an album after this?
We are planning on another mixtape after this which we have already done a few songs for, and it’s really the best music I’ve ever made. I have some new producers on it, and some crazy features planned, I can’t speak on them yet, but rest assured that every time I put out a project it will be better then the last, and as Serch always says “Classic Music breaks all the rules” so that is what I am trying to do, make classic music.
Photos by Jianca Lazarus.