Back in 2009 Maurice “Verse” Simmonds started his assault on the music industry via his own blended style of music dubbed Island B. It is a mix of R&B, Hip Hop, Puerto Rican and Caribbean flavors. He started at Interscope Records, then ended up at Konvict/Bu Vision and is now with Konvict/Bu Vision/Def Jam. And with his latest bodies of work from The Sex Tape Chronicles and Sex Love and Hip-Hop mixtapes making huge noise, it definitely won’t be long until Verse is a household name.
Through his travels he’s left a string of notable songs such as Buy You A Round, Strip Tease, Tears Of Joy Talk That, Keep It 100 (ft. Akon) and probably his most notable hit, Boo Thang (ft. Kelly Rowland).
Yo! Raps had the chance to vibe with the songwriter, producer, singer and rapper (even though Verse will be the first person to tell you he’s not a rapper) about what his vision for the future is, how he remains humble, the best advice he received from Wu-Tang Clan’s The RZA and what it was like to get that wonderful phone call from Jay-Z and Kanye West’s people to work on Watch The Throne.
Being that verses or bars are usually associated with emcees/rappers, how did you come to the decision to use the name Verse?
It’s just a name that I came up with because that’s how I got my start in the music industry. I was writing for various people and that’s how I got it. It just kind of stuck with me from there.
You’ve been quoted as saying that all of your music is a complete body of work, whether it’s an official album release or a mixtape release. Do you feel it’s more important to take that independent route to build your buzz as opposed to waiting on a label to promote you and your music knowing that there’s always the possibility that they won’t share your vision?
Absolutely. It’s definitely better because of the energy and you gotta have some kind of control over what you’re doing. The labels aren’t putting in as much work as they used to, so if you wait on them to promote or push you, you’re gonna have a real hard time in this industry because it’s not that type of game anymore. 10 years ago when you got a deal you knew they were actually gonna put out a single and push you as an artist. Basically having a deal today is just like being independent. What makes a difference is your grind or your personal struggle to make sure that your music gets out there and is heard. So whatever means you gotta go through to make that happen is what you gotta do. And the labels are not really pressed by you until you create a buzz anyway. You don’t have A&R’s anymore that stick with you and help you build your brand and your product from the ground up every step of the way. That doesn’t happen anymore. I just use the Mixtape vessel as an artist to let people know I’m out here.
All of your songs are really noteworthy and I’m not just saying that, I’ve got your discs on repeat for real so what I want to know is; what is your creative process like? Your music is geared towards the ladies so do you need candles, dim lights and incense and things like that to build your creative vibe.
I actually got turned on to you from your Sex Tape Chronicles 2: The Rhythm and Streets Edition mixtape. The artwork is what caught my attention. The cover model had a great ass [laughs] but after listening, I was seriously taken aback at how nice you really are. What about your creative process?
You know people ask me that all the time and I’m not like a diva. You don’t have to set up no incense or none of that stuff I just like to get in the room listen to the music and then just catch my vibe and just build it from there. I don’t have a set way like, “Make sure you have my green skittles in a jar” [laughs]. I just get in the studio s, sit in front of the computer; I might light one and then just figure it out.
Where are you originally from?
Originally I was born in Puerto Rico. That’s where my mom is from along with her family. I was raised in the Virgin Islands because that’s where my dad is from, so when people hear my accent they hear it in me and I was primarily raised there, so that’s where I’m from.
What is your idea of the perfect song?
My idea of the perfect song is a song that you can build something so melodic that you can remember the melody and it has to have enough content in it so that you feel the connection with the record. Then you have to have a concept that they can attach to a time. All the great songs that we love we can listen to years later and it will always take us back to that time when that song was out and when we fell in love with the song. That’s the perfect song to me.
What was that wonderful phone call like when Jay-Z and Kanye West’s people hit you up to work on Watch The Throne?
It kind of started out basic, like, “Yo, Jay and Kanye want ya’ll to work on Watch The Throne”. It was cool because we [Verse and his partner Sham “Sak Pase” Joseph], get calls to do a lot of songs, just not from artists that are that as big as Hov and Ye I mean they are like the biggest stars in Hip-Hop. So we went in and did some songs but you never know how it’s gonna go. But when you get the call that says, “Hov and Ye just cut that record you did.” Then it’s like, “Wow”. It gets crazy then. And it’s crazy because they [Jay-Z and Kanye West] were really going in and that’s when you say to yourself; I’ve been doing this for a minute and now it’s all worth it.
I heard you say that Akon set the tone for you because of his humility. Expand on that for me?
For somebody to be as successful as he is, talented as he is, to be a huge world artist, to have all this money and you na mean? When you think about all of that and you were just talking about the person [Akon] your thinking, “Ok this guy’s gonna be a real jerk”, and they feel like the world all belongs to them and they may have a right to have some of those feelings and they move the way they move because they are as big as they are. But, when you talk about someone like Akon who is one of the most approachable and humble people in the game, he showed me that you don’t have to be like that and that you can be well respected without having to act out. That’s something that I just took with me till this day. I just can’t be one of those people that are extra diva like. He let me know that you can be in the industry, be successful and be humble.
I know you were signed with Interscope and then Konvict/Bu Vision. What is your actual label state as of now?
I have a joint venture between Konvict/Bu Vision and distribution through Def Jam.
What is the most important lesson that you’ve learned in this industry and was it something you taught yourself or was it something that someone else taught you?
It was a combination of both but I’ll tell you one thing that stuck with me that The RZA from Wu-Tang told me. We just happened to be sitting next to each other on a flight. He said, “The one thing I can tell you about this industry is to be humble because you never know when it turns, who is going to be on the upside.” He even said that he had done it and had to fall off before he realized what it was. He also said, “People get caught up in this industry and you may be popping now and then go and buy a million dollar house forgetting that you may have to pay for that house for the next 5 years.” He told me to pace yourself and just not jump in and that really stuck with me.
Who do you want to work with that you haven’t worked with yet?
Young Money, Rick Ross and Machine Gun Kelly. But it’s wide open for me and I wanna work with anybody who’s about their craft and really trying to make something happen.
I know you spit bars, write and sing. Do you plan on branching off and maybe doing a full Hip-Hop album?
It’s probably gonna continue to be a combination because I don’t really look at myself as a rapper, I’m more of a singer than a rapper. I look at the way I rap as more of poetry in motion and it depends on the track and the vibe and even though it is rapping, I still look at it as poetry in motion. I don’t see me doing a rap album because I just don’t consider myself a rapper.
I ask every artist this question. If you had one thing that you had to take from your life and you had to take it from your life today and that one thing would leave your mark and legacy in music what would that one thing be.
I’d probably leave a compilation of all the music I’ve ever done that I could find. Good or bad and it would probably be the longest CD ever but that’s what I would leave behind. Hopefully I could get one of those Tupac things going you know what I mean?
Ok it’s time for “Shout Outs”; this is the portion of the interview where I ask you 10 questions and you respond with the first thing that comes to your mind.
The artist that made you want to be an artist?
It would have to be between two people, Babyface and Lauryn Hill. No, let me take that back it would be Babyface because he was way before Lauryn Hill.
Favorite sports team?
Favorite sports figure dead or alive, playing or not?
Favorite place to visit?
Favorite fashion brand?
Favorite song ever?
That’s a real question right there. It’s a real hard one. One would be something from Jodeci, but, no, no, no I got it! If I Ruled the World by Nas and Mint Condition’s Pretty Brown Eyes.
How can the fans get in touch with you and what’s your ultimate goal?
@VerseSimmonds on Twitter and VerseSimmonds.com. I’m just focusing on the latest mixtape, Sex Love and Hip-Hop, and we got the next single, Bad Mutha, featuring Snoop Dogg and we should be shooting the video real soon and I’m also trying to shoot a video for every song on the mixtape and hopefully that’ll be done by the end of summer.
My goal is to put out the type of material that every time you hear is that there is some type of cohesiveness to it all the time. I try to focus on a bunch of album fillers because I’m listening to the albums that everyone else is listening too and I’m like skip, skip and you shouldn’t have to go to iTunes to get the one song you want and that’s because people aren’t putting out great bodies of work anymore.
There’s a way to balance it all out and if you are not that versatile then just stick to what you do. I mean no matter what you say about Kanye West, you can listen to all of his songs and you may not like some of them but you will respect his hard work and effort in putting out great bodies of work.
- By K.B. Tindal