Every now and then Hip Hop spits out someone who is so deeply rooted in the culture and so skilled that they are pre-destined to achieve greatness. There are times when some of the pre-destined didn’t make it. Be it from death or lack of work ethic, imprisonment or even a moment of clarity when they realized that maybe being one of the best may just not be in God’s plan for them or they may have just failed to rise to the occasion.
But when we as a culture think about pure, raw, refined and defined lyricism on a grand scale, we think of Biggie, 2Pac, Nas, Jay-Z, Eminem, Outkast and a few others. Some are so nice that they put their entire city on their back and ran with the baton to greatness.
Recently, California spit out Kendrick Lamar and on August 22, 1978 in Gulfport, Mississippi, Tito Lopez was born and a lyrical genius has emerged from that conception. At 24, Tito is steadily building a buzz with a collection of some new and prior noteworthy tracks. His grind goes back as far as 2008 and he has released 15 mixtapes in that time. Tito’s bangers are plentiful so this article will reference some of his bars so that all the loyal Yo! Raps fans can enter into Tito’s world.
One can hear the need in a person’s voice and can see the look of undeniable hunger in their eyes when they are the truth. In Tito’s case that is an understatement. With co-signs from Dr. Dre, Organized Noize, Sha Money XL, DJ Toomp and Sway Calloway, who prophesizes that Tito will be on the cover as one of 2013’s XXL Freshmens.
Yo Tito, nice to meet you! I heard you said that you spit like a veteran in a rookie’s body, expand on that for me.
I may be new to a lot of people but my skills ain’t nothing new. I’ve been doing this my whole life. If anybody followed my story they know my first words were “Wild Wild West” from Kool Moe Dee when I was in the high chair. I swear to God this is serious dog, when my mom’s had me in the high chair she would spin the wheel of fortune because I like sounds and it would put me to sleep and I would stop crying but as soon as she would stop I would wake up and start crying again. She told me that one day she had me in the high chair feeding me and I said, “Wild Wild West”. I had young parents and all they played was Hip Hop. She said from then on she knew I was gonna be a rapper. I was writing raps at 5 trying to be like Kriss Kross and reading Dr. Seuss because that was rhyming too.
I know the caliber of MC that I have been for a long time and I’m just being myself and I get that co-sign from the big name dudes like Dr. Dre and Sway Calloway and they co-signed me for a reason and that’s because I’m a veteran but I‘m just new to people’s faces.
You said that you used to hate the word “lyrical”, but we all know that you are very lyrical, so is there any specific type of recording process that you use?
I just go free for all most of the time, but I’d be lying if I said at times that I’ll hear a beat and think of a concept. On my new mixtape I got a song called Jessica where I’m telling a whole story. Most of the time, I just speak about my life. If you can’t take your real life and make it entertaining, because you still have to entertain people and make it interesting through Rap, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it. You shouldn’t have to fake and try to think so damn hard. You got someone like Andre 3000 saying, “I got more fans than the average man/ But not enough loot to last me to the end of the week/ I live by the beat like you live check to check.”
That’s him saying basically I’m broke dog, I got some fans out here but I’m broke and if you can’t do that then you weren’t born to do it. I don’t have to think about it.
What was it like growing up in Gulfport, Mississippi?
Gulfport is my home and always will be -- it’s a small city. There’s probably less than 50,000 people in it. It’s a town but compared to all the other places in Mississippi it’s a city. They always ask me why I don’t have an accent and actually up in north Mississippi they have the accents. I’m from the bottom so none of us have accents. At the bottom we talk with a little bit of an accent but not a heavy accent. It’s a small town where everybody knows everybody. It’s actually great when you go out but if you have bigger dreams you can’t live there forever. I had to get out and see the world.
Tell me about your crew The Great People of Today (GPT).
I scream it everywhere I go and on every song. It was kind of a double edge thing. I always knew I was gonna say GPT Boys just because I wanted to rep my city. So every time that I say it, I’m bringing my city with me. That’s why they are very proud and I wanted to turn it into something different because everybody is not from Gulfport, but everybody say it including the fans. So when I said it I just made up the acronym Great People Of Today. I feel like that’s what we are and even my boys that rap say it too.
Mississippi Burning is one of my favorite joints and your knowledge of the history of Hip Hop is very impressive for a 24 year old. How important is it to you to pay homage to the artists that came before you and to get the respect of those artists?
To me it’s very important to pay that homage. It’s most important to me because I’m doing my thing and I feel like a lot of these dudes don’t get that respect of have homage paid to them until they’re dead. We gotta do some of these dudes while they are still alive dog. It’s important to me because I have a different feeling then maybe some of these new kids out here with music. It’s not just music with me. It’s the soundtrack to my life and the soundtrack to my heart.
On the flip side it’s not as important to get the respect from them and I say that because I’ve met some of these legendary dudes and they’re used to seeing and hearing, “Yo, I love you so much” all day. I just shake their hand, salute them and pay that respect because I could never tell them how much that music meant to me. They wouldn’t get it.
When I first got your mixtape, The Lost Files Of Tito Lopez, I didn’t even play it from the first track. I immediately listened to Story To Tell and the Outkast Medley because remaking classics like that is very risky. What was your motivation for doing that and were you looking for a certain response when you did it?
I did it just for the love of music. I jumped on those because those are some of my favorite beats. Even today, I’m still riding to shit from the 90’s, so I just felt like flippin’ em. I can’t fuck with a lot of this new shit. It’s crazy too because those are my biggest influences, Outkast, The Dungeon Family and Biggie. I’m kind of a mix between both of them so I had to flip both of their beats on the album. I did it so I could show where I come from. You had to have come from that lineage of those duded to jump on those beats.
I’ll always flip some older beats because I think it’s kind of getting played out jumping on everybody’s new beats. Whatever’s the newest or hottest beat everybody’s got a verse on it and I think that’s getting boring. You know better than to embarrass yourself by grabbing a Biggie beat and trying to go after him so they know better than that but for me it’s nothing because they know I’m gonna do it right and pay homage.
In one of your bars you say, “God take me back to when they slapped you for touchin’ they butt/ Guess I’m an old soul I don’t feel like I belong.” Do you feel like that and how do you get through that?
Absolutely, I do feel like that and I always have and I get through it through music. I like to watch movies a lot. They call it escapism when you do something to escape your problems but music is not escapism for me because I put all my problems right there in front of me while I’m rapping but movies that’s different because anytime my phone is off I’m at the movies.
I think for 2 hours you could be on a planet with some aliens and you ain’t gotta think about the bills or nothing. So that’s my escapism and that goes back to that question of why these dudes mean so much to me that I grew up on. I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up so when they are rapping or when DMX, Eminem, Biggie or Jay-Z is rapping, I’m really feeling this shit and it’s helping me get through shit.
I curse and all of that in my music, but I feel like I have something that’s refreshing because everything is some hedonism ass shit like just beat the pussy up and drink and get fucked up. You must not be going through any problems if you don’t have shit to say about your life. When I say suicidal in a song it’s real but music is what has me still breathing and walking this earth. If I didn’t have music I don’t know what I would do.
You also said you have you started looking at yourself as a Black dude from Mississippi with a Spanish name and you sound like you’re from Brooklyn. When did that light bulb in your head pop on and how has it helped you lyrically?
I used to think that was a crutch, but who actually made the light bulb pop off was my manager Wok and my homeboy D. They were the positive influences and they were the ones in my ear saying I can use that as my secret weapon because that’s what makes me stand out so I have to give them the credit for that to be honest because I can be pessimistic at times. But now we feel like we are the squad and we are the coldest so it makes it much easier with my flow now.
When did you know that you weren’t trying to be a rapper but that you were already an MC?
Junior High like in 7th or 8th grade. We used to bang on the tables at lunch time and it would be my turn then someone else and then another person and when it got back to me nobody wanted to take their turn. They all wanted to hear me. It made me feel good and that was the first time I had some acceptance. I started getting friends and everybody was like yea Tito can Rap.
If you had one thing that you had to pick from your life that would leave your stamp on the music world what would that one thing be?
If it was a song it would be Mama Proud because I get the Mother’s Day love being played after Tupac [laughs] and being true to who you are. Now, people look up to me and I feel like I’m destined for greatness.
This is the Shout Outs portion of the interview where I’ll as you 10 questions and you respond with the first answer that comes to mind.
Favorite drink alcoholic or non-alcoholic?
Cranberry and Absolute/Sprite.
Favorite artist past or present?
Biggie, but I would love to work with Lauryn Hill.
Favorite sports team?
Oklahoma City Thunder.
Favorite sports figure?
Favorite place to visit?
Favorite fashion brand?
The artist that made you want to become an artist?
That’s a good one! With all the classic shit I named I’d have to say Kriss Kross [laughs]. They were kids and that’s what made me say I could do this because I was a kid at the time and I could relate to them.
Favorite song of all time?
Nas’ If I Ruled The World.
- By K.B. Tindal