On Saturday July 23rd, 2016 Shotta Spence held a listening party at Reed Space for his debut project, Upfall. Shame on you if you weren’t in attendance because the 20 year old New Jersey bred spitter surely proved that his passion for rapping isn’t a mere gimmick.
A mélange of Spence’s hometown friends and exuberant new fans filled Jeff Staple’s lower east side inferno. Unfortunately, the store’s cooling system was down but that didn’t stop Shotta’s real supporters from turning up.
The Ear Drummer affiliate’s mixtape boasts 15 original tracks, which are all produced by an assortment of outstanding beatmakers. Spence’s awesome story-telling ability and melodic flow compliments the instrumentals greatly, making his very first effort into the hip-hop scene a commendable one.
I recently sat down with the rising star to discuss the inner workings of Upfall and plans of leaving his mark in the game. Check out our conversation below:
FRENDY: I’ve known you for about 8 years through BAPE. I truly didn’t know music was a passion of yours until you pleasantly surprised me with a freestyle at the shop, one year before my 2015 departure. When did your love of rhyming actually come about?
SHOTTA SPENCE: I’ve been writing poetry since middle school and I started fucking around rapping in high school with my track teammates. I gave up on recording music sometime during high school and devoted more time to track and making clothes, but I continued to write throughout college whenever I had to get shit off my chest.
FRENDY: What propelled you to take the craft seriously?
SHOTTA SPENCE: When I was growing up I used to really look up to my boy Chino who was a rapper and like the flyest dude in my town. He was shot and killed in 2012 and that shit really pushed me to turn up with everything art-related that I was pursuing. Fast forward to 2014, I was in college struggling to keep my grades up while still designing, modeling, styling, doing whatever I could to get my name out there while looking for places to record. I was desperate to find a path out of school because I wasn’t going to last four years in that bitch. So school was fucking me up and then boom, I meet Mike Will while styling a Rae Sremmurd video. This was around my 19th birthday, which is how old Chino was when he passed, and I looked at it as a sign. I remember thinking, “you wanna do music? Here’s yo chance.”
FRENDY: Initially, Fashion was your creative outlet. You built your very own "Spencer Lee" clothing line from the ground up, and even modeled for brands like PUMA and Yeezy. Was it hard to leave behind your budding career in the fashion industry to fully concentrate on being an artist?
SHOTTA SPENCE: It wasn’t hard at all because music is really what I wanted to do. I viewed everything as stepping stones though. Doing all of the other shit helped me meet the right people and grow as a creative all around. What was hard though was leaving all of the people that I had been building with in order to focus more on my self.
FRENDY: What’s the inspiration behind the name of your very first sonic compilation?
SHOTTA SPENCE: The project is about greed, grinding selfishly and how it can cause you to lose sight of what you truly stand for. It’s also about how death can humble you and remind you of what’s really important, like the friends, family and hometown that’s supported you since day one. The project is really a story of falling off of my prideful throne and thinking it was my downfall, but realizing in the end it brought me closer to the things that really matter. Now I'm truly “up”. Also pay attention to all the times I say “fall” or “up” during the project.
FRENDY: The rollout for Upfall was executed flawlessly. It’s quite an impressive feat for a rapper who seemingly fell from the sky. How long did it take you to fully complete the project?
SHOTTA SPENCE: I can’t really say. From 2015 to now I was just writing and recording nonstop and these are the ones that fit together for the project. Most of the records on Upfall were made in 2015 and a few were made this year.
FRENDY: How did your relationship with Mike Will Made-It come about? Was he helpful in the process of developing your debut?
SHOTTA SPENCE: I met him while styling the Rae Sremmurd “Up Like Trump” music video. I got that opportunity from Max Hliva, the video director for Ear Drummers, who went to the same high school as me. At the shoot I remember meeting Mike and how we clicked from our first conversation. I remember him saying “damn you remind me of a young version of me bruh.” I was showing him all the clothes I put on Sremm for the video and explaining how I handmade most of my shit. So from that point on he knew me as a creative and he was bringing me with them to all the shows in NY while they were out there. Through Mike I met Aubz, who is the Eardrummer A&R and now my manager. One night in the club we were all twisted and Aubz caught me drunk freestyling and was like, "bro you should be an artist.” Nobody really knew that I was already making music then. I didn’t even tell Mike until one day he called me singing one of the songs I had did over a beat Aubz sent me. I was so gassed cus I remember when he called I was recording in my boy’s basement like “damn how can we make some shit good enough to show Mike.” Since then I just been going in and developing myself as an artist and I always look to Mike for his opinion and guidance on whatever I make. I wanted to do my first project on my own, so me and Mike don’t have any songs on Upfall, but I definitely soaked up a lot of knowledge and sauce just being around Mike and observing how he move and how he creates. I wouldn’t have been able to level up my music if I never met Mike.
FRENDY: Where did you find all of the talented producers featured on the tape?
SHOTTA SPENCE: Ducko Mcfli (White Collar), Childish Major (Hot Head/Momma’s Boy), Mike Larrry (Up) and Von Vuai (September) I met in Atlanta through Aubz. I never actually met Murphy Kid (What’s the Word, Nothing 2 Lose) but I got those beats from him through Aubz as well. Me and Kakuyon (Throne, All the Wrong Things) been close friends since elementary school and we ran track together in high school. I’ve also been close friends with Mohntra (Big Body, Getcha Own, Our Glass) since elementary school. All of the producers are ill and I can’t thank them enough for working with me. Producers are often under-appreciated and they deserve as much credit as the artist, if not more.
FRENDY: What was your favorite track to make and why?
SHOTTA SPENCE: Probably September. I made it on Chino’s death anniversary (9/27) so I really felt it while I was making it.
FRENDY: Describe your particular sound in one word.
SHOTTA SPENCE: Spirits.
FRENDY: What are you planning to do now since you finally released Upfall? Already working on a new project?
SHOTTA SPENCE: Yeah just working on the next projects. Other than that I’m gonna get some videos done for Upfall.
FRENDY: I am proud of the man you are becoming. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
SHOTTA SPENCE: Making better music, traveling, winning awards, packing out stadiums, putting my friends and family in great positions, doing charity work and continuing to work on my craft.