Growing up in East Nashville, Top Prospekt insightfully harnesses his experience of struggle together with the more positive morals of family and religion in order to express well-thought out lyrics that relate to people from all aspects of life. Prospekt worked a lot with producer, P.Cole, together establishing a movement entitled ‘SmokeSkreen’. It was derived from the military definition of ‘a screen consisting of a cloud of smoke that obscures movement’, and the two expanded that concept into their music to express that ‘everything is not what it seems’. Now working predominantly solo, Top Prospekt is due to drop his new EP, the Zone Out, this week.
We chat to Top Prospekt about his upcoming EP, his struggles growing up in East Nashville, and the importance of family as a means of rising up above those negative experiences. Ayla Dhyani writes.
You're about to release your new EP 'The Zone Out'. Tell us about it.
Yes, 'The Zone Out' drops on July 15th 2014! It's a 5-track project that came about unexpectedly, really. I was actually going through productions gearing up for my first independent album and the tracks I chose kind of fell into place for this EP. Each song was written after a thought during a daydream, hence the title name. While writing, I would literally zone out, so larger portions of the lyrics on this project are way more personal than usual, and to be honest, I liked the feeling of that. I felt growth in my perception of reality. Ironically.
You've done a lot of collaborative projects, particularly with P.Cole. Do you prefer working solo or with other artists?
I prefer working solo, hands down. No question about it. But don't get it twisted, I love working with other artists. It’s fun most of the time (laughs), mainly because I like the competitive nature that it brings out, as well as the simple fact that minds are working together. I do prefer to work solo because when it's just me, it's all me; all of my creative ideas and views can either be fulfilled or not fulfilled, and it’s all on me. I like the responsibility of creativity.
You've been acknowledged as an "intellectual gangster". Is that something you recognise yourself as?
You know what, that damn near describes me to a tee (laughs). I went to a Magnet School and went on to do a few years of college. Even before that, there were always crossword puzzles and simple arithmetic books at grandma's and nanny's house. The "gangster" part came from the mind-state more than anything. I grew up in East Nashville, running around the city before we even had cars, doing what little boys do. Drugs, murder rate, and violence went through the roof in good old Music City, USA. I remember I used to link up with my squad during the week with a scale and homework in my backpack. Growing up, family and God were the morals instilled in us. My folks wouldn’t let us slack off in school at all and I love them for that. They wanted, and still want, better things for my sister and I. They're great. So with a balance of street smarts and book smarts, I guess "intellectual gangster" is an acceptable description.
Did growing up in Nashville impact greatly on your style of music?
I think so. Actually, I know so. Nashville is a melting pot of cultures, and most people don't realise that. If you've never been to Nashville before, the media portrays the city as strictly country music. Yes, the country music scene has economically been popping for a while now for the city, but that is not all that we are. You know that show Nashville? Some scenes are literally shot across the street from the projects. You know what I get from that? That there is beauty in struggle. It builds character. And that is a main reason I make music, to share my story, our story, to the world. That's why there is a lot of storytelling in my songs if you really listen. It makes sense.
Do you do many live gigs or tours?
It's weird that you ask that. One of my engineers and I had a conversation about this just the other day. We decided that we were going to do a self-sponsored tour around the south-east and some of the mid-west in the fall, from performances to general appearances. It should be a fun experience. We're looking forward to it.
Tell us about the 'SmokeSkreen' movement.
SmokeSkreen! Yeah, that's my sh**. P.Cole and I linked up, drank a 4Loko, and came up with the idea in a drug class the judge made us take. People think the movement is all about smoking weed, and we laugh about that all the time. We just like to smoke weed, because weed is great. If you look up the definition of a ‘smokescreen’, it would generally say that it is a cloud of smoke used to conceal private operations. That’s the main idea. We will never show our hand. We show what we want them to see. So it's kind of trippy. Just like people smoke or drink to conceal feelings, we smoke to conceal moves to the public. That mob type stuff, 'Prospekt Sinatra' and 'P.Luciano'. Stay low and come up high, no pun intended. It makes you become more aware of yourself. We think that's something people can relate to. You’ve got to feel that. It's SmokeSkreen.
What stimulates your soul?
What a great question. Simple, yet very deep. As I mentioned earlier, my morals mean a lot to me. God and family come first, there's no changing that. Several things may affect a person, but not a lot will move them. Meaning, with me, God and family makes me move. Move my mind out of a valley to the top of a mountain. They can move my actions from unnecessary to necessary; help decipher needs vs. wants, etc. Having a clear head through struggle is what stimulates my soul, because it helps me get to what drives me, which is seeing my family and crew smiling. I get great satisfaction from ‘putting on’ for my people. That's what stimulates my soul.