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Referee is a well polished Hip-Hop artist from Cleveland, Ohio.
He is motivated, clever, and his voice is powerful on his songs.
His new album "Gold Chains, 40 Ounces and Inner Demons"
is out now! Be sure to check it out today!
At what age did you realize you had a interest in the music industry?
It was around the age of 14 or 15. I was always a fan of Hip-Hop, but the more and more I heard the song "Notorious Thugs" by Biggie and Bone, which was a collab between my favorite artist at the time, and Cleveland's hometown heroes that had already been out for a few years, it made me realize that if they could do it I could too. So I began to write raps here and there although I didn't actually record my first song until about 17. My first performance at my high school talent show made me realize the adrenaline rush of being on stage and seeing people react to my music was something I wanted to do forever.
Is anyone else in your family an artist or musician of some sort?
Not that I know of. I never met my father so that's a whole side of my family I don't know about, but as far as I know I'm the first.
Cleveland has had many major artists come from it's music scene.
What Cleveland artists have influenced you through the years?
Bone initially, but Chip Tha Ripper really influenced me at the right time. He came along and showed me that Cleveland will actually embrace you if you make good music and work hard. Currently the Machine Gun Kelly movement is also very influential. None of them really influence me musically, but work ethic wise I look up to all of them.
Your latest album, "Gold Chains, 40 Ounces and Inner Demons", you worked with producer "Cleveland's Trump", how did you two meet?
We actually both cleaned airplanes at the airport together. He was a rapper too at the time and I was going under the most generic rap name on Earth, "White Flame" at the time. Unfortunately he was in a group with an equally generic name, "Black Flames" so once we were alone for the first time in a company van, we had to trade verses because our names were so similar. I think I gained his respect a little bit although neither of us were great at the time. From then on we went to each others shows etc. Eventually he gave up rapping and began to make beats and now we're a producer/artist one-two punch. He's one of my best friends now.
Would you consider yourself more of a writer or a free-stylist?
Definitely a writer. Early on I loved free styling and I was involved in a lot of battles on the Ohio State campus, and a handful once I dropped out of college back home, but once I really started trying to make bodies of music there was no turning back. I rarely freestyle anymore. I get a bigger rush from making a song from scratch.
You do a lot of shows, do you ever get nervous jitters? Or is it business as usual at this point?
I think everyone gets nervous a little, but it leaves once the first bar comes out of your mouth. I'm usually networking and enjoying the other acts before I go on so I never really let any butterflies bother me.
Do you see yourself getting into music production in the future?
It's something I've thought of. Cleveland's Trump, Bighead Dez and other producers I know are so good that I really don't need to learn, but it's definitely something I want to learn regardless. It's on my bucket list to produce a song on one of my albums.
Will there be a music video for any songs off your new album?
Yes. I've already paid for 3 videos, but I'm still brainstorming concepts and locations. I don't want to do the typical local music video. The weather is finally decent so we'll be getting those in motion very soon.
As you know, doing shows out of your own state is the key to success.
Will you be doing more shows out of state soon?
Yes. I love traveling. I've done shows in Texas, South Carolina and other parts of Ohio this year, but I'm hoping to do even more. My dream is to be on a tour bus and travel city to city with my circle and perform on tours all the time. I don't care if I'm rich or not. If I can afford to travel the world doing music with my team, that'd be enough for me. Anything on top of that would be bonus.
What can we expect from you in the future?
The next project will be an EP completely produced by Cleveland's Trump. That should be out late fall/ early winter. Videos will be dropping over the Summer for my last album "Gold Chains, 40 Ounces and Inner Demons". I'm also working on a few business ideas as well and have been getting into club promotion and hosting. I just never want to have to work a 9-5 all my life. Music is one of the few things in life that makes me happy so I want to continue to figure out how to make it a career.