In March of 2011, I interviewed Vincent Vega, an MC who appeared in the iconic Live From Ohio Cypher video alongside some of the Queen City's wickedest microphone contenders. At the time, Vega was preparing to release his CD, Man on Fire, and was being interviewed for the April 2011 CityBeat feature, Blue-Collar Swag.
I’m here talking with Cincinnati Hip Hop MC, Vincent Vega. Can you talk about how you got your name?
Vincent Vega is a character from Pulp Fiction. He was John Travolta’s character. He was an assassin, and for the longest, I was on the fence about a name. I’ve seen guys get away with (names like) Scarface, Capone N Noreaga, I’ve seen everybody have these thugged out names, and I figured, I’ll take a name that’s like a spoof-type of comedy, and I’ll do my thing and be super lyrical, and still just go in, have fun with it. Honestly, that’s where Vincent Vega comes from.
Can you tell me where you’re from, and where you grew up?
I was born and raised in Cincinnati, OH. I graduated from Withrow High School and I’m from Kennedy Heights and Madisonville area.
Describe a scenario when you first discovered that you had a love for hip hop, other than being a casual listener, like a connection that brought you closer to wanting to be an MC.
I fell in love with the way people put their words together. Not necessarily what they were saying, just how they would put their words together. Right now, I’m writing rhymes and being as creative as possible with them. That’s it, really. Honestly. I’m not sure if that’s a good answer.
Who’s your favorite lyrical MC, and why?
I will have to go with Lupe Fiasco because he’s just—you said ‘lyrical;' I think he says things that you wouldn’t even think would be fair to say, and still finds a way to tie it in to make it rhyme and make sense. He’s just above and beyond crazy lyrical.
So what strengths of his do you try to implement in your own sound?
Uh…wordplay. Definitely wordplay and thinking outside the box, just going the scenic route to say something as opposed to just saying, ‘the brick wall is right there,’ you know what I mean? Saying things different ways.
Making it more visual?
Yes ma’am. Creating that picture.
I’ve read that you consider your style revolutionary. Why is that?
I feel that street credibility isn’t a priority. In today’s rap, you have to be “street, street, street, street.” I feel that’s not the case with me. I’m bringing lyricism to the forefront back to how it was, and it’s more powerful saying what’s real, things that people can relate to—what’s really real, and not what’s being called real nowadays. I try to say things you can relate to, things you can feel.
You’ve also referred to your music as ‘motivational music.’ What motivated you to create this style, and were you at a point where you became unmotivated by what you were hearing?
Vincent: Yeah, I definitely do have some things that I call ‘motivational music’ because I feel that a lot of my music is like…how can I put it? I think my music, since it’s more things that real people can relate to—I mean, nobody’s really making it rain, so let’s be serious; let’s come together and do what we need to do to get money, do what we need to do to make ourselves better. It’s not motivational in the sense of hype music or fight music or nothing like that, it’s just trying to be forward. It’s positive music. And I think being positive and being lyrical together in a sense, I think that alone can be motivational. It’s definitely motivational for me because it’s like, ‘Okay, wow, people can really think out the box and (MC.)’
Okay, so spit something of yours, like a few seconds that you consider motivational. Give me a quick example.
A quick example? (laughs, looks taken off guard)
I’m sorry! (Still laughing, looking like he’s at an American Idol audition trying to think of his best few lines to say to get the Golden Ticket to Hollywood)
That’s alright! This ain’t open-mic night!
I understand that!
And would I have permission to quote the lyric?
Please do. (Clears throat, getting prepared to spit…thinking and fidgeting a little) Um…sheesh…you didn’t have me ready for this!
I’m about to blow like the Challenger with the flow of a champion
I’m hot for a calendar/you do not have a chance with him/And I’ma spit it til I’m selling out your stadiums, hot bars and I’m aimin’ em
For your cranium…they better…awwwww! (Loses his train of thought, then laughs)
It’s all good. Basically, lyrics that don’t make you feel like you have to be of a certain economic status or you can be an everyman, everyday man kind of thing?
Yes. I’ve been asked, like what’s my hook, and my hook is that I’m a regular guy, but with the rhymes, I can out-rhyme you. It’s not necessarily about fresh or fly. When it’s time to rhyme, you know what I mean—let’s go. Let’s see who brings what to the table.
Well you’ve said that you’re shy, so how does rhyming help you overcome that? Because obviously, if you feel confident enough to say you can out-rhyme anybody, that’s not shy.
It’s true. I don’t know; it’s sorta different when I hit the stage. I don’t understand why that is but definitely when I’m onstage I’m more comfortable. It’s like I have a million personal pictures where I’m not smiling, but I’ll see pictures of me onstage and I’m smiling. It’s like, I don’t remember smiling. It’s like, I’m having fun, I guess. I don’t know; I feel like what I’m doing right now…I’m not saying I’m the best in the world, but I don’t feel like nobody else is doing what I’m doing right now—right now, anyway. I’m having fun. I’m having a lot of fun.
I’ve been seeing your name a lot in the last year or so as like an opening act for a lot of national artists that come to the city. Can you tell me some of those artists?
I opened up for J. Cole, I opened up for Red and Meth (Redman and Method Man), Nappy Roots, The GZA, Ghostface Killah, Freddie Gibbs, K Michelle, Joel Ortiz, is that it? I think that’s it.
Did you ever get a chance to kind of build with them, like offstage or get any tips from them or anything?
I didn’t a chance to really. I talked to some managers, but not really like artist to artist. I talked to Nappy Roots…nothing really. It was really like small talk, honestly. I did talk to the GZA a little bit, and that was pretty cool. We’re sort of…me and him are sort of like on the same page, as far as like lyrical MCs. That was pretty cool. A lot of national artists, it’s like they’re city to city, and it’s like every city they go, they’re not super approachable. Some guys are real cool. Red and Meth are real cool. It wasn’t like a conversation, but they’ll say ‘hey,’ and they were real cool.
What does it feel like to see your name on a flyer with these guys?
It’s beautiful. Especially when I know it’s a good show, like the Red and Meth—that show was ridiculous! I’m not sure if you saw that one…
I missed it, but I did hear good things about it, that everybody that was on the bill did an amazing job.
Yes, it was a great show. But yeah, that’s definitely a great feeling. I think a problem of mine is that I’m so hungry, I never stop and reflect like, ‘Aw man! I’m doing so much stuff!’ I never do that. I just try to go like, ‘Okay…like today is March 7, I see B.o.B. is going to be here in April. I’m trying to open for him. You know what I mean? I never look back. It’s just a hunger thing with me right now. But I’m definitely appreciative and thankful to Self Diploma and everybody else who’s given me opportunities, and I definitely promote them and try to help out and all of that, but I’m always looking forward, I want to keep moving and expand my show in front of different audiences.
Do you have a manager that books these shows for you?
(Shakes his head no.)
So you book them yourself? (shakes his head ‘yes’.) As soon as you learn about them, what do you do? Keep calling?
Well Self Diploma, the first show I did with them was the GZA show. And ever since then, they seen I guess the professionalism and they seen the show I put on, and since then, they call me. And that’s just for Self Diploma. The only other show that I have done, it was the Joel Ortiz in Columbus which was real great. But no, I don’t have someone who’s booking my shows.
Okay, so we were talking about your performances where you’ve opened up for national artists. Do you feel like since you’ve been doing that, you’ve been treated any differently from your peers who are artists?
Ah, most definitely. Most definitely. A lot of people…I get invited to do a lot more shows, and I see some things said here and there, but for the most part, it’s positive. I mean, we’re all doing the same type of thing; but it’s like, I’m opening for somebody and they’re not, and of course, they’re going to notice. You know how it is when everybody knows each other, and it’s this one guy who keeps doing these other shows that nobody else can seem to get.
Wouldn’t you think that would make the other people work a little harder?
I would think so! But I don’t know what to say to that. I don’t know… it’s more than just music. It’s professionalism, it’s emotion; it’s a little bit of everything when selling yourself as an artist, you have to be able to go all the way in, and a lot of guys think that if they put together a good mp3, then they should be on BET, and a lot of people think there’s something wrong with working hard. And people see me promoting flyers, tickets, tweeting, on Facebook and everything, as you said, you would think people would (work harder), but I’m not complaining or anything.
How many hours a week would you say you spend promoting yourself, other than performing? Like if you had to think of it in terms of how many hours a week you spend at work, and it’s like another job.
It really is another job. I’d say, 40 a week at work? It’d probably be almost about the same as at work because when I leave, I’m thinking music, I’m on the phone [networking about music], everything…interviews…it’s hard to do, but I asked for this. I’m definitely grateful, but it’s a job.
Now earlier, I was trying to see if there was a scenario you remembered as a youngster that kind of brought you closer to hip hop, like a particular song or a concert that you went to, or an experience. Talk about some of your earlier influences prior to becoming an MC—
Specifically, Hip Hop, as it relates to you wanting to reach out.
You know, even though a lot of his music has changed now, I was a huge Jay-Z fan, I was a huge—still am—a huge Nas fan, that’s just coming up, late '90s, music was just so much better then than it is now for some reason. Not just because it was hip hop, but it just seemed like it was good, real music. You had DMX, Nas, Jay-Z, all these different heavyweights dropping albums in the same year. At the time in the late ‘90s, I was in high school, and a lot of that stuff I could relate to. I think it probably was high school before I could say I remember what song that was playing when ‘this’ happened and what happened in different situations and stuff like that…high school football, like working out and stuff like that, I can remember CDs I made.
What would be on them?
Nas' It Was Written, I Am; just deep, thought-provoking music. I don’t know why that would be necessarily for lifting weights but it’s just my preference, honestly.
Sounds like...I guess the correlation I see is release, like a clearing of the mind, like when you’re lifting weights, and you’re probably clearing your mind, and listening to something like Nas, I guess you can do the same thing.
Let’s talk about Cincinnati Cypher that was hosted by Barry Bondz.
Yes ma’am. Barry got together a few real dope MCs locally like Ill Poetic, Buggs tha Rocka, I mean, I think there were 10 altogether. He called up a few people, we recorded it and filmed in the same night. It was pretty dope. Everybody got, I think, 32 bars and it definitely did a lot. A lot of people are still buzzing off that video. Some people still haven’t seen it, but I know a lot of people for a fact that are buzzing about that video.
Follow Vincent Vega @VincentVega513 to keep up with shows and find about his upcoming release, Man on Fire: Reloaded, due January 19, 2013.