Surrounding yourself with good people is one of the keys to personal success. I’m thankful to be surrounded by friends that are each successful in their own right and — unbeknownst to them — an inspiration to me. The gentlemen behind the Brooklyn-based hip hop group True 2 Life Music, consisting of the rapper/producer duo of Concise and K-Words and lyricist Slangston Hughes, are friends of mine. We go back to freshman year of college when responsibility meant something different and music was the catalyst of many a late night discussion. I mean…wasn’t nobody trying to go to Econ 101 on time the next morning anyway.

All jokes aside, these guys have loved hip hop and produced music for as long as I’ve known them (and more). And instead of taking the traditional route after graduation and putting away the microphone, they’ve continued to pursue their passion and live happy lives. I’ve wanted to interview them for SBM for some time because I think they represent a segment of the Urban Male Perspective that doesn’t get discussed enough: the well-educated brothers who go on to pursue alternative and/or artistic careers. Anyway, let’s get into the actual interview. It was a pretty fun one with some inspiration thrown in.  You’ll also find a few links to their music if you’re interested. -Slim

What is T2L Music?

Concise: True 2 Life Music is loyalty. And loyalty is everything.

What three words would you use to describe the T2L brand?

Concise: Passionate, Devoted, and Powerful

At what point did you decide that you would pursue hip hop as a career?

Concise: I’ve always been preoccupied with music in whatever I was doing or supposed to be doing, whether it was school, jobs, relationships, etc. As I got older, I started thinking more about music and also the business of it After college, I decided to pursue hip hop for a career. [It felt like] I never really had a choice.

K.Words: I knew my career would be music during my senior year of college. I was interviewing for a job doing HR for a water company. I wasn’t offered the job, but I did not care in the slightest. I didn’t really want it. I was just caught up in the hustle and flow of the senior year job search, but I knew music was what I wanted to do. Right there I realized just how much I wanted it.

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Slangston Hughes: It became a reality when the intensity, consistency, and willingness to sacrifice in pursuit of these goals became paramount. Coupled with our passion and desire to be heard, we realized we had a unique voice and perspective and the ability to make a meaningful impact. The quality of our creative output, coupled with overwhelmingly positive reactions from our peers set the scene for the road we’ve been travelling.

Cise, do you think being ivy league grads has helped or hindered you more over the years? How have you guys been perceived?

Concise: Ivy League thing comes up less than it did before. Now the music speaks first. It doesn’t matter what school you went to, if any. If your music is dope, people will listen. So we’ve really just rested on making good music that our listeners and fam can love, appreciate and ride to.

Fellas, what are your thoughts on the current state of hip hop?

Concise: Hip Hop and the Hip Hop industry is one of the most forward thinking and innovative genres out there. It’s always changing yet always staying the same. There is some really good talent out there in hip hop and for hip hop lovers you have even more ways to discover this. There is a lot of trash out there too, but why bother to focus on that?

K.Words: I completely agree. I believe that hip hop is growing… people are starting to throw the boxes away and let artists be artists. It’s so circular to me. There have always been trends that come and go, but longevity is generally achieved by being dope and connecting with people. That’s very comforting to me. Also technological advances have allowed groups such as us to grow as artists organically while in the past many talented people were shut out due to the lack of vision of those with the resources. Now we can leverage our experiences and talents to better situate ourselves for long term success.

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Slangston Hughes: The more that everyone involved in hip hop culture keeps growing and taking risks and being true to themselves the better. It’s important to realize the global impact and importance of hip hop as a culture and it’s important to realize that this gives a voice to the voiceless and is a unifying force around the world. Keeping that in mind, we are doing our part to represent dynamic, evolving leaders who have something to say and stand for something. We are not interested in perpetuating the same lies and misrepresentation of our people that the media has taken so much pleasure in pumping out to the world; we are firmly rooted in our reality and are poised to continue sharing it with the world.

What did you want to be before you made the decision to pursue this as a career?

Concise: I was in school for engineering. I thought I was going to be a computer engineer for the longest time.

K.Words: I wanted to be a sports and/or entertainment lawyer to negotiate the contracts for rappers and ball players.

Slangston Hughes: While in college, I was on track to become an investment banker and then shifted my focus into marketing and advertising. This was all while at the same time pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors after I stopped pursuing [track and field].

What have you guys been doing to generate income?

Concise: Right now, I’m teaching in addition to music. I work at a couple charter schools in the city, one in BK and one in Harlem. And I also do some one-on-one tutoring with some Brooklyn students, ranging from grades 4 to 12. This is all on top of selling cocaine and prescription pills in the meatpacking district.

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Slangston Hughes: As independent artists, performing and merchandising are great ways to generate income. Income that if you’re smart, you reinvest into your company. Outside of that I am a brand strategist and consultant. I also sell ecstasy at underground raves whenever I have a chance in order to supplement our meatpacking district operation.

K.Words: I’m working on releasing my fleet of lunchtime and late night food trucks, so I don’t have time to get involved in the meatpacking district operations. Outside of that and income and opportunities generated by our music, I consult investment banks regarding their operations and compliance matters.

LOL! Yall, are clowns. Anyway…what are the biggest challenges (still laughing) you have faced over the years in pursuit of your dreams?

Concise: Financial problems are always there. You need money to get things done in whatever you do. You also have to get from in front of your own way. Money isn’t an insurmountable barrier, but it’s a challenge. The biggest barrier is yourself, because you won’t come close to your dreams if you don’t have the persistence to see it through.

Slangston Hughes: Time is sometimes the biggest challenge, because when you’re an entrepreneur it is inevitable that your personal life will bear a considerable amount of pressure, stress and neglect due to the amount of time and energy that goes into your professional pursuits. Also being in a serious car accident after a show was an event that physically, mentally, and emotionally took a great toll but when faced with life and death, and the idea of one’s health and mortality, things become clearer and you have to keep pushing, keep striving, go harder and take what’s yours, don’t stop.