Shlick Smit: Have Hip Hop Will Travel

Photo credit goes to none other than Frank Duran. Catch him over on Insta @yupfrank

Shlick Smit is a nomad who travels coast to coast rapping for whoever will have him. Always interested in being an artist of some sort, it was not until he gained favor amongst his friends for freestyling at social functions that he began to consider rap as a legitimate creative outlet. As a result of his segue into hip hop, he started out as more of an emcee than anything else. While he has since abandoned his attachment to such semantics, starting out prioritizing emceeing over rapping established live performance as a paramount aspect of his craft. This makes him one of a dying breed - a rapper who can deliver live performances that rival their recordings without the help of backtracking or autotune for that matter. I was able to see him perform live in Baltimore and can attest to said ability of his. 

While his feature-filled debut project Internet Music was stylistically confined to that classic east coast sound, his upcoming project, tentatively titled We're All Alone Together, promises to see him making great strides musically. Judging from his latest singles, "Focus" and "ONiT," that means moving away from boom bap towards a more contemporary production style. Additionally, no longer concerned with outlining the negative impact technology has had on hip hop, there seems to be an effort to discuss more autobiographical topics. We're All Alone Together does not yet have an official release date beyond the goal of late fall or early winter. Until then, read on to get an idea for how Shlick Smit got himself into nomadic hip hopping and what he does now that he's fully submerged in the culture. 

What’s the significance of your name and how did you get it?

It was totally by chance. This kid I went to audio engineering school with gave it me, sort of. He kept saying we should be in a rap group and call it Mitch and Shlick. I think he was just goofing on that one rapper Mitchy Slick. But I liked the sound of Shlick a lot and I couldn’t call myself Smitty since there was another rapper named that so it just became Shlick Smit and it stuck. Before that I called myself The Orator which was boring as fuck.

When someone asks you what you do, what do you say?

Constantly live with the consequences of my bad decisions hahaha. Luckily I don’t get asked very much.

Do you consider yourself an Emcee, rapper, or recording artist? Or none of the above?

Hmmm, I would say I don’t think about it much anymore. When I first started out in the scene I was in that purist camp and definitely wanted to be seen as an emcee above a rapper. Now and days I think I'm much more concerned with the quality of what I'm doing over a label.

I think thats definitely a more valid concern. You are a self-proclaimed nomad, however, tell me more about that lifestyle.

I have always been a kind of restless person. I never have had the desire to set down roots anywhere. I think I've lived in at least 20 different apartments in the last decade. I have moved from the DC area, back to NYC where I was born out to Southern Cali where I currently reside. Through all that I have slept on a couch for most of the time. My belongings are now just what I can carry in a large duffel bag. I'm already feeling a bit trapped here in Cali, haha. I think I'll always value a life on the move more than the house and kids idea. I'm sure that has something to do with my desire to be in music.

You say your desire to be in music. Did you ever want to be in any point of music other than performing? I know you used to write reviews for Freestyle Mondays. At what point did you realize you wanted to transition away from writing and completely focus on performing?

Well, the writing for FM was just a hobby and a way for me to contribute more to that scene. I never took writing in that way as something to pursue as a career. Performing is what got me into writing their weekly review. I started as a kid who just showed up there to rap. I'd say I knew from the moment I started taking rap seriously that it was the only thing I thought I should be doing.

And what path did you take to get to that moment when you started taking rap seriously?

Well, when I was in high school I planned on being an artist. Like a cartoonist or something. Rap was something I did with my friends for fun. We'd just freestyle whenever we got the chance. It wasn't until I started going to parties and people knew me as that kid who raps when I thought, maybe this is something I should do for real. I'd say once I moved back to NYC and went to school for sound I really started to think, yeah, this is gonna be my life.

You have one hour to complete a corn maze, you can pick three people to help you get through it. Who do you pick and why?

Three dudes who are really good at picking corn. That way I can just tunnel right to the exit.

You said you had the pleasure of throwing up in The Palmer Squares’ apartment a few times. How did you meet up with them? You organized and were a part of their Northeast tour right?

Yeah, I set up the East Coast run they just did with my homie, Curt Sharp and was part of the West Coast run which was organized by another good friend, Reid Clow of Swear Jar. Interestingly, I came across them through YouTube. Random click on a recommended video. Once I saw them I was like, I gotta work with these cats. I ended up reaching out to their management about bringing them to NYC since I had seen they hadn't performed there. We ended up clicking and doing more work. The rest is history, I guess.

Tell me more about your relationship with Curt Sharp. At the show I saw you hype maned for him. I assume that takes a fair amount of familiarity with his material.

Curt and I are pretty close and are roommates. When I came out to LA I had nowhere to go and this dude took me in and gave me a place to live. Definitely one of the only people in my life I can count on when shit gets rough. We are always around each other so we are very familiar with each other's music and everything. For that tour we also practiced pretty extensively. I know we did our sets at least once a day together for like 2 weeks leading up to the East Coast run.

What do you think of rappers who performers who perform with backtracking?

What do you think of artists who use tracing paper? I mean, using some backing for hooks is one thing, that adds to your performance, but I think rapping over your full songs is cheating the audience out of their money. And if you can find a way to not use the backing on hooks and have the same dynamic, even better.

If you could play someone three tracks to convey your sound, which three would you play?

That’s tough, since I think my sound is evolving a lot and much of my best work isn’t released yet. Just stuff I have out already?

OK-Tho: No, not necessarily.

I'd say "Focus," a song called "Fringe" which will be on my upcoming album with "Focus," and probably a song which I'm not releasing for awhile that's either gonna be called "God of War" or "Mars." Hopefully you'll see some footage of them on a TPS Report about these runs. Sorry for being like, oh yeah, these songs you guys have never heard and cant go listen to yet. Honestly, its hard to boil it down to 3 anyways. Can I tell people to listen to all of my songs instead? haha

You say your sound is evolving. How would you characterize the growth between Internet Music and your upcoming project?

Huge. With Internet Music I was still very influenced by NYC and that sound. Plus, it was meant to be a very collaborative work where I made sure every track had features. My new project I think takes way more chances sonically. I did a lot of singing and melody and experimented with more types of beats. I also think it's a much more personal project in terms of themes. Internet Music was more of a political statement in a way, where as this album is gonna deal much more with the feelings of where we fit in the world. I'm pretty excited to put it out.

You’ve described this upcoming album as a collection of cynical songs delivered in a poppy format. What inspired the cynicism and what does it say that you administer it in such a fashion?

I have always been a cynic. My mom used to scold me for saying smart things about commercials and always deconstructing shit like that. I think it was only natural that when trying these sounds I infused my ultimate cynicism. Plus, I wanted to approach these catchy sounds with a viewpoint that is not what you typically get from pop songs. I'm pretty sure I'm gonna call the project We're All Alone Together.

Do you have a release date yet? Where will it be available?

I don’t have a formal date, but I’m shooting for fall/winter. I am really trying to find a way to get this on iTunes and Spotify and all that, but I can tell you for certain it will be on Bandcamp and Soundcloud.