Harvey Stripes [Interview]
Toronto, ON – These days music isn’t just music-it’s a business. Behind songs are managers, writers, marketing and production teams, promoters, webmasters and of course; the artist. Harvey Stripes, is a hip-hop veteran who has built his career upon the support of a team that could take his music from a single song to an empire. As one half of the former music group Deuce-Deuce, he is embarking on a new journey as a solo artist where the sky is the limit. He begins his journey with a move from the nation’s capital to Toronto, city of dreams. He brings with him a musical project filled with ten years of real life experience in the business as a musician and entrepreneur with a cult-like following.
HipHopCanada: Looking on your website and your different social networking profiles, your bio is very descriptive of the type artist that you are. You’re described as “honest, motivated and creative.”
Harvey Stripes: As far as my bio, it’s basically a collaborative effort with our publicist and team. Whenever we put out any material we all sit down as a group and make sure that it’s an honest response that we are giving to the people. As far as myself, I try and make myself an entrepreneur. I almost self manage myself. In the past with our group Deuce-Deuce we had gone through so many different managers and label situations that were never solid. Like it was never something where they were doing more for us than what we were doing for ourselves. Not to be selfish in any way but it’s like, a kid and their parents always leaving them at home. They got to learn how to be a man on their own. I’ve always taken that idea into my music and through my work and whatever I do-I try to be a boss of the situation. To make sure things go in the appropriate way.
HipHopCanada: What makes you an entrepreneur in this business?
Harvey Stripes: Well basically on the superficial level, if you want to say materialistic wealth and what-not, everything that I have acquired, that we have acquired, it’s independent. I’ve been doing music for over the last ten years. And I’ve spent over probably 50 thousand dollars a year on music. You know on promotion, studio time, videos, websites and all those costs add up. Everything comes out of our pocket. I’ve never worked a regular job. But it’s like I try to make money and do everything to kind of hold our crew together and make sure all things are covered as far as expenses wise and we don’t miss out on any opportunities that come up in our future.
HipHopCanada: What do you feel the benefits are of being an entrepreneurial artist?
Harvey Stripes: Well it’s better than being the average artist. You look at the typical artist: yeah, you can write and pick out good beats or something, or put on some clothes and have a lil’ image. But you’re not really in control. You don’t have power. The way that I try to set up my music is I’m building a team. It’s a label basically. So when we approach other bigger labels it we are coming as a team, and it’s better than one little guy who can be pulled in any direction, because they have no power. With our team, the strength is there.
HipHopCanada: Why are you a such a strong link within the team?
Harvey Stripes: I don’t want to come across like I’m overconfident or cocky or anything but I’m just trying to say I carry the weight of a team of people on my shoulders. I’ve always been that type of person who can play numerous roles in numerous positions. I can play management, book shows, and write. I do what I’ve got to do. I’ve just always been that person that can play all these different instruments but at the same time still giving credit where it’s due.
HipHopCanada: You got into music at 13 years old. How at 13 years old did you realize that this is something you wanted to do and could do?
Harvey Stripes: At 13 we had a karaoke machine, probably rapping over maybe like Ma$e or P.Diddy instrumentals. We started off real small you know? Right away we took it to talent shows and the response was crazy. At such a young age we were compared to the 20-year olds that were out at the time. It was like right away people could respect something that is authentic rather than something that is going to come and go. And I think that is one thing that our fans loved about us is that we never disappeared. We’ve kept it consistent every year for the past 10 years for them. When you find something in life that works for you, you’re going to stick with it and push it out until the end until you get what you want out of it.
HipHopCanada: Over the last ten years what kind of things have changed or stayed the same for your music?
Harvey Stripes: Things that have stayed the same are basically the music-but it grows every year. It’s never just been boring or repetitive music. If you listen to the music I was making seven or eight years ago like, “Where Do We Go From Here?” and “Paper Boy” it’s timeless music that you could still play today. Last year we dropped a single, “So Fly” from the Double or Nothing mixtape and its like even now with the new music it’s elevated onto a stronger level. Every time we come out with a new project we are trying to bring it to the next level. Timeless music that you could always go back to and listen to five years from now and it’s still going to be fresh, however everything else we give over the years is just going to be stronger each time.
HipHopCanada: Your music sounds like lyrically it comes from experience. What influences your music?
Harvey Stripes: I feel like my biggest influence is my life. What I go through and my hardships in general are really what I express in my music. It’s not like I ever rapped about anything fake. I’m not just going to come and say, I make all this money-but I’m broke. Or that I sell all these drugs-but I don’t even know what they look like. I’m not that dude who is going to rap about guns and I don’t even got a pocket knife. Everything that you hear in my music is real stuff. People can never question what I’m saying and that’s why I feel like that’s my biggest influence. Like of course listening to music is going to influence me. I grew up listening to the oldies. I still play The Temptations, Al Green even some Bob Marley when I’m riding around. But my strongest influence is what I go through on a regular everyday basis.
HipHopCanada: What type of hardships or experiences do you feel like listeners can relate to through your music?
Harvey Stripes: It changes over the years but I feel like what I’m currently going through in life. It’s like I’m a man on my own. I’m on a solo mission. There are people who are out there with me but its like I went through a transition where everybody I grew up with or everybody who was around me there was you know, a lot of negative people and something tore the crew apart. I’m on my own and I just moved out to Toronto. It’s like a kid who grew up in the ghetto and say he had no parents to take care of him, or a young girl who has a kid and she can’t support her kid-it’s basically that independence that you`ve got to through and get your money and be strong. It basically relates to anybody that’s every felt like they are alone and have felt like they need to empower themselves and be strong in life to get by-that is who I am representing for.
HipHopCanada: Do your ideas about experiencing independence have something to do with the change from being in Deuce-Deuce to being a solo artist?
Harvey Stripes: Well, everything is progress. I just want to say for the record as far as Deuce-Deuce is considered and I say this in the most modest way possible, I feel like we were one of Canada’s best groups of all times. And I say that and I’d like to be challenged on that because there are a lot of great Canadian groups out there and I love Canadian hip-hop music, I’ve listened to it my whole life. I’m not a man who makes excuses but I just feel like in our career, maybe some bad decisions we made as far as management or labels or whatever . . . I’ll say certain bad career paths that we took maybe hindered us from reaching our peak. We never got to show our full potential however I feel like consistently 10 summers of recording and putting out music, I don’t really see any other bands doing that. And our fans are almost like a cult following and we go places and the children and the familes who love our music and hold onto every word. We never sold a record in the store. We sold our music on the streets. So I feel like people ask me now, “Is Deuce-Deuce done? Is Deuce-Deuce dead?” Deuce-Deuce will never be done. I am Deuce-Deuce and I will carry that torch forever because that is something that can never be lost. That is something that you know, we’d let too many people down and so I have to carry that weight on my shoulders by myself and bring my career as Harvey Stripes to levels that we as Deuce-Deuce were never able to make it to.
HipHopCanada: In that case, being that you are such an entrepreneurial person with leadership and management skills who has learned from his mistakes: then why not then just take control of Deuce-Deuce and continue on making music within the group?
Harvey Stripes: Deuce is a group, I don’t want to confuse the people really. What happened is this: Harvey Stripes represented a certain type of people, like more of a, “get money and celebrate what you do. You work hard now lets celebrate what you do.” So we go through the struggle but we still have the positive energy after everything we go through. And Nelson was my partner he kind of represented a different struggle. So I’m taking the people who were listening to Harvey Stripes and getting more in-depth and seeing what we can do. It’s almost like Outkast. Outkast over the years in their music together they were so strong, but when they broke up you saw what message Andre was trying to give out and what message Big Boi was trying to give out. It was such a different message from each of them. Now I look back at their videos and you can see they were trying to do their own things. They’ve got to branch out and do their separate things, and that’s what I need to do. I want people to learn and see Harvey Stripes and the message I was trying to portray for all these years.
HipHopCanada: Okay so let’s talk about Harvey Stripes’ music. Your first single is called, “Shorty Got That”. Tell me about it.
Harvey Stripes: Jason Derulo, he’s on the hook. He’s an up and coming artist who has been signed to the same company as Sean Kingston. I wanted to come with a record that is a familiar sound to what I was doing in Deuce-Deuce, but it’s very futuristic and modern. It has a commercial appeal but it’s still lyrical. I would never water down my music. Even in a commercial record you can hear still rhymes in full sentences and in a way that is appealing to the masses. We shot the video with Jordan Tower from World Star Hip-Hop, but we didn’t shoot a hood video. We took the budget up and we shot a very nice, very professional video. I just recently saw the final edit so we will be servicing that to MuchMusic, MTV, BET and it will be available online later this month once the paperwork is tight. It’s already getting incredible response here and in the States as a great feel good song.
HipHopCanada: What is the album called that it is being released on?
Harvey Stripes: Currently we are working for different titles for the album. I don’t want to put anything out too early but I’m really not trying to rush out with an album or anything. I’m kind of doing like an awareness campaign for those who don’t know about Harvey Stripes. We are going to shoot like ten videos this year, drop a big single like at least every two weeks. Work with different artists from Canada and the States and just build the brand back. You know? Build the name Harvey Stripes and let people know exactly what they are getting into. But for now there is no rush on the album. I’ve got over 27 songs recorded, and I could push out an album but its just not the time.
HipHopCanada: The other music that you have recorded what kind of sound can we expect to hear from that?
Harvey Stripes: The second record that we put out, that’s “Paid” featuring Max B, that’s going to be the streets and the struggle and the grind-a more hip-hop single. That record is surprisingly getting an even crazier response than the commercial single. Which is crazy, which is beautiful. But my dude Max B he just got incarcerated and he’s facing some heavy charges all respects to his people and his family but we were supposed to shoot the video, we had the trip planned and everything but I don’t know I guess it was a little more surprising that the verdict would come in so soon. So we didn’t end up doing the video but we still keep pushing the single. People can see the two different sides of Harvey Stripes right there with the two different singles, already. A lot of the new music we are doing we are doing with Beat Merchant, however we are still going to work with new producers in Toronto and the States as well.
HipHopCanada: So to clear things up with fans: Deuce-Deuce is not dead, and you are taking your own message to the television, radio and the internet. But as a solo artist can you look forward and see opportunity for more music from Deuce-Deuce?
Harvey Stripes: I can’t predict the future. But I wouldn’t say it’s impossible. But until we each take our own steps and accomplish different things it would be pointless. It’s like you turn a certain age and you move out the crib and you face a couple hardships and you run back to Mama. What was the point of leaving the crib? You should go out there make your money, buy a house, get married go through your struggles and life and then when you grow you can take your Mama into your crib and take care of her. It’s like there is no point of doing solo ventures if we are not going to deal with both the good and the bad on our own and make the most of it. After all of that is done you never know.
Editor’s note: To follow Harvey Stripes be sure to check his personal Blog, http://www.igotstripes.com for more about his music, ideas, opinions, and lifestyle.
Written by Jeunesse Montgomery-Spencer for HipHopCanada