Harvey Earns his Stripes [Interview]
Calgary, AB – Harvey Stripes might seem pretty straightforward – what with the clothes, the attitude and the self-described “whiney” rap style – but there’s some things going on beneath the surface. He’s a leader, an ambitious thinker who’s worked hard to keep his game on point, and who chooses carefully those who fit into his plan. HipHopCanada had the chance to sit down with the East Coast MC as he came through Calgary on tour with Young Jeezy, and we chatted with him about projects new and old, taking criticism, and – of all things – his stance on abortion. Check it!
“When I came to Toronto I thought, I’m Harvey Stripes I’m the fucking man…People were like…sorry bro, your voice sounds weird, never heard of you.”
HipHopCanada: You’ve been touring across Canada with Young Jeezy, have you been around Canada before or is this a first?
Harvey Stripes: We did like a small East Coast tour with Wale, but nothing compared to the tour we’re doing now. We just did Toronto, London, Hamilton, and Montreal… so as far as Canada I haven’t really seen the West Coast. This is my first time in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, it’s all new to me.
HipHopCanada: What stands out to you about these areas?
Harvey Stripes: I feel like fans are genuine. In Toronto it’s like there are so many artists, so many DJs, so many media guys, it’s like everybody is somebody or wants to be somebody. Then we come out to certain smaller towns or further away from Toronto, they really appreciate the music. I was shocked, we were walking through the club in Vancouver and it’s like every second person is like, “Harvey Stripes!” Word? It’s like that! I love Toronto don’t get me wrong, but it’s different. You go to a concert and you know everybody. It’s like, I know that crew, I know these guys, these are the ballers…you know what I mean? Out here it’s real. They appreciate the music.
HipHopCanada: So you feel a little bit special!
Harvey Stripes: I love it!
HipHopCanada: I noticed you’re touring with like 57 other guys…
Harvey Stripes: Yeah, that’s my entourage!
HipHopCanada: Tell me a little bit about your entourage.
Harvey Stripes: DNDMG, “Dollars Never Disappear Money Gang”. Sounds kinda scary but it’s just my crew. It’s a group of motivated individuals; nobody is here just to be here. We have a marketing genius by the name of Veno, he runs Inc. Multi Media. We have an artist who is also our camera guy, Ty Black…everybody has a different role they play. By having so many individuals that add to the puzzle, it’s like we create such a strong team. People see that and that’s what makes us a force to be reckoned with because it’s not just Harvey Stripes the artist with a bunch of goons walking behind him.
HipHopCanada: So other than being a big superstar, have you taken a big leadership role?
Harvey Stripes: Definitely. I’ve always been a person to take a leadership role or just try to be a…I don’t want to say be a boss because my team is more or a less a team of bosses. That’s the thing that makes us different between other people because there’s not one guy who says, “you do this, you do that”. I take on a leadership role to be a leader. I say I’m going to be a boss on what I do. I’m going to hold the label on my back. I try to push people to be the best that they can while still contributing to DNDMG.
HipHopCanada: I’ve noticed Captain Hooks is along too, you guys have been doing a lot of stuff together. So are you guys official?
Harvey Stripes: Captain Hooks is like my brother. Besides the music you know, we got money in the streets together, he’s just always showed me love since I’ve been out in Toronto. Musically it’s very easy for us to make music. We have like 15-20 records already done, we may put out a mixtape together. He’s my brother. He has a crew he rolls with, BMMG, but he’s still DNDMG. It’s a family thing.
HipHopCanada: You got your start in Ottawa, then you moved over to Toronto. Do you still keep in touch with your roots in Ottawa?
Harvey Stripes: No I don’t. I’m just being honest. I was in a position where I was with a team, I was in a group called Deuce Deuce. It’s a team that I was part of for 10 years, we’ve been through a lot. You know, in life things happen. It was like, one morning I wake up, and after giving my life, my heart, my soul, my money, into this movement…one day people wake up and are like, pardon my words, “fuck this nigga! We ain’t fuckin’ with Harv no more”. I’m like, what happened? I go out of my way to make sure everybody’s good, I take care of my team, and they’re just like “fuck this nigga Harv” I’m like okay, cool.
HipHopCanada: Sounds like there’s some left over feelings there.
Harvey Stripes: I said, you know what, that’s going to make me stronger. I packed up my shit, came to Toronto. Now I feel like there are things in 10 years I couldn’t accomplish, that I did in the first 6 months in Toronto. I was out there shooting videos for Much Music, Much Vibe, songs on the radio, my single with Jason DeRulo…So much stuff I got to accomplish on my own. Then build a stronger team of individuals. Sometimes things happen for a reason. I realized no one has heard of us outside of the 613. That’s the problem that we had, because the glass ceiling, while you’re living in it, you don’t realize until you get out. When I came to Toronto I thought, I’m Harvey Stripes I’m the fucking man, I’m part of Deuce Deuce! People were like, who are you? Sorry bro, your voice sounds weird, never heard of you. I had to start from day one. The same thing I did in Toronto I want to do in the States. I have to take the same formula and work ethic, but just turn it all the way up and go out there and prove to people that I’m a real dude and I make great music. I’m a people person, I bond with people. A lot of times people may think I’m cocky because I wear a certain type of clothes or I make a certain type of music. I’m welcoming and I’m a respectful person and eventually people will appreciate that.
HipHopCanada: So your last project was A Dollar and a Dream, what kind of feedback did you get from that? What did people criticize and what did connect with?
Harvey Stripes: Dollar and a Dream was a mixtape with 12 records. Basically we had recorded about 65 songs, to find those 12 records. What I dealt with while recording those songs, while releasing certain songs that didn’t make the tape like, “Paid” with Max B, “Shorty Got That” with Jason DeRulo, “Material Girl” with Jay Vado, “Certified” with Hakeem… It’s almost like I got the criticism early. I learned how to work with it and mold myself as an individual. By the time we got to those 12 records, I don’t want to say I got no negative feedback, but it was so reduced. When I came out and I thought I was the shit, everyone said I sounded like I was whining in my records. I was like, I have a high voice! This is how I talk! I used to put it on a lot little more. I still had to stay true to my style but fine-tune it. So by the time, I felt like Dollar and a Dream was ready and we put it out. It was such positive energy, and it was the first solo project I ever put out and people really appreciated it. The ones that fans really connected to was a record like “Sobriety”. That was a record with Mario where I rapped about battling alcoholism. Not saying I’m a full blown alcoholic or nothing like that but sometimes I noticed the bottle was around me maybe more than it should be. It was time for me to like tap into these inner feelings and personal thoughts and give it to people and people really related. “Letting Go” was another personal record where I spoke about a friend that passed away, R.I.P. Polo G, and I spoke about the partner that I used to rap with. People were really like, “I haven’t seen this side of Harv, I only know the Louis Vuitton and him dancing on top of whatever, and throwing money in the air. This guy is an actual person, he’s not just a gimmick”. That’s why now we’re working on a new project, Dollar and a Dream Pt. 2, it’s called Penny and a Nightmare. It’s tapping deeper into those personal emotions, those stories that I never got to tell people, stores that I never even shared with my friends! I get really deep. I don’t want to give away too much too early.
HipHopCanada: You can give away a little bit.
Harvey Stripes: Um…Two new records that I’m working with this kid named Tronz, he’s out of Toronto he’s a producer. One record is called “Godzilla”. In my music I’m usually a nice guy, I wouldn’t even curse in my music back in the day. When I came to Toronto I had certain issues with the law and problems that I went through and this was my song that I was just like, fuck the police. This is how y’all make us feel. It’s a record that just like rebelling against the system. It’s real shit, I’m not pretending to be someone it’s just like fuck the prosecutors, fuck the judge, fuck the district attorney. I just went out there and I spoke about what I went through. When my team hears it they’re like, “word? Good Harv, keep doing that. This what we wanted to hear from you, how you feel.” Don’t just rhyme the color of your shoes with the color of your car, okay maybe for one song. But people want to hear how you feel. I got this other record called “Murder Me”, and it’s about abortion. It’s something people wouldn’t expect to hear from me. This is a song that will give grown men tears in their eyes.
HipHopCanada: What’s your stance on abortion?
Harvey Stripes: It’s tough for me because I’m speaking from a man’s perspective. I would say I am pro-choice because a woman’s body is her temple and at the end of the day she decides how she feels about what she wants to do with her pregnancy and what not. However, you never know if your child could be the next Obama or the next Oprah Winfrey. It’s a chance at something blossoming into the greatest thing in the world. If I was aborted, there are so many things that I’ve done or done for people that I wouldn’t have been able to do or share with the world. It’s just tough from a man’s perspective because I can never truly understand how it feels to have a human inside of you. I’m just looking from the outside in.
HipHopCanada: How did it come about that you came on this Jeezy tour and is there any potential for a collab?
Harvey Stripes: Basically we’re working with the Substance group, a big tour agency from Canada, and I guess they had seen the tour I put together with Mario for the Dollar and a Dream release, and they hit us up. They brought us out for Wale and they seen how we do it and we’re kind of self sufficient, we take care of our own crew and we don’t really ask for handouts. We come, we get the job done, we’re responsible. They had let Jeezy’s people hear our music and they wanted to see who’s the next up and coming kid out of Canada. From there it was just the green light, everything was a go. They told us what’s up, we hopped on a tour bus and now we’re out here making it happen. As far as working with Jeezy, we’ll see what happens. It’s day 2. Jeezy is a legend, he’s always someone I looked up to and I’ve followed his music. Just being a hustler from the street and going on to sell millions of records is something that you have to respect. If something does happen, hopefully we can make something work. If not, we’re still out here doing what we gotta do.
HipHopCanada: Last question, what’s your lady style? Do you like em thick or thin?
Harvey Stripes: Hmm. I like the models, I like em slim with a little meat in the right departments.
HipHopCanada: Oh yeah? Everyone’s got their style! Thanks a lot for the interview!
Interview conducted by AmaliaJude for HipHopCanada
Photography by Sarosh Rizvi for HipHopCanada