Steve Liriks Ponders MTV’s Politics, His Influences, and the Future of Hip Hop


I saw Steve Liriks a few weeks ago at the MTV VMA L.A. Breakout Artist Showcase, where he was nominated along with two other local bands The Divine and It Boys (for the full article, click here). Though The Divine was declared the winner and recipient of MTV press as a buzzworthy band, there was no shortage of Steve Liriks and It Boys fans clamoring in their respective favors. I was struck by his easy way with words and effortless flow, his timbre vaguely reminiscent of Kanye West‘s. By incorporating a fantastic female vocalist and live band that played everything from hip hop to psychedelic rock, Steve Liriks stood out against the more mainstream-suited sounds of both The Divine and It Boys. Not only was I curious as to his thoughts on the showcase, but I wondered about the influences behind such an intriguing blend of genres. Luckily, he was kind enough to respond to these questions and more via email:

BnB: You were recently nominated as one of MTV’s L.A. Breakout Artists. How did that happen?

Steve Liriks: My manager, Brian Ortencio, has a good friend who works at MTV Networks. Brian had sent over my material to his friend just to check out and see if there maybe any opportunities for me. The Director of Programming and Talent at MTV got a hold of Lazy Boy Syndrome and genuinely dug my sound. While at MAGIC Fashion tradeshow in Vegas, Brian got the call that I fit the last Best Breakout L.A. artist slot that they were looking for. We literally had about 2 weeks to prepare. I naturally wanted to perform with my label mates, The Specialists. Performing with a live band always steps up your entire image and performance another notch. My original guest vocalist Dana La Rock was busy and had prior commitments, so unfortunately she couldn’t rock with us. Brian had another friend and recording artist, Zshatwa, that he asked to join us and she was luckily available as she just returned from touring with Missy Elliott in Europe. Zshatwa is super chill and outgoing and easily clicked with us and our sound.



What did you take away from the MTV Breakout Artist Showcase? The other artists’ performances? What the judges said?

It was an excellent experience. I feel very accomplished although I was feeling down after the show, because I felt like I got robbed and the show was all politics. It felt like I was performing at the wrong venue where my style of music wasn’t well received. As far as the other artists… keep doing what you love and keep pushing. Our hard work will pay off! I do agree with the judges when they said the backup singer was best singing alone on the hooks. After they announced the winner, Swizz Beatz and I had a good convo on where I should go with my music and he gave me some good pointers. Hopefully I could do something with him in the future.

Your influences span from Nas to Pink Floyd, and your Myspace page lists your music as alternative/hip hop/progressive. How did you arrive at such a unique blend of genres?

I grew up listening to James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, Manhattan Transfer, and of course Michael Jackson. I grew up loving that music and singing all of those songs. As I got a little older I started to really get in to hip hop. I remember when I was about nine rewinding Q-Tip and Andre 3000‘s verses to memorize them and recite them to my friends. I saw how people like Andre 3000 and Pharrell Williams incorporated all of their influences in their songs and that’s when I realized I really can do this. They paved the way for artist like me to be an actual artist and do whatever the eff I want.

Where do you see hip hop going? Where do you want to take hip hop?

I see the state of hip hop getting better. The new generation is creating some new refreshing sounds. Some of the vets are still making classic music and doing their thing as well. I’m very excited for the up and coming artist and I’m glad to be able to contribute to hip hop. As far as where I want to take hip hop or better yet, music ….I have no idea…and I think thats beautiful. I don’t know what will inspire me tomorrow. I’m just doin’ what sounds appeasing to my ears, and if the people agree that’s awesome ….but I’m all about progression and trying new things. I know I’m gonna have to train people to understand that Steve Liriks is all about experimenting and exploring new sounds. So if you like one of my mixtapes or albums that’s great but don’t be expecting the same thing on the next one. I want to take my fans on a journey! Aha…they just gotta trust ya boy!

What is your songwriting process? Does your backing band, The Specialists, write their own music?

My songwriting process varies. As of now every idea goes in my Black Berry whether it be a song I heard and want to sample or a dope line I just thought of. Some songs take a week to write and some take 30 minutes and people would never tell which ones took longer. I believe it all depends on which beat speaks to me more. I been blessed to work with very talented producers who I believe will definitely make a name for themselves in the near future. I also have been blessed to work with the Specialists – James Markland (Guitar), Tom Goyen (Guitar), Nick Putt (Bass), and Damar Davis (Drums). They are very creative and every member of the band takes part in writing the music. They all have a great musical ear so we can’t help but to create great things. There are talks about us doing a EP or something so hopefully that will transpire sometime soon.

Tell us about your latest mixtape Lazy Boy Syndrome (available for free download here).

All my projects are a reflection of what I was thinking and feeling at the time. Sounds and vibes are bound to change in each project but the one thing that people can sure of is that I will remain honest and true to who I am. I never been afraid to tell the truth about myself.

What have you found to be the most effective route in spreading your music? Have you found more success with the internet or with word of mouth?

Internet, hands down. It gives me access to the world. I don’t think I would be growing a fan base in Austria if it wasn’t for the internet, ha!

If you could collaborate with anyone-dead or alive- who would it be and why?

I would like to collaborate with Theophilus London. I like the fact that he does whatever he wants and always thinks outside of the box. I like to surround my self with artists who do what they feel and aren’t influenced by the dollar.

Your brother Andy Mackk is also a rapper. Do you forsee any familial collaborations in the future?

No doubt! I’m always down to spit with my brother. I been rapping with him since I was 5, and I wouldn’t be rapping if it wasn’t for him and my older cousins, it’s always been a family affair.