You may recall in the early stages of the Roc-a-Fella Dynasty that there was an artist by the name of Amil. Ok, so maybe the first lady of the ROC may not be that memorable, but a certain crew love record entitled “4 Da Fam,” just might be. It was on this particular record that Jay-Z rapped, “I got 4 nephews, and they all write-ing/They all young and wild, plus they all like Beans.” Unfortunately, the following line may not have manifested the way Hov would have liked, as he confessed his fear with becoming the father of the child he was expecting at the time. However, the Brooklyn MC was providing the world with a bit of foreshadowing, as he gave us a brief introduction of his nephew, Mel Carter.
The Brooklyn born Jersey-bred MC is back with his new mixtape, Popular Stranger. As the follow-up to his 2009 debut Certified, the 24 year old is out to continue his ascension within Hip-Hop. Carter recently sat down with EBONY to discuss his new project, Jay-Z’s role in his music career, and much more.
EBONY: Describe Mel Carter as an artist, where he fits in today’s rap game, and why people should pay attention?
MC: I’m just a young hungry Brooklyn artist bred in Jersey, with a sound that’s completely different than anything else in the game. My story also differs from anyone else out there. No Games. No gimmicks. We rap over here, no tight pants and all that (laughs).
EBONY: Aside from the obvious relationship with your uncle, what inspired you to become an artist?
MC: I’ve had a love for music since childhood. Anytime I got into some sort of situation, music provided that escape for me. I was also a shy kid, and kept my poetry to myself. Eventually, I took my composition book filled with poetry and turned it into music. After that, I moved out to Jersey and met my homebody J-Dot.
Losing my cousin Colleek also made me take every aspect of my life more seriously. When I’d do talent shows, it was always just to get the girls (laughs). But, after he passed it was like the entire world stopped and it made me look at my life completely different.
EBONY: What have you learned from Jay, and what role does he have in your current music career?
MC: He’s definitely taught me about hard work and dedication. But, he doesn’t have a role in my music career at all. He told me at a young age that if this was something that I really wanted, that I should go out and get it myself. He explained that there wouldn’t be any type of handout from him, which I respect. The things that you earn in life are typically the things you care the most about.
EBONY: Reasonable Doubt dropped when Hov was nearly 27 years old and is still one of his greatest bodies of work to date. At 24, do you feel any pressure to not only drop a debut by then, but to also put together an album of similar quality?
MC: I don’t feel any pressure to drop by then. It’d be nice (laughs), but I can’t get caught up in mimicking my career off of what he’s gone through. We’re two separate individuals, so I can’t say that I feel any pressure based off of anything he’s done in his career.
EBONY: We’ve seen Memphis Bleek and J.Cole get thrown into that “heir to the throne” type of situation within their careers. Have you learned anything and/or applied any of their journeys to yours?
MC: Absolutely. That title that’s put on them is a form of pressure and they’ve handled it well. It shows that hard work and commitment towards your craft pays off. No matter what your trials may be, or who’s shadow you’re coming under, good music will always prevail.
EBONY: Tell me about Popular Stranger.
MC: This is my second mixtape that I’ve dropped, and this project definitely shows my growth. I feel like I’ve grown completely as an artist and have much more to talk about this time around. My flow’s a little sicker, beats a little iller – just a complete evolution from the first project.
“Diamond Rings & Porsches” is my most complete song on the tape. I feel like as far as flow, delivery, content and metaphors make it my best overall song to date. “Bad You Know” is that record that the ladies go crazy every time they hear it. I didn’t even like that record at first, but J-Dot was always on me. He brought me the beat with the hook already on it, and I held it for 2-3 months. Finally, we were in the studio one night and that was the end result.
EBONY: If you can line up your dream team of producers and artist features for your debut album, who would make that list?
MC: On the production side I’d say Timbaland, HitBoy, who’s on fire right now! Of course my homie J-Dot, but that’s probably it. I’m not really pressed for features and guest appearances, but of course the big homie Hov would be on there.
EBONY: What can we expect from Mel Carter in the near future?
MC: Hits, hits, and more hits! I’m also working on Popular Stranger 2, which I’m hoping to drop in February. I also don’t wanna jinx it, but we’re working on a tour situation as well.
Steve Rivers has contributed to The Source, ESPN Rise and a host of other online publications. Follow him on Twitter: @TheKidSkoob.