Meet Corey Lee, an up-and-coming artist from Philadelphia, who was chosen by Ice-T to perform at the Art of Rap Festival in Brooklyn. The festival featured such hip-hop greats as Mobb Deep, Kurtis Blow and EPMD, and we caught up with Lee after his performance at the Coney Island Amphitheater to ask him a few questions. Check out his interview below and find his music at https://soundcloud.com/coreylee610.
When did you first start making music?
I was in middle school. I started messing around with a few friends, recording in closets and basements. I didn’t take it seriously until after high school, to be honest. I was just playing around with it — even though a lot people knew I could rap.
Who or what is your Since Day One of your music career?
My mother is my ‘Since Day One’. When she found out I was doing music, she supported me however she could. From using her car to do shows hours away to helping me sell tickets, she’s been a part of the journey.
What was the moment that your career as an artist started coming together?
My freshman year of college. I made a lot of friends who didn’t know I could rap until I busted out some verses just playing around. I met Big Sean and spit a verse for him. He liked it, and it’s actually still on YouTube. I eventually dropped a project two years later, but I was pushing a lot of music around while juggling school. As far as making a real name for myself, that happened in 2016 when super producer Sonny Digital co-signed me. That shed a lot of light on me and my music. And ever since, I’ve been trying to run with that momentum.
You performed at the Art of Rap Festival by Ice-T in Brooklyn with some of hip-hop’s old-school greats. Who off that list did you grow up listening to?
I’ve listened to everybody on that list growing up, but I would definitely highlight EPMD and Mobb Deep. I was a huge Erick Sermon fan and grew up on Mobb Deep. They’re some of my inspirations.
Tell us about your recent string of singles that have done well: “Cam Newton”, “Carlton Banks” and “Winning Numbers.” And talk about your marketing strategy behind releasing them.
I put out “Cam Newton” at the end of December, but it really started to take off in January and February. I wrote the song the same week that I was co-signed by Sonny Digital, and it was well before all the “Cam Newton” craze. That brought attention from super producer Cardo Got Wings and taste creator Yes Julz. I basically let Cam Newton market the record. Every time he was trending, my record came up. “Carlton Banks” was the follow up record, which now I had built up anticipation. I wanted to do a catchy record and base it off of a show that I grew up watching and a lot of people could relate to. As far as “Winning Numbers,” that was just an ode to The Warriors and their historic season. I wrote the record before the season was over and just had a feeling they’d handle business, so the line “got the winning numbers 7-3-9” (73-9 record) made sense.
Your song, “Carlton Banks” actually trended on Twitter for a couple of days earlier this year. Tell us about that experience and the impact it made on your career.
“Carlton Banks” trending on Twitter for three days was a crazy experience. Enough of my friends and supporters were sharing the music for it to trend. So when people from all over were seeing the name “Carlton Banks,” they had to check it out and see why, and, come to find out, it was my record. I had people from all over the country talking about it. I gained a lot of supporters and fans during the three days, and even got the attention of Swisher Sweets, which was very dope.
Why do you want to work with the Swisher Artist Project and what about the project made you want to get more involved?
I just felt like a collaboration between Swisher and myself is perfect. Coming from the Philly area, you have to work three times as hard as whoever is working the hardest just to get recognized, and even then you could be passed over. My collaboration with the Swisher Artist Project is beautiful because it gave me a bigger platform to express myself, as well as bring some light for Swisher to Philly. I felt like it was also important to have an artist from here show other artists that things are possible if you work hard and never give up.
If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing?
I would be finishing up school. I have like a year left worth of credits towards my bachelor’s degree in business management. Either that or doing other things with music, like curating events.