Raz Simone has already laid an underground foundation, and now, the buzzing Seattle hip-hop artist is ready to take his music to the next level.
For almost two years, Raz has been building his brand by releasing EPs, touring and filming eye-catching music videos through his DIY, do-it-all company Black Umbrella. It's been a modest grind that is about to get a whole lot more intense now that Raz has linked up with 300, a new content company headed by music industry juggernauts Lyor Cohen, Todd Moscowitz and Kevin Liles.
"Lyor was the first person that I linked up with and that I clicked with," the 24-year-old Raz told MTV News on Tuesday (January 21), when he battled a New York snow storm to officially announce his partnership with 300.
The buzz on Raz began to pick up last March after he dropped his debut solo EP, Solomon Samuel Simone. It's a buzz that was enough to lead Cohen and company want to make Raz 300's first official signee. Though the project only clocked in at five songs, it was enough for fans to get a glimpse inside the raspy-voiced rapper, who is also comfortable delivering melodies onto his tracks.
On "These Kids Throw Rocks" Raz freefalls through somber subjects, opening up about his broken home, street ties and the hate he faces from jealous rappers in his hometown. "Cold" is a frigid explanation of Simone's emotional state while on "Formula to Life" he hands down advice on how to deal with corrupt women and haters.
It's all impressive, especially considering that Raz has little to no rap influences; his love for rhyme grew from writing poetry. "Growing up I didn't listen to any music, I didn't listen to anything. I didn't know who's who or anything like that," he told us, admitting that he didn't have a radio growing up.
"When he hit me up first, I had no clue who he was. I'm gonna be honest. I live in a cave when it comes to pop culture and when it comes to music," he recalled of his initial meeting with Cohen, who started out as a road manager for Run-DMC, but eventually grew to run both Def Jam and Warner Music Group at two different points in his career. Simone then worked with Cohen to "bridge the gap" between his own Black Umbrella and 300.
Next up for Raz is February's Cognitive Dissonance: Part One, an album that he says will be an even deeper dive into his psyche; an album that he recorded but put on hold while facing a gun charge in New York last year.
But with his legal woes are behind him, Simone says he's ready to drop the project. "I'm glad to be able to say that. It's not like I've been here trucking away at the album; it's here," he said. "I wasn't trying to do it when I was going through all the court stuff. It's ready to go and I'm excited about it."
Raz is even more excited about dropping the project with the collective minds of Cohen, Moscowitz and Liles.
"Pretty much everything I do is going to be through this partnership until it doesn't make sense anymore," he said. "Everything that we've been going through as of now has been great, it's been a great feel."