As we approach The 50th anniversary of Hip Hop on Aug. 11, Epicenter will be interviewing up-and-coming New York-based Hip Hop artists each week as part of our new series, “Hip Hop Highlight.”
Sufi Hamilton is a 29-year-old Brooklyn-based Hip Hop artist of Somalian descent. He is the first member of his family who was born in the United States, in Tucson, Arizona. As a kid, he moved around a lot before his family ultimately settled in Virginia. His distinct upbringing shines through in his music, resulting in a unique vibe that transcends the mere “rapper” label. Despite his genre-bending sound, Hamilton makes it clear that his foundation is and will always be Hip Hop. “No matter how alternative, indie or dancey I get, Hip Hop is my root,” he says.
Epicenter sat down with the Somali-American artist to discuss his introduction to the genre, what Hip Hop means to him and more.
This interview has been slightly edited and condensed for clarity.
What was your introduction to Hip Hop?
My earliest Hip Hop memory was California Love by 2Pac. I vividly remember my uncle having the cassette and me asking him to replay it over and over when I was like 4 or 5 years old. I was really obsessed with the talk box on the hook.
Can you speak to the moment you fell in love with Hip Hop?
It was around the time 50 Cent dropped “Get Rich or Die Trying.” That early 2000s era is really nostalgic to me. I wrote my first rap to “What Happened to That Boy” by Clipse.
When you hear the phrase “Hip Hop,” what does that mean to you?
I think of innovation; I don’t think there’s a less static form of music. It pushes the overall soundscape of music more than any other genre. I also feel like it reflects the now in a way that most other genres weren’t able to until Hip Hop’s inception. It’s like, very-on-the-cusp and shit.
As Hip Hop approaches 50, what do you think about how far it’s come, and where would you like to see it go?
I’m not at all surprised at how far it’s come. If anything I’m more surprised by how long it seemingly took. I feel like Hip Hop has always dictated what’s cool for everybody but never really reaped what it sowed in a sense. But at this point, it’s become undeniable. And I just wanna see it keep going up and mutating and continue to birth all these sub-genres and styles – I actually think that’s the best part.
What are your top five favorite Hip Hop albums of all time?
In no order, and I’m including mixtapes: “Pilot Talk” by Curren$y, “Madvillainy” by Madvillain, “Astronaut Status” by Future, “Dedication 2” by Lil Wayne, and “808s & Heartbreaks” by Kanye West.
Who are your top five favorite Hip Hop artists of all time?
Curren$y, Future, Lil Wayne, MF Doom, and pre-2016 Kanye West.
What are your top five favorite Hip Hop songs of all time?
This changes hourly, but right now imma say: “I’m Not You” by Clipse, “Example” by Curren$y, “Addiction” by Kanye West, “Earthquake” by Lil Wayne and “Throw Away” by Future.
To date, Sufi Hamilton has amassed more than a half million streams and counting. He recently released his latest single, “Say It,” and is wrapping up his forthcoming project, slated to drop in the coming months.