In 2016, brown emcees face an unspoken intolerant reality: there is a fight for validity. Just take a look at the Bronx, birthplace of hip-hop, where more than 53% of the community is Latino, but arguably no English-flowing Latino artists have ruled since the Terror Squad era.
Among the next wave of rising rappers is BX Boricua, Al-Doe. With brash bars and high-end drug double entendres, “The Pope of the Coke Talk” isn’t sputtering commercial lyricism. Through dark wordplay, Al-Doe sheds light on the unforgiving circumstances in the hood. From his signature Pope attire to his eccentric wardrobe insignias, Al-Doe’s individualism is front-facing. He offers no apologies and is as vivid in person as he is on beats.
We caught up with the rap newcomer in a sit-down interview. Get to know Al-Doe in his own words below:
How would you describe your sound?
It’s a new version, in my perspective, of late ‘90s, -early 2000s rap. I get a lot of inspiration from The Lox, DMX and that hip-hop era. Jay Z’s first album, Reasonable Doubt, was released in 1996, but I was only ten years old. That’s who I listen to; that period wasn’t mine, but it heavily influences my sound.
I think a lot of people have this misconception of me. People who only listen to my music might assume I’m overly aggressive and so hardcore. But I am also human, I laugh and get sad. I’m normal. I’m with my children every single day. My new music will display more of that side and not the character, per say.
You’re known for the hardcore hip-hop. Are you insinuating you want to separate from that image?
I want to expand on that image. I will always keep it, because a lot of people love me for that. Listeners should know this is what I came up on. This is the essence and what I grew up doing. However, I get older like everyone else. I want them to see my growth.
“Stained Glass Windows,” your debut album, is releasing next month. What’s been your favorite moment with its creation?
There was a private listening session; Lenny S and Kevin Liles were there. To have these two record executives from Roc Nation and 300 Entertainment listening to my project, it felt like an accomplishment. They didn’t even know the other would be there.
I felt the vibe, and it helped me out. They might have been wondering, “What is he doing here?” It was all love. Tidal will be streaming my album exclusively the first week. Sean C & LV are my executive producer. They’ve produced for P. Diddy, Big Pun, Jay Z, and many other artists.
What’s the concept behind the title, “Stained Glass Windows?”
You know I’m called “Pope of the Coke Talk”. My mother is extremely religious and raised us Catholic. That’s where the Vatican references came from. We were in church every week; I was an altar boy. I was surrounded by the art of the Stained Glass Windows. I took that and incorporated it into my rhymes and fashion. It’s who I am.
You perform in a Pope costume. How did that come about?
Harry Fraud heard my bars and said “The Pope” should be my signature. When it was time to shoot the “Black Sabbath” video, I thought about what I could do differently and still keep it hip-hop. I hate resembling or doing what everyone else is doing. I thought, “Why don’t I just rent a Pope suit and walk through the projects?” My boys said, “You are bugging! Do not wear that suit. Everyone is going to think you’re a clown.” [Laughs] I didn’t care. I wore it, and people love it.
Supporters kept “The Pope” going. I began performing in the suit. To me, it is music; it’s creative. Look at Missy Elliott; I love her. Look at Busta Rhymes and Eminem; they’re animated. We have one life. I don’t want to be anyone else. I’m the freest-spirited person you’ll ever meet. Maybe a little too free sometimes. [Laughs]
That’s not surprising considering you began your career in film.
Yes, when I was eight years old, my mother took me and got an agent at Young Talent. I’ve been cast for commercials and shows such as As The World Turns and Law & Order. I was in a movie called Thicker Than Blood, with Mickey Rourke. From very young, I was active creatively. Recently, I modeled for Puma and their “Eat What You Kill” collection designed by Frank the Butcher. There will be a new Puma collection this fall.
What is your greatest accomplishment to date?
My children. They are my reason for everything.
Who is Al-Doe?
Al-Doe is an entertainer. Al-Doe is the rawest and most uncut. He is a lover and a fighter. He is adventurous, spontaneous, a great chef, very weird and anxious for you to hear his music. Al-Doe is dropping “Stained Glass Windows” next month. A prelude is coming soon.