By Jordan Reisman
Photo courtesy of Drift.
Drift of East Orange, NJ has other aspirations besides being a rapper. They range from the practical, such as learning the art of self defense by being a Mixed Martial Arts fighter, to the purely thrill-oriented dreams of being a drift racer which he says would fall in line with his stance as a “wild guy.” Though the fact that he has not as of yet lived either of these dreams is no accident, as they would merely complement his being an MC and would help flush out his brand.
It looks like with the way his life has played out thus far, Drift was born to be a rapper. The son of Ghanese immigrants with a lineage of African royalty, his parents decided to abandon the throne and chase the American dream in New Jersey. This cultural clash alienated the young Drift. He could have either fallen prey to the violence that surrounded him, or just rhyme about the surrounding brutality in his songs. He chose the latter and the fact that he’s here today is a testament to that choice, with a new mixtape called The Precursor, which is acting as a teaser for his yet unreleased full-length, The Monarch. BTR had a chance to speak with the illusive Drift as he was at a “session” getting ready to shoot a new video.
To explain Drift’s dreams and aspirations, he discusses the confusion of trying to find him on the internet amongst the bevy of videos and pictures of the drift scene. He says that although he goes “to the drifting competitions in the summer, I got some friends down by the shore” but that he doesn’t “know how to do it myself.”
On the record, it’s fair to assume that he would engage in a Tokyo Drift or two but when pressed on his “wildness,” he refuses to divulge saying, “I don’t want to get indicted.” Drift is clearly a man who knows when or when not to talk. Offhandedly, on the subject of violence in his music Drift says, “If I were 20 years old I would be a mixed martial artist.”
Growing up he faced a lot of violence in his community and he mostly dealt with it alone, having no older brothers or sisters to speak of. This kind of training would have been his chance to defend himself properly. He believes he could have excelled at the art because “not only is it physical, but it’s mental and I believe that my will is strong enough to go in there and be successful.”
The whole subject of violence in music, and specifically hip-hop, is a tired one but for people like Drift who grew up with actual violence around him, the option to compartmentalize those feelings into music served as a survival technique. The video for his song “Bad” is pretty gruesome and depicts Drift seeking vengeance on a man bothering his girlfriend. He says he got the idea from Sons of Anarchy.
“From a young child, if the movie didn’t have action, any shooting, or any bloodshed, I didn’t even want to watch it. That’s just from growing up—violence as entertainment, not violence per se like [against] my fellow citizens or nothing like that. The world is built upon violence; when you look at early civilization, other cultures conquer other cultures by using violence, they conquer people’s land by violence. In my eyes, it’s like a universal language. You don’t speak German but if a German guy punches you in the face, you already know he’s angry,” says Drift on violence for the sake of art.
When Drift’s parents moved to Jersey, he says that “their idea of success is different from American culture, like as long we have food on the table and a roof over our heads…” and so with that standard of survival, it set Drift apart from his peers. Clothes were not really a prerogative for his parents and so he says that “everyone was wearin’ Adidas and Nikes and I’m wearin’ shoes from Shop Rite.”
When one family places importance on just surviving and everyone else’s aim is to fit in, a tension grows that Drift felt throughout his youth. He got into hip-hop as a “baby boy” as he would see Big Daddy Kane on television and hear “It Takes Two” by Rob Base as some car would be blasting the song while driving by his window.
He says that, as a young person, not much else got him excited about life but with music, he connected “on a different level.” With no older brothers or sisters, no one was really there to show Drift what hip hop was all about except for Video Music Box, which he calls his “direct connection into music.”
“Really, definitely it was a way to channel any frustration, any sadness, it would take my mind away from anything negative. To this day, music is very therapeutic for me,” says Drift on the sonic healing powers of music.
Drift’s most recent mixtape, The Precursor, is comprised of a staggering 15 songs and considering that the mixture is just being delivered as a “taste” of what is to come from him shows that his work ethic for even just a little teaser is remarkable. The full-length that The Precursor is setting up is called The Monarch, whose lyrics are focused on Drift’s African lineage. We could run an Ancestry.com search on him but we’ll just let the man explain himself.
“In my home, in Ghana, I’m from the Ashanti tribe so if I were in Ghana right now, there would be two villages that I would be the King—quote-unquote—residing over. So that’s why I call it The Monarch. I come from royalty, basically. My father is super-duper ambitious, it was kind of like Coming to America where the guy didn’t want to follow in the fuckin’ footsteps of his family. He wanted to strike out on his own, and that’s what my dad did. That’s how we ended up in East Orange,” says Drift on his noble heritage.
If there’s one you could say about both Drift and his family, it’s that they’re courageous. They gave up the throne to raise their son in New Jersey where he had to fight to make his presence known and, if you ask us, he’s all the stronger for it. Besides, who would listen to a rapper who from birth had it all?
Listen to the King do his thing by clicking here.
Check out Drift’s music and interview on the latest episode of Discovery Corner on BTR.