Hailing from Queens, New York, the American hip hop artist Mr. Craig is an undeniable talent taking the independent music scene by storm. Previously known under the moniker of ‘Strict-ly Shadow,’ the performer has been compared to the likes of Tupac and Lupe Fiasco. Now residing in the ‘DMV’ (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) area, Mr. Craig is hard at work on an array of fruitful projects that define his role not just as a musical artist, but as a contemporary entrepreneur and creative.
- How long have you been in the music business and how did you get started in the first place?
Mr. Craig: I’ve been in the music business well over 10 years. I started out writing poetry and wanted to express myself on another level. So a friend of mine introduced me to Anthony ”Mr. Tuck” Richards. He had a studio, and from there the rest is history.
- Who were your first musical influences?
Mr. Craig: I have a lot of musical influences it’s from Nas, LL cool J, Tyrese, Tank, 2pac, Usher, Big Daddy Kane, BBD, Boys 2 Men, James Taylor, Heavy D, Rakim, Jay, Epmd, Wu-Tang, 50 cent, Biggie, and many more.
- Which artists are you currently listening to or respect today, if any?
Mr. Craig : Wow! I still listen to Nas, 50, a lot more old school, and today I listen to Kendrick, Drake, J Cole, I respect J Cole as well as an artist, and a producer. I respect all in general and the ones that are still relevant from back in the days, and still selling out crowds.
- When did Strict-ly Shadow become Mr. Craig, and why?
Mr. Craig : Strict-ly Shadow became Mr. Craig about 3 years ago. I wanted a name that represented me at this stage in my career, and a very special friend’s son called me Mr. Craig, and from there I said that’s it, Mr. Craig it is.
- How would you say Mr. Craig differentiates himself from from just about every other kid today that picks up a mic and becomes an emcee?
Mr. Craig: I’m myself. I’m not pretending to be something or someone I’m not, be yourself, and keep it real, I do. What you see is what you get. No matter how many records I sell, I write and speak what’s on my mind. I write about life, happy, or sad. There are artist that keep it real, and some don’t, just saying!
- Which do you ultimately prefer? Entertaining a live audience or creating songs in a studio setting?
Mr. Craig:It’s hard to say what I ultimately prefer because they both have different vibes and feelings. When you’re having a creative moment or process whether it’s just you or a collaboration with another artist, it’s a great feeling putting a song together, and then taking it to the stage and displaying to an audience, it’s just a great feeling overall.
- Tell us something about your lyrics and music production on your releases. Which part of these processes do you handle, and which do you outsource generally?
Mr. Craig :That’s a very interesting question. Let’s touch on the production side, which I outsource, J-Rum, I’am Viany, Black Magic, are a few producers on my new project. On the writing side I handle my own verses, I want my fans to be able to connect with me, when I’m writing, now if I have singer on the hook, then if they have tight writing skills, then I let them write the hook.
8 Tell us something about how, when and why the single “One + One” came about and who else worked on it?
Mr. Craig: Wow!! Lol. I get this question a lot. J-rum who is a crazy producer had this track, and I grabbed it, so I sat on it for a while because at one point, I was done with the recording side of music, so I went through a situation with an incredible person, which I’m not with today, but that’s how the creation of the song came about, which I wrote within 8hrs, so it was that deep.
- You also have an official video of the single out right now. Could you tell us something about the production of the visual?
Mr. Craig:First off , I have to thank everyone that was apart of my “One + One” video, which is doing very well. I wanted to tell a story but an uplifting one. It was my vision for the video. Anthony “Mr. Tuck “Richards with his multimedia company “Image Sight And Sound” directed it, and I did the editing for it. I handpicked Latina actress Hada Vanessa to star in the video who was amazing. She’s an incredible person and actress hands down! I had a great team to hold me down.
- You own both the Strict-ly Entertainment label as well as Mr. Shadow Music Publishing Company. Are these companies aimed solely at promoting your career or are you involved with other artists too?
Mr. Craig:Well it all started with me. Starting up my own company helped me to learn the business. There are some people who won’t school you on the business. I choose to learn on my own. I might have an artist I’m looking to push, but it’s not set in stone yet. I have to put him to the test first. I want to give back and help, teach those who need it, if I can.
- Which aspect of being an independent artist, label boss and music publisher excites you most and which aspect discourages you most?
Mr. Craig: What discourages me, is not being able to make a change in someone’s life, as an artist. As artists we have a voice and we need to use it. Bring an artist is amazing when you can be creative. Seeing your vision come to life is truly a blessing. Making your own decisions, what song to put out, or when to release it, and not having a label telling you what to do, what to wear, or them not being able to see your creative vision.
- If you had the opportunity to change one thing about the music business today, what would that be?
Mr. Craig: Well, Rick, I miss Cd’s for the simple fact I used to, read inside the cover, and see who are the writers and things of that nature, the whole streaming thing is ok, tho. I wish I could understand some of the words that are coming out of some artist’s mouth, but that’s just my opinion, to answer your question, I’d change the politics in the industry.
- What do you feel your listeners should get out of your music?
Mr. Craig: They should get understanding, every level that I can display on, however, it may not be on just this one album coming. To let people know to not be afraid to express themselves out loud, and that we all go through stuff, but it’s how you handle adversity in life and apply it to something constructive. We all can do it, find yours, it might be jogging, or mowing the lawn, find something.
- The best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far, and one you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?
Mr. Craig:I was told never to quit. One advice from a mentor of mine who was also like a big brother to me is “Big Sno” he told me when I was younger that “not everyone always wants to hear about your life”, but at that time that’s all that was in me, the angry, the hurt, the pain, I just had to let it out. Wise words because he’s right and I still look up to him today.
- What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music career so far?
Mr. Craig: Rick, the hardest thing for me was when my Aunt/Mother/best friend passed away.
That was the most devastating thing that affected me on all levels, music included. One + One kind of helped me breathe a little in the aspect of it, it was like coming off of life support.
- Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites as fundamental in building a strong profile in music today, and what is your personal relationship with the new technology at hand?
Mr. Craig:The internet is what it is, there’s no taking it back we have to evolve and grow as the world does with technology, no matter what it you’re doing the first place people go is the internet, so you have to have a strong profile. I’m not a huge social media guy, but nowadays it’s a must.
- If someone has never heard your music, which keywords would you personally use to describe your overall sound and style?
Mr. Craig: hmmmmm. Sound I would say… Hip-Hop, rap, with mixture of R&B & pop. Now style I’d say, edgy, humble, a little rough around the edges style.
- What’s the next step after the single One + One”?
Mr. Craig: My next step is to put out my next single and finish up the album.
- If you were stuck on a Desert Island and you had the choice of having 3 albums with you, which would they be?
Mr. Craig:You’re killing me!! 3?!?! Ok…This is hard. Illmatic-Nas, Usher-Confessions, DMX-It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot, 2Pac-All Eyes On Me. I had to do 4.
- If you had to think of a slogan to leave a positive impact on fans, what would that slogan be?
Mr. Craig: Stay true to yourself, always believe you can do, or conquer anything you believe in and don’t quit, always stay positive.