Un-rapping the hip-hop scene in Syracuse

Un-rapping the hip-hop scene in Syracuse

From studio time to battles, local rappers are taking different avenues in their quest for musical success.
Published: December 21, 2019 | Updated: January 7th, 2020 at 1:34 pm
Local artist Tosheem Stroman shares his journey into the hip-hop industry.
Local rapper Tosheem Stroman sits outside the Syracuse University-adorned Orange Crate near Marshall Street.

There’s a stigma to being a Syracuse rapper that Tosheem Stroman says is hard to shake.

“If you’re in Syracuse because it’s small, they look at it as you’re not really a real rapper,” the 24-year-old Stroman said.

With the exception of an early childhood connection to Post Malone who was born here, Syracuse has not made much of a mark on the hip-hop musical map. Hip-hop is one of the most popular genres in the music industry, representing more than 21 percent of all music consumption, according to Statista.

So local rappers like Stroman are soldiering on by booking studio time, promoting live shows and pushing out their tracks online — all in hopes of being discovered.

 Internet and streaming services

Stroman started rapping when he was 14 and took advantage of the Internet early on in his career. He started off by releasing songs on mixtape sites and eventually switched over to streaming on sites such as Soundcloud.

“Anybody that cares about music, they have a streaming service,” Stroman said.

But putting a quality song online requires some investment before actually seeing money in return.

“You have studio time, you have producers mixing and mastering and then you have to release the song,” Stroman said. “That’s five different things you’re paying for before making money.”

Stroman thanks streaming services for allowing him to monetize his music. Stroman said he feels fortunate to have figured it out.

“Not a lot them are making money off of their music,” Stroman said. “Some of them don’t know how to.”

Among the highlights of his career so far include getting the chance to work with Grammy-nominated Wiz Khalifa.

Stroman met the rapper backstage at a concert. He rapped for Wiz Khalifa and managed to impress him.

“He gave me his number and said to text him when I got home. We stayed in touch ever since then. And then we did a song together,” Stroman said.

Their collaboration, “Just Because,”  has earned nearly 100,000 plays on Soundcloud.

Stroman says he plans on releasing new music in 2020.

Rapper Tosheem Stroman with Grammy nominated artist Wiz Khalifa.

Studio sessions

If rappers are not finding beats on the Internet like Stroman, then they’re more than likely using a studio.

And if they’re in Syracuse that studio is probably Subcat Studio. 

Subcat audio engineer Steve Brown said business has been booming ever since they hired more engineers about four years ago. Since then, artists such as Sig Roy have recorded in one of Subcat’s three studios.

“Before that we didn’t have a lot of engineers who took it pretty seriously not because they weren’t interested,” Brown said. “But because they had deeper roots in other genres.

“Not every studio in town does hip-hop and I think we do enough of it where we have gotten pretty good at it.”

Live gigs & rap battles

Eddie Jones, a local rapper who goes by Luna Rozay, recently started GodDran Cypher, an event that gives local rappers, DJs and producers a platform to perform. The first showcase on Nov. 20th at SALTspace featured half a dozen artists including Leo Robbins, Big Keem, Loosh, Low Key, Lavish and Sav.

“We don’t have a lot, that’s why we created what we created,” Jones said.

Eddie Jones was the host of the first Goddran Cypher.

The main focus of GodDran Cypher was a rap battle in which participants faced off head-to-head offering their original rhymes over different beats. Judges determined which rappers advanced to the next round. Leo Robbins, Big Keem and Sav all made it to the next round.

Jones said the exposure at rap battles for up-and-coming rappers helps, but the judging also provides a chance to hear constructive criticism on their skills.

“There’s a lot of artists here that are really good at making music and they could be more than rappers they could be the biggest entertainers we just need a bigger spotlight,” Jones said.

Local rappers Loosh and Sav go bar for bar with one another during the GodDran Cypher.

Some local rappers eventually leave Syracuse for bigger markets in hopes of breaking into the music industry. Stroman will be among them as he’s moving to New York City to expand his music career while attending law school.

While Stroman knows he has to do what he has to do to fulfill his dream, he vows to never forget where he came from.

“I feel like you have to leave to expand your career and then come back to Syracuse. But if I could have it my way stay here and do it.”

Avatar for Michelle Houston

is a digital producer for The NewsHouse.