A Souljah's Story Part 1
BY BARRY SCHWARTZ
Diamondback Staff Writer
This is what you’ve been waiting for; death to the myth, an answer to your blazing query and the solution to the puzzle. Who is he? You all know who I’m talking about.
One of College Park’s omnipresent characters, he is the city’s closest possible equivalent to a rock star seen nearly everywhere; from the entrance to The Diner to outside the Student Union to the kitchen to the Local Cluck-U.
Wearing a green bandana backwards around his shaven forehead, with a thick army fatigue coat covering his white t-shirt, Melvin Lee Jacobs, aka Lee Majors, 23, of East Baltimore, lurks in the shadows, stalking the sidewalks of our humble college town and the campus, blessing microphones at local hip-hop events like last September’s Cipher Sessions, recording his debut album in the studios of WMUC, or simply launching into spontaneous philosophical conversations.
He’s a suburban pseudo- prophet, if you will, just trying to make a profit.
He goes by many names, none of which he decided for himself; U-Pac, Cluck-U-Pac, 2Pac, 3Pac, all somehow appropriate monikers given his uncanny resemblance to the truest of thugs.
But whatever silly-billy freshman and other students prefer to call Lee Majors behind his back, you can be sure he could care less. The same man who is seemingly just loitering around campus, occasionally attending classes he has not enrolled in and frying your overpriced wings at Cluck-U is the CEO of his own label, Innervision Entertainment, and the author of a new self-produced hip-hop album, Verse 4 Verse Volume 1.0.
An underground hip-hop album just shy of 80 minutes, Verse 4 Verse boasts introspective rhymes over elaborate, if not incredibly lo-fi, production. His website is claimed the album is " aimed to take the underground by storm ," and that Verse 4 Verse "contains" the ‘no holds barred’ underground feel missing from this bling-bling era of hip-hop ." He adds, " If you want to feel the soul of a man poured out on wax, cop this upcoming release."
Every story has a beginning, so what brought Majors to College Park?
" I’ve been rapping ever since I was 16, around late ’94 or early ’95," he began. " Growing up in the city always admiring music ,"said Majors, " and just watching the older cats on the corner rapping, it inspired me to find ways that I can express myself, to do different things with the actual creativity of music. I pursued writing as a way of doing something constructive, to allow me to express what I was feeling at the time ."
Majors is a man focused on his goals, and he has a true grasp on how to obtain them. His road through life has been filled with struggles. He grew up in the Douglass Home projects in Baltimore, but said he had to leave.
" I wasn’t able to do the Verse 4 Verse project living in Baltimore City," Majors said. " I wasn’t able to focus on what it was that I really wanted to do staying in those neighborhoods. I needed to get somewhere people were moving at a certain pace, a pace of working on their own success ." A university seemed to be the most logical choice, a place where Majors could feed off the positive energy and apply it to his own life.
" When I came up here ," explained Majors, " I was looking at the tools that the university had to offer. Since I had no money to actually attend school here, I started to educate myself. I go into classes and just take in the information they give me, taking notes, because teachers are paid to teach. I kind of educated myself the last seven or eight years, so technically, I would be a super-senior if I paid actual money to go here ."
His label, InnerVision Entertainment , was launched in 1998 "as a record label with the goal of producing the type of provocative music that is sorely missing in today’s mainstream." Under the guidance of Majors and his fellow workers, Innervision Entertainment has developed into a multimedia company acting as a one stop marketing company.
In addition to music production and distribution, the label also specializes in graphic design for websites and flyers. It also promotes local urban-flavored events. " We sponsored the Baby Boy account around here and the Mariah Carey account ," Majors said.
Has he seen Glitter? " No I have not seen the movie ," said Majors. He’s a lucky man. Majors proclaims that everything he spits is a freestyle, a term which, depending on whom you talk to, has a number of different definitions.
" My definition of a freestyle is like when people in the church catch the Holy Ghost ," Majors said. " It’s like the actual moment when you catch the spirit and make the whole thing that comes out of your mouth make sense ."
Verse 4 Verse Volume 1.0 may not be the most sonically pleasing to the ear and admittedly Majors could stand to improve as an MC. However, at the end of the day, passion and emotion of music are ultimately what makes music good. Verse 4 Verse is 100-percent pure emotion.
Majors admits though he may not be the best rapper in college Park, he is certainly one of the best. He wants to make it perfectly clear, however, that he is not a battle rapper but a street poet, much like his not-too-surprising greatest influence.
Lee Majors on nicknames, philosophy and Tupac.
Editor's note: Local rapper and all-together College Park celebrity Lee Majors recently released his debut rap album, Verse 4 Verse Volume 1.0, for his InnerVision Entertainment label. In this, the second of a two-part feature on the rapper, he discusses his main influences, his life philosophies and the mystery surrounding Cluck-U's 911 wings.
By Barry Schwartz
Diamondback staff writer
It was at this point in our interview that Lee Majors became his most passionate. " Tupac [Shakur] was my main influence, may God rest his soul ," said Majors solemnly. " We grew up in the same hood and my mother knew his mother. I never met him before, but our families knew each other
" He gave you everything that a human being goes through ," he continued. " He gave you something that you could love, or something that made you hate him. To be a real poet and speak the truth on society, when you're out on the street there isn't gonna be battle rapping like 'I'm the illest da da da da da,' you know? Motherfuckers are getting killed out here! To me he was one of the greatest men to ever walk this earth, not just making records but his individuality, how he carried things and the blueprint he laid down ."
He made sure to address people's main criticism of him, that he is nothing more than a small-town Tupac clone, " . Don't get me wrong, I may look like him, but I don't try to be like him. But his instructions and the work ethic is what I have picked up from him: His blueprint of what he left behind for guys like myself ." Majors feels no one in hip-hop, at least on the mainstream level, is carrying on the tradition of Tupac - continuing the legacy. " In order to do what he did ," he said, " you would of had to take the risks he took. Ain't nobody taking that risk. "
What about Mos Def, Talib Kweli or Common?
" Don't get me wrong those brothers are good ," he admitted, " but I can't speak for them. As far as Tupac goes, I can identify with him. I grew up in the same hood, and pretty much went through the same thing ."
In the eyes of Majors and the many people like him, Tupac was " the real," the truth. Many MCs prefer for their music not to be a reflection of their true selves, and try to create a persona, an alter-ego, through which to express themselves.
Considering the years of work, experience and struggle that were poured into the creation of the Verse 4 Verse, it would be reasonable to assume that Majors would be an exception to that rule. Then why have an alias? " Verse 4 Verse is a reflection of Lee Majors and Melvin Lee Jacobs ," he explains, " because Melvin Lee Jacobs created Lee Majors out of the struggle ."
Majors is quick to confess he is the embodiment of overcoming adversity. He is a human Rolodex of personal mantras - mantras which he follows devoutly everyday. " The only way you're gonna make it is you can't let nothing stand in your way, you can't pay attention to what anybody else says because people are going to tell you their perspective. People see you do something good, and they've always got something to say," he said. " Haters are always going to hate ."
He continued, " When I came here, I had a plan, a mission: to conquer this whole campus, and I'm only one man and I think I've done that. I've sold 430 copies of Verse 4 Verse out of the trunk of my car. I'm seeing results and people may have their own opinions but the actual hard work and soul I put into it is what's making it, and God has blessed me with it ."
Majors' reaction to those that may negatively criticize his album is calm and simple. " It's all of what you think it is, it accepts all. It accepts every fucking thing that you could possibly call it and that's what I want !" he shouts. " Verse 4 Verse, when God spoke he spoke to man in verses, that's how I'm coming at them ."
These are very lofty expectations, borderline extreme, but Majors says it all with the straightest face. He may seem out of his mind, but he firmly believes in everything he says, raps and feels. He hugs everyone he meets, regardless of how well he knows them. Anyone on campus could easily receive a hug. I have gotten at least five or six. Jealous? " People need to see that love - that part of me. We call it ghetto love, like I say on my record, 'We drop the five pound.'
He slaps my hand, tightens it into a clasped fist and snaps our fingers together chanting, " Trust, love and security . " Even if your hand hurts you know you can trust a man, spreading that love ," he said.
Contrary to what many think, Lee Majors is fully aware of people's preconceptions, and often misconceptions, of who he is. He understands people's reactions to him on the campus and he knows about his nicknames. " When people call me shit like U-Pac, or Cluck-U-Pac," he said, " it doesn't hurt. Actually, it makes me feel good. Even if it's negative I take it and use it for good energy. It's an honor to be admired because of my resemblance to one of the greatest soldiers to ever put it down in the rap industry. I really appreciate that blessing. People look at me, they see who they see, but once they get to know me, it'll make someone like me even more ."
However, he would like to be recognized for who he is. " I would prefer to be known as Lee Majors ," he admits. " I know the mystery helps me, I've never really understood the actual power of the mystery that surrounds me, because I'm not a big-headed person, but the power of it is bigger than I had anticipated. It definitely helps the business here at Cluck-U ."
Which leads us to the question on everyone's minds: What happened to the 911 wings, chicken so spicy customers of Cluck-U were required to sign a waiver? " We don't serve that anymore ," he said. " That ain't nothing but a court case waiting to happen. Imagine the Nuclear wings times a hundred ... and twenty. Somebody gonna try to sue us because their drunk asses came down here trying to eat some hot wings, and now their mouth is all messed up? You eat them and get put on your ass, go home drinking milk, doing whatever to stop the burning in your mouth ."
Good riddance to the 911 wings, but Majors maintains. Cluck-U is there for Majors to make some money, but his true passion and mission is his hip-hop career, most notably the hard work he poured into Verse 4 Verse. " The average listener of Verse 4 Verse will probably listen to it and think, 'damn, this motherfucker is angry , " he explained, " but if they sit back and listen to it and actually meditate and go into my world, because that's what music is, 'walk with me through my world,' they'll find it ."
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