Rapper Harry Mack Explains How He Brews Up A Style Blend Of ‘Braggadocio’ & ‘Positive Vibes’ (Exclusive)
“Hip hop wouldn’t be hip hop without diss tracks,” rising rap star Harry Mack tells HollywoodLife. Harry — who partnered with Starbucks to “Reverse Roast” fans on Twitch, creating personal coffee recommendations based on their personalities – knows that while a lot of the shade and fire rappers would usually put on a verse now goes into a killer tweet, the diss track still has meaning in today’s hip hop landscape. “If you trace the genre back to its roots, it was all about battling! B-boy battles on the dancefloor, DJ and emcee battles on stage or at the park jams, graffiti artists trying to one-up their competition by getting their mural displayed more prominently or coming out with a crazy original style.”
“That braggadocio is an important part of the language of hip-hop, and the culture is all about expressing yourself and your lived experiences,” he tells. HollywoodLife. “That said, my personal style is all about positive vibes, hence my Reverse Roast partnership with Starbucks that uplifts people rather than putting them down. This partnership is actually really dope because of our shared love for personalization. I’m passionate about connecting with people through unique, in-the-moment raps made just for them, and Starbucks also celebrates personalization, with its lineup of at-home coffees whether you dig K-Cups or whole beans, dark roasts or flavors. – there’s something for every taste.”
Those who didn’t catch the “Reverse Roast” live can experience Harry’s style when they catch him on tour. For many, this might be the first time to experience Harry live. He went viral in 2017 with a Venice Beach freestylewhich had him appear on talk shows where he crossed paths with Kendrick Lamar, Soulja Boyand Joey Bada$$ — all of which have been left gobsmacked by Harry’s dynamic freestyling skills. The talent of improv and flow is hard to master, and it makes for an exciting live performance.
“My live show is really unique because it’s not just me going on stage and performing pre-composed material that the audience knows word-for-word,” he explains to HL. “Rather, my show is improvised from top-to-bottom, based entirely on suggestions from the audience. Each show is an entirely unique 1-of-1 experience. I’m really proud of the way my team and I have brought off-top freestyling from its traditional context of a few people huddled around a boombox, to big stages in front of thousands of people – it’s truly something special!”
“The Odyssey Tour 2023 is going to be my biggest tour yet, and I can’t wait to get out there,” he adds. “I genuinely feel like anyone who enjoys good music, good vibes, and live music that you really have to be there to experience is going to connect with my show. Every performance is completely different from the last, and from what the fans have been telling me after the shows, the interactive aspect of involving them in my creative process makes a huge difference in terms of the level of impact I’m able to have with my audience.”
And one thing that will fuel the Odyssey Tour? Starbucks. Creating a new show every night while on the road takes energy and creativity, which can be found at any local Starbucks (there is one probably within walking distance of you now. “Coffee is literally the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning ,” Harry tells HL. When asked about his coffee order, since his “Reverse Roast” was all about him playing Starbucks barista to his fans, he keeps it simple.
“I love the ritual of sitting with a hot cup of coffee first thing. It’s a great opportunity for me to ease into a busy day of creative work, and it’s especially essential when we’re on the road in different cities every night, longing for some semblance of a ‘normal’ routine,” he says. “I drink my coffee black, and my coffee of choice has been all about Veranda lately because it’s smooth, flavorful, and light all at the same time.”
For those unaware of Harry, he’s given HollywoodLife an EXCLUSIVE playlist of songs to help the uninitiated to get to know him better. As you listen to it while sipping your Starbucks order, read on to learn more about Harry’s hip hop roots, how the style came about, and who he considers his biggest influences.
HollywoodLife: What was the first rap line/verse that made you stop in your tracks when you heard it? Was it one that energized you like a triple shot? Was it one that made you giddy with laughter, like a whipped-covered macchiato? Or was it a sobering line, like drinking straight black coffee?
Harry: The first rap verse that really stopped me in my tracks was Gift of Gab on the song “Blazing Arrow” by Blackalicious. I had heard a bunch of mainstream rap on the radio at that point, but Gab was the first underground lyricist I had ever been exposed to. I remember me and my friends Brady and Elan were huddled around the boombox, and about 20 seconds into that song, we all just kind of looked up at each other with our jaws on the floor.
I had never heard anybody rap with that level of technique and lyricism. I would definitely say it energized me like an espresso shot and started the momentum for my own creative journey as an emcee. While we’re using coffee as inspiration, I do think music and coffee have a lot in common, which is one of the reasons I wanted to partner with Starbucks for this “Reverse Roast” campaign. For both, there are so many genres and types, and something to fit any mood or occasion. It’s all about personalization and being open to finding what fits your mood or taste. Today, I was practicing my freestyles with some Starbucks Veranda in my cup.
Similarly, what’s one verse/bar you hold as your current masterpiece/opus? Like, when you were done saying it, you were like, “That’s for the highlight reel.”
It’s hard for me to say because as an improviser I’m always looking ahead to the next rhyme rather than reflecting on the one I just spit. That being said, I’ve always been a fan of rappers like Big L, who are so clever in their ability to play with words and come up with these mind-blowing metaphors and punchlines. One time on Omegle, this young woman suggested the clothing brand “Dior” as a word to incorporate into my freestyle. After doing some more on-the-nose bars about fashion, I flipped it and said: “A-plus lyricism leaving y’all impressed/other rappers only get the Dior F [as in D or F].” I love stretching the meaning of words and coming up with wild flips like that.
You’re known for your freestyles, which you’ve taken on Twitch and Omegle. How did these cyber ciphers come about?
I’ve always been really deep into freestyling and improvising off the top of the dome. Because this particular style of rapping is typically best experienced live, most of my freestyles from age 12-26 weren’t recorded. It wasn’t until 2016 that I made my first YouTube video and started to really see the power of the internet, and video platforms specifically, to showcase my improvisational skills. My first videos featured me all around LA freestyling for strangers in public places. When Covid came around, like many artists, I had to pivot and find new ways to continue creating. Since I wasn’t able to keep rhyming for people in public, I started experimenting with livestreaming, and sites like Omegle, so I could continue freestyling and making content. I had no idea how big both of those platforms would become for my career as a freestyler, but it’s been amazing to build off that momentum and channel in new ways, like brand collaborations. It’s been a fun experience for me to bring my freestyling not only to Starbucks as a brand but into the grocery aisle.
Who do you consider your role models or major influences on your music?
When it comes to hip-hop, I’m a fan first-and-foremost, and there are so many artists who have influenced me over the years. In addition to the people I’ve already mentioned (Gift of Gab and Big L), I’ve been heavily influenced by Nas, Black Thought, Rakim, Kendrick Lamar and MF DOOM, as well as many of the classic groups from the 90s. , especially Wu-Tang, Gang Starr, Tribe and De La, just to name a few. As an improvised freestyler, I’m endlessly inspired by the off-top legends Supernatural, MC Juice, Eyedea, and Freestyle Fellowship.
Catch Harry on tour this spring and summer.
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