MC Bravado is an AP English teacher by day and a wordsmith by night. Because of his profession, he’s able to hone his craft daily by teaching his students the intricacies of the English language. A confident man, Bravado often raps about his experiences, showing off his skills while utilizing more simplistic wordplay and pays homage to the late Johnny Cash in his EP Walk the Line. The Baltimore-based MC discusses the struggle of being able to balance his work with his passion, as well dealing with relationships and substance abuse. Although he tried to keep his passion and his work life separate, their collision was inevitable and Bravado realizes that he could combine the two worlds to start a mentoring program, in which students will learn the fundamentals and record their lyrics. Bravado teaches by example and hopes to influence others through his songs and his actions.
How’d you get your start?
Bravado: I started just freestyling and got into the local battle circuit when I was younger and while that was fun, I kind of fell into writing and found that more constructive than battling. When I was more off the top and sporadic things could take a turn for the worse.
Where’d you get your name?
Bravado: I think so much of hip-hop is centered around bravado and that aura and a lot of times that front that I was used to that. I actually named myself that as one part to call my own bluff of bravado until you get where you’re trying to go. The other part too was my aura and shield that I built to protect myself and make myself feel better. It helps me with depression and going through difficult things and build myself up to what I write.
Where does your confidence come from?
Bravado: I just think I’m good at what I do. I always had a passion for writing and reading since I was young. I went to school for literature and I was tutoring. I went grad school and got a degree in English and teaching. I stayed writing whether it was hip hop or writing or reading in general. I feel very well-versed in the technical aspect of the language, the rhyme schemes, simple storytelling. I honed every aspect of my craft. It’s not an overnight ride like a lot of these cats expect it to be. I put in the work and I’m good at what I do regardless off my current standing.
How was SXSW?
Bravado: It was great! I shared a stage with people I look up to like Termanology and Ruste Juxx. People that live that life, are hard-bodied, and East Coast hip-hop. I got to rock with them and chop it up with them and I think that I performed pretty well. It was cool and it was the first time I hopped on a plane to go to a major festival. It was a nice breakthrough in my career. They’re talking about bringing us on for next year too.
How did the Cypher Junkies form?
Bravado: Through battle circuit. It’s been really great. In the last six-nine months, things have really taken off.
What gave you the idea to use Johnny Cash and Walk the Line as the theme of your EP?
Bravado: I always identified with him because I feel like he’s someone who harnessed his demons and made powerful good music. I don’t think I have a classic hip-hop voice and I don’t feel like he had a classic “good” voice but he was so honest and emotive that people identified with it. I like the impurities in my voice sometimes; I like the cracks and the breaths that many artists take out. I want the listeners to hear that. I identify with the rawness of him. I wanted to pay homage to him. Each song I made for that EP dealt with some kind of balance of walking the line at some point whether it pertained to relationships, or struggling with substances. I’m pursuing sobriety now and I hear that that was something he had to do as well.
How would you describe your sound?
Bravado: Lyrical is too cliché so I’d say a wordsmith, bar for bar. I would say versatile. Stylistically diverse and eclectic. If I were to put it in a word, I’d say dynamic.
I see that you’re an AP English teacher. Are you ever inspired by your students for songs?
Bravado: 10-11 grade in Baltimore. Yes, absolutely! On this next project, I get more heartfelt on it. A lot of students are homeless during the school year. I have students that will have no running water or electricity. What I try to keep in perspective is that as crazy as I feel that my life is sometimes, I cannot compare what they deal with and they’re still coming here with a happy face and are ready to learn. To have that kind of strength and resolve at 16 and 17, I have no excuses. That’s really what I get from them.
I’m starting a program. I’m going to get a few students at a time; we’re starting small. We’ll meet weekly. I’ll help them hone their craft and learn the fundamentals and when we get to a certain point, they’ll memorize their stuff. That’s one thing about me. I don’t like reading off of anything. I think the focus should be on how you’re saying it, not what you’re saying. Once they memorize their stuff, I’m going to bring them to the studio and give them maybe four hours of time and see if the school can finance it or maybe we can get a sponsorship. I’ll let them lay down their stuff… at the university I want to see if some of them can get on college career tracks. I’m trying to bring those worlds together a little more now. I used to stray away from that it’s time to stop. I’m ready to rock with them. I’m ready to help better them through music, not just teaching.
How do you balance the professionalism of being an educator with the negative stereotypes that come with being a rapper?
Bravado: That’s the difficult part. Some stuff can construed as offensive but it’s honest or satirical. If you understand concepts, then you’d have no issue with it. That’s why I try to keep the two worlds separate. I don’t think it’s going to be an issue as long as I’m professional at work. As long as you help these kids and managing the classroom, then you’re fine.
Are you ever criticized for your lyrics by parents or colleagues for what you do and if so, how do you respond?
Bravado: I’ve honestly never been criticized for it. Some parents might not get what I do but there’s no criticism. I’ll be frank with them and explain my viewpoint. As long as I can articulate to them what I do and what my goals are, then I don’t foresee having a problem.
Do you teach the writing portion or the poetry?
Bravado:I do it all. There was an MLK poetry contest at my school and I made it a mandatory thing [for my students]. I had the most entries. We went over different poetic devices and structure and meter and the other fundamentals. They had to memorize it and recite it for full credit. The funny part about that is, one student in my eleventh grade said “you expect us to do this but where’s your poem about the dream continuing?” They didn’t know I rhymed at the time, so I did a verse I had that pertained to dreams and of course they went wild. I teach and lead by example.
Are you ever overlooked because of your profession? Do your competitors take you less seriously because you teach?
Bravado: A lot of teachers in the inner-city especially, are some of the realest people you’ll meet. I’ve never been criticized for that. People respect it. You’re literally honing your craft every day. No I haven’t had that issue but if I do, I’m sure I’ll come up with something witty. I’ve never had to write a diss track. I’m kind of bummed about it.
Are there any mainstream artists you’d want to work with and why?
Bravado: My dream collaboration is Andre 3000. He’s the most dynamic to ever do it. His whole career was predicated on rhyming. I’ve always admired his adaptability for whatever track he’s on. He’s just fearless.
Lupe Fiasco. He’s one of the most intelligent dudes in the game. What he says always has purpose. He always has an agenda and is very conceptual about it.
Any advice for your students /anyone trying to make a name for themselves in the rap game?
Bravado: Focus on getting good at what you do before putting out videos and putting music on your Sound Cloud because you only get one chance to make a first impression. You can be dismissed when you’re really still learning. Hone your craft before making it public. Take your time and put out quality. Then let the world see it.
Bravado: I’ve got an album coming out in late summer. I’ve got a new song out called “Brand New Bag” on my Sound Cloud. It’s the connection between music and drugs and trying to get rid of the baggage.
I loved that you had relevant questions for me instead of the generic one. You definitely did you homework. I hate saying that because I sound like a teacher but thank you all for taking an interest in me.
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