Underground Experience 1-30-015


fly academic1 Underground Experience 1 30 015

Mistajay: What is the story and conception behind your emcee name?

Fly Academic: Well I recorded for many years as The TradeMark Experience before I started using the Fly Academic moniker. The TradeMark Experience was born out of my initials, TM (for Tom Mulherin). Originally I just went by TradeMark, but after realizing that there were a few other “Trademark”s out there, I expanded the name to The TradeMark Experience to help myself stand out. The new name also tied into the over-the-top persona I was running with at that time. After that character ran its course though, I decided on Fly Academic as my new handle after an inside joke of sorts with my buddy Zeke from college. We coined the term “Fly Academic” to describe a style of dress, rocking blazers/sweaters and nice slacks and whatnot, like how a real suave college professor would dress. At the time I was working in education, but had this pseudo-secret hip hop career on the side, so it seemed like the perfect fit. And that’s the long-winded answer for how I came up with Fly Academic as a name, haha.

Mistajay: What area are you reppin? What is the hip hop scene like there?

Fly Academic: I’m from Philly, South Philly to be exact. Grew up there and spent 20+ years of my life in Philly. Definitely was involved in the local hip hop scene. I used to do all kinds of open mics and showcases and eventually built a big enough following to promote my own shows. The hip hop scene in Philly was okay. I was pretty hyper-critical of the scene when I was involved in it, I think maybe out of frustration. It’s not a NYC or an LA by any means. It’s tough to get noticed by the right people. There isn’t much of an industry presence in Philly. I never quite fit in with the hip hop culture in Philly. Most rappers there are still riding the street/gangster wave, and that’s cool, but being who I am that was never going to be my lane. I stood out by being unique, by having a different look, a different voice and presentation, but I felt like a man without a country oftentimes. I moved to Baltimore about a year ago, and I’m still trying to figure things out down here. There doesn’t seem to be much of a scene honestly. I never hear about local shows or anything like that. So I’m basically sticking to my internet hustle these days.

Mistajay: You incorporate elements of electronic, indie/lo-fi, and melodic pop music in your sound.

What are your influences of your music? And what inspires you?

Fly Academic: I listen to everything, man. Hip hop, pop, electronic music, classic rock, dance music, hipster stuff, everything. I enjoy so many different types of music that I try to incorporate a little bit of everything into what I do. I might come out with a song that has a classic 90’s boom bap rap feel, and on that same album there will be an ambient/chillwave electronic song. That might be confusing for some people- everybody likes to pigeonhole an artist into one genre, one lane- but I like to experiment and keep things versatile. I would compare my sound to acts like Kid Cudi, Macklemore, Childish Gambino, etc. Hip hop artists who sort of challenge and defy traditional boundaries, lyrically and production-wise.

Mistajay: How do you describe your style as an emcee and producer?

Fly Academic: I definitely spend a lot of time exploring introspective, socially conscious music these days. Using my own exploration of self and my journey into adulthood as an allegory of the world that we live in and where we are heading as a society. Sort of a running journal of the world around me (and inside of me), through my eyes as both the narrator and the voice of the people. As arrogant as that might sound. I’m the omniscient narrator of your life, lol. Kidding. But in my head, I AM the narrator, so that’s the voice that comes most naturally to me. I pride myself on keeping my lyrics intelligent, tackling real concepts, talking about things most other ‘mainstream-sounding’ artists don’t talk about. I make music for people like myself who have had a number of different experiences and have been exposed to a lot, both good and bad, who can relate to what I am saying- who are open-minded and progressive enough to fully consider and analyze the content I am presenting in my music. Sometimes you have to look underneath the surface to get at the true meaning of my work.

Mistajay: Your debut single, “Keep Dreaming,” was released in the spring of 2014 to critical acclaim and  had music featured on E!’s “Total Divas” and Oxygen’s “Bad Girls Club,” What is your best song recorded to date and why?

Fly Academic: I think I’m most proud of “Keep Dreaming,” and most of my fans and listeners would probably agree. That song has gotten more response than anything else I’ve ever put out. I think people can recognize the passion in my lyrics. Everybody has a dream that they are either pursuing, living, or at some point decided to leave behind. It’s a universal concept. The song perfectly encapsulates my struggle as a soon-to-be-30 something dreamer “still humping away at the American dream,” as Hunter S. Thompson would say. A lot of people have given up on me, to be quite frank, or have simply lost interest in my musical ambitions. I think people naturally want to back a winner, they want to see results- or at least some tangible momentum- to stay invested. I’ve been underground and fighting to make a name for myself for 10 years. It’s hard to keep people engaged when they see you’re sort of running on a wheel, but I will never give up and I know my time is coming. It might not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but I will continue working and dreaming and true talent always rises to the top eventually. I believe that.

Mistajay: If you could share the stage with any 3 artists or bands who are still around and touring, who would they be and why?

Fly Academic: Paul Simon (I’m pretty sure he still tours now and again), Cam’ron, and Lady Gaga. I would just want to see the crowd who comes out to that show, first of all lol. But Paul Simon’s “Graceland” was my favorite album as a kid, Cam’ron is hilarious- I would just love to kick it with him backstage and shoot the shit. If he went out and played the Dipset-era greatest hits on top of that, even better. And lady Gaga is just everything I love about performance and theatrics in music. She’s a star, and seeing her live would be an experience for sure.

Mistajay: A lot of artists come into the game with a lot of ambition but don’t spend time learning the business side. How important to you is learning about publishing and royalties?

Fly Academic: Extremely important. I’ve been blessed to have albums accepted to Pandora Radio, Spotify, etc. and to have some of my productions used on television shows, like you mentioned earlier, so it is very important to me to get paid lol. I’ve got my BMI, SoundExchange, and copyrights all in order. But yeah even before all of that I would attend Entertainment Law seminars, I would seek out people in the industry and learn as much as I could about the business end of things, so I wouldn’t need to rely on other people or a record label to do those things for me. I release everything independently and I love that freedom. And I am constantly learning and seeking out new knowledge. Sometimes you learn from mistakes you’ve made, and that has sure happened to me, too. But yes I consider myself very learned in the music business. I think that’s what separates hobbyists from professional musicians. I still have a day job, but I absolutely consider myself a professional musician.

Mistajay: Where do you see the hip hop going in 2015? How do you see yourself fitting into


Fly Academic: I don’t know anymore, dude. Lol. I think “hip hop” as we probably know and love it has gone underground indefinitely with no signs of returning to the surface. Guys like Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore have had major success while presenting strong lyrical content, but they are the exception to the rule, far from the norm. I think mainstream hip hop will continue to rely on the same names and faces who have proven to sell. We’ll see another Jay-Z album I’m sure. Ludacris will drop something. Nicki, Wayne, Drake, etc. Eminem has a new album coming out. T.I. has been making noise again. Kanye of course. Labels will continue to push and rely on “safe” acts who are guaranteed to make them money, and underground/indie artists will continue to fight and struggle and hopefully find their niche audiences and keep the art form alive. Everything else will be a rotating cast of Sage The Gemini’s and Iggy Izalea’s and Young Thug’s- flavor of the month pop rap artists who come and go before you even get to know who they are or why you should care about them. That part of the industry will never change, not with the plethora of artists on the internet with that next “hit single” ready to exploit. As for me? I’ll keep making the kind of music that I want to make, and if it goes somewhere, cool… if not, I really don’t care anymore. The music business is too laughable to actually worry and stress about. I was caught up in that for the longest time, but now I’m back to just doing this for me. And not coincidentally, I’m having fun again for the first time in years.

Mistajay: What are your future plans?

Fly Academic: Like I said, I’m going to keep making the music that turns me on, keep making beats. I’ll work with the people I want to work with, and just have fun. Life is too short for anything else. I have a day job, I have a girl, I have a life outside of this- which I guess I never really had before. For a while, music was the only thing I really had, or at least I worked myself into a frenzy thinking that way, and that put me in a desperate position. Now it’s just something in my life that I can enjoy. I’ll be releasing my “debut” album as Fly Academic (if you can call it that after 10 years in the game) in the next few months. “Misfit Toy or: How I Learned to Enjoy Losing.” A semi-autobiographical concept album about a musically talented kid who traded his soul for a bunch of false promises, ran himself into the ground and nearly lost everything before realizing he had actually been living his dream all along. The greatest story never told :)

Mistajay: Any last thoughts?

Fly Academic: Thanks for this opportunity. I really appreciate it. I hope if nothing else people can learn from my mistakes. Do this music thing for the love. The music “business” is soulless. It’s cold, lifeless. The real music is coming out of your local coffee shop on open mic night, from the teenage kid’s bedroom who just saved up enough for his first beatmaker, from the freestyle cyphers on the street corners. I have love for mainstream artists. My sound is ‘mainstream’ in terms of pop sensibility and production. But aspiring to be one of those artists can be dangerous, because you have no idea what they had to trade in or sacrifice (read: compromise) for their shot at the top.

Mistajay: Where can fans follow you and get your music?

Fly Academic: Fly Academic on the web









Mistajay is doing a monthly interview feature the underground experience on the blog www.empiremusiq.com/blog and would like to interview you for this new post please contact nccceo2@yahoo.com to publicize any new projects that you have coming up thanks for your time. Donate or pay $50 dollar interview fee below!!



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