Meet Edson Sean
Where are you from?
Edson: I am from Brooklyn, NY born and raised
What was it like growing up in Brooklyn in contrast to the way it is now?
E: Growing up in Brooklyn was fun! What I remember most about it was how communal it felt. You couldn’t do too many crazy things on the block because the neighbor would call you out and then tell your parents. So you knew to best be on your best behavior at all times. Now I feel like neighbors are afraid to call kids out when they are doing dirt or misbehaving. Most seem to be out for self. So as long as you aren’t right in front of your house, you can get away with A LOT nowadays. Another difference is that we were ALWAYS active as kids. We would play basketball in the hot summer sun for like 5 hrs. A lot more time outside of the house. Not as much technology time. I mean…we had video games but we could only be on it for certain amount of time.
What’s your main role in music?
E: My main role is a singer/songwriter and musician first. But I like to think of myself as a Renaissance man when it comes to music. I am also an emcee, a producer AND an audio engineer.
How old were you when you started getting involved with music? How old were you when you first performed and where?
E: I have been singing since childhood. I first started singing at about 7, when I was mocking the 3 Tenors (Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, and Luciano Pavarati) as my dad would play their album. I come from a very musical family. Either you sang or were a collector of ALL types of music.
E: Wow! 11 years old if I remember correctly, I sang at church in the children’s choir where my mom was the pianist. I remember our first song. It was called “Jesus wants me for a sun beam”. Good times. Humble beginnings.
Music wise, who inspired you growing up? Any other influential people in your life?
E: Honestly, my biggest musical influence was my Uncle Ronnie. He had the BIGGEST music collection that was as versatile as any DJ you can think of. It was his love for Stevie Wonder in particular that REALLY bonded us. That was and still is my blueprint for songwriting.
E: Not to sound cliche but my mother HAS to be included on my list of influential people in regards to me as a man. My mom is the strongest, most honest, loving and positive person that I know. She is the reason that being a giver is at the core of who I am. Her selflessness and genuine love for people will be her legacy that lives on through me.
When and where did your music career start? How many bands or musical projects have you been part of?
E: My music career started in 1998 which seems like a lifetime from now. My first group, KENEK, was a rap group, a duo, made up of myself, going by OMNI Blaize at the time, and Chris Rel who now goes by Truthfirst. This was my first venture into a music career. We met in college as roommates where we shared a common love of hip hop. We would freestyle on campus and enter competitions. We even recorded an album that never came out. Chris Rel is still my brother to this day, he shoots and edits all my music videos.
E: Well…I have been apart of a few bands. My first band was 2 Shades Darker…I loved that band. You always remember your first! (Pun intended). Then I think it was The Edson Sean Experience? Then I was a part of The Experience which had 2 other headliners including myself (ArinMaya and BD3). Currently, I am one of the rotating members of The Caché Eclectic and my own band, The Commission, whose name was actually bestowed upon us by Cachélife’s own Eric Essebag.
When and where was your first gig in NYC?
E: My FIRST gig in NYC had to be an open mic at Nuyorican Cafe in 1998. All my NY underground artists know the history of this venue. I signed up for this open mic not knowing if I’d get called up or not. Feeling a little disappointed in thinking they wouldn’t call my name, I headed to the exit as the show was about to end and then…I hear my name. I felt so many emotions in that moment, the dominant one being fear! I had only shared my creations with my immediate people who I KNEW were supportive of my music but how would these strangers respond? Though, even in the midst of the fear, the stage kept calling and my feet had minds of their own, they ushered me to the stage to perform anyway. And then there was no turning back after that!
With everything currently going on, what are your thoughts and how do you feel?
E: Right now I feel like even in the midst of all of the crazy energy, this is a great time. People were talking about 2020 being the year of perfect vision and now that 2020 is 6 months in, folks want to “return to sender.” But right now 2020 has revealed things that have remained hidden for too long. I mean 2020 has been a roller coaster! 1st Kobe gets killed, then the Corona virus hit, now we are in the midst of what can possibly be a modern day civil rights movement. 2020 has forced us to look at ourselves, look at our society and really see how dysfunctional some of it really is. It has been made plain and clear to everyone how systemic racism is woven into the tapestry of this country and how ugly it still is. Even with laws on the books that say we have rights as black Americans, we can see that in the minds of some, it doesn’t matter. We are less than human to them. Even take a look at how disproportionately the Corona virus is killing those of African descent. It’s not necessarily that our systems are weaker, even though our diets do not support a healthy immune system, it is moreso a testament to the disparity in health care and access to it within the black communities.
What are your experiences growing up? When did you start to understand racial inequality? Have you ever been racially profiled?
E: I don’t think I fully became aware of racial inequality until I was about 11 years old. There were 2 pivotal cases that were in the news at that time which I vaguely remember. One was a black man named Michael Griffith who was killed by a group of white men in Howard Beach, Queens, New York. The 2nd was the alleged rape of a 15 year old black girl named Tawana Brawley which was a pivotal case in New York as it polarized New Yorkers along the racial fault line. Both of these happened in ’87 I think. Then in 1989 there was the Hawkins shooting in Bensonhurst, Hawkins was shot after him and his boys were attacked by a group of Italian boys. This was the 1st time when I realized that being black meant that I would be treated differently. In school we were taught about Martin Luther king maybe you got a few sentences about Malcolm X but it never really hit home that Black Men, Black Women were looked at as different and were treated differently. I myself have never been racially profiled but I have way too many friends that have been. The closest thing to that is the assumption which people usually make when they see me. I’ve definitely had women clutch purses in elevators, cross the street, or give me that fearful look until I flash my smile and they realize that I’m harmless for the most part. That is, until you poke me.
How has this all been affecting you creatively?
E: At first my mind was a little cloudy, adjusting to EVERYTHING… especially the isolation created by COVID-19, but once I settled into the idea that this was going to be the norm for a while and learned to be kind to myself when I didn’t feel productive, I actually became very inspired. I created a 3 song EP called, “Relax. Relate. Release.” which is on all streaming platforms and can be purchased on Bandcamp, as well as a new single called, “Am I Next?” which expresses how I feel as a black man in America and seeing how law enforcement treats us. That single is available on Bandcamp right now and will be available for streaming on July 4th. I have also designed some bomb shirts to go along with the music
Do you think through art and music, creativity brings people together in a sense of where racial inequality doesn’t exist or is there more we have to do?
E: Absolutely. One of the songs on the EP, “Relax. Relate. Release.” is a collaborative peace between myself and several of my artist friends who are of varying races and backgrounds. Music is one of those languages where you can communicate with someone even if you’re not in their presence, even if you can’t see, even if you can’t understand the language itself being sung. Music is an energy that speaks to the soul of people. Whether someone is speaking in Swahili or Spanish, if that person is happy or sad, if the song is executed well, you can feel that emotion. On the other hand there’s always work to be done. Even in the music industry where there is an inequality between artists of color and white artists. A lot of artist create off of the backs of black artists, meaning they are benefiting from the styles and the creations of black artists but there’s still a disparity in the opportunities for those musicians. They say that music reflects the times so why would we expect the music industry to be any different. So yes there’s always work to be done.
What have you seen changing in the music industry in the past 10 years?
E: Wow! So many things. The main thing that I have observed which has not really been in the best interest of the artists is how music has been distributed and consumed. Yes, it makes it a whole lot easier for the consumer to consume, listen to and travel with music but it leaves artists on the crappy end of the stick. You have to get a STUPID number of streams to even make a decent amount of money. Where as 10 years ago it wasn’t as hard. You could make cds still and sell those to your fans and make a little $$. On the upside, the tools to create and make high quality music has drastically improved and made it a little easier for the artist on a budget to have clean and professional sounding music, granted you understand how to use it. But the resources are at our fingertips, literally.
What would you like to see happen in the future of the music industry and music in general?
E: Honestly. I would love for the financial playing field for the creatives and the companies capitalizing off of artists creations to be more even. Yes, these companies invest in music and need to see a return on the investment but there would be nothing to invest in without the creators of the music. I would love to see a platform that highlights the indie artist who might get swallowed up on the major streaming platforms.
What would you like to say to the world?
E: Honestly what I would like to say to the world is we are as strong as our weakest link. As a human race we are as strong as our weakest link. So if one of us isn’t doing well, we all aren’t doing well. The only way we can repair relations or more past this point, is to acknowledge and face the ugliness that our country and society was built on, and embracing ALL with love. I fully believe that LOVE is the only thing that exists, there is either an absence of it or a presence of it and degrees in between. This is our version of the civil rights movement. So now is the time for us to continue to keep the pressure on and hold our legislation and law enforcement accountable for the inequalities that are affecting our black communities in such a negative way.