Ichokas On Hip-Hop In UK, His Production & "Dreams In Darkness" [Interview]
Ichokas has been in the hip-hop game for a minute in the background honing his skills, both on the mic as an emcee and on the boards as a producer. Late last year the UK native decided to step out of the shadows and put out his debut EP. It's one of the more vulnerable projects of last year and even more so when you consider this being his first project where he handled both the songwriting and production. I got a chance to sit down with the UK upstart to learn where his love for hip-hop started and the motivation behind his first project "Dreams In Darkness".
Dead End Hip Hop: Tell the world who Ichokas is.
Ichokas: I'm a rapper and producer based over in the UK, born in South West London into a Greek-Cypriot family. I've just turned 22 - about to finish my degree but I've been slowly learning how to make music since I was 18.
DEHH: I'ma just jump right into, hailing from the U.K I have to ask what is hip-hop culture like out there, who are some of the hip-hop artists that are popular over there?
Ichokas: Hip-hop over here...well obviously there is a huge Grime scene with artists like Stormzy and Skepta leading the way but I've never been a part of the scene. I grew up with my family constantly playing Greek music and only when I was about 11 years old did I start playing rap music - which was from the likes of Kanye, Jay Z, 50 Cent, and Eminem.
DEHH: How exactly did you get into hip-hop and what inspired you to grab the mic and starting rapping yourself?
Ichokas: My man Ale from SummerClub. We met at 16 when he came to my school and it turned out we had very similar tastes in music, he'd be bumping Lupe or Joey Bada$$ (this was 2012) at lunch time and we'd be vibing out. After a couple months he showed me his own music and over time he really put me onto it, taught me the basics of how to produce, to rap better, what kind of set up I'd need and just really pushed me to be better.
The first time I rapped my own bars in public I was actually extremely drunk and found myself in a cypher, in a parking lot outside of my friend's building. These guys were coming through with some corny a** punchlines and I couldn't stand by and let em ruin the good name of hip hop! So naturally I had to step in, thinking back it was some freestyle I wouldn't be caught dead rapping these days!
I've never been very good at expressing my emotions and talking about how I feel but as soon as I put it into raps I felt like a weight had been lifted, it became my therapy and I probably would've exploded without it!
DEHH: Now I feel you've been toying with the idea of releasing a project for a while, what made you finally take that extra push and what inspired you to go the route you did on "Dreams In Darkness?"
Ichokas: So I actually have made hundreds of songs and created an alternative EP about two years ago that never saw the light of day because I was honing my skills, not just in terms of rapping but production and engineering too - admittedly the latter still needs a lot of work.
It felt like the right time to release "Dreams in Darkness" because I was getting those "man, when you finally gonna let us hear your music?" questions from friends and family and I had something that I thought reflected my current ability and I was proud of.
DEHH: What lightweight caught me off guard is that you went and not only handled the entirety of the lyrics, but all of the production as well. What drove you to produce your first solo effort and what equipment do you use, who or what inspires the beats you make?
Ichokas: For my production I use FL Studio 11 and an MPK Mini midi keyboard and the reason I decided to handle the production myself is that I wanted the sound design to be fluent, I love listening to albums where the soundscape is constant throughout.
The beats on this project weren't really inspired by anyone in particular; it was more me just trying to create a dark yet hopeful vibe. The beats I've been working on more recently draw a lot of boom bap inspiration from the likes of Apollo Brown and the dusty, old school East Coast sample-driven era.
DEHH: Talk to me a bit about "Don't Die On Me" throughout the album, it's clear you've felt a lot of pain and you can hear the pain and passion in your voice, that said I feel like in the closer you took it up a notch. Enlighten me.
The song opens with me apologizing to an amalgamation of friends and family (including myself) that I feel as though I've let down, I've seen them pushed to the edge and I didn't do enough to pull them back. I looked into the abyss and I blinked.
The drums drop and I scream out "I can't die like this. I can't die like Chris." Chris was my uncle and he died in a car crash when I was ten, I still remember the pain my mother felt to lose her younger brother and that is where the anguish in this song came from, that is what you can hear in my voice.
As the song goes on I describe battles with hopelessness before proclaiming that we can all move forward and that we are not defined by our pain.
DEHH: What do you want people to take away from "Dreams In Darkness"?
Ichokas: All I want for people to take away from Dreams in Darkness is that you are not alone when facing the trials and tribulations of the world, you have a voice and there are people willing to listen.
DEHH: What's next for Ichokas what are we gonna get from you in 2018?
Ichokas: In 2018 I'll be releasing an EP with Drew T (@drewt513) handling the production with beautiful soul samples and classic boom bap drums as well as another project towards in Autumn that I'm very excited about and will be sharing more details about later in the year.
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