“Can you say love?” IZZY MAN asked the crowd during a recent performance at Bowery Electric. Behind him, four backup singers, two guitar players and a drummer melded pop and rap over an electronic beat.
Though the Filipino rapper and producer’s influences include Kendrick, The Weeknd and Kanye, his songs aren’t about bitches and Benjis — they’re about love, pursuing your passion, and…Sega. Hence the title of his first album, Genesis, which dropped this week.
Inspired by the spoken word and hiphop culture that surrounded him as a teen in Queens, IZZY MAN and his band won Kollaboration NY in 2013. He also performed at the McDonald’s BBoy Royale and got the crowd moving at The Roots Picnic in 2013, before artists like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis graced the stage. He continues to make regular appearances in venues like B.B. King’s and Toshi’s Living Room.
After the Bowery Electric show, we spoke to IZZY MAN about his faith, the status of Asian rappers, and just how “nerdy” his music really is.
It’s called Genesis for a lot of different things. It’s the beginning of my sound and it’s a representation of feeling like this is what God inspires me to do: create. What was really awe inspiring was when I was three years old and Sega Genesis came out. I played this game called Altered Beast, which was the inspiration for my track, “Beast.”
I still have a really strong faith. At the same time, I like to shy away from being a Christian rapper because I’m not sure that’s the avenue I want to go in. Rap is another form of art, another form of poetry. Genesis is a way for me to say everything that I want to say, but also to help people express their own feelings.
I’m trying to be a positive rapper without coming off as corny or like I don’t have a backbone. It’s a reflection of the real me. I’m not a thug, I’m not a gangsta, and I don’t have bitches and hoes. I’m a serial monogamist. I can’t talk about bottles and being in the club because I’m actually kind of spendthrift and my aging parents are in the back of my head yelling at me if I spend a hundred dollars on a bottle.
[Laughs] With her it’s peace, it’s love, it’s balance. Power Rangers and Dragon Ball Z is visceral; it’s energy and sharp corners and attack. So I guess you can say there are two sides of me: the love side and the hardbody, karate side.
Asians have been rapping since the ’90s and nothing is happening because they’re not doing what they need to stand out. There’s the conversation, “Oh, he’s not getting these radio plays because he’s Asian.” That’s just an excuse to fall back on. Genesis – the music that you saw and heard – I assume that you thought it was different. And I almost want to assume that you’re not even focusing on the fact that I’m Asian. Correct?