PREMIERE: Stro “Brownsville Freestyle” Prod. by Coopatroop
Lunchroom table rap for your ears
The vinyl fuzz crackle that fills the background beginning at the first kick of Stro’s “Brownsville Freestyle” is pretty telling of what’s to come. Dropping references to Big, Jay, and ODB all within three minutes, the 20-year-old rapper finds more interest in New York’s past than in referencing current styles of rap. But this track isn’t too concerned with proving anything or winning belts—it’s just chill. “That’s one of the reasons I called this song ‘Brownsville Freestyle,'” Stro tells MASS APPEAL. “A lot of my music is super lyrical, but the way I rap on this song is how we rapped at the lunch table in school back in Brownsville. It’s just a vibe.”
The Brownsville and Flatbush-raised artist first gained notice for rapping his way through the talent show X Factor, but has since crossed over into acting as well. With roles in big movies like A Walk Among the Tombstones and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, he’s been doing pretty well for himself, but rap is where his heart is: “Acting is a blessing, but when there are more people walking up to me saying ‘good job in that movie’ than there are people saying ‘love your new record,’ I feel like I’ve disconnected from my roots or something.”
Listen to the new cut below and then read our interview with Stro.
Where is the beat from?
The beat is produced by the homie Coopatroop, a very dope producer with a unique sound. I actually have a few records produced by him in the stash. This is just the first one I put out. I heard the beat and it had a vibe to it that I don’t really hear in music right now, part of the mission for my Grade A Frequencies LP was to make music that’s different from everything else in hip hop at the moment. I think we did just that with a track like this. I purposely didn’t get “super lyrical” on this joint, just something laid-back for the listener to vibe to.
What is it about that ’90s style you find so appealing?
There are a million different things about the ’90s that I love, but I am in no way trying to recreate the ’90s [laughs]. If people compare me to ’90s rap, it’s probably because I take the time to craft my flows, and unfortunately, that’s old school. To have your own style is old school. To be “lyrical” is old school. I don’t think I will ever stop reminding people of the ’90s, but I guess that’s a good thing.
How big of an inspiration was Biggie?
I’m sure Biggie is a HUGE inspiration to any individual trying to be an MC. He’s the reason I’m not afraid to say what I truly feel in my music. He’s also the reason I switch up my flow so often. Plus he was one of the greatest storytellers of all time, that’s something I’m working towards being one day.
Where in Brooklyn are you from?
Born in Flatbush, raised in Flatbush and Brownsville. That’s one of the reasons I called this song “Brownsville Freestyle.” A lot of my music is super lyrical, but the way I rap on this song is how we rapped at the lunch table in school back in Brownsville. It’s just a vibe.
How has your success in acting affected life there?
It’s been pretty cool, but recently I been focusing on going harder with this rap thing. Acting is a blessing, but when there are more people walking up to me saying “good job in that movie” than there are people saying “love your new record,” I feel like I’ve disconnected from my roots or something.
How old are you now?
Twenty, but like 45 mentally. I act like an old-ass man a lot of the time and it’s annoying. I need to grow down!
How’d you get your start in acting?
The agency I’m signed with for music (WME) handles acting as well. It was as simple as me asking them for an audition, just to try it out. The first role I read for, I got [Person Of Interest]. Ever since then i’ve been acting here and there.