Richard Daniel: Hip Hop is Here

written by Kaydee Mulvahill

Tell us a little about how you got started in music.

When I was in middle school, I got really into Shel Silverstein books, so I started writing poetry myself. I remember writing one based off of POWER by Kanye. I showed it to my mom, and she loved it, so she took me to this poetry event on UAB’s campus, and they loved it. I kept up the writing until I met Phrasure, another artist in Birmingham, and my best friend since high school. Over time I told him I wrote poetry (and songs at this point), and eventually, he helped me record my first song.

What does Birmingham need to know about the hip hop scene?

Honestly? That it exists. There is plenty of local hip hop to see in Birmingham. The artists in it tend to be supportive of one another, so it thrives off of that alone. But I’m not sure if many others who aren’t artists themselves know just how alive it is. Before I was a part of this scene, I had no clue that it existed. LOBOTOMIX got me to where I am now. It was the only thing in Birmingham that I saw that was consistent. It’s a hip-hop showcase that happens monthly. The Monastery does this thing called “The Basement,” and they would bring in different hip-hop acts all the time, some that I didn’t know, and pack out Spring Street Firehouse. A guy named DJ 3C has something called TheProd.Link. He sets up gaming systems, and people play retro games and card games, and producers go on and play beats. The KickBack is another group. They started a podcast, and I think they still do the podcast. They also host an event called The Upside Down Plaza, and they hold this other event called No Cigarettes. They pack out every event they host. But here in Birmingham, everything feels kind of new all of the time. It always feels like it’s a hidden gem, and we need to shine a spotlight on what’s happening, specifically in the hip-hop community. The Birmingham scene is my passion. I love that people just go out and do their thing because they love music and they love seeing other people shine. I want to push all of that to the front because this is where I come from.

If you could give someone getting started in music advice, what would you tell them?

Do not pay to play under any circumstances. I had to learn that the hard way. Sometimes people in this business who know that you’re a new artist will take advantage of that. Once your audience starts to build, then you have leverage. You can tell promoters, “hey, when I have a show I bring in this many people, I need to get paid.” Playing music is just like any other job where you provide a service. Get paid for your shows, do not sell yourself short. 

Tell me about Lemon Tree. What inspired that project?

I was in a space where situations in my personal life weren’t going very well. I fell out of love, I was struggling financially, and I was frustrated with my general lack of direction. For me, this album is all about making the best out of negative situations. In the musical sense, I took my problems in my life and tried to turn them into songs people could enjoy. I know the saying is “turning lemons into lemonade,” but I felt more in a space that reflected turning lemons into a lemon tree because life is a cycle. You get good, then you get bad, then it starts over.

What is the message you hope to present in your songs and as an artist?

Honesty, transparency, and being your authentic self. A lot of times, I’m still trying to figure out who I am as a person, partly because I feel like we all grow and evolve every day. I hope my music reflects that journey of growth. When you listen to me, I hope you hear something different every time.

What’s the future look like for you? Any plans for the next album, shows, etc.?

I want to go back and hone in on my craft and learn a few more things about engineering specifically. I’ll still be doing shows here and there, and I may even drop an EP, but for the most part, I’ll be focusing on bettering myself as an artist.

Where is the best place people can hear your music?

Both my newest album The Lemon Tree Project and Nomad EP are out on all streaming platforms.

Check out The Lemon Tree Project on Spotify, and follow Richard Daniel on Instagram.