Meet Viper, rap’s Renaissance man
Jimmy Kemper | Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Even in the world of underground rap, there are very few artists like Viper. Viper first received mainstream attention several years ago, when his song (and album of the same name) “You’ll Cowards Don’t Even Smoke Crack” became an Internet meme due to its shockingly upfront title and unique album cover. Since then, Viper has been hard at work to break into the mainstream, releasing albums with titles ranging from “Tha Greatest Thang Made By God” to “Google Rapper Viper.”
After a series of direct messages on Twitter, I recently had the opportunity to talk to Viper and get some insight into his life, his music making process and his future plans.
Most musicians are lucky if they can complete a single album in one year, but last year Viper released more than 300. Even more amazing is the fact that Viper does this completely by himself, in his free time when he’s not running his real estate brokerage, his independent label RhymeTyme Records, his free moving service or worldrapstar.com. As Viper himself pointed out, though, these businesses “get the money coming in, and frees up my time to dedicate to the music.”
Viper told me he could make an entirely new song from scratch in under an hour. When Viper wakes up, he starts off making three or four different beats and the respective hooks using the FruityLoops software. Then, he records the melodies using his phone in 30 minutes before he complies the tracks.
“As far as recording them,” Viper says, “I have a lot of material that I dip into. When I was in the penitentiary, I wrote about 500 songs.” After that, it takes Viper only about 10 minutes to mix and master the track. “Before you know it, you’ve got a hi-fi product that’s ready to go out the oven. So we’re looking at about a four-hour turnaround for four songs and I’m done for the rest of the day with music.”
In addition to recording new songs, Viper chops and screws a number of his songs to be able to maintain this ridiculously fast production speed. Chopping and screwing is a process where hip hop songs are remixed by slowing down the tempo and applying techniques such as record scratching and skipping beats to create a “chopped-up” version of the original. This was introduced by DJ Screw and is a huge part of the music scene in Houston, Viper’s hometown.
Out of all 300-plus albums he released last year, Viper says the album that particularly stood out was “F*** Tha World It Ain’t Real I Bend Tha Spoon With My Mind.” While other albums by Viper tackle important mainstream issues such as police brutality and gang violence, “F*** Tha World It Ain’t Real I Bend Tha Spoon With My Mind” engages with cryogenic freezing and the possibilities of the future. Viper is a member of Alcor, a company that seeks to extend the lives of its individual members through preservation in biostasis.
According to Viper, “the purpose of the album is that … supposedly after so many years, maybe 1,000 or 2,000 years, that foundation is keeping our bodies frozen and then at some point, when the technology is good enough, they’ll bring us all back. So I’m thinking that by the time they do bring us all back, humans will be so advanced they’ll be able to do some form of telepathy, so that’s why I’ll be able to bend the spoon with my mind. So hopefully there will be a way train the people to do that.”
This year, Viper plans to take a step back from releasing an album almost every day of the year and focus on just two projects. The first, “The Jamminest Album You Eva Heard,” is the album Viper hopes will get him out there: “I’m doing 15 tracks all produced by VIPERMadeTheBeat, meaning I made all the beats from scratch, and I’m doing a video for each song. I’m putting the album through a mixtape distributor that’s gonna put it on pretty much every platform for mixtapes you can think of. … It’s gonna be a free download, and it’s gonna be my most prized project yet.”
Viper hopes “The Jamminest Album You Eva Heard” will be out by the end of March.
The other album, and as yet unnamed collaboration with Cali Cashflow, will be a double album released later in the year. Viper plans to get it posted by a major DJ, and he hopes it will be his first album with a record deal.
Of course, I couldn’t end a conversation with Viper without talking about “You’ll Cowards Don’t Even Smoke Crack.” When asked about the motivation behind the album and the song, Viper told me that he’s “given so many different explanations because they’re all valid” and assured me that a full conversation on YCDESC would take about a week.
To Viper, this song is about not being afraid of anything and explained one of his first experiences with cowardice and crack. “When I got in the scene, I was selling crack to supplement my income. And I was in a gang. We had to make sure [the crack] was a good batch. Because if it wasn’t a good batch a bunch of bad things could happen to you.”
Viper told me that you could substitute smoking crack with anything, but the point remains that you will have to face your fear and make sure your body and mind is ready to go.