The evolution of New York rap over the last decade and some change has somewhat mirrored the life of a Phoenix; a soaring fiery creature of mythological proportion and an exemplary animal for lesser beast to aspire to. As such, it has fallen, mutated, and one could argue that presently NY rap is in a state rising from it's ashes; re-adjusting and adapting to the current landscape in order to re-define itself. In the advent of 2014, NY rap is undoubtedly beginning to take form again and settle in to the house it once ruled. There is no clear cut sound that defines NY rap, or hip hop for that matter, like it did in its' "Golden Era" and yet, some the city's most watched artist - A$AP Mob, French Montana, Flatbush Zombies and Joey Bada$$ emanate something that screams New York in an era where ones region supposedly doesn't matter.
And then, there are those who continue to join it's ranks. Take Tasheeme Goines for example, better known by his street fellows as Euro League. The Bronx native caused an influx with his Cloud 9 EP last year and in the aftermath of his REELLIFE partner Doley Bernays impressive and galvanizing Just In Case EP, I thought it important to talk with the Euro about what will certainly become one of New York's most interesting and honest collectives the city has seen. We discuss both Euros' and REELLIFE's humble beginnings, his homie Jonathan "MP" Williams, his impact on the TDE family and how the artist plans on challenging what he considers a stale genre in this telling and thorough interview.
Earmilk: Tell me more about yourself. Who is Euro League, and being a Bronx native, how did that name come to fruition?
Euro League: Aight, so before I begin this interview , I just want to say thank you to anybody who ever supported my music and those people who just found out about my music, and those that even got me recognized by Earmilk. I [also] just want to say thank you Jahn, because an interview is more that I could ask for, so here goes...
EL: For those that don’t know, my name is Tasheeme Goines. You might know me as Euro League. I’m a young emcee from the northeast part of the Bronx, New York City and basically I'm just passionate about expressing my life experiences, you know, through music or whatever it is. I grew up in a African American and West Indian background, so I was raised by both my grandmothers in different parts of the neighborhood. My life’s been hard, you know? Since my childhood, its been real crazy. I ain't really have no father figure and my moms was addicted to drugs for a good part of my childhood, so I ain't really have that parent figure in my life. So, I really looked to the streets, my grandmothers, my brothers and sisters for guidance and everything...but really, I just took a lot of guidance from the streets.
EL: Ya know, I always was good at writing and everything. I use to be in school and [would] always get honor roll in English composition and things like that, so I always knew writing was something that I always wanted to do. And then...we grew up on hip-hop music, ya know? It always influenced us . So, it was like ‘Yo, if I Like writing and I like music, i'll just put both of those together’ and it was just something that I always loved to do. A couple of my friends in the neighborhood use to do music, and I would always just chill with them after school and just write raps. We would create like a little rap group or whatever and just make music, and people would know us for being the rappers in the neighborhood. At that time, everybody wasn't no rapper or wanted to be a star or whatever, and we was always those select group of kids that everybody was like ‘Yo, those are the dudes that rap’. I'm just from the north Bronx man, like...I take pride in being where i'm from , [because] when people usually say “The Bronx” they just usually highlight the south Bronx, but a lot of people don't know that there's two different parts of the Bronx. You got the South Bronx and the North Bronx, like the northeast part of the Bronx...really. And you can tell the difference; if you’re from out of town and driving from the south Bronx and you get to the north Bronx, you can just tell the difference, It’s just like a whole aura and whole different feel of how people go about their life and different cultures and everything, so...that’s where i'm from man.
EL: And Euro League? People have always called me “League” since I was younger and I was rapping. That was always my name that people knew me as. Every rapper goes through a phase where they’re like ‘Nahh I like this one’ and then next year they change it to a different one. League has always been a name that's just stuck and to me that just represents diversity, you know what I’m saying? Just all different types of experiences in life that I've had. Euro came later when I really understood the influence that I wanted to leave in the world. Its like...I've always been the street nigga and all the the street niggas have always embraced me, but I've always had a mind of my own. I've always thought ‘There is something more that I need to accomplish than just this’, you know what I’m saying? I was always the kid that was thinking about the bigger picture. So “EURO” is actually an acronym for Enlightenment Under Ruling Oppression, and I take that from my personal life experiences: everything that I experienced, from my mom’s and the drugs, to the streets. I could still have this positive mind frame on how to go about things and that's basically what Euro means. I just put both names together.
EM: Speaking of the Bronx, it's a city that's home to many legendary MC's; KRS-One and Big Pun for example. But in recent years it has been one of the more quiet Burroughs. Is there any pressure to carry the torch for your city?
EL: Nahh, I really wouldn't say it’s pressure. Its more of a responsibility, you know? I look at myself as someone who studies the craft of being an emcee and I have those qualities, and I cherish those qualities. So, I don't really think there’s a pressure, cause I've been living this my whole life, I am from the Bronx. I'm embedded into that culture, that culture is embedded in me, so I don't really feel like there is a pressure, but I do feel like there is a responsibility to carry on that legacy that the emcee’s before me left. I feel like I have to do it to a certain standard of quality to where if they were standing here today, they would see me and hear my music and be like ‘yo, you know what? That's someone I would appoint to carry the torch’. I really feel like the Bronx hasn't been getting the shine lately and people haven’t been really paying attention, so it’s not just my responsibility to carry the torch but to kind of re-light it and then go from there. [Because] We’re the creators and hip-hop is known around the globe, you know? Everybody and every culture. So it’s like everybody knows where hip hop started and that place isn't getting the recognition it deserves at this time and age, and that's kind of disappointing to me. So, as a Bronx native, it’s my responsibility to bring that back to where it’s supposed to be. And not just bring it back, like shine a light on my borough alone, but elevate that; elevate hip hop and where it could go. There’s so many genres that take elements from hip hop, and I feel like hip hop isn't challenging itself and taking different parts from those genres and making itself bigger.
EM:What is REELLIFE all about? Is it a collective?
EL: REELLIFE is basically a music collective that I started with my childhood friend Jonathan “MP” Williams. I met MP back in 8th grade. I’m from uptown, but I moved [around] Allerton in the 8th grade, so I went to a different school, I wasn't with my friends from my old neighborhood. So, I always use to see MP in school, but I never use to say nothing. One day...and I’m always rapping and everything, so we was in the lunchroom and I just got two pencils to the table doing the “Grindin’” beat and I get to rapping - going off. And out of nowhere, [MP] just comes through and is like, “Yo son, you really nice with that. I ain’t really know who you was or what you did - but you really talented with that shit.” And he wanted to make music. So I just invited him to the crib where I had the software to make beats, [because] I was always doing everything on my own. So I was like, “yeah bro, I’ll give you these programs and you take it from there, you do what you do.” I burned the programs on a CD and he went home, and a couple of weeks later this nigga was coming back with CD’s full of beats! Every CD just had mad beats on them, and we just went from there. Ever since, we've always just been making music. It was a chemistry we had; him wanting to be the producer and me being a rapper. Overtime we just got better and better and better, and people always seen it so it was like even if we wanted to quit making music, they wouldn't let us. You know? They don’t really see two people that get together and make music for this long. We’ve seen people come up with us that we've had fallings out with and people that gave up. We’ve always been those two dudes that knew this is what we wanted to do. After a certain point, we had put out a couple of projects and we was like - yo, we might as well take this serious. So that’s when we decided to make our own brand, and we called it REELLIFE because we always cherish putting substance in our music.It always has to be based off of real life [experiences]; something that people could really relate to and feel.
EL: Also, MP likes big sounds, cinematic stuff and scores for movies. So, we just put the two together. It’s like a movie. When you hear our music, we want you to be able to visualize it. Also, we have my man, Doley Bernays in the collective. He was always in the streets and lived on the other side of the Bronx, but we always kept in contact. So when we started doing this music shit, I just hit him up and we took it from there. We just all built a chemistry of being around each other. It gets deeper than music, and that’s where I really feel like our bond is; it’s not just music, we really understand each others struggles.
EM: "Social Network" definitely made some valid points about perspective from an online point of view, but looking further into that, would you say the cons outweigh the pros of the Internet in today's hip-hop landscape? What is your opinion of the present era of hip hop?
EL: I don't feel that the cons outweigh the pros. I feel that it is what you make it with the social networks. With “Social Network” I was just talking about things that I’ve seen on the internet and how it just trickles down to people and how they act in real life. [Being] in the underground music circuit, no one's no millionaire, and ain't no one no superstar, but they got these superstar egos. Half of these people don't even really make the music that matches to the way they act, so I just chose to speak on that. I feel like it depends on how you use it, like you really could make everything happen by yourself; you could create the music, you could promote it online. All you have to do is know how to use these social networks. I do think that is makes interacting with people much easier, you know? You don't have to go through someone. You could wake up and interact with however many people you want every single day. The internet is responsible for letting everyone be independant. If you get the knowledge of what you want to do, you could achieve that without having to assign some obligation to a big company to do that for you. It’s all there for you to make happen yourself.
EL: Personal opinion, and I’m going to be totally honest - I’m not too impressed with this era of hip hop. I do like that hip hop can influence these other genres of music and that it’s so heavily used in other genres of music, but for hip hop alone, a lot of artist aren’t really challenging the music itself. Like, We all know we have to have lyrics, we all know that we have to have crazy beats and everything, but its something more than that. We’ve been holding it back and we’ve been boxing it in. I just feel like we need to expand the sound of it and just challenge hip hop to be something greater. So, I’m not really too impressed with a lot of stuff that’s going on. There is a few artist out there that I feel represent hip hop. The whole New York city culture is starting to come back, because the business of music seemed to change people's perspective on hip hop and how to go about it. It was more about money and everything, but its coming back to the essence of hip hop; making something out of nothing. So, I don't really see a lot of artist doing that nowadays, but I think its coming back around.
EM: Tell me more about your interaction with Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q and the other TDE family. Since then have other artist reached out to you?
EL: The whole interaction with Kendrick came about this one weekend in the summer. I was selling weed and shit, and I had got arrested at this party, so I had spent the weekend in Brooklyn in bookings. The day after I got out of bookings, I had looked on twitter and saw that Kendrick had put up a tweet and was like he was in New York City shooting a video and that he needed extras or whatever. So, [that morning] I wake up and I was like, yo i just got out bookings, I do this rap shit - I might as well go out there considering this is an artist I feel and that I relate to. Before we even left, I woke up MP and told him about the video and he didn't even want to go because it was already an hour past the time we were supposed to be out there already. So he was like, “Yo, we late already bruh. You know how many people down there? Being extras, we might not even be seen in the video…” But I was just like, “Yo, I just got out of jail bruh. What I got to lose nigga?” So we took our camera down there and ironically there was only five or six people, and they needed more than that. We weren't even enough when we got there, so everything was cool. It was a hot summer day, and one of the things that I noticed about Kendrick is that he was there shooting the video with a bottle of water and offering his water to niggas he doesn't know from a hole in the wall...and that’s from his water! That’s a real nigga, you know what I’m saying? You could hear that that’s the person he is in his music and just seeing that, you respect him even more apart from the music.
EL: So, we got there and once we finished shooting the scene, me and MP pulled him to the side like “yo could we get a shout out on [our] camera or whatever”? Afterwards I asked him like “yo, let me get two minutes or whatever bruh. Just to spit some shit that’s real to me. Some shit that you might relate to, you know? Because I know it’s inspiring to hear niggas stories and I want you to hear my story.” I spit the track called “Promises” from my Euro Trip project. After I spit it he was so impressed, he was like “yo, you spittin some real shit!” And the look on his face just said it all. Out of nowhere, Schoolboy Q hopped out the cab to come up to the video shoot, and Kendrick ran up to Q and was like “yo, you gotta hear this nigga rap.” And I know he was busy and shit with outfits and shooting the video. He pulled Q to the side and was like “yo, spit that shit”, and Q was fuckin with it. You could tell he was tired from being in the studio all night but he was still fucking with it. Even Ab-Soul was there. When I was first rapping, he wasn't into it, he was like “I don't really fuck with too many people” or whatever. But when he heard specific bars that I was spitting and those real life experiences and the way I said them, he starred nodding his head like aight nigga, you’re not just one of these niggas out here that raps just to be rapping, you really do this shit, [Laughs] All that nigga wanted to do was smoke, and it was ironic that I had just got out for selling shit like that.
EL: And ever since then, the producer of the “Rigormortis” beat, Willie B, hit me on twitter that same day like “yo, y'all out in New York City shooting the video dawg?” and I’m like “yeah man, we out here, Kendrick out here” I expected that nigga to be there. This is before I even knew him. So, he just reached out and we just kept in contact from twitter and eventually I sent him my own project. He got back to me not long after and was like “yo dawg, I fuck with your music, you’re telling real stories.” Ever since, we just been real cool and shit.
EM: With the anticipation built from CLOUD 9, what can we expect from your next project? Are there any artist that you are looking forward to working with in the future?
EL: The funny story about that is, I had released the Euro Trip LP before Cloud 9. Me and MP had spent about 5 or 6 months making that project...and we don't really feel like we received the recognition we deserved for that project. Later on we dropped the Cloud 9 project, which we only worked on for like two weeks and that was only like five or six songs, and that shit gets everybody’s attention; it’s all over the blogs, everybody’s like “yo who is this Euro League?’ blah blah blah. We thought that shit was crazy.
EL: But, with every project we always try to take it up another level. Me and MP, we’re always challenging ourselves when we make music. It’s never like, “Aight this is what works, let’s just keep doing this.”It's always like, “Aight, this works? Now we’re gonna take that…” and we always keep training ourselves to be better and challenging ourselves to make better music. Every project that we do, you can always expect the sound to be more polished because we’re just putting more time and practice into it. I feel like, with the next project, now that we have that platform that people could really recognize us for, I feel like we have that second chance to make that impact that Euro Trip didn't get to make. Its going to have more substance and going to be a little more experimental than previous projects. So we just basically want to represent our brand right and our style of music and make that a prominent sound in music today. I don't really have no specific artist I’d like to work with. I see talent in people. If you do music and there is something I find unique about you, and I feel like we could work together and there is a chemistry, then I want to work with you.
EM: We all know that there is a new rapper everyday, and you obviously break the mold. Your music comes with a message and is undoubtedly authentic in both nature and concept. But what are your thoughts on longevity, record deals and the looming shadow of "selling out" that comes with them? Where do you see yourself as an artist ten years from now?
EL: Well having longevity is one of the most important things we always carry with ourselves when we make music. That’s the whole point of music. We always cherish making timeless music. We could make a project this year, and five years from now we wont ever have to make another project and as long as we know that project holds substance and is timeless, then people will always be able to listen to that. You know what I'm saying? You don't always have to be making music that’s for the time being now. Make music that's true to you and as long as people relate to that you’ll live forever with that.
EL: I don't really think too much about labels because, like we said earlier about social networks, you could really do all of that yourself, you could really operate as your own record label today. It’s business. I feel like when you mix music and business it becomes a whole ‘nother ball game. It’s strictly about profits and if you're an artist who just does something because you love to do it, it becomes frustrating at times. You just want to do things without restrictions. But I think that selling out...I don't...really know how I feel about selling out. If you’re an artist, just be true to yourself in whatever you're doing.
EL: I see myself being a legendary emcee in hip hop. Not just in hip hop, but I see myself being a legendary musician. [Overall] somebody that took a genre and challenged it and brought it another level. Also, me and my team just being looked at for making it happen - for making that change process in the music. I really want us to be noticed for that. as a person, I want to be known for just helping people. I want to enlighten people and let them know that if you’re from the bottom that it’s not impossible to achieve your dreams or whatever. I like to use my own life story as an example of that. All you need is knowledge and understanding of your surroundings and you can make anything possible.