About five years ago, then-Fresh Cut Collective frontman Adebisi Agoro left the group he’d co-founded and moved to New York City with $250 in his pocket. After three years, a name change, ample attention, and invaluable experiences, Adebisi returned to his native Milwaukee with new perspective and the updated stage name of BLAX. Though BLAX has managed a great four-song EP (last year’s BLAXLIFE), the emcee says his career is under reconstruction. Last night, the reinvented rapper had the debut screening of his new “Hustla” music video—which is embedded below—a Riverwest Public House.
With the self-described construction project ramping up quickly, Milwaukee Record spoke to the artist formerly known as Adebisi about what motivated him to move to New York, why he moved back, the reason behind the name change, and what’s to come.
Milwaukee Record: Let’s start by going back a little bit. The last some of our readers heard from you, you were rapping with Fresh Cut Collective.
BLAX: Yeah, me and Kiran [Vee] and a couple other guys started Fresh Cut back in 2008, so we had a couple good years. We released our album in May of 2010, but what happened with that project was people in the band started going in different directions. People in the band were feeling different ways about the music and not everybody wanted to keep pushing the project—which I felt was a great project—so I just felt I needed a break from everything we were doing and from the city.
MR: And that’s when you moved to New York?
B: Yeah, I moved to New York after Fresh Cut Collective. I kind of just had to get myself together. I didn’t come to New York with the intention of staying. I still had an apartment in Milwaukee on the east side. I had 250 bucks and I got there and just started calling people. I didn’t have a place to stay when I got to New York. I called MC Mikal and asked if he knew anyone there because he went to school on the east coast and he told me his brother was moving back to Milwaukee from New York in a week and he said I could stay on his couch. A few days later, I ended up with an internship with Damon Dash, then got some other opportunities, and I ended up staying.
MR: Then you stayed there for about three years?
B: I did a lot of stuff in New York. It was a good place to be. My crew out there, 4Fun—4Fun Loco Life—all stayed in this big compound called the Fun House and created music and videos. I came back here after a couple years. I guess I got sidetracked. I followed every ambition I wanted to, but other things are important. I had children here, so I had to come back. My son is now 11 and my daughter’s nine. When I was living in New York, they were flying back and forth. Just being able to provide something better for them that I never had was important and it brought me back here.
MR: So you’re back and it seems like you’ve reinvented yourself, at least in terms of the name you’re rapping under. What’s the reason for that?
B: My birth name is Adebisi, so I used to just rap under that. In 2010, my father does a lot of business online, and we got the same name. His searches and my searches were coming up together, so he just asked if I could stop publicaly rapping under that name. My company coming up was always BLAX, which means “Boldly Looking At the unknown X as the unknown variable” or “Black Life And Xperience.” When I was in New York, what came along with using my name was with radio interviews and other things I did, people would have to say my name like seven times. Adebisi, Adebisi…it’s five syllables. BLAX is easy. People said, “That’s stupid. Why would you change your name when everybody knows you as Adebisi” Whatever. Hopefully people catch on. It might take a while.
MR: Is there anything that you missed when you were out in New York, even after the fact? Maybe there were some things you didn’t realize you had here until you left?
B: Resources. This is my base. I don’t have to pay $50 an hour to go to a studio, I’ve got producers I work with here. Home wasn’t like home there. I lived with 13 other artists, whether they were musicians, videographers, photographers, chefs. We had a studio there, but I have my own studio in my house. Sometimes you miss familiarity, but the good thing about New York was to be incognito. There was meditation and solitude in living in a city with all these millions of people, but you don’t know any of them. You get to really find yourself. I’m happy I get to bring that experience back here with me.
MR: Now that you’re back here and have the video out, what’s next?
B: I’m working on some new music and hopefully this summer we’ll release something. This is like a career under reconstruction. I feel like I’m at an existential moment in my life. I’m figuring out where I’m going with my life and with my music. I’m excited, though, because I just want to do something with the same force and energy of all the other things I’ve created. This is a slow growth, but I’ve kind of been able to manicure it.