By Cory Sklar
By Alee Karim
By Christina Li
By Dave Pehling
By Ian S. Port
By SF Weekly
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
In high school, Gregory Carter called himself Moe Green, the Money-Makin' Machine ("Ching ching!"). Now, a little more "real" with himself at 22, he's Moe Green, the Dreamer — an everyday joe from Vallejo. The up-and-coming rapper doesn't roll with an entourage; stays away from violent house parties; hates club dress codes; and, when he has a show to perform, arrives early.
"It might be three people there with the first person on," says Green, fiddling with his A's cap at a Vallejo Starbucks. "I'm out there, standing in the front row. I don't do no superstar stuff. I'm not famous, you know what I'm sayin'?"
But Green wants to be famous. His dream job is punching in at the studio — MCing for a living — and, as he raps on "Going for the Kill," "grindin' till I leave a legacy, some Michael Jordan shit." Until then, Gregory Carter and Moe Green will have to peacefully coexist.
On a recent Thursday night, KMEL's Freshman 10, a group of some of the best new Bay Area rappers, gathered for an industry mixer. Green's inclusion means he's one step closer to his dream. But he still had to duck out of the afterparty to go work for FedEx. "I didn't get back to Vallejo till like 2:30," he says. "I had to be at work at three that morning."
When most people are thinking about lunch, Green is just finishing up his shift loading trucks. He hates "wasting" his day, so he tries to spend time recording — even if it means falling asleep in the studio. "I'm supposed to go home and sleep, but there's too much to do," he says. "I always had this thing about wasting my day, even as a kid."
Green's love for words was evident from a young age. Though his first tape was an "Ice Ice Baby" single, he also devoured the poems of Langston Hughes and competed in regional speech meets.
He got more involved with his own poetry while attending Vallejo High School, jotting down raps during "sustained silent reading" time. Before long, he and another SSR refugee founded a Kill Bill–inspired crew called the Crazy 88 Mob. "[There] was only like 10 of us," he laughs. "If even 10."
The Crazy 88 Mob amounted to a stack of airbrushed T-shirts. But a path had revealed itself to Green, and he endured a stint at Solano Community College only by slipping into the library during breaks to check out rappers on YouTube. He recalls, "My friend was like, 'Your mind's in the Matrix, blood. You just dreaming all the time, daydreaming.'"
Green turned the admonishment into a nickname, "Moe the Dreamer" — even as a well-received mixtape, I Just Want You to Hear My Voice, and a deal with Interdependent Media started suggesting that it wasn't a dream after all.
Green fulfills another dream with his debut album, Rocky Maivia: Non-Title Match, which was released free on his Bandcamp site this week. Musically, it swerves in and out of hip-hop, with inflections of ambient/electronic, pop, and jazz — there's even a '50s-style TV jingle introducing the everyday Moe Green.
This range of styles may be the result of hours spent watching MTV's video countdown show, TRL. Though pop stars like 'N Sync and Adele might not garner a lot of street cred, Green learned not to care: "I got to a certain point in my life where I was like, 'Dude, forget what everybody thinks. If you like it, just like it. Stop trying to fit in.'"
Whatever the music, Green sticks close to his theme of following his dreams wherever they take him. On "KIM," he says he will "walk like I'm Forrest Gump on a mission." More poignantly, on "Emerald City," he'll "skip lunch so I can buy recording time." When he raps, he's casually smooth, slowly rolling over the vowels and instilling each consonant with anxious determination.
Moe Green's dreams don't end with Rocky Maivia. The name says it all: Pro wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson called himself Rocky Maivia when he first entered the ring, and Green intends to trace his own career arc from the Rocky Maivia stage up through the superstardom of the Rock.
Sure, it's lofty — he isn't called Moe the Dreamer for nothing — but Green is holding down a postgraveyard shift and staying up all day to make it happen.
"I work on the side and try to focus on this dream full-time," he says. "If you got a Plan B, you thinking you might fail. ... There's no Plan B with me, man."