Moe Green is just like you. He detests his job, for one thing. He struggles with insecurities both personal and professional. Occasionally, the 23-year-old feels undone by matters out of his control, like his age and relative lack of experience. The only difference between you and Moe might be that he is a great rapper.
Not too many people realize it. This everyman MC is one of the Bay's best kept secrets: a hit in certain circles (last summer KMEL included him as one of their Freshman 10), but still mostly a blip on the landscape -- despite the release this week of Lionheart, Green's free new EP. He'll celebrate the release tonight, with a free performance at the Otis Lounge in S.F, and this Saturday night at 111 Minna.
The problem, Moe says, is the insularity of local hip-hop.
"The world is much bigger than the Bay Area," he says. "You need to expand your
musical expansions, man. Just work on being dope."
Even while rhyming as a student at Vallejo High School, Green was already on the way toward developing the strict work ethic and minimalist approach to songcraft that have since become his M.O. Yet he felt trapped. This was before the mighty blog boom, when social media was still very much in its infancy and there were fewer tools of self-promotion for a fledgling rapper. Even in the small, cliquish local scene, it was difficult for an artist to gain momentum on word of mouth alone.
In a statement befitting his youth, Moe refers to the year 2004 as "back in the day." It's understandable -- the time that has elapsed since then is close to a third of Moe's lifetime, after all. He seems to remember that period wistfully.
"The old school way might work better. Back then, cats had to do way more," Green
says. "It would have been easier to get noticed if you had talent."
"I guess the game has changed in that people are more Internet-savvy," he continues. "You look at someone like Big Sean, he got picked up by Kanye [West], but he still had to go to the blogosphere to build his fan base. And we're going full-force with that. We're going viral. But we also have physical posters and flyers up everywhere."
From the outset, it was clear that Moe was different. A precocious child, he began
competing on his elementary school speech team in second grade. He took delight in language, often scribbling poetry in lieu of homework.
In high school, Green played football and ran with a tight group of friends, but it was an uncomfortable time. "Nobody wants to be the weird kid," he says. "Everybody called me weird. The whole vibe was like, 'What the fuck?' They thought I was trippin'."
Green says he spent his senior year listening to Gnarls Barkley's St. Elsewhere. His tastes are still eclectic -- he especially enjoys the prog-pop stylings of Ratatat -- and that often perturbs his closest friends, who apparently favor commercial rap. Then again, Moe likely wouldn't be where he is right now if he still sweated people's opinions.