The multi-award winning rap group made up of two consummate New Yorkers, 4 Wheel City, has undertaken the quest of producing positive rap music as a method of teaching young people about the dangers of impulsive decisions that can have life-changing consequences. As performers who use wheelchairs, 4 Wheel City’s founders understand those risks and consequences all too well. 4 Wheel City recently dropped their latest project “Quarantine Music” Raw & Uncut, with 19-songs focused on the current situation and overcoming it. All proceeds raised from the project is going to people with disabilities who have been affected by the virus. Popular Bronx rap star, Fred the Godson, who sadly died from the coronavirus is featured on one of the songs.
“Quarantine Music reflects everything that’s been happening since the economic shutdown and quarantine started,” commented Namel “Tapwaterz” Norris half of 4 Wheel City with Ricardo “Rickfire” Velasquez. “It’s inspired by the effects coronavirus has had on the world. Music has the power to change the world. We hope the music helps people deal and heal in these uncertain times.”
- Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and when 4 Wheel City got started?
4 Wheel City: we come from the birthplace of hip hop the Bronx. Met each other in 1999. 4 Wheel City officially got started in 2006.
- How do you share duties in the duo? Do you both write, rap and produce”
4 Wheel City: Tap Waterz is the artist and Rick Fire is the producer. We are both talented at our crafts. And combine our talents as artist and producer to create the sound of 4 Wheel City.
- Who were your first and strongest musical influences that you can remember, and who are you listening among the new wave of rappers?
4 Wheel City: Nas, Stevie Wonder, Jay Z, Notorious BIG, we are the mix between Gangstarr, Public Enemy. New Wave of Rappers Drake, Kendrick, J Cole Lil Baby, Lil Durk, Casanova2x, Migos. We vibe with it all from trap to boom bap.
- What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners?
4 Wheel City: it’s a pure hip hop sound mix with a message most of the time. It’s edgy and versatile, goes against the grain. Our talent as an artist and producer group allows us the ability to make songs about anything and have an impact. It’s just real.
- For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and music maker, and the transition towards your own style?
4 Wheel City: When we first started our songs were more gangsta rap sounding but over the years became more conscious and timeless. Went from making songs about selling drugs, shooting and robbing people to songs about stores not being wheelchair accessible and telling kids to stay in school. To be honest we feel like we are one of the impactful rap groups to ever do it. Our reach is vast. The work speaks for itself.
- What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative and entertainment?
4 Wheel City: We are a versatile group. And consider ourselves the voice of the people. So we actually have albums that touch on each subject. A album actually titled “Spiritual” https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/4wheelcity/dUNc, a political themed album “God Bless America” https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/4wheelcity/1jo, and our newest one “Quarantine Music” https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/4wheelcity/quarantine-music-vol-1 which touches on social commentary since the coronavirus pandemic & quarantine began for all of us.
Our music speaks to our experiences as well. We introduced a new narrative to the rap game and breaking barriers doing so. We may not be the most famous or richest rap groups out there but we are definitely one of the most impactful, accomplished and fierce.
- Do you ever write a song with current musical trends, formulas or listener satisfaction in mind, or do you simply focus on your own personal vision and message, hoping it sticks with the audience?
4 Wheel City: We do a lot of both but the majority of the projects we released as 4 Wheel City are vision based with hopes it sticks with the audience. Sometimes the sound of the song is trendy but the vision & message is personal or speaking truth to power in some way. There are also times the two can co-exist like on a project like Quarantine Music Vol. 1. https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/4wheelcity/quarantine-music-vol-1
- Could you describe your creative processes? How do start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a beat, or a narrative in your head?
4 Wheel City: Usually it starts very organic and fun Rick Fire plays a beat and Tap Waterz catches a vibe or an idea. Sometimes Rick produces a beat and adds a hook or chorus to it, maybe even a verse, and then Tap just adds a verse. There are times we are commissioned to make songs like Mainstream, Pressure, and Disabled Lives Matter. Ultimately our most successful projects have come from songs that have narratives like “The Movement” advocating for more wheelchair accessibility. Or our latest project Quarantine Music talking about things happening in the world today.
- How do you get received within the industry, and by your contemporaries on your first meeting? Do you feel they overly patronize you, or maybe even disregard you, due to your physical condition?
4 Wheel City: It goes both ways. Sometimes there is a patronizing nice factor coming from them due to our conditions and it’s cool, but then on the flipside from an artistic level we get slept on a lot and people are skeptical of us. We often have to prove ourselves by putting on a dope show or just making really good music to get respect or the next opportunity. It’s a challenge every time but we are up for it!
- What are the major changes you’ve seen in hip-hop culture since you first got started as 4 Wheel City?
4 Wheel City: The biggest change has been technology. On all levels. From ways we record to the ways music is distributed. Videos as well. Also the sound of hip hop has changed along with the style and image of hip hop. Social media has become a big player in the game too.
11 What would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your career so far?
4 Wheel City: Speaking & performing in the White House, and United Nations while Barack Obama was president. Having our story featured in a docuseries called “Dear” about Stevie Wonder premiering on Apple TV on June 5th. Also working with Snoop Dogg on a song to inspire kids to stay in school.
- With social media having a heavy impact on our lives and the music business in general, how do you handle criticism, haters and/or naysayers in general? Is it something you pay attention to, or simply ignore?
4 Wheel City: We don’t pay them much of any mind. Criticism is something we’ve dealt with from the beginning rapping about topics most hip hop heads probably couldn’t relate to like bringing awareness to people with Disabilities with our song The Movement. We like to keep bringing up that song as an example cause it got us started as a movement and Ironically one of our most successful songs still tho till this day.
- Which aspects of the current modern music scene excites you most, and which aspects discourage you most?
4 Wheel City: The thing that excites us the most is technology and the way music is being recorded and distributed. It gives artists like us who are independent and also have a disability or any difference the chance to have their voice & music heard. It’s the reason the Quarantine Music album was able to be recorded and released during a quarantine.
Something that discourages us and has for a long time is the violence and the way we are losing artists in hip hop to gun violence from the Tupacs & Biggies to the Nipsey Hussles & Pop Smokes. Even some of the recent ones who died in overdoses like Mac Miller and Juice World. It’s almost seems like it’s a hazard to be a rapper these days.
- If you had a choice to go on tour with any acclaimed international artist in the near future, who would you choose, and why?
4 Wheel City: Would definitely have to be an artist with a really loyal fan base and dope stage show all around far as presentation like Travis Scott or Kanye West. They both have some real amazing stage designs and ideas we would tap into to make our performance better. Would love to also perform with a legendary group like Public Enemy and legend like Stevie Wonder.
- Could you tell us something about your latest project “Quarantine Music Raw & Uncut”? Does it have a particular back story and message you’re trying to push?
4 Wheel City: “Quarantine Music” is us doing what we do best. Combining our beats and rhymes and making songs that reflect circumstances we see affecting us, the people and community around us. In this case it’s the world. Most of the songs on it relate to things that have transpired since the Quarantine began. All the songs have a hip hop sound despite the content. “My timeline” and “Crazy World” touch on the craziness and seriousness of the pandemic which caused the quarantine and so many lives being lost. The Cardi B Challenge song and DJ Dnice song have party vibes. “It Was All A Dream ” and “My S.I.S.T.E.R” hit home with family and we can all relate to it. We even have a song on it with Fred Da Godson who died from covid19. https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/4wheelcity/quarantine-music-vol-1
- What were the major difficulties in completing this recording? And what has the response been since its release earlier in May?
4 Wheel City: The blessing of technology and us working in our home studios for several years made the recording of the project a natural process for us. Only difference is us not actually getting in the studio together at least once or twice to vibe creatively like we normally do and seeing what we came up with organically in the moment. Fred Da Godson passing from the virus in the midst of all this was a setback as well. But thanks to his wife for giving us her blessing getting everything we needed cleared so his verse could be on the album. He is featured on “We ain’t Playin” song.
The response has been really good. People are really “loving” it and appreciating hearing music that is talking about things happening in real time while they have been in quarantine and the world has been turned upside down. We have received a lot of compliments on our talent level. Music has a way of empowering people and making things seems more relatable. That’s what the Quarantine Music project has been doing for the people thus far.
- Creative work in studio environment, or interaction with a live audience? Which of these two options excite you most, and why?
4 Wheel City: There are not too many things more exciting musically than performing a song we created together in front of a live audience. Especially if they are into it and singing along and stuff like that. It’s amazing to see an idea or moment in the studio making a song turn into a movement right before our eyes whenever we perform in front of a live audience.
- What’s your favorite motto, phrase or piece of advice, you try to live or inspire yourself by?
4 Wheel City: the 4 principles of 4 Wheel City is to “Inspire, Educate, Advocate, and Entertain. But 2 of our biggest mottos is to “Never give up”, and “Don’t wait for the moment, live in it”.
- How essential do you think video is in relation to your music? Do you have a video you would suggest fans see, to get a better understanding of your craft?
4 Wheel City: Videos are very essential in relationship to our music. It adds to the message. Most of our songs are visual. Many of the issues we make music about are visual occurrences at first we most likely seen with our own eyes & circumstances people are dealing with that you usually see visually. The music then becomes the soundtrack to the actual message and visual/video. We already released several for Quarantine Music . Check out the latest one “Thank You ” dedication to all the healthcare and essential workers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0yjKNiIpRk
- What do you find most rewarding about what you do with your music? And do you have a specific vision or goal set in your mind that you would like to achieve after Covid-19 has moved on?
4 Wheel City: The most rewarding thing about what we do is that it’s organic and we get to use our talents to uplift and be the voice of the people. The fact that we get to be ourselves and still have the reach we do to the youth as well as older people, every demographic you can name. One goal we hope will happen after the covid-19 has moved on is that the work we put in making the Quarantine Music album will look like a timepiece or artifact to reflect on this craziness for generations to come. We focus on making Timeless Music.