In hip-hop, it’s not celebrated to rhyme about financial struggles, experiencing infidelity or relying on a day job to make ends meet — not your music. But Virghost isn’t your typical artist.
Since seeing him perform “Assassin’s Theme” at Minglewood Hall in Memphis years ago, I’ve followed his movement. Lyrically, he’s assertive and brutally honest. Creatively, he’s defiant and limitless.
Following the release of his project No Sleep Under the Circumstances (he’s actually released a couple more efforts since we spoke), I had the chance to chop it up with Virghost. During our conversation, he deciphered several cuts off No Sleep and revealed how he stays focused in times of adversity. He also touched on being a pioneer in Memphis’ hip-hop scene, launching his Villematic artist showcase and why he thinks Nas was better than Jay-Z, Biggie and Tupac in ’96. Enjoy.
A Humble Soul: Virghost, what’s good, man? Congrats on another dope project. Let’s jump things off with the album’s opening track “No Sleep.” You bring listeners deep into your mind on the song.
Yeah, with that track, I wanted to set a mood and give a personal side. People think that as artists, especially on a local and regional level, we don’t have the problems that everyday people have. Most of us are not really making money like that, but we’re still trying to push our dreams. We all have jobs and issues in our lives that we have to worry about like everybody else, but some people don’t see that. All they see is the persona that we have on stage and in the music. With “No Sleep,” I wanted to express the things that I think about at night when I get off of work. I wanted to show that I’m still pushing for my dreams, but I’ve been doing this for a while. It’s easy to keep pushing when you’re starting off, young and excited about your future, but I’ve actually been through a lot when it comes to music. A lot of people who are my age have broke through, but the ones who haven’t, have simply quit.
In your music, you’re open about the stress and adversity you experience. I know personally that going through those things can be difficult, especially if you don’t have a support system. How do you stay focused?My music and the people I have around me keep me focused and motivated. I’m blessed with the woman I have. She really believes in me. And then I’ve got my engineer, Truth Clipsy. He’s been supportive of me in many ways. Soulman Snipes. My brother Ricache’. These people keep me motivated.
It’s not the norm for an artist to reveal that they’re struggling to keep a roof over their head and money in their pocket. But you’re open about these things on “Rent Song.” Was that a difficult track to create?
It wasn’t difficult at all. I’ve been wanting to write a rent song for a long time because I’ve been going through [financial challenges] for a long time. Even back when I was married and in Memphis, I dealt with that a lot. I’m dealing with it on a different level now because I do have to pay child support and stuff like that. As far as struggling with money, it’s been up and down. With that song, I wasn’t necessarily talking about the current time, but I do go through that up and down a lot and wanted to express that.
One of my favorite cuts off the album is “The G.O.A.T.” You give a brief history lesson on Point Blank Entertainment’s contributions to Memphis’ hip-hop scene. You also assert that you’re in a class of your own lyrically on the song.With “The G.O.A.T.,” I know a lot of people think it means ‘greatest of all time,’ but from my point of view, it means ‘greatest of all Tennessee.’
Oh, ok. Fasho. You should name an album that.
Yeah, you never know. But to me, most rappers should feel like they’re the greatest. If you don’t feel that way, you shouldn’t even be doing this. I feel that way for different reasons: I can make a song like “Be Without You,” turn around and give you something like “Aviator’s Theme,” “Assassin’s Theme” or “Grand Am Music.” I feel like I’m an overall complete artist. I even have the spoken word element. “The G.O.A.T.” was many things — a story about the K97 stuff, reminding people who I am and what SQUAD is. Point Blank Entertainment and SQUAD did a lot of stuff in Memphis. A lot of what these guys are doing in Memphis, especially when it comes to crews, they got that from our blueprint. A lot of the guys got their blueprint, personally, from me. They may not admit it.
The last time we spoke it was regarding your project It Gets Greater Later. One of the tracks we discussed off the album was the hurtful but therapeutic “Samson’s Theme.” You were raw and uncut about the issues that derived from your past marriage. On No Sleep, things are completely different. You have a couple songs about your new lady. How was it opening your heart back up after going through your divorce?
It wasn’t hard, man. I like to tell people that the end of 2015, I went through a boot camp. I went through a lot of hard shit, and I had to deal with a lot by myself. When [my divorce] first happened, I told my dad that I didn’t know if I could ever trust a woman again. He was like, ‘You know, you’re just saying that now because you’re in pain.’ And he was right. When 2016 started, I made a conscious effort to leave all of that alone. I didn’t let myself get to the point where I let one bad relationship dictate how I viewed everybody else. With my old marriage, I was hurt by what happened, but you still gotta live, man. I ain’t fin’ to sit around here being lonely for the rest of my life because I got hurt in one relationship.
Those are some wise words, and it’s great you didn’t allow that one situation to affect your view of women in general. Just a couple more questions. One is regarding your track “Facebook Addicts.” It’s no secret that we’re in the age of social media, and on the song you address social media addiction. Bring me into your mind frame when you created that vibe.
It’s funny because that track has a duality to it. The first verse, I was talking about myself. The second and third verses, I rhymed as if I was talking to somebody else. On the flip side, in all of those verses I could be talking about myself. I basically made that song because I felt like a lot of people use social media to portray one thing, but that’s not really what it is. On the first verse, I [addressed] how, in some ways, I can’t question why my music [hasn’t reached a larger audience], or why I’m not making more money in life when I spend so much of my time on social media. All of the time I spend on social media, I could be doing something productive to get ahead. Sometimes we get addicted to being on social media, getting likes and shit, that we’re not living an actual life.
On your album GHOSTS, you had a track called “Pac in ’95.” You revisited that concept on No Sleep. Talk about creating “Nas in ’96.” Nas is my favorite rapper, and the reason I put an emphasis on ’96 is because I personally feel like that’s when he was the best lyricist. At that time, as far as artists, he was in competition with Biggie, Jay-Z, to some capacity, and Tupac. Those three guys are definitely in my top 10. They’re all some of the greatest of all time and, at that time, Nas was better than all of them. I know everybody else goes to Illmatic and all that but, to me, he was his best at It Was Written. Illmatic was raw, something new and fresh, but he was on a whole ‘nother level on It Was Written.
That’s a bold statement, man. I gotta go back and listen to It Was Written now. Well, it’s been a pleasure chopping it up with you. I appreciate your time. What’s next for you and Capitol Minds?
We’re still pushing No Sleep. In my opinion, it’s my best album. I feel like all of my albums are good enough to break through, but this one is on another level. I want to push the Virghost brand further and No Sleep to the max. I don’t feel like we’ve done everything yet. We’ve still got a lot of work to do. I have an idea for my next album, but the next one I put out, I want to be on a major platform. [Right now], I want to push the album and Villematic, a showcase I do quarterly in Nashville.
That’s what’s up. What’s the deal with Villematic?
With Villematic, I pretty much did that because I was from Memphis and when I came to Nashville, there wasn’t a lot of people doing hip-hop shows. Any artist from Memphis knows you pretty much gotta do your own thing and make your own moves. I took that mentality to Nashville and started my own showcase. Hip-hop is considered a ‘black’ genre of music, and Nashville is a white city. Not only is it a white city, it’s a city of country music and, to some capacity, rock music. A lot of the venues do not respect hip-hop because of those things. What we’re trying to accomplish with Villematic is give Nashville a platform for hip-hop and bring cities in Tennessee and other states together to network and connect.