Tuesday, July 9, 2013

An Interview with Triple, a/k/a "Stuart Madoff," Bernie's Rapping Nephew

So, in the midst of The Gifted, Yeezus, and every other late June/early July release this year, you may have come across an article or two on your favorite rap/pop culture blog. The article most likely spoke about a rapper claiming to be Bernie Madoff's long lost nephew, Stuart. Of course, this proved to be false. But, after reaching out via Twitter, the rapper in the center of this mini-controversy has granted an exclusive interview with yours truly. In the interview, he tells me--and you--more about himself, his rap career thus far, his "famous family tree," and his use of a certain epithet (no, not the one that rhymes with "trigger," "figure," or anything that ends in "-igger"). While his music is not exactly my taste, I've present an unbiased opinion and ask some tough questions. As always, Speed respects those that are ballsy enough to do what they do with no regard for other people's opinions--as long as it's, you know, "good-intentioned."

Ladies and Gentleman, I give you Yaakov Levy a/k/a Triple, but b/k/a Mr. #FreeUncleBernie, Stuart Madoff.

Meet Triple, one of the other rappers making headlines
this past couple weeks.
SpeedontheBeat: So, I’m gonna ask this one right off the bat: why pursue a rap career under the name of Stuart Madoff? I’ve seen some wild, oft-kilter gimmicks, names, and stories off the bat—even more so because I’ve been involved in pro wrestling from a viewer and critical standpoint. But, never have I seen one that comes off as so “anti-rap.” No disrespect, but it comes off—at certain points, mind you—more parodic and more suited for comedy than so-called “legitimized” rap. So, again, if you don’t mind me asking, why? 

Triple: It originally started off as a rap name for my brother. He was a rapper first and he needed a rap name. He was originally Joey Washington, but he wanted something more interesting and attention grabbing. Then, I thought about how a lot of rappers have this “Gangster Persona.” For example, Rick Ross calls himself “Teflon Don” and Noreaga named himself after the drug dealer. So, it just made sense. I didn't want to go for Meyer Lansky, ‘cuz Shyne already had that. And I didn't know of others like Bugsy Siegel, so we went with Madoff. 
My rap name is actually Triple; Stu Madoff is just a persona. Then, we just went with it completely on “Bernie Madoff Familia” and later with “Madoff Monopoly”. As far as it being comedic, some people took it that way but it’s alrite [sic]. I don’t tell people how to digest things. If that’s how they want to receive it, then so be it. It was really just a way to get attention and it worked. Plus, I think it made for good narrative in the music.

SOTB: Now that the elephant in the room’s out the way, tell me a bit more about yourself.

Triple: My real name is Yaakov Levy as you might have seen from my Facebook.  I’m an 18 year old rapper from Long Island, NY. I’m an orthodox Jew and keep Shabbos and other religious things. I grew up in Forest Hills, Queens until age 10. [I] then moved out to Long Island, where I currently reside. I've got a mixtape out called Madoff Monopoly, and was recently in the news as "Bernie Madoff's Nephew.” My new mixtape, Rich Off My Yichus, [Ed. Note: "yichus" is Yiddish for "heritage"] is coming in a week or two.

SOTB: What first pushed towards rap music? I ask because, quite frankly, most artists never start out saying “hey, I want to rap because I’m bored and I think I’d be good at it.” It’s usually something that happens in their life that pushes them to seek an outlet.

Triple: It basically came down to me doing some introspection and coming to the conclusion that this is something I would be proud doing. I wanna be recognized.  I always liked music. I was known as the kid with the big music collection on iTunes. I’m a big culture guy, and rap is very cultural. I didn't need rap as a way to get out of my bad living conditions or anything like that. I live in a very affluent neighborhood. I'm really not doing it for the money. Rap is just something creative and something I love to do. Mac Miller was the first person who really pushed me to be a rapper ‘cuz he was the first rapper I really loved. I'm still a big fan and seeing him do it back then in 2011 just got me into rapping for myself. My first song I recorded was a freestyle over "Nikes on My Feet", called "Kippah on My Head."

SOTB: How long have you been recording music?

Triple: So, I've been recording in my basement low-key for about two years now. But, I only started going to a studio about nine months ago. Word to Trinidad Jame$.

SOTB: Name a few of your influences. Judging from what I’ve heard of you thus far, I’d assume there are some Texas-based influences.

Triple: Ya, that's "Hasaybah.” Like I said, I’m a big culture guy.  Being from the suburbs, in this Internet age, you can really just appreciate culture from a window. As far as influences, I like a lot of different stuff, but really I'm just interested in things that are innovative. That's why I connected with the trill music. That's their thing. DJ Screw is a legend ‘cuz he was instrumental in that.  Very few artists in rap push the envelope and innovate. Kanye obviously is the king of that. Yeezus was that. Next Level Music. Bold. 
Also, I think Kid Cudi is there too. Wayne. A$AP. Kendrick. Drake. Future as well. But ,very few are taking risks now. The game is full of biters. I try to do things people aren’t doing, another reason why I went the Madoff route. A lot of songs on "Madoff Monopoly" are covers, but they are all molded under this Madoff umbrella. I just wanna try and push things. My three favorite rappers ever are Mac Miller, Dom Kennedy, and French Montana. I feel like they are innovative. Also, any rapper who is able to stick out with style or cadence. That's a big talent people overlook. Every rapper who is in the upper echelon of rap right now has something no one else can do. No one can do what Drake does. No one can do what Big Sean does. No one can do what Ross does, etc. I look up to that.

SOTB: What’d you think of bigger rap blogs covering your first tracks (the ones that appeared on The Smoking Section, etc.)

Triple: I thought it was really cool. Pigeons & Planes posted "Hasaybah" first and I was pretty hype about that. Then when I was trying to show my friends the post, I saw that Uproxx and Complex had posted "In Gods Hands". Then other news sites took off with the story, but it was really cool to get the approval of rap blogs of this caliber. I've dreamed of that for a while.

SOTB: Do you think that your boost in notoriety is/was more so based off the persona you portrayed or off the music you presented?

Triple: Oh, definitely off the persona. I would say they solely posted it off the shock value of the story. But that's good enough for me because it still gave me a window to get more attention to my music. Ultimately, the music is what's gonna catch people. A story is only a story but the music has to be there. You look at a guy like Rick Ross, who had a possible career-ending strike at him with the officer thing, and see him rise above and become a superstar. Why? ‘Cuz the music was there. That's what matters at the end of the day.

SOTB: Now, this one is sure to ruffle some feathers. And, I've got to apologize in advance if it comes off "wrong." But, what's the deal with your use of "kike?" Is it akin to how blacks have (tried to) reclaim "nigger/nigga?" I just noticed one of your songs and the website address on your Twitter and wanted to ask.

Triple: [T]here are many reasons why I say “kike.” It started off because I didn’t feel comfortable saying the “N-word,” even when I was singing a song. So I needed a word that I could substitute it for. The word has a very bad connotation to it, but no one can really tell me I can’t say kike. I am a Kike. It’s similar to the “N-word” in that regard. No one can tell a black person not to say it. Also, I use it artistically to show how bold this “Stu Madoff” is. Me using it in real life—and in music—has taken the power out of the word as well. People hate Jews, that’s no secret. I don’t get offended anymore when I see kike in the comments on my videos or on World Star [Hip Hop]. It also helps me stick out, it gave me a thing no one does. Like I said before, I think that’s important in an artist. Still, sometimes I think about if I should be using a word with such  history. I have a song on Rich Off My Yichus that deals with my usage of the word called “6000000.” It’s a Holocaust song.

SOTB: Have you ever recorded music from other genres?

Triple: I haven't, but I want my sound in the future to transcend genres. Not only with sampling but with the instrumentation of it.

SOTB: Here come the questions I ask everyone that comes over to my corner of the internet. First, if you were presented a deal from a major record label, who would the deal have to be from for you to sign it?

Triple: Everybody would rather be independent these days. More money, more control. But you need a big fan base to make that work. I don't have that now. So if I were to go major, I would look for a place that would get my vision. Like I said the money isn't really important but that would help. Also, I would have to be important to the label and be a main focus. As far as which team, I would probably lean towards MMG and We The Best because I feel like Ross and Khaled really put their artists in position to win and help them move forward.

SOTB: If you had your ideal album, what five artists and producers would you choose to have on your project?

Triple: I don't wanna have one of these trendy rap albums with just hot rappers and producers of the moment. Don't get me wrong, Young Chop and Mike Will are great. But, I really wanna do something progressive. People like Pharell, Kanye, Timbaland, Dre, Rick Rubin, those guys are visionaries. They're are a lot of hot producers I would work with though, like Black Metaphor, Cool and Dre, Justice League, T-Minus, Cardiak, Clams Casino—all real dope. I think Harry Fraud is brilliant. As far as rappers they're a lot but…my three favorite that I mentioned. Mac, Dom, French.

SOTB: Where can we reach you?

Triple: Twitter: @TripleHview

SOTB: Do you have any parting words for anyone reading this?

Triple: I want people to understand that I treat this rap game like entertainment. I wanna be the first rapper to come out and say "Look this isn't necessarily my real life but this is a character I'm portraying.” Stu Madoff is a character. I'm not really related to Bernie Madoff. The albums I have under that theme all tell a story of what life would be like if I was really "Bernie Madoff's Nephew". Madoff Monopoly was Stu becoming the head of the family and my upcoming mixtape, Rich Off My Yichus, will further the storyline. I wanna play around with different narratives and characters in my career. I don't look at it as being “fake” because it’s all entertainment. That's why I don't get how fans call a rapper "real.” I don’t  care about a rapper’s personal life. He doesn't owe me that. All I care about is what he is portraying. And to anybody who was offended by the Madoff stuff? I apologize if I offended you, but I will always defend art as being expressive. Thanks for your time, check out my mixtape "Madoff Monopoly" and be on the lookout for Rich Off My Yichus coming in a week or two. Peace and love from Yung Carlebach.


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