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NJ Next: Shawn Rock

Hip-Hop has always been about representing your hometown. From undisputed classics like NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton,” “ Boogie Down Production’s “South Bronx” and Jay-Z & Biggie’s “Brooklyn’s Finest” to more recent regional hits like “Dark City Lights” by Bulletproof Belv & Matty Carlock (covered in NJ Next in May of 2018), making anthems for their city has been a priority for a lot of artists.

In 2019, Atlantic City’s Shawn Rock teamed up with singer Nina Blue to take a shot at giving AC its own anthem and gauging by the success of the song, he nailed it. The song and video gained popularity throughout the year and ended up on a lot of publication’s “Best of NJ” lists to wrap up the year (including Chris Jordan at the Asbury Park Press). As we start the new decade NJ Next’s Angelo Gingerelli caught up with Shawn Rock to hear about his breakthrough single and see what he has planned for the next decade…

When did you become a hip-hop fan and when did you decide to be an artist?

I first became a fan when I heard Nas’ first album Illmatic and Jay-Z’s first album Reasonable Doubt. Just the way they put their words together made you see what they were talking about just as clear as a painting in museum.

Many people don’t know this but I started out writing poetry because my mother was into to that. Eventually I started putting my poems with music, next thing I know I’m writing songs.

What is the Hip-Hop scene like in Atlantic City?

The scene in Atlantic City is like a hidden jewel waiting to be discovered. The best part about it is that no one sounds the same, we all have our own unique sound. So much talent just waiting to be discovered, I hope we all succeed.

Being so close to Philadelphia, does Philly have a big influence on Atlantic City?

I wouldn’t say Philly has a big influence due to the fact they also have a different sound. I would like to say that every part of the Tri-State pushes each other in more of a friendly competition sort of way. When Philly is doing great things, New Jersey pushes to do great. When New York is doing great things, New Jersey and Philly pushes to do great things.

What made you want to make “Atlantic City” and what was that creative process like?

There have been plenty of songs about “ATLANTIC CITY” but almost none entirely in a clean, marketable Hip-Hop form. I wanted to write something that listeners of all ages could listen to, could be played on ay radio station, performed/played at any event. I actually worked on this song for a total of one year before it was released to the public. From picking the perfect beat, doing deep research about the history of the city including landmarks and facts that were before my time. From there I starting writing the rap lyrics, one verse at a time and going over the verse for months before I would even begin the next verse.

Lastly, and a very important part was finding the right voice. I knew I needed something soulful and sultry. Which lead me to hearing Nina Blue singing at a performance one night and as soon as I heard that voice I knew she was the sound that I was looking for. The first night in the studio when she sung the chorus, we all got the chills as the hair stood up on our arms. We knew we had something great.

The video shoot was the best part but a very long day (laughs). Just going around throughout the city and watching the people stop, watch and listen and some even joined in the video on the spot! The video came out better than I had imagined.

Is the song about your hometown resulting in more recognition and shows in your city? What about other markets?

Yes! Yes, because the response from people supporting the song on social media has been amazing. I have done a lot of radio interviews, performances, write ups and even an award, all thanks to that song. I have even had people come out to me and say “You’re Shawn Rock, I love that Atlantic City song!”

I knew it was a great song but I had no clue or idea that it would blow up the way it has. Now I just hope that the powers that be in the Atlantic City government would get behind it and actually promote it as the official song of the city. Get it playing in the casinos, billboards and who knows maybe one day I will get the key to the city…fingers still crossed!

What’s next for Shawn rock?

Just continuing to create music, keep perfecting my talent to get better and better. My dream is to someday win a Grammy and be a household name, so I have more work to do. I don’t see me stopping anytime soon.

Rapid Response Questions

Top 5 MC’s Dead or Alive: Nas, Jay-z, Biggie Smalls, Fabolous, Shawn Rock. (lol)

Top 4 Producers you would like to work with: Timbaland, Dj premier, Pharrell, Dr. Dre, Scott Storch.

Top 3 performance venues in New Jersey: I would say the Boardwalk Hall, any major venue in the casinos, and The Gateway Playhouse. Great stages and major accomplishments in South Jersey

Top 2 songs that people should check out other than “Atlantic City”:
“Coolerthanmost” (out now) and “Chill” coming February 14thfor my female fans.

One reason everyone should check out Shawn Rock:
I’m just good pure Hip-Hop. I have something for everyone to enjoy. I am the breath of fresh air for Hip-Hop.

For more on Shawn Rock follow him on Twitter.

Angelo Gingerelli
Angelo Gingerellihttp://fifthroundmovement.com/
Angelo Gingerelli has been contributing to The Pop Break since 2015 and writing about pop culture since 2009. A Jersey shore native, Gingerelli is a writer, stand-up comic, hip-hop head, sneaker enthusiast, comic book fan, husband, father and supporter of the local arts scene. He likes debating the best rappers of all time, hates discussing why things were better in the “Good Ol’ Days” and loves beating The Pop Break staff at fantasy football. You can catch up with Angelo on Twitter/IG at https://twitter.com/Mr5thround, at his website www.FifthRoundMovement.com or interviewing rising stars in NJ’s Hip-Hop scene on “The A&R Podcast” (iTunes/SoundCloud).

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