Emilio Rojas, a.k.a. Raks One/Sycorax, originally from Rochester, attended UR for two years until he parted ways with the University in 2002 in order to pursue a career in hip hop. His most recent release, “A Breath of Fresh Air,” is an independent album that features impressive production and various Rochester aritsts. Emilio is currently on tour promoting the album across the U.S. and Europe.

Your MC career began in Rochester. Can you talk about the quality of talent you have worked with in the area?

Rochester. Ah, home sweet home. It is really easy for people to look at a city like Rochester and see its size and write it off as a place without a scene, but they couldn’t be further from the truth. Rochester has a lot of talent – it’s unreal, actually. [Rochester hip hop artists] all built something from the ground up. There are definitely things going on, but I guess when you’re involved in them it can be a lot easier to take them for granted.

How was your transition between studying at UR and jumping into the Rochester and New York hip hop scenes?

New York is just a larger version of Rochester actually. There is definitely more going on, but you have to know about it to be involved; it doesn’t just fall into your lap. The one thing I can say about New York, though, is there is more of a sense of community amongst the artists. You have a lot more artists collaborating and working together than in Rochester.

The title of your latest album is “A Breath of Fresh Air.” How did you choose this title?

The album is called “A Breath of Fresh Air” because that’s what I feel like I am. If you listen to the record, it’s refreshing. It’s not the generic stuff you’re used to. It has a message, it’s creative and it’s dope. It’s hip hop, the way it’s supposed to sound – golden era style with updated flow and production.

The album is political, humorous, emotional and very personal. Hip hop is about identity and expression – would you say that the new album is targeted toward a certain demographic?

It’s not targeted at anyone. I made the record for me. Making music is catharsis. I don’t do it because I want to touch a certain core group or audience, I make music because I am compelled to. It grounds me and keeps me sane; I just put out a record that I enjoy. If you guys feel it, fine; if not, that’s okay too. As long as I’m happy and proud of what I did, then that’s good enough for me. If people like it and are inspired by it, then that’s an added bonus, but I don’t go out of my way to target any demographic. I’m making music to appeal to human beings.

“A Breath of Fresh Air” has some impressive producers, such as Illmind (G-Unit) and M-Phazes (Wax Reform), although you aren’t on a label. What is your next step as an artist in order to get your album heard?

Man, listen, these labels nowadays, especially the indies, are completely worthless. They want you to do all the work. They want you to handle your own production (some of these producers cost some serious cash), get your own features, your own photos and web site and then move five to 10 thousand units before they will even look at you. If you’re doing all that on your own, then what is the label good for anyways? No one wants to develop any artists, which is why you have a popular music market that is flooded with cookie cutter clones, because they don’t have to break a new image. The indie scene is really just a microcosm of that with much less muscle. As far as I’m concerned, I’m staying independant. I do the production myself. I record and mix the music, manufacture the product, coordinate promotion and publicity, book my own shows. What do I need them for, so they can reap the rewards of my hard work?

Would you ever consider performing at UR?

I went to UR, even though I quit after two years, and I had a good time there. I would love to come back and rock a show for ya’ll. Maybe ya’ll can put me up in Sue B. instead of a hotel – ha, yeah right.

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