Hip hop crews often have to battle a general public stigma that most members are nothing more than fortunate hypemen of one superstar's entourage. Pro Era's CJ Fly squashed that notion real quick with the release of his latest mixtape, Thee Way Eye See It.
Like friend and fellow Pro Era rhymer Joey Bada$$, CJ is bringing back that classic Brooklyn sound, which utilizes a dark, almost jazzy instrumentation that gives the listener an audibly graphic experience, and as the first two up in their collective, CJ and Joey exude the type of chemistry that can only be compared to groups like Wu-Tang.
As an individual in a genre that has become more about lifestyle than lyrics, CJ remains focused on one thing — making music.
"I don't pay attention to [comparisons to Joey] or any of that stuff. I just love making music," CJ told BET.com. "If you let the pressure of things like that get to you, it'll consume you."
CJ shot to the top of hip hop consciousness with the release of Thee Way Eye See It in September and, though there's never a shortage of haters when it comes to hip hop, "The fans love it," he exclaimed. "I haven't seen any negative comments; it's been just like, 'Yo, great body of work. You outdid yourself.'"
Both CJ and Joey have received massive amounts of praise from hip hop purists for resurrecting vintage New York — think the production stylings of LPs like Jay Z's Reasonable Doubt and Nas' Illmatic. It's a move that just came naturally, CJ said.
"It wasn't really planned. We just heard the beats and were like, 'Yo, that one is fire, let's rock with that.' We didn't say, 'Let's go for this type of sound,' we just wrote on it and that's what came out."
The 20-year-old even got to work with one of the cultivators of their sound, A Tribe Called Quest lyricist Phife Dawg. It was an experience that he called a milestone moment.
"It was amazing. I'm very thankful that we got to do that," CJ said. "I always felt a connection to his music when we used to listen to it in junior high and now we working with him. It's a very very proud moment."
And while he remains humble, he always knew that he was destined to be an MC. "I never planned for anything else in my life." CJ said. "I always stay optimistic, it's all manifestation."
CJ is currently on the road for a nationwide jaunt with Pro Era and Ab-Soul, The Smokers Tour, which hits Cleveland next (Oct. 22) and wraps up in Philadelphia Nov. 30.
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(Photo: Johnny Nunez/WireImage)