By JC Poppe Special to Published Mar 15, 2011 at 10:17 AM

For any hip-hop artist the struggle to be an individual is often met with resistance, leading many people to claim to have a true understanding of themselves and representing that they are different, while doing the same things that everyone else is doing. This is what the radio is filled with.

This is what we, the fans of "true" hip-hop, often complain about. The carbon copies that say they are different, but are merely mimicking those who mimicked those that borrowed the ideas that were built upon by the generation after the legends threw down, after they took the baton from the originators.

Jeru the Damaja paraphrased a philosophical ideal that there is truly nothing that is good, nor bad, but merely, there just is. This is the level of enlightenment we should try to achieve in order to gain peace and understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

Though this isn't what he's trying to do consciously, it very much feels like SPEAK Easy is on the hunt for the "there just is," as in he just wants to be what he is, nothing more and nothing less.

He simply presents his reality that consists of being a father, husband and full-time community member, and he is not ashamed of displaying emotions -- as long as they are sincere to who he is -- so his saying that he's an undiscovered superstar is honest to his belief about himself. He's not just putting it on for the people
around him, he honestly believes in his talent that much.

One thing that is certain about SPEAK Easy is that you get what you see and what you see is exactly what you get. That is exactly what his new album "So To Speak" is all about, so if you are looking for music about the excesses and trappings often found in hip-hop, it'd probably be best to keep it moving when SPEAK Easy comes up.

"So To Speak" is chock full of songs that contain soul samples and a more aggressive -- more focused -- yet always intimate, SPEAK Easy. The listener always knows what's going on in the rapper's head as there are limited metaphysical lyrics. There is a point with each song and the point is delivered with undeniable skill. SPEAK Easy, like many in the Milwaukee hip-hop scene, truly is an undiscovered superstar.

With his new album on the horizon and a CD release party at Cactus Club this Saturday (with additional performances by Frankie Flowers, Raze and The Hollowz), it was time to once again talk with the rapper. You released a mixtape last year. How is the new album different?

SPEAK Easy: The mixtape was a display of lyricism. I work hard at my craft and value what it means to be a dope emcee. I felt I had to take it back to the essence. The album demonstrates who I am entirely as an artist from wordplay, storytelling, rhyme cadences and beyond.

OMC: Since the passing of your grandmother, a new and more aggressive SPEAK Easy has seemed to emerge. Is that purely coincidence or is that a legitimate observation?

SE: Man, my grandmother was my rock. She was my spiritual adviser and more. Losing her was a huge blow to me and my entire family. With that I decided not to tone things down anymore. I have her and my mother's legacy to carry on so I'm more driven than ever. That's what you're hearing.

OMC: You recently had a falling out with your management team IV Tin Soldiers. What happened?

SE: You wouldn't believe me if I told you, or maybe you would. What I can tell you though is that I still ride 100 percent with my dudes Frankie Flowers and Maal Himself. That's forever and way beyond music.

OMC: Musically speaking, your new album has a lot of different producers on it that you hadn't worked with on your first album. How did these producers drive your creativity?

SE: Producers really loved the vibe that Big Steve and I created with "Well Spoken." This time around I was blessed to work with other great producers like D'Mattik, Trellmattic, Dave Derrilykt and Lib along with Big Steve. They pushed me further and artistically I appreciate that.

OMC: What role does SPEAK Easy play in the Milwaukee hip-hop scene that others don't? Do you feel that you fill any voids or do you just build on what is already present?

SE: I feel that I bring integrity and humility to Milwaukee hip-hop. I'm just real with it. No gimmicks, no lies about living beyond my means. Just essential hip-hop music.

OMC: Las year could be considered a landmark year for Milwaukee hip-hop. What do you see for Milwaukee hip-hop in 2011 based on what's already happened and what's rumored to come out?

SE: There is a lot of good music coming from Milwaukee. Along with that I see artists emerging with more business savvy. This is also a good thing. Milwaukee hip-hop will be as big as we want to be if we all believe and invest in it.

OMC: Is there an emcee and/or producer in Milwaukee that you want to work with that you haven't had the chance to work with yet?

SE: I'm not sure. Everything starts with a mutual respect for the art form. As I continue to build relationships I may encounter a dope emcee or producer I've never even heard of and vice versa. I do have some dope music for my next project from Jihad Baracus and Bobby Drake. I love what they're doing.

OMC: You are a family man and you have a good career. Why are you doing hip-hop?

SE: I am and I do. I'm doing hip-hop because I am hip-hop. There's no separation.

OMC: What are your plans for the future with your music?

SE: I plan to keep making dope music. Hitting the road and showing other cities and states that Milwaukee hip-hop is as good as, and in some cases better than, any other place on the planet.

JC Poppe Special to

Born in Milwaukee and raised in the Milwaukee suburb of Brown Deer, Concordia University Wisconsin alumnus Poppe has spent the majority of his life in or around the city and county of Milwaukee.

As an advocate of Milwaukee's hip-hop community Poppe began popular local music blog Milwaukee UP in March 2010. Check out the archived entries here.

Though heavy on the hip-hop, Poppe writes about other genres of music and occasionally about food, culture or sports, and is always ready to show his pride in Milwaukee and Wisconsin.