In an era where rappers are rapping about Bentleys that they can’t afford and rocking fake Rolexes on Instagram, hip-hop is lucky to have down-to-earth artists like Joey Aich who are focused on perfecting their craft.

In between classes at Denison University, supporting a family of four and his independent grind, Joey’s got his hands full but that doesn’t stop him from writing music in the middle of night.

Be sure to check out his latest project College D​.​egree on Bandcamp, a 9-track album full of jazzy, chilled out hip-hop vibes, and read our interview below.

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1) How long have you been doing what you’re doing and how did you get started in the first place?

I’ve been doing it for a while now. Since, I want to say, 15 I believe. Then it was just to write and express myself, but I didn’t care to show anyone, plus I didn’t want my parents to know I wanted to possibly pursue music in the future.

Since then I’ve released a few projects, most importantly the newest one, AichFiles. I got started back in the day just writing to beats and rapping with my friends and stuff. I really enjoyed poetry so I’ve been writing for a while.

My senior year of high school I started to really pursue it though. I started recording in my homie at the time closet and sharing my material on Facebook and twitter. Since then I’ve been performing and the dream of being an artist has really become an obtainable goal so I’m going full head of steam now.

2) What sort of hurdles and obstacles did you face to get to where you are now?

The biggest hurdle I think I’ve faced is being taken seriously. From the jump its been hard to get people to actually listen. Few years ago my peers thought it was just a hobby, and some still do, but getting people to invest their ears has been a huge hurdle.

Being in college is also a hurdle as much as it is an advantage. Rappers don’t go to Denison University – well at least I’ve been told. I get told all the time when am I going to get a real job and stuff like that, and I have to constantly remind people that being a musician is my job.

While my friends are getting internships, I’m getting paid to perform places. So thats been a major hurdle.

Another hurdle is lack of confidence. I’m more confident than I was before, but its been a tough transition. When I was starting off I was very conscious and “preachy.” I was still trying to find my own style. Being influenced by other artist shapes and forms your sound. I spent a year or two trying to be a NY rapper lol.

I wasn’t confident in Joey Aich as an artist so I just shaped my sound around NY up and comers. Now, its even harder. I’ve found my sound, but its hard to keep my integrity as an artist when I see other artist get on with a certain sound. I question myself and ask “should I follow the wave, or stay to my own?”

3) What’s the hardest thing about being an independent artist?

The over saturation of the game lol. Everyone is a rapper so it’s tough to stick out without the “major label” recognition or at least a major artist cosign. I go to events and people are like “man its good to meet you and blah blah blah,” and then its “you know I rap too and we should collab.”

There’s that and when I talk to fans and I let them know I’m a rapper and they blow me off as just another rapper from Cleveland. Funny story, I was in downtown Cleveland, and I’m wearing my Joey Aich tee and what not and me and my bro were talking to some girls. Was I interested in them? No lol but I was focused on getting new people to listen. They played the shit out of me.

Ha they were like “who are you” and “you can’t be serious.” I’m sitting there like yo I’m wearing my own t shirt. You think I would make and sell t-shirts if I wasn’t serious. They just thought I was average Joe from down the street I guess.

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4) Are there any independent hip-hop artists out there who inspire and motivate you?

Absolutely, and as much as I hate the comparison I have to say it. Chance the Rapper. He is an example of what to do. He has shown me that there is success in being a independent artist. Also the label of an independent artist motivates me.

It makes me work ten times harder to be the best independent artist I can be. I have to keep myself accountable and disciplined. Working other independent artist like me to most the work by themselves inspires me.

5) Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

In five years. Wow, to be honest I have no idea. I’m more focused on where I will be next year. It’s actually funny to think about because I look at last year(2015) and I see how much things have changed and then I look at five years ago.

I couldn’t look anyone dead in the eyes and say I was going to be the rapper opening for my idol, Asher Roth, and crowd surfing off stages at every venue. So in five years I guess I can see myself as a worldwide artist, Lord willing. I’m going to keep grinding to get there.

6) Who were the first influences on your music and style?

I think I touched on this before in the previous interview, but my cousins Riv and Ray Ave where early influencers. They were actually rapping and were influenced by 90s rap themselves, so when I heard that it planted the seed of how I wanted to sound.

And soon after Asher Roth. Most people know him for I Love College, but he’s a much doper rapper than that song. Don’t get me wrong I love the song, but he flips on tracks. His playfulness has shaped a lot of my rhymes.

7) If you could choose to collaborate with 3 other artists on the same track – who would they be?

Dead or alive? If dead or alive. Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, and Pharrel. If just alive then Kendrick, Pharrell, Ty Dolla Sign.

8) What makes your music different to other artists?

I’m true, passionate, and bring energy to everything I do. My goal is to inspire. When I record no matter what the topic is I want to inspire someone and give that feeling. I’m personable, relatable, and approachable so people can take what I’m saying in and feel comfortable with my music.

9) What are you hoping to achieve with your music?

To change the world. That’s my goal. I want to change the world any way that I can for the better. When I say I want to inspire people I don’t want people to say he’s a rapper so I want to be a rapper. I want someone to hear me and understand that anything is possible.

I’ve been seen as an underdog my entire life. I’m black, short, and working class. I want to be the voice for those who feel like they can’t and help them realize they can! I’m truly passionate about that!

10) What do you think is the biggest barrier an artist like yourself has to overcome, to gain commercial success?

The biggest barrier is probably staying true. On the daily I get approached by people telling me I need to change this and do that and work with this artist and this producer to get success.

I’ve realized that I won’t be played at the local clubs and I’m ok with that, but those are the things that go into commercial success. My personal success is my goal and how I can make in impact in someones life so to be honest I’m not that focused on the commercial success.

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Written by Hao Nguyen
Stop The Breaks is an independent music marketing company focused on showcasing independent hip-hop artists. Our goal is to help motivate, inspire and educate independent artists grinding around the world. We provide branding, content marketing, social media, SEO and music promotion services.