This week you’re getting two interviews for the price of one! You might have seen them on tour or recognize the names from their many songs and music videos on YouTube. I sat down with 2/3 of the group Suitable Ties: none other than Merkules and Prada West.
Tell me a bit about yourselves.
Merk: I go by the name Merkules. I’m a 20-year old hip-hop artist aspiring out of British Columbia. I’ve been rapping for about 3 or 4 years now. I represent Ephin Apparel and Stompdown Killaz. That’s the clothing company that sponsored me and the crew that I’m a part of. I’m here with the homie Prada West so I’ll let him introduce himself.
Prada: I go by Prada West. I’m a 28-year old emcee residing in Surrey, BC. I started rapping when I was about 23 but I didn’t actually start performing until like a couple years ago now. We’ve been touring across Canada, the whole crew, Stompdown together. Me and Merk are two-thirds of a crew that go by Suitable Ties. The last third of it is Konfidential who resides on Vancouver Island (Nanaimo).
Merk, at what age did you get into hip-hop and what influenced that decision?
Merk: Obviously I’ve been a fan of hip-hop for a long time, probably since I was 10 or 11 years old but yeah, I’ve been listening to hip-hop for a long time. I didn’t take it upon myself to start making hip-hop music until I was about like 16 years old. So I’ve been making hip-hop for a few years now. The reason why I got into hip-hop was it was just my thing. I always enjoyed writing and stuff like that I used to write hip-hop music when I was super young. I never wrote it to like record it and make music or anything like that, I just kind of wrote rhymes as like self-therapy. Eventually a bunch of my friends started to hear it, they thought it was dope, so I decided to take it upon myself to start recording. So I did that, put out a few songs, did a few tours, met a bunch of new people and enjoyed the whole vibe of it all and just decided to stick with it. Now it’s been years and everything’s looking up. Been doing lots of tours, just got back from the White Dynamite tour, which is the second cross-Canada tour this year. And yeah man, we’re just pushing the brand, pushing the movement and it’s just one big family and all we do is work and work and work, so yeah man, that’s pretty much it.
You originally competed in King of the Dot battles and rapped under the pseudonym Merk Mikz. At what point did you decide to change your name to Merkules and why?
Merk: Merk Mikz was the first rap name that I ever really had. Actually I can’t say that, I had a couple really corny ones before that, but Merk Mikz was my first official rap name. It’s the alias that I went by when I first started. That King of the Dot stuff I did, I mean, I did my first battle and didn’t do a very good job, I was super nervous and stuff like that. I hadn’t really performed in front of a crowd. Then I came back and did another battle to redeem myself and ended up catching the ‘W’ on that one, so I kind of just got my revenge and left it at that. Battling is always a good way to get out there and meet new people, have new people hear your music. But yeah, the reason I changed from Merk Mikz to Merkules is a couple years went by and Merk Mikz…I just kinda grew out of it. So I was touring with Snak the Ripper, Young Sin and Evil Ebenezer and all these guys and they always called me Merkules because every time, after every show I was being a party animal, having the most fun. Everything I did, I went twice as hard as I should’ve, was always going overboard, so they just called me Merkules. I’d been Merk for awhile so they kind of took the whole hercules thing and threw Merk in there and I became Merkules and I kinda just stuck with it. I sort of evolved from Merk Mikz to Merkules. I was just a little skinny kid when I was Merk Mikz now I’m a big, fat, ugly beast, know what I’m sayin’?
How did you (Suitable Ties) get together and become a group?
Prada: Well I’m originally from the island myself. I’m from Victoria, spent most of my life in Victoria. Although, I’ve only been living out here on the mainland for just over 3 years. But I moved up to Nanaimo for a little while and lived up there where I met Konfidential and became aware he was an emcee. At the time I wasn’t performing or anything, I was just more or less writing raps and when I met Konfidential I actually did my first show with him and that was late 2009 I think, or early 2010. So from there I started doing more shows and I had come across Snak the Ripper. I met Snak at a show on the island and took a liking to some of his shit, and me and Kon were still doing our thing a little bit, but then I met Merk through Snak maybe like a year later after that. Me and Merk became pretty close and started working on music together and then I had introduced him to Konfidential. By that time we had already done our first track together. It was a track called No Matter Where I Go. It took on quite a few hits right away, it kind of blew up. And then from there we had decided, well we had fans hitting us up saying we should become a group, so from there we all decided to become a crew together with the name Suitable Ties, because the way it worked was I met Merk through Snak and then Merk met Konfidential through me, so it was like suitably tied together, know what I’m sayin’?
Merk: It was probably late 2010, early 2011 when the whole Suitable Ties thing started coming together
How does it feel to be part of one of the biggest hip-hop movements in BC (Ephin/Stompdown) and how has that helped your careers?
Merk: Well it’s helped my career since day one. When I first started coming around the Ephin shop I was just a fan of everybody, just a fan of the graffiti. I was just your average kid supporting the store, buying gear all the time. I was the number one customer, they had a little picture of me on the wall at one point. But yeah, I was just a fan, and then a couple years went by and I became good friends with Snak and Vision, the owner of Ephin and Capital Q and all those guys. So I had always been coming around but eventually one day I decided I’m going to approach Snak and see what he thinks of my writing. And immediately after that he was like “Yeah, I like this part of it and you should fix this part of it, maybe do this instead of that.” Gave me a couple pointers, I went to the studio with him and did one of my first songs with him. This was when I was still Merk Mikz obviously. And everything came about from that, I started doing tours with all those guys and everything just sort of came together. The whole Stompdown thing man, I mean, I’ve been rapping with these guys for a couple years now and I think I’ve kind of earned my place in the crew, you know what I mean? It’s safe to say that I’ve worked hard enough to be in the position I’m in now. Obviously I feel blessed to have all these people behind us. Definitely it’s an honor to say that I’m a part of it all. But from day one it’s been a goal that I had. It’s sort of like a childhood dream to be in the same peer group as these dudes and dreams come true.
What’s your favorite part of being a hip-hop artists?
Prada: Favorite part of being a hip-hop artist? Man, it’s the natural high I get when I’m on stage and I have fans screaming at me and reciting my lyrics while I’m rapping. To see that shit is like next level. There’s nothing better than that. To have people congratulate you on like…that have watched you progress from day one and seen how fast you’ve become who you are when you’re constantly putting in work, there’s no better feeling than that, man I just love hip-hop, you know what I mean?
Merk: I’d say probably for me, like having people approach me and tell me that what I have to say or whatever, that when they hear my music it helps their situation. That’s a huge factor for me, just to have put something together and put it out there and have it change somebody’s point of view when it comes to their own situation and what’s going on in their lives, it’s just one of those things. To be able to help people and change people’s lives from simply doing what you love is a blessing, know what I mean? To be able to do what I love and have other people take that in their own way and make it whatever they want. Being able to do what I love at the same time is the best. And like Prada said, being onstage and the rush that comes along with it. It’s all hip-hop, that’s why I love it.
Merk, last year you released your first official studio album ‘Canadian Bacon’. Tell me a bit about your experience putting the album together.
Merk: Canadian Bacon kind of put itself together. I started working with this producer Timeless. He’s out in Philadelphia and he’s moving to New York now to do some things. We just met over Facebook and he introduced me to a couple bigger name in the business and I ended up linking up with a few dudes he knew that he produced for. So I ended up doing songs with a few legends like Rass Kass, CL Smooth and a couple other people. So that was an honor obviously to be on tracks with legends like that. I had already been rapping for a few years and just to not have a record out there yet was kind of wierd. I had a mixtape that I did when I first started, but I didn’t really put it out there much because I wasn’t really happy with it. But Canadian Bacon kind of put itself together. I had to do the Stompdown tour and I had all this music I was sitting on. I’m the kind of guy that just puts songs out on YouTube as singles and I was getting great feedback, but everyone wanted an actual hard copy album, so I put it together and we did the Stompdown tour, but as far as sales went, it did good. I got it on iTunes now. As far as a first album I’m happy with the feedback everyone’s giving me. I’m still making a bit of money here and there off that record. Then I put out the Bacon Bits EP after that, which is my latest work so far, but we got lots on the way, my next album, the EP with Prada that’s about to drop, yeah man, we’re just working hard.
What’s the best show you’ve ever played and why?
Prada: We’ve done alot of shows apart, so I’d have to say that one of the craziest ones I’ve done was an MGK show which had easily over a thousand people there. That was at the Commodore here in Vancouver. That was a few months ago…What about you Merk?
Merk: I remember in 2010 before Suitable Ties I had performed at the Vancouver Art Gallery for 4/20 and there was like thousands and thousands of people there, which was like, super nerve-wracking. Usually when most artists go up there they just do their thing and maybe like 30% of the crowd pays attention and actually listens. So I walked up there thinking that’s what it was going to be like but instead it was just like all eyes on me. Then I did a Tech N9ne show with Snak awhile back, that was pretty crazy. It was a full house. One of the more recent shows I’ve played was we did a show with Vinnie Paz and Ill Bill in Saskatoon, which was pretty crazy. I have yet to crowd surf, and I’ll feel bad for the people under me when that eventually goes down. But these crowds keep getting bigger so who knows? Maybe they’ll get stronger too.
How do you think the internet and social media have impacted your careers?
Prada: In a huge way man, a huge way. Without that shit…back in the day before we had any of this promotional stuff going on on the internet, it was almost impossible for musicians and artists to make a buzz as fast as any of us have generated. It’s just the next level of promotional stuff that we have to excell in the game nowadays, you know?
Merk: It’s different with the internet now, because it used to be everyone out there buying records. People would be selling records out of their trunk on the corner like you see in movies and stuff like that. It was actually like that. And now it’s like…Yeah everybody makes CD’s and stuff like that but you can put a record out there and 80% of the time it’s not even really about hard copy sales anymore because people can just download your music online, so there’s other ways that people make money now. YouTube pays people now when they start getting a certain amount of views, so obviously the internet is super helpful, but it can also not work in your favour so much when it comes to stuff like obviously you can put your album out there where people can just download it, but at the same time, with everybody in the world, that’s how you make fans. You just network and network and network. Like I’ll just post whatever’s on my mind and have everybody just feel it and just become fans. You make new fans every day because of the internet and it’s a beautiful thing, so yeah..shout outs to the internet.
Who are some of your favorite artists and producers to work with?
Merk: Right now I’ve got a whole bunch of producers I’ve been working with; N-JIN, Steps Necessary, EMB from Saskatoon, Timeless, few shout-outs to the homie Nato, he edits and mixes and masters a lot of our stuff. But as far as artists go, I like to keep my circle tight, you know what I mean? I just like to work with people in our crew. If an opportunity comes about I’ll work with other people. As far as people I’d like to work with, all my fans know I’m a huge Vinnie Paz fan, Devin the Dude fan, Jadakiss fan, stuff like that. But obviously I’ve got to work towards working with those type of people. But those are the type of people I’d like to work with.
Prada: Funny thing is me and Merk got a lot in common, so you can take his answers and use them for myself as well.
You do quite a bit of touring. What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you on the road?
Merk: Touring’s crazy.
Prada: It’s war haha.
Merk: I got a lot of things I could say right now, but I feel like if I did, they’d catch up to me. On the last tour I just did, the White Dynamite tour, I was onstage rapping and obviously I like to take my shirt off for all my sets to represent the whole bacon over bitches movement that I started. So I was onstage doing a show with Snak. It was me, Snak and Jaclyn Gee just doing our thing, doing our set when all of a sudden some girl just grabs the waist of my underwear and just slides a $50 bill into my underwear. And I looked down and thought ok, she’s just joking. Then I look to the left and her boyfriend’s there and he’s just staring at me with his thumbs up like “Yeah man!” I mean, it was cool and shit, but super wierd. But I ended up taking that $50 and going to Popeye’s. There’s a lot of good stories, but ones I can’t tell or I’ll have all the homies calling me like “Man, how could you tell him about that shit??”
What sort of things do your fans have to look forward to from you in the future?
Merk: Lots man. Right now we got this new album we’re working on, the new EP that’s about to drop, with Prada and I, the Lost and Found EP. We’re looking to put visuals to a lot of these songs, so a lot of new videos and stuff like that. That’s pretty much it, we always got new stuff coming out.
Merk: Yeah, shout-outs to you for making the interview, shout outs to our crew Stompdown Killaz, shout-outs to Ephin Apparel, bacon and the guy that made it. And shout-outs to positive vibes and good weed…Suitable Ties, out!
Be sure to download Merkules’ album Canadian Bacon on iTunes, download the Bacon Bits EP for free. You can find Prada West and Merkules on Facebook or on Twitter @merkulesmusic and @pradawestmusic. Also check out www.merkules.com and www.pradawest.com for videos, music, tour dates and more!