Rapper Hazard Hayes Talks About Navigating Creativity in COVID-19 Times

By: Julio Taku
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Michael Hayes a.k.a. “Hazard Hayes” is a 24-year-old rapper from Brentwood. He comes from a musical family with a brother that plays the bass, acoustic, electric guitar, harmonica, piano and can read and write sheet music; his uncle played in a band and he himself used to play violin in his earlier years, but wasn’t the best at reading sheet music. Hayes would eventually give up the violin during high school, but kept music close to him. Although he was most often surrounded by rock and roll music more than anything, it wasn’t “doing it” for him. 

His music taste diverged from that to rap. Hayes cites rapper KRS-One’s album “The Essential Boogie Down Productions” as the first of many that he learned the lyrics to and would enjoy with his brother. He was always a fan of hip hop culture and rap music, but didn’t get into creating his own music until he was 17. In this interview we discuss his early encounters with rap, past projects, creating during the COVID-19 pandemic and how the current climate has affected his music.  

When did you first get into music? What and who inspired you?

Ever since I can remember I loved music. Hearing Eminem on the radio and growing up around my friends listening to other old school hip hop artists like Krs-One, Cypress Hill and Black Sheep just to name a few – they really got me into it and inspired me.

What inspired your first project? What was the reception? How did people receive it?

My first project was inspired by pure devotion to actually recording and releasing a project. I had everything I needed and around the time of 2017 many popular hip-hop artists were the inspiration behind the sound. I called it “Hazard Tape.” A lot of people liked it and I did too, but I’m sure there were those who didn’t like it. I grew to not like it.

Rapper Hazard Hayes Talks About Navigating Creativity in COVID-19 Times

Who were your biggest supporters? Who were your biggest doubters?

My day ones, parents and some people I had never met before! As far as doubters, pretty much everyone else.

What has been the hardest part of creating during the current pandemic?

Deciding what and how to write about what is currently up in this country. Given the pandemic, it has given me a good head space and alone time to pursue creating my next project.

Given the unprecedented amount of down time due to quarantine, what have you learned about yourself as a person and an artist during this pandemic?

I’ve learned that I have what I need to pursue this entirely, especially after my last creation. Time spent afterwards really showed me what I wrote and I was able to reflect. I believe I know who I am and what I represent.

Rapper Hazard Hayes Talks About Navigating Creativity in COVID-19 Times
?: @holdmydrip

Have you been more or less creatively productive?

Way more productive, I feel like a machine half the time.

How have you managed to remain engaged with your fanbase without the ability to tour or throw concerts?

Simply engaging really, and basic networking, it goes a long way to show others just who you are and if you’re genuine about it or not.

How has the current social uprising affected your music?

It has inspired me. The basis for my next tape pretty much, certain subjects have been added to my criteria, so to speak. 

Julio Taku

Julio Taku

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” - James Baldwin. That quote rings so true for me because of the world we live in today. Oftentimes, the truth is obscured or hidden from us for any number of reasons. This effectively blinds us from getting the full story. I see it as my duty to help clear the blind spots we tend to ignore whether it be in history, modern times or in the future. As a student journalist at Stony Brook University, I am working to contextualize modern events through relevant historical lenses. Nothing exists in isolation and it’s important to understand this when analyzing contemporary issues. This is especially true in matters of culture, race and gender. My work exists to diversify the narratives and stories in journalism. I currently serve as Culture editor at The Stony Brook Press where I do just that and amplify the voices of others. Twitter: @Julio_Taku Facebook: Julio Taku Jr. Instagram: @julio_taku

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