Maurice “Docman” Robinson is a 22-year old MC who has moved around the United States throughout his lifetime. One location where he spent the majority of life and where he calls home today is Queens – a borough of New York City that is responsible for breeding hip hop talent like Nas, Mobb Deep, and plenty of others.
While he spent his youth avoiding the streets under the guidance of his close cousin, LG, it was he who inspired Docman to take up rapping more seriously in 2007. Docman cut his teeth releasing 20 mix tapes of the course of a few years, and as he readies his debut full length, he took the time to answer a few questions for us:
You’ve attributed your love of rhyming to the influence of your late cousin. Tell us a bit more about how this came about.
Docman: Growing up in the area of New York I came from, there are three types of people. You have the drug dealers – these guys have a certain itch for quick cash. Whether it is to imitate rappers on television or to provide for their wellbeing, those guys are trapped in their minds. They have no way out.
The second person is the athlete. This is usually the person that isn’t tough at all. They are usually the class clown at school or very studious. When they come back to the neighborhood, they are quiet with their head down. Their way out is a scholarship to a Division 1 college out of town.
Then you have the third person, the artist. This is me. This person is studious on the low, but doesn’t show it. He is influenced by the people around him. These people create his story. This is where my cousin, LG, falls into place. He was the drug dealer. He did what he had to do to make sure we were OK. He would never let me get into drug dealing.
On the corner he would freestyle all day, so I freestyled. When he died I felt empty. So I credit my ability to him. I feel like it’s my way to connect with his soul. I had the little brother syndrome bad.
Who do you consider some of your biggest influences in hip hop?
My biggest influences come from Tupac, Kendrick Lamar, Redman, and Method Man. Tupac influences me to stay true to myself. Kendrick influences my creativity. Redman and Method Man influence my goofy side.
When I start to work on a new album, I don’t really talk about how I feel at the moment. The reason is because once the music is released, that feeling may be different. So I create something that could live on its own. Tupac created music that complemented a situation any person could relate to.
When I first heard Kendrick Lamar, I immediately fell in love with his creativity. It’s like a painting from Picasso, every time you look at the piece, you get something different. That influences me to create different meanings within the music.
Redman and Method Man were my first favorite rappers. That is where I got the idea to change my name from Doc to Docman. One thing that stuck with me from them is that they are silly, but still true to who they are. They aren’t afraid to be that ‘funny guy’ around a bunch of smileless thugs.
Queensbridge is a household name for hip hop fans. How has the time you spent growing up there impact your lyrics?
When it comes to Queensbridge music, people expect for you to be gangster. When Nas came out it was different. Instead of talking about killing people and selling drugs, he told stories of people that did it and how it affected their lives. Mobb Deep, Tragedgy, Cormega, and Nature were the typical QB rappers.
I wanted to be different from that. I want to be the mainstream guy out of Queensbridge and be accepted for it. There are a lot of artists ‘going commercial’ with their sound, but their first break isn’t that. My first shot at commercial will be a commercial sound. Of course, while staying true to myself – my edge will be there. When I say commercial I mean more a neo soul sound. Like Erykah Badu and Common.
What do you hope to convey to young fans and aspiring MCs living in similar conditions?
The best thing an upcoming artist can do is to focus on monetizing their music. Free mixtapes are cool for marketing and promotion, but if you don’t have a follow-up plan to monetize your moves, you are wasting time.
What do you consider to be some of the opportunities and challenges when it comes to making independent hip hop in NYC?
An opportunity to independent hip hop in NYC is the ability to influence the culture. NYC is the hardest place to get on, because there are so many styles. This mix of styles is a good thing because you put it all in your sound.
The challenge is also the fact that there are so many styles. Creating something new and refreshing isn’t an easy task.
I love it all because if you do break, those are the artists that have long, healthy careers.
In what ways have you been able to craft your live performance? What has your touring experience been like so far?
Live performing, in my eyes, is separate from the music. It is an art in itself. Understanding what makes people feel good about themselves is a power the artist has to possess.
Performing in your hometown is different from performing in another city, because every region has a different type of people. That is one thing I have mastered. I am such a people person, not to get along with everyone, but to understand people in different regions. It’s a study.
Touring is wonderful. Being at this stage in my career has showed me to take constructive criticism, disrespectful criticism, and planning criticism. Touring has actually made it hard for me to properly receive good feedback. I’m so used to people throwing dirt at my name. So when someone comes along and gives me positive feedback it’s like, “Maybe they’re just saying this because they’re in my face”.
Me and touring have a love/hate relationship.
You’ve dropped a whopping 20 mixtapes from 2008-2012! How has your style evolved, and how have you used the feedback you’ve received on this music?
Those 20 mixtapes were practice to me. Those were records that helped me mold my signature sound. The music I made back then was gangster, neo soul, underground, and pop. It was like trying out different foods from a sampler plate to see which one I like and which one will work.
My style has matured a lot more. All of my music back then was full of raw talent and ideas. Nothing was organized into complete ideas. My music now is very focused on a theme or idea. Making music now is creating a moment for someone to live by, not just to showcase my rapping ability. When people hear my music now it’s like pulling a section from their heart and putting it in sonic format.
What prompted you to start your Empier Entertainment label? What are your goals for the business venture?
Empier Entertainment was originally called Junior Hustle Click (JHC). It was me, TBronz, JK, Babyboy, and DJ Roybass. This was the period of 2008-2012. In 2013 we decided we need a change. We got together and thought of names. We came to a conclusion to name it ‘Empire’, because of the amount of people that were in the group. We felt like Empire was too common. So we decided to switch the letters around.
My plans for Empier Entertainment is to make it more than just music. I would like to get into motion pictures, technology, and photography. Anything dealing with entertainment, I want my company to have its hand in it.
Go into detail about your upcoming full length. What are you hoping to achieve as an artist with this release?
I’m Leaving: A Story Narrated by Ilunaee is a film in the form of music. The story line of the album starts off with lust. I have relations with the girl in the story (Marrisa Ayala) and fall for her based off of the sex. It then leads to her meeting my woman friend (music).
She doesn’t understand the relationship that we have, so she goes off and messes around on me. I find out, then start to question whether I love her or hate her. After contemplating, I decide I hate her. So at this point I’m having thoughts of killing her. I finally calm down and understand that I am better off with my friend (music).
Throughout the entire album, Marissa leaves various messages pleading to get back with me.
Another thing with the album is the poems recited by my girlfriend, Tenae Johnson. When I first met Tenae I read her handle name as “ill-a-nay” when really it is “I-luv-u-ney”. It is something I’ve always teased her about.
The way I wanted to do the album is have her tell my story through her poetry.