Supa Emcee walks in front of the storefront of the shuttered Shantinique Records, at Harper and Holcomb avenues. The building is a vacant shell of peeling paint, with old hip-hop posters staring desperately through the broken windows. "This was the spot right here. I got a lot of good memories about this spot," he says. Supe (as he's commonly called) grew up in Highland Park and still calls the forgotten city within a city his home. "It's my city, it's my relative," he says, while walking toward Highland Park Community High School. "I love this city, I use my notoriety to help with the issues for this city and assist politically."
Born Kent Brown, Supe's career behind the mic started in the '90s and hasn't stopped. "When I was 14 years old I got to rap in front of Rakim, and he was like, 'You're dope as fuck,' and from then it was on," he says with a smile. In 1994, Supe joined the Almighty Dreadnaughtz, a historically significant Detroit rap crew that also featured Hex Murda, Guilty Simpson, Konphlict, Alius Pnukkl, Slautah, Kawshus, O1, D'Phuzion, Shi Dog, Forty da Great, Cysion, and Kuttty Mack. Supe puts his fist in his hand, and lowers his tone. "To become an Almighty Dreadnaught, you just didn't get in because you could rap. You had to be really able to rap, and go through a battle gauntlet of emcees to be accepted. The experience changed the way I freestyled, wrote, performed, and constructed my songs."
Supe's first big break came in 1998. "My man Proof had gotten me in the Blaze battle in L.A. While we were out there, my friend Tone hooked me up with tickets to a live taping of Moesha," he says. Moesha was of course the '90s sitcom that starred urban music stars Brandy, Ray J, and Fredro Starr. "During one of the breaks they asked if anyone had talent in the crowd. I blew them away freestyling and got a role as a stand-in student/rapper," Supe says.
The next boost in Supe's career was his role as a battle rapper in the movie 8 Mile. "They we're having auditions and casting calls all over the city. I made it into a couple of readings and was later cast as an extra," he says between puffs on a Newport. "During one of the breaks, some other emcees formed cyphers and were rapping on set, which made the producers come up with an idea to add local Detroit artists to the film, as rap battle extras. They had a rap-off and Marv Won, D'Phuzion, myself, and Wiz were selected to be the four emcees."
The movie allowed him to tour and make guest appearances on several other projects. However, a signature, blockbuster record deal continued to elude him. But he continued to grind out with live shows. And soon, an old friend kept his promise. "Proof had been telling me that as soon as his D12 stint was over we was going to work," Supe says. And sure enough, in 2005, Supe signed to Proof's Iron Fist Records. "By Any Means Necessary was my first solo mixtape project on Iron Fist Records. Proof was like a big brother plus a mentor to my career. Having one of the few projects to come off of Proof's legendary label means the world to me."
Proof was killed in 2006 while Supe was still working on his album The Hood Hero. Supe takes a long puff from his cigarette before finding his words. "This was a guy that I had come up with in the game. He always kept it one thousand with me. He accomplished the dream of all rappers and had the nerve to come back to contribute to the movement of Detroit hip-hop and put on other artists that he felt needed the help and the love," he says. Supe fought off the vengeful thoughts that came with the tragedy and finished his project in 2007. But without Proof, the album didn't get the attention it needed. "He just wasn't there to guide it and do the things he would have," he says.
Fast forward seven years, and Supe is now signed to the local label Titan. "When I needed a studio to record in, Chris Cronus looked out. I met him through one of my best friends, Valid," he says. "Later I began doing shows with Chris, Valid, and Titan Records. Valid was already signed as an artist on Titan, and it was always love. So Chris and Valid hit me with a bomb idea at how I would fit with Titan, and the rest is immortalized."
Due out June 17, the next album is called Supa Emcee the Immortal. "It is a deep audio interpretation of eternal concepts ranging from immortality, duality, the search for God, the devil, redemption, life, death, the afterlife, the resurrection, and all the things one needs to obtain everlasting life musically as well as physically," he says. The album also features Trick Trick and the Goon Squad, Kuniva of D12, Teisha Lott Brown of Brownstone, Quest MCody, Lakia Nicole, Steffanie Christ'ian, Kid Vishis, Valid, MJ Robinson, Pierre Anthony, and Omari King.
Even though the landscape has changed, Supe still believes he appeals to today's hip-hop fan.
"I want them to know that I got lyrics and I want to wake them up to different ideas and topics this time around. I don't want them to stay on how many people we gon' kill, how many guns we got in the house, how much dope we gon' sell. I want to give them an oasis to the norm of what hip-hop is to this day and age."
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