Lounging in the couches in the Lory Student Center, Josh Madry taps his pen to an inaudible beat and notices everything in his quick, almost imperceptible glances around the room.
This is how the CSU sophomore spends his time in between classes: developing lyrics.
“I think of five lines to put in the next song. If I see something funny or sad, I rap about that. It’s really whatever comes to my mind,” he said.
Inspired by artists such as Jay-Z, Madry said, “People are like, ‘he’s a gangsta rapper, but that’s not it. I’m always happy.”
Black Prez is born
Madry was born in Alabama and when he was 6-months-old his family moved to Germany. At age four or five, after becoming fluent in German, he moved back to Colorado, then to Texas and Colorado again.
Madry continued to rap despite the scenic changes, and in eighth grade, Black Prez was born.
“In eighth grade I had to take a speech and debate class. I asked the teacher if I could transfer out, and she said yes, but I had to make a speech convincing the class why I wanted to leave,” Madry said. “I guess I was really convincing. They said, ‘Yea man, you should be, like, the next president.’ That was before Obama.” And that’s how Madry chose the name.
But it wasn’t until he made it to Smoky Hill High School that he got his start.
In high school, Madry took his talent to the next level and began mixing and recording his material.
“I made some remixes, some funny songs. In freshman or sophomore year I started making some real songs,” Madry said. “My friends started saying ‘Hey if you made a CD, I’d buy it.’ So I made a CD with five songs on it and started selling it at school.”
Using makeshift recording equipment, like an AT&T microphone, and mixing through his computer, Madry started his EP.
“In my junior year, I think, my mom helped me and now I have a pretty good studio at home,” Madry said. “She bought me a mixer, mic, computer card, nice headphones.”
Fort Collins scene
When he started college, Madry began performing in talent shows and other shows around Fort Collins.
“I did a show with the a cappella group, Resident RAMblings, I
opened for a comedy show at the LSC auditorium. I’ve rapped in the plaza, in the Ramskeller, Hodi’s, Aggie and a couple house parties,” Madry said.
He has been approached by fraternities and sororities to do house shows and has also been confronted by people who have seen him at shows.
“This kid was looking at me at the Notorious show, and I was thinking, like, do I know him? He came up and said, ‘I’m a big fan. Because of you I know I can play football better, and make music.’ The kid said, ‘This kid went to Smoky Hill, if he can do it, I can,'” Madry said. “There’s little situations like that where I feel like I’m making an impact on people.”
His mother and his “hype-man”
While Madry found inspiration for his music from Jay-Z, his mother and little brother were no less of an influence.
His little brother, who attends almost all of his shows, is his “hype-man,” Madry said.
“I stand up on stage and hype him up,” his brother, Ben, said. “Sometimes I have a verse on some songs that I’ll rap to. I think it’s really cool that he’s stuck with it for so long. It can take him places.”
Madry’s mother has also played a large role in his life.
“She’s my manager, my financial advisor,” Madry said. “I’ll call her, ‘Hey, can I do a show this day,’ she’ll say ‘No, you need this and this.'”
Madry also relies on his mother, and his friends, to critique his songs.
“She’ll tell me what to change, where I can make it better,” Madry said. “My friends are always giving me ideas. If I didn’t know what people wanted to hear I’d be stuck.”
Madry has future shows set up, with one in Las Vegas in the works.
Tonight, though, he is playing at the Aggie with Wiz Khalifa and a performance from the Soulfully Driven Dance Company during a fashion show sponsored by TreStylez.com.
The show will include a live DJ, four musical acts, retail booths for the fashion show and the dance performance from Soulfully Driven Dance Company.
“He (Black Prez) draws a young market,” said Ethan Howard, co-founder of TreStylez.com. “He has a nice following in Colorado. He’s young and ready to get out there and do stuff.”
Staff writer Kelly Bleck can be reached at email@example.com.