Starker: Living The Dream
The rapper and star of the latest Aime Leon Dore and Ralph Lauren ads speaks
Jeff Bezos once said, “All overnight success takes about ten years”, and in the case of @ghostnacekillah, the Amazon don is spot on. It’s been a decade since the independent rapper, real name Nacio, aka Starker, burst on the underground scene with “Lo Ceasar” – a duo debut with his friend, YL. Now, ten years later, the underground king is knocking on mainstream’s door, while starring in ad campaigns for the red hot Aime Leon Dore and Polo Ralph Lauren. Starks is known for weaving punchlines in while speeding up the flow and this interview did not disappoint, hopefully I caught everything.
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J.E.: How are you approaching the music business?
L.T.D.: I just continue to be consistent with my work. I’ve been doing this for over ten years now. Still sticking to the same sound over time, the work speaks for itself. Not piggy-backing off anyone else’s movement or sound. At the beginning, nobody cared. I started sharing material on IG and Soundcloud, which led to me making global connections. One day, somebody called me and said, “there’s demand for you in Japan.. we need you here to do a show”. I went to Japan. Now I’m getting hit up from Germany, London and so on. When people see something is going on and they appreciate it, they want to add on to the situation.
L.T.D.: I’m developing relationships with the next generation of professionals in this industry. I tap in with them on a personal level. If it makes sense, I go. I don’t do anything that any artist can’t do. It’s not all about the music. Execute. If you’re fooling around with the music shit, it might amount to something - it might not. Two years ago, I was speaking with a friend and said, “I wish I could get some little looks like GQ or something”. I wanted to be in a Polo ad. All the effort I put into it from then to now is what got me here. It’s not a really mistake. Be consistent.
J.E.: Where do you see things going from here?
L.T.D.: I’m a full time rapper - I’m engulfed in my career. People are paying attention. I don’t know where it’s going exactly. I’m meeting with labels - people hit me up now - the higher ups. I’m opening up for Boldy James in August. I am trying to be more of a household name in the underground scene. Roc Marciano, Earl Sweatshirt. I’m in the conversation and now I want to stay in it. I just did some artwork with Westside Gunn. He sees me as more than a rapper. We did his album cover. I drew this character he likes. I drew on the back of my court papers the other day when I got arrested with Post. Just my luck.
J.E.: How important is a cosign to you?
L.T.D.: Half the battle of being an artist is having another artist take an interest in you. You have people that won’t put you in position, that go out of their way to show you there is no handout. That’s the process dealing with artists that are doing better than you; paying your dues might never end. I have to put myself on. Nobody wants to put me on. The story of getting put on is people see you in a different context. Fuck this little homie shit. I’m going to come outside on my own terms with my own name and put myself on. If you are not going to notice my music, you are going to notice the fashion. If you aren’t going to notice the fashion, you’ll notice the graffiti. Something is going to give. I’m not really a one dimensional person.
L.T.D.: I don’t need to pay dues and do the oki-doke to fit in with traditional people and their system for success. I use the internet to my advantage. I use the platforms we already use, instead of thinking some artist is going to let me open up for him next week and then it doesn’t happen. I’m going to Goblin Studios on my own accord. I don’t need an invitation from a third party. You hear stories like, “I’m a rapper from Kentucky, we had an EA Sports rap battle in my neighborhood and I won”. Here’s the truth about being a New York artist. You are up against a lot of talented people and it is every man for himself. That’s human nature. I found a way to prevail while still being a standup dude. Nobody can say I didn’t do right by them.
J.E.: Where did your fashion sense come from?
L.T.D.: Growing up, I was exposed to someone very materialistic at a young age - my Dad was fly. I would get in trouble if my sneakers were dirty. If i went outside to play and wore Jordans, it was a nightmare. I was supposed to know better, to treat things better. I couldn’t have dirty things as a kid. I was amazed by it all. One time, we were going to play golf. I wore white low top patent leather 9s. He said, “you really think you are going to wear those to play golf”? He turned the car around.
L.T.D.: I’m like that with my son. I tell him, “don’t mess up a good pair of shoes”. It’s definitely a particular way to be about objects that are going to depreciate in life. I tell my son, “Be nice to your clothes. You can’t be playing in the street”. He says, “Clothes are not people”! He’s right, but you have to be mindful. My parents didn’t have it like that, so i had to take care of these items. I was 7, 8 years old and everybody was kicking and screaming and I’m like, “I can’t mess this up”. So I’ll get my son Crocs, or slip-on Nike’s. He’s a child, I just want him to enjoy his life. I’m tired of imposing myself on him. Am i going to wear Crocs? No. But I just want him to be normal.
J.E.: A lot of people think they were born into fashion.
L.T.D.: Yeah. A lot of fashion kids find a picture of themselves with Oshkosh and fire red ‘5s and say, “I was born into this”. No you were not. As a kid, you weren’t participating mentally. Every parent was buying their kids that. A lot of these kids paint themselves into fashion. Fashion came to me. I never had it out for fashion.
L.T.D.: It’s funny because those same fashion kids put the clothes on the wrong way. They are not scientific with their outfits. They let the outfit wear them. They let the shirt wear them. Believe me when I say this - I go out of my way to put on these clothes - it does nothing for me with women. This Polo shit is borderline a costume to these kids. They see me and now they want to wear it. The more I get into the fashion world the more I realize I don’t want any part of it. They chew you up and spit you out.
J.E.: What drives you to dress this way?
L.T.D.: I’m putting it on for the generation that came before me. I’m a Five Percenter. I believe in mathematics and that you will live on through the youth. If you are on good terms with the youth, they will talk about you ‘til they die, like, “That was the older God who put me on”. I’m an oddball, one of the only people wearing Polo like this. I make it look less strange to a young man. The kids wearing Amiri don’t care about Polo. I might wear a Stadium shirt to a strip club while all the kids there will be wearing the same Christian Dior. I put on for the people that did it before me at the end of the day. This really isn’t coming out of thin air.
J.E.: You were a sneakers guy before Polo, right?
L.T.D.: Correct. Me personally, this Polo shit is secondary.. I come from sneakers. If I care about you, it’s a must that you have nice sneakers. I need my family to have the right footwear.. my son, his mother, my own mother - who refuses to wear everything I bought her in my life - everybody needs proper kicks. If you have nice sneakers thats the beginning of something special to me.
L.T.D.: Shoes paint a picture beyond words for me. Before I spent $200 on any Polo, I was buying sneakers. Polo is just a whole different sport. Whole different animal. I wouldn’t wish this sickness on any of my loved ones. Don’t compromise your whole life on shirts you’ll never wear.
J.E.: On to the Polo then.
L.T.D.: Yeah. At first, I thought Polo was for big and burly dudes. Guys that I saw wearing Polo were big like Post and Mayhem. I’m looking at Post or Tommy Rebel, they would be wearing a long bill hat, Cycle Jacket, Snow Beach. I’m thinking, “my little ass is never going to look right in these clothes”.
L.T.D.: I started rocking it and my Mom told me, “You do a disservice to yourself wearing these clothes”. I’m wearing North Face and Carhartt pants with Polo. That type of shit to me is scientific. I like to see people wearing a shirt from 1992 with Olympic ‘7s. I like people who are very considerate about every thing that was going on at that moment when a piece came out. Polo is meant to be worn. I like when people wear their shit. My tolerance is running low for people that put their shit on the floor. Polo is Hermes for us. That’s what we’re all fighting for - that’s our luxury brand. Just put it on.
J.E.: How do you feel about where Polo is going, both in terms of retros from the company and input from fans in the form of customs?
L.T.D.: I bought the retro Stadium tank top and paid an astronomical price for it because I’m a rapper and need to make sure I was seen in it before any other rapper. I’m going to assert myself as the Polo artist. I’m not going to get beat out of my position by another artist because they have more money or followers than Starks. I’m supposed to be the Polo guy. As soon as I wore it in a video or performance, I sold it. I have never had a custom in my life. I hope people start having a little imagination. Beyond the garments there’s so many other things you can do to recreate a conversation.. to rekindle a flame. Reproducing it with a different fabric doesn’t do anything for it. Silk shirt for a rayon? That’s like whole wheat pancakes.. thats a healthy snack - not pancakes. That shit is not Polo its a nice try. You lose integrity if you put that on your back. You have to have integrity. You can’t be wearing these replica shirts and hoodies. It takes away the allure. We don’t wear them because of the image but more the story behind them. I wanted a white P-Wing hoody the other day, so I bought one - I didn’t make one. I go hard for hats and I won’t accept a replica hat.
L.T.D.: Me personally, I’m not here to bring interest in something people aren’t interested in. If you like shirts, buy them. I’m not here to get in your way. I’m not going to buy all the Polo Country graphic shirts. I play for hats, thats my game. I pride myself in hats, especially in my age these hats come around in gaps of years every five years. Thirty years ago, someone left that hat in school. Or they were riding their bicycle and the hat flew off their head. The hat got dirty or someone gave it away.. because no one knew it was going to come to this point.
L.T.D.: Hats are so special, they are the cherry on top of the banana split. The icing on the cake. The crown on your head. You have the RL 2000 fleece on, it just might be your dads. Nothing’s a mistake when you have the hat on. Everything’s well calculated at that point.
J.E.: So would you say a hat is your favorite all time piece?
L.T.D.: The terry cloth cotton Cycle hat is definitely one of the best hats ever made. In terms of favorite all time pieces I would have to say my P. Tennis; I want to be buried in it. Whoever takes care of my body puts the P. Tennis on my back. It’s more morbid than anything. I look at that piece and think about when I’m going to die. Normal people like a piece they got laid in or something nice happened for them in. So my Climb rugby. Especially since I got in a large, that is the best thing that ever happened to me. Nah.. the best thing that ever happened to me is my son, Milo, aka Baby Milo!
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