Interview: I am Hip Hop Meet StrawHat Dynasty (@StrawHatDynasty)

strawhatdynastyiamhiphopI caught up with Julz from the New York based twin duo Strawhat Dyn­asty to talk hip hop. Hav­ing just released their FREE online mix­tape, ‘Wel­come to Hell­s­Gate’ I wanted to find out more about their sound and influ­ences.  

What’s up Julz please intro­duce your­self and tell me a little about how you formed a rap group?

Well I’m Juli­an Julz Pacheco, born and raised nat­ive of New York City, hail­ing from the bor­ough of Queens, rep­ping my neigh­bor­hood Astor­ia.  All the com­pon­ents of my nat­ur­al hip hop life, and New York upbring­ing led me to the art of MCing  (Rap).  About 6 years ago I dis­covered I could rap.  It was on a long Train ride home from the beach, I pulled out my sidekick LX (my phone at the time) and went to the notes sec­tion.  I remembered think­ing to myself “man I really love hip hop, and Eng­lish class was my best subject…I won­der, would I be able to rap? “ After a long 2 hour train ride home, I had writ­ten my first verse, which till this day is one of my favor­ite verses.  I had dis­covered a gift, but little did I know how far I was going to be will­ing to take it later on.

The first thing I did was show my broth­ers, my bboy (break dance) crew which I had cre­ated on high-school “5 Crew Dyn­asty “.  At this point in our bboy lives we had just star­ted trav­el­ing the World bat­tling and rep­res­ent­ing for NY.  I con­tin­ued to play around with this gift of mine for about a year, my twin broth­er Anthony “Trix” Pacheco had seen my growth and his curi­os­ity grew as well.  It was at this time he dis­covered he had the gift as well.

As all of this occurred my broth­er and I had been start­ing to listen to the new “underground/independent” hip hop scene.  Artist such as “Big Wax and Hop­sin ”  had blown our minds, and taught us that hip hop was not dead, it’s just moved on to a dif­fer­ent scene, the new age digit­al media.  And it was now pos­sible to make it on your own as an artist.  After that we had decided that we would Hone our new found nat­ur­al abil­it­ies and become all around deadly MC’S.  Who would mani­fest hip hop through our own image and exper­i­ences. From deep with­in the cul­ture our strength would all come from our bboy­ing, I’m twenty five years of age but I feel at least 5 years older.

It sounds like you have a real deep rooted love for Hip Hop, how did you first fall in love with it?

Hip hop to us was nev­er just music, it was a whole cul­ture that we just happened to stumble upon.  Some would call it chance, oth­er­’s may see it as des­tiny.  My fath­er Julio “Baby Flip” Pacheco was a gif­ted gym­nast in the 1980’s and had been engulfed in the cre­ation of the cul­ture we now know as Hip hop.  Rep­ping Queens with his crew known as “The Young City Boys”.  I always seen him bboy­ing grow­ing up as a kid at fam­ily parties and events.  When me and my broth­er were 9 years older he showed us an old movie called “Breakin”.  I believe at that moment our lives changed forever.

After watch­ing “Breakin”  our entire lives for the next 4 years would be con­sumed by 1980’s cul­ture, from music, to movies, to the way we lived our lives.  Noth­ing but Afrika Bam­baataa,  Grand­mas­ter Flash, run dmc and many more found­ing hip hop icons bumped through our head­phones.  From Michael Jack­son videos, to Rocky Bal­boa movies , to the free­style music my moth­er listened to every day while clean­ing and cook­ing.

But it was­n’t until middle school,  when me and Anthony would dis­cov­er beat street,  wild style, the true art of bboy­ing,  and meet the legendary Ken Swift without even know­ing who he really was.

So you’ve been heav­ily influ­enced by the bboy cul­ture, bboys didn’t orgini­ally listen to hip hop back in the day, so you must have had a diverse range of music­al influ­ences?

Our music­al influ­ences that con­trib­uted to our abil­ity to write and cre­ate rhymes was really just how we nat­ur­ally grew up in NYC and the heavy influ­ences of the music we would find ourselves bboy­ing to in the early to late 2000’s.  When your a hard­core bboy grow­ing up in that era, hours upon hours of old school hip hop, jazz, funk, opera, salsa, and breaks are drilled into your mind.  And what’s more is the body memory you cre­ate when you move to that music.  What I refer to as “The side groups”  were what we would Dance to every day.  The groups that aren’t really referred to as the heavy/main stream hit­ters.  Groups such as “The Fu Schnick­ens,  The Phar­cyde, Organ­ized Kon­fu­sion, Da Bush Babees,  and many more. Funk and soul was man­dat­ory.  “Date With  The Rain, Rock Creek Park, I Believe in mir­acles,  and Jimmy Castors it’s Just Begun were only some of the examples upon hun­dreds of more beats.

I ori­gin­ally met you both as bboys, an art­form which requires a lot of ded­ic­a­tion, how do you man­age your time for both of your pas­sions?

Well bboy­ing has been a major com­pon­ent in my life for as long as I can remem­ber.  Over 10 years, prac­ti­cing and com­pet­ing, and just being a stu­dent to the cul­ture.  I can’t lie , its become dif­fi­cult recently to bal­ance the two, but not because one takes time away from the oth­er, but because I also have to work and take care of my every­day respons­ib­il­it­ies.   For the first time in my life I haven’t been bboy­ing reli­giously,  and a lot of my free time has gone into my music.  Its hard to real­ize because I love bboy­ing so much, and rap just became just as import­ant.  I still prac­tice , but slowed down with my battles, but I plan on return­ing back to the com­pet­it­ive bboy life, that’s why I work so hard on music.

There us no divide in my mind between bboy­ing and rap.  Although they are two dif­fer­ent skills,  there con­cepts and ideo­logy could­n’t be any­more sim­il­ar.  Im not sur­prised since they derive from the same cul­ture.  Bboy­ing is about self expres­sion by cre­at­ing your own move­ment through your body.  Rap is also self expres­sion by cre­at­ing your own lan­guage, the way you talk, the words you used are basic­ally the same thing as the steps you choose to mas­ter in bboy­ing and even­tu­ally cre­ate.

When you free­style in bboy­ing its to work on your impro­visa­tion­al abil­it­ies as well as get to know the nat­ur­al way in which your body moves and flows.  Free­style in rap does the same with the muscle memory in your jaw, which helps your nat­ur­al flow, and also work on your abil­ity to think on the spot.

Bboys also have sets, which are a pre-made order of move­ment that was thought out and prac­ticed in a way to hit every time.  As an MC, we call this our writ­tens, we have pre-writ­ten these veses, and prac­ticed them numer­ous times so we can always hit them per­fectly.

They are both com­pet­it­ive arts as well, and require an extens­ive vocab­u­lary.  Basic move­ment, freezes, and flex­ib­il­ity are the neces­sary vocab­u­lary which can be com­pared to words and flows and con­cepts or rap.

I know you both as bboys and I knew you rapped but I was really sur­prised at the sound of your mix­tape! It was really remin­is­cent of the 90’s with a news­kool flava, I really enjoyed listen­ing to the diversity in it.

I hear a lot of dif­fer­ent flows on this mix­tape, how dif­fi­cult do you find it to switch between dif­fer­ent rhyme pat­terns?

Well we treat our Mcing like we treat our bboy­ing.  We train it, and we train it hard.  Through­out these 5 to 6 years I’ve com­piled a vari­ous amounts of my own tech­niques to improve and learn rap.  Spe­cific­ally in flows to answer your ques­tion.  Rap was the only thing that ever came nat­ur­al to me, everything else in my life ive worked very hard to even become decent at, espe­cially bboy­ing. When start­ing to rap, my flow nat­ur­ally felt advanced and intric­ate,  just not quite as con­trolled as it is now.  In a short amount of time I was able to under­stand and per­form the advanced basics of the 90’s boom bap style of rap flow.  Once I under­stood this, I was able to teach myself oth­er flows at a more rap­id pace.  Some tak­ing more time to learn and under­stand then the oth­ers.  For example, to learn what me and my bro call the “Machine Gun Flow”  which means to flow extremely fast like Twista or Tech N9ne, I listened to noth­ing but fast rap for 5 months straight to even under­stand the basics of this tech­nique.   Once you learn one flow, it becomes easi­er to learn oth­ers, and also enables you to do more with the flows you already know.  You also need to be open minded to dif­fer­ent forms of rap, since its evolved, theres alot more things to cov­er.

This mix­tape has a lot of old mater­i­al, do you have new mater­i­al and how has your style developed?

Not many people are aware that the songs on the mix­tape are 2 to 3 years old.  Old yes, but we have so much faith in them that they are still up to par for a dope mix­tape.  I have writ­ten so many thinga since the songs on the mix­tape, hon­estly my skill level feels light years ahead of whats on the mix­tape.  We are cur­rently cre­at­ing and record­ing new mater­i­al as we speak,  the next mix­tape will feel as if we had just ugraded out of no where ha ha.  I’ve strengthened a lot of my weak­nesses since then, and you will def­in­itely notice a more evolved Julz when you hear what we have for you.

Thank you very much for your time, I’m excited to see what the future brings for you music­ally. Hope to see you very soon!

You can check out the FREE mix­tape here:



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Faizah Cyanide

Faizah Cyanide

Faizah works in clin­ic­al research by pro­fes­sion and has been an avid Hip Hop lov­er since the early 90’s, hav­ing cre­ated her own Hip Hop event, ‘Breakin’ Bound­ar­ies’ in the early 2000’s which was pre­dom­in­antly based around the concept of bboy battles, she has worked with sev­er­al inter­na­tion­al events pro­moters and dan­cers to inspire oth­ers through this art­form.

About Faizah Cyanide

Faizah Cyanide
Faizah works in clinical research by profession and has been an avid Hip Hop lover since the early 90's, having created her own Hip Hop event, 'Breakin' Boundaries' in the early 2000's which was predominantly based around the concept of bboy battles, she has worked with several international events promoters and dancers to inspire others through this artform.