Getting Real with Mighty Ceej McElroy
By: Jason Savio, March 27, 2012
MIGHTY CEEJ - Sandwich rapper Charles McElroy, otherwise known as Mighty Ceej, is taking his sound from under the Sagamore Bridge to the big lights of LA.
Charles McElroy, better known as Mighty Ceej in hip hop circles, is no stranger to hard work and dedication. The Sandwich-based hip-hop artist has gone from selling his own self-produced albums out of the back of his car to recording his newest offering, “StereoFame,” professionally in Los Angeles.
Having been introduced to the idea of scratching records by a family friend at the young age of nine, it wasn’t long before he began making his own mix tapes and recording beats. An adept student of the genre, McElroy’s brand of hip hop is alternative and honest, an attribute he owes to his influences, A Tribe Called Quest and the Wu-Tang Clan.
In 2006, McElroy took it upon himself to create his own record label, Mighty Ceej Records, under which he released his first three albums, including the popular “The Answer.”
His latest album, “StereoFame,” marks a departure for McElroy as he received a surprise phone call asking him to fly out to L.A. to record it with producers Tomas Costanza and Chad Rollinson.
Grounded and humble, McElroy can also be seen performing with the rock-reggae group Boombasnap and taking part in a hip hop festival at the Sandwich Taverna every summer.
InsideOUT Cape Cod caught up with the Mighty Ceej to rap about the future of hip hop on Cape Cod.
I/O: You recorded your new album StereoFame in L.A. How did that come about?
McElroy: Somehow some kid here sent [“The Answer’] to some entertainment guy who sent it to his buddy in New Jersey who sent it to his buddy in LA, and his buddy in L.A. is [Tomas Costanza], who produced it and took an interest in doing a record with me.
They had never done a rap album; they do all kinds of music, the last band that they just produced in there was Blues Traveler [so] they’re mainly that kind of pop-rock stuff but he took an interest in me. My style of hip hop is different. It’s a little more unique, a little more alternative so I think he took a liking to that.
I/O: What did you learn from that experience?
McElroy: I learned a lot. You go out there thinking that you know what you’re doing but you have no idea. Boot camp is what I compare it to ‘cause they break you down to build you back up. The first few days [consist of] them pretty much telling you how much you [are no good]. Obviously, you know they don’t think that because they [sought] you out and they want you there, but there’s a lot of vocal coaching. The problem is not what you’re saying, but how you’re saying it.
I/O: How do the professionals do things differently?
McElroy: Here, doing records with local dudes, I’d write my stuff, get in the booth, [and] get it done. Quick day, ya’ know? Out there, it was 12-hour days. Sometimes we would work eight hours on one song. And that’s just the reality of the business if you want to make a pro record. Tomas [the producer] is amazing, he knows his stuff. He basically just told me you need to say [the lyrics] so I can feel it; you can’t just say it like a flat line with no emotion.
I/O: Having seen both L.A.’s music scene and the Cape’s, how do you now view the Cape?
McElroy: Well, that was my first time to L.A. and really the farthest I got out of the studio was the Starbucks down the street (laughs). We worked the whole time, but we did get to go out one night to an open mic and the music scene there puts the music scene here to shame.
The difference I would say with the West Coast and the Cape is that on the Cape, people like cover bands. They want covers, they want stuff that they know, and out there you see a lot of people who want improv. They want original stuff, stuff they’ve never heard before which I thought was really cool. I think we need to appreciate [that] more here. I think that the Cape is jam-packed with talent; it’s just that sometimes it’s frustrating for the artists because people don’t really want [originals].
I/O: You describe yourself as an artist with an eye for the future of music. Where do you see hip hop music going in the next few years? How will it be different from today?
McElroy: It’s all in perspective. With the exception of a few artists in the mainstream, right now it’s kind of stale hip hop, especially lyrically. I’m somebody who’s really into the lyrics. To me, the eye of the future of music is something brand new, something unique. The future of art has to be something brand new, something I’ve never heard before, and that’s what I try to make, what I try to bring to the table.
I/O: What advice would you give young artists trying to break into the music biz today?
McElroy: Be yourself, always. Never try to be anybody else. Don’t be afraid to invest your own money into your music. You’re going to lose a lot of money at first but it’s the best thing in the world [to] put out an album. Don’t try to make a demo and sell it to people. Just be you and then the industry will come to you. That’s kind of what happened to me.