GET FAMILIAR: Ciurleo
Self-described “hick town” rapper Ciurleo had a busy 2018 marked by a sharp learning curves. He asks smart questions, and I’ve been impressed so far by his approach to the business of music. He’s been booking shows, moving merch, and learning from multi-talented collaborators like Big Homie Wes and, especially, THEN WHAt. Along the way, he also landed spots in an episode of the legendary Grind Mode Cypher as well as the second volume of the local production, the Extra Mile Cypher.
Between the recent release of his debut project, Better Late Than Never, and his upcoming tour, it was past time to catch up this with this young rap entrepreneur.
VTHH: You've always distinguished yourself as an artist who wants to learn, and stranger still, wants to get feedback. Does that humility come naturally to you or do you have some sort of system?
Ciurleo: I’ve always had that “I want more” attitude so I think in terms of trying to learn and grow, it’s something we will always be doing as life goes on. Four years ago, I had no idea there even was a scene ... so with that being said, even though I’ve been rapping since 2010 ... I feel like the new kid on the scene. With so many talented artists and people in the scene, it’s hard to not wanna pick their brains. Lately though, I’ve just been making sure to surround myself with people who I think are better than me. That raises the bar right away.
VTHH: What do you think has been the key to your success in the past year?
Ciurleo: A lot of it has just been showing up. I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities by being in the right room with the right people. I was always taught “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” So I have always tried to keep that in mind when meeting people and conducting myself from a business aspect.
VTHH: You're about to embark on your first tour. How have you been preparing for something you've never done?
Ciurleo: Obviously never having done this before has been challenging, but even more challenging is doing it alone. From the start, I’ve always been involved with working and traveling with other people ... as a person I typically always have someone riding with me, or am doing something with someone. So I think that will be my biggest challenge but I’m excited to let that be a good learning and growing experience.
VTHH: You’ve definitely done a lot of gigs already, here and beyond. As you've expanded your reach and gotten more experience, what has surprised you the most along the way?
Ciurleo: The reactions from the people at the shows. Whether it’s an artist that performed that night as well, or someone who came to support the art. I shouldn’t say it surprises me, I want them to enjoy my music but … at the end of the day, the respect and a firm dap is really what I’m after.
VTHH: Based on what you've seen, are there jobs in the music industry you'd be interested in aside from rap star?
Ciurleo: I’ve put on a handful of small shows at the small town bar Room 111 in Woodsville, NH along with help from Chris Farina (Modest). Just being able to bring something fun and different near my hometown (Bradford, VT across the river) was a really gratifying experience. Even though it’s a small “hick town,” I know from growing up and hanging out with a lot of these people that they do like hip hop. The reception at each show has been enough to make us want to keep doing more. I’d love to expand that into bigger venues as I build relationships with the owners and managers; get some really solid headliners, and bring some of the scenes you’re seeing in Burlington, VT or Manchester, NH to central VT.
VTHH: What where the early influences shaping your style when you started rapping?
Ciurleo: I listened to a lot of Kanye West, Eminem, OutKast, Lil Wayne, Ludacris in my early years when I first started rapping. When Chris Webby and Mac Miller first burst on the scene, I think that was the first time I heard rap in a way that I really, really could relate and thought “hey I could write stuff that’s relatable to a lot of people if I just be myself.” Brother Ali, Classified, Grieves, Atmosphere are also some artists that I really listened to HEAVY when I finally got out of the mainstream world for the most part. I think ultimately though, Kanye West has been one of my biggest influences.
VTHH: What does ‘success’ mean for you at this point? What are your long-term goals for this rap life?
Ciurleo: At this point I’m just really having a good time. This past year has been such a rollercoaster. Learning so much on the business end with the help from “Jibba The Gent.” As long as I’m doing shows and able to create them, I feel like I’m being successful.
My long term goals are to really carve out my own place in VT Hip Hop. The scene is really strong up in Burlington, and I want to spread that energy across the state. There hasn’t really been any consistent hip hop shows in the central or southern part of the state. (Other than the Maiden Voyage crew. They been throwing down at Windsor Station for a while now!) So I would really like to have a hand in making those moves to keep the culture growing. With Venues like The Engine Room in White River, and smaller spots like Sheri’s Place in Springfield or the Windsor Station, there’s a lot of opportunity down this way. At the end of the day it’s all about the music, and I know people are itching for hip hop in these areas, it just needs to be delivered to them the right way.