Providence rapper Supreme Scribe talks to WBRU about his start in music, his writing process, and his upcoming album.
Like the ancient scribes who recorded history and knowledge, Rhode Island’s own Supreme Scribe uses music to tell his truth. “Not only do I speak my story, but I speak for those around me too,” says Scribe, a twenty-four-year-old rapper and Providence native.
Although he’s been a writer his whole life, Scribe didn’t always know that a rap career was in the cards. “In elementary school, my teacher had me read my stories to the class… I always wanted to be, like, a screenwriter.” That vision changed one summer when he was fourteen, about to be a sophomore in high school. He took a trip with his mother to Cape Verde, her home country. Although now Scribe realizes what a valuable experience that was, as a teenager he was more concerned with the football practice he’d miss. “I was bored. I so didn’t want to go.” This boredom ended up being his musical origin story. “When I was there… I had this little notebook and I would just stay busy by writing. That’s when I think I started to take rap serious.”
Cape Verde’s influence extends past that sophomore-year trip. Growing up, Scribe spent a lot of time with his grandparents, who lived in Cape Verde for most of their lives. There’s also a large Cape Verdean population in Rhode Island, and a rich tradition of folk music from the islands, called morna. This culture taught Scribe lessons that have shaped him and his career. From his grandparents, he learned the value of “just staying disciplined and being humble, treating people with respect,” qualities which can be rare in his industry. Though Cape Verdean morna doesn’t have a direct impact on Scribe’s sound, growing up around the musicians in his family and the unique sound of their tradition helped give him a foundational love for music and creation.
Some more evident influences on his music include iconic rappers like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Travis Scott. Additionally, since childhood, Scribe has loved Kanye West. “He was just different, you know? Kanye really taught us to be who we were no matter what and to play with different sounds, because rap is so young.” Kanye’s experimentation and changing style has inspired Scribe to also be original. What sets him apart from other rappers, he says, is his “wordplay, period. The way I put my bars together.” After all, he was a writer before he ever was a rapper.
Scribe raps about Providence, his friends, and his life, but he focuses particularly on observations about the world and society. He comments on the dysfunction of the music industry in his track “Perception:” “We can’t sell records ’till we doing the most/drugs, money and slugs/degrade yourself for the buzz.” The song “Sermon,” true to its title, preaches the value of individuality and hard work. “Everybody wanna cook/but don’t nobody wanna do the fucking dishes/had me thinking ’bout the difference/between working for your wishes/and sitting back and just wishing.” When he first started writing songs, this style of wordplay and social commentary were his sole focus. He was “thinking too much,” he recalls. “I’m trying to write the best bars. I’m trying to use the biggest best words. It was kind of like a puzzle.”
Now, after ten years of songwriting, Scribe knows that the feeling and sound of a song is just as important as the lyrics. He’s been experimenting with bridges and choruses while adding new sounds to his music. Scribe has his own style of songwriting now, coming up with his bars “on the go” as he listens to beats while he’s driving. From there, he builds a track line by line until he has it committed to memory. “I just learned how to express my feel more than what I’m thinking… I think it makes for better music.”
Although he’s been writing since fourteen, Scribe didn’t start performing until the end of his teenage years. His very first rap show was opening for NYC hip-hop legend KRS-One at Simon’s 677, a now-closed Providence venue. After that, he met Spocka Summa, a Providence rapper/DJ who helped him get another gig. “This Spocka show… was the first show that started my career because, after that show, I never stopped doing shows.” Friends and fellow artists like Spocka, Sam Comfort (who featured Scribe on his RIC radio show), and Jessy Piff have supported and inspired him throughout his career. “Those are like my big bros… They taught me a lot, showed me a lot,” says Scribe.
His family members are also supporters. Although his parents, in true parent fashion, would prefer his songs to be a little more old-school and low-key, they still bug him about when his music will be on Spotify and Apple Music. They’ll get their answer soon: Scribe plans to release his first album in August, and a couple of singles before then. The album will be called Hollywood Scribe. “The concept behind it is accepting the Hollywood—you guys can’t see I’m doing air quotes right now—the ‘Hollywood’ newness of what comes with my life.” With his growing success, Scribe has been the subject of misperceptions and assumptions about his character. Because of his style and the crowds he’s been able to play for, people sometimes assume he’s another music industry jerk. Scribe has always wanted to be fully himself, but as he gets deeper into the music industry, he now understands why people might make those judgments. “People are leeches, people are fake. People have agendas.”
Despite the assumptions, Scribe has only ever tried to be completely his own person. He wants to work hard and focus on his art; he knows if he does that, if he trusts the process, the popularity and success will handle itself.
“I was blessed with perception/know it’s all make-believe… see I know where I’m from/ain’t gotta worry ’bout me.”
Listen to Supreme Scribe’s music here and keep an eye out for his album in August. Scribe’s live session with WBRU will be out on YouTube, IGTV, and wbru.com this week!
Photos by Seth Israel