When Corey Finesse walked into the room decked out in an all-black outfit, Versace shades and gold chains, all eyes fixed on the 23-year-old artist from East Flatbush, Brooklyn. He was not a boisterous diva demanding that green M&Ms be removed from the bag; Finesse exuded the calm, confident swagger of someone who knows exactly how talented he or she is and knows, at the same time, that there is still work to be done in order to become a legend.
Fresh off of opening for A Boogie wit da Hoodie at Baruch College’s 2017 Spring Fling, Finesse made a pit stop on his cross-country tour at WBMB Baruch College Radio to promote his newest mixtape Life After 9 alongside his fellow NuLa Ent. artists Howie Dodat and Marc Mavrick.
The title itself is a reference to his humble beginnings, writing and producing his own song at the age of 9. Though he is often called a rapper, Finesse wants to be known as an artist.
Finesse spoke about his multi-faceted skill set.
“I prefer to sing more [than rap]. Honestly, I love to sing,” Finesse said.
Boyz II Men, Jamie Foxx and other R&B artists were in his ear growing up and he now gravitates toward raw, emotional storytelling in his songs.
“I came out as a rapper [with] a hard trap sound, so I couldn’t just transition into R&B, [and be like] R Kelly,” said Finesse. “This summer, [fans] are going to see the other side of me.”
In February, Finesse performed a five-minute freestyle on Hot 97 with DJ Funk Flex.
Finesse strung together rhymes on corruption in the criminal justice system, hustling for what he earned and anecdotes of the pain he has endured. Fittingly, his newest mixtape broaches these topics in the opening track.
The opening track, “Life After 9,” entices listeners with a sample of Finesse’s vocal athleticism.
It leads off with a familiar sound to all New Yorkers: a train alerting passengers to “stand clear of the closing doors” before exiting the station, alluding to both his roots as a Brooklyn artist and this transitional period in his life.
Eerie piano keys creep over the beat as Finesse powers into the track. In the first verse, Finesse warns his rivals to never test him or his crew, each word soaked in a defiant tone.
The hooks feature him vocalizing about how some never escape the trappings of his neighborhood, which is followed by a visceral retelling of the battles he survived.
Finesse punctuates each of his teenage years with a formative moment related to the struggle of growing up in East Flatbush. A twinge of pain rockets from him as he says “17, I lost Shyste/And my mind too/It had me going dumb.” Shyste was a close friend of Finesse’s, going back to their affiliation with the GS9 crew—both his life and death left a lasting impact on the crew, often expressed in songs.
His conflict is not just limited to the streets. Finesse wrestles with his sense of morality and considers exacting his own form of justice in the line, “sayin’ prayers while I’m lurkin’/Lord knows what I’m doing ain’t right/Forgive me!”
In under three minutes, Finesse crafts a vivid image of his upbringing and conveys heartache while engaging the listeners.
“This is art. I’m painting a picture. I’m making sure that you can see what I write,” said Finesse.
Each artist eased into the interview as it progressed into a conversation. When asked about Spring Fling, Dodat loved experiencing the energy of the live crowd and seeing its reaction to his performance.
From there, the trio riffed about gauging the response of crowds to their songs and their expectations for the success of each song.
“I don’t think any artist, ever in history, thought every track would be a hit,” said Mavrick.
However, Finesse argued they have to expand their audience before being judged on their success.
Reflecting on their early years, Dodat emphasized their similar struggles and how it “made it easier to come together” under the same goal. Each was born and bred in hostile environment, and had to adapt to survive.
They formed bonds that would last a lifetime, even if that equated to 18 years. No matter the scenario, Dodat, Finesse and Mavrick put loyalty and hustle above all else.
If not for Junior Galette, defensive lineman for the Washington Redskins, the trio might have never crossed paths. Galette founded NuLa Ent. in 2012 and was drawn to GS9’s razor-sharp tunes while rehabbing a torn achilles tendon in 2013.
He linked up with Finesse nearly two years ago and built a brand around the lyricist. With more time on his hands due to injury, Galette dove headfirst into the music industry.
Dodat and Mavrick were childhood friends with Galette; signing them to NuLa was less a business decision and more a family union.
Every artist has a producer behind the booth conjuring melodic bliss, chaotic terror and anything to elicit the right bars. The trio leans on Ty Real to set the tone for each of their songs.
He graduated from the University of Houston as a media production major and recalled producing for Slim Thug in his dorm room. Real never tries to replicate a “New York” sound in the studio with Dodat, Finesse or Mavrick, and considers himself a facilitator.
“I’m carrying the vibe that they have. Each one of these guys is a f---ing king and a f---ing genius and it’s just my job to make sure that it gets heard to the people the right way,” said Real.
They conducted the second half of the interview as a quartet, their chemistry infecting the room with good vibes. GS9 was again the common thread that tied Real to Finesse, which led to his introducion to NuLa Ent.
The upstart label ran through a string of failed producers—to the point where Finesse had to run from the mic to the computer to record himself—before bringing Real back into the fold.
Not only does Real work on the board, he steps behind the mic on occasion, most recently on Dodat’s single, “Different.” Real finds joy in both aspects of the industry and could never decide between the two.
With the room comfortable, Mavrick opened up about using Real as a muse to channel his deepest emotions.
On “Dark Liquor,” Mavrick raps about drowning his dark thoughts in Hennessy, and in the interview, he said he has been in Alcoholics Anonymous for three months.
When Mavrick described working with Real, he would throw words like “dark” at him and Real would “be an open vessel for his energy to flow through” him.
Both Dodat and Mavrick told listeners to stay tuned as new songs are in the pipeline. Finesse’s Life After 9 caught fire right when he was nominated for XXL’s 2017 Freshman Class, but he is more concerned with chasing Grammys and becoming a mogul in the mold of Jay Z.
New York has re-emerged as one of the preeminent hip-hop scenes and NuLa Ent. is ready to explode onto the scene.