| Hip-Hop |

To Denver Rapper ITSOKTOCRY, Integrity Is Everything

Denver rapper ITSOKTOCRY says he wouldn't be able to stand knowing his lyrics had a negative influence on his young fans.EXPAND
Denver rapper ITSOKTOCRY says he wouldn't be able to stand knowing his lyrics had a negative influence on his young fans.
Oakland L. Childers
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Upon first spotting ITSOKTOCRY, it would be easy to make assumptions about the Denver rapper with the dyed hair and face tattoos. But that would be a mistake.

Yes, he’s quiet in person — but in the studio, he unleashes an inner monster that he keeps hidden from most people.

And, yes, he has issues. He didn’t finish high school because he was, in his own words, “a bad kid.” He’s dealt with social anxiety and a crippling lack of self-confidence throughout his life.

And yet ITSOKTOCRY, whose given name is Larry (he prefers not to share his last name), is more in control of his life than most people who look like they have it all figured out. He’s just released his first proper full-length, Poshboy — a record he wrote, performed and recorded — on Cleopatra. He directs his own videos. He can play the cello. ITSOKTOCRY is 100 percent in control of his own life.

“I don’t like being told 'No,’” he says, casually rolling a blunt with practiced precision. “I don’t like being told I can’t do something. I live my life doing whatever I want, whenever I want. So when everybody doubted me and people told me my ideas weren’t good enough, that was my whole drive to change myself as a person and kind of battle my anxiety, to stop being shy and start being a personable person. It turned me from Larry to ITSOKTOCRY.”

Even before hair dye and tattoos were part of the mix, he says, people judged and underestimated him because of his appearance.

“I couldn’t even look another human being in the eye until I was twenty,” he says. "Ever since I was a kid, I had, like, really low self-esteem. I used to be a really heavyset kid. I have a really bad lazy eye. That’s why I have my hair in my face most of the time. I’m cross-eyed, and being a fat, cross-eyed kid, you don’t have a lot of friends or a lot of people that’s really into listening to you. When they first see me, most people think I have a mental disability because I’m cross-eyed, so they think I’m stupid. So I had to learn to love myself and be, like, these ideas is cool. I can do these ideas, and I can put all this work I’m putting into other people into myself.”

That work paid off in ways that a confused kid could never have imagined. But the attention he started to get came with the added pressure of having young fans try to emulate the things he sings about, something  ITSOKTOCRY was unprepared for.

“When I first started making music, it was a bad time for me,” he says. “I was suicidal. It was dark. I was making music about cutting myself and a bunch of dumb shit. Then, when I started getting attention, I had little kids sending me videos of them cutting themselves to my music, and that’s when I made the switch in my head.”

ITSOKTOCRY says the idea that a child could be driven to self-harm by his lyrics was not something he was willing to accept. But rather than approach the situation as if he was censoring himself, he made a conscious decision to do what was needed to be able to live with the message he was putting out into the world.

“Those are really the only songs I really regret,” he says. “I wish I could go back and do them a little bit differently. These kids is looking at me, and I can’t be doing that to them. I need to get my thoughts out in a more productive way that’s not setting a bad example.”

The attitude that some celebrities have about fame — that they're not role models — doesn’t sit well with ITSOKTOCRY. Although he says he didn't sign up for that job, he acknowledges that it's his, whether he likes it or not.

“There’s people out there, celebrities or musicians, [saying], ‘I’m just making music.’ Regardless of whether I like it or not, there’s little kids looking up to me, even people older than me looking up to me. I’m like the little ‘big bro.’ It’s my duty to be aware of that. Whether I choose to ignore that and keep doing my thing and spread a bad message...that’s just not healthy. I can be aware of that and work toward something positive.”

That’s not to say that Poshboy isn’t a gritty, raw record. It’s littered with the kind of imagery and language that makes parents (the ones who actually understand what he’s talking about) crazy. But a closer listen reveals a man who has finally overcome the insecurities of his youth and, at 25, is surpassing more seasoned artists, all while living in the same city where he was born.

“It’s my home,” he says of Denver. “I’ve tried living in L.A., I’ve tried living in New York, Texas, different places. I don’t rock with that. I always come back here. The energy here — everyone is so nice. Plus, legal weed.”

Denver’s music scene is definitely a step above that of most cities its size, but it’s far from the center of the music universe. ITSOKTOCRY, though, says he spends almost all of his time at home, writing new music and recording in his home studio. For his purposes, Denver is perfect.

“I get the same numbers as all these Internet dudes that’s popping out in L.A. or New York, and I don’t need to be there,” he says. “I don’t need to be out there dick riding, making fake connections and fake friends. I don’t need any of that. Keep that energy over there. I’m just here, in my house with me and my homie, making music and doing my thing. I don’t need anybody else.”

No matter where he lives, it’s obvious ITSOKTOCRY would find a way to do his thing in the biggest way possible or die trying. Before pursuing music full-time, he says, he was working up to sixty hours a week as a server and bartender and finding little time for creative endeavors, a situation he found untenable.

“I was making beats for a while, and when I started doing vocals, started getting a little bit of attention online, started doing my own stuff, I found it very mentally exhausting to make music and work sixty hours a week. When I’m on my feet all day, I just want to come home and go to sleep," he says.

At that point, ITSOKTOCRY’s cohorts staged a kind of intervention.

“I had a couple friends that was like, ‘Fuck it. Quit your job. Get some face tats.’ I did that shit the same day and never looked back.”

While the restaurant jobs might be gone, the long work weeks are still very much a part of ITSOKTOCRY’s life. The always prolific rapper and producer wrote and recorded Poshboy in a mere twelve months, most of it in the last six. But despite the speed at which he creates, he refuses to bend to anyone’s schedule, even his own, if it will compromise his art.

“I just gotta do it when it feels right,” says ITSOKTOCRY. “I’m trying to teach myself how to turn it on and off, but I kind of pride myself on being authentic in my music. I’m not going to go in the studio and make a sad song if I’m not feeling sad — that’s just fake to me. If I’m not into it emotionally, I can’t even begin to make a track, because it seems like I’m forcing it. It becomes like a chore at that point."

Oddly enough, he’s surprisingly reasonable about other artists who choose to use songwriters. It’s a part of the commercial music world he accepts and respects, but it's not something he's interested in.

“That’s the difference between a recording artist and a real artist," he says. "Real artists take their pain and experiences and turn it into art. A recording artist is someone that’s really good, has a super-sick voice and a really good look. And they out there — no hate on them. But I know I’m better than that. To me, selling your soul isn’t, like, signing a record deal. It’s compromising your morals in exchange for fame or money.”

ITSOKTOCRY says he’s willing to put the work in to make sure all that integrity doesn’t go to waste.

“That’s my biggest thing,” he says, “not being comfortable, always leveling up, always shooting for something higher and greater. Because if you get complacent, then you’re going to constantly be miserable. I’d be nowhere without my work ethic.”

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