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OnCue on being Just Blaze's newest signee & showing what 'You Knew All Along'

How humble beginnings, vulnerability, thoughtful lyrics, and melodic beats got him a major co-sign.

Artist // Facebook

Newington, Conn. doesn’t sound like the place where one of hip-hop’s greatest producers would eventually find talent. Then again, nothing in hip-hop is predictable. Since its inception we’ve seen people of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and ethnicities contribute a verse to the culture and, after finding his passion for rapping in the cassette tapes brought home by his older brother, Geoof Sarubbi—known by his stage name OnCue—decided that he too would become a contributor to the ongoing story of hip-hop history.

That vision has turned into a co-sign from none other than Just Blaze and a deal under the super producers’ imprint. As any success story goes, there were humble beginnings. Those beginnings were in a working class neighborhood back in Newington.

“Consistently throughout the years, the biggest window into hip-hop is your TV," said OnCue. "I used to race home and watch Rap City with Tigger. My parents got me a little karaoke machine and I figured out how to record vocals onto a cassette. I used to look up record labels like Def Jam trying to figure out where to send a demo. From there, the passion just intensified.”

Fueled by a deep love for the hip-hop culture, OnCue’s passion for storytelling was furthered by the surroundings that forced him to vent through any avenue possible. His mother was a hairdresser and his father was a salesman. However, his father was also addicted to crack while his brother suffered from alcoholism. This made for an environment that was less than healthy for a child still growing into his own.

However, blessings come in the midst of hardship and OnCue’s blessing was a mother who was fairly open to talking about the issues in their home once he hit a certain age. That openness created a sense of familiarity in being vulnerable. And if there’s one thing you need to be a successful artist, it’s vulnerability.

“I’ve always been an extremely open person," OnCue said. "I like to lay it all out on the table. Remember when B-Rabbit [8 Mile] lays it all out on the last battle? It’s like that, you get to lay it all out there before the enemy does. Joe Budden’s self-titled album inspired me. He was so honest. I feel like music has always been therapeutic for me. I think it helped me during those years of domestic issues. It’s my escape and I don’t really know anything else.”

Upon entering adulthood, OnCue moved to New York in 2010 to pursue the dream. He dabbled in graphic design which helped him get to know people in the industry while telecommuting for work. As long as he had an internet connection, he could work. When he first got to the city, he put out a project called Cuey Sings The Blues. That’s when he started getting paid gigs.

His first one paid $300 and he was amazed at the feeling of being paid to rap for people. Not too long, after he dropped “Can’t Wait” (hear it above) while on his first tour and then a record called “Feel Tall” (hear it below) caught fire, grabbing the interest of Just Blaze who reached out to the budding rapper. OnCue would go on to sign with the legendary producer, ushering in the next stage of his career.

“It was a gift and a curse," OnCue said. "I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel pressure. I’m the first artist he’s co-signed publicly in years off the heels of Jay Electronica. I knew the pressure was on me. I grew up on Roc-A-Fella, it was a dream to sign to Just because he was my favorite rap producer. Getting in with him was mind-blowing. It’s an honor in general."

On Just Blaze helping improve his sound or offer advise, OnCue said, “He definitely gave me a wealth of knowledge. To be honest, I’ve been developing my sound for a long time. The moment he heard me, he believed in me. Being in the studio together, he realized I wasn’t a rapper just trying to get a beat. I would turn down beats from him and we’ve bumped heads before because I know my vision. He gave me room to grow. When he heard my stuff slated to come out top of 2017 he said “I think you found your voice”. He’s a mentor, but he hasn’t been like change this bar and touch this up. I’m relentless, I’m a studio rat, I don’t do much drugs. All I want to do is work.”

Regarding his genre-blending style and ability to mix thoughtful lyrics with catchy, melody beats, OnCue said, "It’s a mixture of understanding what people vibe to now and mixing it with storytelling and bars. In ‘08 I made a record when I was kind of “sing-rapping”. That was the first time I could genuinely tell my friends enjoyed a song I made. When I wrote that record I just enjoyed making it. Then Cudi came out, and Drake came out while I was still working on that sound. That’s when I said I’d keep working on it because eventually it’s going to take over. Gradually it took over the culture and I stayed at it.”

Recently, OnCue dropped You Knew All Along. A collection of songs that did well on his SoundCloud, coupled with a few unreleased tracks. In the meantime, he’s prepping for 2017 where we can expect a seven-song EP produced by Just Blaze himself.

The best thing about rap is watching a new class of MC’s find their voice and take their place amongst the best in the game. Stay tuned, OnCue is ready to take your attention and keep it for years to come.

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