Robert Greene, aka RG the Protagonist makes his musical debut as a prolific high spirited MC on his new album “The Greene Crate”. As a poet, actor and writer, RG has performed domestically across the United States. Internationally, he has taken the stage for traveling productions in Singapore and Russia. His one-person play “Situations”, premiered at the New York Fringe Festival with honors, and most recently he was cast in the leading role to play the iconic freedom fighter Nelson Mandela. Once theaters reopen their doors after the pandemic, Robert will resume his starring role in the off-Broadway play “Mandela” at the Actor’s Temple Theatre 339 West 47th Street (btw. 8th & 9th ave).
RG’s debut album, “The Greene Crate” is partially inspired by the 90’s golden age sound of hip hop. A blended mix of crate-digging soul samples accompany boosted synths and rhythmic hooks throughout the project. Produced by DJ and tech enthusiast Jon Blok, “The Greene Crate” carries his hallmark production sound of fused soul, Edm, Rock and Hip hop vibes. RG’s lyrical flows are extremely versatile and distinct throughout the project which is refreshing and entertaining on each song. The 9 tracks on the album push a cohesive sonic narrative forward toward the last song, “On the Run” which completely re-energizes the musical status quo very much in the same way Andre 3000 of Outkast did with his smash hit “Hey Ya!”.
- Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how your artistic journey got started?
RG the Protagonist: I’m originally from South Carolina, my artistic journey started in my neighborhood: 218 Spring St. We grew up cracking jokes, freestylin’, dancing and using art as a means to express ourselves. Being creative kept me out of trouble and I’ve always enjoyed performing for my family.
- Do you handle both the songwriting and beats on your songs, or do you collaborate with others?
RG the Protagonist: I handle the songwriting element, and enjoy connecting with others when it comes to beats. For this project, Jon Blok composed all of the beats. The idea of collaboration brings the best writing out of me. I enjoy the energy of working with others.
- Who were your first and strongest musical influences that you can remember?
RG the Protagonist: Tupac — all day, when I was young my sister bought me ‘2Pacalypse Now’. I’ve always admired Tupac’s flow, passion and honesty on records. Outside of Tupac, my mother would play a lot of Motown around the house.
- What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners?
RG the Protagonist: It’s unorthodox, unpredictable and combines multiple genres of music and art. I think listeners will connect to the honesty of a new sound.
- For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist – from a poet, actor and writer to being a music maker, and the transition towards your own style?
RG the Protagonist: It’s all about expression and being free in your craft. I find ways to connect the actor with the musician, and or the poet with the playwright. Secondly, it comes to trusting your talents and taking risks.
- What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative and entertainment?
RG the Protagonist: I believe it’s important for these vehicles to exist in music. I usually write what I feel, so if these themes appear in my work…it’s honest. I never try to force it.
- Do you ever write a song with current musical trends, formulas or listener satisfaction in mind, or do you fervidly focus on your own personal vision and trust that people will empathize with your sound and message?
RG the Protagonist: I keep the focus on me, and the energy that life is giving me at the time. We all experience life, so I trust that people find something to connect to or feel in my lyrics.
- Could you describe your creative processes? How do start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a beat, or a narrative in your head?
RG the Protagonist: I usually start with the beat, followed by a freestyle. The narrative arrives from how the beat speaks to me. Afterward, I’ll write in the missing components to connect my flow.
- What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your career so far?
RG the Protagonist: I was getting ready to reprise my role as Nelson Mandela, in the Off-Broadway play “Mandela” when the pandemic hit. So, I guess the most difficult thing for me was sitting still and not having the liberty to perform.
- On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your career so far?
RG the Protagonist: Portraying Nelson Mandela, in “Mandela” at the National Black Theater.
- Could you describe the idea and inspiration behind the creation of the album “The Greene Crate”?
RG the Protagonist: The inspiration came from being in isolation with my thoughts. The only way I could free my mind and express myself was through music. I thought about how DJ’s kept their best records in certain crates…thus, I wanted to do the same artistically. The goal was to fill my crate with a body of work that had something relatable for everyone. The records became my reflections.
- Does “The Greene Crate” have an overarching theme and storyline that runs through the entire album, or does each song carry its own distinctive narrative?
RG the Protagonist: The Greene Crate is like a play. In the verses you hear how a character is dealing with society, life and emotion. Each song is like an Act or Setting for the character to display feelings. Surrounded by different means of expression, the project takes you on a journey of escapism and artistic freedom.
- How would you personally describe the overall sound and style of the album to any potential new fan?
RG the Protagonist: 90s hip-hop infused with funk, soul and jazz. It has a sonic-bounce to it that will keep the listener on the edge of their seat. This album has a sound for all.
- What were the main compositional, performance, recording, and/or production challenges on this album, and how did the collaboration with Jon Blok come into being?
RG the Protagonist: The true challenge was trying to record safely during a pandemic. Collaborating with Jon Blok was outstanding, we met at a jam session before the pandemic. Right away I liked his energy! I remember we vibed over coffee and the rest was history. Jon Blok inspired me to try new things musically, it was a magnificent process!
- Is there a particular song on “The Greene Crate”, on which you feel you delivered your most convincing performance, technically and emotionally, and which came out even better than you initially expected?
RG the Protagonist: On the Run! I can’t wait for the world to hear this record. It was magical…in the studio we freestyled parts and relied on writing. Jon Blok later masterfully connected the pieces and it transformed into something unimaginable. Lastly, you can feel the emotions in every vocal sound, instrument and lyric.
- On the other hand, which song on the album would you consider the most personal and dear to you, lyrically?
RG the Protagonist: That would have to be Electric Boogaloo. It was the first song we recorded and it became the foundation for the project. The lyrics are motivational jabs to the heart.
- Apart from the aforementioned songs, in your opinion, what would you consider particular highlights or curiosities for fans to watch out for on the album?
RG the Protagonist: The lyrical and beat transitions within songs and how each track has layers. I think fans will want to listen to tracks over and over again, because they will hear something new each time.
- Do you have favorite motto, phrase or piece of advice, you try to live or inspire yourself by?
RG the Protagonist: “Eyes on the Prize”
- How essential do you think video is in relation to your music? Do you have a video you could suggest fans see, to get a better understanding of your craft?
RG the Protagonist: The Electric Boogaloo video will be dropping soon! We live in a visual society so videos and music make sense to me. Videos also give artists another means of expression.
- What do you find most rewarding about what you do? And do you have a specific vision or goal set in your mind that you would like to achieve in 2021?
RG the Protagonist: I’m just thankful that I can create and continue to challenge myself as an artist. The reward is the fun! My main goal is to inspire and reach as many people I can with my art.
Connect with RG the Protagonist and Jon Blok