I first met Bryce in the 6th grade at Montera Middle School. Back then, he definitely used to rap, but everyone wants to be a rapper at that age so I didn’t take it too seriously – sidenote, I still have some of his old school songs on my computer from the days of the “Maney Boys”, his rap group. Anywho, fast forward to 2014 when I moved back to the Bay from college, and he has started a whole movement, and holds an important roll in Oakland music. So when he released his first project in three years – “Three Steps Ahead” – I had to link up with him and learn more about the project. Check out the interview below.
What is your name and where are you from?
Bryce “Int’l Hay Sús” Fluellen born in Washington DC, but I moved to Oakland, CA when I was three months old and I’ve been here ever since.
What is the meaning of your stage name?
The name Hay Sús stems from my freshmen year in college at Howard University. Prior to going away for school, I was an extremely shy person (I still am to an extent lol), but anyways every year Howard allows incoming freshmen to come a week before classes start in order to get acclimated to the people and environment. As a way to step out of my shell, I would tell people my name was Hay Sús because I knew it would be an automatic conversation starter (a black guy with a Spanish name? yeah right lol). While initially I took it as a joke, three weeks into the school year people still thought that was name! Eventually I told people my real name, however the name just stuck with me.
The Latin culture seems to have an influence on your music, why is that?
My ties with the Spanish culture go back about 10 years or so. When I was in the 8th grade, I spent two weeks in Europe with my Spanish class. We travelled to Spain, Morocco, Switzerland, and France. From there, in 2012 during my junior year of college I spent a semester abroad in Barcelona, Spain which afforded me the opportunity to travel to London, Amsterdam, and Portugal. Lastly, this past summer I spent 7-weeks at the University of Middlebury in Vermont at a Spanish-immersion program. During my stay, I was forced to speak EXCLUSIVELY in Spanish.
All these experiences deepened my love for the Spanish culture and world culture in general. In terms of music, I can recall passing out my mixtapes to different people in Barcelona and them fully embracing it and supporting it. To see the love I was getting from people all across the world gave me the confidence to continue to create content that knows no limits and that can reach much farther than Oakland; worldwide recognition is the plan.
So do you speak Spanish?
Yes! I still have room for improvement, however I can definitely hold a conversation with someone without it being awkward/uncomfortable. If anyone reading this knows of places I can go within the East Bay to practice, LET ME KNOW!
Tell me more about your latest project?
My latest EP, “Three Steps Ahead” is my first project in three years. Aside from that, it’s the most accurate representation of my current life and mentality. The actual three steps I am referring to are: knowledge, power, and ownership. I feel that these three things are essential in music and life in general. At a time where everything I am experiencing is exciting yet unknown, I wanted to make it a point to create a body of work that prepares me mentally and physically for the road that lies ahead.
Whats your favorite track on Three Steps Ahead? What is the inspiration behind it?
Hmm this is a tough question lol…but I’ll have to go with “Ownership.” It’s a track that features a good friend of mine JeeLan, a dope singer from Berkeley, CA. As the name implies, it’s just talking about striving to retain as much ownership as possible, especially within the music industry. Nowadays I feel like people are so eager to “get on” that they’re willing to do WHATEVER it takes, even if it means signing over their intellectual property.
I think one of the main things that threatens the black community is that we don’t own anything. We support and spend money with all these non-black companies, instead of spending money within. I’m not going to sit up here and act like I’m not guilty of it too, however these days I make a conscious effort to put my money towards something that will generate revenue for me and my people for years to come.
Well let’s see, I recorded my first song “Get Looney” at age eleven, which was twelve years ago however I didn’t start taking myself serious as an artist until my sophomore year of college when I released my second mixtape, “Somebody Sign Him!”
If you weren’t rapping, what would you probably be doing?
If I wasn’t rapping, I would be working with the youth in some capacity. For as long as I can remember, working with the youth has been a passion of mines. From playing a prominent role in the life of my younger brother, to working with kids in my neighborhood I have always had a strong connection with the youth. Being in their presence gives me hope. Their free-spirited outlook on the world is what allows me to keep going when life gets real. I work at a school now and each day I am thankful for the opportunity to positively impact their lives.
How long have you been in the game?
I’ve been in the game the moment I released my second video, “Letter To A Star” in 2012. It was at that moment that I saw music as something I could make a career out of.
What/who inspires your music?
Man so many people and things inspire me daily. To be specific, God, my parents, my girlfriend, my grand parents, my uncle, my friends, my city, love, perseverance, patience, and my cousin/labelmate G Maly. All these people/things play a major role in that person I am today.
How has Oakland influenced your sound?
One of the main things Oakland did for my sound is make it authentic and soulful. I always tell people that out of all the places in the United States, music that comes out of Oakland is the realest and that’s not me being biased; it’s the truth. I mean come on now, arguably the best rapper of all time, Tupac Shakur said it himself: “If imma claim somewhere, imma claim Oakland”
The one knock on Oakland is that we support others more then we support our own. Time and time again we show love to artists and movements across the globe, help them get worldwide recognition, and either don’t get the same love in return, or give away too much free game to those that aren’t deserving. I must say though, it’s getting better. Oakland is starting to support Oakland much more.
Favorite Bay Area classics?
Definitely. “Keep it On The Real” by 3x Krazy, “City 2 City” by B-Legit, “Not My Job” by Mac Dre, “Glamorous Lifestyle” by The Jacka, “Muscle Cars” by E-40, and “Hyphy Juice Remix” by The Team.
Who in the Bay Area music world do you listen to?
My team True Society Music Group (TSMG) which includes: Me, G Maly, Mook, and Nani Ho. Aside from them, I listen to Legendvry, K.E.L.L.S, Jaye$, and Nick Jame$.
What is one of your dream collabos?
My dream collab would be with Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, or Ron Isley. Although we all make different styles of music, I feel that each of our sounds would mesh perfectly. Most people don’t know this, but I’m actually a HUGE r&b fan, like almost more than hip-hop. Case in point, my favorite songs of ALL TIME are “My Life” by Mary J. Blige and “Tonight’s the Night” by Blackstreet. One of the main things I love about r&b, especially 80s and 90s r&b is its ability to evoke true emotion. Whether it’s good or bad, you feel something.
How do you get into your creative space?
The best way for me to get into my creative space is through understanding and human interaction. I notice that I’m most creative when I learn new things and meet new people. A quick encounter with someone could spark a new topic for a song or a couple bars. I’m not one of those artists that can just write a new rap everyday. I have to go out and live for a while in order to write.
Success is the reason why everyone grinds so hard. What does success look like to you?
Success to me is seeing a vision, no matter how big or small, come to fruition. If you can go through life telling yourself your going to accomplish something then actually go do it, you’re successful in my eyes.
Who do you do this for?
I do this for my city, I do this for my family, but most importantly I do this for black people as a race. I do music to show the world that a black man from the inner-city can experience all the things that plagues communities (violence, drugs, poverty, etc), yet still be as intelligent, articulate, and confident as the best of them. I have a story to tell and I feel like music is the best way for me to share my story with the most amount of people.
What is your message?
My message is to show people being yourself is the best thing you could possibly be in life. When you keep it real with yourself, keeping it real with others is simple. “I Am Mí” is my favorite mantra (I said “mí” instead of “me” to add a Spanish element to it). One thing I noticed about myself is that no matter where I go, I remain the same: confident, reserved, and humble. Knowing who I am is what enables me to stay sane in this crazy world.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
If I could live anywhere in the world, it would be Barcelona, Spain. It’s just something about that place that makes me feel whole. From the people, to the architecture, everything about that city gives me absolute joy.
What would you tell your 10 year old self?
I would tell my 10 year old self to never lose my imagination and hunger for knowledge. I feel like life is most important when you’re young because their are no limits to your dreams. During your adolescence is when the foundation for the rest of your life is built. I would tell myself to be much more aware of that.
Out of my 23 years on this earth, my ONLY regret is totaling my first and only car in high school smh. My mother bought me a White 1997 Volvo S70 during my senior year. After driving it for about 9 months, I catted off lol. About a week before heading to Washington DC for school, I ended up damaging the engine due to a lack of oil; NEVER AGAIN.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years I see myself as a prominent figure in the music industry and black community. I don’t know how or when, but at some point I will be one of the driving forces to help propel hip-hop and black culture to another dimension. I am a leader and I intend on proving that every chance I get.
Any upcoming performances?
At the moment I do not have any upcoming performances. I really just been focusing on establishing myself as an artist a little more and promoting the new EP. However now that I have those things under control, I’m ready to present my work in front of a live audience. If anyone reading this knows of upcoming opportunities, please keep me in mind!
Time for shoutouts:
First and foremost shoutout my TSMG team, shoutout F.O.E (Family Over Everything), shoutout to you guys for giving me this wonderful opportunity, shoutout my little cousin Nani Ho who’s recovering from eye surgery. Really man shoutout to any and everyone that’s representing Oakland in the right way. If that’s you, I got nothing but love and respect for you. Keep putting on! #ForeverOakland