If a musician is going to make it big, and local rapper/R&B artist Meech Booker certainly intends to do so, there’s always a critical point early in their path when the music changes from hobby to career. For Booker, a product of Boynton Middle School and Ithaca High School whose real name is Dmitri Robinson, that time could come in the next few months.
His first official album release will come later this summer, possibly in June, in the form of a collaboration with fellow Ithaca rapper Anthony Kannon. With that project, Booker will make his debut on streaming services beyond Soundcloud, hopefully expanding to Spotify and elsewhere where Booker can potentially monetize his music, something he has yet to do. His rap moniker comes from a combination of “Meech,” obviously shorthand for Dmitri but also a fairly common name in rap, and “Booker,” which he added simply so listeners could find his music easier online.
Booker, 20, comes to music unlike others: his parents, while supportive of his career aspirations, were not musicians themselves, and it doesn’t sound like Booker comes from much of a musical background at all. Regardless, his interest in making music began young, as he wrote sheet after sheet of notes, ranging from verses to just single bars to small notes. He wrote so much, in fact, that he filled a few shoe boxes full of paper, youthful musings that he looks back on as practice for what he’s doing now.
That was in middle school, and Booker said he virtually stopped all rapping when he hit high school, distracted by football and academics. But after graduating, knowing that pursuing further education wasn’t in the cards at this time in his life, Booker decided to refocus his efforts on a career in music.
“Right after I graduated, I dropped something on Soundcloud and it did good, numbers-wise, so I decided to just keep going,” Booker said. “When I was younger, I would think that it would be easy. That I’d start rapping, and I would just make it. But when I started rapping again, I realized there’s a lot more to it, got to put a lot more work in.”
His output has been small but popular so far. With just 14 songs out, he’s already amassed 486 followers on Soundcloud, and is averaging about 7,500 plays per song. His six music videos on YouTube, all of which were directed by dir.by.hundo, have nearly all attracted over 1,000 views as well.
If his work with Kannon so far is any preview, Ithaca could have a pretty significant record on their hands this summer. One of Booker’s most popular songs so far, both on Soundcloud (12,000+ plays since August) and the accompanying video on YouTube (4,000+ views since September), is a collaboration with Kannon called “MYDEMONSWONTLETMELIVE.” On the song, Booker handles the slower, crooning parts sandwiched around an electric Kannon verse. It’s the kind of song, along with the response from their audiences, that makes it easy to see why the two chose to parlay the song into a whole project. Booker’s singing serves as a dark, moody backdrop before Kannon enters, creating a thunder-and-lightning type of dynamic.
The performance highlights some of Booker’s roots. He said his early rap inspirations were acts like Tyler, the Creator, Joey Badass and J. Cole, but that his palate has now expanded to include many different varieties of hip-hop and R&B. That followed after a childhood spent frequently making R&B covers on his laptop of artists like Justin Bieber and Chris Brown, Booker admits while laughing.
The song also highlights one of the themes that seems to connect much of Booker’s music, which is love. He said he draws much of his material from dealing with love, whether it be romantic relationships or otherwise. The delivery methods can be different; there’s the slow, methodical approach on the aforementioned “MYDEMONSWONTLETMELIVE,” or the quicker, more rap-focused “Cold” in which Booker displays a wide-range of flows that shifts gears seamlessly throughout the song. But the message’s content remains fairly consistent.
“Just past relationships, other people that I know going through [stuff], parents, all of that,” Booker said. “I feel like everybody has something to do with love. Everybody is in a relationship, or has been in one, or been in a bad relationship or had some type of experience. So I feel like that’s something that almost everyone can relate to.”
In five years, Booker said he has the typical goals one would see from a young artist: to be able to support himself financially, and to have collected some accolades and notable performances along the way. While some artists live in fear of the precarious nature of their career choice, Booker doesn’t seem scared, at least not yet. He’s just getting started, after all, and outside of money the results so far have been impressive.
“I don’t plan on it not happening,” Booker said. “I feel like your Plan B should always be another plan to make your Plan A work.”