Steddy P, whose given name is Ray Pierce, has been an emcee and performer at the Sapphire Lounge’s hip-hop night, “Mad Real Mondays,” since it began in September 2005. He’s listened to hip-hop since he was 7, after seeing artists such as Dr. Dre, Public Enemy and LL Cool J, and the show “Yo! MTV Raps” on cable television.
“When my parents weren’t home, I’d have all the TVs on in the house,” Steddy said.
His brother, Kevin Pierce, aided in nurturing what Steddy calls an “addiction.” For Christmas, Kevin gave him a tape or a CD of Slick Rick or KRS-One, and Steddy would listen to them over and over. His brother was a musical inspiration: His guitar skills landed him a gig on Janet Jackson’s 1997 Velvet Rope tour.
Growing up in Kansas City’s Southtown, Steddy, 23, began writing at age 9 or 10. He wrote lyrics and poetry because of the freedom it allowed. “I was one of those ‘fall in love with a girl and start writing about it’ type of guys,” Steddy said.
That laid the groundwork for songwriting; so far, he estimates that he’s written at least 100 songs. Fifteen of them appeared on his first album, “Steddy Progression,” released in March 2006 by IndyGround Entertainment. Steddy helped start the Columbia hip-hop label with his pal Andy Price.
“You just grab something you can relate to,” Steddy said of songwriting. “It’s not like writing a paper, because it has no particular guideline.”
Writing is second nature to Steddy, who is on track to graduate from MU in May with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He’s influenced by everyday interactions that come to have deeper meaning, such as the current political atmosphere and “how people react to things.”
“Steddy will conceive an idea, think about it and then write it,” said Melissa Bushdiecker, Steddy’s girlfriend and founder of Mad Real Mondays. She also bartends there on Monday nights.
Steddy said that in his writing, he tries to counter stereotypes surrounding hip-hop — that it’s violent, disrespects women and is connected to drugs — with lyrics that are social commentaries.
Hip-hop began in the 1970s in New York City. Now worldwide, it is a cultural movement that embodies attitudes of urban life and ethnic groups and includes break dancing, graffiti, DJ-ing and emceeing. These are known as the four elements of hip-hop.
He quoted hip-hop pioneer KRS-One about the difference between rapping and hip-hop: “Rap is something you do; hip-hop is what you live.”
Steddy has a new album coming out on March 30, “Last Man Standing,” and one of the songs reflects the death of his half brother a year and a half ago. “So where does that put me,” the lyrics of “That’s Life” say. “I don’t know but I’d like the answer and exactly why my brother’s God decided to give him cancer.”
A year ago, Steddy said, he was in Lawrence, Kan., to see KRS-One when the performer asked whether there were any emcees in the crowd. Emcees in hip-hop “command the crowd and are great orators,” Steddy said. They keep the crowd interested in the event.
Steddy raised his hand and rushed to the stage to perform with one of his mentors. Caught up in the moment, he felt like a natural.
Before he first took the stage — at the start of Mad Real Mondays — Steddy did house shows for his friends in Kansas City. The house shows were an opportunity to practice his “battling” or “freestyle” skills, which are terms for improvisation. That first night of Mad Real Mondays, Steddy performed an a cappella piece and “fell off,” meaning he forgot the lyrics. He paused onstage, thought back to what he’d written and, as he put it, “killed it.”
By then, he’d already taken the name Steddy P, because he thought he needed a name that would be recognized. The name "Steddy" comes from a break dance crew called the Rock Steady Crew. Steddy was a break dancer for seven years from the time he was 10 but quit because he dislocated his shoulder. The Rock Steady Crew influenced Steddy and the ’80s, when hip-hop was in its prime, Steddy said, and he wants people to be reminded of when it was in the golden age.
P, more simply, stands for progression. His friends mostly call him Steddy now.
He’s excited about the release of “Last Man Standing” because it embodies what he’s been through, and it’s more personal because it addresses issues that directly relate to his life. With this album, he sees himself as more of an artist, because he’s already been through the process — this is “another notch on my belt,” he said.
Steddy and Price dreamed up the idea of owning a record label when they were freshmen at MU. The seven artists on the label — Thesis, Sergio Slayer, Agents of Phizix, John Spartan, Eddy English, Grayhound Bustrip, and Steddy P — were found at Mad Real Mondays and they “clicked right away,” said Price, IndyGround’s graphic designer.
The goal is to have several CDs out from all the artists and tour the Midwest and the East and West coasts by 2008, Price said.
Because Steddy makes his own beats, his own music behind the words, and writes his own lyrics, he plans to “always be an independent artist making independent music.”
As for his competition, Steddy seems untroubled: “It’s not who’s the best, but what you bring to the table.”