My name is Miles Thelonious King Oliver Johnson, but my friends call me Berg. That’s right, Berg—it’s short for Iceberg, ’coz I’m the coolest rapper-slash-hip-hop artist in the world. My pops was a jazzman, and he used to tell me that one day he’d explain to me how he and my mom came up with my original name. He said it would be a great story, but when I was only four he died in an accident and left Mom to take care of my little sister, Abbey, and me.
Now, don’t feel sorry or underestimate me because I was raised in a single-parent home here in Harlem. I’ll be graduating from Duke Ellington High School soon, and then I’ll start my career. My rap is so strong that even Jay-Z and Kanye have to take a back seat to me. Even my mom thinks I’m a good musical artist and often compares me to Isaac Hayes, whoever he is. She says he was the best when she was coming up, but that was in the sixties. That’s so ancient; back then I think she had cavemen and troglodytes as neighbors! She said Harlem was the place to be in those days. Every night, singers and dancers would perform in the streets and dance halls, and she and her friends would be there soaking it up. Every once in a while she’d show me some of her moves, and man, it was pathetic. Those dance halls are all gone now, replaced by condos and parking lots. “Gentrification,” that’s what they call it, but I call it junk.
My friends and I hang out on the street corners at all hours of the night just “free-stylin’.” And you know, the chicks, they just love it. One night we were flowing, and my lines were so smooth that this babe walked up to me and offered to do me right there on the corner of Lennox and 125th. Yeah, I can rap, but I love to make beats. When I’m done with my mixes, it makes the ladies hot, and the guys drop like flies. I’d remix one of those old tunes and make them sound like new, but now we call ’em “old-school jams.” Most of my musical inspiration came from those ancient warriors of the sixties like Curtis, Marvin and Otis. I even borrow a line or two from Soul Brother Number One. You know, I love the ladies too: Aretha Franklin; Diana Ross and the Supremes; and who could forget Millie Jackson?
Yeah, I got the rhythms and rhymes, but my competition is get- tin’ steep. The other night I heard this Puerto Rican dude in Spanish Harlem spittin’ lyrics about his old lady. And just yesterday I heard that some cats from the Lower East Side were rapping about the rent. Everybody’s into rap and hip-hop, so I need to make sure my sounds are fresher and different by capturing the old with the new. What more can I do to make my sound stand out?
Find out what Miles does to make his sound stand out. Follow him as well as his Uncle Roland as they go on this JassOdyssey.