Alex Kresovich ’08 smiles like a Cheshire cat. But after spending his summer dancing with Rihanna, chilling in the studio with Jay-Z, meeting twice with artist relations magnate Lenny S. and executive producing a full-length hip-hop album, it is no wonder why Kresovich’s grin is so wide.
Kresovich, a lanky, blue-eyed, Ithaca native, started rapping when he was in high school. As a rapper, Kresovich was a self-proclaimed “court jester.” “I used to be more self-deprecating in my music to protect myself from the criticism of my peers,” he said.
But now, as a senior in college, Kresovich has developed into a respectable — and self-respecting — artist, confirmed not only by the fact that he has spent time in the studio with hip- hop legends and has had his favorite underground rappers “gush” over his beats, but by his stellar new album, The Crowned Prince.
Kresovich is shocked by the high-praise he has received from many of Jay-Z’s high-powered hip-hop friends.
“Being scouted by Def Jam is still wild to me, especially since I’m just a Cornell student in the middle of upstate New York,” he said.
But Kresovich has not always received the acclaim he enjoys today. In high school, Kresovich self-produced his first rap album, I Wouldn’t Buy Thi$, performing under the pseudonym Dirty Bird. He was not taken seriously by anybody … not even himself.
“[That album] is probably the epitome of me trying to protect myself from the flack I was going to catch from peers, being a white and weird kid who raps,” he said. “I mean, it was a lot of hate, really, from people who thought it was all just a joke being that I didn’t look or act like a stereotypical rapper.”
One track on I Wouldn’t But Thi$ typifies Dirty Bird’s self-mocking raps: “My ice ain’t light-errr, nor does it bling/ My cell phone is old, nor does it ring/ Jewelry for millions? Cut that low-errr/ I’ll drop five cash, I ain’t goin o-verrr/ The whip? ’93 accord/ Please believe, that’s all I could a-fford/ If I had a choice, I woulda gotten a Ford/ And when I say Pinto y’all know rental.”
Here, Kresovich clearly mocks commercial gangster rap in an effort to avoid his own criticism. But today, his music has traveled full circle and has ironically become indistinguishable from the commercially successful music he once felt pressured to imitate.
The first single on his latest release, “Hey Hollywood,” sizzles with fuzzy guitars and sparkles with elegant keys. Singer Nate Landers cries: “Hey Hollywood/ If you don’t mind, I think you could/ Be the One for me/ ’Cause I’ve got what you need.”
The song could be about girls — Harlem rapper S-Caliber does dedicate the song “to all my Hollywood shortys everywhere” — but it fits nicely to picture Kresovich rollin’ glamorously through Tinsel Town … or at least yearning to be there someday.
“I have always been a dreamer and a dream chaser,” he said. “And this [album] is kind of an example of that.”
Spending his past two summers as an intern at Def Jam records — home to Jay-Z, Nas and Kanye West — Kresovich was able to establish valuable connections.
While working in publicity, his co-workers and boss took an interest in his music. Although an appointment to audition for the label fell through, Kresovich did not give up.
“I stole someone’s key card and I went upstairs to the A&R [artist relations] floor myself,” he said. There, he introduced himself to Lenny S. and was able to arrange a meeting for the following week. After listening to Kresovich’s music, Lenny S. said he was impressed and encouraged Kresovich to make a full-length album. Lenny S. requested a copy to be sent to him upon completion.
“After two auditions with Def Jam and positive reviews, it’ll certainly adjust your state of mind,” Kresovich said in an e-mail. “I literally came into the second Def Jam audition daring everyone in the room (A&Rs, managers, agents, etc.) to tell me ‘that my shit sucked.’ That’s verbatim. No one did. All I got was praise. Either one of those two moments made it seem that much more realistic to pursue.”
Scrambling around New York City this past summer, Kresovich was able record with some of his favorite underground MCs who approached him to do their production, which are included on The Crowned Prince.
“This album is a crowning moment in my musical career,” he said.
The album is an 18-song collection, with all but one track composed and recorded by Kresovich. All proceeds from the album will be donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
Kresovich has stressed numerous times, however, that The Crowned Prince is an album for charity, not a “charity album,” in defense of its high quality.
The album ranges in influence from West Coast, to Dirty South, to Gangster Rap, but one thread that ties the project together is the undeniably professional quality of production and sound.
“Lots of people at the time took my music as a joke,” he said about his high school rapping career. “And that hurt.”
But despite the criticism from peers — or just maybe because of it — Kresovich was able to push forward and develop as an artist.
“I’m really glad I did the rapping thing,” he said. “If I had the courage to do that, it really just helped me be confident to pursue things I used to be afraid of.”
And now, Kresovich is ready to show the world his genuine artistic self — and prove just how far he has come.
“Anytime you put out an album, you’re putting your neck out on the line,” he said. “It takes guts and I commend anyone who does it and remains honest with themselves through the process because that is hard.”
Kresovich’s album, The Crowned Prince is available at TheCrownedPrince.com.