By Amanda Russo — 1851 Staff
John McNeil smiles warmly as he leans forward in his chair. Calm and friendly, the 22-year-old rapper explains that he has been rapping from the time he was 16. Under his stage name of Interstate Flamez, he has been performing for three years. A full-time student at Umass Dartmouth and student worker, McNeil doesn’t have much free time for music, but he still takes it seriously. “I wouldn’t call it a hobby,” said McNeil, “because it’s more than that.”
McNeil grew up in Dorchester, Mass., and it is his home and his life experience that define his music. His lyrics speak to certain incidents he has been through and he believes that is what makes his music relatable. “Everybody is going to like something different,” he said, “if you’re going through something and I’m rapping about it, that’s going to be your favorite song,” said McNeil. “It’s not going to be that way for everyone though. Her favorite track might be track three, his favorite track might be track four. It’s all about what you like.”
The name “Interstate Flamez” has a creative meaning to McNeil. Growing up, friends and family members called him “Flamez” because of his high energy and outgoing personality. When McNeil began rapping, he started using the name Flamez and it recently evolved into the name he now bears.
The word “interstate” became part of his title when he began performing across state lines. “It’s random, but we were going to one of my shows and we passed a sign that said interstate on it and my friends we’re like well, now you perform in other states, so why not add that,” he said.
McNeil’s label and management are all close friends of his. Interstate Flamez is, however, a one-man performer. McNeil is picky about who he works with. “It might sound crazy, but I put everyone through like a screening process,” he said with a laugh. “But someone can make or break a track.”
McNeil prides himself on his lyrics and thinks it’s important that if a rapper is making music, he needs to be saying something worthwhile. His example is The Notorious B.I.G. “He had to make his way to the top from nothing. And his lyrics, they speak to the things he was going through. You can’t rap about guns and money and diamonds if that isn’t what your life is,” said McNeil.
For McNeil, his future is bright and he knows it. Graduating in May, his options are limitless. “Five years from now I see myself working in a corporate office. But I could also see myself being successful with my rap,” he said. Either way, success is in his plans. “I’ll always have a story to tell,” he said.