Sylvan LaCue Premieres 'Florida Man' Video, Talks Dedicating New Mixtape to His Grandmother: Exclusive
On a humid night in North Miami, Sylvan LaCue finds himself locked in the studio with DJ Luna and fellow South Florida rappers BZZY and SIN. Right before we entered the studio, they had just put the finishing touches of their aggressive track “Capitalistic Nature,” which features the triad of rappers spitting over Rick Ross’ “Cigar Talk” off his Deeper Than Rap album. The Mafioso type record proves how much all three MCs have grown individually over the last decade of their extensive friendship. It’s also one of the standout tracks from LaCue’s new visual project Florida Man.
The WiseUp rapper, formerly known as QuESt, kicked off the summer with a fresh mission that was inspired by the mantra left by his late grandmother, Ruth Williams, who passed away in late May. For LaCue, he plans to unite his family within Florida’s unique music community the way Williams kept her close ones together. In an effort to honor her legacy, LaCue flips several rap classics from Florida veterans such as Rick Ross, Trina, Trick Daddy and T-Pain to bring his homestate closer together through the power of music.
Instead of trying to turn a profit, any proceeds or donations made in the name of the project will go to charities from all over South Florida. The visual project will debut in full on his YouTube channel with 10 videos including the title track “Florida Man,” which Billboard is premiering today (July 9).
“I brought my business partner Jonathan Benavente out to South Florida and basically took him around to everywhere I grew up. Miramar, Hallandale, Pembroke Pines, Fort Lauderdale, North Miami. I wanted to show a glimpse of the personal places in South Florida that meant the most to me. It’s like the kick-off to the whole entire Florida Man visual experience," LaCue says.
Before the project drops this Friday (Jul 13), Billboard caught up with LaCue to talk about his mission to reinvent the Florida Man, how Childish Gambino’s show and music inspired the project, why he chose to only worked with Florida natives, and plenty more. Florida Man will drop exclusively through his YouTube channel July 13, and will be available for streaming on SoundCloud afterwards.
First things first: where were you when you saw the “Florida Man” episode of Atlanta that inspired the project?
I was in Los Angeles when I first saw it. I didn't think much of it, though. I just thought it was entertaining and clever. It's something that we in Florida hear all about thanks to the meme culture online. So to see Atlanta just coin it and make it a thing, I thought it was clever, but I didn't think much of it when I saw it at the time. That's not what made me say, "Let me do this concept."
So how did you think of the concept for Florida Man?
It was a very gradual thing. I saw the episode right when it came out, but I didn't think much of it. I didn't have any ideas or anything. I was in a different head-space in Los Angeles, fresh off of Apologies in Advance, just trying to figure out the next steps of my career.
Then my grandmother passed in late May, and that's when I went back home. I knew I needed to be there for my family and loved ones. But it's funny, because she passed away at a time when everything I'd worked my entire life and my career for was coming to life. I put all of that on pause so that I could go back and be there for my family.
My grandmother and I were close for a period of time but around [age] fifteen, sixteen, seventeen -- because of music and where I wanted to go -- our relationship became strained. So I went back home and I didn't get a chance to say goodbye before she left. While I was there, I started learning more and more about her.
She had three daughters, which were all of my aunts that my family and I grew up around, and she was about keeping the family together. I think just being back home, I was just remembering a lot. I hadn't been back home for more than a week at a time for a long period of time in a long time. I just started seeing family and friends who reminded me of my roots and where I came from. I wanted to find a way to honor my grandmother's legacy, and that's when Florida Man started happening.
What was your direction for the tape when you first started it?
I was at my mom's house on County Line Road just smoking, listening to music, and thinking about what it was like when I used to just rap over instrumentals. Then I started thinking about the last mixtape I really loved, and it was, oddly enough, Childish Gambino's STN MTN. I started listening to that tape, then I started remembering the "Florida Man" episode of Atlanta and it started clicking. I was like, "Oh, snap, I really got this idea." It ended up being a month's worth of work.
It's safe to assume that "Ruth Williams," the last track on the tape, is your grandmother's name?
So what made you tell her story over T-Pain’s “Can’t Believe It?"
Well, number one, it's a Florida record since T-Pain is a Tallahassee boy. Number two, the title is "Can't Believe It" and I really couldn't believe that she was gone at that time. It's just a culmination. The whole tape is dedicated to her because I felt like when she passed, she gave me cause, and the cause was to keep people together.
I always knew that, but it starts at home with family and the community and people who raised you to be who you are. It's just my testimony to her. It's like, "Hey, you passed me your cause because of the life that you led. So this is me taking what's in my hands with my influence and seeing what I can do with it." My way of honoring her legacy is keeping my community together and the family together.
“Capitalistic Nature” stands out not only because you chose Ross' "Cigar Talk," but your flow is completely different from the rest of the project. What inspired you to switch it up on this one?
It's just another side of Miami. In the early 2010s, Ross had a lot of records that were like B-cuts on mixtapes that had such amazing, beautiful music. "Cigar Music" is one of my favorites from Ross. I've known SIN for 10 years. I've known BZZY fka Bizzy Crook for 10 years. We've always known each and know our rhymes are sick. We've always had the same vibe. We all love Jay-Z, Rick Ross, and music about the lavish lifestyle. I just wanted to include that side to Miami because there is a side that's don-like, mafioso, and on top of the world-type shit.
We're influenced by that, but also it's something that's not necessarily healthy for us, [that we] came up wanting to be like that, but in the grand scheme of it we're just different people. There are different troubles that we have that the generation before us didn't have so I wanted to include that side. The whole tape is like, "Let's create all the sides of all of South Florida that I feel I experienced."
“Do Not Question” seems like a nod to your previous grind as “QuESt”. What made you made you revive him? What would Sylvan LaCue tell QuESt at the beginning of his career?
I think Sylvan LaCue would've told QuESt in the beginning to keep that same energy. [Laughs] Also, to know that there's a lot more to just your own pursuit of being great. I think that's who QuESt was. QuESt was, "I want to be great because I want to be great." It was hunger, passion, and "I'm the best." That can only get you so far.
Obviously, there's pride, ego, and self-belief. At the end of the day, being the best only goes so far and it only allows that feeling to exist for so long. If this is Sylvan talking to QuESt, it's like, "Yo, keep that same energy, but just know that there's way more to this than just you being the best."
Going back to your first question, it was fun, but it was also like a statement. My cause is greater than what rap's quintessential "who's the best rapper" is concerned with. I did that, but it’s not really what appeases me. I think there's a larger feat from me, but at the same time, don't get it twisted. I'm very nice and it's not what you'd expect from me.
That's what people want. So I just wanted to have fun with this one. But the whole point of this tape is to bring people together and giving a different face of the connotation of what South Florida is. I feel like people don't really understand what it is to be here and see what's been going on here for a long time. It's just to add to the conversation. Let's do something positive to lift the connotation of the Florida Man and make it a positive thing.
Earlier, you said you grew up on County Line Road, which is also the name of track No. 6, featuring Jeff Rambo and Philo B. How do you feel that the instrumental that you spit over -- Trick Daddy’s “Thug Holiday” -- correlates to your childhood?
For a lot of guys like me, we grew up looking up to Trick Daddy as a hero. He's one of us. He is the quintessential man we see every time we go outside. He's speaking for all of us. Records like "Thug Holiday," where there's real pain and real addressing of issues, I feel are under-appreciated outside of Florida. I wanted to bring that record back because it meant a lot to a lot of us, and it still does today.
"County Line Road" is just a bridge. That's where I grew up at. Miami Gardens is just a little bit north of County Line, but I've always been able to exist in Broward and exist in Dade because I've always had the best of both worlds. That's why I was like, "Yo, let's come together." Jeff Rambo is from West Palm Beach by way of Hallandale. That's that Broward side. Philo B is from Hialeah/North Miami. That's why on the tape it's like no matter if you're from Dade or Broward county, let's come together because there's no reason why we shouldn't be pulling up on one another.
I feel like Florida's music community is more united now than it's ever been before. Your entire project is made up of only people from Florida who has put in the work in the community. Was that part of your plan?
Yeah, no outsiders. I wanted it to be completely Florida. I've done many of my projects with people outside of Florida from L.A. to New York. I've worked with a lot of people, but I wanted my Florida Man mixtape to be strictly about Florida, more specifically South Florida. I just thought its a time for a lot of us to begin to heal. I've experienced a lot; we've experienced a lot.
I've experienced a lot with my grandmother and as a community we've experienced a lot when it comes down to the senseless violence that's been happening and XXXTentacion's tragic news that happened so abruptly. I'm just very tired of people only getting certain stories.
Miami's DJ Bre mixed the project and DJ Luna is the host. Since the tape is really aggressive and I couldn't get any lyricists or singers who were women in time, I wanted make sure the voice of South Florida was a woman because we also come from them. That soft, sexy voice echoing throughout the project is so...Florida. So I worked with them, plus Danny aka "Stay Lookin' Out" engineered everything and Unkle Luc, a video director and photographer who's also from Florida, did the cover art.
I wanted to create something the city would be proud of and also just be a statement in itself. Let's bring people together. It also gives a new meaning to the term Florida Man. It's like taking something that's supposed to have a negative connotation and flipping it. This is what's really going on out here, and now, more than ever, we need to stick together. That's why this is all non-profit. I'm not making anything off it. If people want to support the cause of the project in any type of way, here are lists of charities that really affect the community. Support them.
Which charities will the project help support?
It's about five charities from Dade, Broward County and Palm Beach counties. Miami Rescue Mission, Overtown Youth Org, Miami Bridge and North Dade Youth & Family Coalition are based in Miami-Dade. Hands On Broward, Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Broward County, Broward Outreach Center, United Way Broward, and Broward Partnership operate from Broward County. Urban Youth Impact, Inner City Innovators, Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach and Police Athletic League are located throughout Palm Beach county.
You also spit over Kodak Black & XXXTentacion's "Roll In Peace." How did you feel after learning about XXX's tragic death?
I had no relationship with XXXTentacion. I knew a few people who were very close to him but in terms of me and him having an actual conversation, that didn't happen. It wasn't by choice. We were just in different circles and that happens a lot.
I heard about XXX back in 2014, but by the time he really started making waves in like 2015-2016, I was in L.A., so I didn't get to be a part of that community. But I always knew the people he was around and those who were affiliated because I grew up in South Florida around a lot of those guys. When I got the news, it was very unreal to me because I was already working on Florida Man and that was like for my grandmother.
I just remember getting the news that he got shot and I was like I don't know how to take this, but maybe he'll pull through. Then, he died and it was a blow. It was a blow to all of South Florida regardless of your opinion of him. I went to the candlelight the next day in Pompano because I knew his music. I wasn't an avid listener, but I knew a few records and I kind of understood what he was doing for his fan base and thought it was dope.
When I went to the candlelight, it was eye-opening because it kind of clicked for me. You have all these kids that were fans of his, and I cried with a lot of them because it wasn't the fact that XXXTentacion died as a product of whatever energy he quote unquote "brought into his life." That's almost too easy, especially if it was because of his enemies. It would've been to easy to dismiss, but what makes this even more sad is the fact what happened to him happens all the time in South Florida.
Somebody pulls up on someone, "Ayo, let me get that," they put up a fight, homie is dead, baby mom has a kid, you know what I'm saying? That happens all the time here. It's sad that a 20-year-old who had a platform and could've possibly done something really positive in the world and is of notoriety isn't exempt from the harsh reality that if you're looking like you got a bit of too much in the hood, you're gonna get got. That's why I wrote on the project, "I didn't know much about Tray, Trayvon Martin, and I didn't know much about X because nobody deserves that."