Campus Celebrity: Thomas R. Easley (Rapper & Director of Diversity at the College of Natural Resources)

NC State has a lot of talented people on its campus. Did you know that one of our very own staff members is a rapper?

 Thomas RaShad Easley is the Director of the Community for Diversity in the College of Natural Resources and an alumnus of NC State. He has a contract with Def Jam, and Easleybranch, LLC. He has produced two albums and is currently working on a third album. RaShad has been rapping since he was 14 and he writes his own songs. Continue reading to see what RaShad said during an exclusive interview with HerCampus!

Name: Thomas RaShad Easley
Birthday: July 4, 1978
Hometown: Birmingham, AL

Where did you go to undergrad college?
Alabama A&M University

What other degrees do you hold and from where did you get them?
BS Forestry –Alabama A&M University
MS Forest Genetics- Iowa State University
Ed. D (Doctorate)- December 2012- North Carolina State University

What is your job/title NC State?
Director of the Community for Diversity in the College of Natural Resources

Are there any NC State clubs or organizations you are involved in? What are they?
Co-Advisor to Pack’s Pact
Doctoral Support Group under the Leader of Dr. Tim Luckadoo
Peace Church- Visiting Minister during the Fall semester 2012

How old were you when you started rapping/singing?
14 years old

Who are you signed with? When did it happen?
I have an online digital deal with Def Jam First Look and This happened two years ago when I was in my rap group DIEVERCITY. I also have a deal with Easleybranch, LLC.

How did you feel when you got signed?
Since it was a digital deal and all online it meant we could only use the name (Def Jam) I was excited for a short amount of time

What type of music do you produce?
I make hip hop music.

Do you write your own songs?
I write my own songs.

How many albums have you had?
I’ve had two albums “It’s Up to You” and “Transitions.”

What’s your favorite song on your latest album?
On my latest album Transitions my favorite song is All the Things I Been Through.

Tell me about your most memorable performance. (Where it happened, what happened, and what made it stand out.)
My most memorable performance was in 2002 when I was with a band in Iowa called Kountertop. I was the lead rapper and the only hip hop focused talent in the band, so we had a different sound. We opened up for another band Pomeroy and tore the house down. You must understand that a month prior Pomeroy came and opened for us (Kountertop) and showed us up. This was tough for us to digest but we knew it was our own fault since we hadn’t rehearsed much. So for a month we rehearsed very-hard and when it was time for our show we tore the place up and gave Pomeroy competition that night. Then during Pomeroy’s performance they had a freestyle battle between the rappers in the club. I got on stage and beat everyone even the lead rapper in Pomeroy. That night I realized that I can entertain people and that I have the skill to stand alone.

Which artist do you look up to/admire?
There aren’t many artists I look up to now because I don’t know anyone that’s doing what I’m doing. However, over the years I had people I liked for various reasons.
#1 Andre 3000 of Outkast. His lyrical content and clever delivery always astounds me. Also the way he gets on a song and takes it to another level. Also he does artistic things outside of the genre he is known for.
Nas because he is able to rap about relevant and mature topics and still stay true to where he is from.
Lupe Fiasco because he is just downright a positive rapper that doesn’t mind talking about God in his lyrics, uplifts the community, addresses politics and still keeps it hip hop.
Common because he has been in the game for more than 20 years and has transcended music to now movies and still keeps it true to the craft of Hip hop.
Canton Jones- Christian singer rapper that is able to make great music and rap about Jesus without compromising the art form or his integrity.
Which artist(s) has had the biggest influence on your music?
My biggest influences are Nas because of his smooth delivery, Lupe Fiasco for being an experimental artist, and Andre 3000 for doing whatever he wants to do. Canton Jones more importantly because he is a Christian like me and he still keeps making great tunes and giving God the glory through his talents.
Outkast as a unit because they were two southern men from Atlanta, GA that came out and made music that transcended genres of music.

Who’s been your biggest supporter?
My manager Kim Dew. She is an awesome support and model for what a friend is. She is a great parent and knows how to compartmentalize business and friendship well.
My church Poplar Springs Christian Church is also a big supporter of me. They stand behind me in what I do. They recognize that it is unorthodox what I’m doing, but that it reaches people that typically wouldn’t come to our usual place of fellowship

Do you see another album in the future?
I am working on another album right now. I keep going in and out on titles for the project. I want to name it “Goodfellas” because we don’t really an album promoting being good men and building the community. I also want to name it “If It Ain’t Done Right” to show there is a different image that one can have in music and you don’t have to do what others do.

Do you have any advice for those who also want to enter the music industry?
First be yourself. Know what it is that you want to do with the music. Many people just want to do music, but no one knows what they want the music to do for them. Next every artist should have their affairs in order. Get your business in line. I’ve started my own business and now all of my music is ran through my business Easley Branch, LLC. Don’t let anyone influence you because everyone is unique. So be yourself and stop trying to be like anyone else. Stop faking like you’re living your life in a way that’s not true.
Finally, don’t be afraid to stay in school or college. Stop using music as the only way to be successful. So many young people are dropping out pursuing a dream instead of developing a vision for their life and making it happen. Stay focused and accomplish goals.

Do you have anything else you would like to tell us?
I make sure my music is reflective of my life. So my music is not an alter ego it is who I am. I am not ashamed to share my experiences and being real with my listeners. That’s why I go by my middle name and nothing made up.
I make secular music to reach people a mass of people. Positivity does not hurt, but I tell my music through my lived experience. Thus my music has a message in it and it is called Save Your Life Music. I create my music for a purpose and not just for entertainment.
Being a Deacon I do my best to honor my church in all that I do so there is no conflict in my music, my belief, nor my way of life. As an employee at NCSU I make that my music also shows honor to my profession.

Twitter: @RaShadmusiq