Why not me, right
Located 49 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, sits Scottdale, Pennsylvania. The town is home to four thousand-ish people, and one of the people who grew up there is Stephen Hernely, also known as up and coming rapper Izzy Strange. It might seem odd that an unheard of town, one that was built off it’s once prosperous steel industry is producing anyone in the hip-hop game, but why not right? It’s not about where you’re from, it’s about where you’re going. Something Izzy is quite familiar with.
As an avid rap listener since his younger days, Izzy first dabbled with the artform as a writer, a way to get out his feelings. “Way before I even thought about, like, getting in the booth. I would just write.”
Growing up Izzy was always aware that his interest in rapping and music was sort of looked down upon, as his aspirations often received backlash. “Yeah, even my family sometimes. Like the other day I was telling my grandma about how excited I am for this tour, and I could tell – like I love my grandma (laughs) so I wasn’t gonna’ say anything – but that in the back her of head she was kind of questioning it.” Izzy says most of the people in Scottdale are either listening to country or rock music. He doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with that, which is evident in his music, but Izzy knew he was in the minority when it came to music tastes and life goals. The only people originally close to him listening to rap were his uncles.
“No one takes the white guy, from Scottdale, Pennsylvania, trying to rap seriously.” Izzy and I both had a laugh about this on the phone, because the whole “white rapper” stigma shouldn’t even be a thing. Izzy himself never really even thought about rap in that way. It didn’t matter who it was. Whether it was Aesop Rock or Cassidy in his headphones. It was just another person with a song. “Out of high school if you’re not getting married or getting a job, they think you’re doing something wrong.” Well, the times have sure changed.
Izzy has since worked with the likes of Open Mike Eagle, Mick Jenkins, Blu, and Nate Fox. Fox, whom you are probably familiar with from The Social Experiment, actually went to the same high school as Izzy. They shared common ground as musicians and have formed a solid partnership since those days. “I was nervous at first, ’cause Nate was older, a few grades ahead of me, but once we started working it all clicked. We’ve been friends that way ever since.” It’s also fair to note that Fox is now a Grammy Award winning producer. This shows that you really can make it from anywhere. “Why not me, right?” Izzy also expressed a great deal of excitement in having worked with so many respected names in hip-hop. For a guy from a small town, being able to work with some of your favorite contemporaries is a dream come true.
Being from Scottdale has shaped Izzy in many ways. For one, it has taught him to always chase your dreams. “If it wasn’t for my drive, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing.” If you’re an aspiring musician, athelete, or anything; this is something to be taken seriously. Without that passion and heart, the things you wan’t aren’t going to happen. This drive is also what helped Izzy to cofound Beasley’s Corner Bodega, a collective now made up of musicians, photographers, filmmakers, artists, and anything else you can think of. It’s all about supporting each other in Izzy’s world.
What’s next for Izzy? For starters, he’s about to go on tour with Hi-Rez as an opener for the second half of his Missing Pieces tour. Izzy has opened for people before, but never “an artist of his level,” so it’s easy to say Izzy is definitely amped for this opportunity and to visit some places he’s never been. “Austin, Texas. And I’ve never been to Vermont. Mainly because I’ve never had a reason to go to fucking Vermont before (laughs).”
To top that off, his sophomore album, A Good Day 2 B The Bad Guy is dropping on May 2nd. This is the follow up to 2015’s Dinner With My Enemies, and Izzy is very proud and aware of his progression since then. He feels like it’s the first time all of his skills will be properly displayed, stating that the music on this album, that, “This is me. It’s my introduction.” From top to bottom, the excitement for this project is evident in his voice. The title for the album was actually inspired by a scene in Scarface. “Tony’s at dinner, totally coked out of his mind, (laughs) and he says something like “You need people like me to point the finger at, to say, “that’s the bad guy,” or whatever.” This inspiration is stemmed from the doubt Izzy has had thrown his way throughout his life. Just because you’re not living your dream, doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be living his.
While this is shaping up to be the biggest year of his career, there’s one thing for sure that Izzy Strange will always be doing: Dream chasing. And he wants everyone to continue to chase theirs. Because really, there’s nothing strange about that now, is there?