Shoose McGee’s daughter will turn 4 on September 19, the same day his new EP is released. His daughter is in the “repeat stages." When McGee is with her — he shares custody — he sometimes notices she has memorized songs he feels are inappropriate. With that in mind, he created Brooke’s Playlist, hip-hop music fit for a 3-year-old.
McGee has released several mixtapes since 2011. But for years he has considered making music without profanity. “I’m lyrical enough to make it sound good,” he says. “Not no Will Smith stuff.” More specifically, he wanted to make music that was appropriate for his daughter, but still true to reality. He wanted it to be relatable to anyone, regardless of age. With his child as motivation, he set out to create music without profanity, references to sex or violence.
Coincidentally, McGee’s parents split when he was 3. As a child, his family moved around constantly and he was always the new guy. “It was difficult for me,” he admits. Money was tight when he was growing up and he remembers his parents sometimes struggling to provide food. He often wrote poems as a way of escaping. But these days McGee worries about getting older without accomplishing anything and leaving his daughter with nothing.
“I’m willing to be happy or miserable for my daughter,” he says. “My parents didn’t ever say, ‘Forget me, it’s about you.’ But I am going to give my daughter that chance. Forget me. It’s about you, baby girl.”
McGee believes he has made music for kids that adults would listen to when their kids aren’t in the car. As a hip-hop artist, he is very conscious of the influence he has on younger people, starting with his daughter. “She imitates anything that I do,” McGee says. “It’s just like being a rapper. Sometimes we really do have to watch the things we say.” He notices that many rappers aren’t living the sort of lifestyles they describe in their music, even as their fans take them at face value.
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Looking back on music he listened to as a child, McGee remembers hearing references he didn’t understand. He didn’t realize how negative some of the music was or how lacking in substance. With Brooke’s Playlist, he wants to approach kids respectfully and teach them life lessons. With his rhymes, he addresses the same things he wants to pass on to his daughter. "Life Just Gets So Hard Sometimes," a single from the upcoming EP, touches on adult responsibilities and harsh realities while longing to be a kid again.
When asked about rappers who shy away from the subject of fatherhood in their music because it does not jibe with the image they are trying to project, McGee is baffled. “Wow,” he says. “That’s my greatest accomplishment on earth.” He struggles to come up with a response and eventually guesses that they may be more concerned with making money than being themselves.
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“There’s a stigma about rappers being misogynists in the industry,” McGee says. “So every rapper feels like they have to be a misogynist when they come in. I don’t want to be like that. I just want to be me.” He takes music very seriously and dismisses most of what he hears on the radio. To him, music seeps into everything, comparable to religion. He believes it should be about truth.
But McGee’s music isn’t soft by any means. He has a unique sound, bringing trap, jazz, R&B and several other influences into the mix. And he can rhyme with the best of them. McGee also has a frenetic stage presence, building momentum to a surprising level of intensity. Using a live band with backup singers whenever possible, he runs back and forth across the stage, looking audience members in the eye and raising the sound of his voice as the intensity rises.
His live performances are cathartic and spiritual, somewhat influenced by his background in acting. He studied theater at Tarrant County College, but by the age of 21, he was already starting to shift his focus to music. He even remembers his acting coach telling him he had a better chance of making it in acting if he approached it with a rapper’s mindset. But for McGee, approaching hip-hop with a theater background has proven to be the preferable option.
He definitely sees similarities between performing live music and acting. “People have to be able to feel your energy,” McGee says. “Then you can begin to feed off their energy.” Rappers have to know how to put on a show just like actors performing in a play. McGee sees both acting and performing music simply as entertainment. Either way, he goes in knowing his lines. “I have to perform, I have to act it out. Everything I say, they have to feel it.”