Born Seth Holland, Vishiss was reared in the rough streets of Detroit. He found himself in and out of trouble with the law from the time he was a pre-teen. Still, he persevered through the hardships, and his survivor tales and worldview are as key to his record’s creative success as his carefully crafted rap style.
He explains: “Rappers are a dime a dozen in Detroit. Everybody there really appreciates hip-hop and it seems like everyone in Detroit can rap.
Seriously, right now I think we probably have more rappers than anywhere else in the country, and Detroit has more talent than anywhere in the
U.S. It’s always been hot. I mean, we ain’t got shit to do, ain’t got shit but the radio. That’s it. So we rap. And you’re not gonna come out of Detroit repping Detroit if you’re shitty – they won’t let you.”
Raised in the city and surrounding communities, Vishiss was reared by a single mother. He didn’t put down roots in any one place for more than a year.
This disjointed adolescence was the backdrop for his battles with juvenile delinquency, which began at the age of 12. “I was just a crazy little bastard,” he admits. It wasn’t regular kid stuff, either; he was in and out of detention centers and correctional facilities. His first run-in with the law came when he and some friends jumped another group of neighborhood kids in a street fight. Vishiss was remanded to juvenile hall for three months.
“ I was locked up the majority of my teenage years, so often that for a lot of that time, I don’t even remember where and when,” he says.
His first trip through the justice system continually dogged Vishiss because it established probationary periods he repeatedly violated. After his initial release, he couldn’t conform to the mandate that he stay at home except when at school. “I had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” he reveals. “I couldn’t be caged like that. I’d just leave and go get into trouble.”
Prior to this, when he was a boy, Vishiss’ punishment for acting up would be incarceration in his room. “The only thing I had was this little clock radio,” he remembers, “and I’d just lie there listening to it until I fell asleep. They had a station playing old hip-hop. I fell in love with it.”
He and his friends devoured as much hardcore, gangsta rap as they could: NWA, Too $hort, Spice1, DJ Quik, MC Eiht, Ice Cube. He elaborates: “I loved Tung Twista back when he rapped real fast, and Esham – that was a phase I went through, listening to that devil shit. I loved Dayton Family; that was my shit. They were up from around where we were. And I grew up with my mother listening to classic rock – Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix; Jimi Hendrix is my shit. But beyond that, it was straight-up hip-hop for me.”
Vishiss discovered his own rap skills at the various correctional facilities: “I had the time to work on my shit, and that’s all I would do,” he says.
It was a stay at the Boy’s Ranch detention center in Oxford, Mich., when he was 13 that he remembers as particularly productive. Three people he met there would serve as inspiration. The first was named Terence, aka T-Dacious, who served as Vishiss’ mentor at the center. “He took me under his wing, treated me like a little brother,” Vishiss says. “He found out I rapped and made me spit ’em out for him. That was the first time I really rapped for people.”
Another two friends, Dante and Gino, would trade verses with Vishiss, and through competition, they encouraged each other’s skills. But he realizes now that it was T-Dacious, Gino and Dante’s general acceptance of him that provided the most support.
In some ways, Vishiss’ love of hip-hop provided something he never really found at home. He recognizes the shortcomings of his upbringing, but he feels no shame. ”My mom is my pride and joy. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her.”
A few years before he got sent away for the first time, Vishiss was adopted by his mom’s boyfriend, who’d moved in with them. His new father was now financially responsible for Vishiss’ legal infractions. “The fact that he’d adopted me fucked everything up – if he didn’t adopt me, the state would’ve picked up everything,” the rapper explains. “But by the time I walked out of the place, he was $30,000 in debt.”
That caused resentment. “He outright hated me,” Vishiss states. “He wouldn’t let me in the house. Sometimes I’d be outside until 4:00 a.m., when my mom would come home and let me in.” And though that relationship has somehow been salvaged, Vishiss still feels contempt for the people he feels betrayed him – old girlfriends, kids at school, police, the judicial system. There’s a sense that he was trapped in the system and left to flounder, subject to the whims of whoever wanted to keep him down. “It’s a vicious cycle, man,” he says, alluding to his rap moniker. “I felt like I’d never get out of it.”
And for a long time, it looked like he wouldn’t. When he was 19, Vishiss was sent to jail for a year, convicted of having sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 16, though the sex was consensual. The sentence was complicated by his history of probation violations.
Remarkably, Vishiss remains philosophical about the experience: “It put things in perspective.” In fact, the ability to see more than one side of an issue is perhaps his greatest lyrical strength, surfacing throughout Mr. Holland’s Opus. “Being in jail also made me fuckin’ hungry to do what I needed to do,” Vishiss adds, “to get where I am now.”
And, as it turned out, jail was an ideal proving ground. “That’s where I really honed my skills,” Vishiss concedes. “Every single night, I’d just write songs. People would pay me to rap in front of their cells. That’s where I was battling motherfuckers; that was my circuit. I’m famous in jail now – I’ve got motherfuckers in prison just waiting for my shit.”
Another thing Vishiss developed behind bars was focus. “When I got out, man, the only thing I did was keep my eyes on the prize,” he says. “I quit smokin’ weed. I went back to school and got my GED. I paid my bills. I did everything I could to get off probation so I could pursue my dreams. I was basically just a blue-collar motherfucker – just trying everything to not go back to jail.”
Part of that effort found him in regular rhyme workouts with his crew. Trading verses with Helluva, The Flowch and Rizzo, among others, he amped up his verbal dexterity and broadened his thematic reach. “It used to be just a bunch of my friends,” Vishiss notes, “but now that I’ve got the opportunity to put it together for real, we’re a tight crew. We’re hoping to put out a crew record someday.”
Once he was sure enough of his skills to hit the stage, Vishiss signed on to open for The Wu-Tang Clan, at Detroit’s State Theater. He recalls: “I was maybe a little nervous until I got onstage. But once I was out there, I was in my element. It was hot.” He says of another show: “When I opened for Mobb Deep at the House Of Blues in Chicago, I almost got into it with some dudes in the crowd. They clicked up and decided to boo me, six dudes in the front just being assholes. So I got some water bottles and threw water over them.”
Clearly more adept at conflict resolution than he once was, Vishiss did get off probation and went right into the studio to record over 30 songs within a few months (with producers from Detroit and all over the country, including DJ Cheapshot from LA). The underground buzz started building in the streets of Detroit and one of the songs “Killin Spree” kept coming up as the anthem. Vishiss decided that it was time for the world to know what T-Dacious and his people still stuck in the system had told him a long time ago….that it was time to SPIT VISHISS!!!
Vishiss decided that it was time to drop his first bomb on the world with the release of “Battle Rhyme” b/w “Killin Spree” (both produced by DJ Cheapshot). Which brings us to now…Reflecting on how far he’s come from his street days, Vishiss says: “I feel I’m past all that shit and it’s my time now. I can conquer the whole world if I want to.
released April 3, 2012
All Song Written and performed by Seth "Spit Vishiss" Hollan. All songs Produced, Recorded, Mixed, and Masterd at Tre Lb. Sounds by Michael "Tre Lb." Locks
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