Q&A with Valley Stream hip-hop artist PicaSso Sight

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“Being an artist is a real thing, when the lights aren’t on, and nobody’s around, you’re doing it,” explained Valley Stream hip-hop artist PicaSso Sight. “It started from a rhyme book.”

Sight, born Jesse Ulysse, moved to Valley Stream from Flatbush, Brooklyn in 1998, and the change, he said, led him down a path of self-discovery.

While making new connections and friends, he grappled with manic depression and bipolar disorder for much of his life, before later coming to terms with his troubles with the help of his late therapist whose name,  Lynn Van Evry, is tattooed on his right arm.

“In the black community we’re not really educated on that stuff,” he said of conversations around mental health. “I was in denial, and my parents had trouble coming to grips with it.”

But Sight took those experiences and channeled them into his music.

“People that go through what I go through need something that’s unfiltered,” he said. “So I push myself for that.”

Struggles with mental health factor prominently in Sight’s work, and over the course of his career, he has produced four albums, the most recent of which — titled Decade of Homage 2: Valley Stream — was released in late 2017, and recorded and co-produced with the help of Will Harris.

Over the next year, he would collaborate with local photographer, Court Hospedales, to produce music videos, mostly shot in Valley Stream, for each of the album’s 16 tracks, which can be viewed at @swoosh_james on Instagram TV.

Sight said he wanted to pay tribute to the neighborhood that played such a big role in his upbringing.

“I wanted people to understand why I love this place,” he said.

Herald: How would you describe your musical style?

PicaSso Sight: My lyric style sits on artistic integrity — truths and affirmations. Sonically, people hear Jay -Z and Linkin Park, influences infused with a variety of styles found in many different genres.

H: What was the first album you ever owned?

P: The first album I ever owned was Meteora by Linkin Park. It was my only CD in 10th grade and it changed my life. I listened to it every day nonstop. I related to it heavily, and studied the lyrical content as well as instrumental work that went into it.

H: How has living in Valley Stream influenced your work?

P: Valley Stream is the hub of my experiences. It’s a quiet town where I’ve come to contemplate life. No matter where I go I always come back here to make sense of it. Valley Stream is where I learned to embrace many cultures, lifestyles and sexual orientations different from my own.

H: When did you decide you wanted to produce your own music?

P: There are many out there that take advantage of rappers, selling tracks for ridiculous amounts of money. I was into bands and played a little piano, guitar and bass. At 18 years old I experimented early with developing my own sound. I had to save money and wanted to maintain my own vision so I started giving it a shot until I got better and better.

H: How would you describe the themes in your music videos?

P: Me and Court Hospedales decided we wanted to make the videos diverse yet have some sort of common thread. The entire video album represents a day in the life growing up in valley Stream; sonically and visually. In the intro track I leave home and go out into the world. At the end, I return.

H: How did the videos come together?

P: I recorded the album a full year before the videos were recorded. As a rap artist I know the market is oversaturated so I study attention spans and ask myself what I can do to stand out. I learned that people are quicker to play music off of their phones with visuals attached to it. Only the likes of Beyonce, Frank Ocean and a couple others have done video albums. I’ve recorded, directed and edited all my videos before, but this time I had Court, who is a photographer, and artist to truly collab with, and oversee the entire process.