Growing up in East New York, rapper A.G. Da Coroner has had plenty experience with death, he says. That may be why he’s so comfortable around dead bodies, whether they’re the MCs he kills figuratively on the rap battle circuit – or the actual ones lying stiff in the hospital morgue, where he worked for eight years.
“The science of the [hospital] job was new to me, but the actual experience of it wasn’t,” he says. “During the late ’80s and ’90s, it was a war zone [in Brooklyn], so on any given day I could come out of the house and go to school and have to walk over somebody.”
These days, the only hurdles in A.G.’s path are those related to the red tape of the record industry. The burly MC’s heavy gruff of a voice and street-oriented lyrics paved the way for a deal with Virginia-based Man Bites Dog Records, which will release his long-awaited debut, Sip the Nectar, this December. Before then, A.G. plans to release a free EP on his own, titled Crushed Grapes, so his fans won’t have to wait long to hear new material, he says.
But waiting is nothing new to supporters of A.G. The 30-something MC has been trying to enter the game for close to two decades now, weathered by a journey full of disappointment and uncertainty. It all started when he was a teenager and was given a tape of West Coast MC The D.O.C., which he immediately fell in love with. From there, he got caught up in the work of local MCs like Big Daddy Kane, Rakim and Kool G Rap and began to memorize their songs, word for word. When a few of his friends decided to take up the art themselves, he thought he would join in.
“I thought, ‘If I could rap other people’s songs that good, then why don’t I rap my own stuff?’” He says. “It just flowed naturally.”
Things didn’t come easy, though. While A.G. earned a reputation on the streets as a fierce battle rapper, it never really amounted to anything. As a result, he had to take up various jobs – some of which he can’t talk about on record, he says – to get by, including working as a coroner. Years passed by and he eventually let his frustration get the best of him, quitting music all together for two years. Then, he had a chance run in with an old high school friend, renowned New York DJ J-Love. J-Love, who had worked with the likes of Wu-Tang Clan, Nas and Mobb Deep, brought him under his wing and introduced him to the game.
Now, A.G. is one of the most talked about street MCs in New York, working with the likes of Action Bronson and Roc Marciano. Those who miss the gritty East Coast rap of the ’90s appreciate A.G. for his sample-based sound and his ability to talk about the daily grind in a thought-provoking way. But his music’s appeal goes beyond nostalgia; it’s meant to speak to those who face adversity the same way he did.
“There’s East New Yorks all over the world,” he says. “Anybody that grew up in those conditions…I have music that speaks to them. I have music that speaks to people who celebrate everyday and music that speaks to people who live in depression right now.”
To be certain, A.G. will be celebrating the day his album finally drops. And he hopes some positive changes will occur as a result. But even if the project leads him back to cadavers rather than cash, he’ll still be happy just to have his art out where the people can reach it, he says.
“I’ve gotten used to not having the proper outlets to put an album out…[now] I have a platform to speak to you. I really believe in this project.”—Reed Jackson