Rain pounded against the pavement at Brentwood’s Puerto Rican Day Parade as Robbie Zeecs patiently drove a Smith Haven car dealership’s SUV through the downpour to promote the company, rapping along to the radio and the rhythm of the windshield wipers.
For Zeecs, working as a car dealer is only a stepping stone in pursuing his true passion. The red-bearded Port Jefferson native is a rapper. When he is not selling cars, the 26-year-old is selling out venues across New York and recently, Canada.
Zeecs says he was always into rock and metal growing up, with influences like Corey Tyler from Slipknot. Zeecs mixes hip hop, metal and rock into what he calls “rap and roll.” His album, called “Just Saying,” is what Zeecs calls his “point of view” of the world.
The album features songs about his family, his questioning of God and his life in general. His latest track “Normal,” featured on his SoundCloud account, describes the struggle he feels of trying to be normal. There are also some songs about smoking and drinking on the album. “I like to have fun too,” Zeecs said.
Zeecs did not get where he is by putting together a puzzle of lyrics and puns. It was the TeamBackpack audition in Los Angles that got his rap career rolling.
After spending some time doing freestyle with friends, Zeecs decided to send in a video to TeamBackpack, a group of individuals that produce events and media as a platform for hip-hop artists from all over the world.
Zeecs did try out on the LA stage but was not one of eight out of 350 artists in the final round.
“It was the worst rap I’ve ever spit,” Zeecs recalled.
But his story does not end on that stage. Zeecs joined forces with local rappers back in Long Island to form a group called “Midnight Grahmmer.” His first performance with the group was in Amityville Music Hall.
“After I performed my dad said, ‘That’s where you belong, you own that stage’,” Zeecs said. “And from then on I’ve just been running.”
Zeecs went on to join one of his best friends Steve Mauro, also known as Status631, on a Canadian tour alongside accredited rap artists such as Chris Rivers and Madchild. Canada would change his outlook on the rap industry and open his eyes to a whole new sector of the music world.
“We both push each other to work harder,” Mauro said “We got a brotherhood so we both push each other to do our best, like a friendly competition.”
Canada has a big following of “the underground” according to Zeecs, which is a rap community comprised of artists that are not yet signed to a record label but are still relevant in the rap community.
One of the first shows in Canada, Zeecs recalls, was at a bar in Newfoundland. He performed for an underwhelming 50 people. Although there was room to spare in the small venue, word got out about Zeecs’ lyrical talents. He came back to perform a couple days later.
“It was epic. There was like 250 people there and countless people were like, ‘Are you guys the guys from New York because that’s why we’re here,'” Zeecs said. “They were all still there to hear us perform and from there it kind of started rolling.”
Zeecs and Mauro have returned to Canada three times for tours since last October, each time perfecting their craft and molding their artistic futures. Zeecs said his latest tour in late June really allowed them to grow as artists and understand the business side of the music they know and love.
The Canadian fan base has different taste, according to Zeecs. Both men and women appreciate the craft, especially lyrical chop flow. Chop flow is the art of rapping quickly and clearly.
Zeecs and Mauro agree putting together a tour has been a learning experience.
“Touring taught us a lot,” Mauro said. “How the business works and how the industry works.”
According to Mauro, the biggest thing with touring is keeping a budget and selling merchandise.
“We push each other’s merch, as well as our own, because at the end of the day we are family and family looks out for each other,” Mauro said. ”Everything you love comes with struggle, whether it’s playing sports, relationships, music, or in me and Robbie’s case, building our brand to become successful artists.”
To help with preparedness and business structure in the music industry, Zeecs joined a team of artists called the Hip Hop Heads.
The group comes together to promote, market and circulate each other’s music and brand through social media and word of mouth.
“In the group chat we’re constantly talking about what people are working on and we all feature each other on each other’s albums,” Zeecs said. “We all just sit down to talk business, almost like a Knights of Columbus meeting.”
Aside from being business partners, the group considers themselves a family.
“I hope we become extremely successful and able to survive life doing what we love to do. Regardless how far we get, we won’t stop because it [is] our passion,” Mauro said. “The opportunities we were given already are blessings themselves. Not a lot of people can say they do what we do.”
Correction: July 30, 2016
A previous version of this story erroneously reported that Robbie Zeecs was one of eight out of 350 artists in the final round of the TeamBackpack audition. He was not one of the eight. The story also erroneously reported that Zeecs is red-headed. He is red-bearded.