Ace Koon: Fury of a Midwest Outlaw
Not too many times in life will you meet and get to know someone who has a strikingly similar resemblance to a famous celebrity. This could be a look-alike in a physical sense, or just in confidence, style and energy exuded. So when I spoke to rapper and aspiring actor, Ace Koon aka Fury, I felt like I was talking to a nephew or long lost son of the late, great Tupac Shakur. Not to say that Tupac has a son anywhere! Please remember I said that! (laughing inside) Sometimes when you raise your children a certain way and try to keep them away from certain things; out of curiosity that only draws them closer to that forbidden fruit in time. The 34 year old Ace Koon was raised in a family that stressed faith in the Bible, so some people may wonder why and how he turned to the streets and rap music. I guess God truly does work in mysterious ways. As you read you’ll find out how Ace Koon’s life has had its ups and downs, its twists and turns, and how this fiercely determined emcee/artist is conquering the everyday tests thrown his way. From the court cases to the multitude of albums and mix tapes; all together it’s a testament to struggle and a will to surpass all those who get in his way. Welcome to the life of Zion Benton and Waukegan’s own, Ace Koon aka Fury.
So you know, half of my social network during my college years came from Waukegan IL and Zion IL (30minutes north of Chicago) so I’m familiar with the area to a degree, but for those who aren’t, tell them what it was like for you growing up around there?
Fury: I was raised to be a Jehovah’s Witness and was around people who were deeply rooted in the Bible. Most of the people that were close to me were people from the Congregation. When it comes to after school activities, I was never the type to participate in that.
Who are the people that have influenced you the most in life?
Fury: Growing up I’d listen to cd’s I wasn’t supposed to hear. I was mostly influenced by Tupac. Even Michael Jordan. My father was always business-minded, thinking “get money over everything”. He dedicated a lot of his time to hustling and chasing money.
Any family members who played instruments and may have influenced you towards music?
Fury: No, not really. I would just listen to the cd’s and drown myself in them and find myself falling asleep listening to Pac, all up in my ear whenever I went to bed.
Some people come from tougher origins and you can hear it in their music. Other artists come from an easier background and you don’t hear that same struggle in their voice. How has your life influenced your approach towards your music?
Fury: Since I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, I was kind of the oddball and wanted to do things other kids were doing at the time, but I wasn’t allowed to. Once I got a chance to get outside of what I was raised on and experience life I felt like I could get loose. From then it was on and poppin’! In my late teens, I started doing wild stuff. It was all that freedom. I broke away from all the things I raised around. My community had me on a revenge path at first. I was just mashin’ on anyone that came my way. During and after school a lot of people would hate and try to bully me. I had all the latest clothes and things and peers had this thing in their heads where they wanted me think, ‘I can’t do this and I can’t do that’. It was like I had a mental strength from the way I was raised.
You say that your name represents your personality. What’s Ace-Koon stand for? Describe that personality.
Fury: I got the name from the term ‘Ace-Boon-Koon’ which stands for your best friend, one you really trust. I just took the Boon out and it matches my personality.
Use 5 adjectives to describe yourself as a person.
Fury: Relentless. Outlaw. Determined. Powerful (in reference to Ace’s voice). A lot of people feel me when I get a chance to speak. Loyal and down.
You were raised deeply rooted in the Bible, so what was your mentality at 17 years old to put you in that situation where you went astray from your religious upbringing?
Fury: I was with some of my homeboys and went to Chicago. They were people who I wasn’t really allowed to hang out with when growing up. When my parents left town, I slipped off and went with them (my friends) and was involved in a situation where I received 9 months in Cook County Jail. It was the first time the cuffs were ever put on me and I felt like I was in hell for 9 months. It was a situation, a learning experience, but that was when I started to pull away from the Bible. I did that time and also did 5 months of boot camp. Now boot camp; that made me physically and mentally stronger and more prepared for the world. If there’s one thing that I’ve been taught in life, it’s that experience is not the hardest teacher in the world, but the best.
What was the transition to Youngstown, OH like for you?
Fury: At first it was difficult, because I wasn’t used to being around people who had a stone facial expression all the time. It was tough to win people over with charm and style. When I first got out there, it seemed like everyone was so serious! What we were used to was people laughing and clowning around. I wasn’t even supposed to go out there, but my cousin was there so I visited. He was really into rap and I was just making songs and listening to Pac all the time. My cousin told me, ‘Man, I think you really should rap’, so I took it seriously. He had his own group out there. That was like my start. It wasn’t that bad, but I’m just used to people being able to express themselves and not have to try to act right.
How did Tupac affect you and your direction with music?
Fury: He was like the biggest influence in my whole life other than my parents. I used to go to sleep listening to his music. I had a radio right next to the bed and would fall asleep EVERY night with him in my ears. After he got out of jail and was eventually killed, I’d still listen to his posthumous cd’s. I was really wild at one point, but as I got older and experience kicked in, I realized what exactly he and his family were going through. I saw that he wasn’t just about hollering out, “Fuck the Police! Fuck the World!” There was a reason behind what he was doing. I had the privilege to see his struggle and what he was fighting for, so I came to the conclusion like, ‘Oh, ok, Is that the path I really want to take’ because I didn’t even grow up around that even though I had love for his music. One thing we have in common is our love for the under-dog. I’ve always felt like I’d ride out for the underprivileged.
People sometimes adapt traits from others which are compatible to their own personality. What character trait of his do you relate to most?
Fury: It would be his work ethic. My children’s mother bought me all the studio equipment I needed. I would think about all the songs that Pac made and would go crazy when recording. Right now, I have to have something like 700+ songs floating around. I looked at the fact that I’ve recorded 18 underground releases which were all full length albums with 15-17 tracks on each within only 7 years. (Tupac did the same) So, yes, if it was anything I picked up from him, it would be his work-ethic and political side too.
Would you do business with Suge?
Fury: (Considered for a moment) Yeah. All that stuff said about him having someone shoot at both of them, I don’t know. (Skeptical of that theory) I feel like it’s bigger than just that.
Just to throw this question out there; do you think Tupac is alive in Cuba with Assata?
Fury: I don’t think so. I think the type of person he was with his type of money, effect on people and in that position; he’s someone the United States couldn’t hold, or contain. Even if he is alive, they wouldn’t let him do the things he wanted to do. You have a person that can influence the masses like that and go from a negative approach to a positive and adapt to grab listeners. His strategy in words was so personal, strong and so powerful that I don’t think the United States would allow him to leave alive in exile.
I heard something about you getting an audition to play the role of Pac for his bio-pic. What would it be like to actually play the role of Tupac in a major motion picture?
Fury: I’ll say it like this. You won’t find anyone that can play him better than me. I promise you that. Consider everything of his that I’ve listened to and how it’s affected my life. Sometimes I’d walk like him, even talk like him at the drop of a dime.
Not to bring back reminders of the previous East/West rivalry, but what are your thoughts on Biggie, since we know you’re a loyal fan of Pac?
Fury: When I’d listen to Biggie, I’d wonder why they were beefing with each other. His wordplay and how he manipulated and phrased his lyrics was amazing. I’ve always thought, and even now, that was the one area where Biggie had an edge over Pac, was how he played with the words. For Pac, that wasn’t really his mission. If he wanted to play with the words the same way, he’d be better than Biggie in that too, but his mission was to educate and uplift. Pac could make you get up and want to do something important, whereas Biggie was more so just about rhyming.
Biggest challenge being an aspiring actor?
Fury: Finding somebody that’ll put the camera on me. When you’re around me enough and see my personality, you’ll know I show a lot of love. In this world, love isn’t something that’s shown often enough. It’s just having a shot to do what I know I can do well. If I do get the role, I’ll work hard at it and do me. There are a lot of negative people out here not wanting to see me advance. Then you have a lot of artists that’ll talk about me and say, ‘That dude showed much love. He’s as real as they get.’
Tell me your biggest motivation personally.
Fury: What’s been crucial to me is when I had my first son. That was a huge motivation for me.
What was is like becoming a father and what effect did it have on you?
Fury: At first, I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t financially prepared. I wasn’t really involved in school past the age of 17. It’s cool now. I have 4 kids and I’m glad I had them.
What’s it like having a supportive woman who made financial sacrifices to see you pursue your dreams?
Fury: Oh man, Wowww! I love that she’s down for me. She sits back and does what she does and respects me. Doesn’t always stress me. She trusts me to make the decisions. I can honestly say I love her and appreciate her every bit of support. Some other guys aren’t as fortunate.
After being reminded by others of your talent, what do you feel is lacking in your career that would make all the difference for the better?
Fury: Education. If I was well-read. If I had more time to read. I’m strictly about my grind and pushing cd’s to the streets, 1000’s at a time. That’s how I make my money.
What's your attitude on the music industry in general?
Fury: There’s a lot of music that gives the wrong message. When we were coming up we always respected the artists that came before us. I never listened to my mother’s soul music, but I never disregarded its significance and quality. I always respect creativity.
You’ve been through more than encounters with the law, so what is it that bothers you most about the justice system?
Fury: I can’t just speak for a young black male, but I can more so be a voice for the young urban population when I say this. If anyone from that area goes to court, the system looks at the person’s background and not so much the individual situation. They need to be more open-minded and open-hearted. They were wrong for setting up my brother. He was out there in the world making an honest living with a family to support. They were WRONG for that! As long as they don’t fuck with me, I’m not fuckin’ with them.
Describe your latest effort, “Maximum Overload”.
Fury: As far as making tapes and albums on the local scene, “Maximum Overload” will be the last one. It’ll be the hardest one I drop so I’m taking my time with it. I started this project about a year and a half ago and I’m still writing.
What’s your rapport with J.D. and U.N.X. since 2006? How has he affected your career?
Fury: J.D. is a hard-worker. He saw the talent and heart in me, so he let me record with him because I didn’t have the money at the time. I lost my equipment and had no way to record. Not even someone to do the art work. When I worked with J.D., I liked his style because he went hard on everything and wouldn’t let up. When things needed to be taken care of, he had it covered. He helped get my face out there. Also, the art work would fit the music I was pushing out.
Which mainstream artists would you want to record with most?
Fury: I’d record with DJ Quik, 50 Cent, Eminem, Mario, Alicia Keys, Shawnna, Snoop, Kurupt, Daz, Dr. Dre, the Outlawz, E-40, Kanye West, Ross and even Lil’ Wayne. But I know I’m the next best thing. I feel like if I had the same financial support and marketing then I’d be on top of the game with my content combined with style and energy. Even if I’m better than them, we can still co-exist and do our thing, but I feel if you put artists in an environment of love minus the negativity they create and cultivate better music.
Describe Midwest Benton Records.
Fury: It’s my own indie record label established in 1998. That idea came to me within a year after I got all my equipment back and knew I could record at my own leisure. Things started to fall into place and I was able to push units on the streets. If I had a staff and all the resources necessary, MAN! We’d be unstoppable!
Anything you want to say to your fans out there?
Fury: I appreciate the support and love from all of you. Without you, no one would know about Ace Koon. The fans put you where you are and you just have to follow through on the business tip. (Ace uses the grassroots marketing approach) That’s why I hit the streets and sell hard copies of my material so it goes straight into their hands and they can put it in their cd player on the spot, instead of putting music up on the internet and telling them to show up if you like it. You know there are artists that put the footwork in and grind to sell units. Support the artists that put in the time and make quality music. Don’t support the phonies. Support the real artists, the ones that are out there putting in the work. No half-steppin’ is allowed. No being lazy. Shout outs to G.O.V.! and Lake County!
Article written by: Bill Oxford, 8-29-12