Road to Stardom

By Zach Wagner:

Poised, humble, and hungry, Marko Hernandez, professionally known as Papi Flaco, stays true to himself as he chases his dream of becoming a hip hop star.

Hernandez knew early music was his passion. “Since I was a kid, I’ve been around music. My dad’s always played music. He was break dancing when he was really young; he always used to tell me about that. He sang and played almost every instrument,” Hernandez said.

At the same time, Hernandez’s brother was making a name for himself in the Rochester rap scene. In elementary school, Hernandez took a visit to the studio to see what it was all about. He fell in love instantly.

“I went to the studio just to look at it, right from that day I got real inspired. Since I was a kid I always dreamt of being in front of big crowds like a superstar,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez set out to make his dream a reality. He started freestyling, occasionally spitting bars for friends who were anxious to see him rap. He started recording on his phone, eventually making beats and recording with his neighbor.

“I want to say my 10th, 11th grade year, I was 16, my neighbor Jay Remmy started recording me and making beats, so we actually started putting it out there on Soundcloud. It was getting a couple thousand views. People started talking about it, so I was like ‘Damn! I gotta keep going,’” Hernandez said.

Now it’s three years later. Hernandez is 18 and still pushing toward his dream. Over the past few years he has been able to release roughly 40 singles, building up his following song by song. Now, he has some-100 unreleased songs and currently is working on his first official project: a mix of deeper, emotional writing and club anthems.

Even after three years of work, Hernandez still feels like he hasn’t found his true identity in the Rochester rap scene. Collaborating with many artists in the area, Hernandez never turns down an opportunity to work with a new artist. He constantly looks to expand his horizons on the lookout for that group or person that clicks.

“I don’t feel like I have a certain place right now, but that’s what I working for. I’m just trying to make it grow, and I know I can’t do it by myself. I want to be the one that works with any type of artist. I’m willing to try whatever just to make my hometown pop off,” said Hernandez.

On the other side of things, when collaborating with people it can sometimes lead to influences that might leave a negative effect on your career. Being an independent artist, Hernandez knows he need to be careful when it comes to who he can trust, it can sometimes be a challenge for the young star but he sure knows how to hold his own.

“I struggle with that every day. I wake up think about it every day. In the end, I’ll never change up who I wanna be or what I want to put out for someone else’s liking,” Hernandez said. “I stay true to myself as much as I can, but if I’m stuck in way I’ll take some advice depending on who’s giving it and the direction they are trying to guide me.”

Through his music, Hernandez has been able to make himself a recognizable figure around his hometown. When first being approached by unfamiliar faces, it was surreal for Hernandez. Since the beginning, he’s pictured himself signing autographs, taking pictures, and interacting with fans. Now, it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

“It’s weird because when I was younger and didn’t make music like that, I always wanted that. I would always want people to come up and ask for pictures and ask me to sign things for them or anything like that. Now it’s kinda normal when I’m in Greece or Hilton,” he said.

Along with having a platform that brings you love and support, dealing with people who are against you tends to always follow closely. Dealing with that negative energy was difficult for Hernandez at first, but through many learning experiences he has kept his composure shrugging off all the hate.

“I had to learn through a lot of situations because I was like I’m going to make music and everybody is going to fuck with it. Everybody was showing me love, but a couple days after the song drops all the hate comes in. I had all these kids trying to fight me and embarrass me,” Hernandez said.

With his dreams in his grasps, Hernandez keeps pushing forward each and every day working toward that ultimate goal of becoming a hip hop sensation.

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