You’ve had this conversation before: a friend describes someone from Greenpoint, “a young white dude, covered in tattoos,” but that’s every guy in Greenpoint and needs some elaboration. She continues with “beard, rides a bike,” and you’re still stumped.
The Greenpointer I am describing is 18 year old Derek Atson, an enthusiastic and friendly young guy who was born and raised on Monitor St. He proudly shows off his huge chest tattoos of the old Greenpoint tanks and the G-train. And he raps about the neighborhood he loves.
His stage name is Can’t Stop Atson and he recently won a Def Jam Showcase, an esteemed accomplishment for any budding MC.
He was 17th to perform out of 35 contenders. At first worried because the place was empty, the room soon became packed with his own Greenpoint fans, family and friends. “Everyone was wearing my shirt. I rocked the crowd,” Atson said.
The win entitles him to a meeting with the Def Jam. I asked if he wants to get signed with the label but Atson thinks strategically about his career moves at this early stage. If he gets signed now he gets $1 million cash up front for a 3 year commitment, but what if next year he could make $10 million on his own?
Not an impossibility given social media’s overnight success stories. And it’s where his rap career took off. “I began writing quotes for Facebook and decided to turn them into songs,” he said.
What he hopes comes out of the meeting is “connects” to get introduced to other people and to play more shows.
Music, especially rap music, is a big part of Atson’s life. “I grew up around it, it’s urban. Brooklyn is urban. My father would listen to it. My brothers would listen to it. Everyone would listen to it.”
“My whole family is Greenpoint oriented,” Atson explained as we chatted on a bench in McCarren Park.
His father Rick has been a Greenpoint DJ for 30 years and is founder of the non-profit 5 Boro Basketball League, and his brother is a local music producer and helps manage his new career. Atson’s proud Mom shares his music on Facebook everyday.
Atson told me that growing up in Greenpoint “was the best… I grew up on the ‘other side.’ For me, there is either that side over there – Winthrop or McGolrick and there is this side which is near Milton Park… All my memories are from Milton Park,” also called American Playground.
What does a 19 year old Greenpointer rap about? “No gangster stuff, ” he said, “That’s not me. I rap about Greenpoint. I rap about playing basketball, hanging out with my friends, how music is my life.”
Despite his love for Greenpoint, some criticize the area for not being a rough enough neighborhood for a rapper. “Some people say it’s soft. It’s where I’m from so why wouldn’t I want to put Greenpoint on the map? It’s not gangster or tough. I don’t want it to be gangster. I love where I live,” Atson said.
On being a white rapper, Atson said, “I love it. People don’t judge anymore. You have to be better. There’s a lot of black whack rappers. If you’re a white whack rapper you’re going to get destroyed.”
Asked if he would ever live anywhere else he said, “I don’t want to move anywhere.”
The only thing he wants is a huge Greenpoint sign, like the one Sunnyside has.
Check out Can’t Stop Atson’s music video below for his song “Music is Life” all shot in Greenpoint and all his social media links.