He looks more like a lumberjack than a stereotypical rapper, but eighth-semester journalism major Dalton “Ross” Zbierski, hailing from Stafford, Connecticut, has been working his way up the hip-hop game since he was 15 years old.
Ross, an intern at iHeartRadio who calls himself the “Pencilneck Bastard,” has a new mixtape coming out in April, though he says he doesn’t have a specific release date yet.
Part of Ross’ passion for hip-hop comes from the outlet rapping and writing lyrics gave him for his obsessive compulsive disorder. When he was first getting into freestyling, Ross said he would wake up in the middle of the night thinking of rhymes.
“It’s something programmed into me ’cause I’ve done it for so long,” Ross said.
He also talked about how earlier in his career, he actually flew down to Baltimore for a recording session. According to Ross, he spent several nights just recording while sleeping through the day – that for these days he “didn’t see sunlight.”
It wasn’t always easy for him. Ross talked about how difficult it was to improve, mentioning that when he was in school and beginning to find his musical passion growing, he was once approached by another student who told Ross that he was so bad that he should kill himself.
Though he acknowledged how emotionally tough it was to deal with that kind of rejection, along with other issues growing up, Ross stayed resolved, listening to artists like Tupac Shakur and Eminem around that era. Ross took the words, both from his detractors and from the artists he loved to listen to, as motivation to keep pursuing his musical dreams.
Ross’ musical influences come from several hip-hop artists from different time periods. As a kid, he deeply appreciated the themes of Shakur’s early work, which was centered around personal struggles and worldly philosophy. Ross said he also took a lot of inspiration from the technical delivery and raw passion of Eminem.
When asked about his favorite artist now, Ross gave an unexpected answer: mentioning that he thought Drake was the best artist in the game right now. While he acknowledged that Drake may not be the best rapper, Ross said Drake’s balance as an artist, singer, performer and songwriter was something to strive for.
Ross’ material is obviously about issues that pertain to him, but he said he sometimes liked to rap about his own dreams for the future as well.
For a lot of his life, Ross said he felt like talking was his biggest talent. Naturally, rapping involves talking and expressing an opinion, which he said found himself always comfortable with.
“I don’t know how far I’m gonna take it, but I don’t wanna look back and think I could have tried harder,” Ross said. “With 10,000 hours, anyone can do anything.”