If you’re a true Hip Hop head, then you’re probably a fan of Thirstin Howl III. A legend in his own right, real name Victor DeJesus is a rapper, producer, author, and entrepreneur, best known for co-founding the Lo Lifes — the iconic Brooklyn street fashion gang that came into fruition in the 1980’s, and has now expanded to become a staple in all facets including fashion, rap, graffiti, film and literary works.
In describing himself, Thirstin Howl III states he’s “very driven. All Hip Hop is the best way to describe my entire life. Well-rounded, well-versed, and thirsty. The name speaks for itself.”
Previously rapping under the moniker Big Vic The Barbarian, eventually took on the name Thirstin Howl III because he was always thirsty on the battle rap scene. The name is also inspired by watching the 1964 sitcom Gilligan’s Island. He states, “I incorporated the millionaire and became the skillionaire.”
Now, Thirstin Howl III readies his forthcoming album titled Thoughts Skillustrated, slated to arrive on May 18th. Having remained independent from all throughout his professional career, Thirstin is walking proof that you don’t need a major label to make a positive impact on the world. He also currently owns his own label called Skillionaire Global Enterprises, continuing to make his mark on the culture in the best way he knows how: through the lens of Hip Hop and fashion.
AllHipHop spoke with Thirstin Howl to discuss his roots, getting every era of Hip Hop, his name, starting the Lo Lifes, the new project, linking with Eminem, why he doesn’t have a Top 5, and more!
AllHipHop: What was the reality of growing up in the Marcus Garvey Village projects?
Thirstin Howl III: Growing up in Marcus Garvey Village is real serious. Brownsville is definitely a dangerous neighborhood. It was pretty rough growing up, but it was also very rich: culture, friendship, and things like that. It was dramatic more than anything, but it made me the person who I am today. I’m glad for all those experiences growing up in Marcus Garvey in the 80’s. It was a beautiful experience. It might be harsh to somebody else in the world, but without that, I probably would’ve never been who I am today.
AllHipHop: What was the moment you first discovered hip Hop?
Thirstin Howl III: I was born before Hip Hop, so I’ve lived it the entire time. Just all the early records, but more the style of fashion and streets. My whole life was always Hip Hop, I was always influenced by it from day one. I got a chance to see everybody come through the gate. That’s one of the biggest blessings ever to have experienced it all. Not many can say that.
AllHipHop: You started out doing graffiti and breakdancing, when did you start rapping?
Thirstin Howl III: I didn’t start rapping until ‘96 I mean, I was always a fiend for the music. I collected everything and studied it, but I never really considered being a rapper before. One day I was freestyling and I seen I had the natural talent. From that one day, it was nonstop after that.
AllHipHop: Why’d they call you Big Vic The Barbarian?
Thirstin Howl III: Because I was knocking n*ggas out. [laughs] I’m a knockout artist, on the ignorance street stuff. The Barbarian came from being a brawler in the streets, being big and muscular and working out. But for the wrong reasons. I never knew I’d become a barbarian on the mic after that, that was my rap name in the beginning as well.
AllHipHop: Being the co-founder of the Lo Lifes, do you feel like Hip Hop today matches the energy that you guys had in that group?
Thirstin Howl III: I mean, evolution man. There’s so much evolution going on, I never look at it and no other way but evolution. It’s not supposed to match. It’s supposed to take it to another level, it’s another dimension with things. I never tried to compare the two, this don’t go or that doesn’t fit. It’s just a different time, a different era, a different way of doing things. But I also learn to respect evolution. I don’t look down upon anything that’s different today. It might not be what my cup of tea was, but I know it’s what evolution is supposed to be.
AllHipHop: Talk about the moment you guys co-founded Lo Lifes.
Thirstin Howl III: I came up with the title Lo Life. I was called a low life by someone, and it fit. Because I was wearing Polo all my life, so it went hand in hand. It wasn’t a specific moment, it was also an evolution that happened for us becoming Lo Lifes and wearing Polo.
AllHipHop: Did you guys get arrested for stealing? What happened with that?
Thirstin Howl III: There were many things we were arrested for, way more than stealing. Stealing was one aspect of what we were doing on the street, but there was a lot more harsh things we were involved in besides stealing.
Thirstin Howl III: As Lo Lifes, there was definitely a strong street thing happening, where anything that’s happening on the streets we were involved in. And there was a lot of jail. A lot of jail was involved, a lot of jail time for many, many of the members. Same with a lot of deaths. Many were killed, a lot of wars. All that led up to us suffering many, many consequences to become the men we are today.
AllHipHop: What was it about Polo? How did it evolve into such a movement?
Thirstin Howl III: Like I said before, it was an evolution. There were many brands, especially me that I was wearing way before Polo, but we were wearing it in the same style of fashion. I’m a b-boy, I’m a breakdancer so I rocked the b-boy’s style of fashion. Like the adidas suits, the Puma suits, the FILA suits, everything evolved into what Polo started doing. Once we got our hands on Polo, then he was the dominant brand for myself and everyone else.
The colors, the big logos, being seasonal and coming with so much variety. In the hood, you want to outdo everybody else. You want to show up with something nobody’s seen or had. That’s how Polo was the dominant one when it came to that, giving you stuff seasonal and so much variety. That’s what made Polo the king of the castle.
AllHipHop: Going from stealing Polo to now working directly with the brand, that’s incredibly full circle. What does that mean to you?
Thirstin Howl III: I don’t think anyone thought that would ever happen. I was probably the most impossible thing that anyone could ever imagine, but I just feel blessed. I feel like it was destiny. It was long overdue. I’m also appreciative that they did acknowledge our contributions, as well as my contributions for the brand. To be recognized, it’s a big thing. To be so associated now and attached, people put me and Ralph Lauren in the same sentence. It’s crazy.
AllHipHop: How did you end up working with the brand? They just hit you up?
Thirstin Howl III: There were many different ways, through the modeling stuff. I was called upon to model, the same way I was called upon by directors from Ralph’s documentary. They wanted to include me in his life story. That led to me doing more with the brand and the company: more modeling gigs, advertisements. I was part of that big global campaign that was really major. Me myself, I think that’s the biggest campaign I’ve seen in my life. To be all over the world on giant billboards everywhere, that was amazing to me. And I was included with my son, so that was even lit.
AllHipHop: How old is your son?
Thirstin Howl III: At the time, he was 11 or 12. Now, he’s 16. He’s 6 feet . He wasn’t so big back then.
AllHipHop: Is he a rapper or nah?
Thirstin Howl III: He’s a producer. Produces music.
AllHipHop: You’re dropping a new album titled Thoughts Skillustrated on May 18th. What is the meaning behind the title?
Thirstin Howl III: If you ever got familiar with my catalog, this is my 20th, 30th album. All my albums have a Skill title. Within Hip Hop, I always believe in the skills first. I’m not a copy kind of guy, or commercial dude. I like skills, raw Hip Hop. Skills define everything. My first album was Skillionaire, my second album was Skillosopher. Then I made Serial Skiller, Skilligan’s Island, Skillitary, Licensed to Skill, Skilluminaty.
I have several several skill titles, every album almost has a Skill title. Thoughts Skillustrated is the one I thought it was time for right now. I still have a whole list of Skill titles for albums as we go along. Skilimanjaro? is ready for next year also. That’s the next one, but I’m just sitting on it.
AllHipHop: The project is produced by Matteo Getz, you met him when he was a teen in Massachusetts?
Thirstin Howl III: He’s another guy I met in Massachusetts, really dedicated to Hip Hop. His life is all Hip Hop man. He loves production. He’s been my friend for a long time. He’s always produced music for me. We continuously worked together for years, but this was our first full-length project together. Knowing that, it was honor.
AllHipHop: What can fans expect from the project?
Thirstin Howl III: You can expert hardboy music, hardbody beats, massive lyrics, and a lot of features on this album. Since Matteo was a producer, I wanted to flood this album with as many names as possible. To put him more in the spotlight as the producer, than me being the artist or this being my album. It’s more Matteo highlight time.
AllHipHop: How do you decide who to feature on the project?
Thirstin Howl III: I holla at my friends man. Everybody’s my friends. Sometimes I think about who would fit on this track, then I’ll hit them up and see if they with it or not.
AllHipHop: Bring us back to when you made “Watch Deez” with Eminem?
Thirstin Howl III: I remember we both broke. [laughs] We broke that day. Eminem had a check he was trying to cash. I remember we were in Brooklyn, going to DJ Spinna’s house to record the song. We went to a liquor store and they wouldn’t cash the check. We’re just trying to buy a bottle of liquor so we could enjoy ourselves.
AllHipHop: Why wouldn’t be cash the check?
Thirstin Howl III: I think it was an out of town check. He was in New York with me in Brooklyn, but we wound out getting the bottle anyway. Went back, knocked out the track and got busy. The rest was history.
AllHipHop: What is your guys’s relationship now?
Thirstin Howl III: I really haven’t heard from him. I could imagine what his life is like now, how many people are trying to talk to him or get in touch. Even after he blew up, he stayed in contact a little bit. He let me open up some shows. If I went to Detroit to perform, he would come out and rock with me. Definitely proud of his success, it’s well-deserved. He really is the truth.
AllHipHop: Who is your Top 5 all-time?
Thirstin Howl III: No such thing baby! I’m from every era. I could never call a Top 5 because they’ve been so many throughout the years. Every era or every year should have aTop 5, but there’s no such thing as a Top 5. Not in my book, there are too many greats out there.
AllHipHop: What about top 5 artists you’re listening to right now?
Thirstin Howl III: I got my personal favorites, but I wouldn’t say who was top or above each other. I like many artists for different reasons. Trugoy was one of my favorites for a long time, he was very poetic in his music. His lyrics were something that you had to come to your own conclusion about what it meant, the way he laid his poetry down. So was Brother J from the X Clan. These were true poets within their music, where it wasn’t your average rap. Or your average braggadocious or egotistical stuff. It was very much poetry that you had to decipher the meaning. It can mean something different to everyone.
But there’s many. I always loved the artists that nobody could ever emulate their style. It’s impossible to emulate certain people. I consider myself one of those artists as well, where it’s almost impossible to emulate me. My style is so original. Like Sadat X, his style is so original. You’ll never hear another one like him. Like a CL Smooth, there’s so many. I’m a fan first of the culture, of the art, of the music. I love so many of them. I have a little bit of everybody, within my spirit. That’s what helps me to be so original.
AllHipHop: What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Thirstin Howl III: I’m always working baby! I love to work, so I don’t consider it work. I’m very passionate about it. The way I take a break, I paint things like that. You know how they say paint houses? I paint houses for real, it’s therapeutic for me. I love to paint houses, I love to see things transform. I love to see the ending result. To me, it’s still part of the creativity. And I’m not talking about painting portraits, I’m talking about painting the walls and cutting and the ceilings. I’m very decorative.
AllHipHop: You’ve accomplished a lot throughout your career, but do you have any goals for yourself?
Thirstin Howl III: Right now, my goal is to stay alive and be happy. Make sure my children prosper, and I could feed them all the information and knowledge they need. My goals are pretty simple.
AllHipHop: Anything else you want to let the people know?
Thirstin Howl III: Make sure they cop the album, cop all the albums while you at it. I got a huge catalog, so there’s so much there. A lot of people are still not in tune with everything I’ve done because I’m so consistent, so not many people are aware. I don’t have a major machine behind me or anything, I’ve never been signed to a record label. I’ve been 100% independent. Sometimes I just made an album, I throw it in the air and hope the wind catches it. But I’ve always had some results within the culture. I’ve always fed the culture. I’ve always helped push it forward, and it is acknowledged at this point.