And he also has more than 1 million Twitter followers through his handle more than any other Italian citizen. Hailing from Tuscany and Rome, the artist picked up a love for American hip-hop in the late eighties, became the first in his country to break through commercially as a rapper, and evolved his sound through the years into an omnivorous mix of rap, classic-rock, ska, funk, and Latin music, leading to a total of eight No. 1 albums and collaborations with artists like Ben Harper, Run DMC, Beastie Boys, and Luciano Pavarotti.
Considering Cherubini's early influences (he learned English through his teenage obsession with American records and films), it seems natural that he is moving to New York this fall to promote Italia 1988-2012, his first
stateside 13-song album release through ATO Records.
W spoke with the artist on music and youth, the mystery of music, and his friendship with Bono.
It was like an epiphany; I was so attracted to music, style, art and graffiti. I had discovered that somebody was finally talking my language, especially when I started listening to the Beastie Boys, Run DMC, Grandmaster
Flash, and Public Enemy.
It's what happens when you're really young; you want to feel different and be part of the new wave. Music helps you do that. It becomes so much more than just music—it helps to create your identity.People say that bringing rap to the United States is like selling ice to the eskimos. What's your spin?
[Laughing] Yes, it's like that. But I hope that if you make good enough ice cream, the eskimos will still be interested. I don't believe that my music can become popular in the United States. What I hope is to find a way to play music in this country, because there are so many people here that are passionate about music.
You've performed at stateside music festivals like Bonnaroo, Summer Stage and Outside Lands. When you're on stage, do you feel a different energy from Americans than the Italians?
Yes. [The Americans] look at me like some sort of exotic animal, so I try to be the best exotic animal I can.
Like an Italian giraffe. But, even if you don't understand the meaning of the language, the Italian sound is very recognizable. If you don't understand the context, the energy is understood. For example, the first 30 years of my life I didn't understand a word of the American music I was listening to. When I was loving hip-hop, I was loving it without understanding anything. It's not the most important thing to understand the words.