Eric Biddines: South Florida's coffee-fueled rap poet

Eric Biddines has the street-wise vocal swagger and a gold grill in his mouth, but that’s where the rap-music stereotypes end for the Palm Beach County resident.

A 29-year-old father of two boys ages 3 and 5, Biddines has been married for five years, is an avid reader of sci-fi and fantasy novels and doesn’t smoke or drink.

Perhaps even more remarkable is Biddines’ writing, which brings a distinct introspectiveness and vulnerability to subjects that escape the notice of even rap’s most sensitive storytellers: the virtues of a solo stroll (“Walking”) and a leisurely cup of joe (“Coffee Cup”). The November video release for “Zero Population,” a story delivered in staccato bursts of Southern twang, depicts a post-apocalyptic world with Biddines the lone survivor, but a lonely one.

While his cup of coffee is a metaphor for universal questions about day-to-day life, Biddines acknowledges such subject matter may be a challenge for the typical rap fan, no matter how fiery his delivery.

“You can either play the game safe, or you can take a risk and get a bigger reward,” says Biddines, who will perform Friday at Delray Beach's Arts Garage.

Born in Ocala and raised in Delray Beach, where he graduated from Atlantic High School, Biddines devoured all the “Harry Potter” novels (Philip Pullman’s fantasy “The Golden Compass” is another favorite), and is a regular reader of “Fast Company” and “Entrepreneur” magazines.

In July, Biddines, now living in West Palm Beach, released his fifth album, “Planetcoffeebean 2,” an intelligent, real-world survey of contemporary culture, its critiques of economic enslavement ("Railroads Down/Unfinished") and misogyny (Stripper Documentary") laid over echoes of the Marvin Gaye and Al Green soul music he heard growing up.

The album was released on Biddines' own Planetcoffeebean label. While he has had discussions with major labels from time to time, Biddines is skeptical of letting outside experts assign him a specific demographic audience.

“Meanwhile, that target totally dismisses a whole space of people who are open to hearing something new,” he says.

Biddines is surprised as anyone that a meditation on the ritual “therapy” of coffee became an actual song worthy of his album. But “it’s way more deeper,” as he says in the song. Sample lyric: “I don’t know everything, but I know life. It’s random, and make sure you stir your coffee right. I’m gifted in the sense to know that happiness is gold. Everybody is unique, we was made to cut the mold.”

The name of his label, Planetcoffeebean, represents an energetic lifestyle in which adherents live “outside the norm,” Biddines says.

“It’s a metaphor, but I actually do love coffee,” he says. His favorite spot these days is Coasters on South J Street in downtown Lake Worth, where, he says, “Each cup feels like it’s personal.”

Caffeine has been Biddines’ only vice since he gave up alcohol about a decade ago. He grew up in the Carver Estates housing project, where drugs were “all around.” He admits he could have easily headed down that road, but was stopped by one of his hip-hop heroes, Andre 3000.

“It was a line from an Outkast song [the title track from the 1996 album ‘ATLiens’] that was one of the biggest influences on me,” Biddines recalls. “Andre 3000 said, ‘No drugs or alcohol so I can get the signal clear as day.’ No rapper was saying these things on a song. It inspired me.”

Biddines says he has nothing against other people drinking — “It’s something I did for myself” — but he does have a line in the new song “Bad Broads” that acknowledges his personal ban on alcohol and drugs. If that makes him “a more accepted role model, at least my self control, that would be kind of cool,” he says.

IF YOU GO: ERIC BIDDINES
When: 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 27
Where: Arts Garage, 180 NE First St., Delray Beach
Cost: $20 (table for six $100)
Contact: 561-450-6357 or ArtsGarage.org. For more on Eric Biddines, go to EricBiddines.com.

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