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SCENE & HEARD: Shameik Moore On The Music Of ‘Spider-Verse’ & His Own SuperHero Origin Story

Shameik Moore’s path to Spider-Man began in an unlikely place. When the actor and singer was 12 years old, he watched the B2K dance battle flick You Got Served and it inspired the Georgia native to take his dance aspirations seriously. 

“I was battling at Club Atrium in Atlanta when I was 12,” he tells HipHopDX. “It was like 1500 people in that club and the casting directors for Soulja Boy, Keri Hilson, Lil Wayne, etc, were there. That’s how I got put on the scene, by battling 18 and 20-year-old men at 12 and cookin!”

Moore would hang around the video sets and convince the directors that he had the moves to accent their visuals, which lead to appearances in Keri Hilson’s “Turnin Me on” visual, Cartoon Network commercials and more. After signing with a talent agency he booked Tyler Perry’s House Of Pain and BET’s Reed Between The Lines. But then as with many celestial bodies after breaking through the upper atmosphere, there is a cooling off period.

“Things kinda slowed down,” he continues. “For me it was about expressing myself creatively and finding that avenue to get out of Atlanta. I wanted fly clothes, I wanted to get money, I wanted to see myself on television, I wanted to get there. It was a hustle, one foot in front of the other, but we got there eventually.”

Shameik was also working on music, recording songs with his reggae musician father and some producers in the area honing his sound.

“I was touring Dekalb County middle schools and high schools, getting pulled off stage, girls screaming.  It’s all on camera,” he says. “I’m making a docuseries now. People have no idea about the Atlanta hustle and how I got here. The whole journey to Spider-Man is magic.”

Shameik’s leap of faith at 12 led to starring roles in Dope, The Get Down and 2018’s Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse voicing Mile Morales, the first Afro-Latino Spider-Man who made his first appearance in the Marvel comics in 2011, and now the highly anticipated sequel, Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse.

In an exclusive interview with HipHopDX, Moore talks about the growth of Miles since the first film, the cultural impact, the state of his musical aspirations and his presence in the multi-verse.

HHDX:How would you say that Miles has changed/grown since the first film?

Shameik Moore: I’d say it’s a natural evolution. It’s been a year-and-a-half. It’s natural for Miles to grow up a little bit. We left off with Miles just figuring it out. He took that leap of faith, got his friends back to their dimensions and defeated Kingpin. Now Miles is bored with the petty thefts and the low level bad guys. He’s looking for excitement and challenge and he wants to expand his arsenal. He’s working on things, working on elevating and we love that in this movie. We really see him kind of face quite a few hurdles that the audience will enjoy watching him overcome.

HHDX: Black Sheep’s “The Choice Is Yours” was featured prominently in the  first film during a pivotal scene with Miles and his uncle Aaron. What do you remember about voicing that scene and what did you think when you saw the finished product?

Shameik Moore: The graffiti scene with uncle Aaron was sick. I think the relationship between Miles and Uncle Aaron is so important and good to show. His dad loves him to bits. He’s on the speaker saying “I love you, now say it back.” It’s important for us as men to normalize that. My dad started doing that the older he’s gotten, telling me how much he loves me. I knew he loved me, but he didn’t show it in the same way that he does now. With Uncle Aaron, he was like Miles’ big brother in a way. He was able to express himself artistically, talk to him about girls, he was able to run away from school and go hang out with his uncle, hit the bag. He’s becoming a man in a different way and those are two important male figures in a young man’s life.

By the time they get down to the train station and he’s painting, it’s kind of like what he drew was expectations with a blank body, with the white outline, all these colors and then he ends up getting bit after that. It’s like he’s saying “I have to find my mask.” I know I have to make that leap of faith. 

It calls to this new movie because it’s how you wear the mask that matters. In the first movie Miles is trying to figure out, even after he was bitten and realizes he has Spider powers, it took him a while to even acknowledge that within himself that he could do everything Peter (Parker) was capable of doing.

All of the scenes are so intentional and the writing is so beautiful. I think they are pinpoint accurate with the story. It has the kind of result and impact in reality because of how relatable the themes are for all walks of life.

HHDX: Were you prepared for the impact Miles Morales in Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse would have on kids and families?

Shameik Moore: I try not to have expectations. I just really set out to do my best in everything that I do and I trusted the filmmakers to make it as beautiful as it could be. I just wanted to be part of a film that was amazing, and it having the impact it had was just icing on the cake. It’s why we create in general. As far as how the Black, Hispanic and all communities has taken to the story, to Miles Morales, to this part of the franchise, it’s been an honor. I can’t say that I expected it, but I will say my nephews love this movie…they can’t even watch my other films. I still want to continue doing what I’m doing, but now I can have a reference point. I’m able to build off of that and I’m taking my responsibility very seriously.

HHDX: How much of Metro Boomin’s Soundtrack have you heard?

Shameik Moore: We know what Metro comin’ with. He’s like an architect for modern Atlanta Hip Hop and R&B. He’s one of the people that really crafted that current sound, between Future, Thug, Gunna and Baby. He brought that to the film and I think we’re gonna love it. I loved it.

HHDX: Do you think there is a variant of you out there in the universe? If so, what is he like?

Shameik Moore: Absolutely. In my mind I see two different guys. I see me in the middle and then I see the dude on the left who embraces the edgier approach with directing his life, living on the edge and keeping it funky. Then on the other side I see a brother who is on his Tony Stark, billionaire philanthropist, super yachts, but has major impact with the community, a rich Robin Hood, yet Playboy. I just see it on both ends.

HHDX: You posted an Instagram clip with Notorious B.I.G and Junior Mafia’s “Get Money” and his song “Hypnotize” was featured very prominently in the first Spider-Verse film. Tell me about when you were first introduced to Biggie and what he meant to you as an artist.

Shameik Moore: When I was introduced to him, I’m not even completely sure. But I know I started embracing Biggie when I started boxing. When I box I just throw on the greatest hits from Biggie and his music is on rotation in my mind. So when those songs come on I get in a natural flow state when I’m in the ring. It’s good. I think Biggie was probably the illest MC ever, but I could be wrong. There’s still Andre 3000, Raekwon, Ghostface Killa. We still got JAY-Z etc. But I like the storytelling aspect of it as an actor and writer. I just like the pictures that he paints.

HHDX: Is there a Biggie song that stands out to you?

Shameik Moore: “Warning.” (starts reciting lyrics.) When I’m boxin, you can’t tell me nothin’. I’m eatin’ food. When I’m gettin ready, and any bad boy character, you put on Biggie or Reakwon, I’m takin food off your plate. There’s nothin you can tell me.

HHDX:You also released a few songs a few years ago, is more music coming?

Shameik Moore: I’ve never stopped making music. I’ve been making music since I was 13. I’ve made too many projects that never came out and at least 4 or 5 music videos that are ill that will never come out. It’s just practice I guess. I keep evolving. I want to be responsible with what I put out there. I’m from Atlanta, East Atlanta and I’m Jamaican, so my music is very sexual. And we got a lot of that. I feel like I can give that sensation but I think I want to find the right balance that represents my entire being. I can go to a strip club once every couple of months but I don’t live there. If I drop a whole album and I’m only portraying that part of my life, then you think that’s all that I am. I’m basically working to have the perfect project, but it hasn’t been time yet. We’re on the precipice. 

HHDX:In your humble opinion, is Into The Spider-Verse the best Spider-Man movie ever? And is Across The Spider-Verse going to dethrone it?

Shameik Moore: I’ll say it like this. I’m thankful for my opportunities. I put everything I have in me in my contributions to my projects that I’m in and I think my work speaks for itself. I’m honored to be involved with Into The Spider-Verse and we can taste the difference between projects. I think that’s natural. I think it’s comparing an early Justin Bieber to an early Chris Brown. It feels different. JB was a global, huge pop star. Chris Brown was about to be Micheal Jackson on some shit. If he said don’t go to school that day nobody was going to school. The impact on culture was just different and I think that’s where Miles Morales lives. He’s the first Afro-Latino Spider-Man so it lives in a certain space within the Spider-Man franchise. I loved Toby Maguire’s first Spider-Man film. And I loved that last one that came out with all three of them, Toby, Tom and Andrew. I LOVED that movie. Is it the best film? It’s opinion. It’s mine and I believe in myself. I’ll say that.

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HHDX: For the first film there was some criticism that Miles wasn’t the focus because there were more Spider-People and in this one there are even more. What would you say to critics who think Miles is getting lost in the Spider-Verse? 

Shameik Moore: There’s a few answers to this question. I feel that if Miles Morales Into The Spider-Verse was made and we didn’t show Peter Parker, I don’t know that we would have the same response that we have right now. Peter Parker is the original Spider-Man. Miles Morales exists because Peter Parker exists. That’s the reality of it and Miles learns from Peter. That makes it Spider-Man and the community around him. Let’s bring it to the Afro-Latino crowd real quick. 

In reality, we’ve fought for inclusion, we’ve fought for progression, etc. that’s where we’re at now. This is a movie that’s inclusive. This is a movie that brings attention to the fact that anybody can wear the mask. Miles has his story but so does Gwen, so does Peter and in this new movie we’ll see that it’s bigger than Miles. Miles might be your favorite Spider and you might want to see him more, but that’s how it’s supposed to be. Just like the NBA, what’s your favorite team? It doesn’t take away from LeBron that Steph Curry exists. Let’s continue the conversation about inclusion and progression. If we want something from the community, us on US?, let’s get some new IP and new characters that don’t exist yet. Bring light to some new actors, new writers and directors and make some original IP. 

But right now with Spider-Man, let’s be honored and thankful and enjoy the experience because this movie is powerful. Look at the messages underneath. I’m thankful because it gives me an opportunity to wear my mask in a way that will be impactful for our community. Count on me, I’m definitely working.

Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse is playing exclusively in theaters.

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