While most teenagers in Plano, Texas were lining their bedrooms with posters of their favorite rappers, Joe Fulce was busy writing lyrics to one day be better than those mainstream artists.
While teenagers were out getting into trouble on the weekends, Fulce (currently a senior on the men’s basketball team) was staying up until 5 a.m. perfecting his beats.
And while some of his friends dropped out of school to try and make their dream a reality, Fulce took care of his schoolwork, which has led him to where he is today: an up-and-coming rapper.
Growing up, Fulce was passionate about music but considered it a hobby, believing that basketball would take him somewhere.
But in ninth grade, he got his first taste of true rap battling, when students took part in cyphers – the best rappers circling up and spitting their lyrics while percussionists in the school band made the beats on lunch tables for the freestyles – during lunch hours.
“Freestyle Fridays” at school showed Fulce he could be successful doing what his classmates were doing.
“It was one of those deals where I said, ‘I can do this too,’ and because I loved music so much, it was easy for me to catch the beats,” Fulce said. “A lot of people go to school to learn, but I learned it naturally from just being around it, and I guess that separated me.”
By 11th grade, Fulce no longer considered rapping just a hobby. His friends began making money off mixtapes they produced, and Fulce performed in a few of his friends’ homemade studios.
After working in friends’ low-budget studios, Fulce and his crew, Boys Makin’ Bucks (BMB), got their first taste of real production when they recorded their first mixtape in the back of a local thrift shop, Big T Bazaar. “Big T” liked what it heard so much that it didn’t even charge the group for the session.
It was then that Fulce began setting up shop in his own bedroom, starting out with a $12 computer microphone and bootlegged editing software, which he received from a friend.
Fulce learned to use the software on his own and put every penny he earned toward improving his bedroom-turned-studio. He was in charge of producing the mixtapes for his group and never once asked anyone for money.
Friends would come and go from Fulce’s house at all hours of the night, writing and recording whenever they could. BMB began putting out mixtapes that received plenty of positive feedback around the school and town. They became so popular they began putting out “diss tracks” about anyone who didn’t like their music.
“We were literally embarrassing the worst people in our area, talking about (their) personal business,” Fulce said. “It became big enough to the point that we got a rise out of people, but at the end of the day it was all fun and games because it made them step their game up, too.”
Despite his success behind the microphone, long-time friend B.J. Block, who Fulce described as “like a brother,” said Fulce always kept his focus on school and basketball before trying to make a musical career.
“I always used to tell him to make sure he had his school and education in line, because the talent will be there,” he said. “That’s why I told him to keep going at it and to keep pursuing it.”
Fulce has come a long way since Freestyle Fridays, but said since his Marquette basketball career is over it’s time to focus on networking and getting his group’s name out.
“We have a really good, different sound,” Fulce said of BMB. “We’re from different areas, and even though we’ve all dealt with different things in our lives, we’re all on the same path.”