Feature Interviews

Taxstone: Leading The Charge For Honest Podcasting

Words by Kathy Iandoli

portrait of taxstone

Words by Kathy Iandoli
Images by Karston Tannis

Within the first minute of meeting Daryl Campbell, a.k.a Taxstone’s podcast, it’s clear the New York City native is about his business. Tax’s podcast, Tax Season, is perhaps one of the most controversial rap-skewed podcasts around. It’s due largely in part to Taxstone’s delivery and honest observations that often bring both discomfort and hilarity to his interview subjects. It’s a skill he’s refined, starting at street level.  Taxstone didn’t have the most idyllic upbringing, as gang life quickly found him.

A stint in prison left the media personality with a whole other set of life lessons, primarily the one that he didn’t want to revisit the concrete block. Tax changed his stars, and at the suggestion of fellow podcaster Kid Fury and Power 105.1 radio personality Charlamagne, Taxstone started Tax Season. But that’s not all he has in the works. The Bevel-sponsored podcaster has rolled through the halls at MTV and is  currently reviving his acting career, a trajectory he dabbled in as a kid. At 30 years old, Tax has done so much already. And he’s just getting started.

BevelCode: When did you feel like podcasts became a hip-hop thing? Before it was deemed as “nerdy.” Now everyone wants to podcast.

Taxstone: I believe the moment I started doing a podcast, that’s when it became cool in hip-hop. There were other hip-hop dudes who had podcasts, but they weren’t doing astronomical numbers or they weren’t causing that much shock or making people say, “Oh I want to go listen to this podcast.” I think when I started podcasting—and just basically started mixing up the people that I would bring that don’t have anything to do with hip-hop music but are a part of hip-hop culture—I feel like it just spread out and people felt like it was an acceptable thing to do now. People used to joke on podcasts and be like, “Podcasts are wack!” I remember hearing people saying it, because I knew about podcasting for the longest, but it was once I got involved in it, that I brought a whole new demographic of people that never even knew what podcasts were. Then everybody else was like, “Oh it’s cool, let me get one!”

BC: It did have kind of a negative connotation, and now it’s like everybody’s trying to get up on podcasts and speak their peace.

Tax: It’s the new t-shirt now. The same way people sell t-shirts, they got podcasts now.

BC: So where does your “I don’t give a f**k” attitude come from?

Tax: Just basically going through certain things in my life where I felt like caring about what people said or how they feel about you. That hinders your own growth because you’re worried about what someone else is thinking, when you should only be worried about how you feel about yourself. So from that moment, I was like “yo, I don’t give a f**k about what anybody says about me or how they feel. I’m gonna be me to the utmost.” And it’s the best feeling ever.

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BC: You had it pretty rough coming up, because you were a smart kid turned street kid.

Tax: Yeah, I’ve had an adventurous life. I definitely was always academically smart. I did a lot of dumb s**t, but I was always academically smart. It was funny because a homegirl of mine that’s a doctor now, wrote me on Facebook like, “This is unbelievable, Tax! I remember when you used to do my homework!” And she’s a doctor now! I was so ahead academically, that I knew the stuff before anybody else learned it. I would just do all their homework just so I could have somebody to talk to in class. From there, my mother had me in child acting so I was an extra in mad stuff back in the day. I was on Law & Order, Diehard 3. I was in a lot of episodes of Law & Order doing stand-ins. I did stand-ins for the character G on New York Undercover, City Hall was another show like Law & Order back in the day that got cancelled. I was on that. I was just a bad kid, so I guess being in school and not having much to do, you just look for something to do. I became a bad kid and next thing I knew, I was going to jail. Now I’m out of jail  living a positive lifestyle, and it’s a blessing.

BC: When did you get out of jail?

Tax: 2012.

BC: That’s a crazy jump from jail to here, in less than four years.

Tax: Yeah, it was planned, though. I always knew how to talk, I was always witty and I just knew that I could make money from being myself. So when I met Kid Fury, he was telling me, “Yo man, you should get a podcast!” I was considering it because I was seeing the money he was raking in off the live shows, and I was like, “I need to be part of this! I know how to talk!” So I met Charlamagne, then did Brilliant Idiots with Charlamagne and then he just pushed it forward like, “Yo, we gotta get you a podcast!” It just worked out since then.

BC: How do you go about choosing who you want to talk to on the podcast?

Tax: People that I speak to, usually I’m a fan of, or a fan of their thinking, what they present. That’s basically what it is. Labels try to force artists on me and I’m like nah, I can’t interview them because I’m just not a fan! That’s why it’s basically called Tax Season, because it’s me; it’s about me! The podcast is about me, but I have conversations with other people.

BC: On that Kodak Black episode, you were trying to drop some gems on him to stay out of trouble and be careful…

Tax: Yeah, because he’s young. The thing is that you can have mentors, and the mentors might not know what you’ve been through or what you’ve gone through, so it’s hard to tell them. It’s like drug counselors. They only know clinically what it says about drugs. They never went through it themselves, so them telling you that you shouldn’t use drugs and this, that and the third, it falls on deaf ears compared to a person that’s used drugs before. They can tell you, “listen, I used them drugs firsthand. I can tell you!” So it works a little bit differently. For instance, before I got the interview with Kodak Black, the people at Atlantic Records were like, “I don’t know how this is gonna go. Kodak doesn’t like being interviewed by anybody!” And I’m like, “put me on the phone with him!” They put me on the phone with him, and I spoke to him for like 15 minutes and he was like, “Yo, so when we doing this interview?” After, he was happy to do the interview. When I was a kid, I was a troublemaker, so I understand what might be going on in these types of peoples’ heads, so we just speak and build.

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BC: You also have a really sharp A&R ear. You were one of the first people to bring up Bobby Shmurda, and you were the first person to talk about Desiigner.

Tax: Yeah I was the first person to talk about everybody, if you want to be honest. I don’t know. I guess I watch mannerisms, how people act, how they move – before I even listen to the music. I feel like being a star is like a package, so even with Bobby Shmurda, people around him were like, “Yo, Rowdy Rebel raps better! You should push him first,” and I’m like, “No, Bobby Shmurda is the star. Whatever he does will carry the rest of everybody else.” It just worked out. From there I promoted Bobby Shmurda, and damn near every hip-hop tastemaker, blogger said it was terrible, it wasn’t gonna do anything. That proved to be a lie.

Then I pushed “Milly Rock” out. What a lot of people don’t know is “Milly Rock” came out the same time as the Shmoney Dance. And I know 2 Milly, I know the “Milly Rock” kids from jail, so I naturally wanted to help them, but I couldn’t because I had already started pushing another dance record. I was like, it would look crazy if I pop up with the “Milly Rock” record right now when we’re promoting the Shmoney Dance and “Hot Ni**a.” I just waited until it fizzled out, Bobby and them was in jail for a little while and they died out, which was a year later. And I started promoting “Milly Rock,” and it shot through the roof too.

BC: That’s kind of crazy that you have that much control. You can be like, “Alright, I’m just gonna wait on this and it’s gonna be hot when I press play.”

Tax: Yeah, you know it was crazy, ‘cause I told [2 Milly]! They’re young, you know? They was feeling like I wasn’t their friend. They’re like, “Yo, you’re helping these dudes you don’t even know and you not helping us!” I’m like, “You don’t understand how to sell things!” So I always tell people, I was a drug dealer most of my life and I never used the drugs, but I knew there was a market for them – and it’s the same thing with music. Most music critics listen to music and they say, “Do I like this?” and they’ll be like, “No, it’s wack!” Nah, it’s not wack just because you don’t like it. You gotta figure if there’s a group of people out there that will like it! That’s basically how I took it from there, and then I told them, I said, “Listen, don’t act funny with me!” You know, they didn’t really have that many views. They might’ve had 1,000 views within a year off of “Milly Rock,” and I told them, “When I step on the gas, you gon’ see everything change, so I don’t want y’all later on doing interviews saying, ‘Oh this has been out and it was gon’ pop!’ I want you to be clear who made it pop.” And that’s what it was basically…as soon as I stepped on it!

I think the first time I tweeted it, Ebro from Hot 97 and Joe Budden said something about it. It was more like, “Oh, they dancing like girls!” So this is their first time even getting recognition from radio or anybody, you understand? This is the first time I tweeted it out! And then from there, it just bubbled, it just kept going. And then they realized like, “Damn, you really got a hand.” Then the next was Desiigner. In late December I told every label about him. He went up there, everybody said he sounded like Future. What I was trying to explain to people at the labels was, back in the day, it was controlled. So if I was to sound like Biggie Smalls and went to a label, the label would be like, “Yo, you sound like Biggie! We’re not putting this out.” Now that you have the internet, you have the freedom of putting out whatever you want so what happens is you let the people talk for it. So when all of them are shooting it down, I told them! I said, “Watch! You gon’ see!” And it happened, four or five months later we’re here, and he’s Platinum and Gold.

BC: Is there ever a point where you feel like you purposely tone down your approach or how you interview certain people?

Tax: Not really! I’m a naturally kind person, but I feed off energy. So if you want to be calmly spoken to or whatever it might be, then I’ll just reciprocate the energy. Sometimes during the interview, you see people clam up, so I’ll give a story about myself. Sometimes when you give off vulnerability, people trust you a little bit more. So I’ll tell somebody something about myself where I didn’t win or whatever it might be, to let them open up. Like for instance, I just did a live show in Philadelphia and I spoke to Freeway on the stage for a little while. I asked him, “Freeway, how much sex did you stop getting after the battle with Cassidy?” And he got real uptight and mad. But the crowd was laughing. I basically just had to share a story with him where I lost before, but I don’t care, you know what I mean? Then he was okay with it after that. He was like, “Nah, you know it was this happened and that happened!” It’s all about making people comfortable.

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BC: Does that ability to read people come from the streets? I feel like that’s a street instinct.

Tax: Yeah, it basically is because you know the streets is the jungle. The more and more I get away from the streets, I realize where the streets are and how far attached and detached other people are from the streets. I go around my old friends, and I go hang with them, and every one of them has a gun on them. It’s just a regular thing! It’s just a regular Tuesday, they going to pick they kids up from daycare, go take they wife out later, go home and take care of business – but they got a gun! Even the dudes that work, these dudes are not in the street, but they might have used to be in the street or they live in the hood still. These guys are strapped! It’s such a disconnect when I hang with other people, and I tell them stories about myself, they’re so fascinated. They’re like, “Oh my god! We can sell this!” I’m like s**t, this is a regular story! There’s a guy on my block with a worse story than mine, you know? But reading people basically comes from just dealing with different types of characters and having to know what’s gonna happen before it happens.

BC: What’s your daily grooming regimen?

Tax: I shower, brush my teeth and brush my hair – that’s it. I shave once a week myself, and go to the barber shop once a week. Because you know, three or four days after the barbershop, you need a little line because you’re getting a little stubble, so that’s when I shave.

BC: You keep it clean shaven for the most part?

Tax: Yeah, you got to out here in order to preserve your sexy with these women.

BC: And also I’m sure you’re taking meetings left to right nowadays, so you can’t have that 5 o’clock shadow when you walk in, right?

Tax: Yeah, that’s another thing. I am a person that likes to wolf out sometimes. I don’t really care if I’m wolfin’ or not, but that’s what’s been going on. I’ve been having so many meetings and stuff, that I’ve been having to take care of myself a little bit more now.

BC: Do you think you want to revisit that acting part of your career? I know you’ve done things like Uncommon Sense and some other MTV stuff, but do you think that you would actually go into other roles?

Tax: Yeah, I’m actually doing things now and I got some things coming in the future. I always tell people acting saved my life, because you’d be surprised how much you need the scale of acting in the world. That’s another reason why I don’t trust actors, because you don’t really know who they are that day. They can be playing whoever they want to play. They can be extremely stressed out and mad and act happy. It’s just the changing of emotions and making people believe you, so I’ve had to use that just in my life in the streets.

BC: Come to think of it, you haven’t really had many actors on the podcast.

Tax: Yeah I actually haven’t had any actors on the podcast at all, and that’s something that I definitely want to change because I’m definitely a fan of acting. That’s why I can’t watch a lot of these web series shows they got and s**t because the acting is so terrible. It’s like yo, chill out! But yeah, I am getting some actors actually.

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BC: What about A&R? Do you think you would make it more structured at some point?

Tax: You know, A&Ring is kind of corny to me. I go up to labels all the time to consult, and they want to hire me as an A&R but  I think it’s too much control for me. I don’t like being controlled too much, and I won’t be able to speak the way I speak because I’m representing their company. They won’t want me to interview certain artists if they have a dispute with an artist at their label, or they’ll try to push artists on me to interview. So it’s just a couple different things that I’m just like nah, I’m cool doing what I’m doing. It’s gonna make me a lot of money.

BC: How did you get the name Taxstone?

Tax: I got the name Tax because I used to extort dudes in my neighborhood, and I used to extort the other drug dealers. The ice cream man actually named me Tax and then it just stuck. Then I was Tax for the longest, and then I got into gangs, and Stone was the set that I was down with, so that’s how I got the name Taxstone. I kept the name, even though I’m not in the gang anymore because it’s just basically an acronym for Striving To Overcome Negative Energy. So I kept the name, and that’s where Taxstone comes from.

BC: Was it hard to untangle from that life? Some people say once you’re in, you’re in for life.

Tax: Nah, that’s actually for the dudes that’s soft that’s in the life and they was never supposed to be there in the first place. What happens is, you have dudes that’s just misguided. They want family, they don’t know what to do, they’re dumb, so they join gangs. As opposed to me – I joined a gang because I was bored. I didn’t like the dudes that turned Crip, so I turned Blood. Then I told them I was Blood. I didn’t get initiated or anything, but because I was so active and who I was, they didn’t care. They needed me down with them! It was like I became the leader almost immediately of turning Blood, then I just told them I wanted nothing to do with it no more and that was it. Nobody can say nothing to me because the fact of the matter was that I had more heart than all of them in the first place.

BC: So you just basically were like, “I’m Blood!” and then you were like, “Eh, I’m not anymore. I’m good.”

Tax: Yeah, and I was Blood for years! I was Blood since like 1998, and I just recently stopped being down with them like three years ago. I had to really think about everything and really understand how corny this s**t was and like, what am I doing fighting somebody because they wear blue? That’s not my fight. And you know, I’m Black. I’m trying to empower each other, I’m not trying to be out here killing each other because he had a certain color on. That’s some weird s**t, and I preach that to even the dudes that’s still in the gangs that I know and other guys. I’ve actually probably gotten at least 150 people to say they not down with it anymore, because the s**t is wack!

BC: That brings it back to your level of honesty, because if you speak the truth about it, people listen and you can change a lot of peoples’ minds with it.

Tax: Yeah, and that’s what I been doing. I try to reach out all the time to any kid that’s in a gang, like, “What the f**k are you in a gang for?” You really gotta ask them, “Yo, is this s**t helping pay your rent?” Because most of the time, it’s not doing you anything. All you are is a part of a gang and all you do is get in trouble and you gotta go fight some dude, stab some dude, shoot some dude. That ain’t nothing, and it really hurts when you see the grown men that’s still down with it, or you see a dude like Chris Brown that never had to be in the streets and they running around saying they’re in a gang and you’re like, why? People are in gangs because they have to be, because they’re afraid, because they’re stuck in the neighborhood and they need to be down with somebody and they need to feel safe. Why are you in a gang, Chris Brown?

BC: Did it break your heart, putting on Bobby Shmurda and now seeing what’s going on with him?

Tax: Yeah, it ain’t really break my heart because you know in the streets, we understand that there’s consequences that come with our actions, and I knew that Bobby Shmurda and them was wild kids, you know? I remember telling dudes like tastemakers and stuff like that who were like, “These kids are dancing like girls,” and I’m like, “Tell them that! Tell them they’re dancing like girls and see what happens.” I knew who they were and I knew what they were capable of, and I understood. When they went to jail, it was just like a thing in the streets where you’re like, “Oh well, you went to jail. You gotta handle it now. You know what you was doing outside.” I don’t cry for people who go to jail.

BC: So what do you have coming up next in the life of Taxstone?

Tax: I’m starting my new interview series called The Pull-Up with Taxstone, which will be coming straight from my YouTube channel. The first person I’m doing is Kodak Black. It’s basically a series where I fly out to a person’s neighborhood, interview them, get content, interview their family members, teachers, people around the neighborhood, get them in concert, in the studio and stuff like that. It’s just another platform to see behind the scenes with a artist like backstage, because the most you’ll ever see is what they post on social media. I just feel like there’s more behind the camera.