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Vanilla rice: ‘First white rapper’ Rice Maniac heats up Brighton Beach

Brooklyn Daily
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Photo gallery

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Rice rice baby: The renowned rapper, who is in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, is ready for his close-up.
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Number one: Rustam Zaripov, the owner of the Russian Banya, shows his support of Southern Brooklyn’s singing sensation, Rice Maniac.
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Freestyle flow: The maniacal musician previews his new single with an exclusive performance.
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That’s a wrap: Rice Maniac says rapping is a way to share his story.
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Making waves: Hip-hop hero Rice Maniac is making a splash in the music industry.
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Hot in here: Rice Maniac takes a break from the steam room.
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Towel time: Rice Maniac — best known for his 1996 album “Honkies, Krackers & Whitebread Misfits” — holds two oak leaves for good luck.

Rice Maniac is not your grandfather’s rap artist — though he may look a bit like your grandpa.

Born Stuart Sagevick back when the Beatles were just catching on, Rice Maniac claims the distinction of being America’s first white rapper, having started slinging rhymes way back in 1977.

The Marine Park native, who divides his time between rapping in Brighton Beach and coaching boxers at Gleason’s gym in Dumbo, understands that a 50-ish white guy in a Sochi track suit busting rhymes on the boardwalk may raise eyebrows, but he insists he’s the real deal.

As he declares in a verse from his breakout track “The Misfits,” “I’m no phoney — two slices of Wonder Bread and Boar’s Head baloney.”

Back in the day, Maniac even collaborated with Songwriters Hall of Famer Leon Huff, one of the architects of the Philly Soul sound, garnering a co-writing credit on a song — albeit under his government name — which is noted on the hall of fame’s official website.

He credits the success to his authenticity.

“How’d a 15-year-old white boy from Marine Park Brooklyn end up co-writing a song with Leon Huff?” asks Maniac. “I just did my little part in writing the words and my experiences.”

When he was just starting out, the venerable virtuoso of verse went by Emcee Blue, but he switched to his iconic handle after he had an epiphany while chowing down on one of his favorite foods in Chinatown.

“I love rice. It’s white. I’m Rice Maniac — boom!” he said.

Maniac said that when he first took up rapping, everyone criticized him — his mother and kids from the neighborhood, whites and blacks alike — but he said rhyming was an escape from his hellish home life.

He battled an addiction to pills as a 12-year-old, his mother kicked him out on the streets when he was a teenager, and he suffered long-term abuse from his family. But he said rapping lets him share that life story, which has become his masterpiece.

“I was in an alcoholic home. I was beaten by my brother and my father,” he said. “The totality of this whole story is like a Mona Lisa.”

Since starting out in 1977, Maniac’s career has been a slow burn. He dropped his first single “Life and Times” in 1985 and followed with “Joey Married My Redneck” soon thereafter, but it was another decade before Maniac released his first album “Honkies, Krackers & Whitebread Misfits” in 1996.

In late 2011, he shot a video for one of those tracks — “The Misfits” — around his ’hood of Brighton Beach, and it eventually caught the attention of Peter Rosenberg — co-host of “Juan Epstein,” Hot 97’s self-described “hip hop nerdcast” — who brought Maniac onto the show earlier this year.

The exposure gave Maniac’s career a bump and helped lead to a second, highly stylized video for an all-new track “I’m Doing This” that smash-cuts between the performer spitting rhymes on the streets of Coney Island in a Ramones T-shirt, and a besuited Maniac rapping in a mood-lit Gargiulo’s restaurant amid ballerinas dancing en pointe.

Maniac is currently working on a soon-to-drop single, and he promises that his new rhymes will have the same timeless authenticity as the songs he wrote decades ago and have stood the test of time.

“I’m not a wannabe,” said Maniac. “Every lyric still applies today.”

Reach reporter Vanessa Ogle at vogle@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4507. Follow her attwitter.com/oglevanessa.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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