When Greenport native Mike Check left his hometown in 1999 to attend college in New York City,he knew exactly what he wanted to do.
Since the age of 7, he’d been banging on drums and creating rhythms, and since age 12 he’d been penning rap lyrics. And all the while he was studying marketing at Wagner College on Staten Island, he was also busy networking on the New York hip-hop scene.
On Dec. 8, Mr. Check will perform for industry insiders and record executives in the final round of Hip-Hop Unplugged, a showcase and competition for undiscovered hip-hop artists at Crash Mansion in the East Village in the city, and he’s expecting a big hometown crew to turn out to cheer him on.
“The last couple of shows, I brought about 75 people. I’d like to bring 150” this time, he said in a phone interview Sunday night. “The place has a capacity of 400 to 500 people and you know the only people cheering for you are the ones you bring in.”
Mr. Check, 29, changed his name from Mike Checklick several years ago after realizing that every live show needs a “mic check.” During high school, he recorded songs with his friends in a closet turned into a recording booth at his grandmother’s house.
While in college, he belonged to a hip-hop group called Boro 6 with several other Greenport natives. Three years ago, after Boro 6 went through several changes and break-ups, he realized that if he wanted to make a go of a music career, he had to go solo and he had to get his business right.
He began networking and created a mix tape, “Check Me Out,” available online at mikecheck1212.com, with catchy grooves that pay homage to New York, share his views on maintaining one’s self-image in the music business and acknowledge the hard lives of friends he’s known.
“My whole thing is, ‘Be a dreamer,’ ” he said. “The struggles of reaching a dream is where my inspiration comes from, and how my past experiences have shaped me.”
That was Mr. Check’s philosophy when he auditioned for Hip-Hop Unplugged this past summer.
“I had an audition and a couple hundred people were there. I went out of the interview thinking I didn’t make it. My voice was hoarse because I’d just come from a rehearsal,” he said. “But they called me back and told me I’d be in the first round.”
Since then, he’s made it through two rounds of intense scrutiny from a panel of judges that would make an “American Idol” contestant quake in his boots.
“There are five industry judges in the front row, five feet from you,” he said. “I always want to try to be more unique than the competition. Just rapping a hot verse isn’t enough. You’ve gotta have the right energy.”
Even if he doesn’t win in the finals, Mr. Check is already on to the next step for boosting his career. Late last year, he started his own label, The Kinetic Music Group, with several like-minded producers, managers and music marketers.
“We want to do the things a big label can do. We’re trying to recruit talent,” he said. “Our slogan is ‘Crafting an Icon.’ ”
Mr. Check’s first album, “Personal Check,” will be released through his label on New Year’s Eve, and he’s soliciting investors to help the company take off.
“You need a lot of money to do this,” he said. “The drive to succeed keeps me going. You just can’t listen to the haters, everybody out there who doesn’t like to hear about a winner.”