Right Moves
Power's Joseph Sikora pledges allegiance to old-school hip-hop icons
Words: John Kennedy
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

On Starz’s Power, Joseph Sikora plays Tommy Egan, an impulsive but street savvy gangster running a criminal drug enterprise on the streets of New York City. Yet on screen, it’s Motown soul music—not trap anthems—that comprises the stone-cold gangsta’s musical taste. Alternatively, Sikora, 42, is a direct product of hip-hop’s late 1980’s golden era. The Chicago native came up rocking open mics in his hometown and tagging up his city as part of his graffiti crew, J4F. He can riff off details about rap albums both classic and obscure on command. So, he feels right at home on Power. As the show enters its fifth season, XXL caught up with the popular actor to discuss Power’s hip-hop connection, his favorite musical era and the endless Eminem comparisons.

XXL: What hip-hop music did you listen to growing up?

Joseph Sikora: I listened to a lot of 1980’s and 1990’s stuff—Public Enemy, Eric B. & Rakim, Boogie Down Productions, Ultramagnetic MCs. Stuff that was going mainstream, too, like Run-DMC’s Tougher Than Leather and Raising Hell. LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, Big Daddy Kane and a lot of East Coast stuff. I liked stuff that was coming out of the West Coast: That D.O.C. album, the stuff [Dr.] Dre was producing after N.W.A was really great. Jungle Brothers’ Straight Out the Jungle album was influential. A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising really encapsulated that feel-good vibe.

One of my most influential hip-hop albums that is so underestimated was D-Nice’s second album, To Tha Rescue. The song “To Tha Rescue” is this great anthem—it’s full-force forward. [The song] “25 ta Life” is this great cautionary tale. He goes, “I pulled the trigger so I guess I have to pay the price/I’m serving 25 to life.” It’s these great lessons, and I think Power in that way is a cautionary tale [about] getting wrapped up in this life. It’s saying, “Hey, look, these are true means to an end but there are consequences for your actions.”

What hip-hop act do you think is most comparable to your Power character, Tommy Egan?

Tommy would be the Wu-Tang Clan. He is all of these different voices that make up this super-group: You have that wild ODB [’Ol Dirty Bastard], that strictly business Method Man, the guy who’s got street finesse like Raekwon or Ghostface, RZA when he breaks it down, like those slow-pointed runs where it’s Tommy talking to ’Dre like, “Why do I think you’re bullshitting me?” He’s a super-group of emotion that you see wrapped up into a very fleshed-out character.

Do you keep up with contemporary rap artists?

A little bit—mostly when I’m in the club. It’s funny, trap music feels like what kids on the corners in Chicago were doing back in the 1990s. It was almost like Chicago was weirdly ahead of its time. But that dude Logic, I think he’s great. He really shows off such lyrical skills. But that hearkens back to a time when lyrical skills were the thing—the line of demarcation was who was the freshest with word-smithing. A lot of that came from the generation of [Big Daddy] Kane, Rakim and even that unique style of KRS-One, teaching all these messages within the rhymes. Rakim was such a master of lyrically stitching together words, syllables, beats and rhythm. Logic does a lot of that stuff. He’s great.

There’s a scene in season four of Power where your character is jokingly called Eminem. Would you play him in a biopic?

People often make parallels [between] the character Tommy [and] Eminem, but Em and I are about the same age, so I don’t think that would work. Plus, he’s plenty good at playing himself. He was great in 8 Mile, fantastic. He seems like an interesting guy to me. He’s a man of conviction—I’ve got a lot of respect and admiration for Eminem. He fought through a lot of hardships and came out on top.

Check out more from XXL’s Summer 2018 issue including our 2018 XXL Freshman Class, interviews with Denzel Curry, producer Tay Keith and more. 

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