Saturday night, Interscope Records hosted their annual BET Awards Pre Party at ROKU/ Blind Dragon in West Hollywood. The guest list was star studded as artists, tastemakers and industry pros gathered to celebrate this year’s hottest music. The party was sponsored by Martell Cognac, Clairol Professional, Finish Line, PRG, Fanta and MEZZ. Some stars in attendance included Playboi Carti, A$Ap Rocky, J. Cole, Lana Del Rey, Steve Rifkind, D.R.A.M., Aminé, K Camp and more. The dance floor stayed live until 2 a.m. thanks to DJ Reflex and DJ A-OH. Check out these photos from the event to find your favorite artist!
This show was crazy. It was unlike any other show I’ve ever reviewed, mainly because of the uniquely high level of interaction between Hopsin and the audience. He brought three volunteers on stage who claimed they could rap a verse of his classic Sag My Pants, crowd-surfed, and came to the edge of the stage and shook hands with everyone (myself included!) in the front row. I was particularly thrown off guard when he singled me out and spoke to me as part of a transition to a new song. He came to the edge of the stage, crouched down, and said to me, “I know you from somewhere, you look familiar.” He got a line of it wrong and messed up the transition, but his fans chanted his name “Hopsin! Hopsin!” signaling they were still having a great time.
He covered a wide variety of his music, which he pointed out before the show, saying he would because he ‘knew how it was from the fans’ perspective.” From Ill Mind 5, Pans in the Kitchen, I Need Help, to newer Ill Mind 8. His fan interaction portrayed that realness that he’s advocated since the beginning of his career. When he came down to shake everyone’s hand he even said, ‘Just to show you all this is real, no Hollywood bullshit.’ Being Hopsin’s main selling point, the crowd thoroughly enjoyed this.
One of the most unique things, which I’ve never seen before at any show, was bringing up members from the audience to sing Sag My Pants. Three guys volunteered to each sing a verse and then Hop and the crowd sang the chorus. Two of the guys did really well, and got to jump into the audience and crowd-surf. One guy was better at crowd-surfing than the other, and the other one fell at first—but got lifted up eventually. The third lyricist froze on stage, his girlfriend was standing next to me in the crowd and she said that it wasn’t a lack of memorization; just nerves. Still, Hopsin congratulated all of them at the end.
Some of Hop’s music is controversial (which is why we love it) and he was very respectful about it. For example, before singing Ill Mind 7, which is based on an internal monologue questioning the existence of God, Hopsin disclosed to the crowd that he was not meaning to offend anybody; that these were just his thoughts. As an outspoken Christian, his music sometimes conflictingly speaks on his devout faith in God and other times doubts His existence. Hop’s lyrics reflect very realistic virtues, as his opinions are always changing and he does not represent any one belief, which makes him relatable to many.
Hopsin ended his show with Bout the Business, after being enticed back on stage for an encore. His fans were more than loving; everyone was in ecstatic support. And he deserved it; he was incredible live. He rapped and sang every song exactly how it sounds on the tracks. The most impressive was how he kept rapping even while crowd-surfing! Flawlessly! Here’s to hoping he goes on tour again soon 🙏🏽
Once again, The Observatory was an awesome venue. We got to the line about an hour before the doors opened, and ended up standing right at the front, next to the stage. One thing they did, though, was brought on way too many openers. Hopsin’s openers were pretty good. Token was my favorite, he had great energy. But the San Diego area’s opening groups were just laughable and exhausting. Hopsin’s got some true fans to stick around through all of that!
But, all in all, The Observatory is always a great venue.
I spoke with Pennsylvania rapper Eric Will. He shares his journey of becoming a rapper and his true goal of inspiring others.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where you’re from, how you started, and what you’re about?
I’m from Easton Pennsylvania. I started back when I was 14 years old. I mean, I started when I was younger, I learned a few instruments and stuff, but then I got like a piano and I started to make like little hip hop beats with my friends, and from there we just kind of started writing stuff and doing like little recordings. My dad was really into music, so he got like a microphone setup and everything, so we would just mess around with little instrumentals and all that kind of stuff when I was 14. And then from there, me and him just kind of kept doing it and just working towards that, and it’s been quite a journey. I have so much more to learn and master my craft and stuff, but it’s just been an amazing journey so far.
When did your writing develop? You’re making these instrumentals, starting off with these beats, where did you find the inspiration to craft and write lyrics?
So me and my friend, we actually both started out with just freestyles. And then probably when I was about 15 or so I started to write my own stuff. I actually had like a whole book- a little book- with a bunch of words that like a rhyme together [laughs]. I would just go through the book and like write a song, it wasn’t anything great but it was little exercises to learn more rhymes and stuff like that. You know, it started when I was 14, but I feel like I didn’t really get extremely serious until I was like 17. That’s when I really started to sit down and produce and write, you know? My songs like really came together and my voice and my mind and who I am.
What changed? What made you think, ‘I need to sit down and get serious about this.’ What in your life made you come to that realization?
So, like, in high school, I had a few very close friends and they all kind of liked my stuff so they told me like, ‘dude, you should just keep pursuing it.’ And of course you have haters and stuff in the beginning, and they’re all trying to hold me back, but you know I feel like both ends of the spectrum -people that hated it and people that encourage me to do it- really like flipped the switch on me. And people were like, ‘dude, you should just keep doing it, just keep doing it,’ you know? I turned 17, I had a job, so I like went and bought everything so I could record my own stuff. That’s really what did it, was when I went out and bought all the recording stuff to help produce my own music.
What challenges have you faced along this road?
From people, of course. Everyone has an opinion on music and stuff. When I first started, you know, you’re never going to jump into anything you do and be like amazing at it. You know, a lot of people, when I first started, that were like ‘you shouldn’t do this and this and that,’ and everybody hated and stuff, so that was a huge thing. Getting over that barrier, passing that barrier, where everyone said I should stop. And, you know, it’s hard to keep doing something that everybody tells you, like, ‘no you shouldn’t do it anymore.’ So that’s definitely one challenge. And of course the money, you know, and going to school. I don’t know how it is down there, going to high school and stuff. Over here, going to high school, we can get up at 6 o’clock in the morning.
“So I’d go from 6 o’clock in the morning to 11 o’clock at night after work and then come home and try to write lyrics, it was crazy. That was definitely a huge challenge. But you know it’s that grind that you put into it I guess that really shapes it.”
Yeah, it’s your motivation that makes you stick out. That’s what holds people back and that’s what makes people stand out. So who are you working with right now? Or who have you worked with in the past?
I guess I’ll just start with like my management. I got a manager early this year, he’s an awesome guy. He really helps me out with all my promotions and stuff like that. I have a producer that I actually just recently got, his name is Homage, we are working on an album just recently. We just decided that we can definitely make something cool, so we just started just signing some contracts and stuff like that. I worked with Hi-Rez. I mean, he’s an awesome guy. He was kind of like the first big person that I got to work with and I remember messaging him- it was crazy- he got back to me right away, and I was like ‘oh my God’ [laughing]. He’s like one of my favorite artists for such a long time, since high school, so when we got to talking it was just awesome. Then he actually hooked me up one day with Emilio Rojas, and he’s an awesome guy too. We actually had a track as well, I plan on working with a few other artists in the future. I would like to maybe work with like Chris Webby, and I plan on working, down the road, again with Hi-Rez and Emilio, maybe working on a track.
So you talked about how you’re kind of in the process of a new album coming out, how far along are you?
We’re just planning it out right now. It’s going to be more like a mixtape, not like an album, like 7 to 9 songs, give or take. We’re still like planning the release date, I’m not a hundred percent sure what time. We’re looking at it right now, and in the next couple weeks I’ll definitely be able to give a timeframe for sure, and that’ll be released on my social medias and stuff. We are just planning stuff out and getting the feel. I definitely want to have like a trap-y and old-school feel, and really combine the two, almost two rap types.
Yeah definitely, that would be unique. What do you think about your style, or even your taste in music, makes you different than other hip hop artists?
I think what makes it unique, my style, is that I like to combine old school and trap, like I can do both, alternative rap, all these different types of rap, and I think that is a huge thing. I want to make stuff that, not only can you party to it, but when you’re alone and you listen to it, you can really sit down and be like, ‘Wow, he’s talking about this and it’s real stuff.’ I think is important to have that mixture and I plan to definitely in this album, I plan to have you know some songs that start off old school and then they go off into this trap vibe, and just really give it an awesome combination of two awesome types of rap. Just combine back in the 90s, to the early 2000’s, to now, 2016, 2015, and stuff.
That sounds like a good combination. So where do you find inspiration for lyrics that people can really get a message out of? From your life and your own personal observations and struggles, or what’s going on around you?
For the most part, right now, I take what’s going on around me, just things in my daily life. I like to reach into some of my old stuff [from] when I first started. My friend’s not really doing it any more, I know he kind of got into some trouble, but I like to reach back into that old stuff in my past. Stuff that I wanted to say back when I first started but I couldn’t or whatever, like to put it in now. For other songs I kind of see what’s going on around me, stuff like that.
What do you see around you, or other artists, or other people, things, in general; what really inspires you?
A lot of artists, like Logic. Old school Logic, and his new stuff, he really inspires me. Futuristic, Eminem, he’s come out recently with his new song, which was like crazy, crazy, crazy awesome. That kind of stuff inspires me, and then everything that’s just kind of going on in the world too. It’s just crazy, if you look at the news and stuff. I like to kind of tap into that, but put my own style into that. You know, like I said, talk about this real stuff but kind of put it onto a beat that people can party too, so it’s kind of like a subliminal message. You know, they’re partying to it, whatever, but they’re also understanding this is going on.
You get the best of both worlds in that. So what you see for the future?
For my future, I’d really like to reach out to maybe some labels and stuff like that, in the future. I mean, my main goal in all of this music, really, the reason why I even started in the first place, was just to inspire people to follow their dreams and their passions, and that they can do it and stuff like that. So definitely trying even more to get my music out there to connect to people that feel like they can’t do it and tell them that they can. I feel like that’s definitely a long-term goal that I would really love to share with other people. And of course, like, reach out to other labels and all that kind of stuff and then just build up my brand and everything.
Have you ever done any shows?
I have done a few. I’ve, so far, I’ve only done like college shows. I actually might have one coming up, I have to talk to my manager a little bit about it more. One in Maryland, and I might have something that’s coming up soon, but yeah. I have done a couple shows at Stroudsburg University and then a few stuff up there. I plan to do some stuff at Shippensburg University and just some more stuff hopefully up the East Coast and future, later on, down the West Coast.
What do you find different in recording your own song or performing for your friends, what do you find different about that from performing on stage in front of students and a bunch of people? Do you ever get nervous?
I definitely do get nervous. I think what’s really different, especially because I always do it in front of my friends and I can just do you so easily I guess, because they already know what I have to offer. When you go perform in front of, especially college kids, they’re like ‘all right what is this kid doing’ and then you get up there and they’re like ‘wow, it’s crazy, this kid’s like really spitting bars!’ And it’s definitely like the reaction of the crowd that really gives you like the confidence and stuff. You almost like feed off of it, it’s just awesome. It’s always nerve-racking, right before you go on, but once you get a song or two out it gets a lot easier. Definitely an adrenaline rush.
What’s one piece of advice you’d like to give someone so that they don’t give up on a dream like this?
I would just tell people, you know, if you believe, you got to believe in yourself. It’s your passion, it’s your love. If you have such a love for something never let it go. Just follow it, you know, and everything will come along with it. Don’t worry about the money, don’t worry about all that kind of stuff, as long as you follow your dream and your passion and your want for something that’s so strong, everything will come along with it, that’s just how it works. It’s important. I was actually just talking to a kid that messaged me today for advice on his music, and I said just believe in yourself.
“That’s the most important thing, and when people don’t believe in you, you gotta believe in yourself and your craft and do it for yourself ,and everything will come along with it.”
Music with a message. I just like to incorporate whatever I’m going through at the time, political issues, into the music. I definitely want to start doing more solo stuff, a lot of the stuff on SoundCloud is stuff I’ve done with Lyrical. But I have a lot of conscious music, and also some club music. I like to make music for everyone.
I think a lot of the criticism that rap gets today is about its lyrics and content. Do you think that’s true?
Yeah, I definitely agree. I think the image that a lot of the rappers today have is degrading towards women and certain minority groups, as far as sexuality goes, and I really feel like they like to up-play things that will get people f***** up out here [laughs]. It’s the government’s way of keeping things separate. I don’t necessarily agree with that, I make more of a message in my music for sure.
So what do you think you’re doing differently than other rappers, besides making music with a message?
Just being myself. I think I get inspiration from like Kendrick, J.Cole; people that are true to themselves with the music and you know just image-wise as well.
Yeah, what do you think about rap, modern, today, right now; what do you think about it?
I think it’s pretty embarrassing to be honest. I feel like most of it, like, if you’re not acting like a monkey on stage you don’t get really a lot of respect. A lot of who the media play, that are the largest, that you see on TV are just talking about nonsense. See T.I. is the perfect example. You know he started off making like real trap music, less conscious music just from his standpoint. You know, he grew up in a bad neighborhood so his music is set from that standpoint, but now it’s more political, more conscious on civil rights. Now that he’s coming to the conscious side of things, I definitely see him less in the spotlight of the media because he’s opening people’s minds with the music that he’s making now, and that’s not what ‘sells.’
“You know what I’m saying? It’s all about the sex image and how much weed you smoke and how many drugs you sell and how much money you have. But in reality, we should be focusing on what’s happening in the world today, you know, trying to be a positive light instead of just mucking it up even more than it already is.”
What do you think about the evolution of rap, compared to what it was in the 80s, 90s, even early 2000’s?
Honestly I think it’s devolved. I really admire people like Isaiah Rashad, J. Cole, Kendrick, because they are really speaking on what’s happening in their lives and what’s happening in society and they give solutions to those issues in their music. I feel like that’s one thing that Biggie didn’t do a lot of. Tupac definitely did, you know, he was a social activist. He had music that was more violent to suit a certain group of people, but I really think that was more of the label pushing him. I really think it’s devolved since then.
I want to talk about politics for a second, just because in one of your songs you get a little bit political. Since you’re trying to stay positive, how have you responded to the current political situation and how has it influenced your music?
Like in the song Can’t Find Love, we really just tried to open people’s minds to the ignorance that is everyday life in America. Racism is like the biggest issue I feel like in our country right now, just with political candidates, Republican and Democratic parties, that’s all they focus on is racial tension. I feel like the leaders today are trying to start a race war just for the sake of making money. It’s really sad; war is the biggest moneymaker in the world. A lot of people our age are like ‘I’m not trying to go vote because I don’t like Hillary or Trump.’ I feel like we don’t have a candidate that speaks for us. My fiancé is really into Jill Stein. I’ve been reading up on her a lot lately and even though the chances are really slim for her to win, I feel like if people got together and got behind her we could see some real change in the country. I just want to see a change in my lifetime; I want to be a voice for change and for the millennial group and younger.
How did you get started? When did you start rapping? How did you get into rap music, like what was your first experience with hip hop?
I grew up playing like hardcore metal; I played drums. My uncle is actually a really famous producer, he produced like Jay-Z’s first album Reasonable Doubt and I think the next two after that. He’s really the one who got me into hip-hop. I remember going to his house as a young kid and seeing all his Gold Records on the wall, like Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, DMX, all those iconic artists and just being able to sit in the studio and watch him work. He really inspired me; he gave me my first set of drums. That’s why I got started. And singing in church, I have always been in the choir or playing drums with the praise team. That was really the start—the church, and a lot of artists can relate to that.
Yeah, I’ve actually heard that more than a few times. Do you find that influences your art?
Definitely, in every way. A lot of my music has that feel. You’ll hear biblical references, metaphors. What I find is that if people hear something familiar, it catches their ear even quicker. Which Chance is doing with his new album. He has a lot of biblical references in his art and I feel like it just makes it easier to catch people’s hearts, and that’s all I’m really here to do.
Another thing I noticed in your songs, like a lot of other rappers will try to maintain this image of them constantly partying and never sitting down and working on anything. But you, in some of your music, take a different approach and you talk about how hard and how much work it takes. That’s probably part of what you were saying earlier about how you just want to be real. When you push this message, are you trying to be honest or are you trying to be different?
I feel like being different is just being yourself. If you try too hard to be different, it seems fake. I just try to stay true to myself as much as possible.
As an artist, have you ever felt an ethical dilemma of having to conform to any kind of genre or needed to change your perspective or your attempt to be conscious in your writing, in order to make it easier to sell or easier to market?
Definitely. Every time I start writing a song, that’s the main thing on my mind. Depending on the mood that I get from the instrumental is really what determines that, or if I saw something on Facebook or the news that would piss me off one day, I just start writing and those are the songs that I really don’t give a f*** about, I just want marketability. I really just care about getting my feelings off my chest. Then I have songs like “Potion” that are written specifically for the radio. Everyone has that one song that you’re just trying to get on the radio that isn’t conscious; J.Cole’s was “Can’t Get Enough.” That one song that gets you in people’s ears, so they want to hear more.
Where do you think the line is? Is it just maintaining a balance so you can create something for your creative outlet and then something that’s going to be popular?
It definitely takes balance, that’s something I struggle with all the time because a lot of the ones that are really radio-friendly, I hate those songs. They’re genuine, but I never talk about stuff that is happening in my life or don’t agree with, but at the same time I want people to hear me. Sometimes I feel like people pay too much attention to the things that you hear [lyrics] in music, like ‘Ok, this dude smoke hella weed, I love to chill with him.’ I do smoke hella weed, that’s true, but at the same time there’s a reason behind it and I have a reason for everything I do. There are certain events that have happened in my life that have brought me to this point. In the music that speaks about that is what I really want you to pay attention to. You’re not getting the radio plays if you’re conscious.
“It’s all about how much drugs you do, how much money you make, how many women you got, and all of that needs to change.”
I just think it’s gotten so far from what it used to be and it could be so much better. There are definitely some artists out here legitimately trying to make a difference. It’s just mind-opening, seeing T.I. put out songs like “Peanut Butter Jelly” or “About the Money” getting millions of views, and then he puts out “Black Man” and all his other songs on his new album and they’re out for a month and have 40,000 views. People want something real but when they get it they can’t handle it [laughing]. They say ‘That’s too much, you’re saying too much,’ and ‘that’s all Black Lives Matter, I really don’t care about that,’ you know what I’m saying? People see what’s going on in the world and then they preach on Facebook how they want change but then when other people come out with music preaching that change they don’t support that music, they just want 21 Savage “I’m Flexin’ On My Ex Bitch.” You know? It’s a dope song, but at the same time it’s a shitty song, it’s just a distraction.
They don’t want to listen to something that would maybe teach them something or broaden their understanding right?
Yeah, it’d be nice if people wanted that, but all people want is entertainment. Sadly, knowledge isn’t always entertaining. It takes an intelligent person to appreciate music like that. That’s honestly why conscious music is not popular, because most of the world only wants a dope beat to shake their ass too and a catchy hook, and that isn’t everything. Music literally influences your everyday life. If hip hop wasn’t a thing, half of these guys selling drugs wouldn’t be doing it. That’s the suggestion that hip hop music plants in your head that causes these minority groups, along with segregation and other issues, but hip-hop music is huge. For that reason, the government actually has a hip hop task force where they go and catch rappers that rap about selling drugs, and a lot of these guys are stupid enough to be rapping about what they’re doing in their everyday life, like Bobby Shmurda. It was a dope song, but it got five of his homeboys locked up, and he’s in prison for 7 years. He’s only in for 7 years because he snitched on everybody else. Music is dangerous; it can be a very dangerous weapon used in the wrong way, and I feel like it can be just as positive used in the right way. You saw a lot of that in the sixties and seventies, with the Beatles and other iconic groups. They preached positivity and all their fans started the hippie movement, and the government was like ‘Hippies? You’re selling drugs to American teenagers,’ when in reality all they’re trying to do is promote peace with herbs that legitimately help people, like weed. By making them illegal you make it so people want to fight over those resources, you make it so people want to kill each other over those resources. It’s literally the War on Drugs that is the issue. Not to say that all drugs are good, I’m speaking out about weed specifically, because I feel like Big Pharma does more damage than weed will ever do. They’ll get you hooked on Heroin by calling it oxycodone. All of these drugs that are meant to help you at the end of the day only hurt you; they help you take away the pain momentarily, but then you want more and more and more until you’re not even hurting but you still want those drugs, and that turns people into crack heads. It’s a trap. The real trap is not drugs; it’s pharmaceutical companies.
Looking at your future, do you think you’re going to stay on this conscious track? Do you want to keep doing this? You talked a little bit about going more solo, but is there anything else that you’re looking to in the future?
I definitely want to promote the conscious image. I definitely still want to have radio bangers, something people know, just like Drake. Drake has mainstream songs and then he has super conscious music at the same time. It may not be about social change and civil change, but it’s conscious in the fact that he really talks about his life. He’s not rapping about stuff he’s not doing. I feel like really what people relate to are people who are like Bryson Tiller, who just talk about what’s going on in their everyday life, because their problems are problems that everyone has. The more you try to relate to people, the more positive it’s going to be, that’s why Chance the Rapper is where he is with no label backing him. In the future, I would like to stay independent, but I don’t have the pull that Chance the Rapper does, so eventually I’m probably going to have to end up signing. But when I do, I’d like it to be to a label like Fool’s Gold, Awful Records, TDE, conscious labels like that. You might make less money doing that, but I’d rather be doing what I love. You know? You might make more money in a 9-5 corporate job, but I’d rather make less money doing this.
Listen to a preview of Ambro$e’s latest single, “Potion”, here.
Interview with Cincinnati-based rapper and producer, Cing Curt
Hi good morning, well morning over here.
Hey, good afternoon over here.
I want to start with a little bit of your backstory. Where do you live? Where are you from?
I’m from Cincinnati. I live in a suburb a little north of Cincinnati. I started making music when I was around 7 or 8. When I first started writing, I ended up getting a karaoke machine for 20 bucks from the flea market with my dad, and he bought me some cassette tapes and I started recording from there. So I’ve been doing this for a while, it’s something I love to do.
What was that first moment when you’d say you became a songwriter or a rapper?
I remember some kid in school, I was like 8 by the way, some kid was walking on his hands at recess or something and all the girls were going crazy over him, and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t walk on my hands. I went home that day, tried walking on my hands, and it was that night I was listening to music and I wrote a rap song. I wrote this girl a rap song, and took her over the paper, and it worked. So since then, I’ve just been going with it [laughing].
[Laughing] That’s a great story. When you’re rich and famous that is gonna be the thing you’re gonna have to tell a million times.
Yeah, I still know the girl I wrote the rap song for. It’s pretty funny.
So tell me about being a producer.
Yeah, I produce a lot of my own beats and I also engineer all my stuff. It’s really good to be behind the sound of all your music because you get the final say in everything, but it’s also kind of difficult, you know, it’s a lot of work.
Yeah, you’re your own boss so that kind of comes with the freedom but also the challenges. So have you produced other rappers?
Yeah, I produced for a guy named Jay Al, he’s from around here, and he had a music video premier on Russell Simmons’ All Def Digital YouTube channel. It’s got like a million subscribers. And a guy named Picasso from around here, he’s been on the radio stations around here and he’s done a lot of opening for artists like MGK and Juicy J.
Wow that’s awesome. In the beginning were your making mash-ups or have you always made your own beats as you’ve written your own lyrics?
I actually recently got into making my own beats, last March is when I got the equipment to make it myself because buying beats got too expensive. And that full ownership of a beat from an unknown producer can cost up to five grand, so it’s safer to go the route of making your own beats.
How do beats just come into your head? What is your process of thinking that and then creating that?
It depends on what mood I’m in. If I’m in a happy mood I’ll make a little drum beat that’s kind of upbeat and happier.
“Usually when I just make what I’m feeling, then I make the best kind of music.”
Right it’s genuine in that case. Who else have you worked with or worked for?
Recently in the last few months I’ve been linking up with other producers and engineers. There’s a guy in Cincinnati, his name’s Kyle Otto, he runs a studio called Otto Labs. He and some of the guys have been on MTV’s blog site; they go out of town, to Vegas and California, they go to labels and they shop their singles out. So I’ve been recently working with him trying to make something shake. About a month ago a minor league baseball player [John Williamson] from the Cubs hit me up, and he wants to remix my song “Mission.” He’s verified on Spotify; got like 13,000 monthly listeners, so it’s really cool.
Cool, good for you. Let’s talk about your new album Perspective. What was your inspiration for that?
This is my first album so I was trying to have as much of a subject matter as I could. Once I came up with the idea ‘perspective,’ I just went with it. Once I got it, I just started putting as much content in it as I could.
How long did that take you?
I was working on the tape for a little over a year.
How long does it usually take you to create and produce a song?
The crazy thing is that it varies. There are songs on the tape that I’ve spent three or four months perfecting. There’s songs on there that I started from scratch that I finished in a weekend.
How or when do you think of lyrics? Do you have to sit down and really think about it, or do they just come to you?
Sometimes it just comes to me. I’ll be out and about doing something or I’ll just be in the studio writing a song, and I’ll have another idea. And then sometimes I’ll have to sit down and write a little storyboard. Sometimes I have to pretty much write down the story before I write lyrics to it.
Who inspires you as an artist?
I would have to say Nas. I grew up listening to him, so it’s real nostalgic. He’s a great storyteller, so I cling to his music. Present day probably like Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Isaiah Rashad.
Have you done any shows?
Yeah, I did a show in Cleveland in July and I’ve done a few shows around Cincinnati at smaller venues.
How does it feel when you’re up there?
I love the whole atmosphere of shows, especially when it’s live and everyone’s in tune with it. Just getting on stage and putting something on for the people who are feeling the environment. Especially if you got a decent catalogue, you can play a song that goes with the mood. Once you get into there’s no better feeling.
Where do you want to go with this? Why are you doing it?
I’ve been doing this for so long that it’s like I don’t even think about it anymore I just do it. I definitely want to eventually start opening up some shows, getting bigger shows. I want to be the best. I want to be memorable, I want to have a lasting effect on people and I want to inspire. Music always helps; it helped me growing up, I’d listen to music when I was growing up and I’d relate.
Jay James is a Producer creating free-flowing Electronic / R&B music. He’s also a Music Major at SDSU.
“I will produce the song, I’ll mix, it, I’ll master it. I’ll do the artwork, stuff like that.”
You’re producing your music, have you ever produced anyone else’s?
Yeah I’ve produced for a ton of different people, friends, other artists. I don’t want to name drop [laughs] but yeah I’ve produced for other people in the industry.
Where did you start?
I’ve been playing piano since I was three. I just taught myself how to play, and then I picked up guitar, started picking up some brass instruments, and it got to a point where I was like I wanna be in a band but I always sucked at working with people, because like people are unreliable. So I was like I’m just gonna record these different instruments on top of each other.
So what you’re doing right now, what you’ve put forth in your more professional recent setting, what are you mostly focusing on and how are you making it?
My workflow is kinda weird. I use a few different kinds of software to get the sound that I have. I usually start with the keys, I’ll just be sitting playing something, like ‘Oh I like that’ and I’ll take whatever melody or chords I came up with and then I’ll use other instruments and start layering and adding other counter melodies until I have something.
Are you ever inspired by other artist’s sounds?
Yeah, all the time. I guess like my biggest inspiration that you can like hear is probably like Kanye, Dilla, Flying Motives, people like that. And I also like to incorporate live instruments because I pay live instruments and I go to college where there’s music programs with amazing musicians, so I try to like get all that in there and just make it work to where its like you don’t hear something and its like ‘Whoa where’d that come from,’ you’re just like ‘That works perfectly.’
What inspired you from the beginning?
I watched a documentary on Timberland in like 7th grade, and I was like ‘Why don’t I do that?’ Music’s always been a huge part of my life. I kinda grew up in a church with a lot of music there and I was always involved in that. I’ve always been the kid tapping on things, banging on pots and pans, so it always made sense that I was gonna make music.
What about your cover art, what was the inspiration there?
My album artwork was based off a picture that was taken of me. I went home for summer break and I found a bunch of old pictures and I took pictures of them with my iPhone, and like uploaded it onto Photoshop and f****d with it and sent it to him [friend] and then he messed with it and that was it.
Wow, cool. How much of your music has vocals?
About like 50 percent of my music has vocals. It’s rarely me; I think I’ve put out one song where I was kind of singing on it
And you don’t want to do that? You like making it more?
I’m not ready yet. I’m not happy with where my voice is yet; I’m working on it. Until I’m ready to put out music where my voice is very prepared, I’m not going to.
Yeah, that makes sense. Ok I want to talk about your success on iTunes, like your album Beautiful. When did that come out?
Yeah, my album [Beautiful] dropped in May, and the first week or week and-a-half, it was on the iTunes charts and that was cool.
Damn! That’s exciting to see.
That was wild. I didn’t have a body of music before that.
I don’t put out a lot of music compared to how much music I make. Like there was a time when I was making three or four songs a day.
Are you very picky in what you put out?
Very, very pick. Like people have to push me to put out music. Recently it’s been better; I think I’ve been putting out as good as it’s gonna get. That’s like my philosophy. I try to make it as perfect as possible and I try not to rush, but sometimes you just gotta put it out.
What’s your favorite work?
I definitely have a favorite song, my song “Polaroids.” The biggest reason, is like so when I was working on the EP I had six songs that I had in mind but I had about ten songs that I had done, and I was like alright I’m gonna put out like 6 songs. But some sh*t happened between me and the artist and their label where I couldn’t put out the music and it was very frustrating. So I wrote a new song and then I sent it over to Crystal, who’s the singer on there, and so I got her part and then I was like this needs something else so I extended the song and worked with another producer and had someone play guitar over it and I added that rap verse in the beginning.
So kind of because it came from something that didn’t work out.
Yeah, it was kind of rushed but I was really happy with it.
Did you have a vision for the whole album?
I like to do concept albums; my first album [Beautiful] is based off a story. So everything is based around the same general ideas. But for the EP I didn’t want to do too much of that. The EP was more of leftover things from the album. After the album I was like ok I’m not going to make music for three months, but I started making music again after two weeks.
You can’t not make music.
So it’s kind of the pieces that didn’t follow the script of your album
Yeah, but then the concept came into it. Like I said, I came across those pictures, and so a lot of the music has kind of a nostalgic feel to it. All the songs have reference to something that’s happened. I wanted to make it personal, and I want to turn it into a series KOFI 1, KOFI 2, in the future.
“I just want to make music. I just want to be an artist; I want to have my foot in every avenue of art that I appreciate. I’m really into fashion; I’m really into photography. I want to have the opportunity to make music the rest of my life.”
Have you ever done any shows?
I’ve performed before but I’ve never performed my own music, not yet. I’ve had the opportunity, like a lot of venues have contacted me asking me to play, but same with the singing thing, I’m just not ready. I took a different approach to things than most artists I feel like and I want that to resonate with my performance
A lot of the music I have, I don’t think it would be very entertaining live.
So that would change the music you make a little bit.
Definitely it will; when you go to a show you usually want music that’s a little more upbeat. I have sitting-down, thinking-about-life music.
You do; you really have to listen to it. As an artist does that bother you at all, that you might have to change it up?
I mean, I don’t want to be a boring artist and only make a certain type of music, so I’m branching out to other genres still in my own way. I eventually knew I was gonna have to do something where I could perform.
Gospel was a big part of your childhood; do you ever see and impact of that in your music?
Oh all the time especially vocally, like how I like people to sing things is very like… have you ever been to church? You know, being in a room, and the church choir is singing, it doesn’t even matter what they’re singing, it’s that environment.
Yeah, that feeling. Like if you can make music that gives that feeling to your listener, then you’ve succeeded.
I think that’s what I’m trying to do. I want people to put in their headphones or turn on their car or whatever, to listen to my music, I want that to evoke some sort of emotion. More than just expressing my own feelings, emotions, or whatever, if I can get something out of someone else, I won.