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- CROWNTHEM Newsletter | Issue 10, Vol. 1
ARTISTS FEATURED: KLASSIC KELL, CONNIE DIIAMOND, GRIP, PINK SIIFU, G PERICO, JA'KING THE DIVINE, BUTCH DAWSON, HBK SKIPPER, BENJAMIN EARL TURNER, BIG K.R.I.T., NAVY BLUE, PROBLEM, MALC, MAT RANDOL, GOD BODY BINGO, SMOKE DZA, MILC, INTRO, K CARBON, ANKHLEJOHN, KILLAH PRIEST, FLEE LORD, CJ FLY, RICK HYDE, AKTHESAVIOR KLASSIC KELL: https://linktr.ee/Klassickell
- KLASSIC KELL INTERVIEW
https://linktr.ee/Klassickell PHOTOS: Cymphonie Barnes & Brandon "Blue" Wilkinson Southside Atlanta artist Klassic Kell released his first full body of work in August titled, The Klassic Tape, Vol. 1. As a first release, the album is quite impressive and denotes Klassic Kell as a prominent artist on the rise. It’s apparent that the album took time to create due to the quality and cohesiveness, (Klassic Kell touches on this in the interview.) The ode to Atlanta and the variety of things in and out the city that made him is delivered in a soulful, laid back and honest manner that also has sprinkles of West Coast influence. After the first few listens of The Klassic Tape, Vol. 1 it was obvious that this album is something that is breaking new ground in Atlanta and the underground Hip Hop scene. What makes the album exciting is the ways in which Klassic Kell paints pictures for the listeners with his play-by-play storytelling. The pictures he paints for the listener comes in various flows, melodies and very intentional lyrics. The play-by-play storytelling that he uses is effective in the way that it provides a clear and concise picture while also showing his vulnerability through sight and experience. This type of play-by-play storytelling put me in the mindframe of Dom Kennedy, Curren$y and/or Larry June; motivational music for the laid-back, non-hype hustler. Play this album at a kick back, in the whip plottin’, cooking’ dinner for your person or whatever it may be, play it. Whether you’re familiar with Atlanta or not, catch the references or not it’s hard to deny The Klassic Tape, Vol. 1 as one of the notable album releases of 2021. Tap in with the interview and learn more about Klassic Kell’s creative process and trajectory. How you get your name? Where your name come from? Klassic Kell: So, I got my name in high school. My artist name, “Klassic,” when I was tryna come up with a name, really I was tryin’ to come up with a brand. You know, when I created a brand - what did I want to name my brand? That just kinda stemmed from what I wanted it to represent. From there I kinda moved into a space of everything I do, I just want it to last. I don’t want to do nothin’ that’s artificial or nothin’ that’s here today and gone next week, you know, gone next year type shit. So, I just kinda put a word on it; something that’s timeless, classy, you know. Anything you put the title “classic” on is forever, you know. Someone could say like, “dang, that’s a classic car,” you know, it’s a timeless car, or, “this is classic music.” You know, it’s like Lays or Coke, it’s a classic drink, you know what i mean. I just wanted to brand myself as something that would describe the quality in myself and what I hold myself up to. That’s where I got “Klassic” from and then the name “Kellz” came from a homie in high school back in like 2011. You know, we used to get hair cuts and my real name Donnell but niggas was gettin’ boxes and all that so I had box for the longest in high school. This was around the same time that Kendrick Lamar had broke out and he used to have the fuzzy box and my homie was like, “bruh, you look like Kendrick.” So, he just merged our names together so it was Kendrick and Donnell and started callin’ me, “Kellz.” When I started rapping I didn’t know a name to go by. He would always call me that as joke but then when I started to use it as my stage name I just put “Kell” right there and swapped the “c” out for a “k” on “classic” and I just turned that into me, you know, Klassic Kell. That’s real cool and it’s interesting. It’s interesting because listening to your album (it’s been in rotation for the last couple weeks,) and that’s very much the energy I get from it. It’s very classic, it’s very timeless and I can honestly see… like you put me in a mind frame where I went back and listened to Dom Kennedy’s whole catalogue like after listening to you. Klassic Kell: That’s hard man. That’s what the album was giving me… Dom Kennedy, Curren$y, some Kendrick. Klassic Kell: In highschool them was my guys. Spitta, you know, that was my guy. All of ‘em still but you know when you younger you’re like super fan. As I’m older now, them still my guys… Yeah, but you can get to a different level with it. Klassic Kell: Yeah, it’s a different level to it. Now, I don’t even know who I even idolize no more and maybe it’s because I’m in music. So, now I’m looking at it more from a peer stand point as opposed to like, “dang, that’s Dom, that’s Spitta,” but Dom and Nip and just all of them. Dom is just one of the flyest, it was like it was effortless to Dom. I made it my point that when I do music this is how I kinda want to mold… it’s what I wanted to mold my sound off of just real chill vibes. I definitely appreciate you noticing that. Yeah, I heard it for sure and it’s still your own thing. It’s real dope because I ain’t ever heard a sound like this out of Atlanta but it’s still Atlanta. You can hear these influences or whatever but it’s still Atlanta and I think that’s really exciting to have a different sound that you’re coming with. What’s that line you got… where you like, “how he from Atlanta rockin’ Dickies with a flannel.” Klassic Kell: I knew you was about to say that. “...wearing Dickies with a flannel.” The crazy thing is everyone is saying the same thing like it’s still so Atlanta. I guess I be trying to figure out how. It’s what you’re talkin’ about. You noted so many different things that are representative of Atlanta. I think I went through and made a list of all these key terms that was Atlanta in the album. Klassic Kell: Man, and that’s crazy because that’s where it comes out and you’re not even trying. That’s the lifestyle aspect. Yeah, this is my influence but then at the same time my everyday life is displaying something else. My influence is one thing, you know, my influence can come from the West Coast but I didn’t grow up seeing a Randy’s Donuts or Crenshaw on Sundays. I grew up on the Southside, I grew up on Old National, I grew up just goin’ and seein’ what the city had to offer you. I grew up going to Cascade, skatetown and all these little things. I can only talk about just what I know so I guess that brings the Atlanta element to it. Definitely. It’s a dope project and to me it seems like a classic project out of Atlanta for sure. Klassic Kell: Man, that’s hard. That’s something big to live up to. Ayy, not even. Just how you say it seem natural and effortless for Dom… it feel like that for you too. You know, and what I really enjoy about the album is how you storytell. It’s a different type of storytelling than what I hear coming out of your city. You’re really giving the play-by-play type storytelling… the type of shit you hear from Larry June too. Just real chill but real fly shit… real soulful (not necessarily in sound but intent.) Klassic Kell: Man, that came from Biggie. He’s like my favorite rapper. I tried to make that song, “PERFECT DAY” as real life as when I hear Biggie’s storytellin’. I can’t even think of the song off the top of my head but it’s when Biggie was tellin’ that story when they on the elevator and they gettin’ into with the Peruvians and he’s literally sayin’ what floor they got off on, what’s the door number up to the room they goin’. He’s talkin’ bout when they walkin’ in the hallway… Paintin’ the picture, for real. Klassic Kell: Yeahhhh, I’m talkin’ bout paintin’ it! Even in the background he walkin’ and he sayin’ he seein’ the people they beefin’ with walkin’ past them in the hallway and the background has some heavy breathin’ sounds. It just really sound like you can see it. You visualizing it. So, for that song I just tried to do my best to bringing that song as close to like life as I could bring a song, you know. Definitely did. I don’t know, the whole album. I wonder how other people receive it who aren’t from the West Coast and also ain’t been to Atlanta. That’d be real interesting to see how those people think about it. Klassic Kell: Yep, and yeah as a whole I wanna see how they think about it too. It’s one thing just being in Atlanta and that’s the biggest thing I be getting from everybody, “this don’t sound like something that come out of Atlanta.” But, then to the West Coast people I don’t know if they’ve heard it or not… I got a few homies out there but I ain’t like so tapped in with the West Coast that I know what they sayin’. Even with the West Coast I want to know what they feel about it because I know they can hear the influence but then I wonder if they will realize that different element. Yeah, yeah and the symbolism. Klassic Kell: You know I’m just interested in all the takes. I wanna hear what everybody think about it. It’s like an open conversation and I want the whole project to spark conversation. You know, what’s your take from it? Mhm, so outta your city who are some of your legends or musical influences? Klassic Kell: Outta my city, some of my legends man… I’mma go with Jermaine Dupri, first, I feel like he opened up a lot of doors for Atlanta. Then, I’d go to OutKast, I’d go to Goodie Mob, I’d go to LIl’ Jon, I’ll say Tip, you know, Tip a legend. It don’t matter what Tip got going on, Tip a legend. Yeah, no matter what city too. Klassic Kell: It don’t matter what city Tip a Hip Hop legend, that’s undisputed. You got Jeezy, Jeezy a legend. People don’t be wanting to give Jeezy his flowers but Jeezy had the city in a chokehold at one point. For real, I remember being in the city and seeing everyone with them snowman shirts on. I wanted a snowman shirt. I wanted one of them shirts so bad - not knowing what it meant. I remember seeing “Trap or Die” posters everywhere, I remember that. I don’t care what anybody say, you can’t ever erase that. Everybody was a Jeezy fan no matter if you pick him or Gucci. Then you got Gucci, Gucci a legend. Shawty Lo a legend to me. A lot of people forget about Shawty Lo, he a legend. Umm, Ludacris. Yeah, Luda. Klassic Kell: Ludacris another legend that’s not talked about. I don’t think people really appreciate his contribution. Going up to 2 Chainz, I feel like 2 Chainz is staple and I think because he’s still active people just like, “yeah, that’s 2 Chainz,” but if 2 Chainz were to be like, “yeah, I’m cool on music, I’m done with it,” and let his discography be what it is. I feel like a year or two later people would go back and listen and they’d just appreciate it more. You know, he put in a lot for the city too and he put on a lot for the city. G.O.O.D. Music, he took the South to G.O.O.D. Music and he rep hard for us. Yeah, that’s facts. Klassic Kell: Man, there’s a lot of people. Y’all got a lot in Atlanta, for sure. Klassic Kell: It’s way more people than I can think of. I really wanna name a few more people out the 90’s. You know, Xscape. You know, Kris Kross, just people. But yeah, I’d say those are my legends man, just one of few. Jazzy Pha. You know, Jazzy Pha actually from Memphis. Klassic Kell: I ain’t know he was from Memphis. Yeah, he from Memphis. He really put on for y’all’s city though. Klassic Kell: Oh, that’s hard. I don’t think I ever heard Jazzy Pha mention Memphis. Right, me either but he from here. Klassic Kell: That’s the craziest part. You would’ve swore Jazzy Pha from Atlanta. He a transplant. Klassic Kell: Yeah, but he real deal… it’s kinda like how Bow Wow is really from Cleveland. Yeah, yeah, like Bone Thugs N Harmony, they from Ohio but most think West Coast. Klassic Kell: Yeah, that’s dope because I think they got found by Tupac. I think they was gonna sign to Pac actually. They were on Ruthless. Klassic Kell: Oh, they was signed to Eazy E? Yeah, Ruthless Records I believe. Klassic Kell: Oh wow, that’s crazy, I ain’t have no clue of that. That’s big. But yeah, there’s really too many to name. You got Young Dro, Rich Kidz. Man, Young Dro fr though. Klassic Kell: Man, I’m tellin’ you we can have this conversation for the next 2 hours. Yeah, it could go on forever because there’s even the contemporaries like KEY!, Skooly and all them. Klassic Kell: Man, you got KEY! and KEY! Is like an underground legend. KEY! Just had a show here last week, sold out. One thing he knows is Atlanta gonna show up… which is a lot of people. Rich Kidz, Skooly could do a concert. You got K Camp, you know what I mean. Man, K Camp. Klassic Kell: That’s what I be saying there’s so many people. It’s so many people that have done so much. You can’t recognize all of them, you can try to but it be somebody out the woodworks every other month. Thug, we ain’t even mention. That’s that I’m saying… that whole scene. But, a little about your album, The Klassic Tape, Vol. 1 - how did it come together? What was your creative process? I know you mentioned you started it in quarantine. Klassic Kell: Yeah, so, I definitely started it in quarantine. I had been sittin’ on “PERFECT DAY,” I had recorded it at the top of last year. I was just sittin’ on that song, for real, and I had stopped recording for like 3 months. I don’t think I recorded at all last summer. Then I went to Tree Sound Studios and I met with the general manager and we was talkin’ and he asked me to play him some music. So, we went into one of the studios and I hooked my phone up and played him some music. The first song that I played was “PERFECT DAY,” and he liked it a lot. So, I played him the next song and the next song was a different vibe, like complete left field song. He was listening, but you can tell when somebody is uninterested. I could tell he is uninterested so I switched to something else and he was back in tune but not as in tune as when he heard “PERFECT DAY.” He told me to stop and he was talkin’ to me sayin’, “I see you can do this, I see you do that and this. I think what you need to do is create your sound that works best for you.” And, I think to this point in my career he gave me 2 of the best pieces of advice that really helped this project become what it is. One, he was like, “you need to create your sound,” and I was like, “okay, yeah that makes sense. I never really thought about it.” Then, he was like, “and in order for you to do that you gotta lock in. You gotta find 1 producer that you like and that you want to work with. You gotta lock in with that 1 producer.” When he told me that - the album is 10 songs and 6 songs are produced by 1 person. When he told me that it was just like, “oh, okay, I gotcha.” I told one of the homies, producedbyDM. I told DM, “ayy, just send me beats.” So, DM sent me a folder that had like 40 beats in it. I just went through the folder and I just started finding beats and this was all in September of last year. I started writing to them and what I felt was cohesive and I felt was me. I just started workin’ and it just went from there. That’s really how it came about. It was supposed to start off as 4 songs as a small thing to do, something to just kinda get my mind going and everything. I ended up liking the songs I was recording so instead of 4 I said I was going to do 6 songs, and I was like I’mma do 8 and then one day I was workin’ got up and peeped 10 tracks. Everything else kinda went from there. Yeah, yeah, the shit is real cohesive, very. There ain’t no skips, for real. Everytime I go through I think I know what my favorite ones are then it changes. Klassic Kell: Man, somebody was sayin’ that yesterday, “like scratch my list this is my new favorites.” Long as you playin’ it bruh, I don’t care which one as long as it’s gettin’ played. Your favorite could be the intro where we just talkin’. As long as we gettin’ spins. When you creatin’ what brings satisfaction to your craft or your art? Klassic Kell: Man, what brings satisfaction? Seein’ the vision I had in my head executed the way that I have it in my head. I can’t tell you an idea, I can try to explain the idea as best as I can to you. I can see the picture in my head and I can explain it and you can kinda get a glimpse of the picture. Me and you probably don’t have the same picture in our heads. Anytime I can execute an idea exactly to how I heard it as, the tone of voice I write it in and I just keep doin’ takes until it’s the tone that I was looking for. Once I execute it, once I’m done then I’m content. I’m good. So, your features - are they other Atlanta based artists? Klassic Kell: All of the features are based in Atlanta but they all ain’t from Atlanta. The artists from Atlanta is Korduroy, Shelly and Andy Z6. Okay, okay. So far, what has been your proudest moment in your journey? Klassic Kell; Man, finally gettin’ this project out. I had put out a little 2 song EP in 2018 and I started promoting this new project and said it was gonna come out the summer of 2019. Then, that didn’t happen because I was still working and it wasn’t where I wanted it to be. I pushed it back to the summer of 2020 but then COVID hit and I was like, “man, I’m not about to put anything out in the middle of COVID.” I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do it when people was outside. Maybe not enough attention. Klassic Kell: Absolutely, there was so much goin’ on. Now that I think about it people might have paid attention because wasn’t nobody doin’ nothin’. It might’ve been dope. It might’ve been a cool vibe. Yeah, just gettin’ it out. I had been promoting another project for like a little minute and that’s what made me stop recording last year because I had kinda just lost inspiration in making it. It take a lot of stamina and a lot of belief in something to work on it consistently for a year and half, two years. The start of The Klassic Tape gave me an opportunity to just go in a whole different direction and to get new ideas and all of this. It was just the fact of doing something from start to finish. My first attempt at it, I didn't put the project out. The project never came out. In my chapter, in my book right now it’s still an unclosed chapter but The Klassic Tape was a full body of work from start to finish and to put it out and to know how hard I worked on it. I’m cool with it, I can live with it. At the moment, this is my proudest moment. I would say so. It’s a phenomenal project, truthfully. Klassic Kell: I believe it, I put a lot into it. I’m just listenin’ to what everybody is sayin’ I’m just listenin’. I don’t think it’s really hit me. I think I gotta listen to the project in like 2 years for it to hit me. When you done worked on something for so long and you’ve just been sittin’ with something - but, I was listenin’ to the songs before the project comin’ out and I wasn’t even interested in the songs no more because I worked on them for so long. You know, sat with them for weeks and months and playin’ them over and over. Tweakin’ ‘em, doin’ edits, goin’ to the studio because something didn’t sound good, the fade is too long or the fade is too short - just being meticulous. It’s like driving yourself crazy over the songs. So, now the fact that it’s out and I get to listen to it as a whole, as a project and I don’t have to do nothin’ no more it feel good. It feel good to hear people sayin’ it’s a classic project or it’s a good project because all I know is that I put everything I had into for the most part. I can imagine that shit feel like a huge relief. Klassic Kell: It feel like now y’all can leave me alone for the next 2 years. I’m not sayin’ I’ll take that long again to do something again. But, now it feel like I can go out without people asking me, “bruh, where the project at?” I started gettin’ all them when people seein’ me out. “When’s it comin’ out? Where’s it at?” Like bruh, I don’t know so I just told everybody it’s comin’ soon. I don’t know when, what month, what time of the year but it’s comin’ soon. It’ll be here at the right time. Klassic Kell: It will be here at the right time. Man, God’s timing is always on time. You know, it came out when it was supposed to come out. Facts, so what’s next for you? You got some videos you workin’ on? Klassic Kell: Oh yeah, I’m definitely working on some videos right now. That’s a whole other process in itself just because I been realizing working with videographers is harder than working with artists. Really? Klassic Kell: Man, it’s not even that they harder to work with than artists but it’s like diggin’ for diamonds finding a videographer. Not every videographer can get the vision in our head. Not every videographer is going to be able to execute what you want. Then, some of them will say, “I’ll shoot but my budget is 2500.” So, it’s just finding that but I think I finally found one I’mma work with. I got a consultation comin’ up with him and we just gonna figure it out. I think and I’m hoping that homie is the guy that we go ahead and start rollin’ out these videos with. We gonna be linking up soon to go ahead and talk about the first video and we gonna go from there. I hope it goes well. I look forward to seeing some videos because obviously it’s your artistry but I really think that just off of that one video of yours you got up - the stories are expounded on in the video. People will see your environment like that. Klassic Kell: Absolutely, that’s how I’m tryin’ to make it in everything I do. That’s when I really think about Dom and Curren$y. Curren$y, you know the car shop he always at, he got that car shop in his videos. You know, Dom, those same places he shot his videos you can go to them. It’s like they put their real life into the music. So, I try to do the same thing with Atlanta. I don’t feel like nobody (outside from strip clubs,) really shows the day2day life of Atlanta. People show you’re either in the strip clubs or you’re in the trap house. One or the other. Nah, that’s real. I don’t know if you saw the interview another artist from Atlanta, Vega. Klassic Kell: Oh yeah, I saw. And that was my thing, like get outside because Georgia is hella beautiful and people don’t see the green they don’t think of all the green that’s down there too. Klassic Kell: Nah, that’s a fact, that’s a fact. It’s real country, for real. Klassic Kell: Man, for real and that even go back to OutKast. That was a big influence and people just really don’t understand. Shit, them Goodie Mob videos too. Klassic Kell: Yeah, for real. Goodie Mob was more frfr out there like they’d be like, “we out here on Campbellton Rd. shooting a video right here, we bout to go to JJ’s rib shack real quick. We bout to post up outside JJ’s and shoot this video.” No hype shit. Klassic Kell: Nah, nothing at all and it be people like me who be takin’ it in and idolizing it. You go to JJ’s and they done shot the video inside of it and you sittin’ at the table like, “dang, this the same table they was sittin’ at.” You know, you sayin’, “a couple years ago on Headland and Delowe,” I grew up, up the street from Headland and Delowe. So, just them talkin’ bout that intersection and you seeing the “Headland and Delowe” intersection signs right there is like, “this spot, whether they were standing here or not is exactly what they was talkin’ bout.” That picture of them just naming streets and it did something for me. That’s how I feel. I feel like, I can only do the next person who might be listening to me. That’s why, “SOUFSIDE” is the way that it is, and there’s a lot of people who know the Southside and can resonate with a lot of stuff that I said. Yeah, the shits dope and especially the symbolism you got on it is real dope. You got anything else you want to add? Klassic Kell: Go play The Klassic Tape if ya ain’t tapped in and shout out to y’all, I appreciate it.
- CROWNTHEM Newsletter | Issue 9, Vol. 1
ARTISTS FEATURED: CHELSEA PASTEL, YELOHILL, DEZZIE GEE, ROME STREETZ, BINO RIDEAUX, BLXST, BOSSMAN, MIC CAPES, KURATII, COACH TEV, BLAKE CRIS, JO8, BANCO, RANSOM, UFO FEV, G PERICO, DONTE THOMAS, BOCHA, COREY G, PAT JUNIOR, HUGH AUGUSTINE, OMB BLOODBATH, DEVY STONEZ, DAVE EAST, HARRY FRAUD, KING JAHSH, REMBLE, STEVIE CROOKS, FLY ANAKIN, SINDIAN, STALLEY, RYAN MILLA, VINCE STAPLES, BIG KAHUNA OG, UNLUCKY BASTARDS, K.A.A.N, ISAIAH RASHAD
- CHELSEA PASTEL INTERVIEW
Tell me who you are where you from and where your people from. Chelsea Pastel: Okay, I’m Chelsea Pastel. I’m from Cleveland, Ohio. My people are mainly in Cleveland, I got some family in the Bahamas as well but for the most part my direct family is here in Cleveland. We kinda spread out a little bit over the country in different places. You feel you have any influence in your music from the islands? Chelsea Pastel: Not really, but at the same time I don’t know. I’m born in America, my dad was born in America too so for the most part I didn’t grow up around it. But, I notice when I actually see my cousins from there we have a lot of similar ways, it’s weird. Like, how? We even have similar features and it’s like ‘wait, what?’ You know, so, maybe underlying somewhere or subconsciously, you know… but not directly. So, growing up did your parents play music from out there? Chelsea Pastel: Nah, that’s my dad’s side but my mom she was the music person for me. My dad he played pretty much what was on the radio, you know, but my mom had the actual collection. She had an eclectic taste in music so she had everything. You know, I’m a 90’s child, she had everything from alternative rock to slow jazz to Hip Hop to RnB. You remember back in the day those slots where you could put each CD in? She had so many of those. Ohh, like those binder things? Chelsea Pastel: Nah, not even those binder things it was like a tower. She had multiple ones… she had a lot of them! And back then that’s when the sound systems had like 3 parts. You know, like the EQ and I used to play with that all the time and just play different songs she had or stuff she would already listen to that I liked. She would play some Dancehall, some reggae music every now and then but she really played so many different types of music. It was crazy, for real. That’s dope. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, it is dope. I’mma be honest, she unintentionally created a musician. That’s what it sound like. That’s dope. So, who were your influences from hearing a variety of music from her? Chelsea Pastel: It’s pretty interesting. So, I first started off producing. I would kinda write my own raps every now and again but I was really into production. And, to be honest, I was obsessed with Michael Jackson like a lot of kids was… you know what I’m sayin’. But I was literally obsessed, me and my best friend (she’s still my best friend to this day.) In first grade our friendship started off of both of us being obsessed with Michael Jackson. Her mom was the same way. Her mom had records and all type of stuff. Growing up, I liked a lot of old school rap. I liked the beats though… like the words was cool but I really used to like zone in on the production. I like Dr. Dre a lot. I liked some of the New York stuff like Houdini to even like the Bad Boy era. Then, I also liked a lot of alternative music and where I’m from it’s not really a thing. So, that was stuff I mostly listened to in private. I would say I started listening to Alanis Morisette, The Cranberries and stuff like that when I was younger but it was before I started going outside and got a taste of the hood, you know what I’m saying. Plus, I liked music of the time too. I remember when Houston had that crazy wave when it was like… Houston always had a crazy wave but it was at the point where it was Mike Jones, Slim Thug, Paul Wall. That era had me like crazy I’m not even gonna lie. On the production side, I love that time period - even on the rap side, I love that time period. So, I’m kinda all over the place. On the female rapper side one of my favorite rappers is MC Lyte. I’m a little younger so a lot of people look at me crazy when I say that. My mom and my auntie, my auntie used to take us to school sometimes when my mom would have to work early. You know, they’re like a year apart and they both grew up in that Hip Hop time of the 80’s where it was crazy. So, she’d play a lot of MC Lyte before I’d go to school and I would just study her. I liked a lot of Missy Elliot growing up because I just thought she was crazy. The first verse that made me want to rap is wild though. You remember Crime Mob? Yeah! Chelsea Pastel: Diamond. ‘I come in the club shakin’ my dreads!’ I was obsessed with that. I don’t know what that shit did to me but when I heard that… There was no lady comin’ that hard. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah! Especially like 2004 or 2005 or whatever that was. That was crazy! And I was like, ‘whatever that shit is, I like that.’ She made me like, you know, girls was rappin’ but it was real slower paced and she brought back spittin’ for a second, you know what I’m sayin’. At that time I’m like 14, 15, so that made me really wanna rap. That’s so dope (representation matters.) So, is that when you started rappin’? That young? Chelsea Pastel: Man, I feel like I started rapping earlier than that. I wanna say probably like 8th grade but I really got into it around 9th grade. My mom got me a laptop with programs on it. She was just friends with some people who knew how to do all this IT stuff… so, she told them what I was tryna do and they hooked it up for her. who knew how to do all this IT stuff… so, she told them what I was tryna do and they hooked it up for her. That’s too dope! Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, and it was super crazy. I didn’t know what I was doing but at the time I didn’t know how to make beats the right way. I didn’t know about Fruity Loops and all this software. What I would do is: I would take the recording software I had and I would literally have a keyboard and I would light my keyboard up and play the same loop for like 3 minutes. Layer it. Play another loop for 3 mins and that’s how I made my beats for like a year. DAMN. Chelsea Pastel: Which is nuts. I really didn’t know no better at the time. Then, my friends, when I started tellin’ people, ‘I like making beats,’ they start putting me onto Fruity Loops and different things like that. But yeah, my first rap name was C Money and my best friend still got my rap book. I don’t know how she has it but she’s holding it hostage. She sends me pictures of verses. Maaaan, you have to get that back. Chelsea Pastel: I know, man. But if I trust anybody with it I trust her with it. So, it’s in good hands because I might fuck around and lose it or somethin’. When you write your story you’ll want that. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, that’s definitely true. I literally got a Build-A-Bear and it says, “Ayy, what’s up it’s your girl C Money,” so that’s really how long I’ve been tryna rap. To sum it up, ya know? That tells an era and everything - you got a Build-A-Bear… I ain’t been to a workshop in forever. Chelsea Pastel: Exactly, me and my mom used to take a lot of trips together. She took me to New York for my first time and there was this Build-A-Bear in Times Square, you know. That’s when they had the Toys R Us and we were there at the same time as the VMA’s and there was a red carpet there, it was crazy. But I remember gettin’ that Build-A-Bear that day. How did you come up with your current name? Chelsea Pastel: Okay, so, it’s pretty funny. My first name I told you was, “C Money.” I went through a few names but when I really got serious about making music I was really getting into production heavy my senior year of high school and freshman year or college. That’s when I was trying to buy Macbooks and stuff.I was going by ChelsLovesBeats which was cool but I was making all these beats and couldn't get anyone to buy my beats. It was slow for me. So, I started rapping over them and because I was rapping over them I didn’t want to go by “ChelsLovesBeats.” I thought back to something my mom always said and anytime I gotta pick something with colors or anything I always end up getting pastel colored things. My mom used to say, “you love them damn baby colors,” she used to always say this my whole life. That was just the color scheme I resonated with for whatever reason. Then I realized, my music, some of the beats I was making were real colorful and enchanted sounding, you know. I just went with Chelsea Pastel because I just felt like it was part of my life for whatever reason. Pastel was the vibe so we was rockin’ with it. I fuck with it. That’s real cool. So, I was reading that article that came out a couple weeks ago through the newspaper about you and they were saying you play hella instruments. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, I started in band in probably 5th grade. I started where everybody started with the recorder. I went to this real strict Catholic school and I wasn’t even Catholic that’s the crazy part but I went to this school. It was super strict and got more strict every year though. So, I saw my cousins were going to Cleveland School of the Arts and I’m like, “man, I wanna go there they’re having the time of their lives.” I talked to my mother about it and she was like, “well, what are you going to to do?” My mom used to play instruments back in her day so she had a couple saxophones around the house and she had a synthesizer always in the closet… the whole time. So, I’m like, “teach me how to play to the saxophone,” she like, “for real?” and I’m like, “yeah, teach me.” I was in 5th grade going into 6th grade and the school of arts started in 6th grade. So, she got the saxophone reconditioned and whatnot, took me to get everything I needed for it and taught me how to play it. It took about 2 weeks to play it pretty good ‘cause it was similar to the recorder so I understood it instantly. I just had to blow it differently and whatnot. I auditioned for the school of the arts. I had to hurry up and learn these things so I could make the audition. I probably started playing it in December and my audition was in March. Wow. Chelsea Pastel: I had to hurry up and learn it and I auditioned and I got in. Then I had to test in too because they were real strict about academics. I got accepted and when I got to the school it was cool but like when I played in the band I wasn’t feeling the saxophone section, for whatever reason. I was like, “I don’t wanna be over here I wanna try something different.” The teacher said he had a trombone available, 2 of them actually. So, I told my friend who played the flute to play trombone too because I didn’t want to be the only girl over there. Me and her we got into the trombones. We kinda had to teach ourselves how to play. We had a private teacher for maybe 2 days but for the most part we had to teach ourselves how to play. I was in the school from 6th - 12th grade and for whatever reason the band program didn’t have as much money unlike other programs like dance and choir. So, we had to play a lot of the same music, forever. I used to try to get out of being in band because all my friends were leaving band going into photography, visual art, digital design and stuff and my mom made me stay in band. I was like, “alright, well damn I’mma just start playing different instruments because I’m here.” I would challenge myself to learn different instruments each year or every 6 months or something like that until I graduated. That’s how I kept myself interested. You still be playing today? Chelsea Pastel: Nah, the only thing I still play is piano and I admit I been slackin’. Usually, I would practice for a long time and not necessarily play a song but just go through chords and exercises but I’ve been slackin’ just because I’ve been gettin’ back into rappin’. It’s just a lot, you know. I’ve been even out-sourcing production - I’ve just been doing a lot. I haven’t been playing like I need to but I definitely still play the keys. I don’t blow any horns anymore though. That ship has sailed… at least for now. I still play some keys. Damn, that’s dope. It sounds like you got what your momma already had. Chelsea Pastel: Pretty much, it’s interesting. I feel like she was me before me but in a different capacity. To this day if she go to any type of jazz club or jazz environment she know everybody and they know her. It’s kinda funny because it’s like, “what the hell?” But she really used to do that shit, you know. It was a weird time back then especially for women so she had to bounce. She had a hard time with me getting into it because of some of teh stuff she went through. She was a little scared for me at first but I always kinda did a lot of stuff myself. I always recorded myself for the most part. I started working with people later on but I used to record myself, I used to produce myself. I never put myself into too many crazy environments for the most part because I did it at home. When she realized that and once she came to my first show she was like, “oh okay, bet. You really doing this shit.” It took her a little second though. She liked my music a lot. I remember she came to my apartment and I was living a couple hours away for college. One of my songs came on and I definitely went old school with it; it was all 808s but used to old school regular 808 kit. I made this beat called, “Trippy Times” and I used to love rapping on it. I used to exercise on the beat. I would just freestyle for a couple hours and get lost in it. I finally recorded on it and the song happened to come on when they came to visit. And I told you, my mom and aunt they really used to listen to MC Lyte and all them people. They listenin’ and like, “this cold, who this?” and I start laughin’, they like, “this you?” I’m not known to do this publicly. I’m kinda know to be shy for the most part on a timid side. They was like, “man, stop playin’.” So, I did it in person and they were like, “omg, this is crazy.” That’s dope AF. That is so dope! Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, it was crazy. I felt like they had to see it to believe it. It sounds like you really multi-talented as fuck when it come to this music shit. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, I really like making music just as simple as that. I like writing music, I like rappin’, I like playin’ music, you know what I’m saying. I like producing music, I like engineering music. I just really like it and it’s crazy because I tried to fight it for years. I even said that in the paper like I had to go to a lot of music programs and band camps that I really wasn’t too happy about back in the day. You know, you’re 16, 15, 17, you tryna kick it with your friends. I was in these programs and a lot of them were jazz music based and I used to hate jazz, to be honest. I didn’t wanna hear no more jazz. It was like, “yo, keep that shit away from me, do not play that shit around me.” I was in these programs 6th-12 grade, you know, every summer, after school, the whole 9. I don’t regret none of it now, you know, but at the time I was burnin’ out. It kinda ended up happening this way. I kinda didn’t have a choice. I done did so much music shit all these years it’s like, “how would I not be into music like I am?” The crazy thing is I went to school for pharmacy, you know. I ended up switching my major to pharmacy just because of the scholarship I got at this school. It didn’t work out because I was a musician. I was skppin’ out on class to make beats and doing all kind of ill shit. Making beats in class and just doin’ stuff like that where it was messin’ me up. But yeah, I really just like making music. I like playing with sound and I don’t like genres. Right now, I put out some rap songs but you’ll see a little later on that I don’t like genres. I feel it because the few songs that I’ve heard are hard as fuck but then you’ll hear something that’s just alternative. It reminded me of the era in the mid-2000’s, you know, like Donnis and B.o.B. They’d have these beats and they’d have these eclectic moments where sometimes it would sound like a video game sprinkled in that shit and that’s what I be hearing in yours sometimes. Chelsea Pastel: Thank you, I appreciate that. I like that because that really what’s influenced me though: TV, video games, all that. I ain’t nothin’ but a nerdy girl that make music. I like goin’ to nerdy shit and somehow that shit translate into what it translate to. I like video games and I done remade a lot of video game beats. Just for side projects and nothin’ to put out. You probably should put them out because I’m sure you’ll come across artists who’d want to rap on that. Chelsea Pastel: That’s very true. It’s interesting, I was putting out a lot of my beats. Before I used to put out my music I would just put out beats. A few people hit me up and this one person hit me up and they wanted to rap over a lot of the beats so I had taken a lot of them down and from there I had produced for him for a second and eventually transitioned into producing for myself; started getting sounds from me instead of beats. I used to put beats out on YouTube and at the time that I did it there wasn’t no women doing it and I would get all these crazy views because wasn’t anyone doing it for real. I was really into electronic music because that was like when Dubstep and all that kind of stuff started coming out. I tried to go that route with it and jus tryin’ to do a lot. Do you have any skills you’re trying to develop right now? Chelsea Pastel: Right now, I’ve definitely been experimenting with my keys. I like having my keyboard with my rap sets. That’s the thing that I’m really trying to get great at, you know. I can do it when it comes to certain chords but I’m really tryna shred that shit while I’m up there too. A lot of the songs that I’ve got lined up are more, like, they got a lot of shit going on. I’ve been tryna get good at just running my set from my laptop with the assistance of a DJ versus just playing the song as far as the track going and rapping over it. I’m trying to give you the vocal effects, I’m trying to give you the keys, I’m trying to give you the whole thing. A show, show, you know. And, how’s that coming along? Chelsea Pastel: It’s coming along good. It’s pretty hard, I’m not even gonna lie. It’s hard because I’m just now starting to get help as far as a team goes. For the longest, when I was doing this I had no help so I had nobody checkin’ to see if the venue could support this… it was just a lot on me. I stopped doing it for a second and I got a lot of expensive equipment and if the shows aren’t paying me that much yet I’m putin’ myself at a risk bringing all this equipment out. I’ve been trying to condense it but now I feel like we’re at a good pace depending on the show. I’m getting some pretty good shows and depending on the show I can bring that out and they’re better equipped to support that kind of performance. But that’s definitely something that needs to be arranged it’s not just something I can pop up with. That’s true, that is a risk and that shit sound overwhelming… that’s a lot to account for by yourself. Chelsea Pastel: It’s a whole bunch then you’re trying to make sure that it sounds right too on top of all the actual hooking stuff up, you know. A lot of the times I used to practice my sets at home and same hookup but depending on one minor thing and the venue said it can change everything. It’s like, you just wanna make sure everything sounds right, you wanna make sure you got everything memorized as far as, “what starts when, what ends where.” You wanna make sure you have your stuff labeled to a certain degree. There’s a lot, I mean people have sound people and stage producers and I’m tryin’ to do it all and rap. It’s a lot. Well, I’m glad you’re getting a team together because that’s good. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, me too. I ain’t gonna lie… it feels great. It’s been a long time coming. I already know. The Universe aligns that shit when it’s supposed to be. Chelsea Pastel: Exactly, exactly, and that’s how everything has been coming along. People I’ve been working with I didn’t search for them and they didn’t search for me - it kinda just happened. I like it, I love it actually. That’s good to hear. So, you’re from Cleveland - who would you consider your musical legends out there? Chelsea Pastel: Bone Thugs N Harmony. It’s crazy though because a lot of people don’t think that they’re from Cleveland. A lot of people be thinking they from the West Coast. Chelsea Pastel: They be thinkin’ they from L.A. Yeah, because they came up with Ruthless. But nah, Bone, hands down. There’s a couple people that deserve flowers from here too. One, Machine Gun Kelly, for sure. I watched Machine Gun Kelly the whole time and I seen it with my own eyes. It’s different when you see that. People love to hate though. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, they love to hate but I’m not gonna cap… this dude went from performing at the rec center over here to XYZ to being the #1 rock act in the country right now. You know what I’m sayin’, it’s crazy. Yeah, he got in on the rap but he’s like the top rock act right now. He cleans up at the awards; he cleaned up at the Billboard Awards in the rock category. I always thought he was dope but it took me to see him in person and a real good live show and I was like, “holy shit, this dude is crazy.” So much energy on the stage that you can’t help but to feel it when you leave. He deserves his flowers. Kid Cudi, definitely because I feel like he’s the grandfather or uncle of all these little dudes poppin’ up. As far as like that sound that different shit that people are doing. Yeah, that emo/Hip Hop type shit. Chelsea Pastel: Yeaaaah, that’s him. Those are 2 people I would say are young legends. Kid Cudi is still young in a sense but he done influenced Kanye West. That 808 Heartbreak and My Dark Twisted Beautiful Fantasy, you know what I’m sayin’. Kid Cudi played a part in those and a lot of the sounds we hear today; the Travis Scotts, the Trippie Redds. All of them will be the first ones to tell you. Yeah, those are my legends. He’s still droppin’ shit. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, and he’s droppin’ with these dudes and that’s the way to do it. A lot of these people get to a certain status on a goat side and they get real weird about working with the younger generation. I love to see the fact that he’s working with Travis Scott and he’s working with younger acts because he’s still young enough to do it. But he’s also just timeless. I can really see him in his 60s and 70s really doing the same shit. I don’t know about albums but I still see him featured on all these new artists. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, I agree. He’s like one of those alternative but that’s definitely someone else I’d say is an influence, for sure. As a black kid and you tryin’ to get into Hip Hop but you got your own twist to it, it’s hard. Especially when you ain’t doin’ exactly what everyone else is doin’ it’s real tough out here. So, you got someone who opens that door for you and he’s definitely one of the people who opens the door for acts like us who want to go the alternative route and try different things. That’s real, that’s real… So, what does your Hip Hop community look like out there in Cleveland? Chelsea Pastel: It’s interesting to say the least. It’s a little split, you know, you got different scenes. We got a lot of talent out here like a whole lot of talent but we don’t have as much cultivation. It’s like, you got this talent but it’s very few people cultivating the talent so a lot of the talent leaves. You know, that’s our scene pretty wrapped up. We had some really dope acts, we have some really dope people but like anywhere it’s a big popularity contest too. Cleveland is interesting, we done got under dogged so much to where we got a mentality a little bit to where if you ain’t outta here people don’t believe you on almost. It’s weird, it’s kinda a band-wagon thing that happens. A lot of big acts are here but because they aren’t clouted out people don’t give them the same respect and whatnot and that same act can take off real big somewhere else. That shit be confusing me because in cities like yours (Cleveland) or I’m out here in Memphis… I’m not from Memphis but I’m out here, I’m from the West Coast. Even cities like Memphis too, there’s a lot of talent here but people ain’t checkin’ for Memphis or they feel like they gotta go to Atlanta, they gotta go to L.A. You don’t really gotta do that… you can make a hub in your own city. Chelsea Pastel: You definitely can and we got the internet! It’s crazy, just work and work with intention, you know what I’m sayin’. A lot of stuff that’s been working for me I always intended for it to happen I just didn’t know how it would exactly happen. I just kept working towards it. When I first started droppin’ my songs it was late 2015/2016ish and I was received well for the most part but I just got into a lot of different managements and stuff like that that kinda slowed me up. It was learning lessons for all of us and I still got love for everybody it just didn’t work out and just kinda tripped time up a little bit. I noticed when I first started putting out music all the blogs that were covering it were from out of state but they were big blogs and that’s actually when my city started getting involved. It was kinda weird. I was here the whole time, I was trying to work with people and reach out to people… all types of stuff but nobody took me serious until they saw it somewhere else. Yo, I see that happen all the time. I ain’t that big of a platform, yet but I’ve been seeing that happen. People down in New Orleans weren’t getting covered so I covered a couple artists from down there and now there’s these platforms that are poppin’ up, you know what I’m sayin’. I just don’t know why people aren’t checkin’ for people from where they’re from already. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, it’s all about clout. It’s a lot of clout game at the end of the day. One thing I’m noticing where I’m kinda in this spot where I’m in the mix right now where if stuff is usually happening’, I’m in the room. I’ve never been a clouty type chick. I’ve kinda always been myself and people learn eventually how to rock with it and I’m not necessarily out at every single thing either. You ain’t bout to see me all the time and every weekend around here. You see me when I’m out, I’ll pop up at certain things, I’ll do certain stuff but I look at it a lot different than when I was younger. At this age and at this point in my life I just wanna be able to make a living for myself and actually make some shit shake thru dope shit. I wanna make shit to make my inner child happy. So, I don’t really care about all the extra shit that seems cool ‘cause at the end of the day I want my shit to be amongst the best. Wherever that is in this country and not even limiting myself to a city. I don’t necessarily think about where I’m at as a person. I had someone tell me the other day that I’m too barred up basically. What… Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, she was like, “yo, you lowkey gotta be intellectual to understand your music,” and I’m like, “no, you don’t.” And even if that’s the case, oh well. Chelsea Pastel: Even if that’s the case, oh well. Then I had to think about it like this and this ain’t even on the city side… we just talkin’ bout rappers. A lot of rappers have a role that they play. Like maybe that’s just my role, you know what I’m sayin’. There’s a lot of female rap acts coming out and there’s a lot of different tastes and a lot of different flavors and maybe that’s just the cup of tea that I need to be. So, I’m not mad at that because I’m given’ people options. I can still chop on any beat, any type of style, trap beats, whatever I can still eat on them and I can still bring my own flavor to it. I’m not going to dumb myself down or water my lyrics down just because somebody is rappin’ about whatever. Because at the end of the day you gotta look at the spectrum; you got a Kendrick, you have a Drake, you got a 2 Chainz, you got everybody, like, everybody plays their own role. You listen to these people for different reasons. That’s so interesting because when I interviewed Vega she was sayin’ a lot of people were sayin’ like, “hey you can’t be sayin’ too much as a woman… bein’ a woman is already a lot to digest as a rapper,” and basically they were sayin’ to her to dumb down what she was sayin’ too and to make it more simple for people. Chelsea Pastel: And see, that’s the thing though… I don’t know about a lot of girls but I watch my analytics. My fanbase is mostly male so I ain’t playin’ by the same rules. I’m just keepin’ it a buck, I’m not, I look at things a lot different. My fanbase is a lot of guys, some girls and they get their friends, sisters, and cousins hip. A lot of guys and a lot of people listen to my music and they tap in because I come with a different approach. Why would I dumb it down? I’m going to still get fans and it’s crazy because the female fanbase still shows up at the end of the day. It’s just different, it start with males and a lot of the time it starts with female then trickles down to the males but mine is the opposite. With that being said I think I’m doing pretty good because I know there’s a lot of guys that will play a female artist and they’ll want to change the song. They got a problem with it and they instantly get irritated by it. I just watch it (that’s a whole different conversation,) but the fact that I’ve watched dudes that listen to my music and don’t know I made the song and I watch how they respond and I’m like, “oh shit, they vibing out to it.” Sometimes I rap about things from a woman’s point of view but at the same time I just rap about relatable shit. If you a human you pretty much going to relate to it. That’s my whole thing… so when she said I was too hard I don’t know about all that shit and I’m just like, “oh well, whatever maybe that’s just what I’m supposed to be.” Sometimes shit just be envy and sometimes people just say shit to slow down your progress. Chelsea Pastel: I think a lot of times people who are real close to you they see you everyday and they see you differently than an actual rap business. As an artis t. They see me everyday so they’re comparing me from a different space. I think she’s just comparing me from a different point of view versus are you actually somebody that don’t know me personally and listens to my music they’ll chop you up. A few people chopped her up when she said it. She said she gotta listen to my songs too hard, that’s the exact words. Certain songs, yeah but certain songs it’s a vibe. “Stop Askin” is a vibe but you happen to catch the bars when you’re listenin’ to it. It’s going to take some folks close to you to see it on TV, to see you in the same nominations with their favorite artist to be able to get it and understand what’s going on. It be like that sometimes. It do be, everyone is on their own time. What’s your proudest moment so far? Chelsea Pastel: Shit, recently, opening up the newspaper and seeing that big ass article. You know, Cleveland, we’re a pretty big city for the most part and that’s our big paper out here. That’s a really big paper in our state. So, when they hit me up I thought I’d have a nice write-up. But, don’t get me wrong I expected it to be pretty small, you know what I’m saying, I expected it to be a little paragraph or something but when I opened the paper I’m liking taking over a large chunk of the page and I was shook, for real. That’s crazy, and I’m at this weird point in my life where I still work and I still do a lot of things. So, I’m on the clock and I see that shit. Yeahhh, affirming some shit. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, and it’s just a crazy paradox. That’s one of my proudest moments and performing at the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame. That’s one of my proudest moments. I used to work there and I used to see a lot just from working there and seeing a lot of acts, a lot of big acts, legendary acts come in and I’d see a lot. So, to perform there and not an employee is crazy. That’s real cool. When did you do that? Chelsea Pastel: Last August, yeah, it was crazy. And, you know we got the only Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame in the world - so, that’s nuts. Wow, I ain’t know that. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, there’s just one. One here in Cleveland, Ohio and it’s here because a radio host named Alan Freed (and I just remember this from working there.) But yeah, radio host Alan Freed back in the 50’s was one of the first ones that coined the term “Rcok ‘N Roll” here and he had a lot of earlier acts back in the day. Chuck Berry and all them people coming in and that’s why we got the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame. Woah, one of the godfathers. That’s hella dope. I’mma have to check that out for real. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, if you ever in Cleveland definitely check it out. I used to write all my music in there, like, for real. I used to go there and I used to look forward to work just to write. It was something about that shit. It’s kinda like, you ever been to a Hard Rock? It’s kinda like that. We got a lot of artifacts and things they wore and actual belongings of different artists. So, I’m in that shit looking at Michael Jackson’s shit, Quincy Jones shit, Biggie Smalls shit, like, you get what I’m sayin’? It’s hella vibes, for real. That shit used to turn me up as an artist and then I would hear different music all day. So, I’d come home with all these ideas on the production side. I can only imagine. Do you go there still? Chelsea Pastel: I haven’t been there in a minute. I’m going to go back pretty soon. They got like the Super Bowl Hall of Fame with all the players bandaged up and stuff up there… so, I do want to check that out. But I’m actually going to tap back in with them in a minute. I’ve just been tryin’ to knock out more music and just knock out more things so I can have a great summer. I feel that. So, you got Pastel Vision coming soon? Chelsea Pastel: It’s Pastelevision, like television. I’ve been working on it for a minute but I keep making more songs so that’s the problem. At this point it’s just like what’s going to be on here and what’s not. But pretty much everything is done aesthetically for it. I already got the cover art and all that but I made more songs than I planned to. I’m just trying to figure out what I want to keep. It gets tough at this point. Man, that sound like a good problem to have. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, it’s a great problem and being someone who went through creative blocks and all that stuff. It’s a great problem. Just trying to figure it out. I already got a lot of content that’s already created that’s just not out yet. You know, just trying to get everything ready for release and whatnot. Got videos and all types of stuff shot and ready to go. Does the person who takes your pictures also do your videos? Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, she’s super cold. Her and I met like in February and been rockin’ ever since. It’s certain people that you meet that are part of your soul tribe, you know. Y’all just hit it off and that’s kinda how we did. I didn’t have any intention on meeting her exactly at the time that I did, you know. It just happened when it did. She came to one of my shows and she was taping the show so that’s how we pretty much met and it’s been workin’ ever since. She shot a lot of my work that’s coming out now. Dope, hella dope. When are you thinking it will be out? Chelsea Pastel: I don’t know… I’m thinking, like.. Or when are you hoping for? Chelsea Pastel: I’m hoping for the end of the summer and leading into the fall. Like back to school time period. That’s what I was hoping. I tried to do a lot of this stuff last year in 2020 but the pandemic… you already know. The pandemic is the pandemic. It did what it did. Chelsea Pastel: It did, so a lot of stuff just didn’t happen the right way and a lot of things got cancelled and a lot of stuff just got put on the back burner. Right now, I’m in a different situation where I wasn’t where I was last year. Now, I got a little more access to resources and a little more access to help. I got people who are helping me now. So, I'm trying not to take too long to put everything out but because I have different resources help ing me now. So, I”m trying not to take too long to put everything out but because I have different resources helping I wanna make sure we get everything right. We have it now when we didn’t before. Yeah, progress for real. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, it’s crazy. Last year, around this time, the only thing I was trying to do was lose weight. I had gained pandemic weight. I sure needed to lose a few pounds. I gain and lost 30 pounds. Whaaaaaat. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, and nobody saw it because we were in the house. I gained hella weight, we was just in the house and we was eatin’, you know what I’m sayin’. Eatin’, drinkin’ all that. Like we just kickin’ it and my boyfriend’s a chef so it ain’t helpin’. Oh shit, so that’s just double trouble. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, so we just eatin’ and eventually it got to a point where my clothes started ripping. So, I’m like, “oh shit, this for real,” and it’s crazy (R.I.P. to my Uncle Bob,) I had walked out of this room and he didn’t know I heard him. He was like, “oh man, Chelsea been eatin’,” and I’m like ahh shit. After that, I hit up a trainer and was like, “yo, you gotta lock in now, I can’t do this.” You don’t even know it’s happening because you see yourself everyday. I definitely put them on and put them off real quick. It be hittin’ you outta nowhere. I feel it though because I went through a little something. This summer different though because I’m outside and having to get my body right. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, that’s that natural too… you on the move, you outside. Yeah, I got a regular job still too and I work in parks so I be walking like 5-6 miles a day. Chelsea Pastel: See, you good. I work from home so I be sittin’ around for the most part at a desk. It’s easy to get caught up. We went to L.A. to shoot some videos and when I was out there for 3-4 days I lost all this weight just ‘cause we were movin’ that much. Movin’ and the heat. Chelsea Pastel: Yeaah, and as soon as I got to Cleveland I gained it right back. It just goes to show when you movin’ around and you live an active lifestyle the weight kinda just falls off. Eventually, yeah. Ayy, so my last question for you is where do you see yourself in the next 5 years? Chelsea Pastel: Man, I see myself real big in the next 5 years. I see myself on some “Best Female Artist” aware, nominations, you know what I’m sayin’ and on some big ass reputable platform. I see myself on songs with some of the best of them. I see myself producing something for like a soundtrack to something really dope. I saw that you got a connection with Issa Rae’s Raedio. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, I just did some work with them over the spring. They did a collaboration with Viacom where they are their library for a certain amount of their content now. Well, they’re their direct library for their content. I did a sync agreement with about 6 songs. Oh wow. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, it’s gonna be hella dope and then I got some stuff coming out on Love & Hip Hop too. I don’t know what episode. I don’t know when but it’s comin’ out. Ayyo, that’s big as fuck, congrats for real. That’s huge and it’s only gonna get bigger. I’m definitely excited to see and will for sure be tuned it more now. Chelsea Pastel: Thank you, thank you so much. Yeah, definitely tune in. I don’t know exactly when everything is happening. I know Viacom had me send some press pictures and a bio and all this stuff so I’m pretty sure they’re going to start doing something soon. They have a lot of channels: VH1, MTV, BET, Showtime, Nickelodeon, they have a lot of stuff. Get put into hella rotations. Chelsea Pastel: I don’t know where I’m going to end up exactly but I wanna be on somethin’. So, did they reach out to you? Chelsea Pastel: No, I actually reached out to them a long time ago. I reached out to them when they first became a thing and I just kept in touch, you know. When I was about to put out “Stop Askin” I put out a private link and sent it to people who I would consider tastemakers to check out a few days before it came out and that’s how that conversation got started. Oh okay, that’s cool. You takin’ your shots. Chelsea Pastel: Hell yeah, because who else gonna take ‘em? You right, that’s what’s up. You got anything else you wanna share? Chelsea Pastel: Pretty much just follow me at Chelsea Pastel and find everything, my music, my videos, I got some merch coming out at www.chelseapastel.com and just stay tuned man. We got a lot of good content coming out. A lotta good merch coming out. Just a lot of good things in the mix for the next few months. Stay tuned and tap in. ALL PHOTOS BY: JUST CHAZ (@DESTINYFULFILD) OR https://www.mydestinyfulfilled.com/
- Yelohill - Pain Music
If we start by just looking at the album art as is with the title. Pain Music, we know he's in the church with the cross in the background, it looks as though he could give a sermon; confessions, stories and experiences that lead him to a certain path, geography-wise he's West Coast, West L.A. to be exact but we also see the indigeneity coupled with crip influence. It also gives me Mona Lisa, Malcolm X, disciple, came from something and will be something. Pain Music is a diverse project that expresses the complexity of Yelohill in a succinct, 7 track way. When you listen you hear the street, the crip, that L.A./West Coast influence/homage and tradition. Within and outside of that Yelohill gives us a glimpse of his perseverance, drive and heart through poetic pen. Pain Music is what it says it is. You hear the pain and feel the pain mixed with some misunderstanding. The intro track, "Tear$," Yelohill talks about the realness of gang culture in L.A. and how people ain't always the real. He breaks it down in his line, "Is you from it or you claimin' it? / Is you promotin' or you bangin' it? / We ain't the same, nigga you ain't made for this / I put my heart, my brain to this / I got hella scars and pain from this, nigga" "Million Reasons" serves as a follow-up to "Tear$" purely off the fact that is further expresses where he's from but from the angle of the times when we got steered off track OR wanted to give up on what he could achieve. "Tear$" is hard, has a tough beat, lyrics and delivery... "Million Reasons" is about taking the environment, experiences, losses as building towards what you want and deserve. "Let the choir sing, because lately I've been feeling like acquiring things / big cars, big houses, speak it to existence" It's a song of how he got through and those many lonely moments that lead him to the light and path he's on. "But life's' about love / I got no time for the evil and the sickness / niggas promoting killin' but I'm changing for the children / to be a vessel for the youth and a better man / for my family and my wife I gotta take a stand" "My Story" is a recollection of pain and decisions made out of pain and circumstances and how that affects your choices, people you're around and bouts with loyalty. The song tells a bit about why/how he was influenced and started crippin'. His story, fr. The whole project is his story but this song magnifies it more. "The Mission" is definitely one of my favorite songs from Pain Music. The song has a real laid-back production with vulnerable and honest lyrics that also highlights how Yelohill capable of being on other production outside of a traditional West Coast sound. "Niggas really tryna buy a Benz / I'm thinkin' bout a boat" "Old You (Interlude)," represents Yelohill's softer side with love that isn't in relation to his crew or family but a romantic love that he used to know. I'm not wild about this song but do appreciate it for variety and not boxing himself in. "Toxic" is a very interesting song because it could be seen as reflections/confessions of his past or present self in relationships. The song outlines the ways in which double standards exist in toxic situations and gives actual examples of what makes someone or a relationship toxic. "Ghetto Child" is the last song that addresses his trauma, pain and ambitions as a young child and where that's lead him today. "You can be anything you want to be as long as you strategize and focus" There's a balance of vulnerability in Pain Music. Some of it comes out aggressive, some comes out as his heart is on his sleeve, his vulnerability about his struggles and fuck ups... family, friends, girls, food/money, dreams, bangin'. If you aren't familiar be sure to check out Pain Music below or tap into the videos above. TIDAL: tidal.com/browse/album/188935575
- CROWNTHEM Newsletter | Issue 8, Vol. 1
ARTISTS FEATURED: KURATII, PACMAN DA GUNMAN, NIPSEY HUSSLE, MOZZY, ICEWEAR VEZZO, RAZ FRESCO, YL, BIG YAVO, CHRIS CRACK, LACEY JACKSON, T. CARRIER, DONMONIQUE, SKI MASK THE SLUMP GOD, GOLDIE REBEL, POLYESTER THE SAINT, G.T. SLEEPY HALLOW, SY ARI DA KID, HOODRICH PABLO JUAN, THE MUSALINI, SHA HEF, ROB49, MIKEM NAHMIR, UFO FEV, LARRY JUNE, JETLIFE FAMILY, BOBBY SESSIONS, ROB VICIOUS, LIL DEUCE, BFB DA PACKMAN
- KURATII INTERVIEW
https://www.kuratiichoppedit.com/ First thing, who are you? Where you from? Where your people from? Kuratii: Well, my name is Kuratii, I’m from Charlotte. I was born and raised in Charlotte. You say my people, so my family and what not? Yeah, your bloodline. Kuratii: Yeah, so my bloodline is actually from Virginia. All of my family on both sides (my mom and my dad.) My mom is from Williamsburg and my dad is from Hampton and so yeah, my family is kinda all over Virginia. I would say Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg. I actually have a cousin that’s a rapper and he’s out in Newport News and he’s been making waves for a very long time he kinda just got locked up. He got into some trouble and just recently got back out so he’s making his way back into the music industry. I had another cousin before he passed away that was seriously doing music as well. Music runs in the family, definitely. I see. Kuratii: Yeah, and they were rappers. I would say as far as I know I’m the only producer in the family. Quite frankly, a lot of my family is just finding out what I’m doing. Really? Kuratii: Yeah, because I’m a person who really doesn’t like rejections. So, when it comes to opinions of my family, I love my family, but I don’t want to grow to hate you because you said something negatively about my music. My parents know that I do music. Another thing is the cursing, a lot of people I work with curse and my parents ain’t gonna wanna listen to that. I’ll play them my beats or something but my music I don’t really play. They’re really supportive when it comes to my music. I’ll call them and tell them, “hey, I bought a new laptop,” and they’re supportive. There’s little things that they say that helps me understand, makes me understand, that they are here for me and supportive of me. But, out of all my family, the only person that really knows I do music is my older sister and she’s really the person I kinda confide in when it comes to music. She’s also the person I kinda go to when I want her to hear something because she’s very critical of music, period. But I really do respect her and her music opinion… you know what I’m sayin’. It’s been a journey sending her my music and not because she doesn’t like it but because she’s always like, “I know you can do better, I know you can do better,” “you missin’ something, you missin’ something,” and finally, I got it. She’s always been full-force, 100% ready for me to do what I do but it’s like now she’s like, “yeah, you’re gettin’ closer and closer.” That’s dope. Kuratii: Yeah, it’s interesting because most people don’t know that about my family. This one time I had this situation and it wasn’t really like a performance I was just playing my beats at an event. My aunt was there and my aunt is another person I kinda talk to about my music. I don’t necessarily send it to her but she’s very well aware of what is going on and she actually asked one time, “why didn’t you invite your parents?” and I was like, “I don’t know…” My parents are older in their 60’s and I’m just like, “I just didn’t, I picked out the hip people in my family and brought them together.” Yeah, that would appreciate it. Kuratii: Yeah, and you know they probably would appreciate it but I don’t know I put certain people in certain settings. I see my parents as introverts too and so I don’t like to put them in situations where there’s a lot of people they don’t know even though my aunt and my little cousin were there. They all know each other but I keep them at a place where they know what’s going on and we cool like that. Everyone got their place. Do you feel like that affects you at all? Do you wanna tell them or show them more of what you do? Kuratii: It doesn’t actually, I feel like… Mine and my parents’ relationship is interesting. It’s not that they don’t say, “I love you,” but they don’t say it that often. They’re the kind of parents that are like, “if I love you, I’mma put clothes on your back and take care of you,” that’s their love language. It’s kinda like I’ve adapted to that in ALL aspects of my life. Like when I bought my house I didn’t tell them I bought it. I called them afterwards and was like, “I got a house.” Especially in my adulthood, I feel better making decisions without telling them first because I almost want to prove to them that I can do this. I want to make them proud before they even know. That’s why I feel like it kinda works, you know. I do report to them about certain things like, “you know I’m dropping an album,” I know they not gonna listen, I don’t want them to listen. Just last week I called my mom and I was like, “hey mom, I got a website now” and she was real proud. I told her that if she goes on there there’s a picture of me on their with my middle fingers up and she was like, “why did you do that?” you know. Just playfully messin’ with me and stuff. Honestly, it works and most people might say they want more support with a relationship like that but it’s the perfect amount of support. Like currently, I’m looking for a new computer and my dad has been helping me with that whole process and THAT, I see that as him supporting me. Their support comes in a different way. And they old school, I can’t sit here and play them this rap. They don’t really listen to rap music and I don’t think they ever did… probably back in their day but they’re in their 60’s. They probably wouldn’t even understand rap as it is now. I don’t want to do that to them. I would honestly feel embarrassed because it’s a lot of cursing and sexual references and stuff like that. I feel that. Kuratii: Yeah, that’s when I include my sister. That’s when she comes in handy. So yeah, it works and it works in it’s own unique way. Sometimes natural boundaries are created. If your parents were all up in your music that might change the way that you make music. Kuratii: And that’s another reason why I didn’t tell my family because I wanted to freely create. I don’t really be on Facebook but when I started promoting my stuff on Facebook they were poppin’ out the woodworks with support. One of my cousins hit me up privately and was like, “you know, I’m so happy that you’ve really found yourself and come into your own person,” and even put me in contact with my cousin I mentioned earlier who was in prison. Put me in contact with him. It’s been a very open experience especially with me being a lesbian. I feel like that was part of the reason I hid my music because I’ve had to hide myself for so long. When I was finally able to come out and be my full self - everything came together. I was able to be myself in music, you know. So, that’s why when my cousin hit me up it was a lot deeper than, “oh you’ve come into your own person in your music,” no, she was saying overall. I don’t really talk to my family like that… all my family is in Virginia and when I was born we were already in Charlotte. I'm kinda like that kid that nobody really knew about. So, every time we go back home they ask, “are you Lolita?” (that’s my sister’s name,) and I'm like, “No, Lolita is almost 40 years old.” Y’all think she’s this young? People barely know I exist and that’s why I felt comfortable not really telling them that. But I kinda just eased it onto them because I didn’t really want their opinions. Had I came out the woodworks like, “hey, y’all I’m doing music… I need y’all support,” I was going to be disappointed. With all of this I was trying to avoid disappointment and I wanted ‘til I got really good and knew I was the shit. When I knew I was confident enough to say I was the shit and then I was like now I can express myself through my music and put it on Facebook and stuff so they can see it. I feel you. I feel you, for real. That’s definitely how I was when I made my first few issues. I was just like, “I’m not going to show this shit,” I just wanted to work towards what I wanted to do and not have those opinions. Then eventually people just came across it. Kuratii: Yeah, and that’s the same thing with my family. I have my personal page and I have my Kuratii page on Facebook, connected through Instagram. So, I repost things but not everything because I don’t want to overdo it. I just want to ease it on to y’all so y’all scroll past it and they comment on it almost every single time. My niece will repost it and stuff like that. I like that, that’s cool, I don’t want to feel the pressure of, “I told y’all 3 years ago I was doing music and now I’m big time… now, y’all fuck with me because I’m good,” you know. So, I was just like let me sit back and let that shit unfold. That’s real. So, how did you come up with your name? What’s the history of your name? Kuratii: I’m really bad at coming up with names. I’m the type of person that has to really sit with the art before the name kinda comes to me. Then when it comes to me I start writing them down as they come, nothing is really concrete. My real name is Kana. K. A. N. A, so it’s “kay-nuh,” everybody always fucking mispronounces my name. First and foremost, I’m not going by my first name. It’s interesting because Kuratii is literally karate like the martial art. Basically, people fuck up my first name too much and I want it to create a new identity that’s different from me as a person. My initials are K.T., my last name is Thompson, so I knew I wanted a K and I wanted a T in there. I was really heavy on being a curator back then and musically, beat wise we’re all curators, we’re curating sounds or putting sounds together. And I knew I wanted to the word “curation” to be in it. I found a word scrambler on google and I typed in those key words; I typed in create, I typed in curate, then some other words that came to me when I thought about music production and me within that realm. Put in the word scrambler, hit enter and it came up with a bunch of words and I just wrote down the ones I saw that I liked. If they looked appealing, sounded appealing or whatever. Then I wrote them on a board and looked and them a couple times, you know, in passing. Then, one day an old friend of mine was in the home studio with me and he was like, “Kuratii?” and I was like, “yeah, I was thinking about naming my album that,” and he was like, “nah, that should be your name!” So, I kept playing around with it and it’s funny because recently I’ve really grown to love my name because I was really gonna change it again. Then I was like, “karate,” as a produce we chop things, like, “Kuratii chop,” you know, it all came together which lead to my website being “kuratiichoppedit.” A lot of people already took that before I even took it as my own. People would be on Instagram and repost something and be like, “Kuratii chopped it,” and then they’d put the emoji with the black belt and people just started to gravitate towards it. Then I learned that people actually knew how to pronounce it regardless if it was spelt differently than “karate,” you know. I was going to get a new name and keep Kuratii as a brand for merchandise and stuff like that. Shit, you still can. Kuratii: And honestly, I still might. It still might become a brand and I still might keep the name for myself as well. I’m just playing around with it. I’m the type of person that it has to be put together and damn near perfect before I release it to the world, you know. That’s with everything I do. Right now, I’m working on an album and with that album I was supposed to have the finals June 14th and today’s the 18th and you can see I’m still working on the masters. I wanted upload the masters on the 14th to the website to be put on all platforms and I even told my manager that we’re gonna have to push this whole album back a week because we gotta get these masters together. If this music ain’t perfect or damn near perfect then it can’t drop, you know. Every album I made it a goal that I gotta level up in some way. So, this album, I’m leveling up with the sound and my overall versatility. Oh okay, so when you tryna get it done then? Kuratii: Shit, I need 3 weeks to have it up in order for it to uploaded properly. That’s crazy, that’s a long time. Kuratii: Exactly, and no matter how long I’ve been with DistroKid it still take them 3 weeks then other people I see upload a song and it’s ready the next day. Yeah, sometimes the same day. Kuratii: Yeah, I’ve tried to do that. I tried to upload one song in less than 3 weeks and that shit never made it the Apple Music. We actually had to email Apple Music themselves and make them fix it. What? That’s crazy. Kuratii: And that throws me off because it’s like I’m telling everybody it’s releasing on this day, then they expecting it this day. I might lose a follower or a fan mostly fans because I don’t care about followers. I could lose a fan because they got to wait a week and they gonna forget about it. I need everything to happen on the day it’s supposed to happen. That’s an interesting point. Kuratii: Yeah, I can’t. I think about how I move when an artist posts something. If an artist drops some music and it didn’t hit the platform I’m following them on, 9 times outta 10 I’mma forget. I’mma keep moving on with my life then with Instagram being outta order I’m not going to be looking for that song. Unless, I really really fuck with you as an artist then I’m following already and I really want that song. I just try to eliminate anyways of people not being able to get the full experience. With that said, had I had everything turned in by the 14th this album would’ve been dropping on July 5th. As of right now it’s probably going to be the second week in July. Yeah, yeah… that’s really crazy. Kuratii: Yeah, my engineer he’s in Charlotte and I actually pulled up on him Wednesday and I didn’t get home ‘til like 3AM because I actually needed to get the mixes done in person. It wasn’t working out on the phone and I needed to be in the room because I engineer too but he actually is more experienced and just graduated Full Sail, he knows a little more than I know. We can work together to get it done. I’m going back Father’s Day to work with him a few hours and figure this out because at this point I'm not even in a rush. Everything I do, I like to plan my albums months ahead. All promo is done, we also shot a music video. We really just waiting on him to finish the edits on the music video. Everything is done except the music need to be uploaded and the music video need to be done. Well shit, this is perfect timing because this issue will drop July 10th. Kuratii: And you know what’s even crazier is the name of the album is Perfect Timing. That’s good shit, fr. Kuratii: You know, so everything that has happened to me and the disconnect with GCE. I’m a firm believer that everything is happening in perfect timing. It’s just wild how when I finally came up with the name of the album my life just really started happening in perfect timing. That GCE experience was a lot, it was a stressful situation for me. So, when I was released from that I felt so much freer. I’m happy again and feel like I can create again and be the person I always wanted to be. It’s all in perfect timing. And I’m working on an album right now so to feel that while working on an album is relief because to be honest, “album mode” is stressful. I don’t think people understand that. Like fans, when they press these artists… Rihanna for example, everybody want an album from Rihanna and I’m like, “she probably already been working on an album.” The album process can take years. It’s really a process so the longer you wait the better the album gonna be. That’s facts, and ayy let’s get into that. What happened with GCE? Kuratii: Man, so I’mma keep it as short and sweet as possible. Because truthfully, I’m in shock right now because some of the questions I have right now are about y’alls chemistry and shit like that on the track. Kuratii: Yeah… long story short, I’ve always been a separate entity. When I set out to do this I was doing all this shit by myself and then I met Moonie and me and Moonie are inseparable. We’ve grown to be best friends but she is also my manager and we can always separate that when it’s time to do business. We can do business and be friends at the same time. That’s how we move. She’s always gonna be here for me. When I set out to do this, when I joined the team, I already had in mind to have my own label. I just wasn’t ready yet. So, something in me told me take the opportunity because it’s a learning experience. How often do you get to learn firsthand from a label, you know what I’m saying. And you don’t have to make those mistakes first. So, I was like cool, let me get in to it. Not only that but to be surrounded by other black lesbians. Kuratii: Yeah! And that’s the sucky part about it. We were all black lesbian, women. Mhm, in the South. Kuratii: And that’s the thing… that’s the bigger picture I saw. I don’t allow negative energy into my space. I’m real big on my mental peace and anything that’s going to make me feel any kind of way I gotta remove it. It’s a lot of stuff but long story short I feel better working as a separate entity. Being a producer is hard. It’s hard to put yourself out here as a producer but I feel like I’ve done a really good job. I pose myself as an artist like Metro Boomin, DJ Khaled - DJ Khaled is just a DJ and Metro Boomin is just a producer but at the end of the day producers are artists and I think people forget that. That’s facts. Kuratii: We are artists just like the singers. Just like the people that paint, you know what I’m sayin’. It’s all art. They’re all creating art and I think people forget the definition of an artist. So, I feel like I’m pushing myself to be more at the forefront of being an artist rather than a producer because I’m literally more than a producer. I’m a producer, executive producer, engineer, I’m a curator, I’m a damn near manager sometimes. I’m an A&R other times. I do a lot. Multi, for real. Kuratii: I’ve always wanted to be part of a collective. To come up with something greater, something bigger. I’m big on giving everybody their credit especially for what they did. I learned from that situation with GCE. I was meant to be in that situation to learn. I like being a separate entity. I don’t want anyone to stop supporting GCE because I’m not around. I want you to support them because I want the best for them. I don’t wish bad on anyone no matter how they treated me. I want people to still push for them to still support them because they are talented. I’m in a space of healing. I’m healing myself from whatever pain or hurt came from that situation and I’m moving forward which will make a lot of sense with the whole idea of my album, Perfect Timing. The whole idea of Perfect Timing, basically, is through this album process I’ve been in a dark place and perfect timing. Everything happens in perfect timing. When you see the cover you’ll kinda understand because it’s pictures of myself emerging out of dark clouds. The pictures that are emerging out of the dark clouds are almost progression pics… so it’s like as I started to emerge from this dark place and create better music I also gain confidence in myself. I lost some people along the way but I gained confidence every time I lost somebody and when I did lose something it was for the better. I hear ya. So, who do you have on this new album? Kuratii: I have Tymain, even though I dropped that single so long ago but I’m still gonna throw it on the album. Tymain, Kaya Strykes is a new artist I’ve been working with. That’s that artist, does she rap? Kuratii: Yeah, she rap, yeah. Kaya Strykes, we just dropped a freestyle for her a few weeks ago which is doing pretty good. I had a goal of 150 views and this was her first YouTube drop and last time I checked we were at 120-something. We gonna get that 150, that’s the goal. But this artist, be on the look out for her because we have been working diligently her album and her album is actually coming next. She got a lot, she got a lot to say and this album, for it to be her first firework… I’m really proud of her. I’m ready to let the world go ahead and hear about her. The next artist is Tré Ahmad and they’re from Charlotte. They’re a very very talented artist. They are an engineer, they are also a producer. The song they just released, “Baby Boy” is hard as fuck. The song we did together is hard as fuck. The beats on this new album is really versatile and that beat that they’re on is some shit probably nobody would expect. It’s kinda like pop, up-tempo a little bit and they do really well on them songs. That’s interesting because the vibe I get from your music is definitely not poppy. It’s like a Hip Hop, euphoric with some trap influence. Kuratii: Yeah! See, you get it. That’s exactly what I try to push. The background in my life with music is mostly RnB so a lot of those melodic elements I put in my beats. I’m gonna always love trap music, trap heavy, 808s, kicks, snares, stuff like that, that’s my shit and that’s what you’ll mostly find in my music. So, with this song I did with Tre, the 808s are hitting as hard in this one, so the high hat isn’t as busy. It was very different and I was happy that they sent that song over. They’re a very creative person. But yeah, Tré, Kaya,, Tymain are on the album and this new artist Billy Peso. I just did that song about 2 weeks ago and it almost didn’t make the album. But he’s fucking fire, I actually met him at a collective. We were at a studio session as a collective, 11 or 12 other people and he actually came late. I was making a beat, I was doing a lot of cook-up and I heard him freestyling in the back and I’m like, ”yo, who tf is that?” I turn around and it’s the tall light-skin dude. We made about 8 songs that night. We had an 8 hour studio session in Charlotte at Audio Box and basically none of us knew each other and we all just kinda came together tryna do this collective album. Billy Peso is a different sound, he’s like trap but he’s a rapper I ain’t ever heard before… his flow, his flow can switch up in the middle of a song. Out of all those 8 songs we made he stuck out the most as far as who I wanted to work with after that session. So, he made the tape and I’m actually on the tape and got a little part in one of the songs. I did a hook for it actually. And it’s funny because when I started working with Cheeno people thought I was rapping and I’m not the type to take any credit that ain’t mine. No, but for real when I started looking into your music more I thought that you rapped too because the way that it’s labeled on the track. It makes sense now though hearing about how you present as an artist. You’re just doing it different, you labeling it different because you’re an artist instead of just producer credits. Kuratii: Yup, and it’s a learning process. People are so used to seeing the center piece be the actual artist like Michael Jackson or Tory Lanez, I hate that he came to my mind. Those are artist who are centerpieces and I tell people to look at Metro Boomin, y’all know he ain’t rappin’... so what is he doing? He’s producing. He’s released many albums with people, you know. Like Zaytoven. Kuratii: Yeah, Zaytoven is another one. All these producers are putting themselves in a position to be the artist. Another one, DJ Mustard, he’s a producer and DJ. We know for a fact he ain’t gonna be on the track. But yeah, this particular song, I actually ended up on the track. The song was originally for Cheeno but after all that stuff she got taken off on the songs created for her and it created more space for other people on the song. That’s why Kaya is featured on the song too. It was actually supposed to be me, Cheeno and Kaya and when Cheeno got taken off we just told Kaya to add another verse to it. I got a little part on the song that came about which I was actually just trying to create a reference track for it. Throw some vocals on it and give it some direction and showing them that they can take it a certain way and everyone was like, “no, you gotta keep your vocals on there!” And to be honest that’s probably my favorite song on the album so far. You bout to be out here like Hit-Boy. Kuratii: No, for real, like Hit-Boy all of them because that’s the one thing that my sister has always pushed me towards, “yo, start writing hooks then it’s a bigger selling point for you.” So, that was me trying that and it actually made the album. I’m really proud about that song in particular. The whole album is pretty much my favorite but if I had to rank them that would be my #1 favorite right now. Oh okay, dope. So, who are your influences? Kuratii: It’s interesting, me not being from Virginia and my family being mostly from Virginia most of my influence comes from Virginia producers. Pharrell, Timbaland are like my 2 favorite producers of all time. You can throw Scott Storch in there I grew up listening to him. That whole era. Kuratii: Yeah, the 2000’s and how he used to play those keys man I used to love that. Polo Da Don is another one like in the 2000’s he was real popular. I like Sonny Digital, Metro Boomin, those are my producer influences. As far as other influence it would have to be old school RnB. Like I said my parents are older so all they listened to was RnB music when I was in the car with her. So, it was Marvin Gaye, Barry White, Sade, you know, artists like that. Honestly, when I first started I thought I was going to be making RnB music but then I kinda got bored with that and that’s how the RnB/Hip Hop aspect, trap aspect of my beats came about because I kinda just put them all together. And rap artists today that kinda influence me I would say like Drake, 21 Savage is my favorite. I be feeling bad about saying 21 Savage is my favorite artist because niggas be like my favorite artist is Nas, Jay-Z. I don’t like Nas or Jay-Z. I definitely like Jay-Z but I’m not the wild about Nas. I don’t understand the hype. Kuratii: Yeah, I would definitely listen to Jay-Z over Nas but I really don’t like up North music at all. I’m from the South, so, I like some shit like Atlanta rap music scene period helped me and influenced me a lot. From the 2000’s listening to Ciara, and who was the producer back then? Jazzy Pha and Jazzy Pha was producing everything back then. And Jazzy Pha ain’t even from Atlanta. Kuratii: That’s crazy, I didn’t even know that! Yeah, where he from... Oh, he from Memphis. Kuratii: And see that’s another one… Memphis got some influence too now. But damn, I ain’t even know that, he had Atlanta on lock. Yeah he did but yeah… he really from Memphis. Kuratii: Wow, yeah, that’s what’s up. But yeah, I would say Atlanta rap scene as a whole over the years like they have had hip hop in a chokehold. Because, I would say I was a late bloomer in life and my parents were very protective over me. So, I was that kid when I was watching B.E.T. my finger was hovering over the previous channel button because I had to hit that bitch fast so they wouldn’t see what I was watching. Dammmn. Kuratii: Yeah, so I was that kid when it came to rap music and a lot of music and people would be like, “oh, that’s my song! You ain’t ever heard it?” I be like, “nah, I haven’t because I started picking up on rap music at really 12/13 years old. Everybody was already listening. That’s why I always let people know like I don’t really know a lot of rappers like that and I be feeling bad when I say 21 Savage my favorite rapper because everybody else got these lyrical ass niggas and I’m just like, “nah, 21 Savage.” But 21 is lyrical just in a different way. Kuratii: Yooo, and I love his progress. I remember listening to his earlier music where it sounded trash, engineering and all of that. AND now, that man got a Grammy. That shit still sounded good back in the day tho. Kuratii: Exactly, and that’s the crazy thing like he really wasn’t even as lyrical as he is now, he still was hard. I can appreciate his progress more than anything. And that’s another thing with me and with my music I always pushing for it to be great and I’m always quality over quantity but I know my music back then ain’t even touching my sound now. Right, the progression. Kuratii: Yeah, and I wanted people to hear that progress. I put it out there. I didn’t put it out there when it was sounding like ass. I got it to the best of my ability but the whole point of not being embarrassed by that was that I wanted to be like 21 Savage. I wanted people to hear my music and hear my progression and really appreciate me as an artist. A lot of different influences but I would mostly say: Virginia producers, Atlanta’s overall music scene and just the down South music or the down South movement when it comes to music. Not to pick sides or say who is doing better but the down South artists have really helped shape Hip Hop, just talking Hip Hop… we have really helped shape the sound of Hip Hop and where it is now. If you notice almost everybody got a trap heavy beat. And most people call it a “boom bap” beat because it got high hat snares and a nice ass 808… you don’t even hear melodies anymore, now. And where did that come from? That came from down South rap. The reason why people said Hip Hop was dead was because the South was changing it. Yeah, yeah… you right. Kuratii: Yeah, and that helped me understand that music is on a spectrum. There is no right or wrong and music is subjective as well. It’s what you like, you know, ain’t no right or wrong answer. Now, some people are ass, I will say, some people are just trash but at the end of the day somebody like it so how trash are they really? It’s an opinion. Yeah, and a lot of it is about your roots. Another thing I wanted to ask you is how would you describe the music you make? Kuratii: That’s a good question and I’ve been thinking on something like this for a long time. I would say that my music is an experience and I’ve been working heavy on that idea when it comes to my music, especially with this album. Like I hate when things are, “a mood,” but the album is a mood. I want it to be a listening experience. When I listen to music now, especially now that I’m very serious in what I’m doing, I listen to music differently than how other people listen to music. I’m listening for, “how did the engineer do this? Oh, how did the producer get that sound?” I can listen to a song now and be like, “oh, that producer uses Nexus or that engineer used this plug-in.” I’ve been doing it so long now that I can identify. I can hear a song and know that they got a sample off a certain website because I had heard it before or I got the same loop sitting on my computer and ain’t used it yet. To the normal listener they may not hear what I hear and that’s my thing I just want my music to be an experience. I know my beats are different for the simple fact that whenever I work with a new artist they be like, “yo, I never heard a sound like that” or they tell me that I really transformed their vocals or transformed their whole way or rapping. So, I know my music is unique. That’s what my music gives, an experience. When I built my home studio I made it so if you’re feeling down you can be in there, if you want to create, or not just music… if you want to do some homework, you can come in there. I want that whole room to be an experience for you. I feel like that’s the best way to be. If an artist can’t have a good experience while recording then it’s not going to be a good recording or a good song. My music is an experience, it’s not like your traditional RnB or Hip Hop or traditional high hats you hear or 808s, it’s very different. I have my own sauce to add on it. It’s funny you say you don’t really listen much to up North music because when I was first listening to your beat tapes and shit it was putting me in the mind frame of J Dilla or some shit like that. Kuratii: That’s really crazy I think that’s because back then I was in a position of 1, tryna get a feel of what RnB feels like and at that time I was really in the mindset of it being an experience but that experience was more of that type feel, more Hip Hop than trap rap. Yeah, more traditional sound. Kuratii: Yeah, i was really trying to push for that. It’s interesting that you actually found that sound and made that connection because at that time that’s definitely what I was going for. In comparison now, I’m pushing far more trap music but not like for artist sounds like Stunna 4 Vegas or DaBaby, I’m not making trap like that. It’s just a high hat, snare and a kick. Your sound is a little more euphoric too. Kuratii: Yeah! Euphoric, euphoric, that’s the damn word I was looking for. It’s like euphoric trap. Kuratii: When I was making them beat tapes back then I wanted it to be euphoric. That’s what I would always say. I want some weird ass sounds in the back and sounds that people never heard of. But it’s still together, it’s still cohesive. Kuratii: I definitely agree. Do you see a pattern in the sounds that artists will buy from you or lease from you? Kuratii: I’m starting to a little bit. They definitely like more up-tempo music and it’s interesting because most times I see people come to me for beats is after I’ve dropped something. Either a song or an album and with that Jerrell album it was definitely more up-tempo, still very versatile. But yeah, I would say that when artists come to me and inquire about beats they usually choose the most unique beats that I have. The beat that Peso chose, now, Peso is a trap artist like trap heavy he talks about perosets and stuff like that. This man is talking about drugs and shooting people over a beat with angel sounds and heavy angel vocals in the back, heavy 808s, high hats, snares, a reverb. That sound like some Griselda shit. Kuratii: Yeaaaah, it’s on some crazy shit. Even he was like, “yo, I never thought that was going to be coming out of me,” and yeah, that’s what I want. One day I’mma see a trap dude making a play or something with Peso playing and these angel sounds in the back. You would never think that but that’s why I find my music to be unique because I’m adding elements that aren’t even normal in trap music. So, I would say most times these artist they try to get these regular trap beats from me like and I let them know upfront that I don’t make that type of stuff but this is what I got. Most of the time the artist will pick the most unique beat. And that’s one thing when I would send beat packs out I would try to go listen to an artist’s music real quick and then try to send them stuff that sounded like that and I felt like that was putting me in a box. Now, I just put all the beats in the folder and send it to them. Half the time when people inquire I don’t know them as an artist already but I like to support and get a feel for them before I send beats. I still listen to it but I don’t try to categorize. Because I’ve learned no matter what you send it’s still up to the artist and they're gonna listen and figure out if they like the beat. The Peso situation, I sent him more trap heavy beats and I accidentally played that beat at the crib and he said, “hold up, play that again.” I played it again and he started writing it right there in the studio. But yeah, people usually like my up-tempo stuff with heavier 808’s with a lot of movement and different throughout and high hats going a little crazy on ‘em. The busier high hats. I think as long as it has that trap element they don’t really care about the melodies and stuff behind it. Oh okay, that’s cool. Do you have anything else you want to add? Kuratii: Shoot, I think you really covered everything that I had to say about. photos by: Camaron Loritts
- Pacman da Gunman - Less Is More
https://www.playballclothing.com/ South Central artist Pacman da Gunman drops off his 2nd project this year, Less Is More. The EP follows his collaborative album with Vallejo's Yhung T.O., Lord Knows released in January. Less Is More displays Pacman da Gunman's celebration of growth and overall maturation since his last solo release from 2020, Esta Loca Vida Mia. While Pacman da Gunman has always delivered motivational lyrics and stories in previous releases there are moments in Less Is More that further express his elevation as a human and artist. The EP opens up with the song, "The Truth," that truly speaks for itself with lines like, "I'm the truth and I've been that" & "Ain't no sales pitch this shit is authentic" The EP then moves into the song, "Hunnit Thousand," where Pacman da Gunman paints what his life looks like in the present moment; he's tellin' us how he feels, what he sees and how he's executing his dreams. In this song and throughout Less Is More Pacman da Gunman shows a balance of hustle and celebration and how that can lead to a luxurious life (depending on what luxury looks like for you.) "Feelin' like a hunnit thousand, smokin' gas while we clownin'/ sippin' Ace of Spaces while we countin'" What Pacman da Gunman does well is his economy of language and precision through simplicity. He doesn't have to say much to give the idea. "Feelin' like a hunnit thousand," literally is a solid amount especially acquired by self but a hundred thousand, I imagine, entices one to acquire even more. So, while he's feelin' like a solid amount there's still this unspoken message that there's still more to get. The next song, "Appealin'" is my favorite of the EP. The song showcases Pacman da Gunman's reflection, self improvement and influence/impression on his friends and those near him. He's tellin' the audience of where his mind state used to be and where it's at now due to opportunity, preparation and hustle. And just off the song title, "Appealin" he's signaling that there's another life he's discovered that's more appealing than what he used to know and do. "I used to want to go and kill the witness now my niggas all building business, now my niggas all drivin' Benzs and I'm livin' like 'fuck the ceiling'" "A Million Ways" carries on the motivational mindset of the EP as well as the catalyst movement of Pacman da Gunman. The song highlights how anyone can be shown the way to create and conquer your dreams (given the opportunity,) but it's still on them what they decide to do with it. He says it a couple different ways in the song, "There's a million different ways you can go and get it but it's really up to you, its one way to print it" & "I can take you to the water it's up to you if you drink it." The preceding two songs, "Zero Tolerance" features Nipsey Hussle and Sacramento's Mozzy and "Did That" features Detroit's Icewear Vezzo were singles leading up to the release of Less Is More. It was dope hearing posthumous verse from Nipsey paired with Pacman and Mozzy. "Did That" felt like the stronger of the two singles with Icewear Vezzo adding a different texture/flow and memorable hook, "Chain heavy, gun heavy but the Benz fast/ niggas braggin' on some shit but we did that/ when you making all this money it's hard to kick back." The EP moves into "One Piece" featuring Wale which could be another radio single just off of how Wale is able to elevate a track into mainstream domain. He comes on slidin' to West Coast production and makes it his own. Then of course, Pacman da Gunman delivers his verse with another catchy hook. The final song is a remix to "Better Know It" (off his 2019 release No Guts No Glory,) but this time featuring Memphis artist Blac Youngsta, who adds different colors to the song. Pacman da Gunman's Less Is More is pure motivational music for those building and climbing from the bottom with dreams, goals and active movements to achieve them all. If you're unfamiliar with Pacman da Gunman, he's an artist I easily throw in rotation with Skeme, Problem, AD, G Perico, Mozzy, Nipsey, Larry June and etc. Music that can really change and catalyze a growth mindset in all aspects of life. Be sure to check out the project below! Less Is More: https://oppo.sition.link/LessIsMore
- VEGA INTERVIEW
VEGA’s interview/ inner view was a lot of fun and dope process in getting to know her craft and artistic influences. If anything, this conversation made it more apparent the importance of highlighting, uplifting and archiving women in Hip Hop/Rap. Later on in the interview we both are at a loss when trying to identify OG lady rappers from Atlanta, although there has to be some they just weren’t/aren’t as highlighted and archived like their male counterparts (& if you’re reading this and you know let me know.) When I initially created CROWNTHEM it was to not only highlight women in Hip Hop but to put them at the center. Here’s to making sure Our stories are told and told correctly. Thank you VEGA for you time, top-tier photoshoot (s/o Eastside Bizz,) and words of ambition that will create many beautiful things. First off, who are you, where you from and where your people from? VEGA: Okay, so my name is VEGA, my real name is Daija. Some people call me Daij, some people call me VEGA. I was born in Tennessee, raised in Michigan, I moved to Atlanta when I was about 12 or 13. It was my elementary school break we moved from Michigan to the South just me and my mom. I finished out my 5th grade school year in Tennessee with my dad as my mom kinda got acclimated in Georgia. After she was ready for me to move in with her and had her apartment and stuff like that I moved to Atlanta and I've been here ever since. That was in 2009, so it has been 12/13 years. Atlanta is all I know. But you got family up here in Tennessee? VEGA: Yes, my dad lives there. My little brother is from Memphis. Yeah, so I'm always in Tennessee well for the most part. I used to spend all of my summers in Tennessee with my dad, you know, jumpin' on the trampoline and I have 3 other siblings. I have a little sister and 2 brothers but I'm my mom's only child. Damn, you all over the place. VEGA: Yes, yes, people always ask, "were you in the military?" And actually, my granddad was but when he got out (the military) he worked for General Motors the plant the factory up North, you know Detroit is a big motor city town so that's kinda how we ended up up there. I ain't even know you were in Memphis 'til Eastside said it. I was like wait, "she in Memphis?" and he was like, "I thought she was gonna be here" and I was like, "wow I didn't even know I should've caught a flight." Well shit, I ain't know you had connects up here. That would've been dope af because we could've done a whole shoot out here! I just moved out here like 7 months ago, I was in Atlanta. VEGA: Okay, you like it so far? Nothing like Atlanta huh. No, it's not like Atlanta and before Atlanta I was out in Oakland and the South is a lot different than the West Coast. The South is just different from what I know and I liked Atlanta. Memphis is a lot different. It feels like a big ass country town more than a city. VEGA: Yeah, for sure. It does. When I was a flight attendant we had flown in and I had an overnighter in Memphis one time. I went out with the crew and we went to eat or do whatever. I had my little brother come kidnap me like, "come pick me up," because I was like, "I don't know what to do here. Y'all have good food but I’m kinda bored." So, he came and we drove to Nashville for the night and I had to catch a 5am flight back to where I was based at. Oh damn, I think it's all a matter of finding the right people though. But you know, I came out here to Memphis to really get this magazine going. And for me, Atlanta can be a hard place to stay focused too. So much shit going on. VEGA: Yeah, yes, that is so true. That is one of the reasons why I chose to go to college on the outskirts of Atlanta. Everyone says, "why don't you go to Georgia State or anything like that?" I went to West Georgia which is in Carrolton, it's like 45 minutes away. And I was just like, everything is too accessible in the city; I know too many people, I can be outside whenever I want, I know I’m not going to do well with this. I just know me, I knew me then and I'm like no. You know, I played sports and stuff in high school so by the time I graduated high school I'm ready to be out, out. I'm like nah, I can't do that - I'm jus trying to go to college, get my degree and leave and that's exactly what I did. What did you end up getting your degree in? VEGA: I got a dual degree in Marketing and Management and an Advertising certificate. To occupy my time I was part of 15-17 organizations while I was in college. You really trying to get to it. VEGA: Right, yeah I've always stayed busy even in high school. My mom used to say, "idle time is the devil's time." You know, there's always so much you can do if you're too bored. So, I was never really the girl that would have a fake I.D. or get into the clubs. I had track practice or I have basketball practice or I was learning/I learned piano in high school and I played saxophone in middle school. The recorder in elementary school. I was always being occupied and I always said I have Only Child Syndrome, I definitely know how to keep myself entertained. I feel that, I definitely like to be a Jack of All Trades. VEGA: Exactly, you could never know. I feel like if you get to that point where you're so versatile in so many things it won't be hard for you to have a conversation with anybody. Nah, or accomplish anything. So, you cut out for this independent artistry. VEGA: I would like to say so. Would you like to stay independent? VEGA: *sighs* I wanna stay independent as far as my creative expression. I’m willing to get a distribution deal or a publishing deal and stuff like that but I feel like I'm doing a good job at learning the business of music at the same time. If I come into a deal or a contract and it's worded correctly. I feel like that's kinda where a lot of artists go wrong - you start looking at percentages, some people only thinking about the money but it's like at the time a lot of those artists are signed for a song that sounds like "xyz" but truly their true sound sounds like "abc." So, it's like as long as that part is still being honored I wouldn't mind signing but if it's not right, I'm not signing nothing. That's real. Have you had any offers yet? VEGA: I have not, I have not. I've had a couple people give me like a start-up label thing but I haven't had any offers, yet. I feel it coming. Yeah, I feel it too. We'll catch up again in a lil bit and I'll ask you again and you'll be like, "oh yeah." VEGA: Right, I'll be like, "girl, come on to the studio." Part 2 at the studio. Facts, speak it into existence. What's your name mean to you? How'd you come up with VEGA? VEGA: My favorite question. So, there was a show on Nickelodeon called "Victorious" and one of the characters on there was Tori Vega or something like that. And I thought Vega would be a cool last name. I looked into and noticed the origin was like hispanic or latino or something. For a long time my Twitter handle name used to be "daijavega" and I kinda changed it but Vega always stuck. Then, I had this weird moment where I deleted all my social media and then I came back on Instagram with a new name and I was like, I gotta go back to 'daijvega' so I went back. I realized as I was coming into my music I was like, okay, I need to find an artist name. Everybody was like, "just use Vega, " and I'm like, "no, I don't wanna use Vega." So, I was like lemme just look into it. Looked it up and realized it was a street fighter character and then I was like, "wait, ya gotta be VEGA." *cackles* That's dope af, wait, Vega is a street fighter? VEGA: Yes! His hands are like knives, he wears a white mask with a sideways V on it and then he has a long blonde braid. So, I ordered that same mask then I have the claws coming from Etsy. So, I'll keep developing that as far as I go but I gotta keep putting that story in people's minds. You do because wasn't it in the music video, "SWTG" that you just released? VEGA: Yes, it was. Okay, I'm not trippin' but also there was a shot where you had an aesthetic of… it reminded me of Mortal Kombat. VEGA: Yep! Aight, bet. I feel it I see it. The symbolism. VEGA: Yes, exactly a little subliminal messaging going on there. That's where VEGA came from. That's cool, I like that. So, when did this music thing start for you VEGA? VEGA: I've always wrote poems. I first started writing poems when I was probably 9 and I had one of those password journals and it opened up off of voice command.. I would say whatever my password was to the password journal and I had all these poems, it had invisible ink in there, glow in the dark pens and I just had all these poems. Growing up, I was raised by a single mom so I feel like I always grew up a little early but it wasn't like I was grown. I just grew up, I had to know things before a typical 9 year old probably wouldn't know. Fast forward to me becoming a flight attendant and I was sitting in the jump seat one day and I was kinda like, "this job is fun but this can't be it," I'm still technically reporting to somebody and that was my biggest thing. I didn't want to keep feeling like I was working for somebody. We weren't supposed to be on our phones in the jump seat but I was that day and I used to hide my phone behind the brochure pamphlet, the welcome card pamphlet like, "hi welcome to American Airlines flight…" I was typing a song the whole time and finally we landed and I texted my best friend named Fred and I was like, "I think I can rap this song." I recorded it on my phone as a voice note and when I sent it he was like, "okay, so you gotta get in the studio." This was in 2019, 2 years ago. Oh, hella recent! Wow. VEGA: Yeah, very recent. Literally on my one year anniversary I quit being a flight attendant, flew into Memphis. My little brother works with cars so I was able to get a car with him at Gossett Motors (if you know where that is,) and drove back to Atlanta to a day party. The day after my birthday day party I recorded my first song and then I put it on SoundCloud. I think now that song has over 800 or 900 plays. It was a cover to Gunna's "Order" by TM88 and I did a cover to Lil Gotit, "Hood Baby," I did like a remix. I didn’t release music until the year after, so like 2020. I was kinda stashing music that whole time. Yo, that's crazy… so this is really a fresh endeavor? VEGA: Yes, for sure. The artistry has been there, I was a DJ in college so I knew I always wanted to do something with music. I was like, "how can I do something with music and still be passionate," you know, how it can still be my passion and not feel like a job. But, I was like, I'mma just keep walking in this and I don't know where it's gonna go. I quit DJing and I was like, "wait, you can rap, I'm like what!" But, I would probably say that there was a time before that where I knew I wanted to do music I was just really really nervous to admit it. My granddad is a preacher so I grew up in choir. There was this one time my mom had this old tape recorder she used to take to her classes for college and I recorded me singing "Weak" by SWV on there and she found it! I was so embarrassed, I was like, "oh my gosh, you found it!" and she was like, "you don't sound that bad." I feel like that was the only other time that I knew that I wanted to do music. I just didn't know how to present it. So, what made you be like, "let me try to rap this shit" instead of just sing it? VEGA: For one, I smoke so I have to really condition my voice to get back into the singing. I can do like a melodic rap but actually on that Ariana Grande, Beyonce type level, "I'm like nah, I'mma have to go back to vocal lessons for that." I’m just like I'll get y'all featured on the song and y'all can do what I think I can do and we're gonna call it a day. But, I can definitely do a lot of melodic tunes, I can hold a note. But not as far as doing a full out ballad, I knew like I'mma have to find a way where it's still appeasing to the ear but it's not something where it's so far outta my element that I sound crazy. Yeah, you have a really interesting sound in the best way possible, interesting. It feels very… you take your time with it and you're very precise. I was watching the Genius CoSign episode you did and that nigga was like, "oh, her raps seem childish" or some shit like that. VEGA: Elementary school bars, yeah. And, I was like - there's simplicity but people don't realize how complex simplicity can be. VEGA: Right, and a lot of people have already told me as a woman you can't really say too much about ANYthing it seems because we are already a lot to digest and I'm like, "F that, F that," y'all can say whatever but we can’t. But, I agree, that was a great way to put it - there is so much complexity in simplicity. It is and it's harder than what people think especially because you said you were a page poet too. That's the whole point of poetry (to me,) to be the most economical with your language. But yeah, it's cool how you're able to space out your raps and switch flows a lot and with that said - who are your influences? VEGA: I have a few, I have a lot. As far as rappers go… okay, well first, I have a very broad music pallet. Very, very broad. As far as influences when I hear people drag out their words that's what I was tuning into. So, Nicki, I love her aura, her confidence, the way she presents herself, like, she's just that bitch. Period. She is, facts. VEGA: And Beyoncé does a great job obviously, overall musically she is the total package. I would say I love the way Travis Scott breaks down his music too. Really, I just encompass a lot. I don't know if you've heard of Cashmere Cat? He's like a producer and he has a song with Miguel and the way he does his beats and stuff I wanna hear all of that. I wanna listen to every instrument in the song and think, "what specific sound in the song can I attach myself to?" and attach these lyrics to for it to make sense. You know, sometimes it is that random high hat that nobody hears or it's that random 808 that's like, "wait, I didn’t even hear that in the beat." But then you hear the melody on top of it and be like, "wow, she really brought that instrument out." So, I think that's kinda where my head Is with the way that I bounce off of words and stuff. Okay, so the VEGA EP that you put out how would you describe that sound? VEGA: Umm, I would say, "girly trap." It's kinda like if I could be a female version of Thug or a female version of Gunna, a Future, Baby type thing and not to too hard - I feel like as girls if you just talk about guns and stuff too much people gonna be like, "okay, what are you talking about?" So, every now and again you can put it in there and splash it for emphasis. I'd say girly trap, for sure. I hear what you're saying but it does sound more grown than "girlie." VEGA: Okay, man I gotta think of a word to really classify because it's not just straight trap. And, "girlie" does sound a little childish. I gotta find my own genre to call it. It'll come. It's hard for you to label it because like you said you have influences across the board, so it's a combination of so many things. What kind of music did you grow up on? VEGA: A lot of gospel music. A lot of gospel music on my mom's side - very very Christian, very religious family, Christian household. When I was younger my mom was a model so I lived with my grandparents for awhile. And like I said my granddad was a preacher so it was Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams, you know, it was pretty much everybody, the mass choirs that we went down to conferences in Knoxville for. Church conferences and stuff like that. Then on my dad's side it was DMX, more slow jams like, "I wanna know, I wanna know" *VEGA starts singing "I Wanna Know" by Joe. And stuff like that, I always felt like I was living a double life. Like I said, I spent time with my family in Tennessee in the summers - so, when I went there what my grandparents would call it was "worldly," you were in the world, you were "worldly" basically you was outside. But I always felt like when I came back to Michigan there was this whole other side and as I've grown up I've had to learn that it's okay to mesh the two. My granddad know them songs just as well as my dad does. So I would definitely say a lot of old school at the same time but very very Christian household. It wasn't probably until I moved to Georgia that I really started - my mom had a boyfriend at the time and he would download all this music to our computer. I would always come across: OJ tha Juiceman, Shawty Lo, Gucci Mane, AlleyBoy like all these artists and I was like, "who are these people?" I would just listen to it and after a certain point the old iTunes said we had 70 days worth of music in our library. Like straight just over 13,000 hours or whatever that is of music. So you can imagine how much music I had downloaded by the time I was really getting completely emerged in music. I would say my influences when I came here definitely would be like Shawty Lo, I listen to a lot of Shawty Lo, OJ tha Juiceman, Gucci Mane, then Rich Kidz when all of them came out Bandit Gang, Lady Rich Kidz, Jose Guapo like all those types. It's a lot of influence. The streets. VEGA: Yeah, definitely. I grew up on the westside of Atlanta. When we moved here she literally moved us right into the middle of Cascade. So, who are your Atlanta legends? Not just rap, but across the board. VEGA: OutKast, oh man this is hard. There's so many of y'all. Who are the OG lady rappers from Atlanta? Because Da Brat isn't from there although she spent a lot of time there. VEGA: Right, I don't think there are any old head lady rappers. There has to be. VEGA: Somebody made a list and it was floating around on Twitter and I hadn't seen any of the names before. All I can think of is the Kandis and… The singers, yeah. That's crazy. You're in an interesting position VEGA. VEGA: Very interesting, I can't wait to create history. I think about that a lot because I feel like I'm doing something that, I'm trying to work towards something that I don't think a lot of people are really working towards. Like there's no Nicki Minaj of Atlanta. And you know, you're making history right now with paving a path, truly, opening the door, letting people look through the window. I don't think there is anyone making - a lot of people in Atlanta make luxurious raps but yours is on a different realm. VEGA: Everyday it doesn't feel like a challenge but definitely feels like I'm breaking a lot of barriers. When I was talking to Joc (BigJocATL), "everyday I think about how we can position you, to market you 'cause you're just so versatile - there are so many ways we can push you." And I think that's the hardest part is really zoning in how. So, we've been really trying to work on that but as I'm talking through it with you it makes me think, "wow, we really doing something that hasn't been done." Yeah, and especially in the way that you're doing it. VEGA: Right, because I know I have a very unique sound, I know it's pretty unorthodox. I hear that all the time but the shit is still gonna knock in the club. It can be heard in the back of Insecure, on the soundtrack. It can be in a movie. I can see it in all that. Yeah, P-Valley. You got people out here so you should try, you know it's based off Memphis. VEGA: Oh yeah, you right. I need to make some calls. I feel like in the next 6 months life is going to be so different. It is it is. When you were creating VEGA EP what was your creative process? VEGA: Those songs I had had for a minute and I knew that they all meshed. It kinda got narrowed down, started with like 10 and it kinda went down from there and I was like, “well these are more sing-songy so I’m gonna put these on the next project,” and we kinda went through it like that. Once we had all the songs that I knew I wanted I started reaching out to all the engineers. When I first started I didn’t realize that I needed to save my sessions to a hard drive. I was just recording music and having them send it to me and I only had the MP3s the WAVs, I didn’t have the Stems none of that. So, by the time I tried to circle back and get all of my music, one engineer had three of my songs and his whole harddrive crashed. It was gonna be 3 bands to get it fixed. The lady producer, Nancy that I work with for “YAMI” and “SWTG” Ohh, she’s fire! VEGA: Yes, yes! Her hard drive got stolen outta of her car so I couldn’t get those Stems back. Then the other music was like it was evaporating in thin air. Some songs I had to re-record or clean up what we could - I think there was only one song I had to re-record and everything else we pretty much just had to clean up as best as we could. I would say that I linked up with the the mix/master Veezy, he helped me clean up the project and it probably took us about 2-3 weeks. Then it was an additional 2-3 weeks of us getting the cover art and stuff like that then we went from there. He would pull up at my crib and he would set up his studio and we would both go through it having on headphones and I’d be like, “no, do this, do that, make this sound like this.” We probably put in about 4-6 hours a week just cleaning up the music. It was definitely a process that I now know that I just need to keep up on all my sessions and we won’t have that problem. When you have a session - do you go in with something you already wrote or how does that work for you? VEGA: I always joke around and say I’m not really a huge freestyler because I’m not but I can. If I get high, I’m a great freestyler, like in the car playing beats I’mma spaz. But, usually I get my beats beforehand and I’ll record, I’ll write to them so when I go to the studio I know how it’s gonna sound, what I’m gonna say to make the session flow a little more easier. I’m the kind of person that can go to the studio in the middle of the day for 4 hours and I’m great that means I still have my whole night to still do other things. I usually go in with already knowing what I’m gonna say. You got other things going on like Culture Vulture, you’re part of Creatives After Dark - what else do you have going on and tell me a little bit about those. VEGA: Definitely like to stay busy like I said. Culture Vulture is my accessories brand, I started that in college and it was under a different name. I kind of had this idea of - I always liked how the words sounded together, “culture vultures,” and obviously just being a black woman, being a black person in general, we lead the way for so many things. A lot of times we get jacked for the braids straight to the back and stuff like that. But it’s like, y’all can put that on Lucy on the Versace runway and put clips in her hair and say, “she’s completely changed the hair world.” That is not fair, we’ve been doing this for years. So, that’s kinda where the name came from. Like a reverse play on it. VEGA: Yeah, exactly. You know, you wanna be a culture vulture so bad, c’mon. And Creatives After Dark is where I work with Joc and that’s pretty much his music group/label, however you wanna classify it. We probably started working with each other last summer. My first goal with him I was like, “look I gotta put a project out. I had been teasing music, there’s music everywhere in so many random places, we gotta do this.” I grew up poor to middle-class, you know, single mom, she had multiple jobs and it was hard. A lot of the times she couldn’t come to my basketball games because she was also a referee for basketball and so she couldn’t come and then during the day she worked at the hospital - so there was never really any time. So, I always say I want to break the generational curse and financial burdens are a big thing on my family. That has been in my prayers for so long to just create a way for my family so that it’s not always something so money driven. I’m definitely looking into things. I’m definitely getting into the vending machines business and if Georgia ever agrees going legal with marijuana I’m going to find somewhere for a dispensary, sit and chill type thing. I have a lot of ideas in mind. Those for now, my music and Culture Vulture are like my two biggest priorities. I’m incorporating my past marketing experience - I was in corporate for 2-3 years; I worked for Comcast and I worked for a conglomerate email marketing company (the people that own Ponce City Market, I worked for them, they call it Jamestown.) I was on with them as a project manager. Don’t ask me how I got that job, I was the youngest person in there with that title so I definitely had to be on my Ps & Qs. I know what I need to do to get my brand to propel to the level it needs to be, it’s just putting everything together. So, with Culture Vulture I’m using all of my previous marketing experience and throwing it into that. Very much a process but the fun is in the process, to me. VEGA: Very much so and I know. It’s kinda like, if you had everything set up already - what would you be doing? It takes you a minute to get to the part where you need a team and where you have to have different hands on deck and stuff like that. So, I’m definitely enjoying the growing pains and the growing phases of all of this, for sure. I wouldn’t change it for the world. What are your goals when it comes to fashion? VEGA: That’s funny that you said that. It’s the second time somebody asked me that this week. I don’t know, I really never thought of fashion. I love fashion, obviously. I don’t know where it’s gonna go. One of my biggest goals used to be a Victoria’s Secret Angel, at least one time. I just wanna get some wings. That’s like a wishful thinking type of goal. I don’t know if it’s going to be the Aleali May type of thing or Rihanna type of presentation. You know, where you’re known for fashion and as it keeps growing I eventually develop something but I don’t have any immediate plans for fashion. I know it’s going to be something tho. I’m a big Pinterest user, my monthly average viewers on pinterest I can get over 20k views. I didn’t realize it was an untapped market. Are you marketing your music that way? VEGA: No, they don’t know anything about my music on Pinterest. You could do that - I think it’s important for artists to have every avenue of social media. Especially, when it comes to Pinterest and Tumblr. Like you said, you’re getting 20k views on your Pinterest. VEGA: Technically, I’m a Pin-fluencer. How they have Instagram influencers I’m a Pinterest influencer. I don’t do any paid promo on there it’s just fun for me. I didn’t realize I was getting that until I looked and saw that my impressions for the last 90 days were over 200k then I really started looking into my analytics. They’ve given me early access to Pinterest Stories and ad credit and everything. So, I started putting that into my marketing plan for CultureVulture and I’m trying to drive traffic back to my website and I’ll create a landing page for my music. One page with my YouTube, my Spotify, Audiomack, Tidal, Apple and it will be within CultureVultures so that they don’t even have to leave my site. Brilliant, that’s dope. What kind of aesthetic do you run on your Pinterest? VEGA: I’m damn near OCD. So, if you go on there it’s super organized. I have white and gold aesthetics board, black aesthetics board, the one that gets the most views is my hair board. I change my hair, a lot and so if you click on the hair board theres: it’s braids, it’s locs, it’s twists, it’s everything and I did that for everything. So, clothing, orange clothes, blue clothes - but I get down to the very specifics of what the outfit is. I think that’s what really draws people in is that it’s easy to find stuff on there. I’ve made friends on Pinterest but I’ve never met any of them but there’s collaborative boards so they ask me to join and they ask to join mine (I say, “no, you can’t join this one”) because they know that board gets a lot of traffic and they want to attach themselves. Not many people are skilled in Pinterest so it’s hard to find a coach so I just read all the articles as I can and keep trying to polish it. Yeah, that’s real but at the same time it’s just the natural way of doing it. You say it’s really just fun for you then that’s just really what it is. People feel that energy at the same time. Do you use Tumblr too? VEGA: I do, I still have a Tumblr. I just posted a picture on my story the other day where I had a Jordan up trying to be a Pinterest girl, 9 years ago. But yeah, I do love Tumblr. I feel like Tumblr was before it’s time. You know, sometimes you’d go on there and you’d see a girl’s boob, you’d see tattoos and I was like, “omgosh, my mom cannot see this site.” I love Tumblr for that, I feel like they were the gateway to a lot of creative freedom. I remember Justine Skye and Glenn Brown and all them were very Tumblr famous at one point - I definitely remember that whole era. Tumblr is my favorite as of late just because I don’t want to put everything out on Twitter or Instagram or whatever. You can’t really put shit out on Instagram like that, it feels so limited. VEGA: Yeah, feels limited and they’ll flag you like, “oh, this goes against our community guidelines.” And I was like how’d you even know this was zaza? ‘Cause even just thinking about how Instagram works… it feels so boring sometimes and it’s so limited in the way you can interact with things. VEGA: It’s very regulated. Like I said, on Tumblr you can scroll passed and see some gas and they’ll put a GIF on it or something but on Instagram you can’t even show underboob. And you can’t even put a GIF. VEGA: Right, right and Instagram used to be a lot free-er when Rihanna had her middle finger as her profile picture but now it’s not the same. I love Instagram, you kinda just do what you need to do for business purposes and call it a day. Yeah, it’s a tool. I’m not too much of a fan of social media. I’m really just here to use it as a tool. VEGA: Right, make your post and get offline. I feel like I’m getting to the point where my followers are getting spoiled. So, I notice if I post things that are other than me they do not engage with it. And I’m jus like, c’mon, you gotta give heat everytime. That shit trip me out about social media all the time but at the same time it’s all about your Click-Thru Rate (CTR) anyways. VEGA: Mhm, CTR is crazy and that’s what I need to start focusing on is driving people to the links in my bio. You can put that in your captions so much and people still won’t go to it. I know, but they’ll like the shit and they’ll comment on it. And it’s like I don’t want that fake - I rather have you ignore the post and click on the link. VEGA: Right, and you know comments don’t count unless it’s 5 words or more. So the emojis don’t count. You have to say, “I love this picture so much” - that will count but the emojis don’t count. Oh shit, I didn’t know that. Wow, I had no idea. What’s your proudest moment so far? VEGA: I would say: putting out a video and it got over 100 views (I know that’s not a lot but I’m excited,) and then putting out the EP and just feeling like walking in this. There’s so many times I could’ve been discouraged or easily persuaded to be like, “yo, you ain’t it bro, this ain’ t.” I could’ve let those comments on the Genius thing really get to me and been like fuck this shit, I’m done with music. But nah, I was like, “okay, what’s next.” I’m excited that I’m still walking in this and I’m glad that my mom is supportive about it, she’s embracing it. My dad, he loves the project as well. My little brother, I love him so much, he’s like, “you gonna put me on a track? Can I be in your video?” I’m very appreciative and super super thankful that the people that are embracing it. When Nicki Minaj came out as a rapper they were not fucking with it. They still dog her. VEGA: Thank you. Uzi tweeted, “if they don’t hate it at first it ain’t gonna be great,” something like that. And I’m like, that makes so much sense now. I completely understand where you’re coming from. And they don’t even matter to be honest - those comments and those people. VEGA: Thank you, I really look past that stuff and I think that’s one of the things with us growing up in the social media era. Growing up in social media, we were built tough. If you didn’t grow up on black Twitter between the years of 2011-2013 you ain’t got thick skin. They was gonna dog you out for anything. So, seeing stuff like that and coming onto YouTube - I naturally filter out negative things because I don’t want that negativity in my positive space. In my head I’m like, “oh, that was funny,” and I’mma just keep scrolling. And sometimes when there’s an influx of negative energy that only means that - everything in the Universe has to be balanced in some sort of way. So, if that influx is there then there’s an influx in the other way as well. VEGA: It all can’t be Yin and it all can’t be Yang. So, bring on all the negativity that you want but I just know I’ll be blessed with positivity eventually. VEGA: Like those little 5 negative comments will bring 10 bands of positive energy. 10 bands and 10 bands of positive energy, both. VEGA: Literally and figuratively. Who do you identify as your Hip Hop community? VEGA: A lot of my close friends have the ability to talk music just as well as I do. Some of them are budding A&Rs or a lot of them are upcoming artists. I have noticed it is more males - I can’t talk music with very many women. I do meet the occasional person I can talk to music with, that's a woman. For the most part if I want to have an actual music, like a sonic conversation about instrumentation or anything I have my homeboys - 1 of them is named Fredo1k and he raps, J Supreme and he makes music too, my engineers, pretty much all my friends that are musically inclined. What are the most important aspects of marketing your music for you? VEGA: It’s getting it out there, the visibility part of it. Now that I’m starting to realize what is it I have. I was just having a conversation with somebody today and they were like, “you kinda came out to the world that you’re a rapper, like hardcore,” and I’m like, no, I have so many other sounds. And he said he knew that personally because he has heard the music I haven’t dropped but as you come out more you’re gonna have to start embracing more who you are as an artist and person. Some people warm up to it and some may not. So, it’s really just getting me out there and building that foundational fan base so regardless of where I go or how I move you’re gonna always have that group of loyal people. Do you feel like you’ve found a foundation? VEGA: I definitely feel like I’m still looking for that but I do notice that there are some very solid people. Like I said, I work at a club, so there will be times where I’m out serving a drink or something and next thing I know you hear that, “catch me out” (SWTG reference.) And I’m like who went up there and said somethin’? Then next thing you know everyone is like “ayyye,” and they start dancing. Stuff like that really encourages me whether they know it or not. It’s very empowering to see that side of things. What's your favorite song or lyric of yours? VEGA: A song that’s out? Yeah, let’s do a song that’s out. I would say favorite lyric as far as, because I’m big on manifesting right now and talking things into existence it would probably be “Starve With The Gang.” “I got dreams of counting bands like them stars up in the ceiling/ I start poppin’ rubber bands, like a wave I’m just drippin,” like when I said “started poppin’ rubberbands” line it instantly takes me to the strip club. You in there throwing money, you having fun, dancing around. But at the same time I said, “I got dreams of counting bands,” it’s like I got dreams of counting them and then, oop, I’m there. Here we are, we’re throwing the bands on the dancers type thing. And you give that vibe in the music video too. VEGA: Yes, I was definitely trying to channel that feeling for sure. The money going up. ALL PHOTOS BY: EASTSIDE // Insta & Twitter VEGA's Music: https://msha.ke/daijvega/ // Insta, Twitter & Pinterest
- KIIIA INTERVIEW
This interview/inner view with KIIIA honestly helped me re-align and continue with what I’ve been sent to do. I, myself had been in a dark and lonely place for the past few months and it had intensified the day before and day of the interview. I laid in bed, struggled to get up and thought about rescheduling, shit, or even callin’ it quits. Anyways, I made the call and through this conversation the Universe, our Ancestors, the Forces that be spoke to both of us. Definitely beyond blessed to have had a chance to talk with such a rare and beautiful soul that’s bound to do phenomenal things. Eternally grateful for his time, words and inspiration and hope y’all appreciate it too. Who are you? Where you from? Where your people from? KIIIA: Shit, so, my name is Kia. That’s my real name I just spell it differently and my rap name I wanted to keep it as authentic as possible. I already got a weird ass name, you feel me. I added the three “i”s because, you know that’s a whole little swag with the 3rd eye thing going on and HiiiPower and all that. Because, you know I fuck with T.D.E. like that. I’m from Inglewood but I stay in South Central for the moment. I’m all around L.A., really. As far as my family, I’m Moroccan, I wasn’t born here either. I’ve been in L.A. my whole life but I wasn’t born here. I’m not a citizen. I don’t know if I should put that citizen part in the interview but fuck it, it is what it is. Yeah, I’m just an alley cat, I’m everywhere. You were born in Morocco? KIIIA: No, I was born in Europe. I was born in Belgium. Yeah, what were you doing in Belgium? KIIIA: They had refuge there. It’s a deeper story behind all that but they moved and they went there because they speak similar. They both speak French but it’s different dialects but that’s why a lot of Moroccans be going over there because it’s the same language, it’s easy. I don’t know why they fully went over there, I know some parts of it but I don’t even know anything about over there. I was just born over there. I came here when I was probably 1 or 2. Being outside in California, when we first moved out here when I was real real young from Europe it was straight to Oakland because my dad had family over there. That was for a couple years of my life, while I was young, then the rest I’ve been in L.A. The two main cities in California, fr. I definitely didn’t expect that. You feel like that experience has influenced how you navigate your world? I guess, it always does - in which ways has it? KIIIA: For sure it has because growing up I really didn’t have a relationship with my parents like that and that carried onto my life now. You know, I’m real distant and it’s weird to say so nonchalant but I don’t really have good connection with my family like that. I think it’s something I’m trying to work on but it’s like a mental, emotion, you know… everything. It’s like a toll but it’s something I’m used to because I’ve been taking care of myself for a good minute. That’s a whole ‘nother story. It for sure affects how I navigate everyday life. Shit, on my own. Outside is my friend, you feel me, I’m mostly outside. I’m really walking outside, all day. Really outside while everyone is inside. It for sure affects a lot of areas and everything. The way I look at things or the way I move, the way I react, for sure. So, growing up - did your parents expose you to Moroccan music? Like what type of music did you grow up on? KIIIA: Yeah, it was a lot of traditional music I would hear but at the same time it was a lot of what was popular in pop music. Michael Jackson, like shit like that, that type of music. I would hear Snoop all the time, I’d hear Biggie but that was just off radio. I don’t think they really knew what that was, for real but they playin’ tho. I can remember things like driving in the car and my mother randomly playing some Kanye or some shit and I just be like, “what the hell, what you know about this?” It was popular at the time I guess. Everybody got a little Kanye. KIIIA: Yeah, but music definitely was a huge part of my life. My dad would like play the guitar and stuff like that. There was always music around in my house. How would you describe the type of music you make? KIIIA: That’s a good question ‘cause the easiest answer would to say I rap and I make Hip Hop music. To me, I feel like it’s more than that. I can’t describe the way things just flow out of me. You know, when I hear a song and the way I start thinking of lyrics and the way I just start flowing and stuff like that - it just feel like it’s more than I’m just rapping stuff. I for sure make Hip Hop music. I make boom baps and all that and I’m a fan of Hip Hop at the end of the day. Before I started rapping I would just listen to music heavy and using it to guide me type thing or teach me things. I would take advice from certain songs and artists and I would apply it to my life because I would relate and it would be in front of me and I’d be like, “oh, that’s how…” and move accordingly. I’m for sure in that realm of musIc. Is No Hooks your only project? KIIIA: Yeah, it is and it’s really just like a little surface level. I just wanted to put something out, you know, because I had no project out. So, I just wanted to put out a quick lil EP. It’s definitely not in depth like I’m really just talkin’ real general. But it is, it is in depth at the same time. KIIIA: It is, you right but I feel like I can go way deeper than that. I feel that for sure, that’s what it felt like - you were kinda giving us this little taste of what’s to come. Like, literally, no hooks on that shit. When I was going through it I was writing down hella notes and shit and really what I kept writing down about No Hooks was like, underground poetics. Like real underground poetry. I ain’t heard this type of vibe in a minute. KIIIA: That’s what I was about to say. I feel like this project I put out was real calm, it was a calm vibe and I feel like that hasn’t been around in a cool lil minute. And I just felt like putting something like that out, something different. I don’t want to be like everyone else. I’m in the middle of working on a couple EPs right now and some albums too that’s in the cut too, that’s already finished, but I wanna put out more EPs. Definitely the next project I put out will be more turnt up and rowdy. What was your creative process with No Hooks? KIIIA: Shit, so, we were in the studio and my big bro, P, he’s also my producer and he’s like my mentor. We were just sitting and stuff and I was like let me just do something because, me, when I rap I really just wanna rap a whole long ass verse, it’s like a bad habit of mine. When you make music you really need to break it down, you need a verse, a hook, a chorus, you know. But we were like fuck it, lemme just put out a project called, “No Hooks,” and just straight raps, straight bars and stuff. But, I think I made it in a way where some songs were still on the story mode feel, like you didn’t even notice it needed a hook in it, to me. Short songs, it’s a little ride, something you can ride to. So, when you were making it did you make more songs and you just chose those five or were you intentional about making those 5? KIIIA: I definitely made a bunch of songs and for some reason those felt like my most solid ones and they fit together because they’re all on the same vibe. Calm and stuff, I thought it was perfect. We were already going to to 5 songs for the EP cuz that’s a little sampler especially in this time where everything is real microwaved society. You know, everything goes so fast - artists just be dropping projects left and right and people just be forgetting about them real fast. I see, makes sense. When and how did you start rapping? Where did your inspiration come from? KIIIA: Really just going through regular life and I just started listening to music in a different way. For some reason I started researching all my music and just listening, looking back and digging back on old records and stuff like that. At the time, I guess, we always go through shit but at that time I was going through a certain thing in my life and I felt like music was helping me and guiding me. Most of my life I’ve been alone and at certain times things get dark so it’s like you use those people you hear in your headphones and it’s like, “let me see if someone else can relate to me.” That’s really why, I love the feel of that and I really liked how I can relate and how certain things were like, “holy shit, this is happening to me right now.” So, I wanted to do that for someone else and I wanted to be a part of that feeling so I just started. Really, I just put on a beat - actually, no I just started writing shit in my notes on my phone, like acapella. Just writing out what I was feeling, a beat would come on and I wold put it to the beat and it would just fit and that’s how it started and I just kept going. It’s really like it turned into a real passion because I’ve done a lot of things and never fully went through with it. But with this as soon as I started I just keep going and I could do it forever, really happy about that. That’s cool, so the time you spend alone gets alleviated with the time you spend with your passion. So, you do you have a crew? KIIIA: It’s for sure Pakk Music, that’s my crew, it’s really like family, for real. When I met everybody, they really brought me in on some family stuff. Like I said, I’m really alone out here and plus I just turned 23 and I met everybody I know now when I was 19 or 20. Like these last couple years we all really bonded and they took me in and they see that I got it in me. They believe in me and that really helps. I feel like I say this is my passion and I love it to do it but it gets more intricate in this game where you have to know certain things and do things a certain way. They really helped me realize all these types of things and learn these things and they force me to practice it and keep going and ask questions and all kind of things. I’m real grateful for it, my team. Real support. KIIIA: Until the end. How did you end up at Pakk Music? KIIIA: Really it’s cuz I ran into Yoshi, random as hell, like she ain’t even from over here. She from a whole different state, she from Flint. It was crazy, we had no idea that each other existed. I first seen her in Watts at the T.D.E. Christmas, that’s where I seen her at but I still didn’t know her. A couple weeks later I had met her and long story short she kinda brought me into the camp and everyone was really fucking with me for real so I stayed around. Universe stuff. Yeah, yeah, real Universe shit. I don’t know much of your life before Pakk Music Group but it sounds like it was a lot more lonelier. KIIIA: It was a lot more lonely, for sure. I was just bouncing around everywhere just trying to figure it out. Like just figure out life like what I’m going to do with my life or I’m not trying to live like this forever. But then I found music and I’m like, “okay, I think I can do something,” because the people who were around me at the time, anyone who was around me at any time they would tell me, “yo, you’re actually kinda good at this music stuff, keep going.” And I just kept going. We’ve all been through things. I’ve been through a lot of weird things in my life. Seen a lot of weird shit. Done a lot of weird things. But still, things are still active here. Still things haven’t changed, we’re not on some famous rappers, yet. It’s still the come up, so things still go down, things still happen and we still gotta do what we gotta do. But at the same time this music thing is still looking like it’s finna happen for us. It’s like part of our life project. Universe shit like you said, for real. KIIIA: There’s no other explanation. I don’t know how I got here but I’m here now. I know how that go. Who would you say are your influences? Musically or not, who influences you? KIIIA: It’s cool that we’re kinda tight knitted with the whole situation but T.D.E., for real. Like those times when I was listening to music, doing my own research stuff like that, T.D.E. was really them, the 4 horsemen, you already know who they are. Jay Rock, K.Dot, Q, Soul, like they’re really like the 4 horsemen. It’s just a whole different level over there with making music and they still show it to this day. You already know, they’re different and they run this shit too. Who else better to look at? I’m too young to have that whole Dr. Dre era and stuff like that, that’s not my era. My era is T.D.E. There ain’t a better group. KIIIA: There ain’t, but for sure pay homage to the greats who influenced them. Like Jay-Z, shit, Lil Wayne, Dre, Snoop, everybody, East Coast to like everybody. The list can go on and one, just really good music, stuff that really moves you, inspires and makes you think for real. It’s easy to think about pussy, money, weed all day, that’s too easy to me. I wanna think of something, I wanna figure something out and I feel like that comes with all that. Like that style of music and what they do. Quality, real quality shit. KIIIA: Quality, for real and really connect. Really just different as a whole, all around. Musically, instrumentation, just everything flows. Shit, everything. They definitely the blueprint to this shit. I feel that for sure. It’s crazy because most of the interviews I’ve done this far, I haven’t even done it a full year yet but a majority of people have mentioned T.D.E. or a member as their influences. Almost everybody references T.D.E. KIIIA: That’s how you know. Here’s the thing, I wanna be that but better. I wanna be that thing that’s better. I’m competitive in everything that I do. For sure, respectful and always pay homage but I’m trying to be better than everyone and I’m trying to have Pakk Music be better, I’m trying to have Pakk Music be the next T.D.E. That’s how we movin’. I can see that, for real. You have a lot of content from what you talk about and the way in and out of different topics. It’s real laid back but it’s also not laid back boring. You got a lot of stories to tell and I think that the stories you gotta tell are hella important. And then you got Python P on production, that’s real timeless shit. I’m excited to see what you do. KIIIA: Me too! I’m excited. It’s all the process but the process is fun tho. So far, what’s your proudest moment? KIIIA: I feel like the day P kinda told me to pull up to Interscope, Interscope Records. So the whole process of getting there and going up and passing security and just the whole thing. It was a cool ass experience. It’s mad artists and crazy people who are just way older than me that’s been struggling to get up because that’s where you go and when you get up there. I was able to just stroll in there, pants saggin’ just like high as hell just on some cool shit. That’s the first time I met Soul so it was cool to be walking around and Soul just come out the studio. “Ayy, what’s up” and dap it up and whatever and just being able to fit into that type of studio environment and feel what it’s like. P kinda showed me what the future could look like if we keep going. That was kinda early on too and I think that’s dope as hell. You know, you get up there and the elevator open and you go through the hall and you just see paintings of all the greats and stuff. Just being at the very top of the building and just seeing the whole crazy view and stuff. It’s like, “man, the greats that I listen to they be working up here.” It show you a different perspective of life and how it can get. For sure, that’s one of my proudest moments besides me making a hard ass record and I’m like, “wooo, I can’t believe I just did this right now.” I’m forever grateful for that and my family in this music thing. I know that shit felt amazing, I already know. KIIIA: It did, I walked in there and the employees already knew my name and stuff like I’m already in the system and stuff like that. I popped up and they were like, “you Kiiia?” and I’m like, “what, how y’all know my name?” It was cool, it was for sure an experience. That’s alignment, real alignment. KIIIA: And it was the day after my birthday. So, Nip passed on my birthday, on my 21st birthday. The day after I was at The Marathon and just paying homage or whatever, I lit a blunt and all that for him and stuff. Then I get a call from P and he was like, “ayy, pull up.” When I went up there, while I was up there I was still in a weird mindset because there were just a bunch of things going on and I was being all mopey and stuff and just feeling like shit was weird. It was my birthday and it wasn't feeling like it was and then that happened. It seems like everything is moving fast for you. Not too fast but swiftly. KIIIA: I feel you, it’s moving fast enough. It makes me feel like I’m ahead in a lot of ways and people in the game. For me, these things happen so naturally. I don’t even push for it to happen, it’s the Universe, it just happens like that and I just accept it and it just confirms for me and makes me feel better about the situation like, “I’m really supposed to be doing this.” I’d be a fool if I stopped doing it and stopped taking it seriously. A fool would be an understatement. KIIIA: Yeah, for real. Because you know, I’m over here listening to music before getting into rap and then the homies start telling me, “oh you sound like so and so or you sound like Soul, like you’re part of T.D.E. or something.” Just stupid jokes and shit. Then not even too long down the line all these things kinda appear infront of me and I start getting in the mix of all these things. You know how many people do music on this planet? You know what I mean, I know so many people that make music and rap and stuff like that. Especially in L.A. KIIIA: Yeah, just even in L.A. and they’re not in the situations that I’m in or that Yoshi’s in, you know. We really chosen out here on some chosen shit. I feel it, and just like how you were saying earlier that y’all don’t have to be all over social media. KIIIA: Right, and at least for me I wasn’t on it before this music stuff. I’m just learning how to post pictures and how to get pictures taken and post ‘em and then put out content and stuff. I’m still not that good at it but it’s part of the whole process. So, you didn’t have no social media at all? KIIIA: I didn’t, I wasn’t messing with it. I don’t know if you’ve seen but not too long ago I wasn’t following nobody. I followed 0 people and some people were like, “oh, you think you’re cool?” and I was just like, “nah, I didn’t feel like seeing what people doing all day,” it just distract me from I’m supposed to be doing. I’m just that type of person. I’ll get distracted and start scrolling and looking and then I’m like, “why do I even care that this person is making pancakes at 7AM?” They about to eat their dinner and shit, I don’t give a damn. It’s weird, it’s a distraction to me but gotta have it though, it’s part of the music thing. I feel that, on my personal Instagram I don’t have very many posts because I feel similar about it. A lot of times when I use social media it’s people’s thoughts intruding my own thoughts. I want the space and peace for just what is going on in my head. I ain’t got time to worry about all that other shit. KIIIA: Exactly, it’s just like corruption. You see how it is when you just be chillin’ and having your own thoughts and going about your own day - things really go good, it moves different. I don’t know if you’re into psychedelics and shrooms and acid and all that. I ain’t tried ‘em yet but I’m on my way there. KIIIA: Aight, aight, well when it happens is when it’s supposed to happen. Don't force it, for sure, for example when you’re on things like that you really see how the world really is. You really see what is alive and what’s really dead. You’ll see things like your phone and social media and you just don’t even wanna look at it because it give off a weird vibe, like an evil vibe. You kinda just put it away and just stick to the real world and the nature and the plants and the animals, the people. The shit that really matters that you should be focusing one. More confirmation that we ain’t really crazy and why we really don’t like the social media shit and why it’s not connecting with our soul because it’s not real. It’s another part of the system of trying to keep us down and all that. Truly is, you really have to use it as a tool and that’s it. KIIIA: For real, that’s a fact because look how we doing this interview right now and talking about having this good conversation and it’s because of social media, it’s through social media. So, it’s not bad fully, there’s still good things that come out of it. It’s still part of the agenda but because people like us don’t give a fuck about the agenda we use it as a tool for a good purpose. Get what you can outta of it, for real. KIIIA: It’s like money and stuff. Money is a weird thing but it’s useful at many times. Where you see yourself in the next 5 years? KIIIA: Man, hopefully in a big ass house. A big ass house and the whole world know who I am and I’m still movin’ how I’m movin’ and I’m still, I’m not bougie and stuff like that, I’m still humble and grateful and still really making music for real and still trying to change people’s perspective. Keep it pushin’, comfortably. That sound beautiful, for real. KIIIA: I’m gonna be comfortable out here but not too comfortable. A balance. KIIIA: Balance, yin yang. ALL PHOTOS BY: MPVINNY300 KIIIA's Music: https://songwhip.com/kiiia/no-hooks
- thaJoint (Joey Golden x JohnNY UniteUs) - Garfield Park
photo: khid.jpg The New York Hip Hop duo thaJoint (Joey Golden x JohnNY UniteUs) deliver their recent EP, Garfield Park. The EP is solely produced by Flipper James, has one feature from JMNOP and mixed&mastered by thaJoint's very own Joey Golden. Hip Hop at it's essence will always lead you to different places, spaces, people and things that will enlighten you and confirm your alignment in various ways. For me, Garfield Park is one of those things. At first click of the intro track, "To The Moon" you hear this higher pitched and sped up Phyllis Hyman that hits the soul instantly. The Phyliis Hyman vocals are from Pharoah Sanders song, "As You Are" and if you know the record you know how gorgeous her vocals are. I had heard the song previously in life and was attracted to it then but never caught the name to listen again. Since spinnin' Garfield Park a few times I was lead to listen to the Pharoah Sanders' album Love Will Find a Way that "As You Are" is from. The second thing about Garfield Park is the craft and poetics of both Joey Golden and JohnNY UniteUs. At any point of any song there is a quotable line that offers some sort of positive thinking and brighter outlook on life. One of my favorite lines that resonated with me by JohnNY UniteUs is off the song, "To The Moon," "The work continue, never stop but that's an after thought/ transform into beast mode, watch me anamorph." It's the truth in the line of being of an independent creator but also the work that pertains to one's soul and character (which truly go hand in hand.) Another line I found profound was by Joey Golden off the song, "Heat Check," "I got soul and still following reason/ due to my 3 eyes & hiiigher powers I'm still top dog in my region." Amazing play on words and double meanings. Ab-Soul/soul, Reason/reason, Hiiipower, Top Dawg Ent/top dog. Best TDE reference I've heard. Both of these lines are just barely a peek into the word play and craft of thaJoint. Be sure to tap in with Garfield Park and their previous work as well! https://www.thajoint.com/
- The Waiting List x Graham Malice x capshun x P$O Kwama - 214 To Your City
Dallas (LA & BK) artists The Waiting List (Graham Malice x capshun) and P$O Kwama release their collaborative dedication to their city, 214 To Your City EP. The EP is a succinct project with a variety of sounds and flows that is very fitting for a kick back, turn up or cruisin' thru the city. The songs, "Distance" and "Change Your Life" are the 2 that stood out the most due to their smooth melodies of their hooks/choruses - Yellow Jones assists on "Change Your Life," but there aren't any skips! Be sure to tap in with this one!
- Van Buren Records - Bad for Press
Brockton, MA Hip Hop collective Van Buren Records drops off their undeniable underground yet gritty glamourous album, Bad for Press. The album's energy is raw, dope and innovative art in the form of Hip Hop. The 11 member collective consists of: Luke Bar$, SAINT LYOR, Jiles, Lord Felix, Meech, Andrew Regis, Ricky Felix Kiron, RLouie, Mo, and Shelby. The best thing about Bad for Press is each member bringing their own skills and distinctive sounds that complement the group as a whole. With Lord Felix you get this raspy, lower voice that at moments where I can hear it on a Reggae track or Drill track, then Meech who has this lit, hype and he stylin' type flow, Andrew Regis delivers a slower and deeper tone that I could also hear on a Trap track, SAINT LYOR's tone is real rare and chill but he's still coming with fire, Luke Bar$ has a higher pitch tone but it's really jiggy and melodic and you know Ricky Felix & Kiron coming with the versatile and multi-faceted production. It was similar to a domino effect when finding, Bad for Press by Van Buren Records - I stumbled across Jiles' project, It's Not Much, but It's Mine in July 2020. Automatically I was drawn to his deep, raspy and lowkey commanding voice, lyrical content and production. Few months later Jiles RTs, High End Theory by Ricky Felix - and again, blown away and refreshed by his sound and where I become a little more familiar with Luke Bar$. Few more months later they both show support to Meech's, Barriers of Knowing which ended up being featured in Issue 3, Vol. 1. Even after listening to all 3 projects I had no idea that they were all part of a collective nonetheless, the same one. There's something to be said about "group economics" in the sense of pure resources instead of just money focused. Their support for one another's journeys, their collective journey and their own individual journeys is rare and really inspiring to witness. Truly, that's what Bad for Press very much feels like - a group of individuals with their own distinctive individual voices and thoughts that are phenomenal alone and phenomenal when they all collab too. From jump, I was drawn to the album purely off the cover art which gives a DIY, punk. innovative art type shit. A group picture that's off-center with the collective's name in graffiti and text underneath that's representative of "who" Van Buren Records is and their perception of the collective in media press form. "VB Interlude" is another place where you will see/hear the collective create their own press/media through a staged interview with Ricky Felix. I found this aspect brilliant, especially for the time we're in where you can really create your own narrative digitally instead of relying on mainstream or corporate media to do it for you. The importance of telling your own story but also having control of questions/answers and the ways in which it is presented. I believe once Bad for Press is circulated more it will become a major influence in how independent artists continue to create ways to tell their stories and present their art in THEIR way. Be sure to check out the album - Van Buren Records is a force of innovation. https://www.vanburenrecords.com/
- Huey Briss - Grace Park Legend
https://www.brissdontmiss.com/ Simply put, Grace Park Legend by Long Beach native, Huey Briss is a masterpiece - true 1of1. It is a soulful, positive, laid-back and ambitious storytelling in poetic form. The way in which Huey Briss crafts his stories allows the listener to feel as though they are riding backseat listening and visualizing his stories and where he is from. Lyrics that switch from lessons, growth, elevation and celebration of wins. The array of content across Grace Park Legend makes it pretty difficult to choose a favorite song. The intro to the album, "Grace Park Legend (Norfside)" has an amazing sample that adds to the geographical context of Huey Briss. There's two interludes/instrumental tracks, "Courtney's Garage," "Tears Of A Clown (Argiato)" and "Pokemon Cards," which Huey did 2 freestyles visually for promo. AND There are also songs like, "Huey Briss Is Happy" that highlights Huey Briss' positive mind frame, mental state and no need for anyone outside of himself, family and friends. It's refreshing to hear the way in which Huey expresses his happiness in this track. Real self-love. It's not a matter of "look at what I got"/braggadocios bars but reflective happiness of personal growth and where he's at in his journey. "To be yourself is to free yourself, happy that I need no one else/ I keep my distance from these fools, roll one up and keep my cool." Then there are songs like, "All Right" and "Lasers" that reflective on challenges but certain and confident in the fact that things will elevate in a positive way. Especially the outro on "All Right" aids in the notion that your challenges are specific for your path, accept them and grow from them. Towards the end of Grace Park Legend Huey delivers songs like, "Helicopter Pads" and "Orange" that hold space for celebration of the present and growth but also a starting place for what more is to come. Whenever I'm not spinnin' the album, I'm thinking about it and especially the lyrics, "Now we got helicopter pads at the top of the cribs/ niggas gettin' mad because I talk what I live, I'm just gettin' money bro, it is what it is" The entire album is produced by Inland Empire artist Nikobeats who also produced Huey's first album, Black Wax. Grace Park Legend has appearances from Reuben Vincent and fellow Long Beach artists Seafood Sam and A. Lynn. If ya ain't heard it yet it is well worth your time & more. Writing & production are impeccable.