Even though you say the depression, drinking, and struggling inspired the album, would you say it’s an overcoming triumphant piece that’s relatable to those going through similar situations? Did writing this album help you conquer your feelings?
I wouldn’t say it’s triumphant. It’s a very bleak album that captured a time in my life that in all honesty I was anything but optimistic. I didn’t plan on making an album that had a happy ending. From start to finish it’s consistently melancholy. But there are glimmers of hope in my opinion. I think initial spins might leave listeners feeling pretty depressed. But I think with continued listens people will find its more dynamic than just depressing songs. It’s the blues. It’s like a Bukowski novel.
And beyond all that, I think that people who deal with the types of things I’m talking about — depression, anxiety about adulthood, substance abuse issues, money problems, relationship troubles — can find solace in a record like this knowing that someone else deals with the same shit. I don’t think it’s necessary for something to have a positive ending or triumphant overcoming for it to make people feel better about what they’re going through.
Makes sense. How was it shooting the video for “Rap Game Cranky”?
It was fun. Jay Brown, the director of the video, really just got to shoot me getting drunk and ordering pizza. He had a few beers, we ate some pizza. It was a good time. I had some people worried about me after the video came out which I guess I understood but also felt like, I thought it was pretty clearly exaggerated. I mean, I drank what I drank in the video and I was trashed but the point of it was to show isolated excess. Looking back I’m not sure it worked as well as I thought it would, but I definitely had fun shooting it.
I know you played saxophone growing up and you’ve produced some of your own music. What’s the different feel you get from rapping over your own beat than rapping over a beat from Oddisee, Duke Westlake, L’Orange, or Apollo Brown?
Well, it’s definitely different and it rarely happens that I produce a beat that I like. In fact, with a beat like “Look What This World Did to Us”, I totally recognize there’s wasn’t much as far as talent or technical skill. But my goal has always been feeling. The feeling that beat gives me is what matters. But there’s a couple other tracks on the record (“Rum & Coke” and “Smoke Rings”) that I produced that I really like. Usually I produce out of necessity. I want a particular sound or a particular feeling and if I can’t find it from someone else I try to do it on my own.
Personally I’d rather just rap over other people’s beats. I don’t consider myself a beat maker at all. When I get beats from someone else, it’s fresh to my ears. Working on a beat, it’s like cooking a meal. I know exactly what went into it. It’s not a bad thing, but getting a beat from someone else has a little more of a mystery of what it’ll sound like when I finally get to hear it. And actual producers are just flat out better than me.
From the tracklist on the pre-order it seems that there’s no features. It seems that in the hip-hop community it’s almost natural to have collaborators come in for a verse or two. What made you decide that you wanted to keep it to just yourself?
My writing in general is so personal, that for me I’m typically only interested in getting features when I really feel like another rapper can say something about a topic that I can’t. And when I’m writing about intimate details of my own life, it’s not likely they’ll be able to tell that better than me, at least I hope not. I love collaborations. But for this album in particular it just didn’t seem right. Conceptually from the start I planned on this album feeling like a novel. And keeping with that concept, authors (in literary writing) don’t typically have people come in and write guest chapters of their book, you know? I’m a fan of collaboration but this one just felt like it wasn’t necessary. The next couple will definitely have a couple features.
What comes next after this album finally drops?
Currently working a couple new projects for Mello Music Group. Hoping to hit the road in the US and overseas this year. Right now it’s just about keeping up the momentum. I’m excited for this new album, excited for people to hear it. And we’re going to make sure people do. But I’m always working.
Are these new projects solo projects? Ugly Heroes part 2? Are there any collaborations outside of Mello Music Group that you’re seeking or wish to one day make happen?
Currently just working on solo projects. I wouldn’t rule out an Ugly Heroes project though. I think all of us are interested in doing another one at some point. And there’s always collaborations I’d like to make happen. I’m a fan Kno, I’d love to get some production from him. I’m a huge fan of Blu. But in general I’m not big on features usually. I’ll definitely be trying to add some guest spots on the next couple of projects. And the production on the next two projects will definitely get people excited.
Do you have a specific goal you want to reach through your music?
My goal with music is just making relatable music that stays true to me. When I was a kid albums like Jay Z’s “The Blueprint”, Royce’s “Death is Certain”, Atmosphere’s “God Loves Ugly” any many others outside of hip hop played a huge role in my life. They got me through things and taught me about myself. That’s what I hope to give back to hip hop and the next generation of hip hop fans and creators. I definitely do it selfishly as a form of therapy, but there’s nothing better than getting fan feedback about my music meaning something in their life.
Pre-order Red Pill‘s Look What This World Did To Us now over at Mello Music Group’s website and be ready for it at midnight!