Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the “catalyst” for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
I’ve always had a passion for writing and poetry since I was a child, but music has spoken to my soul before reading or writing. Growing up, I didn’t have the confidence to be a musician because I didn’t know how to convey my life story in an exciting or relatable way. I thought my life was pretty mundane, significantly since I grew up in the suburbs with two parents; thematically, it’s a stark contrast to what was being popularized in mainstream hip-hop and rap at the time. This brings me to my time in middle school, where my friends and I would pass around a notebook writing different verses to songs and remixing them, or we would just come up with random freestyles. I learned how to write actual verses by imitating some of my favorite artists at the time, which was T.I., Lil Wayne, Ludacris, and A Tribe Called Quest. But, I remember vividly in 8th grade, a friend named Silas G. introduced me to the up-and-coming artist Drake. So Far Gone had just dropped, and he encouraged me to listen because it would help me find my way of writing and conveying my life experiences, even considering my background. From Drake, he would eventually introduce me to The Warm Up by J. Cole. Then I would go on my own to explore the new generation of artists focused on expressing internal introspection from a more modern perspective. Emotions are laid bare, and that’s the focus rather than conveying the endeavors and trials of living life in heavily populated, impoverished, urban areas. I recorded here and there in high school, but it wouldn’t be until 2015 when I decided that I wanted to make music a career.
Let’s get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
The craziest thing that’s happened in my music career so far, I think, is still to come, but I know a moment where I was honestly floored was when I released this song called Fast Life back in 2019. It was the first single from a project called Stronger Than Diamond, and I was extremely nervous about how my fanbase and audience would receive it. Upon the initial release, the numbers were minimal across streaming platforms, and I stopped checking them after the first week. I remember two to three weeks later, I came back from the Bay, and I was sitting down with my cousin talking about my discoveries in life, and the progress of the single Fast Life came up in conversation. I honestly didn’t know how the song was doing because I had stopped promoting it and everything, so my expectations were low, but when I checked the numbers, and saw that it had gotten like ten thousand plays and was still rising. Honestly, I was floored because I didn’t know what was going on, then later that week, my friend told me that one of her favorite fashion designers, Adriana Sahar, was playing my song on her Instagram story. So I reached out and thanked her for her support, and after conversing that week, she invited me to the grand opening of her boutique where a lot of fashion icons, models, actors, and actresses appeared, so that was pretty dope. All the while, the song is still climbing, and I think it did like thirty thousand streams in a month, which honestly left me speechless because nothing like that had ever happened before for me. I never figured out why my song started to go viral, but it showed me anything is possible and gave me hope for future releases.
What has been the high point of your music path?
In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve reached it yet, I’ve had some wins along the journey, but as far as a high point, I’m still in pursuit of that moment. The closest high point I could say is probably releasing this current project, To Live, To Love. And that’s due to seeing all the hard years of work finally unfolding and connecting with the people. But the crazy part is, I’m still experiencing this moment, and it hasn’t officially sunk in like “damn look at all the things we’ve done.” Maybe in the next six months, I’ll think differently, but as of right now, I’m more hungry than ever to reach the next level after this.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
There’s a couple of artists I would like to share the stage with, such as Burna Boy, Snoh Aalegra, and Terms, but I would look forward to performing with Drake or Sade. I feel like these two artists have had a significant impact on my approach to creating music, especially when using introspective emotion as the primary theme in my music. I’ve been to two Drake concerts before, and the way that every person in the stands was singing word for word while being captivated by the memories of the music they lived their lives to over the years was truly amazing. And I’ve only seen Sade perform through videos, but every time I watch her performances, it’s an enchanting experience. She has an energy and allure to her voice that’s haunting, almost as if you’re drowning in the richness of life, while getting lost in the lush, water-like production. So to share the stage with either of these legends would be a surreal moment and I know something beautiful would transpire from that moment that would stick with fans forever.
Pick one song that was your most significant challenge to write from this album, “To Live, To Love.” Tell us about it!
The most challenging song to write from the mixtape, I believe, was Crisis. I think it was difficult at first because I had to allow myself to be vulnerable and transparent about a situation I was currently experiencing in my life with someone I deeply loved. I was honestly confused about the direction I was taking with this person, and the only way I could find any peace of mind was by venting in the music. What makes Crisis different from the rest of the songs on To Live, To Love is that it’s got the tempo of a ballad, and even though I’m not the greatest singer, I understand harmonies and melodies. So finding a way to play to my strengths of rapping while blending in elements of singing together proved itself to be a challenging task at first, with the next step being how to convey this moment I’m experiencing in the song. Because the emotional background had already been painted, yet finding the words to match the intent was crucial because the lyrics can either make or break the record as a whole. Especially since during this mixtape, I wasn’t writing my lyrics down; I freestyled everything, which is mentally challenging in itself, yet I chose this method to make sure I didn’t overthink bars, and the emotion could come out as pure as possible. Out of all the songs that were on the project, this one took a full two days to make. I initially spent one night making the chorus and then coming up with the verses the next day. Once I found what I wanted to say, it was mainly about finding the vocal tones that showed range but practicality, so when I perform the song live, I can be comfortable, and nothing sounds forced. Out of every song from the project, I put a lot of thought into Crisis which is why it’s my favorite.
How do you best describe this newest project to a new fan who may be unfamiliar with your prior albums?
This whole project is about evolving as a human being. I sought to expand the conversation of how these two concepts exist in my own life and ended up trekking on a journey of healing. I was able to vent my frustrations about my life, heal with my loved ones, and manifest new life and Love within us all. Do I have it all figured out yet? No. But that’s not what this project is about; it’s about trusting in the process, your foundation, and your understanding that there is no limit to where you can take it in this lifetime. That even when the odds are stacked against you should never stop living or loving your life.
Where did you get the inspiration for this new album?
The inspiration from this project came from being surrounded by death, ironically. I lost a handful of loved ones that meant a lot to me during the creation of this project, and it inspired me to live fearlessly. Just like anybody else, I’m still caught in the mundane cycle of life and the challenges of trying to figure out my path in this world. Making this project was one big therapy session where I could decompress and gain clarity by allowing myself to be vulnerable in the music. Every song is inspired by what I was feeling or experiencing from 2019-2020. Stories of passion, pain and manifestation all exist within this project and what I think is beautiful about it is that you can hear the growth of me as a person in every single record. It’s a story of me overcoming myself to evolve into a refined version of who I’m truly meant to be.
What’s coming up in the future with this new album? Videos? Tours? Local Shows?
Right now, I don’t have plans for any future albums as of yet. I’m slowly getting back into the studio, and I’ve had conversations with my producer Myles Martin on where we should take the sound next; but right now, my focus is making sure To Live, To Love gets the proper attention it deserves. So I’ve been heavily focused on reaching out to media outlets, planning visual content, doing interviews, and plotting videos to drop from the project. I have an upcoming show for Payday LA on February 8th that I’m looking forward to because it’ll be the first time in a couple of years where I’ve performed. There’s To Live, To Love merchandise on its way soon, too, as well as a ton of interactive contests/giveaways that I plan to do.
What has been the most significant pinch-me moment in your career?
I don’t think I’ve had a pinch-me moment in my career yet. I’m not saying it can’t happen, but it takes a lot for me to be that stunned or shocked by something at this current stage.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part of being an artist is when you see that your craft is inspiring people. I believe that’s what I’m here on this planet to do, to teach and inspire, nothing more, nothing less. So when people reach out to me unprovoked and tell me how certain songs or the project, in general, was right on time because they had been going through hardships in their life, that to me is the most humbling gift. Because I’m creating music as a form of therapy, working through the knots in my life and my head by laying down my bare soul on records for the world to hear and see, making an impact in people’s lives is impressive. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the feeling of hearing how my art moved someone because that’s so powerful. But that shows that you never know who’s paying attention to you, so that type of motivation lies in my subconscious; it motivates and fuels me to keep going to turn my dreams into reality. I live to serve God and be limitless, and I pray that energy is contagious and moves a generation.
Do you feel living in Southern California has a particular influence on your sound and lyrics?
Being in Southern California has influenced my sound because living here is like being in a melting pot of culture. Southern California oozes people from different ethnic backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences that influenced my perception of the world.
What is YOUR favorite song off of this new project, and why?
Crisis is my favorite song off the project because I believe it captures both the themes of living and loving while displaying the duality of each concept. Crisis is a song about the struggles of wanting to be successful in your own life while holding onto a dying relationship. You want to bring that person along for your success, but life keeps bringing you apart from that person every time you move forward. You don’t want to lose them because of all the history you’ve shared, but you’re dealing with the pressures of choosing and putting yourself first. Being stuck in between these myriads of options has thus left you in a crisis.
You have a truly captivating life story which I’m sure has influenced your music. How do you define success, today and what do you attribute your current success to?
My definition of success at this current stage is based upon impact. My mentality isn’t focused on the numbers or riches because that will come in due time. But I’m dead set on how many lives we can change with the movement; everything else will fall in place as long as we keep the mission first. My life could change next week, but what about my support system and team? I’m not good till everyone around me is good. So I’m very adamant about making sure that anyone involved with me is winning in life in their way. There’s no such thing as stagnation or giving in because victory is always around the corner. I’m thankful to my team at nopolitics, my management ES Lamont & Austin “Paradise” White, and my assistant/publicist Lena Arriaga, who continue to invest energy daily. I’m a product of a village raising me, from my parents and family to my friends and loved ones; without them and many others, I wouldn’t be in this position that I’m in now, so I’m eternally grateful.
Tell us where fans can access your music?