- How did you get started in music?
My obsession with Hip Hop started around 7th grade. I had always been talented at writing, but I never really did anything with it on my own time. Around freshman year of high school, I began writing lyrics. My first pieces were similar to slam poetry, and nearly all of them were about my teachers — the ones that I did not respect. I shared some of these “battle poems” with a few friends of mine. One girl really enjoyed them and encouraged me to keep doing it. Within a couple years, I started writing raps. They were mostly random, braggadocious punchlines, without any song structure or focus. I stopped writing for a couple of years while in college, but around 2008, I started going to a weekly freestyle cypher/jam session called Throwdown Thursday, which was hosted by a local DJ duo called Tracksploitation. Before that, I had never tried freestyling. I developed relationships with some of my closest friends, mentors and collaborators there. Around the same time, I got on stage for the first time at an open mic at a place called the Shadow Lounge. There was always a diverse array of inspiring artists at Shadow. I was terrified to get on stage, but I made myself do it. I performed a verse I had written that was refrigerator-themed. Surprisingly, the crowd was extremely supportive. From then on, I wrote and rehearsed songs to perform at the Shadow Lounge. I got in freestyle cyphers at Throwdown and performed at the open mic every week for a few years, until Shadow closed and Throwdown eventually stopped happening.
- At what point in your progress did you realize that you were good enough or could be good enough to do this?
Like I said before, the other artists and people at Shadow Lounge were very supportive. They were always encouraging me and giving me positive feedback. Ezra, a local spoken word artist who was the host at the time, also said that he enjoyed my performances. The support that I received from him and the rest of the community there gave me the confidence to pursue the craft more seriously.
- Who/what are some of your main non-musical influences? (movies,books,public figures, actors etc..)
In college, I studied fiction writing, so my writing is heavily influenced by what I learned in those courses: the process of revision, getting feedback from others, and creating stories within songs. Kurt Vonnegut was one of my favorite writers for a while, and Tarantino is one of my favorite filmmakers. I find their subversive, yet humorous style very compelling. I’m also a big Louis C.K. fan. The way that comedians use punchlines with calculated timing is closely related to emceeing.
- How do you feel their influence correlates to your music? And is their influences directly applicable to your music?
The process of revision that I practiced directly correlates to my songwriting. I edit my lyrics a lot. Sometimes I’ll go back and add words or take away ones that are unnecessary. All of my writing classes were workshops, and I always appreciated getting feedback from others about what they thought worked about the story and what they thought could work better. I usually share new songs with people who I know will give me honest and constructive feedback, and sometimes I’ll go back and change things based on what they say, unless I strongly disagree.
- What do you think music/art’s role is in the world and society and do you think it is fulfilling it’s purpose currently?
Music and art serve multiple roles: entertainment, diversion from the mundane and inspiration are the main ones that come to mind. Hacks always exist, but I feel like that role is always being fulfilled by artists who push the boundaries and consistently create powerful work, regardless of whether the majority is paying attention to it or not.
- If you had to do one other art form besides music what would it be and why? And do you have any plans to ever implement this art form to your music if possible?
The cat’s already out of the bag. I’d definitely be writing. That could be writing stories, screenplays, etc., or it could be blogging and promoting. It’s much easier to promote your own art and music with the internet and social media now, and I often enjoy doing that. Sometimes it does feel like a distraction, but I’ve realized that I have to promote my own music and events, because I can’t afford to pay someone else to do it, yet. I make a strong effort to promote other local artists as well.
- Is there such thing as “bad” music?
The short answer is… yes. The long answer is complicated. Some music is more about the vibe (e.g. having fun) and less about the message. I get that, but I feel like there’s a way to make that kind of music, and it can still have value musically or emotionally. On the other hand, I feel like there is a lot of music that is poorly produced, uncreative, unauthentic, poorly mixed, and can actually be a bad influence on young people, if it’s not balanced with a wider perspective. Music is definitely subjective, so what I call “wack” may sound like a masterpiece to another person. However, I do feel like artists should have some respect for the craft of being a musician/songwriter, and whatever kind of music they choose to make, they should try to make it as good as they can. I also feel like every person is unique and embodies their own character and story. Being an artist allows you to express that, and if you are just recycling instead of exploring and uncovering anything new, then you are wasting your potential.
- If you had free reign to do what you wanted and complete creative control what would you do artistically? (if you could put on a certain stage show, film a documentary, perform at the super bowl etc..)
I want to tour other countries. From what I’ve heard, many other countries have a greater appreciation for “real” Hip Hop (*cringe) and creativity than we do in the U.S. I also just want to travel to other countries, because I haven’t done that yet. As far as an elaborate stage show, I’ve had this idea to create some sort of performance that incorporated elements of the theatre for a while. I also host and direct a monthly, open freestyle cypher called Track Meet. We’ve been experimenting with different formats, so I would probably go crazy with that if I had enough funding and the perfect space to hold the event. Dancers, live musicians, producers, DJs, visual artists… you get the idea. One huge, all-inclusive cypher/jam session — that would be dope.
- Where do you see your career going and what goals do you hope to attain?
Finish my first two projects! I have a group project that is close to being finished, and then my solo album is on the way after that. In the next few years, I’d like to tour nationally and overseas, and really just find a way to make my lifestyle as a musician and event organizer sustainable. I want to take Track Meet to other cities and expand that network. I’m also a teacher, so I’d like to participate in or develop some Hip Hop education programming. Right now, my focus is on finishing these first two projects and continuing to develop Track Meet. We’ve been doing it for almost a year now, and it’s been growing. I’m not concerned with accumulating a massive fortune, but I want to be able to thrive as an artist and continue to grow, without having to constantly be concerned with how I’m going to pay my bills.
- Final thoughts? (also what can fans look forward to and where can they find you and your music.)
I feel like I’ve already said a lot. It’s taken me a long time to get to the point that I’m at now. Sometimes I feel like I’m playing catch-up, because I’m already 28 years old and haven’t released an official project yet. However, I know that my experiences have led me to where I am now, and I am extremely grateful for what I’ve learned so far. I spent the majority of my life being unsure about what I wanted to do, lacking confidence, and not applying my talents wholeheartedly. I’ve been getting better at those things gradually, and I made a strong commitment at the beginning of this year to go as hard as I can. (cue inspirational music) I know that this is something that I am supposed to be doing, and I’m not going to give or let up. If things don’t pan out quite as well as I want them to, I can at least say that I did everything that I could to make it happen.
I’m ½ of the group LEFTFIELD, alongside producer DOC LVLY. We recently released our first music video for a song called “Support Real Pizza.” I wrote it as a joke, but when we reviewed it, we decided it was actually pretty dope, so we decided to run with it. Then a friend of ours offered to help us do a video, and he did a great job on it:
LEFTFIELD (Reason & DOC LVLY) – Support Real Pizza:
We want to finish the LEFTFIELD project by the end of this summer. Hopefully that happens. We’re part of a Hip Hop collective called Surface Level Records:
Surface Level Records:
LEFTFIELD (Reason & DOC LVLY):
The Reason solo album will be released near the beginning of 2017
We hold our cypher events once a month, typically, and Scripted Minds Media films most of them. You can check some our videos on our YouTube channel, and if we come to your city, you can come out and get in the cypher!