For many years, Boston rap was seen merely as a lower-quality little brother of larger nearby cities such as New York. Without the innovative talents or industry infrastructure to make a legitimate push out of this shadow, Boston soon fell behind, failing to become recognized as a hot spot for hip-hop talents. That is, until just recently.
Throughout the past 6 years or so, new artists, new styles, and new sounds have brought Boston back into the conversation that the city once dreamed of entering. With numerous local artists now making waves far beyond their hometown, the city is experiencing a hip-hop resurgence, full of refreshing talent and up-trending stocks on the heels of collaboration and local support. Boston is working tirelessly to push itself out of this “crabs in a bucket” mentality, all the while refusing to let the city’s history define the ceilings of future success.
With this in mind, today marks a noteworthy occasion in the history of Boston hip-hop, as Cousin Stizz just became the Boston Music Awards’ first ever hip-hop act to win the committee’s highest honor, “Artist of the Year.”
That said, it’s important to note just how prolific the continuous hope for local support outside of those directly involved with the hip-hop community has been throughout this recent hip-hop resurgence. To see Dorchester’s own bring home cement proof of recognition from a city notorious for its relatively poor history in the hip-hop genre is nothing less than monumental, and deservedly so. If not anything else, this moment should act as a reminder that the only limitations for the success of Boston hip-hop are those that the community imposes on itself.
From narrating Celtics commercials to soundtracking Tom Brady’s Instagram videos and winning the most esteemed BMA, Stizz sees far beyond what’s in the way of his success and chooses to focus on the wins that lie past his obstacles. Let this be a lesson for us all.
Thanks, Stizz. And congratulations on a hard-earned win.
As you may have noticed throughout the past few weeks, Graduation Music’s latest venture is a weekly playlist series entitled Study Abroad. Featuring 12 songs by artists beyond the borders of Massachusetts that we’ve been listening to, the aim of this series is to shed light on music from all over the country, expanding our reach and also hipping our readers to the artists that we believe are up next.
Click play on edition #12 of Study Abroad below and peep the tracklist under the link!
From “Guitar Grunge” back in July to “Snake In My Boot” last month and most recently, “Henny Sippa“, 2018 has been a monumental year for Donald Grunge. One release after another, he’s been honing in on his craft, and as a result, we’ve seen some of his most creatively ambitious releases to date in recent months. Needless to say, Grunge is on a win streak right now, and today, he takes all of this energy and puts it toward the release of his long-awaited, highly-anticipated new project, CowboyTalk.
Taking on a Western theme, this tape is eccentric from the cover art all the way to the final seconds of its last song. Grunge pours his heart out into 7 highly-passionate, energetic cuts, leaving it all on the court as he puts forth a noticeably refined version of the “on my own terms” artistry that we’ve grown to love over the years. With production at the hands of local talents including Mike Hector, David Walker, JORD4NEVERDIED, Chris Tophr, Jonny Doobs, Maka, and Humbeats, CowboyTalk picked on a dream team of names to make up its roster, and without a doubt, it paid off. Donald Grunge is here, and he’s here to stay.
YOUNGFACE is an artist best defined by his wide palette of sonic abilities. Whether orchestrating energy by way of hard-nosed deliveries and trunk-rattling production or looking toward a more cathartic direction with a heart-led, acoustic offering, the Massachusetts representative can do it all.
But these talents range far beyond just the diversity showcased in his musical catalog. Whether it be through visuals or in live performance, YOUNGFACE is paving his own lane, one fan at a time, all without compromising the quality or authenticity of his output. He’s charismatic and light-hearted in demeanor yet obsessive when working on his craft, and as a result, this budding act is on his way toward notoriety far beyond his home state of Massachusetts.
He exemplifies versatility in a way that few artists are able to achieve, and by working tirelessly toward his goals and constantly challenging his creative ambitions, it should come as no surprise that 2018 has a been quite the prosperous year for YOUNGFACE.
In order to better understand such a captivating talent, we here at Graduation Music spoke to YOUNGFACE about his upbringing, creative process, ideal first date, and much, much more. Read the full conversation below.
To start off, where are you originally from? What was your childhood like and how did music play a part in your life growing up?
I’m from Woburn, MA. It’s a small city outside Boston. I had a solid childhood. When I was younger, I lived pretty comfortably. My mom and dad were together for a good part of my childhood and had jobs, so we could go out to restaurants, go to the movies, and things like that. It wasn’t until later on when I was 12 or so that things got iffy and I was feeling the effects of being a lil broke boi.
My mom had a car accident when I was 9 and got a TBI (traumatic brain injury), and the next 4 years were just one thing after another. She got diagnosed with breast cancer, lost her mom, got separated for my dad, and some other shit. She handled it so well though — I’ve learned a ton from her. She managed her money well so we never went homeless or anything, but we definitely started budgeting hard and got on food stamps and all that.
When that shit was going down, I had to find hobbies that didn’t require much cause my mom had a ton on her plate. So, I skated a lot and learned to play the guitar. I used to write a bunch of songs that were just rearranged chords from Green Day songs because that was all I knew how to play. When I got older, I started riding BMX and I’d always be listening to music through earbuds. Dubstep was the wave around that time and the BMX kids were always posting new songs on FaceBook, so I started to fuck with it heavy. It was super high energy, and as someone who initially liked older punk stuff, I got drawn in. Soon, I started messing around on FL studio and that was when I started producing. I got chubby as hell because every day I’d get Dunks, come home, and sit on Fruity Loops for like, 5 hours making super ass EDM stuff. It paid off, though, because now I’m nice with the mixing.
You also used to be in a band, right? What’s the story there?
Yeah, I had always wanted to be in a band since I was a kid. In 3rd grade, I’d always try and get my friends to learn instruments so we could get that shit going but it’s hard to get people on your wave. Once I got to college, I tried to start something up with some musicians around here, and I got a lil band going.
We did a few shows, but in doing so, I realized that I don’t really work well with others. I like my art to be a certain way and I don’t really budge on it too often, lol. I take shit way seriously, too. I mean, I’m always having fun when I’m making music, but when someone starts to impede on my shit, I definitely get annoyed. That’s why I barely collaborate with anyone. Not cause I don’t like their music or whatever, I just need everything to be legit.
One aspect of your music that has especially stuck out to me has been its ability to evoke very strong emotion. What is your creative process like when writing songs?
My creative process is all over the place. I don’t really have a set way of working on stuff. Sometimes a dope record will come together in 20 minutes, and sometimes I hold songs for a year before I can get it right; it depends on how I’m feeling.
This year I was in a super low point in my life and I became very detached from everything, so I started to hate myself for a while — definitely the wrong move. I ended up losing a ton of weight and I didn’t really sleep at all. But, I was able to write, especially at like 3AM when the world is completely silent — going on walks at that time can put you into a weird state of mind where you observe everything more and think more. I don’t know if it’s the sleep deprivation or the silence, but it gets you thinking differently. When you go back to write, you have a bunch to work off of.
Do you make a conscious effort to expand your versatility and make songs out of your comfort zone? Or does the heavy variance in your catalog come naturally based on whatever you’re feeling?
It’s definitely based on what I’m feeling. Everyone who tries to help guide me in the music world is like, “ok try to focus in on your sound,” which is definitely good advice, but I can’t. I’ve never been able to. I’m just not a focused person. If something is dope and I want to put it out, it’s probably going out. I love making turn up music, but if I have bars to throw around, I’m going to do it. There are definitely records that made me tap into darker parts that mean a lot to me, though.
Where do you want to be in five years?
In my bag.
As an artist, do you think about the future ahead often? Or are you more of a “one day at a time” kind of person?
Definitely a future person, but I’m trying to change that. It causes way too much anxiety and depression for me. My head is almost always elsewhere, dwelling on the past or thinking too much about the future. Nowadays, I’ve been better. But from a creative standpoint, I want to put out so many projects and I’m always scheming and plotting. I have a ton of records that I don’t know when will see the light of day or what the best way to release them will be, but Imma figure it out. It’s good to have a plan, but sometimes, like with “Jump In The Beam”, I just decide to put it out.
What has been your proudest moment as an artist so far?
My proudest moments are probably anytime someone shares what I’m doing. I’ve been making music in some way or another for my whole life practically, and this is the first time anything is kind of coming from it. I’ve never had labels reach out to me before, I’ve never had articles written about me, or anything even similar to that. To see people I’ve never met, as well as all my friends, sharing my stuff is the fucking craziest feeling. It’s so rewarding. I’m grateful, for real. It’s nuts to think I even have one fan.
What is one thing about YOUNGFACE that all fans, both new and old, need to know?
I could live off of burritos my whole life and I don’t think I’d ever get sick of them.
What does your dream first date look like?
Not sure, really. The last first date I went on, I took a girl to get burritos then went to the beach. It was pretty late, and maybe an hour in, this older couple was aggressively making out with their feet in the water in the distance. This really set the mood for me to kiss the girl. Then, when I looked back, the older man was getting some ignorant slop. I didn’t have the same luck. Sometimes old people have all the fun.
Lastly, what can fans expect from YOUNGFACE in the near future?
2018 has been a monumental year in the career of Cambridge native, Millyz. From flamethrowing verses and freestyles to movie-like visuals, he’s been outworking everybody in his way for the past 12 months, and now, as the year starts to come to its end, Millyz is making sure he delivers his final blows. Today, he’s back on Graduation Music with a brand new music video for the hard-nosed offering “Strawberry Goya”.
Playing upon one of his main strengths, this set of visuals translates Millyz’ unrivaled storytelling capabilities onto the screen without losing any soul in the process. “Strawberry Goya” tells it like it is, and scene by scene, the video follows, telling the story of a man more determined than ever to find his way in the world, against all odds.
Also notable, this release was premiered on WorldStarHipHop’s YouTube channel — a place where the stakes are high and people are more than ready to criticize. However, reading through the comments, Millyz has gained the respect and approval of such a tough audience to please with pure talent and heart. I guess that’s the Cambridge way.
Watch “Strawberry Goya” at the link provided below!
Throughout recent weeks, Massachusetts-based artist MyCompiledThoughts has been posting new music as part of an ongoing series which he calls “thought bubbles”. Each release presents a new range of emotion in both sound and lyricism, and considering the diversity that we’ve seen from Thoughts in just 3 entries of the series so far, it goes without saying that this is a fantastic way for him to show off his talents. Emotion is the fuel for his music, so why not direct this energy into a cohesive, continuous series that fans can latch onto, week after week?
Today, we receive the latest from the “thought bubble” series — a single called “Mesmerized”. Supported by a bed of lush instrumentation, this track stares into the soul of Thoughts’ lover, offering insight into the depth of the connection that he feels in the illustrated moment. It’s remarkably vivid, and considering the way that the vocals seemingly glide over the instrumental, Thoughts appears to be a dreamer in a world of his own.
“Mesmerized” is a fantastic addition to a well-executed series so far, so check it out below and be on the lookout for more “thought bubbles” coming soon!
Boston is a city majorly defined by its success in sports. Surely, this reputation is not without merit, as years and years of championships and dynasties are sure to do this to one’s identity. But in 2018, during a time of flourishing art communities and more than enough creativity coming out of Boston, it’s time that a connection is bridged between these two worlds, allowing the city to prosper as a whole rather than in just one area of entertainment.
Here to accept this challenge is Sean Milliken of IV Boston. By presenting the city’s lesser-known history (by this, I mean the figures outside of your Tom Bradys and Larry Birds) in the context of fashion, Sean has been tirelessly working to pay tribute to the numerous legends that have made their mark in the city’s history over the years.
His latest act — the first ever IV Boston commercial, equipped equally with scenes of Boston sports culture as it is with Boston arts culture.
Originally aired during the Celtics vs. Cavaliers game on November 30th, this commercial offers cement proof of bridging the aforementioned gap that so many have worked toward bridging over the years. Milliken and his IV Boston team are on the cutting edge of bringing their city’s abundant talent together, and as a witness of this history, we couldn’t be more proud.
We spoke to Milliken about the commercial and the direction of his brand in a brief interview. Read the conversation below.
When did the idea for this commercial come about? How were you able to get so many important figures from the city involved?
I had the idea for the commercial since I started the brand — it’s something I envisioned since the beginning. I still have the notes in my phone dated back to March 4, 2016. Fast forward to this past April/May, I reached out to my friend Gilad (Shadow Lion) who does video work asking him if he would be interested in doing some video/mini-docs for the throwback jerseys I was releasing over the summer. He was down and wanted to get involved. A couple days passed and I was planning the shoot for the Patrick Ewing CRLS throwback kit with Millyz and Patrick’s nephew, Terrance, when Gilad called me. He said he was talking with Tom Brady, whom he shoots a lot of content for, about the brand and said, “we want to make this a bigger thing and shoot a commercial”. As soon as I heard Gilad say those words I was off and running with the idea I always had for a commercial.
We had the camera and crew available for a couple days in May, so I hit up some friends and tried to work out a schedule for the two days we had the equipment, all while knocking out the Ewing stuff, as well. We shot a few more times in the following months when we were able to get everything together at once.
Shoutout to everyone who was involved, it means a lot. And big thanks to Chris Herren for doing the voice over.
How does this commercial communicate the vision of IV Boston?
I feel like Boston has always had this divide between sports and the arts. We have the best sports teams/athletes in the world and it has always baffled me why no one in these high positions, or positions of influence in the city, have ever combined the two or made a connection for local artists with some of the high profile athletes. I’m happy to see it starting to get better, with Stizz voicing Celtics commercials and things like that. I want to see more of that.
So yea, the vision is showing [Jefe] Replay in Dudley alongside Charlie McAvoy taking slap shots, if that makes sense.
I imagine this commercial has to be a dream come true for you, in some ways. Explain the feeling of watching your commercial play during the Celtics game on live TV and what it meant for you.
It’s crazy, very humbling. Wouldn’t have been possible without Gilad, everyone involved, and the people who support the brand and see what we are trying to do for the city.
Lastly, what can supporters expect from IV Boston in 2019?
The second collection of “Boston Legends” with the throwback kits. We’re releasing four kits in summer 19, telling that history, and giving the city more stories of the local legends while educating the youth on the basketball culture of Boston and Mass as a whole. Definitely some special things in the works.