Lil Nothin’ is the new collaborative project between Jymmy Kafka & producer/artist Rilla Force. Kafka – originally from Framingham, MA – grew up just a few apartments away from the building I was raised in. With Lil Nothin’, Jymmy provides a snapshot of his early years and what it was like growing up with a single mom in a low income neighborhood.
Where Lil Nothin’ stands out is through the combination of Kafka’s lyrics and flow paired alongside Rilla’s futuristic production style. The project has a really cohesive sound and aesthetic. Jymmy floats effortlessly over Rilla’s production giving listeners insight into his youth whilst still providing a glimpse into his life at this current point in time. Kafka and Rilla offer a clean, 8 track project with contributions from both Maka and Billy Dean Thomas on the project’s second track “Blood”.
Below peep a brief interview with Jymmy, courtesy of Graduation Music.
On “35a” you rap about the apartment that you were raised in – what is special about growing up in Framingham?
There really is something special about growing up in Framingham. Whenever I think about it my mind goes to diversity, and not like college brochure diversity, but being able to really feel like you’re exposed to a full variety of cultures. The culture in our neighborhood, Beaver/Second St. was one thing, there were so many people in a condensed area that all the cultures constantly overlapped. A memory I have, that I bet most people from our area share, was being out with your friends as a kid when someone says ”so and so’s” grandma is selling limber for 50¢ down the way, which was pretty much Puerto Rican Italian ice. I feel like I never knew whose grandmother was selling them but it was a staple. There was also a big Brazilian population and the Brazilian barbecue is a cultural phenomenon. If you found yourself at one, you were instantly part of the family and definitely going to leave over fed. Then, you have the north side where there are mansions if you go far enough. More of the white population was in the north side but there were still a wide variety of people in all economic standings. I feel like the friend groups I had looked like the Captain Planet cast at times and yet we didn’t really think about it being like that. There definitely were and are racist people in Framingham but I remember talking about and questioning the racial divide and essentially systemic oppression as a kid/ teenager with my white friends. It’s like we would gravitate to who we related to as people first and then realize that our society makes no sense and is fucked.
In this project you reflect a lot about your childhood and how you grew up. What’s some advice that you would give to your younger self?
I would say double down and focus on the things you know you want to do. Listen to your gut and not to people who think they know what’s best for you.
Making this tape exclusively with Rilla, what was the creative process like when it came to making Lil Nothin’?
This has actually been in the works for years. I originally wanted to call the project Disentanglements, after a chapter in this book I was reading about Edgar Allen Poe. Rilla and I made the song “Swoon” which actually took me a YEAR to write but was ultimately the catalyst of our extended collaborations. Throughout the time of writing swoon I was going through a lot of things, and feeling very wrapped up as a person. I ended up having these huge moments of self discovery and realizations that I was stifling myself and that it was okay to be exactly who I am regardless of what other people thought. We just kept pressing forward from there trying to make things that felt new and were different. Then the “SoundCloud rapper” wave hit, of which I feel I’m the antithesis, and it was honestly a little disheartening. Don’t get me wrong I definitely love a lot of the music that can be qualified into that bubble, but it felt like the shittier the music the more love and popularity it got. In a way I think this project was meant to come out in 2020.
“BLOOD”, is the only track on this tape with features on it. How did the contributions from Maka and Billy Dean Thomas come about?
They’re just the homies and really, cool talented people. My writing process was pretty weird and I’d only be able to get thoughts out if I was alone and separated from people. This song did come together in parts but the driving force was to try to shake off that barrier and be more open with creating. Rilla definitely helped me get past that in a lot of ways, and he’s the conduit for so many cool connections that don’t even involve us.
In the midst of COVID – 19 did you want to wait to put this project out? How have you been handling quarantine?
I was saying before that we’ve been kind of sitting on most of the project for a while, partially the perfectionist imp was holding me back from putting it out earlier. The one cool thing about quarantine was that it gave me a lot of time to slow down and reflect, and with that, the impetus to put it out strengthened. Then there’s this reawakening to racial injustice and police brutality which directly and indirectly is often referenced in this project, I felt like it was the right time for my voice to be heard.
Lastly, can we expect more from you and Rilla? What’s next?
I think it would be impossible for me to not collaborate with Rilla so we definitely have a lot more coming in the future. Hopefully live shows are a thing in the near future because that’s been a big part of our dynamic and we haven’t gotten to tour together yet, so that’s definitely in the works if nature doesn’t heal itself and get rid of the human race… just kidding… But you can expect a variety of things from us separately and together real soon.
Interview by Malakhai Pearson for Graduation Music
Wherever you find yourself in this current moment — close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Think about the moments in your life that have brought you tremendous amounts of joy and tranquility. Search for that peace that lies within you. Can you feel it yet? That overwhelming sensation of joy that seemingly seizes control of whatever negative emotion that surrounds you? It’s beautiful isn’t it? Let all of your problems and worries melt away. Even if you only close your eyes for five seconds, you’ll notice a tremendous amount of change in how you’re feeling.
This change in thought is what drives Plymouth’s Jack Karowak to make music. No matter who you are, or what you’re going through — we all need a break from the daily challenges that we endure throughout the course of our lives. The Myth of the Mechanical Universe serves as a sonic embodiment of this. Sitting at 9 songs and approximately 27 minutes in length, Jack Karowak’s latest release seeks to provide the listener with the motivation to be in full-control of their lives, and subsequently their destiny. Though this is only the second body of work to be released by Jack up through this point in time, it packs the depth of someone who’s had an incredibly long tenure in music.
I took some time to speak with the Plymouth native about what motivated The Myth of the Mechanical Universe, how Ricky Felix and Brad Feeney played a role in the project’s inception, and his path towards showcasing a free-range of emotion in his discography.
When starting your journey towards the creation of ‘The Myth of the Mechanical Universe’, what were some of your early goals with respect to how you envisioned this album?
Jack: Sonically, I wanted it to embody all the elements of music that I love the most. I wanted it to sound refreshing to the listener and provide an experience you wouldn’t really find on any other album. Another goal of mine was to show a side of me that wasn’t fully expressed in my first project. I wanted this one to really show the range in my music
What were some of your sources of inspiration when making this project?
Jack: I was listening to a lot of philosophical/spiritual lectures from Alan Watts, Ram Dass, Terrence McKenna, and Hunter Thompson. Musically, I was inspired by people like Lauryn Hill, Earl, John Mayer, and a lot of old blues and soul music. I also drew a lot of inspiration from horror movies, specifically A24.
There’s a long list of names attached with the creation of this album, however both Ricky Felix and Brad Feeney were staples throughout the entire project’s tracklist. How did they assist you in molding the sonic structure of ‘The Myth of the Mechanical Universe’?
Jack: This project wouldn’t exist without Ricky and Brad. I linked up with Ricky for the first time about a year ago, and right when he started playing me shit I knew our sounds would mix perfectly. Ricky is a great producer because he started off the session by asking questions, trying to get a clear picture of the idea in my head. He wanted to help me make my project, not *just* a project. Brad has been the homie, and my engineer, for about 4 years now. I recorded the both of my projects with him, slowly but surely finding my sound and figuring out how to execute ideas in the studio. I got nothing but love for that man, he’s been putting up with me calling his phone, waking him up for 9AM sessions every other day for the past 2.5 years hahaha
What’s music-making process typically like? Do you prefer any specific settings when writing?
Jack: Yeah I definitely like to be alone when I’m writing, I feel like the more people there are, the further my attention gets spread and pulled around. When I’m alone I can really settle into an idea and move freely inside that train of thought.
If you had to single out one song from this album as being your favorite, or the one that you want fans to listen to the most, which would you pick?
Jack: I’d have to say Playing in traffic. That song felt like it made itself. Writing it was very therapeutic and I had never articulated my feelings in lyrics so easily. It almost felt like I was singing along to it as I was writing it. Not to mention pfey laid down an incredible bass line on that track
Has it always been easy for you to pour your real life emotions and experiences into your music?
Jack: I think so because emotion has always been the thing that drew me to music. Regaurdless of the story I always looked for and admired authenticity in artists. Emotion is the thing that connects the artist and the listener and if your trying to cover up certain regions of your emotion then you cheat everyone involved
How would you say being from Plymouth, and Massachusetts in general, has effected you as a person, and subsequently the music you create?
Jack: I think it’s inspired me to just create the shit I’m into. Growing up in MA there wasn’t a huge music scene to look up to, so I pulled my inspirations from all over the place, their only consistency being that they resonated with me. Now the city is starting to get a little bigger on the map and it’s beautiful. There’s a big collaborative mentality, and one person’s success is celebrated by all. I think the main effect it had on me was teaching me to trust my ear.
What do you want your listeners to get from your musical catalog? What message do you want to relay on ‘The Myth of the Mechanical Universe’?
Jack: I hope the listeners get whatever they need, whether it’s just a three minute escape from their own head, or they end up walking away with new ideas about life. Listening to Ram Dass, I noticed that another person introducing new ways of thought provides you with the freedom to identify with it, and see yourself from a whole new perspective. The message behind TMOTMU, to put it simply, is don’t be Mechanical. Mechanical means you ain’t thinking about what your doing, you’re just bouncing around imaginary social structures and reacting to life as opposed to responding to it. You ain’t in the moment and using your full awareness. The Myth is that nature is the same way but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
What’s next for you?
Videos and merch otw ✌🏽
Listen to The Myth of The Mechanical Universe below:
Hailing from Western Massachusetts is Deadmall — an extraordinary duo composed of Gabe Gill and Honeyfitz that specializes in crafting starry eyed music that gracefully leaves the mind of the listener in perfect solace. While both Gabe and Honeyfitz are in possession of solo discographies, there’s something captivatingly unique about the music the pair have released alongside one another — with this sentiment only being reinforced on Deadmall’s latest project, Zach’s Mice, which was released this past Friday. To gain some more insight towards what went into the making of this project, I had a conversation with Deadmall where the duo touch upon the group’s origins, their transition to NYC, and how Western Massachusetts ties into their identity.
Shamus Hill:To start things off, I wanted to ask about what went into the making of ‘Zach’s Mice’. What were some of your early goals in terms of recording the project? And how did they change with time?
Honeyfitz: We made it mostly last Fall and it definitely didn’t feel like we were starting an album.
Gabe Gill: I think we started it kind of half-heartedly because we still had to finish up parts of Bunny Rabbit and the Deadmall 1 EP at the time, but I think we wanted it to be bigger sounding and more polished from the start. I don’t know what our first thoughts on the sound of it were.
Honeyfitz: We were just making songs — doing whatever felt like the next step sonically from Bunny Rabbit and DM1, but there was no big plan. I think it’s the album where our production is most synced up. We were making beats in a super collaborative way where its hard to tell who’s contributing what.
SH:I see where the both of you are coming from. This project in particular seems to combine a variety of sonic elements from the group’s prior releases, and the both of you also appear to be meshing sonically better than ever. Would you attribute this to anything in particular? Like was there something about living together in Hadley recording music that amplified things? Or would you say this is just the result of years of development alongside one another?
GG: I think definitely because this was the first project we made when we lived together, a little of both. But living in the same space made it so much easier to be in the same space mentally and kind of be taking in the same influences at the same time.
H: We made a lot more songs because we were together all of the time, whereas Bunny Rabbit we made essentially in a week in December 2017 when Gabe was living in Boston. There was this urgency to make those songs before Gabe went back to Boston. Zach’s Mice feels like we could take our time and execute the things we learned on the first project.
GG: But still, most of the songs were made in one session. I think it honestly wasn’t until after ZM that we’ve started working on songs for much longer. They still have some of that urgency just in that we both were writing really fast and just putting all of our ideas down.
SH:That makes a ton of sense because you can quite literally hear how in sync the both of you are throughout ZM. The bond the two of you have has really enabled your music to reach entirely different heights. While on the subject of Hadley, how would you say Western Massachusetts, and MA as a whole ties into who the both of you are? And subsequently how it ties into your music?
GG: Really deep! I think a lot of the initial Deadmall aesthetic and idea was really around trying to make music that was inspired by growing up in Western MA and the landscape, community, feeling, etc. of being from there. A lot of [our] music has this contrast between like really dense, dark passages that feel like a house party or something where you might be crushed with 200 kids in a basement & then there’s parts that feel like just driving or walking on the bike path or a field where everything feels really huge and empty and beautiful.
H: WMass is the best place! Both Gabe and I have been really integrated into WMass music scenes for a long time, and that’s always been super helpful in terms of always having models for bands and musicians making shit happen for themselves, but I think musically the stuff i make has always been as much in opposition to the people around me as it was influenced by them. It’s funny now to be surrounded by people who are making similar music to me, cause I’m really not used to it.
GG: Same, which is funny because I think the music scene in WMass is also equal parts more like our music and less like our music than it was when we were teens. Like there are people doing stuff with autotune and like emo/hip-hop adjacent stuff but we were more hanging out with kids in rock bands and I think Deadmall ends up sounding mostly like neither of those things, or both of them.
H: Gabe and I used to book shows together before we were really friends because we knew that our music had more in common than other peoples’, but I don’t think we could have articulated that at the time.
SH: It’s really interesting that you say that, because it seems as if Massachusetts as a whole has been birthing this exact type of artist. A lot of artists here are upset by the art (or lack thereof) that’s surrounding them, so they strive to create something unique to fill that void. In my eyes that’s the essence of what you two are accomplishing with Deadmall.
H: Yeah I think that’s it really. I would never want people to get the impression that WMass isn’t full of people making great music, but none of it was ever quite what I wanted to hear, and it’s taken me a long time to figure out what it was that I wanted to hear, but I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on it now.
SH:I wanted to ask about what went into the decision to move to NY, and how would you compare it with MA in terms of its effect on your music?
GG: It’s definitely different in NY. I think it was a thing I always wanted to do when I was like in high school, but we moved kind of for no reason. I think meeting Rothstein and seeing how he was able to network and connect with a community of musicians here inspired me to just take that logical step. It’s ended up impacting me as a person way more than it’s really influenced my music though, because musically I’m always chasing a feeling of like riding a bike over a bridge.
H: I never wanted to move to NYC. It just kinda happened, like the cards fell into place and all of a sudden it seemed like the logical next step. I was seeing this community that Gabe had gotten to be involved in and was excited to be around people making similar stuff.
GG: In some ways being in NY has made me focus in on what I carried from WMass into my music and accentuated those elements. I think we would have gone a little crazy if we stayed in WMass, which has a big comfort but it feels like the time of our lives to try and get a little more out of things.
H: Yeah it was time. The last year there was incredible, but it also felt like the walls were closing in a little bit, like every knows each other and you just see the same faces over and over again like since high school.
SH:Change is both good, and inevitable, so it’s exciting to see how well this transition has been working for the two of you. Moving back to the subject of Zach’s Mice, how would you describe the project to someone who’s never heard it before?
GG: It’s for kids who are starting to feel a little anxious about how much time they’ve spent in their hometown. We made this big crazy list of influences on the Deadmall instagram but it kind of sounds like nothing. To me it sounds like the coolest, most smooth take on like “emo rap”, but it also has like an experimental folk song and a yacht rock song and a song that sounds like a T Minus beat so I don’t know. I guess I’d call it “noise pop”.
H: It’s funny because I think there are lots of specific influences and thru lines, but it’s hard to put my finger on the bigger genre or sound. I think it’s sort of stadium rock that we made in my bedroom.
SH:What can listeners expect next from Deadmall?
GG: Our next album is way mellower, it’s like bigger and calmer. And we both have solo projects coming I guess.
SH:That’s another thing I meant to ask about as well, what would you say is different about the music you two make collectively under Deadmall than the solo stuff?
H: It used to feel like Deadmall was a blend of our solo stuff, but now it feels like our solo stuff is hugely influenced by Deadmall.
GG: Ya for my new solo stuff a lot of it was me trying to figure out what I couldn’t or wouldn’t do on a Deadmall song and use that to trace the sound of what I was going to do as a solo artist.
H: It takes me much longer to make honeyfitz songs, and it feels like much more of a cerebral process.
SH:Do you two have any parting words pertaining to Zach’s Mice for our readers?
GG: It’s the best album, I’m stupid excited about it honestly.
H: Just that we play the mice on the album, it is stupid good, and it feels so nice for it to be coming out because we’ve been listening to these songs for a year now.
SH:Thank you guys so much again for taking some time out of your weekend for this interview!
Neither $ean Wire or Gibson (formerly known as Tropicana Bwoy) are strangers to the Boston music scene, as the pair have spent years cultivating their unique sound alongside numerous talents throughout the Boston area. Some may recognize Gibson for his multiple producer placements or even from his former days as a party thrower in his parents Allston garage, whilst others may recognize $ean from his deep discography and collaborations. No matter how it’s framed, it’s safe to say that the two are heavily involved in the local scene.
It’s already been an incredible year for the pair, with $ean having been nominated in multiple categories for this year’s Boston Music Awards, and for the both of them gaining major exposure with a Cousin Stizz placement. It’s without a doubt that they’re both on the path towards great accomplishments.
Possessing a unique and natural bond, it was only right to capture the duo together. I was lucky enough to sit down with these old friends of mine — huddled intimately in their home studio space — to talk about their process, intention, and outlook towards the future.
Where are you from?
$ean: I was born in Newton, and I moved to Dorchester when I was 2. I’ve been a Dorchester baby ever since.
Gibson: The hospital was in Stoneham, but I’ve been in Allston all my life.
How did the two of you meet?
$ean: I met you (Gib) through Najee.
Najee’s like the key to a lot of things. He linked a lot of people together.
Gib: It’s so weird how it all happened. I liked to wear — you know my collared shirts tucked into the khakis — you know that’s just what I did. That’s what I liked to do — with the stripes and the flowers and everything. I’m in the bathroom at school and while I was p*ssing this guy is like “Hey I like your style”
I turn around — I didn’t know him and it’s Najee and I’m like “Oh thank you man.” And he’s wearing a snapback and a hoodie.
Then one whole year later he stops me at the bus stop and he’s like “Listen man can I just hug you. I gotta hug you man you’re great” and I was kinda shy but I was touched. No one told me that before.
And then one day in the hallway he was like “I bet you make music” and I was like “Yeah I kinda do” and I showed him this really weird beat. I was trying to be like Hudson Mohawk at the time and I showed him this beat in that period and he was like “Yo this was the best beat I’ve ever heard” and I was like, “Okay, you’re crazy — that’s mad dramatic, but thank you.” and he asked me to come to his house and we just started hanging out.
You know a few months later he went to Seans school.
$ean: When you dapped me up your hand was mad wet. The dap you gave me was mad off. After that dap I was just like iight..you cool. I remember you had the Dark World hoodie on. That was like Super Saiyan 1 Gibby.
Gib: Yeah, and after that we were just coming here every week to make music.
$ean: Yup, we would be here everyday. It would be hot as sh*t in here. No fan. We would just be going back to back to back.
Gib: This is like 10th/11th grade and it really picked up senior year.
I love how organic that is and it even leads into my next question about the music — how was it creating the DEAR project and how was the process similar to or different than working on HIM$?
$ean: The process with HIM$ was really fun. Like I said before, it was really just us having fun in the room. Making beats, jumping around, and acting a fool. Versus
DEAR was done in like two months. It was really like “let’s bang this out”. At the time I hadn’t released music in a while because I had been in a management situation where it was just like they wanted us to write and build. I spent some time ghostwriting and Gib was producing for some other artists.
DEAR was really a sweet process. I was going through a real dark time from 2017 into 2018. I feel like DEAR was the conclusion of a heavy mindset. I lost my uncle, I got hit by a car, I lost mad memory and was forgetting song lyrics.
I met my girlfriend — well I knew her for a grip, but I got with her and she inspired a lot of the records too. It was just a lot of life changing moments in DEAR and in that whole process. I found out a lot about myself and I just expressed it as much as I could in the music.
So the difference between HIM$ and DEAR is that HIM$ was just like me having fun versus DEAR I was having fun but I was also giving a real message of who I am to myself.
Gib: There was a reason for making it. HIM$ was kind of like “huh we don’t have like an album yet”.
How was it being apart of the Stizz project, Trying To Find My Next Thrill?
$ean: That experience was so stressful but so fun. Let me give you the whole story.
Gib: You got the story?
$ean: I got the story. This is what happened. Sebastian Mikael had a tour date in New York at Baby’s All Right and I had to get to New York. At the time it was snowing like crazy and I had to record a Stizz verse and send it to Tim.
Gibson: No no no you started too late.
So I was in Atlanta working for Jeezy — I was hanging out with Jeezy and some of his people & making music.
$ean: Let em know!
Gibson: I was there for 14 days, and I felt I wasn’t meeting a lot of people. I felt like I could get more — so I took a chance.
I had heard of this guy Tim, Tim Larew, who manages Stizz and I reached out to him just off the cuff completely. I was like maybe he can help me out I want to meet people. So I DM’d him like “Yo who do you know in Atlanta that I could f*ck with — I’m here for a little while and I’m tryna make it happen”. And he was like “Yo I love you and Sean’s music so much — Stizz is working on an album, please send anything that has an open verse thats you and Sean. Please send it right now.” That was the end of the DM, nothing to do with Atlanta. I was like word I got you. And then like right then I sent him ($ean) a few beats, I told him what it was and he was like okay let’s go.
$ean: He sent me like three or four beats. I was kind of stressed out because I was having like the illest writers block and that is the worst thing when it’s crunch time and an opportunity comes. Still, I was in my room and I wrote at least eight verses.
$ean: You know how I be.
Gib: There was a deleted verse for Soso?
$ean: Plenty. So I did that & Gib came back and we recorded it with Christian Yoon. and the next day I had to go to New York.
Gib: It happened mad organic.
$ean: Tim and Stizz are just cool and genuine dudes and they’re about the culture, making good music, having fun with it and being smart with your decisions.
How does it feel being in Boston — in your hometown, after putting out two full projects and having this Stizz placement?
$ean: It feels good. It’s definitely a boost of confidence. It was so many days we would be in here like what are we doing. We would get frustrated.
Gibson: I was frustrated, but I would fake try to hype you up.
$ean: We’ve had multiple conversations where its just like damn sh*ts not moving cuz Gib was in school at McGill and I don’t blame you because shit wasn’t moving and we weren’t getting exposure like that.
So that’s really the difference now. It’s a lot of love, people are seeing the growth in the music and me as a person and Gib as a person. It just feels more welcoming — the love is immaculate.
Gib: Everyone says congratulations. I’m mad humbled. I get emotional. A stranger will be like “Ohh you’re gib I heard you got that shit on Stizz’s album.”
$ean: My cheekbones are hurting.
It was dope for me to see really. I saw Stizz’s story and there was a billboard in my neighborhood. Me and my boy Nick went to go see it. So being part of that has just been an amazing experience.
Have y’all been doing music full time or are you planning on it?
$ean: I’ve been doing music full time since 2016. I’ve only had two jobs in my whole life.
I was really trying to force myself to be great at what I do. I didn’t want to come in second place, I don’t want to ask for handouts — I just wanted my work to speak for itself. If I walk in any door and they ask me to play them three songs, I know I have three songs they could f*ck with. And I never want to be a miss, ever, ever, ever. That’s definitely the mission.
Gib: I’m not in school anymore — I left, but I do some teaching and lecturing at the ICA for music, and some catering.
The lecturing is fun, and teaching. It’s just like these free classes for the teens who want to learn music, and want to make beats. It’s pretty fun. Teenagers are hard to engage but I think I might’ve got it. You know you can learn sh*t from anybody and I learned sh*t from these kids.
So whats next? It’s already been disclosed to me that yall are working on a new album is that safe to share?
$ean: I’m so proud of this upcoming project. I’ve never channeled this much energy into a tape before. It’s just great, great music. I’m very confident about this one. Both the delivery and timing are perfect. Now we’re just trying to get some videos out and get shit going. It’s an exciting chapter right now.
What impact are yall looking to leave? If any?
$ean: My whole end goal is to inspire the world — not even just the city but the world. I want to reach as many people as possible and for them to be like “Remember when Sean and Gib did that?” I just want to inspire because there’s a cycle of love in that.
Gib: I want to inspire people too.
If I can leave an impact I would say… patience is boring, but if you’re not thinking about it being boring — it’s fun.
Stream $ean Wire’s music and Gibson’s production below:
While authenticity in an industry that is seemingly over saturated with disingenuous players is a novelty these days, no one stands more true to themselves in the Boston scene, as CHI. She is an artist, DJ and creative from the city who is a great example of how realness will only elevate your work and spirit.
It has been half a year since CHI dropped her LP titledB.O.M.B.short for “Back On My Bullsh*t”, and listeners have been fiending for more content since. The project was a successful 11 tracks, filled with an all-star roster of Boston artists, all contributing to the power that is B.O.M.B. Prior to releasing her LP, CHI had collaborated with Gin Mason and SuperSmashBroz, to release their joint project Code Name: Girls Next Door, which included the catchy Girls Night single, as well as releasing her own series of singles and DJ mixes.
We had the privilege to sit down and speak candidly with CHI on being a veteran in the Boston scene, her creative influences, and what the future holds.
Where are you from?
I’m from Dorchester by ways of Nigeria. If I wanna be real specific I’m a young Igbo person- woman.
So you’re Nigerian, and you’re Igbo, how does that influence you?
That’s like my whole origin right there. I’m big on origins, I’m big on my roots. I grew up in a household that was very African, like very African. Something my dad used to say when I was growing up, he would be like: “When you come into my house, you’re not in America anymore, you’re in Owerri. So treat it like that.” My dad used to say that to me all the time, so that’s how I grew up.
Who or what are your biggest musical influences?
Sh*t, I was talking to somebody about this the other day. I have a lot of influences, because I listen to a lot of music and I grew up in a very musical house. Off the rip- singing wise, I get a lot of my influences from falceto males, like D’Angelo, Maxwell, Prince, that’s where I learned how to riff, Rudy Currence, sh*t like that. Obviously Lauryn Hill is a big influence on me. I don’t like to say her immediately though, because i feel like people assume that’s my main influence and its actually not. People always givin’ me the Lauryn and the Tracy Chapman, another one of my influences is Brandy, notice how I haven’t named any rappers. Before, KRS was one of my main rappers, but before I was really into rap I was into RnB, I was into Jazz. I was into a lot of African music growing up. Dancehall. I wasn’t really into rap music until I rediscovered 90s rap on my own, when I was about 11/12. I was kinda like ‘yeah i like rap music’.
Going back to Lauryn Hill, she talks a lot about the Israelites how do you see yourself fitting into that narrative because I know you have a song (titled Israelite: God Bless Amerikkka) about it as well?
I know that that’s my truth and that’s my history, even though growing up as black people we don’t learn too much about our true history. I think for me I fit into that because it’s like a coming of age- more like a going back home.
People think life is about turning into a new person, but it’s really about turning into your actual self. So when I think about being an israelite and being part of like a lost group of people, I see myself fitting into that- I see all of us fit into that though. I think the difference is some people own it and some people don’t.
So getting into the music, Boston and your home, how do you feel like the scene has changed since you’ve been coming up?
You know what’s funny about that? I grew up in Boston, like actually, actually. We are in my neighborhood where I went to school. I feel like automatically, off the rip, I have a whole different view of the scene than everyone else does. Because before the scene, there was the young ethnic community in Boston. I wasn’t really one of those kids going downtown and doing all the crazy stuff, but I was family friends with people who were doing that- or like I had history with people who were doing that. And you know I was never really like that going downtown to go jerk and stuff, I wasn’t like that, but those people are pioneers of the scene.
A lot of people came up like that. So when I think about the scene I don’t really think of it- like not to say there isn’t a scene, because there is, but my place in the scene is a little different because I have real roots in the scene.
So having said that last part do you feel people are just entering the scene to fit in?
Absolutely, I think some people see it as a way to get internet famous. And Im like n*gga whats your talent though? What are you doing to progress the scene? Confuses me.
So I see that you have a lot of relationships like you said and I’ve noticed you have some hits with SuperSmashBroz and Gin Mason, what are those relationships like and how was putting together ‘Girls Night’?
Everybody loves that song. That song is great. It’s just what I was just saying, those are my friends. I been friends with Gin before music and the reason why those songs came out was because it was really authentic. We friends, we vibe, we understand that we wanted to make a certain thing so we executed it.
That’s just the homies getting together, but a lot of my music is like. If were homies and you want to make music, or if we click on a level outside of music, it just makes me want to collab even more.
What motivates you?
D*mn, I don’t like thinking about big questions sometimes. I talk a lot.
I’m motivated by seemingly being an underdog. Definitely feel like a lot of people in the city sleep on me. Is it not true? I’m saying in general, sometimes when I see certain things and I wont see my name there, I’m like “hm.”
I also just feel like I wasn’t always as proud of the music, now I’m a lot more confident. I believe in myself. That’s another one of my motivations. I’m motivated by me, not my ego, I’m motivated by my real self.
That reminds me of your song Vanity, I like the message of that song, can you talk about what feelings brought that song on? Did you always love yourself this much? Or is this something that you’ve more recently been like “Oh okay, I’m owning my sh*t”?
Good question. Vanity, is, well in all of my music I like irony, and I like satire and I like contradictions because it plays into irony.
I believe life is about duality and dichotomy. So when I think about saying something that leaves an impression on people, I think about kind of confusing them. So when I made Vanity I was like n*gga Im so happy that I’m all of these bad things- d*mn, that makes me extremely vain. It’s more like when you realize that you’re happy about doing things that don’t serve you, you kinda have to step back and think about “hm why am I happy about that?” I think that’s what BOMB is really about. Being back on your bullsh*t is about having to destroy pieces of yourself now so that you can actually be free and be who you really are.
How do you feel about the difference between lyrical rap and other kinds of rap that’s being put out? Do you think you’ll continue going this route?
I think it goes back to being an underdog. I’m doing a lot that people in Boston aren’t doing right now. The reason that Lyrical rap will always stand out is because that is the foundation of Hip-Hop and that’s the foundation of music in general, lyrics are profound. I remember when i was a kid I used to listen to Jill Scott interviews and she used to say “It doesn’t matter how you said it, it matters what you said. You could say it however you want, but if you didn’t say anything worth saying then- what are you saying?” You know that made so much sense to me. I like to carry that into my music.
So if you had to pick a top 3 in the game today, who would you pick?
Kendrick Lamar. Hmm who’s as good as K.Dot? Honestly, y’all are going to hate me but… Drake. Drake is different. You know who I’m lowkey throwing in there? Saba. I’m like d*mn why am I throwing Saba up there? But Care For Me is like my favorite album that’s come out in the last 5 years.
What do you have planned for the future?
I got a project coming out in the colder months, it’s called Clairvoyance. I’m working on getting some women in Boston on that thang. I’m going to have my producer debut on that. I recently just started mixing and mastering. I’m going to start going in-cognegro as a producer. Get ready I’m about to run these placements up, look out.
So I’m working on that and I’m working on some visuals for B.O.M.B. I’m directing my videos these videos as well, y’all will be seeing a lot of my ideas come through. Probably by mid summer all of them will be out.
Hailing from Cambridge, Massachusetts — Rothstein is an exhilarating force within the Bay State’s music scene. Over the past few years, he’s been busy filling-up his discography with passionate, heart-wrenching music that encapsulates the essence of some of the most prominent moments of his life.
Graduation Music recently spoke with the exceptional artist in order to gain some insight into what makes him the individual that he is. Check out the interview below:
To begin, when did you start making music?
I started in high school with my best friend Raf. He used to chop samples & mix vocals in ACID; he’d been toying with it since we were in middle school. Raf is actually still my engineer.
Who were some of your early inspirations, both musically and non-musically speaking?
50 Cent, Craig David, Phonte, Andre, Joni Mitchell, Jadakiss, Donald Fagen, Steve Winwood, Usher, Alison Krauss, Max B, Paul Simon, Sade, Stephen Sondheim, Paul Rogers, Stevie Wonder, Backstreet Boys… Most of my heroes were and are musicians.
What kind of music did you grow up on?
My dad is a drummer & he plays mostly jazz so it was mostly that from him. My mom always played me this gorgeously wimpy singer / songwriter folk-pop stuff from the 70s. My cousin always put me on with the heady indie shit the cool, artsy older kids were listening to. All of my friends listened to hip hop — that’s my first love, the lens through which I view all of my music — even the stuff that sounds nothing like it.
How has Cambridge molded you as a person?
Growing up in Cambridge didn’t make me weird, but it helped. Diversity is a fact of life there — of race, of sexual orientation, of class, of taste, of cuisine, of culture. It also engendered in me a special hatred for a certain kind of New England prep school frat boy WASPism, a love for a certain shitty brand of iced coffee and an unshakeable coldness of demeanor.
Why is being from Cambridge important to you?
It is and it isn’t — I’m very proud to be from a city as progressive, as strange and as undeniably good at ball as Cambridge. On the other hand, I’ve always lived in my own little world. That’s where most of my music takes place. I love Cambridge mostly for the people. Many of them have since dispersed, but I made lifelong friendships there with some of the weirdest and brightest people you could hope to meet.
Can you speak on your decision to move away from Cambridge to further your career?
I didn’t leave Cambridge to further my career — I left Cambridge to start it. I was 20 when I moved to New York; I had dropped out of college after a year of absolute fuckery and was living in my mom’s apartment in Cambridge, writing songs and moping. My friend Taylor had just opened a tiny little menswear boutique in Williamsburg and he offered me a bed upstairs if I’d run the shop with him, leave MA and attempt to make a career of my music instead of remaining a sad sack of shit. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Cambridge is a wonderful place but it’s where I grew up, and growing up is hell. When I came back after dropping out, all it represented to me was failure.
Describe Cambridge in one word.
What do you want listeners to take-away from your music?
I want them to be moved. I want them to hear, articulated in simple terms, the things they could never quite put into words. I want them to be awash in imagery. I want them to feel something.
In your opinion, why is self-expression important?
Expression is important to me because we’ve turned this innately selfish thing into a means to relate to one another — to alleviate the sorrow and loneliness and apathy and guilt and pain that come with being human. It’s given me purpose and joy, and the fact that I get to live off it is still fucking surreal to me.
How was your journey towards becoming comfortable enough to put your real life experiences into your music? Was this something that felt natural to you or did it take time to develop?
Writing was always therapy so I’ve always been more open in song than I am in real life. I’ve always been a storyteller, and I’ve always felt like an outsider, so I think I’m particularly conscious of what experiences of mine people relate to. I’m lucky to be dating a woman who can listen to scathing songs about her or wistful songs about exes without batting an eye. I’m lucky to be the child of a mother who can listen to my war stories without judgement and tell me what she likes about the songwriting. Even if it made everyone uncomfortable though, I’d still write this shit. It’s for me.
What was the process of obtaining your stylistic elements like?
I think it went for me the way it goes for most — imitate your idols until you learn all their tricks, then put said tricks (and whatever tricks you got of your own) to use to make something truly your own. I used to try and rap like Ka over dusty lo-fi beats. I heard House of Balloons and did my best Abel impression for like a year. I always had a very distinctive way of writing lyrics, but it all came together just over 2 years ago when I wrote a song that changed my life and helped me define my voice for good. I’ve been on autopilot ever since.
When making a song, what’s the setting typically like? Are there any specific people that help facilitate a better music-making experience?
When I work on music, it’s in one of 5 places:
The desk in my windowless little room in Queens
Fallen Atom’s living room
Candid, the studio in Brooklyn where 3 of my closest producers- Gabe Monro, DOC and Elijah Fox- reside
Raf’s home studio all the way uptown
Ricky Sour’s bedroom
These guys make the experience what it is. Raf and I have been doing this forever and his patience knows no limits. He’s a phenomenal engineer and without him there’s no Rothstein. Fallen is the best guitar player in the world — this dude has played for J Balvin, Liam Payne, Rita Ora, just tons of fucking people. He’s my secret weapon. Gabe is the only guy down to stay up and work till the morning with me. He executive produced my upcoming album PARADISE, and I think he’s one of the best producers working right now. DOC is a hit machine, probably the purest producer I’ve ever met. Elijah is someone whose affable genius inspires awe in everyone he meets. He’s the one who wanders into the room, lays keys or backing vocals and completely transforms a song, then he’s gone in 15 minutes. Ricky is going to be the greatest producer out of Cambridge ever. With these guys all within 15 minutes of home, I can’t lose.
How would you describe your music?
My music is like if Raymond Carver wrote R&B songs. It’s like if James Blake and Future raised a depressive child who painted his nails black and started using early in life. I have so much fun making these comparisons but it’s hard to know exactly what to say because my music sounds exactly like me, and it really doesn’t sound enough like anyone else to warrant comparison. I’m making my favorite shit in the world right now.
In your opinion, what’s the ideal setting for listening to your music?
If you are listening to Rothstein you should be wiping frozen tears from your face with a designer handkerchief while you speed down the Mass Pike, heartbroken and desperate, driven only by the desire to dispatch your remaining enemies.
Who are your favorite artists from Massachusetts?
Gabe Gill is my favorite artist in MA. Gabe is a boy genius future pop star from Northampton; his music sounds like Matchbox 20 on acid and his writing is some of the best there is. He’s got so much to say, such beautiful ways of saying it, such vision and passion and empathy, such effervescent swag. I can’t say enough about that kid.
I’ve been listening to a number of acts from home — Maka is a unicorn in a scene overpopulated with clones, a well of originality and joyful escapism. I listen to his music all the time. Connis is the best rapper in the state and it’s not even really all that close. His upcoming album is very special. TeaMarrr is making really cool, personal R&B and she owns any stage she touches. Dutchy DoBad, Jiggz and 7891 Kal are making high quality street music. Honeyfitz is like a badass Conor Oberst. Stizz inspired me (and everyone else) a great deal and made an album that I think of as our First Classic Record (I got Maka down for the second one with Waterworld). Gogo is a problem. Los Elk have been going crazy… I know I’m missing plenty of names here but MA has a lot going on man, I’m excited to see what the future holds.
Which 2018 release of yours was your favorite?
It’s either “A Million” or “Endless Winter Freestyle”. They’re very different songs but they’re both kind of State of the Union moments for me — whereas most of my music is story driven and imagery driven and very much wrapped up in relationships with other people, those 2 are moments where I break the fourth wall and just talk my shit for a minute.
Can you describe the feelings you experienced surrounding the release of your debut album, HIGH WATER?
I made most of HIGH WATER in 2016 so it was a massive relief to finally get it off. I make a whole lot of music so I’d already moved all the way on by the time it was released but watching fans hear it for the first time renewed my excitement for it and hearing “High Tide” play in an episode of network TV was totally surreal. The release show was a moment for me too; it was my first New York headliner at a venue I actually really wanted to play at. That shit was beautiful man. My band is superb and these guys helped me give the kind of show you can’t get just from listening to the record and that’s what I’ve always wanted to do.
Last year was an incredibly successful one for you, racking in over a million plays and 126K+ monthly listeners on Spotify. Do you feel like this has changed your perspective at all, or do you still feel the same as you always have?
I’m very grateful but nowhere near satisfied.
For the younger artists out there, do you have any tips pertaining to how they too can grow their listenership?
First, you have to be yourself. Then you have be good, but that matters a lot less. Don’t get into this to make money; get a job, reinvest your earnings, pay the people you work with fairly, surround yourself with good art, be persistent. Understand that nobody owes you anything and everyone wants something from you- be useful, be quiet, work hard, make something beautiful.
What was your biggest lesson from last year?
I used to internally justify my pain / isolation / bad habits / depression / drug use / antisocial behavior with the “it’s all part of Being An Artist, man” thing and I gave that up this past year. I don’t need to suffer to be great. I don’t need to be lonely to be great.
2019 & ON
What’s next for Rothstein?
If this year were an episode of Friends it would be The One Where Roth Drops All The Music. I’ve been writing a lot of music for other artists, and it’ll be exciting to see that all finally exist outside of my head. With any luck you might hear some of those on the radio this year; these guys are heavy hitters and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to help them fulfill their visions. I’ve got a lot of my own on the way this year too- next up is LET ME DOWN EASY, a short EP with Fallen on production. Then it’s DEADMALL + ROTHSTEIN, with Gabe Gill & Honeyfitz. After that, I got 2 singles Ricky Sour & I produced (one of which features Radamiz, who, aside from being one of my only true Artist Friends in this shit, is very possibly the best rapper alive). Then it’s finally time for PARADISE, my album, my best work yet. When I drop these, they’ll tell you more than I could ever hope to say here. I hope you dance.
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?
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.
Fresh off of the release of the stellar new 3-pack EP, Cold Times, Cousin Stizz is the subject of every headline right now. He’s a star in the making and an undeniably captivating personality, so much so that it’s always a blessing when we receive a new interview with the Fields Corner native. Today, Stizz hits the Graduation Music pages alongside Power 106 Los Angeles, offering a question-and-answer video all about Boston, his influences, daily life, and much, much more.
Stizz has been quite active over the past month or so in terms of dropping music, so be sure to keep an eye out for more possibly on the way. And if you haven’t already, listen to Cold Timeshere and All Adds Uphere!
When I first started conducting interviews for Graduation Music, the hardest part was discovering artists that were actually willing to take a chance on a small website and spend the time to answer a few questions. Not many people were reading the blog, the social media accounts had little to no following, and quite frankly, there wasn’t much reason for an artist to be excited about being featured on Graduation Music in the first place. However, an artist by the name of WHYTRI decided to take this chance early on, becoming the subject of our second ever interview (which you can read here).
Looking back at that moment, now nearly a year and a half later, I can’t help but be thankful for the growth that both WHYTRI and Graduation Music have undergone over time. TRI is making some of the best music he’s ever made, and now ready to unleash his newest project, ABP (A BAD PORNO) on September 30th, we decided that it would make perfect sense to catch up with our old friend and speak about things such as performing, creative process, inspiration, and much, much more.
Read the full conversation below.
WHYTRI! It’s been a minute since we last talked. How has life been? What has been going on lately?
DAWWWGG IT’S REALLY BEEN A GRIP! SMOOTH YEAR AND SOME CHANGE!!!
Life’s been weird, man, I won’t front – it’s been good, though. I’m very happy for all the blessings that came my way from shows to records I’ve been writing to the inspiration level-up from watching my friends and team grow. This 2018 was a WILD ride for me man. A bunch of valleys and peaks but we here, so I’m happy about that. I’m hoping to end this year as strong as I entered it, you feel me?
Thank you for also watching me throughout the time and keeping notice, man. That’s love for real. Lately, I’ve just been working on figuring out how I can level up music-wise and brand-wise. Looking at how WHYTRI can develop more of the fans and give them both the expected and the unexpected of where my head has been at.
You’ve been fairly active with performing this past year. How important is live performance to you as an artist? Especially with the energetic nature of your music, I feel as though it definitely adds another dimension to the image. Can you expand on this?
Performing is VERY important to me man. I want to be like the new Bobby Brown. All the energy the crowd gives off helps push my music because I get excited to see how all my songs will do live — especially the ones I make with live performance in mind. Going down the line, the goal is to become a very strong touring act.
The WHYTRI image is definitely backed behind strong energy and live shows, so I’m definitely going to continue building on it by crafting better shows and making sure the music continues to hit HARD.
Musically, we’ve seen a lot of growth from you over the past few months. How would you describe the progress that you’ve made as an artist?
I appreciate that a lot man, I started this year kind of in my own head when it came to my music. I felt like I had to figure out what people wanted from me as an artist. So after KAHUNA I just focused on writing and cutting records, really absorbed into the craft. I eventually got to a point where my team was like don’t worry about what people want, just worry about what I want to say and what I want to do and people will gravitate towards it.
I feel like I developed my own style of rapping very well and figured out my way of attacking records and crafting my best work every time. I’m less afraid to put out records, because now it’s like if I drop and it HITS, then word, let’s keep it moving. If it drops and it MISSES, then word, let’s keep it moving. I feel I have a great potential and I’m just focused on hitting that mark then surpassing it.
We need to talk about the new project. What has been your creative process throughout its making?
Well, this new project is actually a Digital Cassette tape, making it two sides. Sonically, I wanted to do something a bit different from KAHUNA but I also wanted to distribute it in a different way, as well. The first half of ABP holds fun, obnoxious, out-of-the-box energy all in your face. I love everything about it.
A lot of this inspiration came from watching old Bobby Brown videos while listening to records. I’m a huge Bobby Brown/James Brown fan because of their unapologetic attitudes and in-your-face approach to entertainment. It’s a level I aspire to meet.
A lot of that touched this project. Also, the vibes of the late 70s/early 80s were so fire. I wanted to make something fun, bouncy and unapologetically myself while still being raw and loud. However, I also wanted to give it a little back-in-the-day type of vibe because so many people are focused on being “rockstars”. Just be yourself and you’ll be okay.
How did the idea for the tape originally come to mind?
ABP started from me being in the studio just cutting records and listening back. The project didn’t really coming into fruition till my sessions with C-SPRING. We made TIPTOEJOE & YERRR and I immediately wanted to turn it into a project. After that, I just continued cutting records and looking at other ones that could fit the energy. It wasn’t until I had a conversation with my friend Dexter who told me that records such as “SNORKEL” and “BITCHRUDUMB” were super raunchy and sexual but still funny and grimy that I really got the idea for the project. From there, the title punched me in the mouth and just felt like nothing I had ever heard of before, so I worked around it and created everything!
Sound-wise, what were your main inspirations for the project?
Bobby Brown and James Brown, bouncy melodies, and neck-breaking drums. I LOVE my drums bro — if the drums don’t punch you in the mouth, it’s not for me man. My focus for ABP was to just make a project full of bops. Something you can break your neck to, especially on the hooks. I actually did a lot more rapping on this project more than I expected to which was tight. I also feel like ABP was my first attempt at trying to craft an album. I feel like each song flows into the next and sonically, it’s super cohesive — every idea has a solid start and finish. I’m working on treating my smaller projects like albums so that when I get to that album level it’ll be some great work.
What do you want listeners to get out of the tape? What does it tell us about WHYTRI and the direction that you’re headed?
I just want listeners to have fun. This is something to bump when your down and want to feel good again — get your spirits in a happy order, you feel me? This is me showcasing a lot of my personality and being real with myself while also telling some real stories. We live in a time where many aspects of life feel super serious, so I just want to put out some amusement and entertainment for everyone. Just know that when the B-Side hits it’ll be a completely different vibe from this one.
When you sit down and write a song, to what degree is personal experience of importance to the process? Your lyrics seem to dig quite deep, emotionally. How do you go about translating your emotion and life into lines on a song?
A big thing I wanted to work on this year was becoming more honest with myself. With records like VOMITBWOY I feel like I’m starting to understand the importance of saying how you really feel because people truly appreciate that. Personal experience is very important to me because I don’t want to put out or write about experiences that aren’t me. I want to be as honest and genuine as possible in my records. My music isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so I don’t expect everyone to like it, but I at least want to know that they will respect it which matters even more.
Lastly, what’s your personal favorite song on the project? Which song was the most fun to create and why?
GUESSWHOIDK for SUUUUREEE! It was the first time me and my dawg BEATO got to do something together that wasn’t a show because he’s usually my DJ. That song came so organically — I was driving around and he FaceTimed me saying he had some heat. Played it over facetime I was like “oh yeah we need that”, drove up to Providence the next day, made the song, and laid it down. Me Beato and Nino, who helped bring the visual portions of ABP to life, looked at each other like “yeah, this is the one”. We ended up making it the single for the project. That record is just so tight. It reminds me of my version of Bobby Brown’s “Humpin Around”.
Get ready for the forthcoming release of ABP on 9/30 and connect with WHYTRI on:
Boston is an interesting spot right now. As compared to just a few years ago, the city is going through a musical renaissance, but even so, Boston still falls under the radar when brought into the context of the national hip-hop stage. Half of the fight comes from finding artists who represent Boston to go out and spread the word to the rest of the country, while the other half arises from giving national, more accomplished acts a reason to hop on a plane to Boston in the first place.
Needless to say, it’s a work in progress, but thanks to a number of key figures in the music community, our city has made some monumental leaps toward growth in recent months.
Quite possibly the most prominent of these developments is last month’s Underground Underdogs show featuring Coldhart, Zubin, Horsehead, Fantasy Camp, a number of opening acts, and several special guests. Blending Boston artists with bigger names from several different parts of the country, this show gave people a reason to see what was happening in the city beyond the few standout acts they usually hear about. In such a way, Underground Underdogs provided a strong sense of community and further so, a chance for some native artists to really get their names out there — both of which brought over 300 people into one room where geographical identity was strong, positivity was ample, and a visual manifestation of the future of our city became a reality.
That said, it’s important to thank those who were behind such an important night for Boston. Although we here at Graduation Music were unable to attend, we spoke with the three central minds behind the show — Jack Angell, Nathan Copes, and Disorder Ming — all about how Underground Underdogs came together, the goal of the show, the future of Boston’s music community, and much, much more.
Show some love to these much-needed catalysts for growth and read the full conversations at the link below.
Explain your role in the process of putting together the Underground Underdogs show. How and why did the idea of throwing a show come up in the first place?
So I definitely can’t take credit for throwing the show alone. My friend Nathan Copes, who has made a name for himself taking photos of GothBoiClique, came to me around July asking me if I wanted to throw a show with him. Being from Boston, I really wanted to throw a show here, since I’ve done shows in other cities already. After we decided to start organizing it, I used my connections through the Underground Underdogs and Copes used his connections through photography to ask artists if they wanted to perform.
Once we booked everyone and finalized a lineup, our buddy Disorder helped get us the venue. After that, it was more or less just promotion, and I had a lot of help from my design team to make some great posters and videos — basically using our formula for promotion that we’ve done in the past. I felt like there was a such a demand for a show like this in Boston, and everyone involved just pursued this idea full speed. We completely did it ourselves.
You mentioned on Twitter that this is the first show you’ve thrown in an actual venue. What other places have you thrown shows in the past and how did it feel to see such a DIY vision turn into something that could sell out a 320+ person venue?
It’s honestly surreal going from a warehouse show in Watts, Los Angeles to a fully established venue in Boston. I loved that LA show, it was super gritty — dirty subwoofers, broken mics, and even a kid in the crowd spray painted all the walls in the ‘venue’ lol. That show was just a group of 70 or so people that loved music. I also did a show in Chicago at another warehouse, but that was on a much bigger scale. It was a concert that transitioned into a party, and something like 600 people got into the show, but another 500 or so people were lined up and didn’t even get in. It was like a line for a nightclub or something, it was absolutely insane.
This Boston show was definitely nice being in a venue since I didn’t have to worry about security or soundcheck, and most importantly didn’t have to worry about the police showing up. Plus I’ve seen some great shows at the Sonia, so it’s one of my favorite venues.
Every show I’ve thrown has been unbelievable to me, since I never anticipated throwing shows in the first place (I don’t know what exactly I was anticipating with Underground Underdogs). Looking at a crowd of fans moshing and singing at the top of their lungs is one of the most rewarding feelings, knowing that you have a room full of people that are there because you had the idea to throw a concert. It’s pretty amazing to have people to come up to me and say that they had the best night of their lives or something like that, cause I really just feel like some dude who impulsively decided to put together a lineup that I wanted to see as a fan myself. It’s a beautiful feeling to see that these shows have a positive impact on others.
Boston isn’t necessarily known as a hub for rap music to the rest of the country, and it has certainly remained below the radar for rising talent in recent years. I suppose in this sense, I would definitely consider it an “Underground Underdog”. How did the idea of Underground Underdogs come together?
I’ve always been into music discovery, no matter what genre. I guess I would have been classified a hipster a couple years ago (I was a “you probably haven’t heard of them” headass). Eventually, I got into the SoundCloud scene in 2013/14. I was really into a lot of that stuff, whether it be in the GothBoiClique vein, SadBoys, or Goth Money. But Underground Underdogs started in my dorm room. Not a lot of people know this, but UU was only an online college radio show for a while. My roommate was applying to our college radio station do some indie rock show, and the idea of a “SoundCloud rap” hour came to mind.
After a while, I realized interviewing artists was something I was interested in. I did a couple interviews, and eventually bought the website domain. I had no idea what I was doing or how I was going to do it — I just kind of wanted to write about people that weren’t getting written about anywhere else, and to do it on a basis of talent, not pay-per-article type of shit. UU really was just a passion project that eventually became bigger than myself. I wouldn’t be here without some luck and a lot of help from the UU team.
In your eyes, what does a show like this mean for Boston?
As you said earlier, Boston is a true Underground Underdog. I feel like everyone who gets successful gets out, or they leave and come back successful. I know people will disagree with me, but in my eyes, there’s not much opportunity here as far as music goes. Yet Boston has such a demand for a music scene and its already full of talented creatives doing what they love. The hip-hop scene nowadays is so URL, all online. I think a show like this is important since it gives people the opportunity to see their favorite artists in person. Once again, a show like this is bigger than me, it’s bigger than you. It’s just an example that a group of kids who really care about music can do something all by themselves — no promoters, no external help, no bullshit. I hope Boston recognizes that.
We don’t need to wait for anyone else to bring a music scene here, we literally can create it ourselves. It’s surely not going to be easy, it’ll be stressful, and you’ll make mistakes on the way, but it’s possible to manifest your aspirations and make it a reality.
Explain your role in the process of putting together the Underground Underdogs show. How and why did the idea of throwing a show come up in the first place?
My role in putting together the show was putting together part of the lineup and funding the event. I hit up my friends Coldhart and Horsehead to see if they would be interested in a doing a Boston show and then Jack [Angell] and I hit up our friends in the music community and built the lineup from there. Jack and I were talking about doing an Underground Underdogs show for 2 months before pulling the trigger on it.
In your own words, what is the mission of Underground Underdogs?
We would like to have more shows like this in the future and are already in the midst of talking about who will be apart of it. The fact that we hit capacity so early in the night just shows that these types of lineups and events are what people want to see and although hard to coordinate so many people on a lineup are worth it in the end.
How did you select the lineup and why did you decide that you wanted to throw the show in Boston of all cities?
Both Jack and I are greatly influenced and take interest in the goth/emo side of underground music. I do a lot of photography for the genre and seeing a lot of the shows first hand I get a pretty good idea to what the community wants to see in a show. Jack, Ming, and I agreed that we wanted this show to be a showcase where every act was anticipated and not just 1 headliner how a lot of shows are. We decided Boston because in the past 1-2 years we’ve seen an enormous community built of people who love the underground music scene. Jack and Ming are also from Boston and I am from Connecticut.
Was there any one moment during the night where the importance of the show really hit you? If so, what was it and why was that a moment of realization for you?
I would say talking to a lot of people, afterward, helped me really realize the importance and excitement the show gave for the people who came. People told me the crazy distances they traveled to get there and to me, that really put things into perspective.
Explain your role in the process of putting together the Underground Underdogs show. How and why did the idea of throwing a show come up in the first place?
I told Jack earlier in the year that when it came time for him to throw his first show in Boston, we were doing it together! I am so proud of the growth I’ve seen from Jack in the past year. I remember meeting him last summer through him wanting to take photos of me and the shows that I was either throwing or apart of. (RIP JACKSVISUALS) He was so driven that his success now makes perfect sense in hindsight.
Why did we throw the show? Because Underground Underdogs Shows have happened in LA & Chicago — Jack’s hometown was just the logical progression for his 3rd show.
How? The show came together extremely quick, Jack & Copes hit me up and told me to find a space. I made a call, and we had Sonia booked for 8/29 in about 15 minutes. We reached out to the artists, confirmed the lineup and sent out contracts. Artwork and a marketing strategy was created. The show was announced about 3 days later.
You’re also a DJ that has performed in numerous shows around the city. How did Underground Underdogs compare to other shows you’ve thrown? What made it special?
I know I have been saying this a lot lately, but it’s important. Disorder is a duo when billed as a DJ. I am one half & Fred is the other (@bstnfred). DJ’ing is just fun for me — I don’t care about how the crowd reacts, I just play what I feel. There are days when I want people to dance, there are days when I want people to mosh, and there are days when I want people to leave. I’m the only DJ in Boston that will play Sheck Wes directly into Joy Division — I like to make people think.
I’ve thrown a few classic shows this past year in Boston, but I will say that none have compared to the UU show. On both the performer side and curator end, it was fucking lit.
What made the UU show special was the fact that we were starting full-on circle pits during our set, and the fact that I dropped a few Taking Back Sunday songs & the crowd flipped out.
Plus, I was passing out Cane’s chicken all night (Shoutout Owen for sponsoring my addiction to Cane’s Chicken.)
How would you describe the sense of “community” that exists in Boston, particularly in the underground music scene?
We all support each other. Buying tickets to shows means a lot, constructive criticism means a lot too. I look at 2018 Boston underground & feel the same way I felt about 2012 Boston underground. 6 years later, it’s amazing to see the growth & the success of everyone from 2012 on a musical and overall creative level. We are now living the second renaissance — 6 years from now, who knows? Hopefully, we will all have left a profound effect on the youth that inspires them the same way our local heroes inspired us to create. Anything is possible. If you asked me 2 years ago where I would be & what I’d be doing, I never would have imagined any of this.
I struggled for awhile with finding my role and channeling my creativity into something that I can live off & be happy with myself over. Looking back on it, the past few years were all learning experiences that molded me into who I am today. You just don’t realize that until after its over.
In your mind, what is the impact of throwing a show of this magnitude in Boston, of all cities?
Boston consistently gets dubbed. Most of the booking agents in this city are completely out of touch with the underground. Venues would rather book “safe” and reliable mid-grade national talent than take a risk on something they might not understand. Shows like this happen weekly in LA, but it’s oversaturated in LA as well. We can do this in Boston once a quarter and sell out whatever venue we chose, but if we keep doing these too much, the market will oversaturate and the idea of seeing something “rare” dies, which will decrease attendance and ticket value.
We set this show up in 48 hours & sold out Sonia. We booked a cohesive mixed bill of regional and national talent that had enough crossover to appeal to a broad spectrum.
While it’s cool throw a huge show like the UU show, never forget that we sell out the Middle East Upstairs consistently with LOCAL talent only. You can put together a great show in so many different ways.
Thank you to Jack Angell, Disorder Ming, and Nathan Copes for their participation in this article and for throwing the Underground Underdogs show in the first place.
Just look back at Boston’s sene in 2012 compared to now.
An artist by the name of Lil Cxxp first crossed my screen just a few weeks back thanks to the anthemic single, “Forever”. Immediately, I was taken back by the conviction and emotion behind the rising talent’s voice, and considering the way he was able to translate the energy of a rock singer so seamlessly into the sonic direction of a rap song, I knew that I had stumbled upon something special.
Since then, I haven’t been able to keep Cxxp’s music off of repeat, as he’s already made two appearances on the Graduation Music pages in the span of just a few weeks. It only follows that we had to do an interview with the highly-talented act, so we’re here today to offer up a conversation with Lil Cxxp about his influences, creative process, goals, and much more. Read the full interview below.
To start off, where are you originally from? How did you first get into making music and who were some of your early influences?
I’m from Boxford, MA – a small town like 30 minutes north of Boston. I got into music one night during junior year of high school while freestyling at my boy’s crib. Next day, me and my friend Conn went to Guitar Center and bought some cheap equipment. Never looked back since.
Growing up, I was looking up to Lil Wayne, Kanye, and Kid Cudi. My stepdad bumped Snoop, Jay Z, and Biggie, and my dad would put me onto every type of rock.
What does your creative process look like when creating new music?
Once I have the beat I want, I usually freestyle the hook until I find the right melody. Then, I’ll write through the verses. A lot of songs I just freestyle through because I used to write every day for 3 years.
Where does your inspiration stem from?
I’m inspired by life, bro – everything I see, I take it in and reflect on it through music, the good and the bad.
Whenever I listen to your music, it brings forth a kind of energy that certainly shows parallels to that of rock music. Do you have any rock influences? If so, how do these influences translate into the style of music that you want to make?
For sure, Rolling Stones Stones, AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, Linkin Park, Nirvana, Foreigner, Green Day, Blink-182, Foo Fighters, The Killers, Paramore. I never really dove into all their albums but yeah it’s like a blend between all the generations. I just loved the energy that all brought. They made me wanna yell and just go hard while using my own flows and different approach. I’m a fan of good music and being able to blend rock and rap wasn’t intentional. It just came out one day.
What’s the most rewarding part about being an artist and why?
Probably seeing everyone enjoy my music and having fans DM me saying that I’ve helped them get through something. That’s all that matters.
Your bio on SoundCloud includes the phrase “Introverted Dreams”. What do these words mean to you?
I consider myself an introvert. I like to be alone and in my own head. I’m always thinking about how I’m gonna make this music shit work and sometimes it drives me crazy. No one can take away the power of your own mind, though.
What are your goals for music? Ideally, where do you want to be in five years?
I want to be one of the best of our generation besides X and Peep. I’m really just taking it one step at a time. I wanna make sure all my family and friends are good first. I’ve got a long road ahead.
Lastly, what can fans expect from Lil Cxxp in the future?
A bunch of singles, music videos, and a project before the end of 2018.