When and how did you start making music?
I would say I started writing first. Most people don’t know anything about this, but rapping is a major passion for me. I’m working on a full-length album “Total Trash” that I also produced. It’s really different than the beat tape, and it’s also almost done. So I would say I started writing at like 10, some raps, some poetry. Then I mostly just rapped after high school. Like 3 or 4 years ago I started to produce on Ableton. I do everything manually on my laptop, and then just tweak kits to my liking to catch a sound that works for me. I don’t actually use an extension of a device, which is weird, but I also feel like it’s worked til this point.
Who are some artists you’d like to produce for?
I got a track with KC Ortiz on the album I’m working on, but ideally, I would love to make more beats for her. She has a really awesome sound and her raps challenge me to make beats that are more…modern. Aside from her, it would be like a dream come true to make a beat that the Alchemist would rap on, or like, Roc Marciano. Al does it all. He is an amazing producer and a sick rapper, so if he rapped on a track, it’d be like, ‘damn, this dude I idolize vibes with me’.
Given your background in music journalism I think it would be interesting to hear you describe your music to us.
I would say at this point it’s like a split personality type deal. “The Sample Vandal” is like, heavily influenced by 9th Wonder and The Alchemist. Those guys have done the best job staying relevant with a classic sound. All my stuff on that tape samples old soul and jazz mostly, and I did my best to put a more modern twist on them, specifically with heavy 808s, because I don’t wanna be boxed in with a nostalgic sound. The other side, the rap side, is all over the place. That’s also very sample-based, but it’s really bizarre and eccentric samples. Like Throbbing Gristle, or even just sheer noise on some of it. So that’s a bit more experimental. I listen to a lot of music so I like to take what I listen to and utilize my knowledge behind that the best I can.
How do you feel about the rap renaissance that seems to be taking place in Chicago?
That’s a killer question. I think it has been very good and very bad at the same time. From one perspective, it is amazing that Chicago is on the map the way it is now. This is the city to be in if you are trying to make it in rap. The problem arises when every single person is a rapper or producer, and not everyone is talented. That’s just reality. I think it has become a ‘trendy’ thing to be a rapper now, and like that sucks. Also, I feel this vibe that a lot of low-key rappers who rule, such as those Pivot Gang guys, they would blow up if they were in a different big city. It’s just so competitive here right now, it’s tough to break out of Chicago without a GOOD Music deal, or a cosign from a major name. And that sucks too. Lastly, I think Chicago has been boxed into a limited amount of sub-genre, so if you’re not making soulful hip-hop in the Chance lane or drill in the Louie/Keef lane, no one cares and that’s awful. There is so much more out here. It’s just over saturated. But don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled Chicago is on the map. That’s amazing.
Aside from the pivot gang folks who else in Chicago do you think is flying under the radar?
I mentioned KC Ortiz earlier, definitely her. My boy Saint Icky. My guy Zip aka Lil Flame for sure. David Ashley, although I am not sure he is still local. That dude means business. He is rare talent.
Are there any songs that make you want to quit making and critiquing music because they’re so good (or so bad)?
This is so cliche but when I hear a Kendrick verse for the first time, I am generally blown away. I think he is the best rapper alive at a time when it is insignificant, but a part of me is still a major old head so I think the competitive aspect of rap should exist. Even if it doesn’t. But when I hear Kendrick spit, I’m kinda in awe, like, I will NEVER be able to do that. With production, also cliche, but kanye is revolutionizing music every time he drops something. 808s was 5 years ahead of its’ time and still is in some ways. And I didn’t even love that album when it came out. With music I hate, I listen to so much music that at a certain point, if I listen to it enough I’ll probably end up liking it which is a trait that I love about myself.
OK, so hypothetically a major label signs you after hearing your next project and you go on to have an illustrious career, what do you think your biopic would be like?
That’s something to process, no doubt! I think if I had a biopic–depending on when it was made, the first part of my life would be significant. I had a tough time in high school and struggled alot with depression and bipolar disorder. I’ve definitely learned to live my life and am extremely comfortable with who I am at this point, but there were a few years where I was really struggling mentally that I think define me at this point. Like, overcoming that stuff and getting to this point where I can thrive creatively and live life as optimistically as possible. So that would be interesting but hopefully after that and from this point forward, it would be inspiring and happy ideally. Who knows what the future looks like.
What advice would you give to kids going through similar struggles?
I would say to just try your best to get through adolescence. Growing up is hard man. Everyone is hormonal and going through new sets of experiences and emotions, but those experiences and emotions mold who you are, and once you get beyond that point of high drama, people grow up and grow into themselves. Everyone has something in their life that makes them struggle. But once you grow up, you can pick and choose who and what you deal with way more and that makes things way easier. One of the reasons I don’t go through it as much is because I just learned that this is who I am. Having mental setbacks from time to time is a big part of me, but it’s also not the only part or even the biggest part. So find an outlet that allows you to let go of some of those feelings and just be mindful that it really does improve, and that the idea of ‘it gets better’ is not just cliche bullshit.