On June 15th 2018, Julie Rene Tran announced that she would be stepping away from her position as Founder and Director Of Publicity at All The Best Media. In a statement posted to her social media accounts she shared that she would no longer be affiliated with All The Best Media and it’s parent company Gramophone Media:
“wow. what an incredible two years it has been leading @allthebestmedia, but all things, even as great as they are, do come to an end. ive resigned from my position and will no longer be affiliated with the company. i want to thank everyone for believing in our vision, all the best media would have never succeeded thus far without everyone’s support. thank you, thank you. as for what’s next with me… ??? haha. never sleep on JRT though.”
ZHU has made a brand out of maneuvering in secrecy, and more importantly has backed up the air of mystery with quality music that fans immediately gravitate toward. That trend continues with his new project, Ringo’s Desert Pt. 1, which serves as a seven-course meal of what the talented electronic artist has been cooking up as of late.
There are different flavors to experience on Ringo’s Desert Pt. 1, but if I had to pick out the early standouts I’d lean toward “Burn Babylon” and “Save Me.” The former track will turn up the heat on the dance floor, while “Save Me” provides a perfect balance of bass and finesse to get you in the groove.
Stream the the full project below, which, as you may have gleaned, takes its inspiration from the desert. You can check out ZHU’s upcoming Dune Tour schedule here.
The secret is out: ZHU is hitting the road on a North American fall tour in 2018, and his plan is to bring the desert to your front door.
The elusive producer and performer always had a flair for the dramatic, and his next two-part EP series is centered all around desert life. The first half of the saga, Ringos Desert Pt 1, just hit streaming platforms worldwide. It’s seven tracks move like a sidewinder through tales of love turned sour, heartfelt regrets and infidelity. It’s a sensual project conceived, written and recorded in deserts around the country, and you can hear the dusty strangeness of desert spirituality in its screeching guitars and soulful cries.
Fans who caught Zhu’s surprise set at Coachella may recognize “Desert Woman,” one of the unreleased tunes he dropped in his set. “Guilty Love” is a stand out, too, as are the grimy techno sounds of “Provocateur” and “Burn Babylon” feat. Keznamdi and Daniel Wilson. Ringos Desert Pt. 1 also features JOY. and Karnaval Blues, and it ends with quite the cliff-hanger.
Will someone save Zhu? You’ll have to wait for Pt. 2 to find out, but you don’t have to wait too long for your chance to get down to these new grooves. Zhu and his desert band hit the road in early September on an official tour that might be unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. A promotional voicemail clip features ZHU’s manager berating his client’s decision to bring two-and-a-half tons of sand to each and every venue. We’re not sure why ZHU wants to smother the world in an endless desert, but we’re also here for it. Who doesn’t want to see a steamy club transformed into Arrakis?
Also, while you’re at it, be sure to text “dune” to (773) 8BL-KLZT for first access to tickets and to find out when they go on sale. Listen to Ringos Desert Pt. 1.
“I don’t feel like I’m an artist that is limited to anything. Whatever I can vibe to, I’ll make it into my own. I’m a person who adapts to any sound.”
From Carl Chery’s Beats1 radio show to Kylie Jenner’s Snapchat story, “Icey” has been playing everywhere and is on track to being a song of the summer.
“There was a lot of hard work before ‘Icey,’” says Melii. “I’m grateful that ‘Icey’ is doing what it’s doing. It feels good to know that I’m organically growing on people. Now, other people who are just listening to ‘Icey’ will be like, ‘Who is this girl?’”
That girl, is none other than Melii.
At just 20-years-old, Melii knows the undertakings of life through pulverizing her way into the music industry and growing up in the projects of Harlem.
“Growing up in Harlem, it really makes you,” she says. “It builds you to have tough skin. You grow up with this vulnerable setting. You know, being joked on sometimes and you gotta be ready to have a clap-back basically. Growing up in Harlem was very important to me. It made me who I am today.”
Her humble beginnings not only encompass the adversities of Harlem but the warmth of her Dominican heritage.
“I was born here but having Dominican parents, the first thing you hear is Spanish. My mom always made sure of that,” Melii says. “I grew up on listening to a lot of Spanish music like this O.G. named Juan Luis Guerra. So me listening to him or even salsa; how I talk, how I dance, that comes from him because he has a lot of love songs. I do like to tap into my Spanish side because I want other people to understand me. Also, my mom and my dad really support me so I make sure that they understand some of the songs that I have out. I want to tap in more into my Hispanic side but I want it to be equal. I want it to be a balance of who I am.”
Melii shows that she’s capable of finding balance on “Icey” as she effortlessly pairs her cavalier New York street chic with her fiery Dominican demeanor as she softly threatens, “Cuidado si me tocas te quemas.” Which — fun fact — translate to, “If you touch me, you burn.” Her brash lyrics come to life throughout the “Icey” music video, which was directed by YGA for AWGE and styled by Farren Fucci, who boasts Rihanna and Bella Hadid as some of his biggest clients.
“Working with them was amazing,” said Melii. “They were very supportive and understanding of what I wanted to do, and how I wanted to portray myself in the video. It was great because they held it down. They were like, ‘Take your time, whatever you feel comfortable with.’ Even my hairstylist and makeup artist, they were all great. I love my team.”
Melii’s team comes from Interscope records who she recently signed to after years of being an independent artist hustling across platforms like SoundCloud and YouTube.
“At the end of the day, they make sure that everything that’s going on with me is in my best interest and that’s the whole point. It doesn’t really matter if you’re indie or if you’re in a label because even indie artists, they might say they’re doing it all by themselves but there’s people behind you to help you out. So whoever’s behind you and they’re making sure that you’re good, and that everyone is on the same page on when things are being released, or when it’s being done — then that’s the main focus.”
Through Interscope, Melii will be releasing her debut project Phases, which is set to debut this summer.
“You’ll see a lot of diversity and how I tap into different styles. That’s the whole point of Phases, it shows different sides of me. It’s gonna let my fans know just how I am and a little bit deeper.”
She’s been spending countless hours in the studio to create an intimate portrait of her world, doing so the best way she knows how, through songwriting. With bad bitch anthems like “Icey” and “Balling,” it can be hard to imagine Melii as anything else but a Harlem hot-shot. Yet on songs like “BK Woe” and “No Simple Chick,” Melii presents herself with vulnerability.
“I started off with poetry because that was the only way I knew how to express myself,” she says. “My creative process is basically how I’m feeling at the moment. If I have beats in front of me, I’ll see what comes to mind and vibe off of it. Every song I do is just me, my experiences, and how I feel. I don’t like to describe myself as R&B or stuff like that because then it boxes me in. It’s all about the beat, whatever I feel on it or I feel could go into it, I’m gonna write to it. I don’t feel like I’m an artist that is limited to anything. Whatever I can vibe to, I’ll make it into my own. I’m a person who adapts to any sound.”
Melii credits J. Cole as being one of her biggest influences saying he motivated her to go harder in her career and to create a relationship with her fans.
“He’s a great artist. He inspired me to tell stories through my music and let my fans know that all you have to do is listen to my music and you’ll know how to get through things. ‘Crunch Time’ is my favorite [J. Cole] song but I could go on. I like ‘Premeditated Murder,’ ‘Dreams,’ — he’s a great story teller. Most of his songs are motivating and he speaks a lot to kids like me. I grew up in the projects and it rains but, the sun always comes out.”
However, if it wasn’t for the influence of Nicki Minaj, Melii might have never attempted to rap at all.
“In sixth grade, I started listening to Nicki Minaj and I wanted to start rapping, so I would turn my poems into raps. I already knew I could sing because I would do plays in school. After that, I started writing my own songs.”
While women have always been a monolith in music, it feels like it now more than ever, women are having a moment in rap. It seems like each day, a new female rapper is making her way into the mainstream.
“Honestly, I’m proud of females because there’s a lot of girls right now that are coming up and it’s about time. Nicki Minaj opened that platform for us, she was the one really on it for a few years. So to see that other females are coming out and sticking together right now, it’s great. I feel like the more that females stick together and support each other the less it’ll be like, ‘There can only be one.’ There’s a lot of male rappers and to see every female coming out and doing their thing, it amazes me. I’m also proud to be a female myself because I feel like every girl right now is putting in work.”
One of the biggest breakout stars within the past year is Cardi B, who often times Melii gets compared to because of small similarities.
“I feel like what [Cardi B] got going on right now is dope,” she says. “Any artist is gonna be compared to anyone who is coming from the ground and coming up, that’s just how it is. Other than that, kudos to her and what she’s doing. As a woman, I support any other artist that’s doing it. I don’t really get into comparisons or anything because in general, I’m an artist. Any artist is sensitive with their work and I feel like everybody is different in their own ways. Comparisons or anything like that — it doesn’t phase me. I don’t get angry or anything about it. We’re both coming from New York so I can’t really blame the fans for feeling like there’s similarities.”
Melii proves that she knows who she is as an artist and that internet chit-chat won’t ever change that. She is sure that her versatility as a singer, songwriter and rapper will carry her to the next level and distinguish her from the rest.
“I want people to take away that I’m real and that’s all I’m gonna ever be. Instead of me speaking a lot on the internet or even interviews, my fans will get to know me just by listening to my songs and that’s all I really want; to connect with my fans through my music so they feel like they know me.”
When asked where she sees herself at the end of 2018, she gently replies, “I don’t really know. I don’t like to predict my future, I leave it up to God. I’ll just keep grinding and doing what I have to do because at the end of the day, this is just the beginning. Even when you’re in the industry, you’re still grinding, you’re still hustling, there’s never a point where you stop.”
Our weekly variety showThe Reviewis back with another jam-packed episode.Usually the show features recurring segments including Ball Boyz and Snob Talk, but while they’re on a bye week, Higher Brothers came to American to fill in their slot.
Our own assistant editor Noah Thomas, sat down with the rising Chinese hip hop group from Chengdu to discuss their American experience. As they break down the video for their viral hit “Trickery,” the squad opens up about their favorite American fast foods, being apart of 88rising, and more. Speaking on food, we take Higher brothers on a true New York experience, by eating their first ever street cart hot dog.
Introducing a new segment into the show, Arianna Zaidenweber sheds light on underground artists you need to add to your playlist on the new Top 5 segment. Learn more about the new wave of musicians including wayi, kirby forest, 070 shake and more.
To close out episode eight, Nepenthes owner Keizo Shimizu sat down for an exclusive talk with Highsnobiety, where he revealed the backstory of his Nepenthes empire.
We’re the Higher Brothers, and we’re a rap group from Chengdu, China.
We met on the internet, through a social media music website similar to Soundcloud, but it’s called Wangyi. Before we were a group, we made music individually. Then we started making music together.
The first rap music we heard was on CD’s, because a lot of Chinese pop songs mix in some hip-hop style. Then, we started using the internet to find more hip-hop-style music. We loved everything about American hip-hop. We learned everything from this – music videos, movies, style, everything. When people look at us, they think we dress swag and cool, and that’s what we want. (The clothes) were ALWAYS oversized when we were younger – now we like to wear tight clothes.
We grew up listening to Nas, Big L , Big Daddy Kane… In the old days, the music was very different. Music is all the same now – there’s no East Coast or West Coast music. Everything’s connected because of the internet. In New York, you can make Dirty South music. In China, we make trap music!
In China, the only place you can see someone with tattoos or earrings or braids is by watching the NBA. We like rap, sneakers, and Jordans all because of basketball. Before rap music, we watched the NBA, and we would watch it every day when we woke up before school. We like the Rockets! Or the Kings – the purple! Allen Iverson is swag – he was the only one who kept it real in the NBA. We like James Harden too.
Some Chinese rap we like is by an artist named AsnrJ. We listened to his song “Chengdu Gangsta,” which was over Dr. Dre’s “What’s the Difference” beat. He rapped a story about a gangster robbing him. He used Chengdu(nese), which is a local dialect of Chinese. We thought that was really cool. There’s a legacy of rap in Chengdu that goes back more than ten years.
At first, only a few people would come to our shows, but now, we do a lot of shows in Chengdu. Back then, only 100 people would come – now there are at least 1,000 people. We’ve been doing it for a long time, and we’ve gained a lot of supportive fans.
In China, the mainstream may not be supportive, but within the rap community – the real fans – they know us. We’re pretty underground in China.
In May of 2016, we landed in Shanghai and opened an email from 88Rising. We were like, oh my god! From then on, we started to connect.
We feel the support here in the US, but that’s something new – a start. We can feel the American love, though. We’re respected by all different types of people in the streets of New York – there are people of all races saying what’s up and taking pics with us.
At one of our last shows in LA, Chief Keef came on stage with us, which was a fucking dream. We’ve loved Chief Keef for a long time, and that was just crazy. Atlanta surprised us as well – everyone was swag and dressed so cool. We liked the strip clubs too!
We just rap about whatever we’re feeling in the moment – lyrics about everyday life. We talk about milk sometimes – once, we were drinking it and it was so sweet, so we wanted to make a song about it. We write down our ideas, then go to the studio. We just want it to be natural.
We like interesting lyrics – we think we’re best at that. Lyrically, we’re probably the best in China. We don’t have a type of flow we favor. We make it all our own.
We don’t overthink things – we just want to live our lives and keep making our music better and better. When we’re back in China, we gotta take over everything. When we find success in America, we go back to China and just find more success. It just goes back-to-back, and we get bigger and bigger each time we go back and forth. Double, triple, back-to-back-to-back.
“Me and my father had a really rough relationship, and I’m named after him, so I kind of wanted to spite him, but also be a part of him,” AUGUST 08 says to begin our interview.
The 26-year-old Los Angeles-born, Koreatown-based singer makes his intentions clear from the jump: his upcoming EP, Father, is a type of reckoning, inspired by his tumultuous relationship with his father. Their rift began to sour his relationship with the rest of his family, and August’s newfound success had him feeling both nostalgic and bitter. While music has been there for him since day one, this EP was a much-needed outlet.
“Me starting to have some kind of success as a songwriter and producer made me really think back on the good times I’ve had just with myself and with my family,” he explains. “Me not being able to have those times anymore, because me and my family don’t get along… The project is called Father, saying it’s okay to have father issues. It’s okay to not have control over everything that’s going on. That project is me pouring out those emotions.”
Even so, August’s vulnerability doesn’t trap him in a state of despair. A self-proclaimed optimist, he credits giving himself permission to feel through his emotions as the trick to his sunny disposition. “What I’ve learned is, you have to feel,” he tells me. “You’re either going to be happy, or you’re going to be sad, but you have to take time to let those emotions out.”
Though August grew up in a state of without, he wants his music to have a ballooning impact. “I want those kids who are out there, who don’t have an outlet, to find an outlet to make themselves feel better because I never had one,” he concludes. “I really want those kids to look at themselves and say, ‘This is what’s gonna make me happy. This is what’s gonna make me feel good about myself.’”
DJBooth’s full interview with AUGUST 08, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
Starting with your stage name, is there a specific memory tied to 2008?
You know, the month of August is the eighth month. So, the reason my name is AUGUST 08 is because it’s my father’s birthday, his birth month is August. I did that because me and my father had a really rough relationship, and I’m named after him, so I kind of wanted to spite him, but also be a part of him.
I usually start an interview by asking about childhood, but since your upcoming EP, Father, is inspired by your own, what in your present life inspired you to go back to those feelings of family tension?
Success, honestly. Me starting to have some kind of success as a songwriter and producer made me really think back on the good times I’ve had just with myself and with my family. Me not being able to have those times anymore, because me and my family don’t get along. Me and my father’s relationship, us not getting along, is one of the main points of that. So I wanted to make a song like “Lately,” make a song like “Funeral,” and the project is called Father, saying it’s okay to have father issues. It’s okay to not have control over everything that’s going on. That project is me pouring out those emotions.
Do you view making music as a way of creating and fostering the community you felt you were once lacking?
No, actually. Music was just something that’s always been a part of me. I’ve always wanted to be some kind of musician. I wanted to be a drummer growing up, that was my thing. I didn’t really listen to the radio, but I played the drums and I picked up the guitar when I was 16. Music was always there, it wasn’t an outlet. This project was an outlet for my family but growing up, music wasn’t just an outlet.
I know you have relationships with Compton, Long Beach, and Lynwood.
Absolutely! Compton is where my parents are from, where I lived for a short time, and that’s where I was young. My grandma stayed in Compton, my friends stayed in Compton. That definitely affected my character, the crazy stuff that goes down there and the beautiful stuff that goes down there. Lynwood, I lived there for a short period of time. The same experiences I had in Compton, I had in Lynwood. The same kind of goes for Long Beach, but I kinda became more of a man in Long Beach. I learned a lot, went through a lot of gang activity, losing friends to gang violence.
What do you want kids from each of those places to come away with after hearing your music?
Honestly, don’t be afraid to have emotions. I want those kids who are out there, who don’t have an outlet, to find an outlet to make themselves feel better because I never had one. I want those kids to find something to make themselves feel special. My high school didn’t have a music program, you know? I really want those kids to look at themselves and say, “This is what’s gonna make me happy. This is what’s gonna make me feel good about myself.”
I read that, thanks to a friend, you had your musical awakening all at once. What were those first experiences like diving into music?
It was crazy! It was beautiful, because he showed me… I knew stuff that was on the radio, growing up there was all the [laughs] ratchet shit that was playing on the airwaves. He sent me something that was left of everything, just left. I kinda just clicked and instantly related to it, and clinged onto it. That led me to start digging for other things, like Black Star, which is…
That’s one of my favorite albums. I have the CD on my desk.
That’s my favorite album, for sure. That album changed my life.
It made me more in tune with Black culture, and just being emotional and available. On that album, they weren’t afraid to be political. They weren’t afraid to talk about love and say triggering things. That definitely helped shape me.
Do you ever struggle with getting vulnerable in your music?
Lately, it’s been a little tougher, because it’s more of a showcase thing now. Now, when I make something, it’s always being shown to someone. But, I’m still vulnerable. I’m still able to say, “Hey, here’s my emotions. Here’s how I’m feeling in the moment.” Lately, I’ve been having new emotions, so I haven’t been as sad boy-ish [laughs] because there’s a lot of good in my life. It’s constantly changing, though, so the music changes with it.
In terms of career, how has signing with 88rising helped to facilitate your growth?
They’re great people, from the artists to the staff. Everyone is a good person, so they helped me open up and become more in tune with what I want and who I want to be. They’ve created a lane where you can be who you are and not be afraid to let that shine. Musically, we just feed off each other. There’s so much music out there, looking at [Rich] Brian or looking at Joji, there’s so much music out there that I wasn’t tapped into that they showed me, like, “Holy shit, this is crazy!”
Your latest visual is for “Lately,” a record that is tied to this feeling of yearning. Where were you at when you wrote that song?
That song was inspired by my ex-girlfriend. I’m not gonna say her name ’cause she’s gon’ sue me [laughs]. I was sitting in the studio with my guys, Barney Bones, Josh Lockhart, Jeff Kleinman and Michael Uzoruwu, who all helped with the record, and she was also there. I was like, “Why is she here? Why am I trying to revive something that is not revivable, that does not make sense for my life?” I thought about that with my family, how… I’m having all this success, and none of this success means anything without family and love, and that just made me feel really lonely.
So the first lyric I came up with, like, everyone knows there’s no such thing as a Lamborghini with suicide doors. It’s like an analogy to say that when you’re lonely there is nothing that can help you cope with that, but family. So even when you have the riches and you ballin’ out crazy, you’re still gonna want someone to share everything with and help you do that.
On the whole, the EP seems to be driven by very difficult-to-reconcile questions, opening with the screaming line: “Where you been!” Was that intentional?
Actually, I made that track, “Missed Calls,” as an ode to Kid Cudi. I’m a huge Kid Cudi fan. The screaming thing came from another artist I’m really close with, DUCKWRTH. He was going through something at the time, just hella emotional, so I was like, “Yo, just get on the mic and do your thing.” It just worked. That beginning part was actually a minute long, but then we cut it down. DUCKWRTH is also on “Funeral.”
How do you come to accept that some questions and some desires just go unanswered?
That question is a weird question to answer because that’s something no one can control. There’s always going to be something you can’t answer, so you just gotta be optimistic about it, or are you gonna wreck your brain about it? I think nobody should wreck their brain over anything. I’m a very optimistic person. I let everything really roll off my back. Nothing holds me down, you know?
There are equal parts escapism and realism in your music. How do you balance that when writing?
The way you balance that is by showing real emotion. What I’ve learned is, you have to feel. You’re either going to be happy, or you’re going to be sad, but you have to take time to let those emotions out. A friend of mine told me a few years ago, “Yo, you’re one of those guys who always suppress your emotions. If you took one day to cry and let all the pain out, you would have the best month of your life.”
There was a bad situation that happened to me, so it took time to feel it and let myself go, and the next day, I just felt amazing. So each song with an emotional vibe, that’s because I chose to go through each emotion at that moment.
Do you ever set aside time to cry?
Well, you don’t ever know what’s gon’ happen. I’m a very optimistic person, so for me to want to cry, it has to be something super, super sad. It has to be something crazy. When that crazy serious thing happens, that’s when I’m like, “Yo, it’s time to go home and be with yourself.” Because I’m never home. I’m either touring a lot or in the studio. When those times come where I need to be with myself, I know when to go home.
Does that work? Do you feel better afterward?
Absolutely! Before it was like, I would be a little upset about things more than I should be upset about them. That’s never good for anyone. But doing this definitely helped me put a lot of things into perspective, like, nothing is actually bad. It’s just the way you treat it. There’s people out there who are very sick, and there’s people who, all is lost for them. And we’re complaining about this simple thing that’s happening to us?
There’s not a lot of information online about AUGUST 08. His first Instagram is from December 2017, simply captioned, “Hi I’m August and I’ve decided to use Instagram for what it’s for. Here’s a picture of my friend Brian’s Tour Bus ”. His first tweet, from September 17, quotes an enquiry, “who r u and what do u do for 88?” AUGUST 08’s response: “I RISE.”
“88” is 88rising, the LA-based music, media, management and meme-manufacturing company helping to propel Asian artists out to the wider world. Brian is Indonesian rapper Rich Brian, one of the spearheads of the movement who clocked up Internet virality with his stereotype-subverting Dat $tick . AUGUST 08 is a very fresh signing to 88rising, which explains how the then-unknown LA crooner scored a feature on the closing track of Brian’s latest album, and an opening spot on his latest tour. “It was an incredible feeling to get in front of crowds that didn’t know me, but who were open to a new experience,” he says. “We raged hella hard.”
Given they’re in the business of 360 career development, you get the sense 88 picked up on AUGUST 08’s potential when he was songwriting for other people, and then wiped his slate clean (“why tf do u only have 25 followers,” one Twitter user asked. “New Account lol” was the response), in preparation to catapult him to the same heady heights as their other offspring. Because if his debut tracks are anything to go by, he’s on the cusp of a skyrocketing very high, very soon. Fitting, then, that one of his biggest inspirations is Elon Musk.
“It’s the kind of song you want to blast from souped-up speakers at 3am as you hurtle down an empty freeway, rain tearing down your windscreen, speed limit conveniently sidelined in attempt to outpace all your life problems. “
His other inspiration is the guy who makes Drake’s dad’s suits. “I got mad love for that person.” It also appears he has mad love for Drake, if his two debut tracks are anything to go by. They’re similarly heavy on the yearning melancholy vocals that probe at a very personal history. “The project was really based around my father, and my father left me when I was young, when I was 11 or 12 years old,” he toldPigeons and Planes about his upcoming EP,Father. Back in March, we got our first taste via Funeral — a slow burn of a track that really latches onto something in your chest cavity. The verses are all slow, sung-rap hybrids underscored by a driving beat. It crescendos into a chorus that foregrounds his syrupy voice with an absolute gut-punch of a lyric: “Don’t say it at my funeral — say it to me now.”
Then there’s Lately, released via 88rising and Red Bull Records, the video for which we’re premiering today. While its cover art, video and track all feature an obnoxiously expensive car — a Lamborghini, to be precise — it’s much more Frank Ocean’s White Ferrari than Chamillionaire’s Ridin’. It’s the kind of song you want to blast from souped-up speakers at 3am as you hurtle down an empty freeway, rain tearing down your windscreen, speed limit conveniently sidelined in attempt to outpace all your life problems. In AUGUST 08’s case, this is also probably the speed at which his career is about to take off at. So strap in, press play and hold tight for more.
New York City Chinese food is a genre unto itself. But how do some of the city’s most popular, Chinese-inspired dishes taste to China’s biggest hip-hop group? Straight out of Chengdu, Sichuan, 88rising’s Higher Brothers are here to help Sean Evans rate the merits and faults of items like mapo tofu chili cheese fries and General Tso’s chicken and waffles. Will these untraditional Chinese meals remind MaSiWei, DZknow, Melo, and Psy.P of the cooking back home, or feel as disappointingly inauthentic as a “Gucci Gang” remix? Find out the answers to these important questions—and more!—on an all new episode of Sean in the Wild.
Growing up in South Central, Los Angeles, his Pentecostal Christian mother did not allow her son, born Jared Lee, to listen to any hip-hop. His early influences include bands like Queen and Pink Floyd. Later, finding hip-hop, it would actually be “You Can Do It” off of Pharrell Williams’ debut solo album that Duckwrth and his brother would listen to obsessively while in college when he finally decided music would be the route he’d take. “Me and my brother Reggie, we were listening to In My Mind. It didn’t come out then. It came out like in high school. We were listening to it hard. The song ‘You Can Do It’…” Before he could finish his sentence, he goes on to sing the intro, “My ni–a you can do it too, (turn me up, turn me up), you can do it too.”
“I was avoiding doing music because of my family all doing music, so I was like, no, that’s not for me. I’m trying to be different.” However, while going to college he realized he couldn’t really deny its hold on him. “It happened naturally. Music speaks to me. It’s like another form of design. I was doing graphic design so I looked at it like, yeah, this like audio design. It starts from the base, then you have your primary, secondary, and accents. The primary is like the bulk of it, sometimes the hook, and the secondary is the verse because people gravitate towards the hook more. The accents are the ad-libs.”
Despite having a very musical family, he believes his love for and need to look out for his grandparents forces him protect them from his path. His grandfather once cried at the sight of his then mohawk and chipped nail polish. By no means is he ashamed of his funkwave, psychedelic rap sound, but in an effort to almost reverse parent them, he keeps his music a secret from his grandparents. “I’m more concerned about their health. I’m not trying to have my grandma be like, ‘OH LORD!’ The first think they’re going to think about is my soul.” Much like his mother felt the need to protect him from certain types of music, Duckwrth now feels like he needs to protect his grandparents from his own.
But, he recognizes there’s no denying the influence his upbringing, love, and family values has had on him and his art. “There’s definitely things I take from it. It all has to do with Jesus. [Laughs] Between Jesus being super giving and believing in miracles (or the supernatural) or believing that even if your enemy spites you, you don’t spite them. In certain ways you turn the other cheek and focus on being a forgiving person.” Even in referencing some his musical influences like Pharrell and Michael Jackson, he mentions their connection to their childhood showed him he could still “grow up” and become a father but maintain that mentality. “Pay your bills. Take care of your kids, but you can still have an amusement park in your backyard.”
Recently signed to Republic, Duckwrth is also a firm believer in knowing his self-worth and believing in himself, another thing he picked up from his mom, and making sure to discuss the level of creative freedom he would require in order to sign a record deal. “I started hearing that you can have more control with a label deal and within what you’re creating.” We can expect Duckwrth to have a hand in everything he’s working on–sonically to visually–following An XTRA UUGLY MIXTAPE and him continuing to build the legacy he hopes to leave. As he puts it, the plan is to continue “being amazing in the art I create and also giving back because if I’m not giving it’s like what the fuck am I doing? But also, I want to look back at old photos of myself and be like, ‘Oh I was a bad mothafucka.’”
With releases like new video for “TAMAGOTCHI,” premiered here on ILY, Duckwrth shouldn’t have a problem with that. “TAMAGOTCHI” is the second visual from An XTRA UUGLY MIXTAPE. Directed by Lino Asana, the visual follows Duckwrth on a very attractive and insanely fun looking high-speed chase across California’s Mojave Desert all while Tamagotchi-esque pixelated highlights pop-up throughout. There is absolutely no doubt an older Duckwrth will look back on this with approval.
Partially directed by KILLY himself, alongside David Del Rosario and WVMR, the visuals are set in a desert landscape and serve as an appropriate backdrop to the melancholic track about the new changes that come with success.
In addition, KILLY also announced his Surrender Your Soul world tour. Tickets are available here, and you can view the entire list of dates below.
April 28 – Seattle, Washington @ The Vera Project
April 30 – San Francisco, California @ Brick + Mortar
May 01 – San Diego, California @ Delta Room – House Of Blues
May 02 – Phoenix, Arizona @ Club Red
May 04 – Dallas, Texas @ JMBLYA
May 05 – Austin Texas @ JMBLYA
May 07 – New Orleans, Louisiana @ The Parish – House Of Blues
May 09 – Atlanta, Georgia @ Vinyl
May 11 – Miami, Florida @ Rolling Loud
May 14 – Washington, D.C. @ Songbyrd
May 16 – Boston, Massachusetts @ Middle East Upstairs
May 17 – New York, New York @ S.O.B.’s
May 18 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania @ Voltage Lounge
May 20 – Chicago, Illinois @ Subterranean
May 22 – Denver, Colorado @ Globe Hall
May 24 – Los Angeles, California @ The Roxy Theatre
May 25 – Santa Ana, California @ Constellation Room
June 04 – Warsaw, Poland @ Drukarnia
June 06 – Zurich, Switzerland @ Komplex Klub
June 07 – Berlin, Germany @ St. Georg
June 08 – Barcelona, Spain @ Razzmatazz
June 09 – Madrid, Spain @ Cool Stage
June 11 – Helsinki, Finland @ Tavastia Club
June 13 – Stockholm, Sweden @ Debaser Strand
June 14 – Aarhus, Denmark @ Atlas
June 15 – Frankfurt, Germany @ Zoom
June 16 – Stuttgart, Germany @ F & K
June 18 – Vienna, Austria @ Flex
June 19 – Paris, France @ La Maroquinerie
June 20 – London, United Kingdom @ 02 Academy Islington
June 22 – Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Melkweg Upstairs
June 23 – Brussels, Belgium @ Fire Is Gold
Rich Brian only just gave us his debut project, Amen, in February, but he’s already back with new music. His career has been crazy so far, and he’s showing absolutely no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Today he’s shared the chaotic video for his new self-produced song “Watch Out!,” proving that he’s still got a lot more on the way for fans this year.
The manic production of “Watch Out!” pushes Brian to rap relentlessly, mimicking an alarm going off that you won’t ever want to put on snooze. It’s full of the type of energy that Amen was full of, albeit put through an almost demonic portal that’s warped his sound even further. The video is just as crazy, too, with a number of inspired shots that include Brian riding a horse, hanging upside down, and attending a very interesting funeral.
Fellow 88rising artist Joji makes an appearance in the video, too, showing up in a classroom of all places just causing a scene. To learn more about Rich Brian, make sure to check out The Book of Brian below.
“At first people didn’t know how to grasp ‘Killamonjaro,’” says Toronto rapper Killy of his breakout single, whose video has racked up over 15 million views since its release last year. “It’s like an alien landed on earth.” During a recent visit to MASS APPEAL HQ, Killy explained that the name has nothing to do with the famous mountain. “It’s like Killy’s ultimate form,” he says. In his Open Space interview, Killy talks about how T.Dot’s cultural melting pot shaped his character. “Toronto is such a cool place because everyone my age, their parents are from different countries… My mom’s Filipino and my dad’s from Barbados and Suriname. I grew up in a Caribbean restaurant my whole life.” In Killy’s Open Space interview he talks about his song “Stolen Identity” and how it felt being raised in a black household looking Asian. “I know who I am at the end of the day,” says Killy. “I know where I come from in my upbringing and I know myself.” Check out the latest episode of Open Space right now.
Thanks to a few international superstars that have emerged from it, Toronto’s music scene is competitive; and a tough one to break out of. That said, KILLY seems to be having no trouble making his mark on the 6. It’s been slightly under a year since he first popped onto the scene, yet he is quickly ensuring that he’s here to play a major role in the city’s cultural output.
Although boxed in as a SoundCloud rapper and having his music categorized as belonging to the current wave of “emo-rap,” KILLY initially caught listeners’ attention through Youtube with the success of his 2017 breakthrough single “Killamonjaro”. His reign as the one to watch solidified with the release of bangers that turned viral almost effortlessly, such as “Distance”, clocking millions of views and increasing his cult-like fanbase.
After ending last year strong, KILLY has kicked off 2018 with an even bigger bang. Earlier this month he released his debut album, Surrender Your Soul, and he’s announced his first tour to support, including stops at a few major festivals – such as Rolling Loud in Miami, VELD Music Festival in Toronto and Osheaga, the ‘Canadian Coachella.’
A few days after the release of his debut, the 20-year old artist sold out his first headlining show, bringing his lively performance to 1,400 hometown fans. Although the project had hardly spent time out in the world, that didn’t stop the crowd from chanting back every lyric while breaking out into various mosh pits throughout the historic night.
Highsnobiety got to spend some time with KILLY prior to his Toronto show to discuss his evolving style, a few of his favorite brands and what stands out about his aesthetic as a Canadian rapper.
So your debut came out a few days ago and tonight you’re playing a sold out hometown crowd. How you feeling?
Good! You know, it sold out in two minutes. And it feels good – been a long time coming.
You peep the feedback on your record yet?
Yeah, I mean it’s pretty good. I fuck with the reaction it got, it’s expected though.
What particularly stands out to me is your brand. As an artist, your fashion style has a unique approach. Do you style yourself?
Yeah, I have my own style. Even before I had dollars I’ve always had my own style. As I get bigger, I meet people who want to advise me with fashion. I also have people in my camp that are fashion heads – they’ll be putting me onto the rarest of rare.
Has your style evolved since the music? If so, how has it changed?
As the music gets bigger, and the bags get bigger I start to wear the clothes I’ve always wanted to wear. Before, I used to buy the version that was ‘modeled after’ the Rick Owens. Now it’s cool because I’m able to wear what I want and push the envelope as well. I wear a lot of crazy different shit.
Last grail you copped?
The Nike AF1 x Ricardo Tisci. Have those come out yet? Nike sent me those, so shoutout Nike for that one. I don’t know if they dropped, I think they’re early. Also the Balenciaga Triple S’s.
What would you say stands out about your fashion taste and style?
I’m not afraid to wear what people are afraid to wear. I’m not afraid of criticism when it comes to wearing certain pieces. I did a show in a baby blue fur hoodie – and that was Women’s FENTY by Rihanna, but I don’t give a fuck ‘cause it still looks sick. I’ll still wear it. Like for me, fashion really doesn’t have a gender to it. I usually wear whatever I think is cool, and if that means it’s a women’s fur coat, then it’s a women’s fur coat.
What’s your fave streetwear brand at the moment?
I really like Cav Empt a lot. That’s one brand that I always wanted to wear but never could – also, because it’s hard to find, I always have to order online, you know those ones? Cav Empt is something I’ve been wearing a lot lately.
Do you have any ‘icons’? Anyone who influenced or helped mold your style?
Definitely Young Thug. Young Thug is super sick when it comes to fashion. I see the best of everyone and get inspired and get influenced by that. But Thug, Young Thug is crazy.
What do you want to see brought back into fashion?
It’s kind of already back, but I was wearing Von Dutch and Ed Hardy, that whole scene early, like from two years ago. Those are brands I used to wear as a kid. Something I haven’t seen in a very long time – that I used to have as a kid – was PNB Nation. They covered a lot of sick streetwear clothes. I have this one hoodie and I’m about to bring it back.
We know you literally just dropped your debut but what should your fans expect from you next?
World tour, that’s what’s next. More content, more everything.
“To be honest, I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t want to do this.”
KILLY first stirred up viral buzz last year with his song “Killamonjaro,” raking in over 15 million YouTube views for its official video that was reportedly shot at a house party for $300. The Toronto rapper continued to ascend with the release of his followup track “Distance.” This month, KILLY shared his debut project Surrender Your Soul, putting his skills front and center with no additional artist features.
One of the project’s standout tracks is the Y2K-produced “No Sad No Bad”, which KILLY wrote after taking his first trip to Los Angeles. The rapper tells Genius that he was instantly impressed with the city upon arriving at the airport, and the song’s intro naturally popped into his head.
“I walk outside, the conditions are perfect,” he recalls. “The first thing I said, I remember as I was getting in the Uber lighting up the blunt. I was like, ‘Yo, there’s no way anyone could be sad here. This is like the perfect conditions.’ And then I just had the, ‘No sad, no bad days in LA,’ came into my head.”