What are the advantages and disadvantages to being a younger artist in mainstream hip-hop?
The biggest disadvantage is that people just have this expectation that you’re going to just be talking about the same old shit that every other young rapper is talking about. But then the advantage is when you don’t [talk about the same topics], because that just intrigues people more. I feel like the new mixtape that I’m working on right now, Electric Highway, people are going to see a lot more mature content than from anyone in my age group right now.
I feel like they’re going to take that in an even better way. In hip-hop, people keep saying that the younger generation is losing it. I don’t feel that way. I want to be someone that represents some positivity and the storytelling elements that people fell in love with when they first heard rap music, and still doing it in a fun way and a new style while keeping that content. Me being young allows me to do that in a lot more cool a way.
Where do you want to be in five or 10 years?
Man, in five years I want to have at least a number one album. I want to have gone platinum. I want a Grammy under my belt, and I want a label under me so I can help other young artists that want to get their message out and be able to give them a platform to do that. So yeah, that’s what I want in the next five to 10 years.
That’s some serious ambition.
Yeah, it’s going to take a lot of hard work.
Do you worry about setting goals that high?
I used to worry about it, honestly. But this Rick Ross situation and hearing from guys like Diddy, who I’ve been looking up to since I first knew what rap music was, for those guys to be interested in what I’m doing to the point where they want me to be a part of their empires? That was an eye-opener for me. And me being able to stay true to what I know and not lose that relatability, there’s no way that I can’t win.
What’s been your favorite album in the past year?
Let me see, I’m trying to think. Actually, it’s a non-rap album. It’s this artist, her name is Kimbra. She was on that song with Gotye, called, um…
“Somebody That I Used To Know.”
Yeah, “Somebody That I Used To Know.” So I found out about her through that record and my cameraman actually found her album for me. He got me the album and it just felt like when I heard Eryka Badu for the first time, almost, but on a more 2012 type of vibe. That album just blew everything away for me.
Kanye’s albums, you know they’re always good. Jay-Z albums are always good. But in this past year, it really gave me a lot of confidence to go my own way in my music and I liked that.
You two going to collaborate?
That would be dope. We’re on the same label now, so I’m going to try to make that happen [Laughs].
The next mixtape, Electric Highway: what should we expect to hear when it drops?
It’s going to be a real fun project. At the same time, it will have a real classic feel to it. It’s a lot of storytelling. I feel like a lot of young kids are curious to see how I even got to this point with MMG and you know, people from different states don’t know the work I put in in Chicago, they feel like they’re just looking at this random kid. I feel like I’ve got this platform to show everything I’ve been through, share everything I’ve seen and showing love to the people that told me I could do this.
It’s recent enough in my mind to the point that it won’t mess up the things that I’ve been planning for my first album as well. So you’re going to see the TV show version of the movie that will be the album,… that’s what you’ll get on Electric Highway.
Are you working with any particular producers?
I’m working with a lot of the people that I’ve been working with. I worked with a lot of young producers in the cut that are around my age group and with me getting better as a rapper, they’re getting better as producers. I would rather work with the people that really understand my sound and where I’m going versus what everybody expects me to do, which is work with these crazy producers. We don’t have the time or connection for me to pull out what I want to pull out, so rather than mess with some extra experimentation when I can work with the people I’ve been with and build it from there.
Is this going to be a free project?
Yes, sir. I really wanted to make sure that my first project with MMG is something that’s free for the fans, because I wouldn’t be in this position if so many people hadn’t supported me to this point. It’s fair to give them something that’s really classic, just for the support that they gave me and not make them pay for that.
What’s going to define the difference between a mixtape and an album for you?
Really the musicality of it and how deep into my story I go. I’m in a situation where a lot of people are looking towards me and I’m going to be going on my first headlining tour at the end of this month. I’m going to have a lot on my plate, and not just the rap stuff but the instrumentation and arrangements I wanted to have on the album, I’m just not going to have the time to be able to do that like I wanted to. But, when I go to work on the album I’m going to really take the time to make sure I have the music to create the soundtrack that I want to make what I’m talking about make sense on a whole different level and give people something special, even outside of hip-hop.
I guess that goes back into why I like Kimbra’s album too, because the production in it makes you feel like you’re going on an emotional ride with the situation, and that’s what I want people to do with my first album. Mixtape – you’re going to be able to feel it too. But I want to take the time on that album.
So the difference is the detail and preparation that goes into each project?
Exactly. The mixtape is more of an introduction.
Pigeons or Planes?
Planes. Definitely planes. Last time I was a pigeon, but I’m a plane now. I’m feeling fly.