Creativity seems to turn people into insomniacs, as your EP title suggests. How does the night enhance your artistry?
The night definitely does. You just get more in touch with your emotions, up late. I record by myself. I tend to get more in touch with myself. When I record in the day I shut off all the lights and make sure the room’s dark. I feel more comfortable that way.
Where did that comfort originate?
Forever, since I was young. I think it’s because I was shy to make music when my mom was home. I just got used to it, and now I can’t record in a room with lights. I feel like the spotlight is on me—I’m really a low-key person, never out there like that. I’m reserved. An introvert.
That makes two of us. When did your mom learn of you music ambitions?
Probably when I first started, because I was making way too much noise and she’d bang on my door. I was like, “Damn, well I guess I suck” [Laughs]. Then around the age of 16 or 17 I started getting better and she was always supportive. She does whatever she can for me. She lets me do me and supports what I put out to the world. I’m 24, turning 25 in December.
That’s coming up man, big year. Any plans?
Yup. I’m trying to drop a tape on my birthday. Already working on it… I made three songs today.
Grind never stops.
I’m a workaholic. This is all I like to do. It’s no game for me.
When you weren’t working, what shenanigans did you get yourself into as a kid that you may have written about later?
I used to play manhunt with my friends. But where I’m from, it’s too dangerous. So I’d get in trouble for being out late. My mom would be so pissed. My childhood… I was just a bad-ass kid basically. I would sneak out the crib and shit, steal the little screws off the tires in the hood. Just the stupidest shit. I used to get into fights—I had to put that behind me by the time I became a teenager. I saw way too much shit happen to my friends and I just had to stay off the streets after that.
It seems like that focus is paying dividends now. Where were you raised?
Marcy Projects. Brooklyn, New York.
Dangerous but historic. How did the home of Jay Z influence you?
I think it has a lot to do with me even making music. Because I used to see Jay Z around a bunch of times. He used to come back every Christmas. My brother would get quarter waters for him. If I didn’t see any of that, I don’t think I’d want to make music. Jay’s a big reason behind that. And my neighborhood—like I said, I’m an introvert, but [Marcy] teaches you how to have that edge. You gotta have it out there or they’re gonna crush you. So I get respect from everybody, I just stay in my own lane. I don’t try to do too much else. Being close with my mom and being from there made me who I am. I’ve got a side of me that’s not so tough all the time but you gotta have a straight face out there and keep your name up. It’s really no love out there. I saw my best friends pass away.
In what ways did your perception of past relationships, whether friendly or romantic, influence your songwriting?
With women, it’s just all about the everyday ups and downs. I’ll sometimes take text messages from my girl and put them in a song—everything in the music is true. I feel like the relationship… if it weren’t for women, my music would not be as good as it is. They’re a big inspiration. I like the details. That’s why the songs are do descriptive. I think a lot of people are scared to say certain things.
Is there a particular trait you admire in the women you love?
For me, with women it’s just their character I respect. My pet peeve is nagging me when I’m trying to get work done. I like to be left alone when there’s work to do. Other than that, I’m good [Laughs].
You began as a producer before you stepped into your own as an artist. What was your entry point to produce, were you a Fruity Loops person?
Yup, I was a Fruity Loops person. My brother bought it for me when I was about 12, and I was making shitty beats with the Soulja Boy sounds and stuff. Then I grew and started studying Kanye, Pharrell. Those are my childhood idols. Especially in production.
Good idols to have…
They’re the top two man. I still get inspired by producers today too, though. Never copying, but there’s inspiring new stuff out there. I just feel like the internet is a bowl of inspiration just sitting there. I’m looking to do more collabs in the near future. I want to combine waves with some people. It would be fun.
Who did you collaborate with for artwork?
That’s all thanks to the person behind the art direction. His name is Keanu Milborrow. I sent him a movie from the 1970s [Gracz, a 1973 Polish drama]. My artwork is definitely inspired by that. 70s and 80s movies, plus whatever Keanu was inspired by. I tell him he’s a genius every time he sends me something. He’s from South Africa, so we just talk through email or Instagram or something. We’ve never even spoken on the phone. I’ve met mostly everyone that had anything to do with the tape—besides my main producer—through the internet. But yeah, we’re trying to keep a strong aesthetic. I can’t wait for things to grow and do bigger art projects. I’m excited.
Shoutout the internet.
Shoutout the internet, real talk.
The curious part about that film influence is that you can feel it in the songs too. You can tell Still Up All Night arose from a singular vision, that you have a cinematic ear.
I think working late nights really helped. We’ve been working on this for about three years and we cut off most of the songs from the early sessions. We found some zone. I knocked out most of the project in three weeks at the end of the day. It’s hard to explain. Most of the times I make something I don’t even remember how they sound. I’ll forget until the engineer sends it back. Drugs, liquor, my producers. I make most of my stuff off the liquor. That other side of you… I feel like there are two sides of you, and that side lets you write with more detail.
Is it important to you that you’re known for making full bodies of work?
I don’t want to do anything that isn’t me. If you had to relate me to anyone, in terms of following in their footsteps, I’d want it to be Kanye. Just keep pushing boundaries. I never want to take steps backward. I’m not going to put something out until it’s 100 percent in my mind. Classics on top of classics is the goal.