Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cliffs Notes: Strangers

Listen to "Strangers" here:

My concept with “Strangers” was to take a song idea that’s traditionally about courting and spitting game to a woman and relate it to the excitement and freshness that comes with learning new things about a person who you care about. The two ideas – initially meeting someone when you meet them at a bar, for example, and learning more personal things about someone whom you already know – are comparable when looked at through an optimistic lens in viewing relationships.

Therefore, the words cause the title “Strangers” to be sort of paradoxical. It typically refers to individuals who haven’t met before. In this case, I’m already with this woman and am describing how much I care for her and how excited I am to continue to learn new things about her. To keep that excitement in our relationship everyday as if it were the first time we met. And I do so in a sort of shrewd way through role-play, actually courting her as if I’ve never met her before.

I allude to the fact that I’m speaking of a woman I am already with and care for at the end of each verse. In the way it’s written, each line can be taken as if I’m meeting a woman for the first time at the bar or role-playing the dialogue with a woman who I’m already with.   

Verse 1

Why you over there? You should come here
You should come near where you’ll end up anyway
Got a few things you might wanna hear
Listen to my touch while I bite on your ear

‘Got a few things…’ begins the dual meaning of the song. It could be taken to mean that I’m kickin game to the girl to tell her why she should come home with me or that I’m telling her how much I care about her. This stanza also begins my reference to communicating with her sensually and without words. Such as, “Listen to my touch…” and “…lips”. Also saying, the smell of her fragrance is telling me something and I “Dig [her] senses…”

Listen to my lips I can feel your kiss
Smell your fragrance yeah I dig your senses
And if love’s crazy, I’m senseless
You bad girl, I’m tempted

Enforces the description above.

Not to mention the way you put it together
The rest I forget em, you I’m forever with
Walk on em I’ma talk on ya
Work those heels, suga, I just wanna flaunt ya

Here is the first place where it’s more concretely revealed that I’m speaking of someone I’m already with. I say “The rest I forget em, you I’m forever with” to exemplify my commitment. Though, in another sense, it could also be taken as a playful, intentionally shallow promise you might make to a beautiful girl the first time you meet her…that she’s so beautiful that you could marry her or that you never want her to walk out of your life, etc. I then say “Walk on em I’ma talk on ya” to mean that she’s figuratively walking all over other women. None can compare, but she doesn’t need to spend her time boasting to other girls because she’s humbly confident. That’s why I say I’ll “talk on ya” in the way that I brag to the others about her, for her. The figurative walking is then related to how good she looks, literally, walking in heels “Work those heels…”. Then, “I just wanna flaunt ya” brings the idea together by saying that I flaunt her, in a way, both figuratively and literally. First, by bragging about her and, next, by proudly having her on my arm.

And she calls me by full name, that’s the difference
Nobody else got the privilege
Lil’ cute smile lookin innocent
But I watch her kill em all I’m a witness

Throughout the song, I move in and out of talking to her directly, referring to her as “you” and indirectly, referring to her as “her”. This is meant to show that I’m not just gassing her up and kicking game to her in person, I also say these things in an objective situation to other people. Describing to other people what someone means to you is often more telling than the way you might describe it to the person themself. So, “she calls me by full name” means that she knows me well and sees me as the person I am, rather than calling me by a nickname or stage name. In the other sense, someone you’re meeting for the first time typically calls you by your formal name. It works in that way as well. I then play on her seductiveness. She looks so cute and innocent, but she’s, figuratively, killing other girls who compete with her in beauty and the way she carries herself. In assigning a literal meaning to the two lines, it comes full-circle. She looks innocent, but she kills these other girls, as a murderer would. I’m a witness in the way that I see her shine next to other girls.

So lost in your eyes
Look both ways when you’re crossin my mind
Think about you like all of the time
Your voice sounds best when you’re callin mine

“Look both ways…” is meant to be personified as if she’s actually in my mind and should be careful when crossing my mind by looking both ways. “Your voice sounds best when you’re callin mine” continues on in dual meaning as a person just meeting someone at the bar could say such a thing to refer to a one night stand they would like to have with the woman. In my case, it refers to me loving the way she says my name when she talks to me. There are certain people who say your name and it just sounds and feels right. That’s an example of the subtle hints that I’ve always tried to be attuned to in relationships.

And I heard you’re into poetry
If I wrote this song would you notice me?
My baby, that’s got a ring to it
Your left hand next, that’s gotta ring to it

Saying “I heard you’re into poetry” is a playful way of approaching her interest in poetry and other intellectual things. It follows that, one, this song is my form of poetry and, two, that I wrote this song for her. It can be taken as me hypothetically writing a song for someone I just met “If I wrote…” or hinting that I actually wrote this song for the woman I’m speaking to. Here, the final line of this verse is when it’s finally confirmed that I’m speaking to someone who I already know well and care for a lot. Directly hinting at marriage is something I would only do with someone I had a deep relationship with. It plays on the phrase “that’s got a ring to it” against the literal meaning.

Verse 2

Can I get a dose of, your love
Your touch, your blush, it’s never too much
Always just right, never not mine
Goddess of fine, Aphrodite in a past life

In the first two stanzas here, I compare her characteristics to fine wine. I say “a dose” to relate her love to a sip of and infer that it’s almost potion-like. The perfect touch and blush are words that have meaning in a very human sense, but also in the sense of wine’s taste and touch on your lips and mouth, as well as blush wine. I go on to compare her ‘Always just right’ perfection to a goddess. The goddess of beauty=fine, being Aphrodite.

She’s the one don’t ask twice
Slow whine got me givin up the fast life
Fine wines get better with time
In my eyes I could never deny her

I start here by playing ‘twice’ off of ‘one’ in different contexts. The second line continues this playing by using ‘slow whine’ to contrast with ‘fast life’…’whine’ as in the way she moves has me giving up the fast life of partying, being single, and chasing other girls. I continue in comparing her to wine in saying ‘fine wines get better with time’ to confirm that I’ve given up chasing other girls because of my commitment to her. She and our relationship are only going to get better with time.

So real, so pure, I prefer
Other women talk, me I refer them
Lost on purpose, me I’m certain
Death to the rest of these girls #curtains

I link the wine theme to the next two stanzas by saying ‘so real, so pure…’. Then, ‘Other women talk…’ as in they attempt to talk to me, but I refer them to other men who aren’t taken, as I am. ‘Lost on purpose…’ in the sense that, often times, women might act like they’re lost to start a conversation with you. An underlying meaning is that many women who are out at the bar partying and not settled down are sort of figuratively lost in that they don’t know what they want so they hook up with random men at a bar in the meantime. ‘I’m certain’ because I’m both intolerant of these types of women and certain about the way I feel about this woman, in particular. As a result, ‘Death to the rest…’

No flaws, she’s perfect
No runway, she work it
Lord have mercy please don’t hurt me
Curves to the hips to the purse on her wrist

I begin to explain how she has the total package here. Her walk…she works it like a model with no runway. Not only physical beauty in her ‘curves to the hips’ but her fashion sense and other unforeseen qualities such as me noticing the ‘purse on her wrist’.

Blow me a kiss when you’re pursing her lips
I’m in the middle I’m immersed in the midst
I testify and defer with the fifth
Put it on my life cause she’s worth all the risk

I’m consumed with her or ‘immersed in the midst’ of her beauty. I allude to not being afraid to tell people everything about her ‘I testify and defer with the fifth’ as in, speaking and not utilizing my right to avoid testifying. I not only am not afraid to tell people, but I’m also not afraid to speak candidly and emotionally about her in the way I ‘put it on my life…’. This also plays and refers back to the criminal metaphor in verse one.

I do time in exchange for your promise
That’s the truth like honesty
You know you got me right where you want me
Right where I should be and wrong’s where I won’t be

Continuing on with this idea, I end verse two in a similar way to verse one. ‘I do time…’ in committing to her in ‘exchange for [her] promise’ or her commitment to me. To end, much like, ‘one’ vs. ‘twice’ and the ‘slow’ vs. ‘fast’, I playfully pit the opposites of ‘right’ vs. ‘wrong’ to infer that I’m going to be with this woman and not with others. Because she is what’s ‘right’ and they are what’s ‘wrong’.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cliffs Notes: Highbrow

Listen to "Highbrow" here:

Highbrow. A term used to describe something of elite class or taste. Highly cultured or educated, so they say. And that’s exactly the message this song is intended to convey. It’s a rebellion, of sorts, against the status quo, or what’s consumed and praised in our society as being art, when, in fact, little creativity has been put forth to create much of what’s popular and paid for in music today. That’s why I unapologetically say that the imagination and composition of this song, and everything else I’m doing musically on this mixtape, is simply above the rest. Of superior quality? I’ll let you decide. In better taste? Absolutely.

And that’s why I loved the sentiment of this track, “Martians vs. Goblins” by The Game featuring Lil’ Wayne and Tyler The Creator. It’s not only in-your-face, rebellious, and unapologetic, but it’s built around a hook that says “We are not the same, I am a Martian.” That’s precisely how I feel about this song and my music. That I’m not even different from other hip-hop artists in the sense of humans being different from one another, I’m an entirely different species in the way I create and what I write about it. Tastes in music differ and it’s difficult to be entirely objective. With that, my goal in creating music is not necessarily to get you to like it, but more so, to make you acknowledge the fact that I’m different and play by my own rules.

Verse 1

I used to be ashamed of the skill, but now I'm flauntin it
Errin on the side of arrogant and overconfident. STOP
I see you all standin there in astonishment
That silence is flattery, I take it all as a compliment

I said this song was unapologetic. You don’t have to go any further than the first line or two to realize that. This first stanza really hits on embracing being unique. I remember being ashamed of rapping for some time. The stereotypes of a white hip-hop artist are endless. And that’s one of the things that’s really fucked up about us, that we don’t embrace people being different and trying new things much of the time, particularly in the Midwest and Indiana, where I grew up. That caused me to be very private about my music and afraid of being judged. However, when you learn to cope with those factors, you realize how ridiculous they are. So now that I’ve been suppressed for so long, I’m compensating for that lost time by being completely the opposite. Arrogant and overconfident. When I used to be ashamed about rapping in front of people when they looked on quiet and “astonished”, I now embrace that as a being a compliment and meaning that the silence indicates that they only think that I’m that unexpectedly good.

Maybe cause I travel the world to different continents
My view is lookin better than yours, I'm not apologizing
Europe in the mornin, Asia for the nightcap
You think this shit a game, I'll show pictures from the flight deck

Here, I begin to ponder why people see me as being different and are surprised that I’m a hip-hop artist. Maybe it’s because I’m well-cultured and -traveled when most independent hip-hop artists aren’t? I won’t apologize for that, however, because I attained my views, status, and travel experience through hard work of my own. Of course, views can be taken in the sense that I’m seeing incredible views by traveling abroad or that I’ve acquired a very unique perspective by doing so. I say “Europe in the morning, Asia for the nightcap” to illustrate just how well-traveled I am. However, that was, in fact, a real experience of mine when I visited Istanbul, Turkey this past year. I spent half of the day in Europe and then crossed the continental line to spend the second half in Asia. I have pictures from both sides to prove it, I say, meaning that the line is not meant to be merely symbolic of how well-traveled I am.

They say Istanbul is the new Paris
7:00 A.M., I'm still on Taksim and not carin
If you don't get it now, settle down your embarrassment
Just rewind and play it all back in 5 years for clarity

Continuing on with specifics of my travel and experience in Istanbul…I’ve read and heard opinion that Istanbul is the new Paris. It’s been said to be the next great city in terms of culture, dining, nightlife, etc. (GQ: Is This the Next Paris?) I use this as a representation of how far I’m ahead of the competition. Not only am I ahead of you in my experiences and perspective in traveling abroad, but I’m even thinking ahead to visit cities that are on the cusp of popularity and are still hidden gems. Taksim Square is the area of culture and nightlife in the new section of Istanbul. Once again, I say that, beyond metaphors, I really did spend my time in Istanbul unapologetically partying until 7:00 AM. Since Istanbul hasn’t gained the popularity of Paris or other well-known international cities, I say that I don’t expect you to understand my travels or lyrics at the moment if you aren’t cultured. You shouldn’t be embarrassed because not many people do. You can just play this song again in five years and everything I’ve talked about will have come to fruition, both in the sense of Istanbul and what I’m talking about as an artist.

I'm just a little more artful like The Dodger
Women on the text, I twist em up like Oliver
And all of em say that I’m the one they thinkin bout all the time
But all of my thought devoted to gettin all of what I desire

Continuing on from the previous stanza, I say not to be embarrassed about not seeing what I do because it’s normal. Sarcastically, I say not to be embarrassed because I’m just a little more artful than you are in the way I put everything together cleverly. Artful like “The Artful Dodger” from the Charles Dickens story “Oliver Twist”. I continue this wordplay by saying that I have women all twisted up over me like Oliver. They say they’re thinking of me all of the time, but it can be inferred that my thought isn’t devoted to them because I desire success and whatever else is truly important, not talking to and being with random women.

Verse 2

I light it up like Edison
Obsessed with success, you could call it a fetish then
No whips, no chains. I don’t need to show thangs off when the flow’s propane
Go and get some more bling

I won’t insult you by breaking down lines one or two. In line three, I take this idea of the level of my obsession with success being a fetish to poke fun at some of the clichés in hip-hop. I say no whips or no chains as an example of taking a common sex fetish. No whips and no chains in the literal S&M sense, but also in the sense of saying that I don’t need to talk about or have cars (whips) or jewelry (chains) to prove how successful I am. I measure success by what one achieves, not by what one possesses. So I don’t need those things when my raps are explosive, “flow’s propane”, and are of substance. Jokingly, I hint at telling those artists that it doesn’t matter if they buy more luxuries, go ahead because they still don’t have the substance or skill that I do.

I don’t respond to no-names
Quote, unquote ballers are always the ones with no game
Call it what you want, but I’m proud of the fact I’m so vain
I don’t need to help, kill yourself #Cobain

Most people who question my music are the same ones who embrace those things that I listed above. Though, I don’t respond to or make music for those people because rappers who talk about those clichés are nothing to me, “no names”. I say this because, in my experience, it’s always been the individuals who talk the most, that truly own or have accomplished the least. I qualify the statement by saying it may seem like what I’m saying is attacking another brand of hip-hop and simply acting “vain” like I’m above talking about those things. My response is, if you’d call it vain, then I’m proud of being vain. I’m proud of being whatever I am, because it’s unique and it challenges the status quo. And that’s the essence of the song. We don’t question enough in our society sometimes. We don’t push people to explain themselves. Artists, politicians, and others simply get away with giving really vague answers. So I end by insinuating that, eventually, everyone gets exposed. So the lack of content and talking about whatever is in the moment is only going to hurt these artists in the long run. My time spent pointing out what I disagree with is irrelevant, because, in the end, it’s gonna be their own decisions that lead to their demise. Much like the rock icon of my generation, Kurt Cobain, took his own life.

Foreign chicks on foreign trips, important shit
I’m pennin hits like Sorkin is, immortal shit
My head is gettin too big, but I’m still absorbin it, exorbitant narcissism
Creepin in now I’m sure of it and still I’m seekin more of it

I continue on by saying that I’m just doing me after the previous conclusion. I say “I’m pennin hits like Sorkin is” to compare the quality of my songwriting to that of the screenplay writing of Aaron Sorkin - perhaps the most well-known writer in Hollywood at the moment. I say, “Immortal shit”. because I believe that, unlike any other profession, writers are the most immortal. Legendary athletes, for instance, have tremendous careers, but their work is always surpassed and irrelevant in the future. Writers, on the other hand, not only have their legacies, but also their works, which are cherished and adapted for ages. That’s how I look at my songwriting, by asking whether or not future generations would admire it.

Sick and tired of this boring shit talkin all about clichés
It’s all the same now every verse is a replay
Swear I’m a star and I do it with no teammates
Cause I don’t need a three way to create like D Wade

To end, I say that I feel like every hip-hop verse is a reply in the way that all of the same things are talked about over and over again. Often times, it’s difficult for me to distinguish between hip-hop artists at the moment, so many of them have the exact same brand. I then pay homage to the old days and poke fun at the way artists have so many features on their albums nowadays because they can’t stand on their own…”I do it with no teammates…” I compare this trend in music to basketball. Say what you will about Jordan, Bird, some of the greats, but they had that competitive spirit to win on their own. They had help, no doubt, but they made their teammates into hall of famers and did things the right way. Despite the fact that the Miami Heat won a championship this year, I feel like they sold out and diminished the integrity of the game in many ways. That’s why I take this dig at D. Wade and the Heat by acknowledging that I might fail in what I’m accomplishing with my music, but at least I didn’t sell out and hire help to get it done. I’ll do it the right way, on my own as an independent artist.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Drew William: The Artist Interview

It's no secret that I am inspired by music in my writing. I'm also inspired by people like me. People who live regular lives and have normal jobs but pursue creative endeavors with drive and passion. So, that being said I introduce you to Drew William. He's a 26 year old Indiana native, songwriter and hip-hop artist who is also earning his MBA at Vanderbilt University. I've known him for quite a few years now and even got to play one of his first songs at my wedding! He was nice enough to grant me an interview and I am thrilled to share our conversation with you.

So much of what he has to say, I can relate to as a fellow creative type. His candor and answers may change the way you look at hip-hop music and the people of my generation. Not only is he incredibly well spoken and grounded, he is also a very talented musician. Be sure to check out the links to his music at the end of the interview.

Have you always been interested in music? When did you start pursuing it more seriously? Did something cause you to want to delve deeper into music despite your other career plans?

As a listener, yes, I’ve always been very interested in music. Some of my first memories are from when I was 5 or 6 years old listening to my parents’ Monkeys records with them. I also remember calling in to a local radio station late at night with my brother and requesting “Downtown” by Petula Clark. My favorite song for the longest time as a child was “Two Faces” by Lou Christie. Which is hilarious if you know that record. I guess the point is, I’ve always had a pretty unexpected and eclectic taste in music and it’s always been distinct in my memory, not because my parents were big music fans or I was exposed to it all of the time, but just because I feel like there’s some kind of natural fit there that exists between me and music.

Another part of the equation is that my brother played in bands while I was growing up and would always sit around strumming a guitar, etc. He’s definitely been a huge influence on me and my musical taste in the way we’ve been able to share music and communicate why we like something. That’s ultimately, why I started to pursue music more seriously. Because he was so good at producing sounds and more so, sounds that I enjoyed, that I really felt compelled to find a way to fit what he was doing lyrically.

I sang in choir toward the end of elementary school and played clarinet in middle school. Also hilarious. But, it’s funny that those experiences have really equipped me well for rapping in the way that I know how music is read and understand tempo and rhythm, unlike rappers who just pick it up. Rapping just happened. I can carry a tune, but I’ve never had a voice melodically to set myself apart in singing. Rapping made sense because hip-hop was my generation’s rock and roll in a lot of ways. I grew up on the Def Jam era in music that served as the perfect form of rebellion for me and my friends. From there, I quickly found that I was just better at it than most and kept getting better.

So, the reason that I began to delve more into it is kind of two-fold. One, like most artists, writing is an outlet for me. It helps me to put my mind in a space that I wouldn’t otherwise go and kind of explore ideas and concepts in my head that stretch beyond everyday thought. And with that, I really get inspired and play off of other music I hear since I’m a music head to start with. Second, however, is that I live for the feedback I get from people who listen to my music. Not in the sense that I thrive off of compliments and people telling me that I’m good at what I do, but in hearing people tell me how they interpret different lyrics and the enjoyment they get from hearing certain songs, etc. As great as it is to have people understand your songwriting, it’s equally as gratifying to hear people who interpret your lyrics in a way different from what you intended. There’s really no greater feeling than knowing that you provoked thought. I’ve always said that if our music positively impacted one person, then it would all be worth it. I mean, that’s changing the world and the outcome of history in a way. I look at it on that scale. So, those are things that keep me going and have made me more involved in the craft.

How do you balance your school life/studies and working on your music?

It’s not easy. Going to graduate business school has been more academically rigorous than I could have imagined. In many ways, it’s more difficult to pursue music than when I worked full-time professionally just from a pure time commitment standpoint. It’s not just class, but it’s out of class work, it’s meetings, it’s networking events, and on and on. It can be difficult to have a life, let alone a hobby. So, since my brother and I both have pretty similar demands in terms of school as he’s a PhD student at UCLA, we’ve utilized holiday breaks and the summer to get the bulk of our music done. I think it’s been good for us in that it gives you a way to recharge and find inspiration as it comes rather than forcing creativity.

The flipside of that, however, is that what we do is just like anything. The more you do it, the better you become. I always try to keep in mind the Malcolm Gladwell book Outliers, as it provides undeniable anecdotal evidence as to how world class whatevers get to be so good. And it’s ultimately because they’ve put thousands and thousands of hours into getting better. There’s no secret to it. Another quote I always think about is “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” We’re blessed that we’re talented enough to get in the door, but we think we have a huge upside because we simply haven’t had the time to devote to it that we’d like to. But we’re exploring ways to account for that and find a happy medium at the moment.

I know your brother has been pretty involved in your music, what do your parents think?

I always say my brother is at least half of the operation. Not only because he produces every one of the instrumental tracks, but because those tracks and his ideas serve, in a lot of ways, as the source of inspiration for my writing. He may be the only person on this planet who understands my musical taste and what I’m trying to do as an artist.

My parents have always been supportive of what we do. I don’t know that they get it in a lot of ways because it’s difficult for their generation to understand hip-hop. It’s really different from anything that they like or were impacted by growing up. So, their support is really more about them being very happy and proud that their sons are pursuing a creative endeavor and have something that they’re passionate about and believe in.

It’s all the same to me. I don’t expect them to understand some of things our generation does. But I’m very grateful that they kind of support it blindly in that way and have shown that they’ll be proud of us regardless. The background on my phone is a picture of me performing in front of 300 or 400 people with a mic in my hand and my Mom in the background smiling as she watches. I look at that every day as a reminder that she’s going to be proud of me and support me no matter what I do in life.

What/who inspires you?

First and foremost, it’s those listeners that I mentioned earlier and the feeling that they give me that no one or nothing else can. My brother is a huge influence, as I’ve said. And that extends beyond what he does musically. It’s really about the way that he’s shown me the way to attain my goals and how to want more for myself. It’s not difficult to end up in graduate business school when you grow up with someone whose intellect and aspirations are PhD-level. My parents inspire me not musically but by the way they’ve sacrificed over the years. There have been countless examples of them doing the right thing at their own expense. They’re the type of people who make you want to make the world a better place.

To that point, I’m always inspired by people around me who just work hard without complaint. That includes a lot of my colleagues, friends, etc. I’m also inspired by people who are unexpectedly down-to-earth. I’ve had the privilege just this year of meeting some very important people in country music while in Nashville. And one or two of them have given me their time and talked to me at the level they would a family member. That’s the kind of stuff that makes you want to be a better artist and professional.

Artistically, however, I’m very inspired by Drake. He’s not only better than just about anyone else out there as a rapper, but he continues to try new things and really push music into a new space. He’s the most relatable artist to me in that he really represents much of what I do. Being vulnerable, having uncertainty about the future, acknowledging that we all have many different sides and emotions as human beings. He’s one year younger than me, but understands what it means to have grown up when I did. You know, we grew up with the Internet and everything’s naturally so much more transparent than it ever has been. We’re more empowered and driven than ever as a result, but we’re also very vulnerable and susceptible to damage. No generation of the past has had to deal with what we have in those ways.

It’s so difficult to put yourself out there as an artist nowadays because it’s so easy to find out so much about you. There are few secrets. And no secrets when you’re a superstar. In fact, I love this line Drake has in the song “Lord Knows” when he says “…They takin greats from the past and compare us. I wonder if they’d ever survive in this era. In a time when it’s recreation to pull all your skeletons out the closet like Halloween decorations…” It takes an entirely different level of tolerance and discipline to remain grounded as a celebrity today. The public can now sit behind this façade that the Internet has created and just spew hate at artists and discourage what they do. Not many people understand the significance of that. But it’s really resulted in the demise of a lot of exceptionally talented artists in the last 5 or 10 years who simply don’t know how to handle what accompanies fame now.

Other sources of inspiration are my favorite R&B songwriters who really understand the intricacies of creating a song, beyond just piecing together lyrics. Those favorites are Miguel, The-Dream, and Rico Love. Ryan Leslie is a brilliant guy as well. Plays all of his own instruments, sings, raps, creates the whole body of work on his own. But I like him more because he actually graduated from Harvard and chose to pursue music instead of a traditional career. Another guy kind of like that is my brother and I’s favorite producer at the moment, Clams Casino. He really just started making beats while he was in college and got really good at it. Now he’s one of the best and does it for a living. So all of those guys inspire me, guys who value education but make sacrifices for their passion. That’s where I lie myself.

I often feel like non-creative people have a hard time understanding artists and their craft. Did you/ Do you ever struggle with people not taking you seriously? How do you overcome that?

Absolutely. I think that feeling is even intensified for me because I deal with so many stereotypes related to being a white person who raps. I think what makes it most difficult is that many people assume that if you’re doing something in the entertainment space, like making music, that you have these delusions of making it big and becoming a star. And that’s what you want. That’s what your goal is. When, in fact, I do it for completely the opposite reason. I do it because I enjoy it and it’s an outlet. I’ve never wanted to make any money from it. And one of my greatest fears is attaining fame, regardless of why. So, I struggle with that a lot in a just being subjected to people’s comments and dispositions towards it.

Most people don’t truly understand the vulnerability that accompanies creating something in the arts and then sharing it with people, in a lot of cases, with people who you don’t know at all. That’s all I’ve really ever wanted from listeners is not for them to like my music, but to understand and be sensitive to the chance I’m taking on myself. That stuff takes its toll on you and really can work to temper your ambitions. One way I’ve dealt with it is by relying on people who I really trust and understand. My brother and some close friends have always kind of been the people to stand by me and tell me to keep going no matter what. The other way is by really just forcing myself into maintaining an unwavering self-believe in the face of tough circumstances. And with that, knowing that I stand to benefit much more as a human being by putting myself out there and taking chances than otherwise. I look at it in those terms a lot of times. What do I have to gain as a human being vs. what do I have to lose as an individual?

People might wonder why you would give your album away for free online. Explain why you did that.

It comes down to the cost/benefit of recouping costs and providing access. As I stated earlier, we’ve never been in this to make money. We did, however, have our album available for sale to start in order to both recoup the costs of recording the first album and fund future projects. We waited six months after release date to make a decision on what to do. I didn’t recoup the costs, but decided that it was much more important to build interest in and gain exposure for what we’re doing, especially in light of the fact that we’ve recorded some new material since the album. I want to remove any barriers that prevent potential listeners from hearing our music. So, we’re working to move into more channels and make everything more available. We’re at a bit of a crossroads as to whether we’re going to amp everything up and really try to make this a sustainable business model or whether we can find a more cost-effective way of continuing on as is. As of now, it’s best to get it to the people who want to hear it and allow consumers to make the choice of whether or not they’d like to pay for it. It’s still available for sale on iTunes, as well as for free download. This digital music movement is a fickle thing. We're learning, just as music execs still are today, what the best way to price and present our music is.

Name an artist or band that your fans might be surprised to hear you like (aka a guilty pleasure)

I’m usually pretty open about my liking of stuff people might find to be pretty embarrassing. It would definitely be something pop, however, because I’m a huge fan of pop music. Just yesterday, I heard the new Justin Bieber single “Boyfriend”. Not even as a listener, but as a writer and artist, I think that’s a super dope record. And I love the direction they’re going with his brand. I think he has the opportunity to become an artist that males like. And I think you’ll see that happen increasingly over the next five years or so. He’s got some really smart people in his corner.

The two more consistent ones that come to mind are Katy Perry and the Black Eyed Peas. What people don’t understand is that these pop music producers are truly some of the best musical minds in the world. The guy that’s behind all of the latest Katy Perry and Pink songs, and everything else on the radio is a guy named Dr. Luke. Phenomenal, phenomenal producer and writer but he’s not well-known amongst listeners. And he’s even produced stuff for Mos Def, Three 6 Mafia, Weezer, artists you wouldn’t guess. But he takes some heat because he’s a radio guy.

Same thing with Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas. People knock him because he’s primarily on top 40 songs. And that’s what the group’s sound is. The guy’s an absolute genius though. He knows precisely what listeners want to hear. That’s been my big thing with music lately. I used to be kind of a snob and not acknowledge anything on the radio. Now I hate those people. There are these two schools of thought. One thinks that everything on the radio is far worse than it really is and the other thinks everything independent or not on the radio is far better than it really is. I try really hard to not get caught up in that, because it’s easy to.

There are a lot of really great records that are on the radio. And they deserve to be there. There are also a lot of really great records that don’t get radio play for whatever reason. But let’s not let these irrelevant factors dictate our tastes in music. In regard to the Bieber record, it’s well-written, with a bad ass track, and he sounds great on it. What are you so afraid of liking? Music isn’t made for certain people to like it. There may be a target audience, but it’s made for whoever gets enjoyment from it. That’s it.

What do you do to prepare yourself before writing? How do you get in the right head space?

I really don’t have any sort of ritualistic behavior. At this point, I have the luxury of not having to meet deadlines most of the time. So it’s more me taking advantage of and running with moments of inspiration. Many times, I’m just driving and not thinking about music at all and an idea pops into my head. Then, it just kind of starts flowing and I’ll try to run with it that day and jot notes into my phone or come home and flesh the idea out in writing. What’s more important to me than anything is just realizing when I’m in that zone. And then capitalizing on it. I’m very aware of not rushing and forcing ideas. But creating in music, I would argue, is much more about feel and perceiving what’s in the music than authoring a book and painting, etc., which are more kind of internal struggles with yourself. I will say, however, that I always write standing up and pacing. That’s something that’s always helped me in idea generation of any kind. And I always write either on a computer or on the iPhone, never pen and paper anymore.

What is your creative process? Do words or beats come first?

It’s probably a lot more tactical and thought-out than most people may think. I have a huge advantage in that the man who creates all of my instrumentals is my brother. So it all usually begins with a phone conversation between us in which we throw out some ideas and roughly define the direction that we’re going to go in with the song musically and content-wise. Then, he’ll throw together a sample loop of the verse and hook. I take that and begin to develop the writing of the song. What the final concept is going to be and how I’m going to structure. Usually, as I start my process, we’re going back and forth deciding what needs to be done to the track and it’s developed further and further until I settle on specific lyrics and he’s settled on a final composition and we’re ready to record. It’s kind of a parallel process that he and I take on simultaneously. Which is great because I think we both really feed off of each other’s ideas and it shows in the final product. I’m very particular about not writing anything until I hear the actual music. The rough idea generation goes on before that. But I won’t actually put words to the ideas and hone everything in until I hear the track. And that’s because I think songwriting has to be very genuine and honest. And the only way to truly capture that is when you’re in the moment of what the music is inspiring you to do. I think that shows through in a lot of hip-hop songs that don’t do that. It feels very detached. But that process of writing to the music, or along with the development of it, is pretty standard with all of the great R&B, pop, and country songwriters. I’ve had full ideas that served as the basis for creating a song and then I’ll get the track from my brother and I scrap the idea completely when I hear it.

What advice would you give to others who have a creative dream that maybe doesn't fall in line with their day-to-day careers?

As I’ve sort of alluded to earlier, I think what’s most important about putting your craft into perspective is to think about it in a gain frame rather than a loss frame. For me, I can look at what I do and question why I’m subjecting myself to the vulnerability and worry about guarding against colleagues knowing what I do. Look at the resources, in time and money, that I’m devoting to doing this. Or, I can say “Hey, I’m getting to perform impromptu in front of hundreds of people as a result of this. And that’s had an immense impact on my public speaking ability and confidence as an individual.” I’ve gotten to meet people and develop relationships, have conversations that I never would have had if I didn’t do this. It’s made my relationship with my brother that much tighter. I’m better at using criticism to improve and have developed creative ideas that have helped me to develop ideas in business. I think it’s easy for a lot of artists or creative people, no matter what their craft is, to judge their work on external criteria – reviews, how much money and fame you attain, etc. But when you focus on the intrinsic benefits that you get and how valuable those are, that helps you to make much better sense of it all and continue on undeterred.

Where can people find your music and more about you? (link me to whatever you have, soundcloud, itunes, your personal web page and facebook)


Barometer for purchase on iTunes:

Listen to and download each song from Barometer:

Listen to and download each song that’s been released subsequent to Barometer:

Social Media


The hub for all things Drew William will be coming this Summer 2012:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Announcement: Album Soon Available for Free Download

Without further adieu, my brother and I have decided to release a free version of our album "Barometer". It will be available for download next Wednesday, Feb 8. I will post the link for download on both Facebook and Twitter. The album will still be available for sale on iTunes and other channels and, as has held true since the initial release, we will continue to use the revenue from sales to fund the creation of future songs. However, rather than capturing only fans who are willing to pay the asking price for the album, we believe it's in our best interest as artist/producer to remove as many barriers as possible preventing consumers from hearing the music in order to maximize accessibility.

To everyone who's already purchased the album: It's difficult to properly convey our elation in just knowing that you are willing to pay for something that we created. So just know that it's an exceptional feeling that you give us. We'd like to say Thank You and hope to express our gratitude more sincerely when we next see you all in person.

In closing, I hope that you all find something in our music that compels you to share this album with your friends and family. Whether it's supporting something new, something that's unique, something that you enjoy, or something that you support because you know us and the people that we are. Regardless, we've always wanted our music to grow in popularity only if it was genuine growth as we pride ourselves on never failing to be precisely that.

Best wishes for a 2012 sure to be rife with opportunity.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Meaning Behind Catch-22

As you read, you can listen to and reference the song Catch-22 right here:

The concept for this song really came about no sooner than the day I received the track from my brother. Musically, the track was so addictive to me. Which isn't strange in itself, but it was in that it wasn't a happy or energetic addiction in any way. It wasn't bringing about positive feelings within me. Rather, to me, it embodied all of these painful emotions - melancholy, heartbreak, regret, etc. But despite feeling those emotions that we all work to avoid, I couldn't pull myself away from the song, which was a little puzzling to me. But I think what I ultimately realized was that the song also has this underlying aggression and fight in it. And because of it, I thought the song really talked to me in the way that it made me feel very human, yet also very inspired.

My brother and I have had conversations before about how when we're feeling down or a little depressed, we both like to really embrace those feelings. We aren't the type to act like something bad didn't happen or counter how we're feeling with forced happiness. We like to (pardon my lack of tact) get intoxicated and really drown ourselves in sorrow. One thing my father has always told me is that you can't appreciate the good days without experiencing the bad. And I've always really tried to understand that.

But that is precisely what this track made me do, it made me feel full of sorrow, but I wanted to run towards it, not away from it. And as I went through the writing process, I took the way I was feeling while listening to that and applied the idea to this concept of a "catch-22" in the sense of love, which occurs when you wrongfully or regretfully fall in love with someone. The gist of the meaning is that we've most all had someone who we were (or thought we were) in love with who left us in some way or at least failed to reciprocate the feelings that we felt towards them. The catch-22 is that we feel as if we can't live on without them in our lives, but then if we run back to them or they fall back into our lives, we realize that we can't survive with them in our lives either. And this could be for myriad reasons, depending on the situation. So it follows that we shouldn't be in love with that person because it's simply not meant to be.

But the concept applies not only to one particular person, but the concept of being in love in general. It's something that I can't do with and I can't do without, it seems. I love the freedom and independence that comes with being single most of the time, but I also have many moments when I long for something more. When I wrote this song, I kept thinking about this definition of love that's out love is, in many ways, illogical or counter-intuitive, borderline insanity physiologically. When you're in love, you do things that don't make sense or they go against what your brain would suggest is the best decision. So I took those ideas within the frame of a past relationship. I then wove in applicable experiences with other women to represent how I feel and what I've learned as an individual to this point to tell this story, which I believe many of you can relate to.    

(Verse 1)
Sittin back in my living room
With a little ice and a lot of goose
But really all I wanted was a little you

So we begin with a scene that has me sitting alone at home reflecting on what happened and how it all went wrong with my relationship. Also, thinking about what could have been and what I did wrong. I think that's the natural thought when something like this doesn't work out - what did I do wrong? But whether it's this situation or another, it often has nothing to do with us. Other people have their own issues and there uncontrollable external factors in this world. Yet, we all have this compulsion to place the bulk of the blame on ourselves. It's no coincidence that I'm sitting alone, that's how this breakup has left me, both literally and figuratively. As, I alluded to in the intro, this is me embracing the pain, drowning my sorrows in pure alcohol, without dilution. I play on these opposites of "a little" and "a lot." The first time to convey that I'm extremely intoxicated while I'm thinking/writing, the second to be kind of ironic in that I can have all of the vodka and physical things that I want, but I can't even have a little piece of this woman. And those intangible things - love, affection, commitment - are what really are important and worthwhile.

I guess it was a little too much to ask
I took a chance, showed my hand
Damn, wish that I could have that back
3 years of my life, could I have those too?

Continuing on with the opposites, I say (sarcastically) that I guess asking for even a little piece of her love was too much. Taking a chance, or 'showing my hand', like in poker, is meant to communicate that I put myself out there to this woman, either told her I loved her, asked her to marry me, etc...some type of commitment. And she rejected that offering in some way. Our first instinct when that happens is to want to take it back. But if we really didn't mean it, we wouldn't have done it in the first place. So that instinct is merely from embarrassment and shame. Though we should never be ashamed or embarrassed of being honest. That's one thing I really try to work on as an individual. Accepting inevitable failures and learning from them. And I not only ask for the commitment back because I feel foolish and very hurt that this woman didn't reciprocate, but I also ask for the last 3 years of my life back (sarcastically) because my reaction, since things didn't work out, is to treat all of the time I put into the relationship as a waste.

And that's on top of all the shit I knew
And all those lies, they become the truth
And all denial, it becomes the proof
As if I didn't already have enough shit to prove

This is where it's revealed that I was wrongfully in love. I was forcing the commitment I offered. The truth starts to pour out. The fact that this woman rejected me was really just the start. You're then lead to believe that I've known that she was unfaithful or used me and I chose to overlook it. All the lies I heard from other people I didn't want to believe. But now I'm willing to acknowledge their validity. All the denial that I had in considering what was really going on ultimately became the proof to me for how I was wrongfully in love with this woman. And so I vent that on top of all of these things I have to prove to myself - professionally, academically, personally, to family and friends, and all of the other pressures that come with life, she made me prove that she wasn't who I thought she was. And all of these things convey how I was caught in a Catch-22. I knew deep down that all of these things were true, but it still took me this long to finally convince me that I didn't love her.

So this is farewell
All that ink on the page represents what my lips couldn't tell ya
Man, I feel like a failure
What I knew so well lookin far from familiar

This stanza is a sign of a breakthrough for me, which really sets the tone for this rest of the song. Acknowledging that this was all my fault, not because I treated her wrongly, but because I allowed myself to believe that I was in love with her when I wasn't. And the song is sort of my vow to never allow it to happen again. So I end things once and for all, in the form of a letter. I write to her because 1: I'm angry with her and have no interest in speaking with her in person, but also 2: Because I know that if I see her, there's a chance that I may fall for her again and back into the catch-22. And now that I've vowed to never let this happen again, I'm still trying to make sense of it. I feel like a failure for letting myself feel the way I did about her because I thought that I knew her so well. Now that she's shown her true colors, I question whether or not I'll ever be able to really trust someone in that setting again.

You built me up and you broke me down but I knew
And all those whispers were only fiction but I knew
Still I’m missin you, wish it wasn’t true. But I'll do what I gotta do
And I can’t go back, either way I lose. Cause your love is a Catch-22

The hook is really a representation of my internal thoughts. I feel like with all of the ways this woman built me up and made me better, she caused more harm in breaking me down in the end. And I say, "but I knew" because all of the evidence was there, I just wasn't willing to acknowledge it. Then, I describe the catch-22. It's a lose-lose situation. I don't know if I can be happy with her or without her.

(Verse 2)
And All around I’m surrounded by the reminders of
What it was that surrounded my soul
Feel my heart getting cold 
Now it’s only getting colder

This stanza is intended to convey how even though I'm no longer in love with her, all I see around me is reminders of what used to be. And those are the things that make me long for her. I really let her love engulf me in the way that I wouldn't allow myself to see all of the bad things. And because of this heartbreak and the way I'm questioning myself, constantly surrounded by reminders of the pain, I feel less and less open to trusting anyone again.

But hold up, I gotta get control of it
All these notes and the potion 
Got me feelin so open when 
The only thing I really needed was closure I’m over it

So I stop myself and have a moment of clarity in which I realize that I can't let this experience cause me to become a cold person. It's just that a mixture of the musical notes in the song and the alcohol (potion) have me feeling so vulnerable and exposed to pain. Those are the reasons why I feel my heart continuing to get colder and colder. Which is the opposite of open, in another sense, and how I need closure to the relationship. Not to revisit it. But I declare through brute force that I'm over it.

I was wrong from the start, disregarded it all
Cause the brain can’t tell you what the heart can
And the world can’t tell you what the stars can
That’s how it goes when you think you got a starlet

I acknowledge that I was wrong in the way I felt from the very beginning. Signs were abound. But I couldn't understand it because I was thinking with my brain instead of relying on instinct and making decisions with my heart. Meaning, this was a beautiful girl, she was smart, had a good career, all characteristics of a person that you would fall in love with. That's what my mind told me. But had I really listened to my heart, I would've seen how wrong her actions were in the way she treated me and I wouldn't have been in love with her. Relatedly, you can't let the facts, rules, opinions of people in your environment dictate how you feel or what the right answer is for you. For much the same reason, I loved this woman because people around me liked her and told me she was perfect. But those people can't tell you how you should feel about someone, you have to rely on your intuition and emotions. The answers to our destinies I think are all with a higher power somewhere, not with the people around us. But when you think you have a starlet, or an attractive actress who looks like she has it all on the outside, it's easy to get caught up in her and difficult to follow your heart and the stars. 

But you’re an actress with a lot of practice
At the art of deception
Then you jumped when the dream fell down like Inception
I’m left with a mess and handful of questions

In reality, despite how she appears on the outside, a starlet is just an actress at the end of the day. That's her profession, but I mean it in the way that she lied and was deceptive. She's had a lot of practice in the way that she's manipulated others to get to where she is. And a lot of actresses do this in real life, so it's fitting. I see that now. She led me to believe that she believed in the dreams we shared. However, at the first sign of things going awry, she "jumped," or left me. I use the metaphor from the movie "Inception" here. Specifically, when Marion Cotillard, who plays Mal or the wife of Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie, jumps to her death from the ledge of a building. This line has many layers, however. I use 'the dream falls down' figuratively in the one sense, but also relate it to the way in which dreams in the movie crumble and fall down, literally, once the dreamer realizes it isn't real. So that, from the perspective of the woman who's the subject of the song, is the reason that she jumped. Because she didn't believe in us. From my perspective, however, I see who I thought she was to be the dream, projecting her into being someone who she wasn't. Because the woman I loved wouldn't have failed to believe in us ever. And she caused both her death and the death of our relationship because she didn't believe and trust in me. Finally, in the last line, you sense this defeat in what I say. She's the one who jumped, she's the one who left me, yet I'm the one who is suffering. I'm left with this mess and all of these questions pertaining to why would she do this and what did I do wrong? Much like what Cobb (DiCaprio) is left with in the movie. I found his situation to be a perfect example of what catch-22 meant to me. And he ultimately realizes at the end that he must leave her and rid himself of her memory, much like I realize that I have to.

You built me up and you broke me down but I knew
And all those whispers were only fiction but I knew
Still I’m missin you, wish it wasn’t true. But I'll do what I gotta do
And I can’t go back, either way I lose. Cause your love is a Catch-22

(Verse 3)
I’m exhausted, cause my thoughts of the past got baggage
More than average
So I put em on my back and I carry em on
But that weight is a little too strong for one man

The final verse examines the way I'm feeling through a metaphor using airports and traveling. The reason for this is that I've always been intrigued by airports because of how I feel when I'm in them and what they represent. Last year, I traveled to 5 countries and was in something like 9 time zones. It seemed that every other weekend I was flying somewhere. When I would be waiting for flights, all I could think about was how lonely it felt to be in this place waiting for a flight by myself. I would look around me and see people saying goodbye to family and friends, people looking lost or stressed rushing to flights. So I try to convey how I'm feeling about what this woman has done to me in that context. And how I feel is just so drained and exhausted mentally from even thinking about these questions I have and what I could have done differently. I believe that's how you get over those types of situations sometimes. You just have to reach a threshold by which it's just so straining mentally that you have no choice as a human to just block it out and forget about it. So I say I'm exhausted from that extra mental weight I've been carrying around from my past (baggage). It's more than average, not simply because I've experience heartbreak...everyone has, but because of me being inside of my own head and creating all of this extra weight that I've put on myself. So, I'm carrying both the weight from what she did to me and the weight I've put on myself onto the plane without checking any of the bags because I'm determined to fight through the pain. But, acknowledging that I'm carrying weight for two, I start to doubt whether I can continue on like this.

Now I’m so far from home
I used to never travel alone
But when the times got tough, and the bags got packed
You left me with the weight of the world

So, you're to presume that I'm now far from home by myself at an unknown airport. An unsettling feeling for certain. It's also meant to convey both that my relationship was home and now I'm far from it now that it's over. In another sense, its meant to convey that I'm in unfamiliar territory feeling like this and I don't feel like myself. Which is often how you feel after a breakup - unfamiliar and uncomfortable with yourself. Always questioning your actions. The reason I feel strange traveling now is I used to always travel with this woman, meaning, we would do everything together. But I feel a great sense of abandonment in the way I felt that she left at the first sign of trouble, not making the effort to work things out. And that abandonment has left me with not only her weight (packed bags), but also mine and the rest of what comes with experiencing a breakup (the weight of the world, all-inclusively).

Now I’m waitin at the same gate waitin for her
All departures, no arrivals
No taxis, no drivers. 
You hi-jacked my love, no survivors

This first line is intended to mean a couple of things. One, that I'm waiting at the same gate that I met her at - figuratively. Meaning, I feel like I'm back to square one and wasted all of that time and effort in the relationship. Second, that I'm waiting for the girl I once knew. The girl that I fell in love with at the beginning. So, I refer to the woman as "her" instead of "you." This is also me beginning to not acknowledge her presence. Now, to signify the way I feel abandoned, I say there are only outgoing flights. No taxis and no private drivers waiting for me to take me from the airport. You can imagine how that would feel. No way to get home or back to the way things used to be. Also, there are no arrivals, meaning she won't be coming back. The fact that there are only departures also is a sign that it's time for me to move on to a new place in my life. The last line leading into the last stanza of the song begins to communicate the fight and aggression I feel in leaving this all behind and onto something better. One, because it's what I'm supposed to and what I know I need to do. Two, because I have to. I have no choice because it's all become too much to handle on my own. In this aggression, I assign blame to her using the metaphor. She hijacked my love so there was nothing that I could do about it. And ultimately, the way she made me fall in love with her caused me to feel alone and like I couldn't survive when the relationship didn't work out.

So I’m droppin all your things, gettin on a plane
And leavin all the pain behind
That’s how you left and it didn’t seem right
But I’m a south paw I’m down for the fight

I then, defiantly, say that I'm forgetting about all of the pain she left me with. I won't carry it anymore. Even after the breakup, she had some sort of hold on me, but this is me finally leaving everything behind. So much so, that I'm actually getting on a plane to move to a new place with new opportunity, forgetting about the past. And what follows is, ironically, that's exactly how she left me in a sense - completely and unexpectedly. Much like I'm leaving my old feelings behind. This has a sentiment of karma to it. I'm a strong believer in it and the way she left me didn't seem right, or moral. It felt like she shouldn't have been allowed by the powers that be to leave like a coward and hurt me as she did. So I justify my up-and-leaving in the way that she left me. I play off of "right" in the moral sense, and flip it to "right" in the directional sense. So she hurt me right-handed, but unexpectedly, I'm left-handed (a south paw). So what goes around comes around. And with that, I'm willing to spar with her figuratively in exchanging blows because I believe leaving, in the end, is what's right for me.

(Hook 2X)
You built me up and you broke me down but I knew
And all those whispers were only fiction but I knew
Still I’m missin you, wish it wasn’t true. But I'll do what I gotta do
And I can’t go back, either way I lose. Cause your love is a Catch-22

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Real Sin City

As you read, you can listen to and reference the song Sin City right here:

Though I'm sure that most of you are aware, the track I used for this song was originally used by Tyga  in his song Rack City. I remember hearing the song for the first time on a hip-hop site before it ever got much shine. The track is just so aggressive, raw, and, ignorant. The other thing that I really dug about it is the simplicity. The chord progression is so limited, though you really don't ever get tired of hearing the song. The most catchy and successful songs on radio tend to have that makeup, so it's of no surprise that Rack City has begun to get some major airplay on urban radio. 

I didn't much consider using it the first few times I heard it, but as it picked up momentum and began to garner a unique following, I found it to be inspiring. This song was very much a song of the moment to me and came about spontaneously. It fit the profile that I usually look for in a mixtape's popular enough for a large audience to know what it is and what it represents, yet, it leaves something to be desired to me. I'm a fan of Tyga's and have enjoyed what he's done as an artist thus far, but let's be honest, his lyrics are pretty basic on the song. Therefore, I really wanted to exploit the potential of what I thought the song could be. 

The other aspect of my choosing it was that I saw something different when I heard the song than what Tyga did. I can't speak too much to the concept of Rack City and exactly what Tyga's trying to convey in the song, but the song embodied my experiences in Las Vegas, so I saw that as an opportunity to connect it to the original version, but also be very genuine in creating a unique rendition of my own. The track kind of bleeds austerity, sin, and seduction, much like Vegas. So, I took the Rack City concept and molded it into Sin City. Once I did, I decided that I really wanted to talk about what I enjoy about Vegas and project an aura of arrogance to make the song very hip-hop and showcase my range. At the same time, Vegas is, in a lot of ways, a microcosm of exactly what's wrong with our society and is composed of many examples of issues that we all deal with daily in our lives. So, I hope that you see this sort of skepticism and sarcasm that's kind of underlying the song when I talk about these things. There are little messages in the lines that are intended to let you know my thought process in light of some of these circumstances that we're all subjected to, whether it be in Vegas or every town, U.S.A.

I’m out in Vegas, bitch. Lightin up the strip
Probably at the Wynn, yeah that’s so fittin
Get it? Nowadays all I do is win
And hated on by losin men, not you again

This opening stanza is meant to kind of set the scene for not only where I'm at, but what my attitude is. I talk about the Wynn because it's my favorite casino in Vegas. So, I draw the conclusion that I'm drawn to the Wynn because I'm a winner. So I see it as being kind of inherent in who I am. Conversely, however, it's meant to be a little bit skeptical like the song in general in that I'm acknowledging that maybe I love the Wynn because they've intended to capture me through the name. The brand associations obviously are that you're a winner if you play and stay there, which gives us many positive feelings. So, I'm kind of also aware of the possibility that I've been manipulated into liking the place through marketing tactics, and that's representative of Vegas itself and the experience, so it sets the stage for my grasping of what I'm subjected to when I'm enjoying myself there. There's intended to be sarcasm in the fact that I have to lay out for you exactly what I'm saying because you're inferior to me. So I then take the final line to the opposite of winning, losing, to say that many of the listeners that I have to lay this stuff out for and I see as inferior are the same ones who have hate for me and are kind of just the pests that I can't rid myself of i.e. "Not you again..."

We do it big, shout out to Club XS
Couple drinks by the pool, I needed bed rest
Sin City cause heaven is too hectic
I simplify it to fire women, cabanas

To further describe the scene, I say that I'm not only at the Wynn, but at Club XS, which is a club within the Wynn. Of no coincidence, it also happens to be one of my very favorite clubs in the world. One of the features it has is an outdoor element in which there's a pool surrounded by elegant beds and cabanas that serves as a place to party aside from the dance floor. That's one of the things I love most about XS, so I say the reason for my trip is that I needed bed rest, facetiously. We all get away to rest on vacation, but the line's intended to be humorous in that I'm actually partying and is an example of the cliche Vegas advertisements in which lies and dumb excuses are made up as reasons to go to Vegas, along with not disclosing what someone does while they're there. On the flip side, I say, in a sense, that I went to hell to get away from heaven. The day-to-day grind of our normal lives often gets to be too much. Which is a big reason why people need to get away and go to Vegas. Which is crazy when you think about it. In order to get away from your loved ones and a job that provides you with income, we're all willing to dish out big money to go to someplace that we know is sinful and entails a lot of the things we know we should be doing. So, it's kind of ironic that I say I'm simplifying my life by going to Vegas because it actually represents a lot of unnecessary complexity in the flash, extravagances, and potential trouble that you can get into being there. But I'm a human just like everyone else, and Vegas, somehow, represents a simplification of things to me. All I need is beautiful women and surroundings to really be happy. It's not how I really feel. However, when you're there, you really do feel that way. That's part of Vegas' charm. I'll really drive home the comparison to Hell later on.

And I'm crimson tied up with southern girls from Alabama
Complimentin my fitted suit from Beijing
I flew my Harvard girls out from Cambridge
Cause educated women the ones who speak my language

To further clarify the picture, I'm outside by the pool, cabanas, beds at the club with beautiful women and we're all dressed to the nines. I say I have a crimson tie on with southern girls from Alabama as a play on the fact that the University of Alabama is also known as the "Crimson Tide." I say the tie is complimenting my suit from Beijing because I actually met the woman who produces and tailors my suits on a trip to China. So saying that I have my fitted suit from Beijing on is meant to show you that I'm well traveled and connected, enjoy things from abroad, and also serve as a unique location in the theme of this stanza. I go on to communicate that even though I'm in this beautiful place surrounded by beautiful women, it's not enough as I have to have stimulating conversation as well because I'm a complex person with many interests. So I have to have multiple intelligent perspectives and I'm willing to put down the money to fly girls who have both brains and beauty out from Cambridge, MA (where Harvard University is located) just to fulfill my desires in having beautiful women who can "speak my language."

I like scholars who possess a high tolerance
College chicks and colleges I love em cause they compose my audience
We’re partyin
Psychological naugtiness, Freudian

I provide further reasoning for the type of girls I'm with and like to have around me. Scholars who can speak my language but also have a "high tolerance" for alcohol. A big reason why I enjoy hanging with these college chicks is because they're a rare breed that typically is both intelligent and can party as well. So, I love em for that reason but also because they tend to makeup the majority of my fans. I don't make music for any particular group, but college women and college students in general tend to relate extremely well to it. That's not surprising considering the fact that I once was, am, and always will be a student at heart and share similar interests with that demographic. Plus, I've made several songs specifically for women, in general. Being that the girls who are partying with me are exceptionally intelligent and well-versed in their studies, I compare the way we're partying to the ever-famous psychologist Sigmund Freud. The song and the scene that I've conveyed give you this feeling of manipulation and seduction. So, these girls speak my language and can not only talk about Freud and his beliefs with me because they're educated, but they also understand his concepts and can kind of psychologically spar with me and read my mind in a playful way. Women who have that additional layer of intellect to communicate without speaking have always captivated me. Which is why I would do almost anything i.e. fly them out from Massachusetts, to be around them.

The songwriter got punchlines like Pacquiao
I drop my quota a couple thou to knock ya out
With both hands, got twin sais like Raphael
A ninja turtle, they sellin out, I’m underground

I say "the songwriter" because I pride myself on being just that, distinct from the great majority of rappers who just write non-related lines and call it a song. So, it's unexpected, but the songwriter who you would least expect to be potent with the punchlines is now flaunting them in this song. Punchlines taken literally conveys my lines' potency, comparing it to who I see to be the fastest and most unassuming, silent assassin in boxing right now, Manny Pacquiao. I, hypothetically, "drop my quota" a couple of thousand dollars just to knock the competition out or to prove that I can do it. As I've stated in some of my other songs, I'm not in this for the money, so I would forego what I'm owed for a verse just to come at you for the sport of it. In showing the range I have to make a song like this in contrast to a lot of what's on my album, I draw the similarities to being ambidextrous in boxing. I can K.O. you in many ways, whether that's being a better songwriter or writer of punchlines, I use both hands (or the full repertoire). Just like Raphael, the Ninja Turtle, uses his sais to jab the enemy. I also intend to drive an element of disregard with the visual of two sais, with the middle dagger longer than the left and right, being similar to both middle fingers in the air. Playing on the Raphael comparison, I say the rest are selling out and I'm underground. The Ninja Turtles literally live underground, so figuratively, I'm underground because my music is non-commercial and very real and genuine.

I wear it proud from unentitled to title holder
My colleagues are CEOs and future owners
Up in the mornin for meetings over mimosas
Rollin over to women like Alesandra Ambrosio

Continuing on from the last stanza, I wear the fact that I'm underground and real very proudly. Despite what my record sales are or will ever be, I'm proud of myself from being unentitled and someone who didn't even deserve to have anyone's attention starting out, to now feeling as if I own the title as being one of the most honest and thought-provoking urban songwriters out. And that title is something that you believe in yourself, so nobody can take it away from you. The titleholder reference is also meant to play on the boxing content from the stanza previous. In showing my versatility in being a business student along with an artist, I say my colleagues are CEOs and future owners. Several of my colleagues are, in actuality, CEOs or will be soon. I feel very privileged to be around people like that. At the same time, I feel like the sky is the limit for me and my colleagues in that we can be the future owners of significant property, sports franchises, etc. once we reach the peaks we're aiming for. To communicate that I'm still a businessman in addition to an artist, I still wake up after a night of partying for meetings over mimosas. That's intended to convey not only my multi-faceted personality, but also my drive to enjoy life and be successful. The last line plays on rolling over in bed in the morning to women who look just like model Alessandra Ambrosio. Successful in each phase of my life is the takeaway.

My heart stay cold, Lights stay strobe
Literally flashes of greatness behold
Imported  palms, countless mirages
Arias, Belagios I let it ride

Despite waking up next to beautiful women, my heart is still cold in that my intentions are strictly in the business sense. Whether that's being up in the morning for a meeting or just getting what I want out of hanging with beautiful women. Now, before you attempt to exploit that flaw in my personality, it's meant to be assessed in light of the fact that I'm in Vegas. This now broaches a theme apparent in the rest of the song in that I enjoy myself in the face of all of this fakeness and these allusions, things I shouldn't enjoy. Things we all shouldn't enjoy. But I do so because I understand the system. I exploit Vegas for what I want to get out of it. And it does the same to me. So I won't allow my heart to warm to a woman in Vegas because I know she's not trustworthy and she most likely is cold-hearted herself. I say the "lights stay strobe" because strobe lights are so prevalent in Vegas and its by design, I've always found them to be so manipulating. They make everything appear cooler, more sexual, and better overall, yet, they're really a manipulation of the senses and prevent you from getting an honest understanding of your surroundings. So there's literally "flashes of greatness" whether it's taken to mean that you can see me in flashes or you can see the beautiful women/surroundings just for a fleeting moment that you perceive to be greatness. Either way, much of what you see, as in all of Vegas, is an illusion. That's a prevalent theme here. To that point, the paradise and palm trees that you see are imported into the strip to make it more appealing and glamorous. The line also alludes to the Palms hotel/casino in Vegas. "Countless mirages" to mislead and manipulate is what these examples are. Not coincidentally, this also can refer to The Mirage hotel/casino. I go on to finish by saying that, despite my knowledge of these mirages, I still "let it ride." That's a play on the gambling notion that you keep playing and go for it.

Numbers don’t lie, countin money like blessings
But sins pay the pentance, that pole is a sentence
Club stay packed, not a soul in a attendance
That desert and that heat breed the Devil’s decendents

And the reason that we let it ride and continue to indulge ourselves in these sins is that numbers don't lie when it comes to money. Our society, in so many situations, cares only about who has the most money. It's though of as the most objective way to measure someone's success, many times. I feel like that's a huge reason why people go to Vegas, to be seen betting a lot of money. No matter where you're from, you can be somebody else in Vegas if you spend enough. You can create an illusion of who you are in light of the illusions that surround you. And so, what's really fucked up is that so many people count this money in Vegas and money anywhere in the world about how they would count blessings. They pray and thank the Lord for the money that they have. Almost as if a dollar bill is as valuable as a blessing. That line is pure skepticism on my part in really driving home a point in what's right and wrong. Because I think it's wrong, I have to find a way to justify and make sense of it. My way of doing that is believing, in a way, that you must give up a portion of your soul to be rich. So, I say "sins pay the pentance." And an example of this is the strip clubs in Vegas. When I see strippers subject themselves to what they do, I have no other way to cope than to believe that they've sinned in the past and, therefore, the stripper pole, metaphorically, is their sentence to pay the pentance for what they've done in the past. That's also how I justify my continuing to go there. Then, looking around me, I see the strip club is packed, but it's full of all of these rich individuals subjecting these women to horrible treatment. I see them as soulless. People all around me in the physical form, but I feel like the only one in the club who actually has a soul and conscience to feel bad for what's happening. Yet, I'm imperfect, and continue to go to strip clubs, making me question if I'm like these people. Whether or not I've lost my way and see myself differently only because it's me that I'm assessing. In drawing parallels to Vegas and how it has many things that seem sinful and hellish, I compare the irony of the fact that Vegas is this dry, hot, sinful place in the middle of the dessert and how maybe that plays a role in attracting and breeding the "devil's descendents" or the sinful behavior that occurs there. Because it actually contains a lot of the elements that we would traditionally consider hell to have.

You’re the worst, yeah you’re the baddest
What you thinkin? I can imagine
European fashion, face outta Maxim
Tell me what you drinkin and I got it til the last one

Even with the understanding I have, and the issues that arose in my head in the last stanza, I still acknowledge my imperfection in a dialogue with a woman I met at the strip club, whether it be a dancer or a fellow patron. It's intended to follow that this is one of the devil's descendents I'm speaking with in that she has bad intentions and is, presumably, disguised as a beautiful temptation (i.e. devil in a dress). The 4 lines are me, in a way, kicking game to her. But I'm doing so knowing that she's not a good person and simply exploiting Vegas like it exploits me, as I alluded to earlier. So, when I say "What you thinkin? I can imagine," it sounds like I'm trying to infer that I think she's really feeling me and wants sex, but in actuality, I understand the system and how it works so I'm actually imagining that she's thinking that I'm some gullible businessman with a lot of money that she can take advantage of. Still, I complement her and play the game because I find beautiful women who understand the nuances of fashion to be irresistible. So, I take part in the cliche process of buying all of her drinks and giving her money because I'm willing to pay for the attention, knowing that she's insincere and only out to take my money.

That’s how I run it like the rebels did
The James Dean of all of this fuckin rebel shit
And I don’t really give a fuck like I’m a celibate
My attitude I take it to my last words predicate

Therefore, that's how I run game, figuratively, just like UNLV and the Runnin Rebels basketball teams of the 90s did literally in dominating the competition. This run-and-gun style fit the brand because it was careless and fearless, based on instinct. Much like Vegas is. And much like the original rebel, James Dean was. I draw comparisons to myself because he's known as being the definition of cool and that rebellious attitude really fits how you feel when you're in Vegas. James Dean is also from my home state of Indiana, so I heard plenty lore of him growing up and related to him in a lot of aspirational ways. That rebellious attitude is really not giving a fuck. So I say I don't give a fuck "like I'm celibate." Which is ironic in that the song and Vegas are both very sexual and promiscuous. Finally, I say that attitude isn't just a phase, but that I'll carry it with me for the rest of my life. To "my last words". Taken another way, the last words of a sentence are the predicate.

David Blaine I’m grounded but now I’m levitatin
The view is better from penthouses and elevators
So the top is where we take it like Doug
And now I’m on that roofie, no hangover that game’s over

In this last stanza, I make an attempt to tie up the sentiment of the song. As you probably know, the magician David Blaine, who performs/has done tricks in Vegas, is known for his trick in which he levitates from the ground. In contrast, I say that I'm grounded, as you've seen in my questioning of what I see that I consider to be right or wrong and my understanding of the mirages that I subject myself too. But "now I'm levitatin," which not only means that I'm figuratively getting high from the indulgences of Vegas, but also that I'm getting better and better as an artist. And, as you continue to rise, you get a taste for the good life and the luxuries that accompany it. So, I say the view is better because I enjoy what's coming with increasing success and recognition. The metaphor follows that you take the elevator to the penthouse level, just as you would when you rise in status as a musician. So, in becoming more successful, my team feels like we have to take it to the top, figuratively, just as Doug, the character in The Hangover, is taken to the top of Caesar's Palace, literally. To convey that I've now risen and am on the top of my game and the competition as a result of this song, I say that "I'm on that roofie" as in, the roof of the hotel. Also meant as a reference to The Hangover in which Allan accidentally gives the rest of the cast mates roofies, which leads to the debauchery.

In conclusion...

I hope that you enjoy the wordplay and ignorance of the song. It really is, in a huge way, about speaking to how fun and exciting it is to take part in Vegas and how we all wish that we could be the person that we are when we're there, all of the time. To that point, I think it's very healthy to have that escape and, almost, an alter ego. It's good to strive for things and dream. At the same time, I hope that you don't simply take the content I've included in the song at face value. It's very much so about my perspective as a human and this battle we all have between temptation and doing what's right. I saw this song as an opportunity to not only do something very different for myself as an artist, but to give a unique twist to an exceptional instrumental in order to tell an interconnected story that represents experiences I can relate to more than Rack City.

Here's to my listeners!