Q: How did you become interested in music?
When I was eight, I started doing card magic and I did card magic professionally until I was like 20. It sounds so funny but I was doing close up magic and illusion work, and traveling the United States at like 14. I was full out in that my entire life. At the same time, I was writing and performing poetry, but it was secondary, it was my creative outlet. And then I got involved in a high school program that focused on pretty much being a therapist to other students. We did like public speaking events and all these things. I started running the public speaking events and I would end my speeches with poetry pieces and the students really really connected with them and they started asking for them against music. So then I started shifting into music and I got obsessed with music and rap and hip hop culture and how poetry forms into that. I pretty much stopped doing magic because I'd done it for so long that I was like, “Okay, I've done this for like 18 years and I'm not that old.” So yeah, I fully shifted into the music and for the last six or seven years I've been pretty much solely focused on music and throwing events and throwing my own shows.
Q: What has music taught you that you have applied to your everyday life and how you engage in the world?
Literally everything. I realized through doing magic, doing poetry, doing rap, editing videos, directing all the things, and doing some photography and drawing and graphic design, that they're all the same, like, the main core elements and foundations of learning are the same. And so that kind of blew my mind once I started seeing that the processes are all the same, just kind of different languages and different physical things. Magic taught me how to talk to people, it taught me how to be charismatic and confident. Rap taught me how to perform and how to really engage with people and tell stories. I think it all directly coincides with how I am and how I interact with anyone at any point. I work Nike events, in the normal non-end-of-the-world world, and I just find that because of my experience in the arts, I can find so much more joy in things I might not want to be doing because I see the performance of it, and I see the foundational learning to it, even if it's something an artist “might not want to be doing”, like a day job or something.
Q: What have been some challenges in your pre professional and professional career?
The first thing that pops into my head was a year and a half ago now, I was working on this on this mixtape. And I'd been working on it for like a year or so and I was getting pretty close to it being done. I was promoting it already and it was already like a thing. But then I left my laptop in the trunk of my car, and someone broke into my car and stole only my laptop, and I lost it. I lost the entire project except for like two songs that my other friend produced. And that was so heartbreaking and just made me not not want to do anything. I freaked out, like that was my baby. It was crazy. Long story short, I took that energy and shifted into finishing it and that was the last project I put out. To me it'll always be unfinished, but for the year after it came out we probably did forty to fifty shows last year that were solely with this project. And I learned a lot through that, to not let a certain situation completely get you down and learn to change that and shift that into something super positive. So that experience was really eye opening.
Q: How can music and art be a platform for social justice issues?
I think that they can be the biggest point of return for social issues and spreading information, at this point in culture and society and how social media is. We see that even with the recent circumstance with Ahmaud Arbery. It makes me and I'm sure a lot of people very angry that it takes us having to sign a petition to find some sort of justice. But what made that happen was artists and people with creational powers spreading that to find some sort of justice. So I think at this point, artists and musicians and dancers, and everyone that is leading their craft has so much more power than I think they even understand in terms of social justice and social reform. I think in the next three to five years we'll see so much more impact with artists making statements that the world really needs because I really think that that's the purpose of an artist, you know, especially in times like right now.
Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you as a performing artist?
My entire thing for the last few years has been tours. Like, for modern musicians touring is how you make all your money, it's how you spread, how you build your fan base. You sell the merchandise at the shows, you sell the tickets. And that pretty much completely got destroyed when COVID-19 came and now like they're talking about how huge events might not be possible until 2023 or something. And I haven't fully even understood that yet. Like last year we did our first tour run to Canada and back, and there's so much fun with that. It's so exciting and it was fully self funded and now we can't even do a show down the street, or in our yard. We used to throw all these backyard events and can't do anything now. So that being completely halted has been very stressful, especially like financially. I was making a lot of my money doing shows in LA and now that's completely gone so I shifted my entire plan for the future of my career. I'm switching into live streaming and doing Twitch streams and doing shows on the internet, and putting a lot more focus into the songs I'm making instead of the promo or the shows. I was planning this full out event series that we had investors on, and it was this full art gallery dance and music blend, where the audience would create art pieces. But the world said, “nope.” So that's been disheartening, but also motivating because it's like, okay we have all the time in the world now. So what are we really going to do with all this time, and how do we find that balance between being human and being an artist.
Q: Can you talk a little bit more about shifting your career online?
So before I would go on Instagram, I would post a show flyer, and I would send it to everyone. Then, hopefully they would come to the show. The day of the show, I'd be blasting Instagram with all the things, selling tickets pre show, and then at the door. It was hard to get people out in physical places. And now I do the exact same thing, except it's free and they don't have to leave their house, so it's almost a bit easier. So it's not too much different from what I was already doing, but the disconnect is so hard to maneuver because I'm talking to the screen and I'm talking to a camera, I’m not seeing them like I'm seeing you over Zoom, you know? I'm seeing text boxes, sitting right here, and doing a three hour show or making stuff on a streaming platform called Twitch. So I just started that, and luckily a bunch of my friends did as well and we’ve kind of already begun this little community of artists streaming, which has been dope. Now we see this community forming online like the one we have already in person. Like I said, we throw these backyard events and we have a strong community within these events. And so to see that not only shift to those people coming to the online shows, but also to seeing a whole new community that we could never reach before because they're just not in LA. It brings a bunch of positives and a bunch of negatives. We can't be together to perform. Usually we can perform with a full band and like tap dancers and dance crews and all these things. And obviously we can't do that now so we've been trying to find ways to keep it super entertaining still. Yesterday I spent four hours before I did a live stream show just setting up all this random stuff like videos and pop ups and things. So the work is still the same, it's just shifted to the computer and it's been really interesting to watch it evolve. Like I saw that Instagram lives were popping but they were also kind of getting beaten into the ground a little bit. And then I saw Twitch and I was like, “Oh, this is the answer.” It already has a huge community and it's pretty easy to get people from Instagram to this new platform. People subscribe for $5 a month and so you're making that money and it becomes a monthly income too.
Q: What would you like to see change and shift after this pandemic ends in the performing art world or music specifically?
So many things instantly pop into my head. In terms of generally, I think what I would hope for most is to see a change in how people treat each other, especially women and people of color in these industries. I'll go to these industry shows, I'll go to shows that my friends throw, I'll go to other events of different ranges and things, and the consistent thing at all of these events is that women and people of color are not being represented correctly. And then when I'm standing next to a friend of mine, who is in my opinion more talented than me, and I'm being treated differently for a certain reason, I see that really quickly and I’ve started to see that a lot more. As I was performing in LA more and more and more, I started hitting these venues that are well known and are run by industry execs and these names that you would just know. And they’re literally the worst, like they treat people so poorly. There were multiple times where I had to threaten getting a lawyer to get paid like. And that's another thing, how these venues are run just needs to shift, especially in a world where they can't exist without us -- which is now. Like, at most of these venues here they're taking half of the artists’ ticket sales and making them pay fees and then being shady and trying not to pay them. It doesn't make sense when the artist is doing all the work and marketing for themselves and bringing all the people, who then pay $25 for a ticket and the artists are only seeing $12.50 of that. It makes no sense, so that’s something I would like to see change. On a more positive note, I would also love to see the continued collaboration between art forums. Like in our shows we have trickers, we have breakers, we have live painters, we have a violinist and a tap dancer, and all of these different arts and avenues that aren't music, and I do magic too. We combine those at all of the shows and so when you come to a show you're not seeing like a “rap show” or “music show” or “DJ”. It's like this ghetto Cirque du Soleil thing. And I just want to see that more. I want to see dancers working with artists more, and knowing their worth, and not getting paid $50 for a 12 hour day. It doesn't really matter if it's the apocalypse or not, I feel like they just need to be shifted anyway. But yeah, I would love to see continued collaboration of art forms in unique ways over the internet, especially with dance and artists. There's a barrier there for some reason where the artists think that they can run all over dancers, when the dancers are giving the entirety of the show. So I really hope that after this the industry and the artists can find a lot more value and worth in the dancers that they're working with and hiring, and hopefully that equals out to an actual collaboration.