Congratulations on your latest album release “Light Years”. We checked it out and we really enjoyed the fresh new sound & perspective on new Hip Hop coming out of San Francisco. What motivated you to create this style of music. And how did you come up with your MC name UnLearn The World?
Thank you for the kind words on my album. I really feel like I put out the project that I wanted to, this time more so than any other project. I wanted an album that reflected the good space I’m currently in and eras of my life that were full of light, brightness, illumination, etc, past, present and future. I wanted the sound of the album to be futuristic boom bap, with hints of trap sprinkled throughout. It’s a blend of both east coast and west coast vibes.
I got my rap name from My favorite movie and favorite song. The word UnLearn, is the last word you see on the screen in the movie “Higher Learning” and “The World” comes from the Nas song “The World Is Yours”, which is the song that made me want to write rhymes when I was a teenager. With everything that’s going on socially and politically nowadays, we must recognize that we have to break down our own societal conditioning to create something new and true. It’s more than a name, it’s a mission statement.
How has the Bay Area underground scene influenced your career?
The Bay Area underground, paired with my New York hustle, gave me a career. This is why I have both city skylines on the album cover. In the Bay, going to places like Return Of The Cypher, which is a weekly open mic cypher in San Francisco, allowed me to perfect my craft as a performer and get a sense of how to move and network in the Bay Area Hip Hop scene. I was from participating in events, to hosting them, to eventually throwing them solely from my brand as a rapper and producer. I used my talent as leverage to develop relationships and a good reputation for more opportunities. It just kept on building to the point where my momentum and energy was being felt everywhere. I’m very proud of that journey. It took me use of getting it wrong to know how to do it right, once I had the chance. The Bay Area gave me that chance. I used an old school grassroots approach to gaining a following. So many artists are focused on “Blowing Up” quick by going viral, they don’t realize in order to have a career, you have to look at your art like a business and hustle! You also have to get popping and make yourself hot in these “Streets”. New York taught me that, but the Bay Area reminded me that at the end of day, it’s still about the art, the creativity and the love. Your art should always be about something bigger than yourself, but still get your flowers while you can smell them. Both perspectives keep me balanced.
How are you dealing with this whole nationwide lockdown due to Covid-19 CoronaVirus? Has this affected your music career in any way?
Totally. I had some really big shows lined up before shelter place orders were announced. In hindsight though, it actually helped me to finish this album. All the lockdowns due to Covid allowed me to slow down a bit and really reflect on where I was mentally and personally, be grateful, but also understand what my next steps should be. Not only do I perform, but I also teach Hip Hop and do artist development, so I had so many things going on at once. With all my grinding, I was feeling myself getting burnt out. You don’t realize that you need to take a break until you’re forced to. But I’ve used my music and my solitude to reflect on my life and put some helpful self care mechanisms in place to support my creativity and mental health.
I think all of us had to start taking some deep looks within, since we couldn’t go outside. We no longer had the usual distractions of capitalism to lull us back asleep. At very least we should now be awake to our own souls, when this is all said and done.
Who are your biggest Hip Hop influences?
I think I’m always asked about my influences, so I’ll talk about my influences for this album. I watched a lot of Star Wars and 90s movies, which gave me a big sense of nostalgia, but prompted me to think in terms being futuristic and intergalactic. My brain is always in the starts and thinking about the origins of the Universe and what life will be for my kids when I’m long gone, so I drew on a lot of afro-futuristic themes and paired them with a classic Hip Hop feel. With the samples, the drums and all the music elements. I also wanted to flex lyrically, but being in a pocket of being a dope Hip Hop song writer and less hard core lyric spitting, so that my songs can have more shelf life. I wanted to say dope things that listener can remember while they are vining to the music.
You recently dropped a new Album “Light Years” across all streaming platforms! Please give us some background on the creative process behind the project!?
This is the first album since my debut album, “The Wake Up Call” that I set out to record intentionally. My last two albums, both self produced, were more of a flex to establish myself as a dope beat maker and producer as well as an MC. Both of those albums were supposed to be instrumental beat tapes with some verses sprinkled in. Because I’m a rapper at my core, that never became the case, so the beat tapes just turned into albums because I kept rapping over everything I thought was dope. With this project, I went into it saying, “I want to make an album.” I also wanted to make a summer album and keep the vibes light and social, but Covid hit and everyone has to stay inside, so I had to find a new approach to making summer time music without clubs, bars or traveling. It low key reminded me of high school and being a kid before social media, and that was exactly what I needed as an approach to this album.
I also wanted to celebrate my life as I see, finally being in a space where music is my career and is giving me the life that I’ve always wanted to live in a responsible way, where I’m not only popular in my circle, but a community leader. That’s always been important to me, moreso that being famous. I wanted an album that wasn’t just underground struggle rapping, but just dope music with a message that you can vibe to on any occasion. Most of my other albums have been therapy. This wasn’t therapy, this was a flex. Like, “Let me show you all the ways I worked to make my life Lit!”
How does social media play a role in pushing UnLearn The World music. Which is your favorite social media platform?
Instagram has been helping me really understand what my fans appreciate about me and how to cater to them, while trying to do something fresh. The fact that Instagram is so multimedia now allows me to provide a context to my music that can make my fans connect to the messages more. It’s also been a great way to reach more fans and build a community.
What are a few different moves you’re making for 2020 when it comes to your music career?
I am proud to say that I am a Hip Hop Educator. Last year, I was an adjunct professor at a university teaching a course on Hip Hop, this year, I’m developing several online courses and also setting up residencies for myself to teach at different schools, but I am also working on a lecture series surrounding the themes and lyrics of this album. I also plan to produce and develop more artist on the come up. As my career grows, I want to be able to bring some dope artist for the ride.
We have to ask, with all this social discourse and revolt in the USA, protesting and rioting, exposed police brutality toward blacks and BLM, how do you feel about this? We would love your perspective on the climate we are living in right now?
It’s a climate of awareness. We’re questioning the status quo and the establishment mores now than at any point in recent memory. We are JUST starting to get to people unlearning the world, so this is a time where my music and movement will have the most impact. I think this is a real pivotal moment to do some real good and force lasting change and reform, but we have to keep this energy. It’s real easy for us to want to march and protest when we’ve been cooped up in our houses for months, but are we gonna have the same energy when sports come back? When we’re able to go to the movies or back to live shows? My question is, how do we keep this social justice momentum going in our minds? We have to be emotionally connected to the issues and also see how they all relate to one another. We have to continue to humanize and validate the experiences of Black and Brown people in this country. Racism is a human rights issue, not some sort of left wing political movement. We need to make sure all our stories are amplified for us and by us.
Our most popular question….What is your definition of “Underground Hip Hop”?
Underground Hip Hop is independent Hip Hop. Uncompromising creativity that doesn’t chase the wave of popularity, but rather, holds fast to the ideals and vision you set out for yourself. Hip Hop is Remix culture, so there’s never gonna be one right way to do things. We all want our music to mean something to others, but we can do that now on a smaller scale, without selling our souls to corporations. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to work though. It’s still up to you to bet on yourself and your abilities, invest in yourself and hustle to get your name out there. It’s working within networks of smaller communities to share our values and have an impact. Hip Hop is revolution, the revolution will never be televised and revolutions usually start as underground movements.
Where can our BLOG audience find your music and follow you on social media?
Any Shout Outs?
Shout out to Hip Hop For Change, the Non Profit I work for, Today’s Future Sound, Return Of The Cypher, All Tribes Zuluz and everyone else in the Bay that supports me. Lil MC, DJ Saurus for their contributions to this project and my life in general. We’re just gonna keep rocking to bring the true vibe our this culture back to the people and lift off into the stars! Light Years is here!