interview, Interviews

Cold War: An Interview With Rising Upstart Cautious Clay

We spoke to Cautious about his musical influences, creative process, and a fated trip to Korea that changed his life.

Cautious Clay burst onto the scene last September with the release of his debut single, “Cold War,” and hasn’t looked back since. The former leasing agent marketer has progressed at a torrid pace since the impressive drop, accomplishing more in nine months than most artists do in an entire career: he’s racked up millions of plays on Spotify alone, performs throughout the country, and is already being hounded by major labels. He re-released his debut EP, Blood Type, attached with an extra track, “Stolen Moments,” in April and is already slated to release a new EP by the end of May. We spoke to Cautious about his musical influences, creative process, and a fated trip to Korea that changed his life. You can check it all out, below.

Not even a year ago, you were working as a leasing agent marketer. What was it like working a 9-5 as a passionate musician?

I was fortunate enough to find a way to make a living out of college. But, besides that, it was still something that I realized, even though I was making money, it wasn’t in a way in which I was happy. As cheesy as it sounds, I’m kind of a guy of my convictions and I didn’t relate to anyone else at my job. It was super soul-sucking.

And what made you finally take the leap of faith and quit?

Long story short, I had been making beats and stuff for several years and had a lot of weird ass beats up on my Soundcloud. The head of a Korean label sent me an email almost three years ago, in 2015, saying he wanted me to come out to Korea to work. At first I said, “That’s ridiculous,” and I ignored it. A year later, my manager was going out to Korea for a vacation and asked a friend of his if there was anyone he should meet while out there. He was introduced to the same guy that cold-emailed me years ago and they were like, “We have to get him to Korea.”

I was still working in corporate throughout those years and basically had no vacation time, I had like one or two days, and I took unpaid days off too and was like cool, I wanna do this. I basically ended up producing eight songs for these semi-big Korean artists; that was super surreal for me. The fact that I did that, I was like okay this is a sign. The beats were just some stuff I was working on like on a plane ride or making randomly, so I realized if I really just put 100% of my efforts into this and focused, maybe I could make a career out of this. One of the songs I produced ended up being nominated for a Korean Hip-Hop Award.

Growing up in Cleveland, how did the city influence you musically, i.e., Kid Cudi or Bone Thugs-N-Harmony? Sometimes your voice sounds eerily similar to Kid Cudi’s, although you’re different stylistically.

It’s funny you say Bone Thugs because they lived in Mayfield Heights, not too far from me. I think in terms of inspirations growing up, I would say that Cudi was surprisingly not a huge influence, I had always heard about his stuff and kinda listened to it peripherally but I never really got into it, funny enough. Not that I don’t like him as an artist, but he was never super inspiring for me.

You said in a past interview that you’re heavily influenced by Hip-Hop. Which artists in particular?

Today, there’s some artists I really like even just because of a couple verses that they’ve done. I really love Earl Sweatshirt’s verse on, “Super Rich Kids.” I think he’s incredibly talented and I really fuck with his stuff. Obviously Andre 3000 is amazing. Sometimes stylistically I’m really into Ugly God too, he’s of a genre that I love because it’s the most self-deprecating, he’s just funny.

And which artists overall?

I was super into a lot of different stuff, a lot of stuff my parents turned me onto early on, I kinda didn’t accept at first as most kids wouldn’t, but it kinda comes back around. I listened to a lot of RnB, Pop Punk; Green Day, Lil Bow Wow, 50 Cent, a bunch of pop of just in the early 2000’s and late 90’s was around the house and in my ears. In my teens I was a really big jazz head and played in a jazz band.

Which artists would you most like to collaborate with?

I’m really stoked actually to collaborate, I think I might be working with Duckwrth pretty soon, I really like his stuff. I would definitely say Kendrick Lamar, he’s so sick, that’d definitely be the dream collab. Otherwise I’m kinda open to different ideas in terms of collaborations. Someone like Alina Baraz might be cool or SZA. Maybe even in a production sense it could be interesting.

 
As a poly-instrumentalist, front man and songwriter, what’s the creative process like for you in terms of collaboration? Do you do most everything alone or like to include others in the process?

That’s a great question, I’m kind of grappling with that right now because I do get hit up for a lot of production and collabs, and it’s easiest sometimes for me to just be by myself and just make everything on my own. But there are some situations where I’ve been collaborating with people lately, on my next project I have one co-production, everything else is on my own. That’s a good example of someone having a cool sound, something I admire, and I’ll work with them for that particular reason. But in general I definitely feel like it’s difficult because I am a producer, so if a producer wants to work with me you gotta be good, cause I can already do this.

Blood Type seems to cover lots of topics regarding relationships, specifically, people struggling to stay present in the digital age. Would you say the whole E.P. is based on this theme or is the project more so general observation?

I would say it’s more of a general observation and that’s just a part of it. I try to toe the line and not be preachy in how people lead their lives, I like to have more of a reflective mentality about it. Everyone has a different perspective on things and I wanted to show my interpretation of how I see things. That stems back to the title, Blood Type, representing my identity in a grander sense. It’s purposefully trying to highlight my perspective on relationships and on things people might wanna consider or think more about in their own lives. I’m not trying to say you’re bad for using Tinder, of course, use Tinder! But kind of like hey, this is where we’re at and this is okay but also just realize that you can live your life in a lot of different ways.

From a songwriting perspective, are all of your songs based on your personal experiences or do you draw inspiration from elsewhere?

Mostly, 80-90%, my experiences because for me, that’s the easiest way to feel that what I’m saying is authentic. It’s weird for me me to try to do something if it doesn’t feel right. I think today is the coolest time to just be yourself, so, that’s all I can do.

Stay independent or sign?

I think I’m definitely gonna stay independent for the near future, but down the line, if an opportunity comes about that makes sense for me, I would definitely consider that.

What’s on the horizon for Cautious Clay?

Yeah, right now I’m actually working on putting out my next project at the end of May. It’s something I’m pretty stoked about, it’s a 3-4 song E.P. There’s gonna be a video and some pretty cool artwork that my friend Lane is working on, he did all of the artwork for the last project. I’m playing a show at Bowery on July 24th. I’m just stoked to keep it moving, it’s a fun one for sure.

interview

CHIKA: A New York Star On The Rise

Almost a week ago, J. Cole’s epic album “KOD” dropped and so did a video that went viral from a…

Almost a week ago, J. Cole’s epic album “KOD” dropped and so did a video that went viral from a New York rapper named CHIKA, who responded to J. Cole’s song “1985” from his new album. Remarkably, her Twitter video now has over a million views.

CHIKA chopped it up with Above Average Hip Hop and discussed her music background and what inspires her.

I’ve been rapping since I was 14. I started writing poetry and I wanted a way to incorporate it into the songs I wrote, and eventually it just became what it is” she says.

I’m inspired by people & society. There’s plenty to write about, plenty to comment on, and a lot of things that need to be heard. In my opinion, music is the best way to do that,” she adds.

https://twitter.com/oranicuhh/status/987726695062036480?s=21

It’s evident that CHIKA has a lot to say and wants her voice to be heard. Her Twitter page is also proof of that. She has countless rap videos that discuss wealth, the black community, love and a slew of meaningful analogies.

I want to be remembered. Not for who I am, but for what I bring to the game & changing how people think. I just want the respect that my fellow lyricists get and the opportunity to touch people in some way,” she notes.

CHIKA is originally from Montgomery, Alabama. She recently relocated to one of the world’s music capitals – New York, to focus on her music career. She also comes from a very supportive family and keeps them in the forefront of her mind when times get rough.

My family also keeps me motivated. I have parents and a sibling with special needs that I want to be able to take care of. When things get really hard, I think about that. They have tried their best to support me, so I‘ll bust my ass to support them,” she mentions.

In her latest viral video, she discusses how there are people in the rap game who take their platform for granted. Mentioning that there’s so much in society that needs to be addressed and it’s not. CHIKA is fighting for a spot in the game so her voice can be heard and lives can be changed. Similar to how J. Cole, who she admires, pierces the souls of his fans with his lyrics.

By the looks of it, CHIKA is definitely off to a great start in her music career. It won’t be long before she’s ranking top 10 as the next influential rapper in the game.

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interview, unsigned hype

Reily Marte Keeps it Authentic For His Fans

“Always keep it real … people [will] feel what you’re saying in your music.”

Brooklyn-born Florida resident Reily Marte is currently making noise with his new single “Nobody Else,” which is presently steaming on all important platforms. The song is the second drop from his upcoming album Patience, a title that is a subtle plea to his fanbase. “The album stands for being patient with the songs I’m creating,” he tells AAHH. “Be patient; I got vibes for you all to listen to coming soon.”

Reily was introduced to the music industry at the young age of 13 by his father. “Dad was more focused on the Spanish scene,” he notes, “but there’s still little tips I get from him and learn from him.” Fast forward, he’s now a multi-faceted creative and a one-man team. “[I] record, mix and master all [my] songs,” he states proudly.

The upcoming LP promises to deliver a plethora of vibes to attract a multitude of different listeners to his music. “My sound can go from a dark feel to an uptempo dancehall style to a soulful RnB type of sound,” he says, citing Eli Sostre, Drake, and a handful of regional artists as influences.

“My goal in the industry is to show the younger generation that you can create different types of sounds and still get support from fans,” he states confidently. “If you’re authentic with your music people will respect it.”

“Always keep it real … people [will] feel what you’re saying in your music.”

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#FireFriday, Editorial, interview

Famous Dex Talks New Album & Dual Identities In Exclusive Interview

“I didn’t [really] just discover them, it’s always been like that.”

Coated in Diamonds, with a Gucci bag draped at his hip, Chicago rapper Famous Dex took the stage in a black werewolf T-shirt at New York’s Gold Bar on March 27 to premiere his new album Dex Vs. Dexter, and to receive a gold certification plaque for his bouncy track “Pick It Up” with A$AP Rocky. The album, while still flux in braggadocio lyrics, demonstrates creative growth for the rapper. Released on April 6th, the date was personally chosen by Dex to coincide with the three year anniversary of his mother’s passing from breast cancer. “It’s influenced my hustle. Everything I do now has a greater purpose because of her,” Dex told Above Average Hip-Hop. “The decisions I make with my family and my career, I always consider what she would tell me.”

The project’s theme of separate entities, while not a foreign concept in Hip-Hop, paints the audacious artist as someone more than how he appears to fans. “I didn’t [really] just discover them, it’s always been like that,” the artist said of his two identities. “Dex is the romantic guy,” he said with a laugh, “Dex is single, well both Dex and Dexter are single, but Dex loves women, chilling, vibing, [and] not doing too much. Sometimes people see me on a video, and I’m really laid back, that’s Dex.” In contrast, ‘Dexter’ is the artist everyone is familiar with. “He’s a clown, wild, crazy with ad-libs and everything. Dexter is who most people know in my music.” The two characters are fully realized on the albums cover art, with “Dex” sprawled on a green leather couch with a girl on his lap, while “Dexter” zooms around the couch in an animated form.

 
In contrast to Dex’s previous work, the rapper’s official debut is heavy on pop influences. The hook on “Prove It,” is layered in a pop-rock guitar riff and steady 808 drums. “Take this ride with me, sip this Hennessy, I got bands on me…Ooh girl you so sweet,” Dex sings in the third verse. Another drastic musical departure for the mumble rapper comes in the form of “LIGHT,” a radio-ready single featuring pop-rock quartet Drax Project. “Aw man, Drax! I love those guys,” Dex said of working with the band. “It just happened, I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I’m not going to question God because it’s dope! I’ve never made a song like that before.” Dex sings on the track alongside the group, his gooey auto-tuned vocals harmonizing with Drax.

However, Dex still makes room on his debut to tackle familiar territory. “LIGHT” is followed by “Celine,” a barely-two-minute bouncy interlude that finds the rapper reassuring his fans not everything has changed. “My favorite track to get hype to is ‘Celine.’ That song is fire,” Dex said. “It’s so natural to me, and I love to perform it.” Other tracks like the lead single “Japan,” “Take Her” with Wiz Khalifa and the album’s intro “DMD” find Dex in his comfort zone as he tackles beats by Pi’erre Bourne and J Gramm, among others. “This whole album is a celebration,” Dex said. Even with a new album just released, Dex is already planning his next steps. “I’m already working on my next album, Rich Forever got something fire coming out soon, so be on the lookout for that.”

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interview

The Story Behind Skyzoo’s “Honor Amongst Thieves” Outro

If you’ve slept on Skyzoo’s latest LP, In Celebration Of Us, then shame on you. It’s masterpiece centered around equal…

If you’ve slept on Skyzoo’s latest LP, In Celebration Of Us, then shame on you. It’s masterpiece centered around equal parts social injustice and commentary, and — more endearing — fatherhood, and the role it played in his life.

RELATED: Read my review of the album.

One of the more compelling tracks, the outro “Honour Amongst Thieves,” features a lengthy live recording of Skyzoo telling the story of how his Father played a quintessential role in his early life; a story made all the more touching considering he is now a father.

As Skyzoo explains, the story itself just came to him. “It [was told on] a public access network in Brooklyn called BRIC TV. I did a show with some people there,” he said. “They had this segment where it was storytellers … they had people come in to tell a story, any story that they wanted to a crowd. I was invited by a woman named Angela to be on that show. It was me, and a bunch of other people and everyone told their story over the course of like five or 10 minutes.”

As Skyzoo explains, he showed up unprepared. “I had a lot going on, but I promised I would do it. She’s a great person. So, I said, ‘Okay, let me do this,’ he says.

“I kind of didn’t think of a story ahead of time. I was ripping and running a lot. So, when I got there and the clock was ticking. It was like, ‘All right, this guy’s up next.’ I’m thinking: ‘what the hell am I going to talk about?’ And, then, it just came.

“It came to me on the spot. Once I did it, after the applause you hear and everything at the end, [I knew] it came out dope,” he said. “I asked the people at the network for the audio … I knew this would be fly to put on the album.”

Check out the full story, below.

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CHIKA: A New York Star On The Rise

Almost a week ago, J. Cole’s epic album “KOD” dropped and so did a video that went viral from a...

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