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, Interviews

El Da Sensei Talks Longevity & “XL” LP With Sadat X

He also reveals four albums on deck.

When it comes to career longevity without selling out the original vision — and ultimately the core integrity — of your brand, no OG rappers have managed to continue rocking shit the way that way Sadat X (a third of Brand Nubian) and El Da Sensei of The Artifacts have. Longtime fixtures on the European scene, the two have been peers for years, but it wasn’t until three years ago that the two decided to bless longtime fans and deep-rooted Hip Hop heads with a joint LP titled XL.

 
“I’ve known X since the 90s and been a fan since day one,” El Da Sensei tells AAHH. “We have mutual friends as well … they all said ‘hey why don’t Y’all do an LP together that would be crazy.’ We agreed.“

With well over two decades in the game, El explains it’s his love of the sport of Hip Hop that keeps him dedicated to his craft. “I think we show longevity working with new producers and keeping a fresh sound; we’re not compromising to fit in,” he says of this collaboration. “We try to set trends rather than follow,” he adds.

“That keeps the fans inspired. We still love it and its also a job….gotta love what you do right?”

Their love is evident. A peruse of either of the rappers Instagram illustrates them living their best lives; from wine to merch, they’ve been able to endure through countless eras and trends since first rising to prominence with their respective crews.

 
“You have to love the craft and be a participant cant sit on the sidelines warming the bench,” he explains. “We have merch out there, continuous releases … you have to be working even more than before. There are so many outlets to use now. We can sell ourselves more than ever.”

“You have to be yourself … nobody can be me and X. So we push that still!”

When it came the delayed (but worth the wait) LP, El notes that every verse they laid made the cut. “Every song made it except for the one we leaked, ‘We Must Stand’ prod by 9th Wonder. We have a song on deck ready for the next single as a bonus, but everything made the final version,” he says.

Fans who have come expect feverish release schedules from the duo (individually) have lots to look forward to — in addition to a tour of the USA and one in Europe kicking off March 2019. “We definitely working on the next XL project immediately,” El says with a laugh. “I have about 4 albums ready to go on deck for the next 2 years … I’ve been busy.”

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Rising Malaysian Star Zamaera Is Poised For Greatness

Z chats Malaysian Hip Hop culture, her new project, and much more.

Photo credit: Kanya Iwana

23-year-old Malaysian MC Zamaera has been slowly bubbling onto many radars as of late. After appearing on a viral installment of Yo! MTV Rap Asia’s Rap Cypher, knocking out her first festival appearance, and dropping a buzzing new single titled “Z vs Z” ahead of the upcoming EP of the same name, she is primed and ready to take things to the next level.

Hip Hop in Malaysia has grown exponentially throughout 30 plus years,” she explains to AAHH, indulging our ignorance of the regional scene. “I didn’t live through the early stages of this groundbreaking period in the Malaysian music industry, but one characteristic of Hip Hop is its continuous evolution in sound, style, and swagger.

“It doesn’t matter if you jump on the Hip Hop bandwagon in the 80s or 2000s; if you have something to say — visually, lyrically or sonically — you’re a part of the culture,” she adds.

 
As Z explains, Malaysian society’s reaction towards Hip Hop has been somewhat of a gradual appreciation. She fell in love with the culture in her late teens. “Love, heartbreak and all the sweet sins of adolescence brought me to Hip Hop; and now I’m in it for life.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BkMzNXzALI-/

She’s accomplished a lot — considering her debut video dropped just over a year and a half ago. This year, she was blessed with the opportunity to journey to the US to develop and focus her craft, and her career. It was here that Z vs. Z was born.

“It was a very reflective period for me,” she notes of the experience. “I did all of the creative work while I was there. I worked with the amazing producer Floyd “Timeless” Thomas, writing the lyrics. I also teamed up with the ever so talented creative director — Kanya Iwana — and the most brilliant ALL FEMALE TEAM, Savannah Chonis, Francesca Martin, Nawel Abdelaziz, and Shaina Santos for the album artwork.

 
“The experience was humbling, overwhelming and stimulating,” she adds. I was given a chance by Lakefront Records, which resulted in the recording of this EP in the United States [specifically, Chicago]. It was overwhelming because I was in a foreign place, where EVERYONE is trying to make it. Stimulating, because of the work ethic that I managed to experience. The entertainment industry is no joke, and that motivated me to do more for myself as an artist.”

The new EP, as she explains, is the essence of her as an artist, stemming from reflection and acceptance — two things she describes as dominant themes in her writing. “It took about two months for the idea to be translated into the entire project,” she reveals.

During her recent appearance at the Good Vibes Festival in Selangor, Malaysia, she had a chance to debut her two-month labor of love in front of a receptive audience — an experience she doesn’t take for granted.

“That was a day of many firsts. The first time I performed at a festival, first time I used in-ear monitors, first time performing with dancers, first time I played the entire EP LIVE,” she exclaims proudly. “I’ve learned to let go of the things I don’t have control over — but all in all, it was an adventure of a lifetime.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/Blj5L7lgxJD/

With a dizzying 2018 thus far — and an even more jarring 2019 ahead — Zamaera’s current mood is focusing on her mind, body, and soul. With an endorsement deal with Nike Malaysia, her project, and (if it all pans out the right way) a tour, you can hardly blame her for cherishing a little downtime.

“Follow me on my social media,” she says as our interview draws to a close, “because I will be announcing something extremely exciting very soon.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bn9ChNxg2Sq/

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World Premiere: Koncept Takes To The Night Streets Of Seoul In “Fuck You Music” Visual

The song is about anyone that ever told you that you couldn’t do something or that you couldn’t accomplish your dreams,” Koncept explains.

AAHH proudly presents the second of five new visuals by Brown Bag All-Stars alum Koncept, who we’ve been rocking with for a minute now. Set amid the futuristic looking night lights of Seoul, South Korea, the song, “Fuck You Music” — which appears on the Sony Asia release 14 Hours Ahead as “You Music” — is a middle finger to anyone who ever tried to hold you back.

Relevant: Koncept Talks Korea & Premieres New Video For “Never Again”

The song is about anyone that ever told you that you couldn’t do something or that you couldn’t accomplish your dreams … [that] you can’t go after what you believe in. This is a big fuck you,” he explains.

“I was working really hard on things and I was sort of in a place where I had no choice but to wait for something to happen … I was in a funk,” he said of the song’s creative inception.

Currently in the Los Angeles putting the finishing touches on his new album, Koncept shares that he is planning to come out strong after the final three visuals in this latest run are released; his roll-out includes an Asian tour with Scoop DeVille that kicks off in November with stops in Korea, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Intriguingly, he also describes plans for a collaborative project with the “Poetic Justice” producer.

Check out Koncept’s “Fuck You Music” video, above.

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interview, Interviews, Main

#Interview: RoQy TyRaiD in ‘PLYNwcha’

RoQy TyRaiD drops a brand-new single “PLYNwcha” produced by NYC’s Motif Alumni with a psychedelic backbeat over hypnotic chants that…

RoQy TyRaiD drops a brand-new single “PLYNwcha” produced by NYC’s Motif Alumni with a psychedelic backbeat over hypnotic chants that groove. With an edgy prose, RoQy TyRaiD takes Hip Hop to the next level and Above Average Hip Hop wanted to know more. What can be said about his subject matter personifies the culture that raised him. Coming up in the game can be a struggle, but for RoQy, it’s all about keeping it real. “I don’t have to play by the rules. I’m going to do what I want, and I’m going to find my success regardless,” says RoQyTyRaiD.   

I get placed on this green planet for a finite amount of time and I don’t feel like I’m surrendering any of that to people who are championing consistencies and stratification and all of that nonsense. – RoQy TyRaiD

However, there are different modes of success, and whether it equates to monetizing your product or artistically expressing and further developing your brand, the rapper RoQy TyRaiD stays true to his values in the culture that brought him his new single “PLYNwcha.”

Tell me about RoQy TyRaiD. Who are you and where are you from?   

I reside in Phoenix, Arizona. I’m originally from southern California, born and raised. I’m just here to advance my artistic pursuits and find myself deeper in the culture that inspired me and gave me a live soundtrack. I feel that artists, at the end of the day, are just glorified fans. I’m finding my way further in the culture that inspired me, and this is why I’m here.

Some would describe you as a socially conscious rapper. How would you describe your subject matter?

I mean, people have classified me like that. I’m just more aware to life. I mean, it happens to fall in it in terms of just discerning your surroundings. Unfortunately, and fortunately as opposed to politics and things related, social climate plays a role. So, I could say, you know, they’re right. I’m just a normal dude.  I mean sometimes the content touches on political topics.

What is your most recent single?

It’s called “PLYNwcha.” It’s me flexing my capabilities lyrically, providing some hype music. I’m breaking away from the direction that I was sent down artistically and just getting back to making music that makes you want to throw a merch table across the venue. I detail instances where I was just being delivered pipe dreams just waiting for this nonexistent idea of success or mythical ideas and just really being fed up with it. I guess I deliver it in a more aggressive energy forward manner. But what it is — I have no time.

I’m not like a 21-year-old dude who can play trial and error. I get placed on this green planet for a finite amount of time and I don’t feel like I’m surrendering any of that to people who are championing consistencies and stratification and all of that nonsense. We’re with the advent of social media, Internet, and advancing technology. I don’t have to play by your rules. I’m going to do what I want and I’m going to find my success regardless. I guess it’s realizing that feeling and you know, taking the gloves off.

It sounds like you have a different set of values on what constitutes success. Would you say that is accurate?

Absolutely, my role is looked at differently from the next man or woman. Even describing the adversities and the games and you know, standards you have to abide by. For example, I have two sold-out dates in the UK, another one lined up press and individuals waiting to get the piece of this new music and you know, I think that reflects taking your destiny by your own hands as opposed to abiding by what you’re told to do.

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