RAVEN - A New Year Mix
Listen to Raven's New Year's mix, below.
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Listen to Raven's New Year's mix, below.
Tell me about growing up in Little Rock.
Growing up there is probably what you think it is. I had to have a really big imagination, so I was always watching TV and I knew that there was always more out there in the world. But I love where I’m from. I love the hospitality, I love the food, I love the people. Music was another thing that helped me - it definitely acted as a form of escapism for me. I love the prominence of nature in Little Rock too. It’s actually called the “Natural State” so there’s a lot of green. I feel like I’m humble because of where I come from.
It’s not like growing up in LA.
Yeah, exactly. Even me falling into music, it’s still weird to the point where I’m like, “how did I even get here?” to this day.
So your focus wasn’t always music?
I wanted to be a veterinarian, then I shadowed a veterinarian and quickly realized that wasn’t what I wanted to do. It’s very gruesome. I went to cosmetology school for a bit too, thought I was going to do that...but no, I don’t even like doing hair! Music was something I always did throughout high school that I just kind of kept doing throughout my life, music was something that I never really thought was going to happen because of the fact that I’m from Arkansas.
How did linking up with Donald Glover early on in your career help push you further into the music industry?
So I had released a mixtape called “Laugh Now Die Later” and it was poppin’ off on the internet. Donald’s manager had found the song and hit up my co-producer at the time and was like, “yo this is crazy, Donald might remix it.” I was freaking out, but I wasn’t trying to get too excited. Anyway, he ended up doing it and they all came to Little Rock and naturally we forged a relationship. After that, he suggested that I come to LA and see more of what the world has to offer me, and I’m really grateful for that. I learned so much from being around that crew of people, most importantly how you can make an idea come to life. I was in the house where Donald and his friends were first discussing Atlanta, so I watched it go from simple ideas that people exchanged to this massive success. Even the album “Awaken My Love,” I was around for the beginning of that.
Do you think you wouldn’t have felt that push to get out of Little Rock if not for these newfound relationships?
I had already felt the urgency to leave. I moved to Atlanta a couple of times. Atlanta is kinda like Little Rock, a bigger city but just as southern. They pushed me to get completely out my comfort zone and travel to somewhere that was totally unfamiliar. I think that when I got to LA I began to understand that making music was an actual career, that music was actually what I wanted to do.
What do you think about the term “creative competition”?
There’s competition in every industry, but in the spaces that I occupy, I feel like the mentality to have is “let’s just have fun.” I want to make music, hang out, create.
How has coming up in the age of internet rap changed your perspective on the music industry?
I feel like I started out as internet rapper, but I’ve definitely transformed into what most people would consider a “real” artist. The internet was the only way to get people to listen to me. I was out here like, “hey! I’m in the middle of nowhere!” I was tweeting, I was all over soundcloud, even my Tumblr was poppin’ for a minute!
To me, your music is highly emotional but jumps to extremes on both ends of that spectrum. I was wondering, when your in that creative space, what emotion do you thrive off of the most?
It’s lowkey kinda hard to say because it varies, but I definitely thrive off of the feeling of being underestimated. When I feel underestimated, I feel fueled--it’s straight up gas for my car. I’m trying not to go to that place so much. I want to begin to write from a place of contentment.
Tell me the story behind your upcoming EP, because the title and the cover art are so contrasting.
I started making this project when I was depressed. I feel as though all the music I was making up to this point was what I thought people would want to hear. People want to turn up, you know? But that wasn’t where I was and I had to be honest with myself about that. These songs are very reflective of where I was at that time. I was in the space where I didn’t want to be alive anymore. Some friends had reached out to me and something that one of them said that really stuck out was “I’m glad you cried out for help”. I feel like a lot of us suffer in silence. We don’t want to bombard people with our problems, but sometimes we need to be like, “hey! Can you care about me for two seconds?” And that’s okay! This project isn’t really for anybody, it was music therapy for me and something that I feel compelled to share with others.
What would you tell your fans out there who are having difficulty processing pain?
I would say talk it out with somebody and make them understand that you need to talk. The moment you start saying things out loud, it becomes easier because what you’re holding inside will only manifest--you’ll start to see your world become what you feel on the inside. We’ll always experience traumatic things and we’ll always feel pain, but it’s important to know that okay to vocalize how you’re feeling, it’s important to tell somebody, to speak up. We all must remember that there are people that want to see you thrive and be happy.
"Cry 4 Help" is out now.
Dress by Kiko Kostadinov, tights stylist's own.
Not to mention, this chick is a natural-born lyricist whose verbiage packs a punch potent enough to break your heart into a million little pieces, then lovingly mend them back together all within the same verse; much like those delicious lil gummies that almost hurt to ingest, first it’s sour, then it’s sweet.
In the wake of the release of her newest single, “You The Best,” and debut EP, Dark July, a couple months ago, the energy of which perfectly encapsulating the blue-sky yet brooding nature of it’s creator, Kenzie continues to focus on the future, and the brilliant twists and turns 2019 has in store for her. office had the opportunity to catch up with the budding musician to pick her brain about some random shit.
If you could collaborate with any animal what would it be and why?
With any animal? I’m trying to think of an animal that I don’t see myself as at all because the thing about collaborations, I guess, is that I look to have an interesting mixture of things. So, I’m thinking a snake because I’d want to see how a snake’s mind works precisely because I don’t see myself as one...hopefully not, hopefully not a snake.
What animal do you see yourself as or the most spiritually connected to?
It’s not that far away from a snake to be honest but I do see myself as a gecko, I have a gecko.
Is it a leopard gecko?
It’s a gargoyle gecko, so kind of similar, it looks kind of like a little crocodile. Sometimes I look into her eyes and see a little bit of myself in them.
What’s the first thing you notice about a person?
First thing I notice is their teeth, normally—I have a weird obsession with people’s teeth. The mouth really draws me to people, especially when you have a conversation. I’m not the best with eye contact—my thoughts wander and I kind of follow them around the room. But definitely when someone smiles, seeing the makeup of their teeth makes me feel some kind of way, I don’t know!
What was the last photo you took?
The last photo that I took… let me just look on my phone. I wish I could say it was on an actual camera. I’m in the market for a new camera but in the meantime I am taking them on my phone. The last photo that I took was on the underground—there were these tiles that I saw that I thought looked super interesting. I’m really happy the last photo I took wasn’t a selfie!
Leotard, skirt & shoes by Repetto, corset by Claire Barrow, tights by Wolford (left); Bikini by Pucci, dress by Sonia Rykiel, tights by Claire Barrow (right).
Do you have any hidden talents that only your close friends and family know about?
I don’t know if it’s so much hidden because I talk about it but know one believes me because I can be such a clumsy mess, but I really like doing things with my hands—building things, kind of like craft-based stuff. It’s almost embarrassing to the point where I think that, in another dimension, I would set up a really awful Etsy shop. I do love anything tangible that you can work on, from embroidery to building a table.
As a musician and a lyricist, what is your biggest source of inspiration? Where do most of your themes come from?
I think that most of my favorite songs that I’ve written are very connected to visuality. I’m not the kind of person who sits down and writes a song because I think, ‘This is the song that I need to create today, I’m feeling like this so this is gonna come out.’ It’s more like a stream of consciousness, and then afterwards I’m like, ‘Oh wow I blacked out and this came out,’ then I start to put it together and find out what it actually means. When I’m in the middle of creating a song, I see a color, or I see what the situation is about. I used to be very anti-writing about love and relationships and all that kind of stuff just because I found it boring, or obvious, I guess. Then I realized how pretentious it was of me to think about things that way—if you feel something then you should probably write about it. I am a hopeless romantic whilst probably being one of the most cynical in the room about that kind of stuff. All of my stuff normally comes from a place of feeling some type of way about loving myself, or someone else, or just...that feeling.
If you could describe your sound in three different foods, what would they be and why?
I feel like I want to make this a well-rounded meal. I think mac n’ cheese would be in there because it’s not the best for you, but it’s comforting—and it’s just one of my favorites, it makes me feel good. A lot of comfort foods are coming to mind, I feel it’s because I find that my songs are quite easily digestible—that was an unintentional pun. Mac & cheese also because it has that salty element, so it’s not necessarily good for you. I want to say ice cream—chocolate ice cream—and something really tough, like broccoli.
Broccoli? This is a weird meal, dude, but I like it!
Okay I take that back! I was thinking of something kind of tough and not the nicest. Lyrically,some things are a little harder to swallow. Yeah, fuck it, broccoli—broccoli, ice cream, and mac & cheese. Such a strange combination, I’m sorry...don’t ever eat my music.
What is one thing that you can’t live with, can’t live without?
This is so awful, I can’t even believe I’m saying this because it’s so bad, but my juul. That is the most basic answer ever, but at least it’s real. It’s such an addiction-based question. There are so many things I could list instead, but my juul specifically.
Top by Kepler, dress by Molly Goddard, boots by Kiko Kostadinov (left); Top by Kepler, dress by Molly Goddard, jeans by Seven, boots by Kiko Kostadinov (left)
So, I see you have some tattoos—which one speaks to you the most, or relates very strongly your music?
One tattoo that mean a lot to me is this one, it says being and then doing crossed out. I equate it to my mother, because she says it all the time, and any time I call her really stressed out: ‘You are a human being, not a human doing.’ It’s a quote from a philosopher, I’m sure, but anytime anyone asks where it’s from I just say my mom because she’s the one who really instilled that in me. Being still and doing nothing are very different things.
Do you have any dream collaborations? The collaborator can be living, made-up, or dead.
I mean, I’m waiting for this snake collab for sure. Obviously because they’re gone you think of people like Bowie or Prince—obvious but amazing. I think I would love to collaborate with Bukowski, someone who is so different from me, like an old ass white dude with a drinking problem, womanizer. There is something so interesting about getting into someone else’s head, someone who is so far removed from your perspective and your point of view. So someone like that would be awesome. Björk would be sick, she is incredible. Her voice is so fragile and powerful at the same time, which I think makes for the weirdest, most amazing and magical balance. Collaborating with her would be an absolute dream.
One piece of advice that you know now that you would’ve given yourself when you started out in the music industry?
It’s so blanketed but I tell myself it all the time now that life is long, hopefully. I think I was really excited but also anxious about saying what I wanted to say, or wanting to prove myself, or wanting to live my life on someone else’s terms. I think that taking a minute and realizing that there is so much more still to be experienced, really all of those cliches—life is what you make of it and all that kind of shit—it’s true. Just taking your time with something, understanding that some things really do take a little more time to boil. Even now, I’m working on new music and I’m at the point where I’m like fuck it, if I’m not 100 percent happy with what I’m putting out, I don’t want to put something out that is half-baked. Life is long, so am I really going to want to listen to this shit in twenty years time and be like I put that out in the world? Give yourself the time and the space, emotionally and mentally, to grapple with all that.
If you had any at all to begin with, which New Year’s resolution have you broken already?
I don’t know if I even gave myself resolutions exactly because my whole thing is this that if you want to do something just start now, why wait until the new year? I know that there is something that I did said that I was going to do that I have already broken, but if I can’t even remember it I bet it’s not that important. I haven’t been smoking though and I’m really proud of myself for that. I have been juuling and not smoking.
What do you have coming up that you’re super excited about?
I have been in the studio since the beginning of the year working on new stuff. There is one song that I’m so excited about which is honestly more than enough at this point to keep my momentum going, or to keep me motivated and ready to move on to the next thing. I think I’m definitely going to shoot a video the next little bit, which I’m very stoked about because as I said before, the visuals are such a big part of what I do—the song doesn’t really feel complete until there is a visual element to it. Beyond that, just enjoying the fact that I don’t know what’s going to come next. Putting out new music is definitely the thing I’m most excited about right now.
“That’s like Billy Joel, or Tony Bennett,” he says. “Someone people feel nostalgic over—that’s a legacy. But that’s not me. Some people just have the ability to draw in others without having to act young, or rely on some shit they did forty years ago.”
Forty years ago, Waters wasn’t even Slick Rick yet. It wasn’t until 1985, when he teamed up with Doug E. Fresh and his Get Fresh Crew, that he released his first hit, “La Di Da Di,” and three more years until he dropped The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, the album that made him “somewhat famous,” as he puts it. Except it made him really famous, and since then he’s become the most sampled hip-hop artist of all time, with songs from the record having been excerpted by everyone from Beyoncé and Jay-Z to Eminem and Miley Cyrus. Thirty years later, and the album still holds weight. In fact, in honor of its thirtieth anniversary at the end of last year, Def Jam released an updated version featuring two new tracks.
Shoes by CLARKS, hat, jacket, shirt and pants Slick’s own, jewelry throughout Slick’s own (left); Jacket by Heron Preston (right).
“It’s like gumbo,” Slick says of the record, “sometimes you gotta do a little tweaking here and there to keep it fresh and relevant in people’s two-step. But it’s still making a ruckus,” he adds. “It’s just like how James Brown’s records will never die—some records will never get old. And if they do, you just gotta tweak it a bit.”
It’s a pretty relaxed attitude for a rapper to have. But then again, Slick is pretty chill about everything. In an age when other musicians are constantly consumed with being and staying relevant, gaining and keeping followers, making music and doing collabs, his only concern is making sure he’s not boring—for his own sake.
Jacket by GUCCI, shirt and pants Slick’s own (left); Shoes by CLARKS, hat, jacket, shirt and pants Slick’s own (right).
“I look at myself as my audience,” he tells me, “and as long as I entertain myself, and cure myself of boredom, then I feel I can present whatever it is I’m doing to the public.” The formula is pretty straightforward: “If I’m not happy, then I can’t expect the public to be happy,” he explains. “I don’t really work from a financial type of a situation—I work to cure myself of boredom. And if it sells, it sells; if it carries an audience, it carries an audience. But it still has to be for myself.” And as for what part he plays in the modern rap game, more than three decades since he first broke onto the scene? “My role is just to be myself.”
While that may be true, the world—and the world of hip-hop—has changed dramatically since Great Adventures topped the charts and I first heard “Children’s Story” and “Hey Young World” on the radio. Public Enemy and Eric B. and Rakim have been replaced by Yeezy and Drake; “Fight The Power” and “Fuck Tha Police” for “Sicko Mode” and “Twerk.” But that’s where Slick Rick sees an opportunity. “I got over 30 brand new joints right now that if any one of them were to hit the streets,” he boasts, “that would be a problem. That other shit—it’s cute, you know? But I got over 30 in the stash that says, ‘Listen, this is how you set the bar in hip-hop.’” That bar, for Slick, isn’t about followers, or politics—it’s about music, and doing something unexpected.
Jacket and shirt by J. LINDEBERG.
“That’s the worst thing—being predictable,” he tells me. I think that’s why he doesn’t like to call himself a legend. “People are hungry for new shit. And that’s what hip-hop is, what it’s always been—the melting pot of the entire planet.”
As I look back at him, his bottle of Cristal now empty, he peers through his glasses down at his diamond Rolex. “Look, you can go anywhere in the world right now and they know who the top hip-hop artists are. It’s what dictates culture. But at the end of the day, this is me, this is my life, if it inspires you to be yourself, then cool, ‘cause this is just me being myself and curing myself of boredom,” he smiles. “Like, I don’t want to see no Broadway play. I’m about the future—everything else is boring.”
Issue 10 is out now. Buy it here.