music

InTheRough Presents Franchise Players: Sounds from the Gridiron by Maxwell Young

Art meets entertainment. Entertainment meets art. Or maybe they were always intertwined.

Flyer designed by Rob Stokes.

Flyer designed by Rob Stokes.

Sunday, September 8 begins an unorthodox spectating experience at Dangerously Delicious Pies in Washington, D.C. Part football game, part art piece, part game within itself—InTheRough presents Franchise Players: Sounds from the Gridiron—an audiovisual performance mashing together the 2019 NFL kickoff, music, food and art.

Football is America’s game, omnipresent during fall months, and although not everyone agrees with its gladiatorial competition or politics, it is an efficient geographical identifier. Of course, this is one way to delineate participants in a cultural community like D.C. that is transient and increasingly informed by non-natives. With the primetime matchup between the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers as the focal point, Sounds from the Gridiron will bridge the gap between sports fanatics and artists with kindred creative experiences.

During the live television broadcast of the game, two performing acts will each represent the Patriots and Steelers cohorts. By way of Connecticut, underground rapper Tedy Brewski and master blender/producer Greenss will be the sonic backdrop for the New England contingency, while Pittsburgh-based band Jack Swing and quintet October ‘71—who’s reinterpreting the soot and smog of a vintage Steel City—will amplify Steelers Nation. Beginning with the traditional coin toss and decided by possession of the ball, each band will take the stage with their respective team’s offense. At any given moment, however, performances will interchange due to turnovers (interceptions, fumbles & 3-and-outs) and score conversions. This will be monitored and officiated by referee Sir E.U as the game is projected onto the performers. Think the visual hodge-podge of Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable with the sounds of The Velvet Underground, but reoriented for football and contemporary tunes—it’s chaos.

On the sidelines of the show, Pittsburgh-inspired eats from the Pie Shop reinforce the fact that Steelers fandom extends beyond the three rivers and across the nation. Tedy Brewski along with Pittsburgh-based artist Quaishawn Whitlock will also showcase their latest 2-d works regarding sports history and popular culture.

Tickets for the event are available for purchase here. Until then, listen to a brief playlist of the acts below.

Franchise Players: Sounds from the Gridiron

Sunday, September 8

Dangerously Delicious Pies

1339 H St. NE

Washington, D.C. 20002

7pm — End of game

In Retrospect: Seung Hyun Rhee's 'Homesick' by Maxwell Young

Through manual and digital collage, photographer  Seung Hyun Rhee  conveys his love of K-Pop and the culture of South Korea. Polaroids by Maxwell Young

Through manual and digital collage, photographer Seung Hyun Rhee conveys his love of K-Pop and the culture of South Korea. Polaroids by Maxwell Young

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At least in America, there is this esoteric following of the Korean Pop music genre that is now bubbling to the mainstream. Platforms like League of Legends, the multiplayer online battle that catalyzed the era of E-Sports; the arcade favorite Dance Dance Revolution; and MySpace ushered in K-Pop as a niche, bubblegum amalgamation of popular sounds. Psy’s massive, more than three billion-times-viewed hit “Gangnam Style” that reverberated around the planet in 2012 elevated the genre to the surface for mainstream music listeners such as myself. But even then—back in my high school days—did I know a handful of people who could name me any other K-Pop song.

Photographer Seung Hyun Rhee was trying to show me concert footage of BTS, the it K-Pop group of the moment, while we met to talk about his thesis project for NEXT, Homesick. Although the boy band has not yet conjured a song as iconic as “Gangnam Style,” the septet is internationally recognized: heart-throbs recently emulating The Beatles’ legendary, American television appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, with a cheeky rendition of their single “Boy With Luv” on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The dense architectural makeup of George Washington University’s Corcoran School of the Arts and Design caused the video to buffer. “The death circle,” is how Rhee referred to the spotty cell phone connection. “I don’t see that in my country…my country has the fastest internet in the world.”

Rhee emigrated from South Korea in 2007, right as the K-Pop industry hit its apex abroad. “I felt like I was going to get homesick. How was I going to connect to my country?” He looked back on his 12 years in the United States. “Everything is slow, the technology does not match. And what kind of food is this? It’s so oily!”

Initially, Rhee’s aunt shipped physical copies of K-Pop albums overseas, stimulating his affection toward his native country and providing the ultimate spark for engrossment in the genre. Now, however, Rhee buys his own albums, boasting about his royalty status on the online shopping site, Yes24. “I’m getting three or four more albums when I go to Korea this month,” he said. “I’m a collector…K-Pop [albums] have six to eight pages of photo-books in there with lyrics together and random things. But here in America, an album is just plastic with one book and some picture.”

The byproduct of such fandom has yielded an archive of over 200 album covers, collectible merchandise, trading cards, and personal concert photos that became the source material for a series of portrait collages that juxtapose a sense of alienation in America with Rhee’s longing to return home.

Images of K-Pop stars from Rhee’s favorite groups including TWICE, Miss A, and Wonder Girls inform five androgynous figures that were fit to glass above backdrops that represent his American experience. “It shows more depth and separation between the two countries that I feel,” Rhee said of his collaging methods. The figments have overlapping masculine and feminine facial features with both dainty and boyish physiques in alternating photographs. The dynamism of these characters symbolize the fervor of fanatics like Rhee and the growing culture they embody worldwide, yet the blandness of the backgrounds, such as his living room, bathroom, and United States Capitol building, create a disconnect between the ambivalence the genre has received in America and its pandemonium in Asia.

Adamant to return to South Korea to join the public relations side of the K-Pop industry, Rhee is skeptical of its growth in America. “I think K-Pop can grow here, but everything has a limit,” he said frankly. The differences in fashion taste along with the investment of time and money that goes into developing K-Pop groups (some training for three to five years before they even debut a song) is a risky gamble to make for a nascent genre. Personally, the nationalism with which these entertainment companies (basically music labels in Korea) amplify acts internationally may not be strong enough to gain traction in the United States either. Music is about identity. Listeners relate to a certain sound or visual aesthetic that is a portrayal of their own existence, and right now, the American fabric is largely white, black, and latin-x. And although the K-Pop industry is forming multi-national K-Pop squads, like NCT 127, and is being infiltrated by international writers, including new jack swing creator Teddy Riley to increase the exposure of the genre, the population of K-Pop fans, South Koreans, and other Asian ethnicities just might not be large enough to sustain the industry in the United States. As more groups cross the Pacific to tour North America, time will tell how frenzied the American demographic will become.

Just A Sample 2: An Interview with Deante’ Hitchcock by JR Walker

Written by Hibak Mohamed

Deante’ Hitchcock’s cover art for “Just A Sample 2”

Deante’ Hitchcock’s cover art for “Just A Sample 2”

Deante’ Hitchcock’s days of being rap’s best kept secret are coming to an end. The 26-year-old Atlanta native has proven his ranks with his freestyles; it’s now time to sit with his music. Deante’ first started rapping when he was 12. Over the years he found his way back after his love for rap grew. His unmatched work ethic and consistency across social media networks has helped boost him into new trajectories. Hitchcock was discovered on instagram by Mark Pitts and later signed with the RCA-affiliate Bystorm label.

When I first came across his freestyles, I was initially drawn to his authenticity and wordplay. I still laugh thinking back to the time someone called him an industry plant and Deante’ made an entire freestyle full of plant puns. Moves like this are what make Deante’ so likeable and connected to his core fans. During the release of “Just A Sample 2,” Deante’ spent most of his time calling supporters and giving his time to those who elevate him. For an upcoming rapper, amassing a solid core base of support is critical. It’s evident that the respect is present for Deante’ Hitchcock.

I don’t wanna ever chalk it up to my lack of work ethic.
— Deante' Hitchcock

Just a week ago, Deante’ released his EP, “Just A Sample 2.” Features include Atlanta legend Kilo Ali, Grammy Award-winning R&B artist H.E.R, and the ultra-talented producer/artist Childish Major. This project was produced by Brandon Phillips-Taylor and executively produced by Mark Pitts. In just a week, Deante’ has been able to garner 1 million streams. From the infectious hooks and catchy melodies to his undeniable pen game, Deante’ proves his well rounded abilities with “Just A Sample 2.” With only 6 tracks, Deante’ gives the us everything we need and leaves us anticipating more. The EP is solely, as it suggests, a taste before the main course. Hitchcock has mastered the ability of evoking an array of emotions through his storytelling to make the listener feel precisely what he is going through. In this EP he explores the theme of love. On “7:45,” Deante’ confidently declares, “who gon love you like me?” On “Changed For You,” he paints a picture of growth by singing, “Just say the word and you got me, baby girl, I'd give up the game for you / Know I was stuck in my playa way way before, but girl, I changed for you.” This project has all of the love anthems you need. If you ever catch yourself singing “Feelings” a little too enthusiastically, just know you’re in too deep.  A dangerous bop indeed. The outro track, “Never (Let You Go),” is a beautiful flip of Brian Mcknight’s, “Never Felt This Way.”

I had the pleasure of speaking with Deante’ and asked him a few questions about “Just A Sample 2.” Whilst playing video games with his brother Darius aka Lil Tounk, Deante’ took his time to thoroughly answer my questions. Deante’ Hitchcock wants to show the world that he is more than just the guy who freestyles in his car. “I was trying to get away from that,” Deante’ tells me on the phone.

The following conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.


Hibak Mohamed: I know you’ve been doing music since you were 12 with the help from your uncle. Did you know back then that this was something you wanted to do?

Deante’ Hitchcock: Hell no. My uncle really got me into this shit in the first place. The only reason I really started writing my own shit was to kinda like prove to him I could do it. It wasn't like an ingrained love for music it was just like, yeah I gotta show him that I could do this shit. That’s where it came from. Then, I gradually like fell in love with it over time.

Mohamed: Was it a group that you were performing in when you first started? Tell me a little bit more about that.

Deante’ Hitchcock: It was definitely a group. My name used to be Dirty D. Man, that shit sounds horrible. We would not be having this conversation right now if that was still my name. I’d still be dropping shit on Soundcloud and no one would listen to that if I still had this name.

Mohamed: Earlier this year you stated you were going to be putting out 52 freestyles, one for every week. What made you make this decision? And has it been challenging being consistent with everything else you have going on?

Deante’ Hitchcock: What’s crazy is I actually made that decision for lack of a better word, out of desperation. I  wasn’t where I thought I could or should be at the time. I was like, I dont wanna ever chalk it up to my lack of work ethic. Even though I feel like I’m pretty much on par doing the same thing as a lot of my peers, it didn’t feel like I was at the same place as a lot of them. So it was like, if I have to do more to get there then that's what I’ll do. It was a move of desperation, if anything. What’s crazy is since we put out the fuckin tape, I had a meeting in NY last week with the label and they actually want me to slow it down. I’m tryna decide how imma go about that now.

Mohamed: From the outside looking in and from a fan stand point, it just showed your work ethic. I appreciate it regardless if you continue to do them or not.

Deante’ Hitchcock: I’m still gonna write them. I’ll just be more strategic with how I put them out. Whole thing they were saying I just understood it. Whether it be to stop them or slow it down a little bit. They didn’t want that to be all that the people expected from me.

Mohamed: When people tell you to keep your freestyles and put that energy towards your music, how do you react? One thing that stuck out to me was the saying, “My music better than my freestyles.”

Deante’ Hitchcock: I definitely don’t want to be remembered as just the guy who can rap. I want to be remembered for the actual music that I put out. Whether it helps someone through a situation, a club hit or something you just vibe to. People who freestyle, it’s a great talent like battle rapping a King Los or a Cassidy, whoever it maybe be. I feel like especially in today's society we’re a lot more melody driven and a lot more song based than anything now. Like if I was rapping in the 90s like am I now, we would probably be having a different conversation. The musical landscape is a lot different now.

Mohamed: How did your relationship with Mark Pitts come into fruition? And what is it like working with such an esteemed person in the industry?

Deante’ Hitchcock: That’s the crazy part. The freestyles definitely served their purpose because shit, that’s how he found me. I had put a black lives matter freestyle over a Kendrick Lamar GKMC beat & then the so gone challenge right after that. That’s when he hit me in my Instagram DMs. I was like “nah this can’t be him forreal.” I thought that was bullshit. But then the next week and a half to two weeks I was on a plane to NY to meet everybody. I was like, “damn this is forreal forreal.” I was just thinking damn it’s crazy how some shit can come from that. Especially something I started off on the whim in my car rapping. This is definitely a beautiful relationship, that’s my guy. He be trying to challenge me to dance battles but he don’t want that smoke. He think he still got it.

Mohamed: You used to dance right? I don’t think many people know that about you.

Deante’ Hitchcock: Yeah I still do that now. I’m actually trying to get back into it because I aint been on it as much. I been trying to figure out how to incorporate it into my music, but not really into the music. More so how to get back into it without making it look corny.

Mohamed: Who’s one artist you were shocked to find out to know about you/your music?

Deante’ Hitchcock: Cole! Really I ain’t gon lie. I ain’t gon say, “shocked” cuz it makes sense if you put it on paper like Mark and Cole got a real close relationship. When I met Cole for the first time, Mark wasn’t around. I went to one of the concerts when Cole had came to Atlanta. This was before I even met DJ Nitrane, but he got me tickets to come to the show. He was like, “I want you to meet Cole.” We haven’t even sat down and kicked it. That was the first time we met at that concert so that was real genuine love. When I walked into the room he greeted me like a little brother. Like, “Yo my nigga!” from across the room. It was crazy. That one threw me off guard.

Mohamed: You were recently on tour with 6lack, what is your relationship like with him & did you know him outside of music since you’re both from Atlanta?

Deante’ Hitchcock: My first time meeting 6lack was a minute ago. It was at the Edgewood parking lot, that’s one of the music spots in Atlanta. He didn’t know me. It was like on some artist to fan type shit. That was my first time but my partner, his name is Steve Cantrell, he’s signed to the Mass Appeal label. We used to dance together, that’s my boy. He put me onto to bruh a long time ago because they used to do shit in Albany together. I knew about him and fucked with his music and gradually over time everything just lined up the right way and ended up on tour with him. That shit crazy.

Mohamed: Congratulations on the release of your EP, “Just A Sample 2.” You initially planned on releasing this EP last year, what roadblocks did you face?

Deante’ Hitchcock: Man, sample clearances are the worst thing in this entire industry and this entire world. Them shits suck. It’s crazy how it all worked out because I feel like with anything once you start getting traction, people work a lot harder to get it done. When we were on tour and we started performing some of those songs, and folks were seeing the response. Some of the songs it was like, “oh shit we really gotta get this out.” We can’t just like half ass it. We really gotta find these people and get these samples cleared. Things really started working in our favor after the 6lack tour. Sample clearances held us back for so long. But, at the same time I’m glad that it worked out the way it did. Because coming off of this tour and dropping that tape felt a lot better I think, than dropping the tape and then going on tour would’ve felt. So, I’m happy about it.

Childish Major (left) Deante’ Hitchcock (right) Photo via  Instagram

Childish Major (left) Deante’ Hitchcock (right) Photo via Instagram

Mohamed: I see you have features from H.E.R, Childish Major & Kilo Ali; what made you pick these specific artists to capture your theme for this EP?

Deante’ Hitchcock: I mean Childish, that nigga ugly but, that’s my boy. That was a no brainer. We were going to put some shit down anyway. That’s my nigga so, we gon make hella more songs. The Kilo shit, I’m like a big Kilo fan. I feel like Kilo doesn’t get the love that he deserves. My brother will tell you, I listen to Kilo religiously. That nigga is the GOAT. He doesn’t get the love that he deserves and I just wanted to put him on there. It’s crazy because like my mom plays kickball and so, I actually ended up finding that nigga real easily. He was performing at the halftime show at my mom’s kickball game. It tripped me out and I was like, “I gotta make that shit happen.” For H.E.R, it was more political since we are signed to the same label. I wanted to put her on something. The fact that she showed love and did that shit tripped me out. She could have easily been like, “Hell no, I don’t know who the fuck this is.” They told me she really liked the song and was really fuckin with it.

Mohamed: You had the opportunity of being invited to the “Revenge of The Dreamers III” sessions, what was that like?

Deante’ Hitchcock: I was trying to drop 40 points, on everybody, everynight. Everybody that was in there was nuts. You’d go in one room and it’s Cole, KRIT, Wale and T.I. recording some shit. You’d go in the next room and it’s J.I.D, Smino, Vince Staples, and Masego. You’d go in the next room and its Ari, Cozz, Olu, Doc, Bas and Swizz Beatz. The whole environment was just crazy to see all of those people in one place. A lot of people were saying egos weren’t really present in the whole place and it sounds cliche to say that but, nobody was lying. Swizz Beatz was literally going into the rooms with people at Tree Sounds who were just there because they worked there and were recording and he would put some shit on their tracks. It was like, “you’re Swizz Beatz! I don’t know if you realize that.” It was nuts. It was like Disney World for rappers.

Mohamed: Man, that’s so dope. I was actually so happy to see you got an invite to that.

Deante’ Hitchcock: You and me both. The first day I remember being pissed off because I didn’t get my invite until the second day. I talked to my manager like, “damn they’re in Atlanta and nobody’s hitting me up.” Crazy enough that’s part of the reason I started doing NewAtlantaTuesdays. At first, I wasn’t planning on going as far. I was just talking shit. But that really put that battery in my back. I was like, “I gotta snap even harder. I can’t complain.”  The very next morning, I got my invitation.

Mohamed: Do you know how many tracks you’re on or, are you in the dark like the rest of us?

Deante’ Hitchcock: Nah, everyone who isn’t in Dreamville is a little bit in the dark. When I talked to Ib right after, he told me how many songs [there] were all together. Nothing about how many people would be on it. I know they will cut hella songs. It was like 150 songs in total.

Mohamed: What can we expect next from you?

Deante’ Hitchcock: Listen man, I’m gonna say fuck rap and dominate the ice skating world. I’m gonna own a pizza shop. Once I get that crackin, imma say “fuck rap,” and go about my business. Then, I’m going to retire on an island somewhere overseas. The industry is weird and I do not plan on being in this shit forever. I need my hairline to stay intact by the time in 60-years-old. This is not the indicative environment for it so yeah, imma be out in 10 years.

Deante’ had very important question for me at the end of our conversation.

Deante’ Hitchcock: I need to know what type of person you truly are. I ask everybody this. Waffles or pancakes?

Mohamed: Waffles.

Deante’ Hitchcock: Yes! You’re a good person. You deserve all the good things that are coming your way. Say no more.


Big thank you to Deante’ and Lil Tounk for the inside scoop on the journey. If you’re wondering what Deante’ is up to next, you can catch Dirty D on the second leg of J.I.D’s “Catch Me If You Can Tour.” I can’t promise if he’ll answer to that name but, don’t say you heard it from me. To the pancake lovers, Deante’ and I would personally like to tell you to expand your taste palette.

The Multi-talented Musician You Must Know: Princess Nostalgia by Alex Young

Princess Nostalgia and her artwork of Princess Nostalgia (piece far left) | photo by Alex Young

Princess Nostalgia and her artwork of Princess Nostalgia (piece far left) | photo by Alex Young

“I’ll tell you this: when I first started getting involved in the music scene, I was more naive. There’re so many men who just don’t take you seriously and are condescending. I try to keep a balance of being open and not assuming the worst, but also… fuck that. I’ve had a lot of guys ask me to sing on their beats. I’m not just a singer.”

“Everything in the mix I’ve written and played myself.” | photo by Alex Young

“Everything in the mix I’ve written and played myself.” | photo by Alex Young

Princess Nostalgia is protective of her work. “It’s like having a baby.”

Particularly, the multi-talented artist’s music excels. Dancing to it isn’t hard because Princess Nostalgia’s “arrangements” are funky. Watch her music videos. Her charisma dominates scenes as she makes weird movements that she calls dancing. “I don’t want to take myself too seriously,” Nostalgia said.

“Everything in the mix I’ve written and played myself.” She also gave herself credit for her own graphic design work. “I’m proud of all my album art,” Princess Nostalgia declared. “There’s so much of your character in how you produce stuff,” she finished.

The stage name Princess Nostalgia comes from 20-year-old Lili Traviato feeling nostalgic about her childhood amongst the ancient ruins of Rome. “Every time I go back, I’ve changed, but the [eternal city] stays the way it’s been for even thousands of years.” Her dad lives there, who also had his time as a musician in the ‘80s. Some of Princess Nostalgia’s songs, like “Robert Says” from her self-titled 2017 mixtape sample music or lyrics from her father. His writing is very “sappy” for love songs she mentioned. “Mine tends to be a bit more pretentious and philosophical,” Nostalgia said as she often challenges patriarchal society.

A man who knows to push his pride aside, no illusion of his man-made rights, lives his life without spite.
— Princess Nostalgia in 'Master SpaceTime'

On record, Lili called funk her biggest musical influence. Princess Nostalgia’s bass lines spin a groovy tinge into her songs. Hear her strings training. She started playing double bass in fourth grade. She played for 10 years. Pleasant guitar strokes. Although, there’s a clear hip-hop influence too Nostalgia acknowledged. “Master SpaceTime” has bloops, synths and a hard kick. Listeners could imagine British grime star Skepta on “Willem Bounce.” Dr. Dre’s “2001” instrumental album is among the top plays on Lili’s Spotify account.

Now spending most of her time at university in Burlington, Vt., Princess Nostalgia navigates music scene there dominated by jam bands and hip-hop heads. They “all just want me to be a singer,” she said. Despite the overwhelming dominance of men in the music industry, she has the support of some great artists from the area, and she has a valuable opportunity to get comfortable on stage in front of intimate crowds in Burlington.

Luckily to her hometown’s credit, collaboration has been more natural for Princess Nostalgia in Pittsburgh’s music ecosystem. “I haven’t worked with anyone from Vermont just Pittsburgh,” she said. Local guitarist Joe Leytrick has added to Princess Nostalgia’s work. “We have to understand each other and know we’re interested in the same thing,” she said. While she’s able to connect to the scene in The ‘Burgh, with others like producer Buscrates, she doesn’t consider herself part of it unless through the Internet. “I know who all the people are in Pittsburgh who are artists and trying to make something happen,” she said about the scene.

Taking time to develop herself as a brand, Lili has invested into Princess Nostalgia as a business. At a Starbucks, she sat at the computer figuring out how to copyright Princess Nostalgia’s songs. She’s reading two books: “Everything You Need to Know About the Music Business” and “How to Monetize Your Music Career.” Ideally, she will pursue music full-time after graduation. “I don’t want to be financially dependent on anyone or any men,” she said.

Next Princess Nostalgia looks forward to releasing a longer album featuring some of the singles she’s already dropped. Eyeing strategy, a cinematic music video will help promote her new album. She also plans to re-release some of her old songs to make everything sound “polished.” Being critical, she thinks some of her tracks sound like demos. “I take pride in my arrangements,” she said.

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Read the transcript of the Princess Nostalgia Interview below.


Princess Nostalgia: I take pride in my arrangements. Everything in the mix I’ve written and played myself. My visual art, I’m proud of all my album art. I’ve been doing graphic design on the side and selling prints on Facebook marketplace. It works.

I’ll tell you this: when I first started getting involved in the music scene, I was more naive. There’s so many men who just don’t take you seriously and are condescending. I try to keep a balance of being open and not assuming the worst, but also… fuck that. I’ve had a lot of guys ask me to sing on their beats. I’m not just a singer. That’s the role that’s expected of women, especially in the hip-hop scene. I’m definitely influenced by hip-hop because I perform in Burlington, Vt. Either the two scenes there are middle-aged white dudes doing hip-hop or middle-aged white dudes in jam bands. College students too. So, I always get put in the hip-hop scene, which I definitely prefer to do the jam bands. In that environment, they’re all male dominated and they all just want me to be a singer. So, that’s why I’m so headstrong about wanting to have full control over every step of the process.

InTheRough: You do have to have a certain amount of control of your image. Once you let other people come in, like a producer or something, he kind of takes away from your sound a bit.

P.N.: That’s the thing there’s so much of your character in how you produce stuff. For me the most fun part is not having to answer to someone. For me, sharing that process would be compromising. I’m definitely open to collaborating. I’m working with this guy Joe. He plays guitar on my stuff. That’s a beautiful collaboration. We both make each other’s stuff better. We have the same vision. I know that I want to say what I want to say before I say yes to too many collaborations or let too many people put their voice inside.

ITR: Do you find more success collaborating in the Pittsburgh music environment or the Burlington environment?

P.N.: The music scene in Burlington is popping. It’s jam bands. It’s its own thing. Pittsburgh is just relatively much more diverse and interesting. I mean, everyone in Vermont is white. It’s a nice town around a lake and a church street like a downtown area that’s really pretty. There’s stuff going on, but it’s definitely more limiting. I see what’s going on in Pittsburgh over the Internet, but I’m not here most of the time. I feel pretty removed from it [even though she made a connection with locals guitarist Joe Leytrick and producer Buscrates]. I haven’t worked with anyone from Vermont just Pittsburgh. It has to happen in a more natural way. We have to understand each other and know we’re interested in the same thing. I feel like collaborating it’s a relationship you’re entering and it’s intimate. I’m not just going to do it with anyone.

ITR: What’s your end goal for your music?

P.N.: Ideally I want to do this full-time. Right now I’m focusing on learning about the business side of things. I got two books: Everything You Need to Know About the Music Business and How to Monetize Your Music Career. I’m looking out for myself. If I’m going to do this, I have to do it in a sustainable way. I’m also at school doing Philosophy and History. I’m trying to do well at school so I get that degree because I want a backup plan. I don’t want to be financially dependent on anyone or any men.

ITR: When did you feel the need to express yourself in ways that weren’t so linear?

P.N.: I think I’m really lucky. I was always raised to be like you can do whatever you want. What do you want to make? We’ll help you figure out how to do it. My mom started his own business. That’s giving me some savvy about how to approach this. Sometimes I get in really bad moods when I’m on social media trying to promote myself. It just brings out parts of me that I don’t like. I’m trying to compartmentalize it and look at it as a business.

ITR: What about the social media is bringing up something about yourself that you don’t like?

P.N.: It’s like a gateway. Once you go into it with the eye of using it just for music, you keep picking up the app. You keep looking at Facebook. Then there’s the whole numbers game. I’m constantly reminding myself that the numbers don’t matter. They do matter. You have to get there at some point, but what the numbers are now aren’t a reflection of myself. Other people’s success has nothing to do with mine. Social media is not a healthy environment to put your art in. It’s like having a baby and putting it into a void. It’s just depressing sometimes. Slowly and surely I’m getting connected with more people who appreciate what I do and I just try and focus on that part. My dad was a musician. I send him my stuff constantly and he tells me what he thinks. He’s pretty comfortable being critical.

ITR: A lot of artists don’t take criticism well. If somebody criticizes you, they care about your work.

P.N.: Exactly. It actually means they are taking you seriously. They taught me not to be afraid. People are afraid to try or afraid to put something out there. Growing up in this family, I feel like I have nothing to lose. It just feels natural to put my voice out there.

ITR: You mentioned your dad was a musician. I saw you playing with his old DJ drops in a clip you posted on your Instagram story.

P.N.: (laughs) Yeah, that was one of his bands in the ‘80s. He was also in a big band, like he went on tour for two years playing the saxophone.

ITR: Nice. What do you plan to do with that?

P.N.: That was an old song he wants me to re-do. I’ve released a few songs that were his songs that he wrote in college, but with my arrangements. “Robert Says” from the “Princess Nostalgia” mixtape and “Feels Like Home,” which I released over the Summer. It’s funny because he’s very sentimental with his writing. The one I’m working on right now, “Talking Drug,” I wrote the music for it, but he contributed a lot of the lyrics. The only love songs I’ve done have been my dad’s words (laughs), which is really funny because I’m not as comfortable being sappy like that. I think he’s really good at writing sappy things without it being cheesy. Mine tends to be a bit more pretentious and philosophical.

ITR: The first lyrics of yours that impacted me were in your song “Princess Nostalgia.” It affected me a lot around the time of artist Yung Mulatto’s passing. You have a way with words to make a powerful song.

P.N.: Thank you. I appreciate that.

ITR: Talk to me about jam bands.

P.N.: There’s a lot of jam bands in Burlington, but I wouldn’t say they’re an influence for me. I was more talking about jam bands because that’s what’s dominant in Burlington. It’s not my favorite genre. I’d be happy to tell you what my influences are. D’Angelo. He doesn’t compare to anyone else. His harmonies influence me a lot. Electronic. Not like dubstep. Do you know Kraftwerk?

ITR: No.

P.N.: You should look them up. They got Sony to create the first synthesizers for them in the ‘60s. They were way ahead of the game. Even though they are not super well known they are one of the most influential bands in history. I grew up listening to them because my dad listens to them. Pop music. There’s a lot of shitty pop music, especially these days. I do think making a good pop song is difficult and an art form, like something that feels good. Funk music. I can’t believe I didn’t say that first. Funk and R&B. That’s why I love D’Angelo ‘cause D’Angelo is like the perfect meeting ground of funk and R&B. I got to see George Clinton and Funkadelic on Halloween. Hiatus Kaiyote. Hip-hop too.

ITR: I can hear all those influences in your music easily. I’d say hip-hop comes further down the list, but not last.

P.N.: It’s the beats that I use. The drums.

ITR: And when I watch your music videos you have this way of dancing about you like you’re dancing in your room with nobody looking.

Princess Nostalgia photograph by Alex Young

Princess Nostalgia photograph by Alex Young

P.N.: Yeah, I don’t want to take myself too seriously. Then I feel dumb doing that. I try to keep it silly and absurd. I’d feel too corny if I wasn’t dancing like that. Also, that’s how I generally dance.

ITR: Yeah, I can tell you dance oddly funny. That’s you dancing. At the same time, you said your lyrics are cynical or challenging society in a way.

P.N.: That’s how I deal with things that I find are painful and difficult. A lot of my favorite books and films are absurd, but they’re still serious. Most funny things are funny because they’re a coping mechanism for things that are pretty tough or dark. I’m not going to not talk about things that I think are important. It’s how I’m able to stay strong despite them. I feel like making it lighthearted is showing you can’t get me down. I don’t like being too serious in a literal way. That’s corny.

ITR: How does it feel when you see people support your music?

P.N.: I’ve had people who I don’t know be like, “are you Princess Nostalgia,” to my face. It feels dumb. On my logos I have this figure with the blue pubes. That’s Princess Nostalgia. It’s a title for me as an artist on stage. But also, I’m grateful for it. No one is going to take you seriously just because you’re talking yourself up. It’s more meaningful if they come across it and they see what I do. The work will speak for itself.

ITR: Especially with yours. It speaks to quality.

How does it make you feel when you know what people are doing through the Internet, but you don’t know them personally?

P.N.: It’s a weird world that we live in. That’s another thing, everything that I read about succeeding in music is like these days you have to have a personality. You have to have a brand. You have to present a certain side of yourself. I’m happy to play the game. The Internet is so young. We’re using it terribly now, but if we don’t destroy ourselves first, hopefully we’ll find better ways to use it. It’s not like it has to be like this forever. There’s so many beautiful things about technology. I learned everything I know about production from tutorials online.

The Uptown Interview (Part 2) Featuring Wifigawd, The Uptown Souljah by Maxwell Young

To interpret and preserve the artistic heritage of Washington, D.C., the ‘Uptown Interview’ transcribes candid conversations with the artists, curators, personalities and amplifiers of the District’s creative ecosystem.

Wifigawd released his latest album   Stuck in 95   executive produced by Dretti Franks on Wednesday. Polaroid by Maxwell Young

Wifigawd released his latest album Stuck in 95 executive produced by Dretti Franks on Wednesday. Polaroid by Maxwell Young

At 23 years old, Wifigawd has amassed streams and credits that would alert any listener in tune with the rappers and internet culture fueling the current generation of hip-hop.  He’s shared the stage with Smokepurpp, $uicideboy$, CHXPO, and Thouxanbandfauni, while pulling in features from others like an InTheRough favorite, Warhol.SS. No Jumper, the YouTube channel becoming less underground everyday, also debuted Wifigawd’s video to “Sippin’ on Drank” several weeks ago.  The internet enables this kind of reach, and thus the opportunity to travel and grow a fan-base on an inter-state level.  As far as home-base is concerned, though—the District of Columbia—Wifigawd’s music wasn’t always in the frame of mind.  “Niggas out here weren’t even fucking with me,” he said of his hometown.  He still resides in Northwest, D.C.

Times have changed, however, and a recent show at Songbyrd Music Cafe in Adams Morgan with ascending Houston rapper Maxo Kream is a prime indicator.  “I tore the roof off that bitch,” he said acknowledging the home field advantage.  “This is my fuckin’ city!”

Regardless of the eyes watching and ears listening to the image and sound of the Uptown Souljah, the context that has informed Wifigawd’s music is rooted in his Northwest, Washington heritage and collaborations with other like-minded DMV artists.

It started at home. The emcee’s parents instilled a deep fervor for hip-hop growing up.  “They wanted me to know who A Tribe Called Quest was before I knew who Lil’ Wayne was…who KRS-One was, De La Soul, all the greats, Big Daddy Kane, Rakim—real hip-hop,” he told me over pizza and football, the latter I found out he no longer supports.

Citing a household vinyl collection of over 2,000 records, there was no need to listen to radio, even though his folks forbade it.  Instead, they took him to see legendary wordsmiths live and direct at the notorious 9:30 Club.  “I’ve been going to shows since I was five years old,” he said.  “I just know they were letting a little-ass nigga in the club with his parents.”

Perhaps it is these experiences and influences that explain Wifigawd’s pre-millennium/early 2000s aesthetic he reinforces with his FUBU-dripped music videos, ‘FUBU 05’ project (which he regards as a third of his “Holy Trinity”), and ‘Stuck in 95’ album he released this past Wednesday.  “I know everything that’s going on, but I’m still stuck in the past.  I’m stuck in a time warp in my mind,” he said.

Aside from the music, an artist can choose to share or not share whatever storyline he/she/they want.  They can be as open as Wiz Khalifa’s DayToday vlogs or as cryptic and secretive as Beyoncé and H.E.R.  Certainly though, knowing more and having a greater understanding of the backgrounds and creative processes of your favorite artists can change the perspective of your listening.

I first saw Wifigawd last June at Uptown Art House.  The whole place went berserk that evening and I experienced a classic DIY rage that left me dripping in sweat from head to toe.  At that point, Wifigawd filled the placeholder for turnt rapper.  Then, I took to Apple Music to find his six full-length projects dropped in 2018 alone.  This hardened, turned-up persona also flexed melodic cadences and catchy hooks.  And now after talking to him, I know how big of a role writing is to the execution of his verses.  We have to be mindful that the self-made, anyone-can-do-it mentality of the internet can also obscure the real time and mastery people put into their craft.

“I do it all.  That’s just the swag…That’s the most important thing: you’ve got to have the swag,” he said.

Listen to ‘Stuck in 95’ by Wifigawd at the end of the transcript.

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[Plays “Full Quart” by Nate G]

Maxwell Young: Do you keep up with D.C. music?

Wifigawd: Not many people.  Who is this?

MY: Nate G.

Wifigawd: I fuck with Nate G.

MY: When you started to realize what the D.C. music community was, who was responsible for introducing you to it?

Wifigawd: MartyHeemCherry was one of the main niggas who got me hip.  I’ve known bro forever, since high school...I just check out my friends new music.

MY: Who is that?

Wifigawd: The Khan, Chachi--the gang.  Everyone I’m with, and if not, I’m looking for new Black Kray shit.  Anytime niggas play some new crank around me, or some random artist, I fuck with the joints.  I just don’t go looking for it unless I hear one of my friends play it.

[Plays “Duck Sauce”]

Wifigawd: What the fuck is this?

MY: This is NeckMusic.

Wifigawd: NeckMusic, oh, Ceez?

MY: Yeah.  Iodine, Downtown Dawson, and Ceez.

Wifigawd: I fuck with Ceez’s beats.  I don’t know who this is rapping.

MY: Where does the name “Uptown Souljah” come from?

[Laughs]

Wifigawd: It’s complicated.  It’s a breed of Uptown niggas--fly niggas.  Being from Uptown, niggas are fly. They get to the bag...They have good weed...It ain’t like that no more.  So, if few niggas are out there like that, they are some soldiers. Real Uptown shit--U.P.T Souljah.

MY: What’s the “Souljah” aspect to your name?

Wifigawd: I used to fight everybody.  I used to be a Bama.

MY: Talk about some early fights.

Wifigawd: Shit, that’s why I got kicked out of my school, for fighting.  I don’t like talking about fighting because I used to fight a nigga for no reason.  I guess not for no reason, but out of disrespect or some shit. That shit goes all the way back to fourth grade.  I remember I was at lunch and I had on a white polo, fresh as shit, and this nigga threw some mashed potatoes on me. I hit his ass across the table.  His ass was just sitting right there, huffing. I just cool it now, I’m not with the fighting shit anymore. I’ll still throw some hands, though.

MY: Take me through some of these legendary shows, the ones you can remember.

Wifigawd: I remember 2016--New Year’s.  It was me, Black Kray, and Lil’ Tracy in Richmond, Va.  That’s Kray’s hometown, you know, so that shit was lit. I remember another joint in Richmond at the same spot with me, CHXPO, and Kray.  That was 2016. Another legendary show I did was this joint with Smokepurpp, Thouxanbandfauni, CHXPO, and me. I could probably find the flyer, it was called Kings of the Underground in LA.  That shit had endless people in it. I had another show in LA. It was with DJ Smokey, Lofty, Slug Christ, and The Khan. That was pretty sick. Then I did this joint in New York with Dash, Madeintyo, Ugly God, Sporting Life, and we opened the joint.  We made that show lit. The show with Maxo was pretty hard. My first show out of town was when I was 18. I had that jont in Dallas, Texas--$uicideboy$.

MY: Are you out in LA a lot?

Wifigawd: Not really.  I go out there if I have a show.

MY: How did the No Jumper connect happen?

Wifigawd: [Adam22] has been following me on Twitter.  I just hit him up and told him I had a video for him, he said bet.

MY: That video goes.  The song goes more importantly (“Sippin on Drank”), but the visual is nice.  I just got hip to Moshpit DMV. I always see him around, what’s his name?

Wifigawd: JJ.

MY: Yeah, I’ve seen him everywhere.  Do you collaborate a lot on music videos?

Wifigawd: Yeah, that’s my boy.

MY: Can you take us to a low point in your rap career?  A specific time where you felt discouraged.

Wifigawd: When I first started was the lowest point because niggas don’t fuck with you.  They don’t send you any beats or anything like that. That’s the lowest point: dealing with bitchass producers.

MY: Where was your first show?

Wifigawd: I don’t know, bro, I’m trying to think about it.

MY: Or a moment where you felt like, ‘Okay, I can move forward from here.’

Wifigawd: Niggas weren’t even fucking with me out here, bro.  This is 2014. They were not fucking with me. I was like whatever, ‘Fuck you stupid-ass niggas.’  I had a friend who went to VCU and I said, ‘Boom. This is what we’re about to do. Listen, I see you setting up these little house parties.  I have rap songs. I’m going to come rap.’ I probably still have the footage of that shit--turnt the fuck up. Those were my first shows. Niggas were turning up at my shit, so I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, this the wave out here.’  We did three or four of them jonts. I had a little group back in the day called Portal Boyz.

MY: Like how you were describing your music as “void.”

Wifigawd: Yeah, like some void shit.

MY: You said D.C. wasn’t fucking with you.  Has that influenced where you play in the city?

[Laughs]

Wifigawd: I’ve always been the type of nigga to do me.  I know niggas be dick-riding because I see that shit from the outside.  Y’all niggas just dick-ride whatever is hot. I’m not mad, that’s what you do.  That’s definitely by default because everybody else is doing it. So when it’s time for everybody to do what I’m doing, I won’t be fucking with everybody.

MY: You say that Stuck in 95 is unlike anything made in the last 15 years.  What does it mean to you as far as where you are in your development?

Wifigawd: It’s showing everybody that I can do rap.  Sometimes I hate whenever you try to classify me. I can rap.

MY: You’ve been talking about weed a lot, as far as needing to be high.

Wifigawd: Yeah, I fuck with weed.

MY: Why is that? Where does it put you?

Wifigawd: I’m hyper as shit.  If I don’t smoke I’ll start tweaking and get sporadic as if I was high on some other shit.  But when I smoke weed, I just feel normal. I smoke in my music videos, yeah. I fuck with weed.  I’d rather promote weed than violence...on some Curren$y shit. He’s a good example of how to be a G-ass nigga with good content.  Niggas know he’s not a bitch. Niggas know he’s about that shit, but his content is on some fly shit.

MY: Who are some of your favorite Instagram follows?

Wifigawd: I like following all the OG rappers just to see what the fuck they’re doing.

MY: Which OG rapper is a good follow besides Snoop Dogg?

Wifigawd: Tommy Wright III.  Follow that man. His shit is turnt.  He still does shows.

[Laughs]

[Plays “Diamonds” by Rob Stokes]

Wifigawd: Who’s this, King Krule?

MY: Rob Stokes.

Wifigawd: Oh, I fuck with Rob.  I was in the studio with him one day.  I jih like passed-out, but I heard it the whole time.  It was him and Trip Dixon collaborating on jazz shit. It was fire.  He’s tight.