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Interview: AmirSaysNothing is optimistic about future of hip-hop

Talks about his new project ‘Love Always, Mr. Right’

Emerging young artists know that transition is an essential part of honing their craft and a necessary part of the creative process. Part of leaving yourself vulnerable means being open to criticism and change and that is exactly the kind of transformation that listeners hear on Love Always, Mr. Right, the brand new project from AmirSaysNothing.

Salute Magazine recently caught up with the 27-year-old independent rapper from Los Angeles, to discuss how his music has continued to evolve, his work with rapper/producer Evidence, and his latest project, available now on all digital and streaming music services.

SALUTE: How and when did you first start making music?

AMIRSAYSNOTHING: I started making music officially around 2014. That was when I really started going into the studio and trying to make songs. I started rapping when I was like 16, just freestyling and having fun with my friends from time to time or we’d be at a party and like dudes start freestyling at a party. So I’d be like alright I’m gonna jump in and just like impressing some girls. It’s a good time. And over the years I noticed I would take it a lot more serious than my friends did. They didn’t freestyle, they’d just rap. If I made a mistake or if I did something, I would later go back and be like like I don’t want to do that anymore.

I started self-critiquing myself into getting better at rapping. I would go to the studio here and there because people would try and get me to rap, but I hated my voice. I wasn’t comfortable hearing myself. I would always bail on it. And then finally, around 2014 or so, I can’t take anymore. I have to try to make some music. I have to put it out and let the world decide.

SALUTE: What was the inspiration for your debut album, Employee of the Month?

AMIR: Before that, I had [recorded the EP] Medium Rare. Around that time I was listening to a lot of Pro Era, a lot of Atmosphere; a lot of The Pharcyde. A lot of raps over dope beats. That influence I think carried me through Medium Rare and Employee of the Month. I think I was digging from the same basket in my mind. It wasn’t until this new project, Love Always, that I really was like let’s shatter this and start anew with what we’re looking at.

Employee of the Month was dope. It was me and my homie Jamaal [Taylor], he goes by Cy Kosis. He’s a DJ/Producer. We were just at his house every week just putting the album together. I always look at my projects like a story. A lot of people don’t make things of a concept and I don’t think I know how to not. To me, it’s a movie. It’s a book. There’s a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s supposed to feel like some sort of experience when you’re listening to music and that’s just how I make it.

SALUTE: Tell me more about your latest work, Love Always, Mr. Right, which debuted back on April 20th.

AMIR: I have really been enjoying this one because I feel like this is the most ambitious one to date. I always try to be a little more ambitious on each project then we were on the last one. Hip-hop, in general, is in this like “civil war” [between] real hip-hop and “turned up” hip-hop or whatever you want to call it. I think a lot of people who do the “this isn’t real hip-hop” thing, it’s not the best look. Nobody really wants to hear that either because you can’t sit here and act like you don’t like at least one Future song or at least one Travis Scott song. I’m not that dude. I think that after Employee of the Month, it was like where do we go from here? I’ve proved I can rap. I don’t really need to keep rapping for the sake of rapping because I don’t think anybody is super into that. So, instead, I was like let’s try to mix it up a little bit. How do we bring in people that enjoy rap? The people who enjoy beats?

A friend of mine introduced me to Charlie [Scovill] who is the producer of this project. He and two of his friends produced the entire thing. It’s funny because at the time he had sent me a beat. And the beat was cool. I wasn’t feeling it for myself but I could hear he’s got some dope s***, so we met up and he played me a bunch of beats.

The first song we actually did was “Aspirin. I was trying to write differently. You always to switch up the process… make yourself grow. I believe “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” but at the same time, I am a young artist. I’m growing. There is a lot for me still to learn. That means not being too stuck in your own ways to try and do something different and see how the results come out.

SALUTE: I think that is something a lot of younger artists forget. Part of being a musician is evolution and changing and trying new things.

AMIR: One day, I want to be playing reggae festivals with Nas and Atmosphere. We can’t just be “we’re going to be like this forever.” It’s cool. We’re young. We make young music, make that young energy. You’re young. It’s going to transcend. You don’t need to rap about rapping. If you know how to rap, it’s going to come through. You hear on Love Always… there are bars because I rap. It’s not that I intended to. This project was more focused on the song. How does the song feel? How does it entertain you? The raps just come together because that’s my mode of communication. We’re not going to be like sitting here, “oh yeah, we’re keeping it real forever.” I already felt like I got to accomplish that and people have already got that from me. At this point, I want to create songs. I don’t want to just make Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. I want to make Stankonia. I want to make my Speakerboxx/Love Below.

But the process of this one was dope. He had played me the beat that later became the song “Aspirin.” I was just freestyling… and I just built the song around it. It was cool because this project, I challenged myself a lot more on everything. Employee of the Month was dope to do. But what’s different about this project is that I actually listened to over and over. A lot of these songs we spent months on.

With Employee of the Month, we’d record the song. Bang it out. What do you think? Leave it. If it’s good. Put it in the batch. With this one… we went through different beats and songs I didn’t finish or threw away. I would be more critical of everything I wrote. I want people to hear this and be like “he leveled it up.” Medium Rare and Employee of the Month are two projects that the fanbase that I have heard and they’ve enjoyed. If you’re making your third offering… how do you make this special? I put a lot of pressure on that and so far the response has been exactly what I had hoped for.

SALUTE: What was it like to work with Evidence on the track, “What I Need,” from his latest album, Weather or Not?

AMIR: Evidence is the f***ing man. I’ve been a fan since forever. He’s an L.A. local, so we would see each other around a bunch. Through a mutual friend ended up finally putting us together. He invited me over to his spot one random Sunday and we ended smoking and talking and listening to music. We started humming out this little thing and it became a hook later. We laid it down and that’s what you ended up hearing on his album. It was dope.

Do you know what’s dope about Evidence? He’s a very real cat. He’ll give you his opinion on something. I’ve played him music and he’s not like “yeah, this is tight.” He’ll listen and when he really likes something he’ll be like “hell yeah… that.” It has been a blessing to get to know him and learn from him and play shows with him.

SALUTE: So the whole Nas “Memory Lane” reference on that track… was that some of your East Coast influence coming through?

AMIR: At the end of the day. You are who you are. You know when people say “be yourself.” I think people get that confused sometimes and they over try to be an individual. I am from New York City. I grew up listening to Nas. I grew up listening to A Tribe Called Quest. I grew up listening to Gang Starr. My references in all my s*** are always going to have some sort of connection to that because that is my foundation of a person.

SALUTE: Apart from Evidence, you have also been mentioned on Atmosphere’s album Fishing Blues. I wanted to know is there anything in the works with Rhymesayers?

AMIR: That’s like family. We talk all the time. Send people over their music to check out just on a friendship level. That’s up to them. However, they handle that. On this record actually, the song “Love Another Day,” the second half of the beat is actually Atmosphere live. They were performing their song “Gods Bathroom Floor.” I always liked that version.

I believe it was Red Rocks in Colorado… you can hear the crowd cheering in the background. We took it and flipped it. Obviously, those being the homies and Slug being like a big bro to me. I reached out to them and asked if it would be cool. So I sent it to him and he approved it.

I want to do a song one day. But it’s like when you get to have the opportunity to make relationships with people you looked up to it’s like the friendship itself is a blessing. It’s not like “oh, I need a verse now.” I mean, of course, this is Slug. I want that to be a thing that happens when it happens. And when it’s supposed to happen. If it ever happens.

SALUTE: You’re not forcing it.

AMIR: No. It’s just going to happen when it happens if it happens and it will be the best thing ever. I’ve known those guys a couple years now. Imagine if my first effort out the gate I was like “yo. Let me get a verse.” I did that and now the song is there… cool. That’s something special. Chances are that if we ever did a song together, I’m not going to say we’re only going to do one but chances are we might only do one. So we gotta do that one when the universe says it’s time because you don’t want to dilute that either and be “oh here’s Amir and every album’s he’s got a Slug verse on it.”

SALUTE: What’s next for Amirsaysnothing?

AMIR: I came up with the concept of Employee of the Month three years before it actually came out. When you make an album you kind of put everything into it, so when you’re done, you’re kind of like “where do I go from here?” Over the course of 2017, I basically spent time making songs with different vibes. One of these projects ended up becoming Love Always, Mr. Right. I have another one that I did with Alexander Spit. He’s a rapper and producer. He has a verse on Employee of the Month and I have two verses on his last project, ALIVE AT VIRGIL NORMAL. I wanted some beats from him. We did a song and we ended up making a little EP that’s coming out this year as well.

I have another effort that I am putting together that might be out this year. And then I have another project that I’m doing with my man Serk Spliff from Warm Brew. We have seven songs that are made right now but we’re going to final it down and come out with a little project called 5 P.M. Everywhere. Got a lot coming out this year.

This project… I personally feel like I went out on a limb for myself. In the past, I was working with my friend Cy Kosis and he really knew music. On this process, working with Charlie, I had to learn a lot more of my own musical voice. That was really important during this past year, carving out who Amirsaysnothing is aside from “this guy” or “that guy.” I want to be myself. But who is myself? I worked really hard on that and I am just glad that people have enjoyed me finding my own voice and putting it out and doing that. People who haven’t heard me before used to ask me what do I sound like and I used to be able to answer “a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” and now the answer is that I don’t have an answer for that. It sounds like me. I’m just happy that it’s being enjoyed. That’s worth its weight in gold. I appreciate it.

LISTEN: AMIRSAYSNOTHING – ‘LOVE ALWAYS, MR. RIGHT’

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