A Conversation with Raz Simone

Raz

We sat down with Seattle-rapper Raz Simone and talked to him about his music, touring with Macklemore, and his upcoming projects. Trends: Raz Simone, welcome onto Trends Periodical, we are really happy and pleased to have you today.

Raz: Thank you.

T: How did you get started with music?

R: I started writing poetry, and then I was watching movies and heard movie scores so I started putting my poetry to music, so yeah

T: When did you start?

R: In middle school, when I was 14 years old.

T: So you were always interested by writing your own stuff and expressing yourself

R: Yeah I didn’t realize it until around 14, then I realized that I was really into it when I wrote my first poem and performed it in front of the class. A couple people cried and the teacher was touched, I knew that’s what I was going to do for the rest of my life.

T: Oh wow that’s pretty huge! so you’ve only wanted to be a rapper, not any other profession like writing novels or something?

R: Well when I was a kid, I liked writing little books and things, but it wasn’t my main passion, just music mostly. I do like other writing but this is my main thing.

T: What other writing do you do?

R: I mean I’ll still write little poems and things. If I needed to write a book or if I needed to write stories I can do that. Even like writing a grant or something like that, I can write grants, I can do stuff like that. But that’s not what I’m passionate about.

T: So you grew up in Seattle, how did that influence your music?

R: All the way, all the experiences that I had growing up in the neighborhood I grew up in, and all the neighborhoods, because I lived in a lot of different areas, seeing and being a part of the drugs and that. There’s lots of homeless people too. All that crafted me. Also having the positives, all the different things that my mom taught me, that affected me. My dad and that whole side of the family is all from Detroit, so if I grew up there, I would be a completely different person. I could go on forever.

T: What’s the major difference between Detroit and Seattle, since you mentioned how different you’d be?

R: I grew up in a pretty bad area, a lot of killings and drugs and stuff. But then you go to the rest of Seattle and it’s a pretty nice place. In Detroit its all not good, a lot of desperation, not a lot of opportunity or jobs. In Seattle, my neighborhood is not good at all but outside there are a lot of resources and opportunities. In Detroit, they don’t have a lot of knowledge about health and even if they did they don’t have the money for it. So I feel like I’d be way unhealthier there than in Seattle. I went through unhealthy things in Seattle, but having the knowledge and going through those experiences allowed me to benefit from the rest of Seattle.

T: So you release music fairly often, such as your most recent mixtape Trap Spirituals. Is there a reason that you release so quickly?

R: I never force my writing so sometimes I just don’t write at all for a long time. But when it comes to writing, I do it. I have a lot of music, a lot of albums that are not out yet. Sometimes I have a lot that needs to get out, things I want to say, things that I want to do. So I do it. I write music.

T: What would you like to tell your fans about Trap Spirituals?

R: For that one, i have just been learning a lot about different kinds of music. They do different things for different people and at different times, so I just wanted to hear people’s thoughts and people’s feelings more than anything. But then, other times I just want to listen to music and don’t want to hear the deepest thoughts and deepest feelings. Sometimes, you just need a song to go to bed to, you want to hear something to go to a bar or the club. Something to dance to. Trap Spirituals wants to give to everyone who listens to it this feeling, a mix of different feelings and something about my life too. It’s not just about the lyrics, but also how you feel the songs.

T: And where do you find your inspiration?

R: From my life, and the people around me. The good and the bad ones. I luckily started writing about the good ones, but since I started writing,  I did it just to express myself when I was under different pressures. Because, you know, you use the painful things to write about. It’s the same for kids: the bad child is the one you give more attention to. At the beginning I just used to document the hard times, my personal reflections.  And that’s why I have a lot of songs, I have lived a lot and I have a lot to say.

T: Who is your inspiration?

R: Well, my mom.  She is an artist. She does oil painting and sculpture. She inspires me, she’s the #1. My music isn’t really influenced by other rappers; I never had any other singer that inspired me. Nowadays, seeing anyone doing anything different from what I’m doing, that it’s inspiring. That’s where I am going. 

T: What do you look for in a beat when you are writing music?

R: It depends on how I am feeling. If I am feeling happy I am going to choose a song that sounds too sad and slow.  And then, I have a team of producers I work with that produce my stuff also, so If i hear a melody I start working on it, send the beats and we work on it together and build something from it.

T: So you’ve referenced Macklemore in your music, can you talk about you thoughts and opinions on him?

R: I dropped a couple of songs about him, and people thought it was a diss record but I was more asking questions trying to see if he’s an ally and if cared about the things he said he cared about. So he reached out to me afterwards and invited me to lunch to talk. So we met up and talked about everything. I was mostly wondering whether he would use his popularity to give back to the city and the communities that you care for and he listened and we talked back and forth. A few months later, he called me up and asked me if I wanted to go on tour with him, and we actually finished that tour about 2 weeks ago. 

T: How was it?

R: It was good! It was cool to see him and his team and how they worked and how playing those huge stadiums worked. What was also cool was his fans like my music; a lot of times people don’t really care about the opener, but his fans were really into my performance which was crazy.

T: What was your best memory from the tour?

R: There was this little girl who was 11 years old in the line, and my street team saw her in the line. She said to them, ‘We only came for Raz!’ And she’s this small little blonde-haired girl, you definitely wouldn’t expect her to be listening to my music at all. She showed her fingernails, and she had painted “Raz” on them, and that was the cutest thing. When I went on stage, she was in the front center of the crowd and people were holding her up and pointing at her. So I went down and talked to her and gave her a shoutout on stage. Then later in the set, I had the crowd split in half and made her stand in the middle of the part while I performed a song to her. And she was bawling crying! It was one of those things that reminds you that music is so powerful. 

T: So what new projects do you have coming up?

R: I just came back from Korea, and I am going back to South Korea because I am working on a project with this artist namedJay Park He is huge in all Asia, he is a huge influence. I am really excited to work on this project together, it’s something I have never done before.

What impressed me most is that my music reaches everyone. I just checked the analytics on Spotify, and the results were surprising. In Seattle I am really big, I am the biggest hip hop guy and I am really loved by the hip hop community. But we checked out Spotify analytics and I have more people that listen to me on Spotify in Germany then they do in Seattle. So it’s random things like that. And all over the world they listen to me in Pakistan; I also have lots of Portuguese fans, Russia and all over. My music touches different cultures.

There are a lot of American rap stars, such as ASAP Rocky or Kanye, who love Asia, Korea but also Japan, and they have a lot of fans out there. I think this is really interesting because you are very famous in your country but you go so far away for people who don’t speak English at all. It’s funny that you are interested in going to Korea.

Many people do speak English, or at least they do speak English better than I would speak Japanese or Korean. When a Korean and a Japanese talk to each other, the language they speak is English, because there is no connection with the two languages.  English can connect different languages; you can say they can’t speak, but there are people that speak English. Whereas in America is even harder to find someone who speaks Japanese or Korean. Except Seattle, California or New York. But if you are in the middle of America and you try to find someone who speaks French or Japanese…Nah! But if I go to Japan or Korea, I can find a good help from people who can speak English. And then people try to learn English from music, some people can understand it but can’t speak it, they sing along, they look up the lyrics. I don’t underestimate people when it comes to things like that, especially because I don’t speak their language and they speak mine.

I appreciate you because am already having this advantage and you are being more respective of my culture than I am of yours. So all I can do is try to visit you, know and understand your culture because I don’t know your language and you know mine.

French would probably be the language I would like to learn. I studied it at school for three years and now I am traveling a lot so I am experiencing different countries and languages. I’ve been to the Netherlands, so I tried to learn a little Dutch; I can’t really speak it but I can say some things, just a couple of words. When I meet people I can say something. All I can do is be respectful to my fans, because my music is in English and they know my language and they are listening to what I’m saying.

T: This is a really beautiful way of thinking. And how did French people treated you?

R: Trés bon! 

T: I read that Tupac was a huge inspiration for you. Could you talk about it and tell us in what way he inspired you?

R: I came back on his life very recently, because I didn’t know much about him. The effect that he had on people is something I have never seen on any other artist.It’s hard to gain the respect from poor people, people on the street. And if you read the lyrics, he wasn’t a crazy complex lyricist but his words were more powerful than other people’s. You know the other day this guy from Germany wrote to me on Instagram, he came across my music and wrote me that my music reminded him of Tupac and that really hit me. That’s such a great compliment and I appreciate it so much, when people love your music and it reminds them of someone that you respect. Tupac’s really inspirational because he was an actor and he was able to act through his music and the control he had over how he was perceived. He went out to portray something, because he wasn’t a hood guy or a gangster, but he went out to portray that to represent all of the gangsters in the world. He wanted to be the face and the voice of the youth and the streets and that’s what he became.

T: And finally, do you have something to say to your french fans?

R: Je t’aime!

This interview was edited for length and content

 





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