Black Men In Music: Interviews Pt. 1
This past June, Luxy Haus dropped it’s 7th issue, Black Men In Music. The music issue revolves around the careers of seven Black male musicians and how they maneuver. Six of them had exclusive interviews with Luxy where they talked their craft, their influences, and fashion choices.
See below briefs from my conversations with these #BlackMenInMusic:
Stemming from a family of creative artists and musicians, Darius Augustin (artist name DRUMMABOI) is a multifaceted instrumentalist with his strengths being in playing brass, bass, keys, guitar, and most importantly, the drums. Born in Miami, his foundation began in the church playing the drums at three years old and traveling on his first tour by the age of seven.
Given that you play drums for a multitude of genres, is the feel always the same? Is there a differentiation between your performances?
DB: Of course it differentiates. Reasons being playing with different artists and groups of musicians. There’s a different vibe, energy and connection with each individual that you perform with. And also the crowd! Every crowd is different. You can have a crowd of people that are just there to be there and drink. Then you have a crowd of people that are there to listen to music and be entertained. A lot of the time you can tell the difference by the first or second song on what type of crowd you have.
What artist(s) would say have a big influence on you as a musician?
DB: I would, first, have to say Billy Cobham, he’s one of my favorite drummers. *pauses* Okay, it’s a toss up between him and Lenny White. Actually, I would have to put Lenny White before Billy Cobham because I listen to ‘Return to Forever’ a lot, which is an alternative rock fusion group that came out in the ‘70s. His playing was very unorthodox but it was very musical. I took on to that because it’s a very difficult form of playing; it’s very expressive and freeing so it’s easy for you to get lost in it. At the end of the day, once you grow comfortable enough, with practice, you grow better to freely express yourself. And I learned a lot of that from Lenny White; he’s one of the most influential drummers in my life. Pretty much the same concept for Billy Cobham and I learned about him from watching him play with George Duke on the keys, sympathizers, Alfonzo Johnson on the bass, Lee Writner on the guitar; they were playing at the Montreux festival in Canada. They were playing Stratus, which is one of my favorite songs. I would play it over and over again, rewind it. I would go back and listen to different feels that Billy Cobham would do and how he would compliment other musicians. That was another aspect that I took in. With me being the drummer, I’m steering the band; I’m the engine that’s keeping it moving. You have the bass, the keys, guitar, auxiliary, percussion, horns and the vocalists - you have to play with everybody. And as long as you’re complimenting everybody and not overplaying everybody, you’re well accepted as a drummer throughout the music community. It’s like a commodity. There’s a lot of drummers that aren’t musical, overplay and they don’t do their job, *laughs* which is to drive the engine.
Do you feel you personal style is aligned with you as a musician?
DB: I feel fashion plays a big role in music and entertainment. Mainly because it’s another way for us, artists, to express ourselves. You can see what type of day I’m having or how I’m feeling that day based off the day I’m dressed. OR it can be completely misleading! *chuckles* A person could be dressed in a sad mood and feel great or vice versa. It’s also a way to deflect I guess. With me, I always felt as long as I looked the way I felt behind the drums, it was accompanying everything I wanted to express aesthetically. Fashion comes with the territory of being an artist and in music. I, for one, have grown to create my own style. I never tried to keep up with the latest trends or anything. I just always tried to dress well and be different.
As a Black man, do you feel you have to be conscious on how you dress before you step outside?
DB: So, I have to give a lot of credit to my mother because she raised all of my siblings and me to look presentable when leaving out of the house. I also think, me being a Leo, it’s a part of my nature to want to look presentable. I could be getting ready to go to the store and I’m like ‘Aight let me put on somethin.’ And not like I’m trying too hard, it’s just like you never know who you may come across. There’s been plenty of times where I was just running to the store and I come across a person who ended up putting me onto something. And because I was presentable enough to converse with someone. My mom was always like ‘Make sure you look presentable before you leave the house’ and it’s been engraved into our heads. It’s been engraved and my mind has been like that all of my life.
Do you think she engraved that into y’alls heads as a survival tactic?
DB: Yeah, I think it was an essential tool that has helped me, as a Black man, to navigate in life. There’s times where I dress down in streetwear and go into a professional setting. The treatment I would get would be like ‘Why are you here?’ And like I’m not astonished or shocked by it because it’s sad but it’s normal. It’s sad but it’s normal to get that treatment based off the way you look even though you could actually be one of the most important people in that room. That tends to happen a lot, so then I just dress up. Slacks, suit and tie, blazer - then you get ‘Oh, excuse me sir’ or ‘What can I get for your sir?’ And it’s crazy that Black men have to do that. “We have to dress a certain way to overcompensate for the way we are already looked upon in society.”
Quantrell Ross (artist name Quan Devito) is an American Hip Hop recording artist with a direct, laid-back flow. A Nashville, TN native, his aggressive tone yet humbled lyrics showcase his life experiences in a captivating manner. Devito grew up listening to ‘90s rap – artists like Cash Money, 8Ball & MJG – but, became enamored with a metaphorical lyricism of rap when introduced to a different aspect of word-play.
How would you describe the rap scene in Atlanta?
QD: In Atlanta, the rap scene is saturated. Everyone sounds the same, it’s that typical ‘Migos’ flow or ‘Future.’ When you come to Atlanta, people get a certain idea that you have to be a certain type of artist to thrive down there and that’s not necessarily true. It’s still the home of Outcast and Goodie Mob, people of that stature that didn’t follow that particular sound and still found a way out. If you come to Atlanta, know yourself before you come because that shit can eat you up.
How do you feel the sound in Atlanta differs from East Coast and West Coast rap?
QD: I believe the sound in Atlanta was born. East Coast rap was the start of it all, I’ll say. It was the core sound of Hip Hop. So, when the West Coast came into it, they brought their own flavor to it which, predominantly, made it their own thing. Even though it still stemmed from Hip Hop music, you can tell it was a West Coast thing. So, when the South came into the picture, it did the same thing. For me, there’s two different sounds to the South. You have that Pimp, UGK, and Goodie Mob feel. Then you have this newer age of music. They call it like ‘Trap Rap’ or ‘Mumble Rap?’ It’s really just heavy 808s and tempo with the least amount of words you can say. That’s what really differentiates it between East Coast, West Coast, and early Southern rap. It took its own identity. I don’t know what people see into it; I fuck with it don’t get me wrong. But it’s just not my cup of tea.
Now, these artists are actually saying something, they aren’t just mumbling. It’s just not sticking. You feel what I’m saying? It’s nothing that’s going to resonate with you if you aren’t coming from that walk of life. You have to actually be in their shoes or come from that. That’s what made it catch on so fast because these people were talking for a certain group of people that wasn’t heard. Half of the people will tell you ‘I don’t understand what that nigga is sayin.’ But that artist was speaking for a certain voice that really just embraced him. And that’s what made Atlanta Atlanta in the first place. They embrace themselves. So, when Future came out, he wasn’t on the East Coast or West Coast thang; Atlanta embraced him. Same thing with Young Thug, Migos and Jose Quapo - anybody you can name who came out the city embraced each other, which, in return, you just wanted to know ‘Damn, what the hell goin’ on down there? They’re doing somethin’ different.’ So, that’s what I think made Atlanta rap catch on fast. Honestly, it’s been around since Ludacris but it wasn’t looked at how it’s looked at now. Even from then, the sound has changed - since the Ludacris, So So Def days. It went from that to Crunk rap, Lil’ John and the Eastside Boyz, to transitioning into what it is now: Trap Rap.
Do you think the style of fashion associated with the Atlanta scene has also transitioned with the music?
QD: Yeah, yeah, you know a rapper nowadays when you see ‘em. I’m not trying to throw any shade but it’s usually a brotha with some tight pants and a tight shirt. He’ll usually have on some designer and feel like it makes his outfit. And the typical watch they’ll put on is a Rollie or a Patek. Then, hey! You’re a rapper; that’s the ‘Rapper Starter Kit.’
It’s funny because streetwear and the way we dress, in general, has impacted the industry so much and, yet, people still feel the need to buy high end to feel like they’re on a certain status.
QD: Right. If you go look at Gucci or any high end brand now, they’re catering to the street side of the fashion now. You see more hoodies, tees and basic things opposed to back in the day when it was just heavy monogram. Just Gucci on it. But now, it’s coming off like, it looks like -
Gucci sweatsuits and tracksuits?
QD: Yeah! You never would have seen that shit a few years ago. Even when Dapper Dan was doing his thang, they didn’t embrace him like that. That’s what made Dapper Dan Dapper Dan. It was because he was embracing Gucci and putting them on tracksuits, sweatshirts, bomber jackets and shit like that. Now, Gucci is coming out like that out the gate.
What’s your take on the Black man’s style influencing fashion culture?
QD: The biggest example is: we’re living in a day and age of tracksuits. Everyone wears tracksuits, hoodies and shit like that. Yet, and still, a young brotha dies for even having on a hoodie. It’s like ‘How can I embrace this but, at the same time, fear for my life that I’m even wearing this?’ What I tell a person is, ‘It’s not about what you wear, it’s simply how you carry yourself and your demeanor.’ Clothes are going to be clothes at the end of the day. If I had on all red, you may think I’m a gang banger. If I had on all blue, you’re going to think I’m a Crip. It’s just something you can’t take away from that. It’s all about how you carry yourself and how you converse with a person approaching you. That’s really the deciding factor if they feel you’re a threat or if you don’t mean any harm to them. At the end of the day, I wear what I wear when I want to but I’m going to talk to a person in a manner where I’m not trying to intimidate you. You’re going to be intimidated because that’s just who you are.
You can’t change how a person sees you…
QD: You can’t. You can’t at all. A person is going to feel how they feel about you right before he ever heard you speak. Right before you walked up, he already had a certain idea about you. That’s just something the Black man can’t really run from. “We can put on a suit and still be considered a criminal.”
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Kojo Stone discovered his artistry as a R&B/Soul artist and has been involved with it as a career for the past 10 years. His latest project EGO TRIP was released in October 2017; the project focuses on love, life and the perils of vulnerability.
Where do you seek inspiration to write the type of music you do?
KS: I think it depends on my mood and what experience I’m going through in that moment. I mean, I can be a PopCon artist but I’m a writer. So, I could write pop songs for other artists. But for me, I have to be seasoned, thrown into the air and put into an oven brick. You know what I mean? I have to go through some shit, experience some shit, or see something that affects me. I write about a lot of things but mostly love, environmental situations and, sometimes, politics depending on the direction I’m going with it.
Due you feel people are unconsciously shocked when they find out you’re an R&B singer?
KS: Absolutely. I mean, right now, I’m in a turtleneck with a bomber jacket but I’m hood as fuck. Regularly, I’m just a regular-looking person. So, when people see me, they automatically assume I’m a rapper or some regular hood slangin’ dope dealer. *laughs* But yeah, I start singing and it’s a total surprise for a lot of people, which I like.
Describe your personal style.
KS: When it comes to personal style, sometimes it’s just my mood. I like to dress very comfortably, but I also think I’m very eclectic. I could wear a lot of things. I can’t put a definition on my personal style, yet. But I feel if I could put it together, I’d say a bit of grown man, a bit urban, and a bit chic. I like to equate myself to three artists so if you’d put like D’Angelo, Bob Marley, and Biggie together, I’d consider that would be me in terms of my style. I just think my style is a bit eccentric. It’s like a mood ring and just depends. So, that’s why I feel like a lot of people don’t even know what it is yet.
Do you feel the same way when it’s time to perform or are you more conscious about it?
KS: I do, I do pay more attention to detail. Lately, I’ve been a bit more comfortable with it though. Yes, I like to look good, especially when I’m on stage. I’m just learning to be more comfortable with my style while on that stage. So, sometimes, I might just have on a durag, a hoodie, some dope ass pants with some Senegalese prints on it, and some Chelsea’s. I guess it depends on the venue, where I’m performing, and how I feel.
Do you have to also be conscious about how you dress on a regular basis due to societal stereotypes?
KS: Like I said, I don’t really care. How I feel is how I feel. Like I said before, my Aunt is my manager. One performance for my birthday I had the durag on and I so wanted to keep that durag on. I didn’t think about it, at first, but when she walked by me? She was like ‘Take it off!’ and I’m like ‘Oh, shit.’ But then afterwards, I was like ‘Man, I should have kept that shit on!’ *chuckles* It identifies me and how I grew up. I used to rock durags all the time but they used to say, ‘Don’t rock durags outside.’ Now it’s a fashion statement. I’ve been wearing them regularly, before it was a ‘wave check’ situation. So, I’m like ‘Damn, I’ve been doing this shit!’ So, with that, I’m going to wear something super clean and put a durag on. *laughs* You feel me? I like that element of change and being different.
Do you think it’s weird a Black man can be stereotyped in the streets for wearing something that’s been inherited by high fashion?
KS: I think it is dependent on how you style it, who you are, and how you move. The fact that the masses is getting hip to the basic urban wear that we’ve been wearing since before I was born, it takes away from the stereotypes a little bit. Police aren’t looking at you because you have a durag on because Bradley has a durag on. They’ll always just look at us because we’re Black, period.