Linia Davis:Yeah. So, do you have ... who is one of your major influences in music?
AG:One of my, probably, biggest influences is probably J. Cole. I've been listening to J. Cole since seventh grade, before anybody knew who he was. Everybody used to say, "Can he write all that stuff?" So, I mean, he's probably one of the biggest. Tupac, Biggie, Kanye, Drake, and just a lot of the artists, a lot of other people I listen to, and stuff like that. So, yeah.
Linia Davis:So, what other music do you listen to, other than what you perform and what you rap and stuff?
AG:You mean, in terms of local? Or just in general?
Linia Davis:Like, genres. Different genres and stuff, or artists.
AG:I try to stay up to date with what's out, and stuff like that. I mean, I don't just ... rap's my favorite type of music, but I don't just listen to rap. I like to listen to R&B, I guess some type of ... whatever I'm able to gravitate to, I just normally ... I don't judge. If I like the song, I'm a listen to it. Doesn't matter the artist, or what the song's about, or anything like that. So I'm not really too biased [inaudible 00:02:06]
Linia Davis:Would you be open to incorporating your rapping ... say, not a country artist, but something ... pop, or R&B, singing, whatever?
AG:Yeah, most definitely. I actually, on my tape coming up, Rich Dreams 2, I have two tracks on there when I'm working with another female singer, and stuff like that. And actually, to be honest, I'm a keep a complete stack for this interview ... it's so many areas and different levels I want to take my music to, but I just haven't been able to take my music there yet. And I think that's because ... one, I haven't found my own personal producer yet. Because I be having a whole bunch of ideas and thoughts and samples in my head and stuff like that, but it's like, I can't make beats. So it's not like I could really bring it into life.
And I be working with some producers, like I work with ISM Beats. He works with a lot of local [inaudible 00:03:06] artists. But it's just like, a lot of people I work with, I'll tell them, "All right, try using this sample," and it's ... I don't know. They just ... I don't know. I need to find my own personal producer.
And I think it's also because of the area I'm from. That's another reason I think I haven't been able to find that true sound I'm looking for yet. Because everybody listens to trap music, end of the day, so.
Linia Davis:Yeah. Because that's what's popular right now.
Linia Davis:But do you think you let other people influence the music that you make? Like, their opinions and stuff?
AG:I don't let people ... One of my biggest goals, in terms of music ... I don't ever want to sell out. I don't want to just sell out. I don't want to just become another average trap rapper. Or I don't ... I don't want to feel like I'm selling myself short, or I'm portraying something I'm not ... Especially from this area, it's a lot of people that say stuff that they either are not really about, or want to do stuff, or say they did something they haven't really done. So that's one of the biggest things about my music. I want to make sure I'm always honest, always keep it 100 [inaudible 00:04:10]
Linia Davis:Hell yeah. So, with all this success, how do you stay humble and stuff like that, with the different people coming at you?
AG:I mean, me? It's not that hard, because in my personal opinion, I'm not anywhere close to where I want to be yet. So, until I get to that point, I'm always remaining humble. I'm a still remain humble after, because I always think I could get better. I could always get better. So, when people congratulate me and stuff like that, I'm gonna tell them, "Thank you," but it's like, at the same time when they're telling me, I'm just like, "This is good, but this is nowhere close to where I want to be yet." So I think that's a good thing. I'm always trying to work hard to get to the next level.
Linia Davis:Have you accomplished any personal goals or anything like that ... that stands out to you?
AG:In terms of personal goals ... Yeah. I think this past year, 2015, I've just been working to grow more as a artist and stuff like that. I think I've just been working on improving my music a lot. I remember 2014, when I first came out and stuff, everybody used to say I had bars, I could spit and stuff like that. Which is good, but something I've been really working on this year is working on developing my flow and working on creating better hooks and stuff like that. So people can gravitate to ... but at the same time, I'm not selling myself short. So I'm just making basic catchy songs. I still want to have good, catchy songs, but still be having bars in the verses and stuff like that. So I think that's something that I've accomplished this year that I'm pretty proud of.
Linia Davis:Yeah, that's good. Are you trying to get on a record label or anything?
AG:To be honest, I want to be ... if that happens, then it happens, but I haven't been approached by any record labels that particularly took in my interest to the point where I want to sign to them. But, in the long run, if I don't sign to a label, I want to make Starlife a label, probably.
Linia Davis:Yeah, I was going to ask, where do you see your brand in the future?
AG:Yeah ... I mean, probably ... right now, I don't even have a manager, I'm just doing everything off of strength and learning as I go and stuff like that. So probably before anything I'll be interested in finding a manager, but ... and as far as labels ... especially nowadays, you can do a lot of stuff on your own. It's a lot of ... like Shy Glizzy, he's not even signed to a label. He's doing all this stuff on your own. Migos, they're basically their own label, so ... I'm a probably just stay independent and see what [inaudible 00:06:46]
Linia Davis:So what advice would you give other rappers trying to come up? About people changing around them and being humble ... what advice would you give?
AG:Advice I would give ... Probably just tell them, always be honest with themselves. If they don't feel comfortable about putting something out, don't rush and putting something out, because once you put it out, you're gonna feel some type of way about it. Be prepared that you're gonna have to work hard. You might have to put songs out people are not gonna certainly hear. You just gotta ... it's like a lot of things I wish somebody had told me in the past to prepare myself for, so I would've been better prepared. But other than that, just work hard, and eventually you're gonna start knocking doors down.
Linia Davis:When people used to ... When you first started out, if they didn't like you or something like that, did that stop you? And if you wanted to give up, how did you keep going through it?
AG:I think ... Yeah, I tried not to let it get to me. I know everybody copes with stuff differently, but the way I personally do it ... it was a song I put out ... last week? Or, yeah, like last week, it was called ... to the Bryson Tiller song, the Don't freestyle. I put that out, and I remember it was a lot of people that was saying it wasn't ... they didn't like it, or they didn't ... I said I use too much auto tune and stuff like that. But I think it cranked that-
Linia Davis:Yeah, I liked it.
AG:And they ... so, yeah, I'm just like ... You can't please everybody. As long as I feel accomplished, and I feel like I did, I recorded it to my best ability, then I don't be tripping off little stuff.
Linia Davis:Okay, we're back. We're going to play a game, and I'm going to play a song for 10 to 15 seconds and Aaron has to guess the instrumental and who it's by. First song is ...
AG:Let's see how good I am at this.
Linia Davis:I hope a commercial doesn't play.
AG:I feel like you gonna play something random and I'm just not gonna know what it is.
Linia Davis:Nah, you gonna know this one. You should know this one.
AG:Oh, yeah, it's A Milli by Lil Wayne ... it's Sky is the Limit by B. I. G.
Linia Davis:[inaudible 00:08:57]
AG:Keep Your Head Up by Tupac ... Hard Knock Life by Jay Z.
Linia Davis:We're gonna have a 30 second freestyle by Aaron, who just chose a beat. I'm not gonna say the beat, just ...
AG:Yeah ... I don't even, I guess I'm a just freestyle about anything ... (singing)
Linia Davis:All right, so what upcoming projects do you have? What can we be expecting?
AG:I have, I'm working on my mix tape, Rich Dreams 2, can't give a release date yet, but it's coming. Coming real soon. I can't tell you, because I've been working on this for a long time ... People ask me every day, "When's Rich Dreams 2 coming? When's Rich Dreams coming?" I'm a just let you know it's coming real soon. It's gonna be 22 tracks. I know it's a lot of tracks, but since I've been working on it so long, I'm at 22 tracks for the fans, and it's gonna be worth the wait.
Linia Davis:Yeah. So y'all, go listen to that.
AG:Dope. Follow me on Twitter, AG Rap God. Instagram, AG Rap God. Snapchat, AG Rap God.
Linia Davis:And follow me on Instagram, niadavis15. Twitter, niadavis15.
Hailing from Harlem, Big L (born Lamont Coleman) covered an impressive amount of musical ground despite being tragically murdered in a drive-by shooting months before his 25th birthday. He began rapping at the age of 12, first cutting his teeth by freestyling against anyone willing in his neighborhood. After his first group, Three the Hard Way, shortly disbanded in 1990 due to a lack of enthusiasm and the temptations of the streets, Big L turned to his music as a way to Rise above the difficult circumstances his rough environment was fostering. That same summer, Big L met Lord Finesse at an autograph signing at a record shop and freestyled for him. That fateful meeting later grew into the young rapper's first notable appearance on a record. In 1995, he released his debut album Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous, while beginning to make a wave in the underground hip-hop scene. In 1998, he formed his own indie label, Flamboyant Entertainment, self-releasing one of his most renowned singles "Ebonics." Although his life was cut short a year later passing away at 24 from fatal gunshot wounds Big L's legacy was left in good hands. His manager Rich King released the rapper's second studio album, The Big Picture a project that was eventually certified gold as well as three other posthumous albums comprised of previously unreleased material. Over the years, countless tributes have been organized honoring the rapper's memory, with many agreeing that he was one of the most underrated and ferocious lyricists of the '90s.
Johnson Barnes, better known by his moniker "Blu," is an emcee from Los Angeles, California. Growing up, due to his stepfather's influence as a pastor, Blu was exposed to gospel and Christian rap as a child, with gangsta rap coming into the picture as he got older. He began working as a hype man for artists like Slum Village, Steve Spacek, and Platinum Pied Pipers before trying his own hand at rapping. Inspired by Common, Blu began transitioning from freestyling to writing songs, with some of his earliest recorded material dating back to 2003. He signed with independent label Sound in Color in 2004, and shortly thereafter was introduced to his collaborator, producer Exile. With his debut album, Below the Heavens, arriving in 2007, he was met with praise in the media, being named "Rookie of the Year" by HipHopDX. He followed with a handful of collaborative projects, including The Piece Talks with Detroit rapper-producer Ta'Raach, and Johnson&Jonson with producer Mainframe. In 2009, he signed with Warner Bros. Records. That decision would inevitably be short-lived, as Blu left two years later and echoed his decision by releasing what would have been his major label debut, NoYork!, independently. In addition to his work as a solo artist, Blu also is known for being part of a duo alongside producer Exile, with their first release, Below the Heavens, being hailed by XXL as "one of 2007's most celebrated hip-hop releases." With an ever-growing discography, Blu is highly regarded for his conscious lyricism and appetite to collaborate with others.