AfroPop R&B Star Sarina Gets Vulnerable in Hypnotic New Single “Blame Me”

AfroPop R&B Star Sarina

December 10, 2022

Haitian-American Pop princess Sarina stopped by to chat with Ahriel Nari about her single “Blame Me” for Real Mumbo. The Silver Spring, Maryland native shared lessons learned in her music career, what makes a great songwriter and also played This or That! Check out the full interview below!

Love, Ballad — Meet the Sensational R&B Singer


by Ahriel Nari

September 23, 2022

Ballad is the answer to an R&B lover’s prayers. He captures listeners’ ears and hearts alike with his effortless falsetto. Born in Angola, Ballad was always surrounded by music. His Dad was a wildly successful DJ in Angola, so he was exposed to many different types of music starting at a young age. When Ballad was seven years old, he moved to Brockton, MA, a town right outside of Boston area.

As a follow-up to the hit song “Orange”, Ballad has released his latest single “Lemonade”. In this song, he smoothly coos about the sweetness of his lover over a vibrating bass and bouncy instrumental. I got the chance to chat with him ahead of the release of “Lemonade”. Check out the interview below:

Where did the name Ballad come from?

I’m pretty bad with coming up with names. I’m the person where if we’re playing a game and we have to make up a name, that will take a lot of my time. But I feel like whenever I do come up with something, it’s meant to be. So for my name, I had gone through so many iterations of very terrible names…

Wait! I want to hear some of them!

Ok so one of them – this was back in the J. Holiday days – so I had P. Harmony. I was really rocking with it even though I knew that wasn’t it. For me I wanted a name that had to do with music in some way. One night, I was looking in the mirror and I asked myself, “What do you like?” and I was like “Well I love ballads…Okay then: Love Ballad…no, that’s too long. Ballad…okay” and I just stuck with it.

Who are your musical influences?

Every time I’m asked this, there’s no way I can go without saying Michael Jackson. That was the first. I became a huge Prince fan, huge Sade fan, huge Marvin [Gaye] fan, huge Stevie [Wonder] fan, D’Angelo, Maxwell, Usher – like those names helped me find my voice. I could relate to so much of what they were sharing.

One thing I find cool about you and your music career is that you’ve seen a lot of success on social media. Congratulations on that first and foremost. I feel like every artist has their own feelings about it. How do you feel about the role social media plays in a music career nowadays?

I’ll be honest, at first I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to have to be on there. We wanna create, ya know? We wanna create and then we wanna give it to you. That’s where I was. One thing that switched for me is when I saw the community that you can really build around yourself by putting yourself out there. The misconception that I had was that I just had to sell who I am. For me now, it’s more of sharing who I am with people who want to listen to me. I’m an introvert and I have to say the community that you build is so supportive – they got your back. To be able to have that connection – it can move so much. I love it now but I had to learn who I was in it instead of trying to follow what the trends were and what everybody else did. I was just copying and pasting because that’s what I felt like I had to do to get out there but it switched. I’m kinda just doing me and I figured out how to do me in a way that works. If every artist can get that and stay true to that, I think they’ll feel the same way that social media is incredible.

My favorite song of yours is “Orange”. I’m currently obsessed with this song. I do have to ask why is it called “Orange”?

It’s one of my most vulnerable songs. I wanted to speak on a time in my life. I wanted to be as vulnerable as possible about what I was feeling in that moment. I wanted to peel back the layers. So, metaphorically, it’s me peeling back all the layers, me bringing myself to this person and letting them know how much they mean to me. The fact that I want to reconcile, the fact that I want to be held accountable, and I wanna work on something better – I’m peeling all the way down to that. On another note, I’m a Fall type of person. Orange just really gave me Fall vibes. Orange just resonated with me

How do you find the content matter for your songs?

I don’t. I’m starting to do that a little bit more because I’m starting to be more intentional when writing. For the most part, in the general sense, when I create it’s really on a subconscious level. Whatever needs to come out, comes out in the way it needs to. Whatever the music is calling me to do, whatever my spirit wants me to say in that moment, I let it come out. I’m very much a lover so I speak a lot on love so I’m being more intentional in the HOW I speak about love in ways that aren’t stereotypical.

Which of your songs mean the most to you?

“Wondering”. It’s kind of like in the same vein but not as dramatic [as “Orange”]. I call it one of the healthiest love songs I had. “Jasmine” as well. When I made “Jasmine”, it was such a feelgood moment for me. I was at a Thai restaurant earlier, got something to eat – everything just felt really good. We came back to the studio and my producer was playing some sounds. He happen to stop on one and the flow of it was so special to me. I’ll never forget that, especially what it became. It’ll always be one of my favorites.

Follow Ballad on Instagram (@mrloveballad). “Lemonade” is available on all streaming platforms. You can listen down below:

Christian JaLon Teases Powerful New Visual Album for MINE

Christian JaLon

By Ahriel Nari

Christian JaLon is multifaceted generational talent. The Chicago-native singer/songwriter got her start in music in the church. Drawing influence from artists such as Stevie Wonder, Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, The Clark Sisters, and Beyonce, Christian has forged her own lane in music by blending gospel, jazz, and poetry. Upon the heels of her upcoming visual album, she chatted with me about what’s to come:

How did being raised in Chicago shape you musically?

We are very, very big on jazz. In our Bronzeville neighborhood, we have a big photograph of Nat King Cole on the side of a building. We have statues playing instruments in the middle of the street. Our jazzy tone helps us to cultivate sounds around that. We be steppin’ and stuff like that. We be groovin’ and we smooth with it. Dare I say, some of the greatest artists have come out of Chicago.

Your last album MINE was a nice blend of spoken word, jazz, and R&B. Tell me about what went into the making of it.

One of my homies, Wax, produced all of Vinyled Love. After Vinyled Love, we stayed in contact and he sent me the production for “Mine”, the very first song on MINE. I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t even have a project planned out at that point. I was just like “I really like this” and I was going through heartbreak. Instead of writing so many more songs about this person, this heartbreak, this sentiment, I wanted to write a song to myself. So that song alone is why I decided that the entire project was going to be about me, my God, the way I love people and me being there for other people. I wanted to change the atmosphere for myself and hopefully it reaches somebody else.

You’ve previously discussed that you’re turning Mine into a visual album. How did you come up with this concept?

LEMONADE!!!! I remember when Beyonce released Lemonade. I had a performance of my own that night. I went out and I sang but right after I got done, I rushed home. I stood right in front of the television.

Can you share with us anything that’s coming down the pipeline as far as the visual album?

One of the songs is entitled “Unmoved”. For the visual album, I have decided that my band and I are going to revamp the production. I’m really wanting to step into my rock star bag. So, I want this to be like the introduction to that – like “Oh, she’s rockin’ and rollin’”

You have dope merch that says “Don’t forget to rest”? What is the significance of this phrase to you?

I have a card that I send out with the merchandise and it says “with restoration, you need to rest. With restoration comes surrenderance and submission to God. You have to be able to give things to Him in order to take a back seat and allow things to pan out. It’s okay to sit down. It’s okay to be still. It’s okay to not always be in control.

So, you’re also an author! What is your book Amen about?

Amen is a book of poems, just my thoughts. I actually put that on the cover – “A book of poems, just my thoughts”. It was literally about heartbreak and coming back into myself after said heartbreak. The next book that I’m working on is attached to Mine and then the one after that is entitled Home. All of those books signify me being able to be restored. They’re about taking the time to look at situations for what they are, embracing and accepting them after having my temper tantrums and throwing fits and crying. It’s me just coming back. Amen was the start of that trilogy.

One thing I admire about you is your transparency about your relationship with God. Do you ever feel like you have to compromise that in order to navigate the music scene?

GIRL NO! Absolutely not! There have been times where people who were at the top have seen me, recognized me, and wanted me to do things. I would say, “Oh no, I’m good.” Then they would say, “Oh it don’t look like you good”. It’s like when those type of people try to enter in, it actually pushes me closer to God. What God has for me – that’s exactly what I’m gonna get and it’s not gonna come with any turmoil. It’s not gonna come with anybody discouraging me. It’s gonna come with people who believe in me. Everybody who I have on my team right now, I kid you not, God just dropped in my lap. I asked for these things maybe once or twice and very easily these people came. So, I ain’t never had to compromise and will never start compromising.

What are your plans for 2022?

I plan to have a live show. It’s going to be an online show, of course. It’s not just because of COVID but also because I’ve learned that I’m not a huge fan of performing in front of so many people anymore. I think COVID heightened my desire to kind of just show up. When COVID wasn’t a thing, I was already performing, get off stage, get paid, go home. I didn’t stay around to kick it or to talk to nobody. I do plan on doing a digital live performance for MINE. I’ve already got the whole set up and it’s really, really beautiful. Then, I want to release at least the first single from my upcoming album with my band and that will be entitled Letters From My Heart, Written From a Place of Healing, From a Place of Honesty. I am so excited for that one! I feel like if people loved Vinyled Love then they’ll love this album ten times over.

MINE is on all streaming platforms. Follow Christian on social media (@ChristianJalon)

Reggie Becton Creates a Storytelling Masterpiece on debut album California

Reggie Becton
By Ahriel Nari
Reggie Becton
Reggie Becton

Reggie Becton is an artist that should be on everyone’s radar. Drawing inspiration from R&B legends including Marvin Gaye, Brandy, Avant, and Aaliyah, he is forging his own path by creating a perfect blend of classic R&B with new wave soul. I got the chance to chat with Reggie about his highly anticipated debut album California ahead of his upcoming tour:

Congratulations on your debut album! Your music career has been so amazing to watch over the past few years! You’ve been very consistent, dropping a new project every Fall! How would you say you’ve grown since releasing your first EP?

Staying consistent has allowed me to grow vocally. I’ve grown spiritually to even want to talk about certain things on songs which is super important. I think that in order for you to dig deep and really connect with people you have to give a piece of yourself. I feel like on this new album I gave so many pieces of myself. The biggest growth, though, was getting closer to the person that I’ve always envisioned myself being. I think with each of these projects, it’s allowed me to feel more comfortable and more confident to walk in that path. We all have this vision of this aura or version of our greatest self that we want to be but normally we’re just too afraid to actually do the things that’ll get you to the point to be that person. Each project has allowed me to get closer and closer to that person and just be a better person in general.

I was doing my research and saw that your last EP Thank You For Listenin’ is actually throw aways from your new album California. How long have you been working on California?

The oldest song on this project was written in 2018. That was when I was still working on Phases, which was my first EP. We just kept having a lot of false starts. Finally, three years later, we got it done. I think it’s the perfect one – it’s the perfect track listing. I love the 12 songs! I’m excited to sing the songs on the road. We got it just right. I’m so happy that it happened this way because it just shows you that everything happens for a reason.

So, California is about your move from PG County, Maryland to LA. How has living in California impacted you musically and personally?

No matter how comfortable I get here, there’s always a discomfort with having your entire family over 1,000 miles away. I think that allowed me to really be intentional with the progress and the steps I make out here. It made me hit the ground running and grind it out. I always remember that I came out here for a purpose.
Musically, the move impacted me so greatly because there’s so many people that are just passionate about music out here. They’re willing to work for passion. I was just talking to one of my managers, Edgar, like, “Yo, this project was made through a GoFundMe but it was a GoFundMe on passion.” Like, nobody charged me upfront for beats. We have a lot of really great producers on the project and people just did it out of the love and respect for my consistency. My past projects really went a long way for people to be like, “Yo, I just want to be a part of this. I see you and I feel like you’re on a path to greatness.” I think LA introduced me to so much more as far as my sound. It’s a lot more guitar driven with real instrumentation behind it. That’s the genius of Aidan Carroll, who executive produced the project. He comes from a jazz background and knows every instrument you can think of. He really helped hone the project in and add and fill in different places. He really pulled the project together.

I love your brand of R&B because your music is very raw. You talk about very real, relatable situations and get very vulnerable. For example, the song “Depresshun” on the new album you get very transparent about your depression and mental health. Do you ever feel hesitation to dive deep into these topics and how do you overcome that?

It’s crazy because with California, I had hesitation all the time. Any time I felt it, I ran against it. I decided I wasn’t gonna run away from it. So when I was writing “Depresshun” I was like I’m just gonna tell everyone what I need right now. I need therapy, I need some weed, I need a girl – I’m just gonna keep diving in. People have this thing where they think depression looks like something. You gotta not be getting your hair done. You gotta be dressing bad. You almost have to act sad for someone to want to check on you. I felt like it was time to make a song about depression that didn’t really feel depressed. Like I’m depressed but I’mma make it look good, make it look sexy. Chris Patrick and Shah Infinite did an awesome job of rounding out the song so perfectly. I love how on the song we all tackle our depression in different ways. I think it’s super powerful to have three Black men on a song singing/rapping about their depression and coming at it from different areas of life. It was a super special moment that I didn’t even expect to happen.

Reggie Becton

What was the most challenging aspect of making California for you?

The most challenging aspect of making the album was literally making the album. With EPs, they’re short. They’re like four songs. With the album, we recorded 30 songs. We recorded over what we needed for the album. Trying to monitor all of the phases of these songs and then finally putting all the pieces together is a lot. The stress of mixing, mastering, trying to write the songs, having enough recording time, being broke – all of those things made making the album the hardest part about making the album. Also, the pressure of it being called an album makes you feel like it has to be this super big thing.

What songs on California mean the most to you?

Alright, I’m just gonna name some stand out moments. I love the intro. That’s my brother talking at the end. It’s really special to me because that was a phone conversation that we had when I first moved to LA. I was complaining to him about getting people to do work for me. I think that it’s a perfect start for the album because that was at the beginning of my California journey. I love “Depresshun”. I love “Traffic”. I love how jazzy it is. To me, it’s a nice flavor to clean the palette. Then, I love the three-song run: “Amnesia, “E.T.G.M.E (Interlude)”, and “RM.143”. It’s the perfect sequencing – I love what those three do together. But I think my favorite song is “LOSERS”. It’s weird like I’m getting goosebumps because the songs I really love I didn’t think people would understand them, like “LOSERS” and “Scratches on the Mirror”.

Let’s circle back to the intro. That intro is so powerful!  It’s a great statement piece to set the tone for the entire album. In it, you said, “I bare my soul to feed your spirit.” What are you hoping your fans and listeners take away from California?

I hope that they hear the music and it gets them through something. I try to write from the most vulnerable place to give people music that allows them to cope with their trauma and their toxic behavior. I want each song to be something that maybe you’re going through that you can’t put into words but now you have this fire song to sing along to. That’s what music does for me, personally. Sometimes, I’m going through something and I can’t really tell a friend how I’m feeling. Not because I don’t have anyone to talk to but because I can’t put it into words, I can’t formalize it. Then, sometimes a great songwriter comes and they talk about something from the same experience I’m going through. That makes me feel like, “Hey, I’m not the only person in the world that feels like this.” That was my inspiration for all these songs on California. Literally, I cried writing all these songs except for “So High” because I was high as fuck. But these songs allowed me to get a lot of emotional baggage out of my system.

You also dropped a super dope video for the lead single “Issues”! Tell me about the making of that visual.

“Issues” was cool because a lot of my friends got to be a part of it, which never typically happens. That was the first time we used a steady cam. So we felt a lil’ bougie! Shout out to Chris & Moy. They’ve directed every video of mine since Listenin’. It’s cool to keep working with the same collaborators and grow together as artists. We actually got to build the set. So, it was super fun to get our hands wet in set design. Fun fact: the food we ate in the dinner scene of the video was the most horrible food. My manager was like, “I’ll pick up some food from the store,” but she didn’t really have time to go to the store. So, she picked up these frozen dinners from her grandmother’s place. They’re all like low-cholesterol, sugar free, low-calorie dishes. So, they warmed them up for us and we were like, “This is disgusting.”

You’re going on tour soon with Grace Weber for The Beautiful Space Tour! How did you originally link up with her?

It’s crazy because I feel like this tour has been this large manifestation plot that started in like 2017. My first official manager, Rodney (shout out to him), was Grace’s tour manager. She was on tour with PJ Morton and when they did the LA stop, we went to go see them. I got to see Grace Weber perform and I was like, “Who is this lady that’s killing it?!” She did this awesome “We Found Love” mix with “We Fall Down” by Donnie McClurkin cover. It was a phenomenal show. So, Rodney introduced us.  We kept in contact. Then at the beginning of the pandemic she asked me to be apart of this digital festival that she was doing. We did the digital festival and it was a great time. After that, I got this song sent to me from my executive producer Aidan Carroll. He didn’t really know what to do with the song. So, he asked me to put a verse on it which I did. Then, one day I woke up and was like, “I’m gonna send this to Grace to see if she would like it”. That song was “Ghost”. She loved it and did her verse on it. So that song led us to get closer as friends. Then finally this year she hit me like “Yo, you wanna come on tour with me?” I was like, “Hell yeah I wanna go on tour with you!” 

Reggie Becton

Where will the tour be making stops?

We’re doing 9 cities – Milwaukee, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, San Francisco, San Diego, LA, and New York. No DC show, so that saddens me but we’re planning something special for DC. We’re gonna come home.

What are you doing to prepare for the tour?

I’m doing the works — band rehearsal begins this week. I got a movement coach/choreographer. Now don’t expect no 8 counts just yet! But we’re getting some good movements for the show. I’m starting a diet today – you know you have to cut the sugar out, cut the salt out, strictly water to get ready. I’m still gonna eat but just eat a little healthier.

What can we expect next from Reggie Becton?

We have a video coming soon. There’s a video in the works for “E.T.G.M.E” and a video for “Obvious” in the works. We also are gonna do some live sessions.

California is available on all streaming platforms. You can purchase tickets to see Reggie live on The Beautiful Space Tour on Ticketmaster.

Connect with Reggie Becton on his official website, Instagram, and Twitter.

Interview: “Something Odd is Coming”

DMV rapper Odd Mojo sat down with Ahriel Nari for Real Mumbo to discuss her latest single “555”. She shared the origin of her name, the difference between being odd and weird, when we can expect a new album and played Overrated or Underrated! Check out the interview below: 

Meet Ausar, Your Favorite Rapper’s Favorite Rapper

By Ahriel Nari

Every now and then, an artist comes along that restores your faith in music. Chicago rapper/singer Ausar is the artist who did just that with his impressive EP Flight of the Honeybee. With cosigns from Lupe Fiasco, Smino, Rakim, and 9th Wonder, Ausar has captured the ears and hearts of many through his lyrical skill. I got a chance to chat with Ausar about developing the concept for the EP, the Chicago music scene, and gaining Wyclef Jean as a mentor. Check out our conversation below.

You fell in love with music at a very young age and you drew inspiration from gospel. Were you raised in the church?
I was SUPER raised in the church. I was that kid who was in service two to three times a week. My mom led the choir. I was in CHURCH!  

How do you think that experience and gospel in general have shaped you as an artist?

When I set out to make music, the thing that I’m looking for the most is to leave people feeling something. Gospel has influenced me because if I don’t feel it in my soul when I’m writing or listening to music, it don’t really move me.

You went to University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where you were a chemistry turned community health major. How did you end up studying that?

Coming into college, I wanted to do chemical engineering, but I didn’t get accepted into the program. The way University of Illinois works is they’ll place you into a chemistry program. Depending on how you do, they’ll place you into the chemical engineering program. I quickly realized how ill-equipped I was. I was struggling through it but was still having a good time! I was having fun up until I got to physics. Once I got to physics I was like, “Ok. Not fun anymore”! A lot of people in my family have delved into the vein of community health and health administration. So, that’s always been something I know a lot about. One thing that was big in me changing my major is I started taking my music more seriously. I wanted my degree but I needed to pick a major that allowed me to succeed, get my degree, and continue to do what I want to do in music. So, community health made sense for me.

What was the final straw where you were like, “Ok, I’m just going to switch over to music?”

After my freshman year, I did a performance with an organization on campus called W.O.R.D. (Writers Organizing Realistic Dialect). A lot of people in the organization were like “Yo, you should probably take music more seriously”. This is gonna sound really bad but it’s very seldom that I find something that intrinsically motivates me to do everything on my own. I knew it was time for me to switch when I put together my first EP and I literally had tunnel vision. I’m talking like friends ain’t hear from me because I was so focused. I organized my own show all by myself and got everything prepared without any help. That’s when I knew.

Who are your musical influences?Growing up when I just listened to gospel music, exclusively. I listened to a lot of Marvin Sapp, Mary Mary, Israel Houghton, The Clark Sisters, etc. My older brother, Nicholas, was the first person who kind of taught me hip-hop when I started delving into other forms of music. At that point, I was listening to a lot of Kanye West, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Lupe Fiasco, and Common, who’s my favorite rapper. Then, my Dad gave me my first mp3 player which had Lauryn Hill, D’Angelo, and De La Soul and that opened up another lane for me. Those are my pockets.

You always say that you “just wanna change lives.” In what way do you want to change lives and how do you plan on going about achieving that?
I want to change lives in whatever ways I can. I just want to use whatever platform I have to make a difference and to make life easier for the people around us, whether that be through accessibility, resources or just letting people know that they’re not alone through my music. I would like to be an example. I don’t really think anyone can truly be a role model but everyone can be an example of what to do and what not to do. So, I just want to be as positive of an example as I can.

I saw that you did work with international students because Ausar loves the kids! What was that like?It’s been cool! What really stuck with me more than anything is how selfless you have to be in roles like this. I think in a lot of unintentional ways, I came into the experience being kind of selfish. Watching how other staff members worked with the students just made me realize how you have to put your ego aside. You have to realize that at the end of the day, the things you’re doing are not for you. These are some of the most important years of the kids’ lives. This is when they build their habits and start building the mindset that they carry with them for the rest of their lives. You get a paycheck but at the end of the day it’s about making this experience the best for the kids.

Flight of the Honeybee EP Cover Art 

Let’s talk about your last EP Flight of the Honeybee! It was one of the best conceptual projects I’ve heard in a very long time. How did you come up with this concept of bees?

It started with the intro track “Flight of the Honeybee”. The instrumental reminded me of the classical piece “Flight of the Bumblebee”. So, I just decided to run with that concept. I was able to draw a lot of parallels right off the bat – something as simple as creating a buzz to what bees mean to society. Bees have a lot to offer but they’re often stigmatized and shown in a negative light. They’re undervalued. When I got done with the intro track, I just felt that there was so much more I could dive into with that concept and that turned into “Honey” and “Stinger”. At first, “Bee Sides Freestyle” and “Hive” weren’t even for the project. I had written “Bee Sides” to another beat. Then my homie Nico sent me another beat and I thought that the verses went better with it. What’s crazy about “Hive” is the first half of that song was written in 2017. It was a throwaway from my album. In late 2019, Ro Marsalis, my producer and a dope artist, was like, “What are you doing with this?” I was like “I don’t know”. So, he was like “Alright, I’m gonna flip it and put another beat at the end. Do what you do.” So, it was done and I put it in the vault. Fast forward, I needed an outro for Flight of the Honeybee. I listened to “Hive” and I felt like it tied everything together so unintentionally. It’s crazy how God’s timing works. We threw it on the EP and it worked. We picked out snippets and there’s a funny story about the talking points if you want to hear it….


Originally the only track that had a snippet was “Stinger”. After we were done with the project we were like “Ok, we should probably add more of these” to just continue to tell the story, you know? We searched high and low for snippets and nothing was quite right. Ro was like “Let’s see if dude where we got that original sample from has anymore videos.” Turns out he had like 20 videos. We went through one video that was like 20 minutes long and found all the rest of the snippets from the EP.

You collaborated with Ro Marsalis and Aaron Deux on Flight of the Honeybee. How did you decided you wanted to have them on the project?
Well, Ro is on everything. Ro is my producer, he’s my engineer – he’s been a mentor to me. He’s been around since I started music. Aaron – that’s actually a funny story. Aaron produced “Honey” and he didn’t want to send me that beat. He was like, “I want the beat. So, if you’re gonna use it, you have to let me get a verse off.” He came through and he delivered! That verse is probably my favorite verse on the project, honestly.

There’s a lot of talent in the Chicago music scene that the masses aren’t hip to. Who amongst the Chicago scene do you feel like we need to know?

Ro Marsalis, Aaron Deux, Isaiah G, Brittney Carter, Femdot, Josi Green, Nuworld Kayo….I don’t want to miss anyone but I’m just going to leave it at that.

So, what’s your favorite song from the EP?

It changes all the time. I don’t really have a concrete answer. You could probably go to four different interviews and I’ve given a different answer every time. Today, my favorite is “Bee Sides Freestyle”. That’s just the energy I’m feeling today. I got out of a writing slump yesterday. I’m feeling motivated.

What makes Flight of the Honeybee even doper is the live EP from Audiotree! The live performance was fire and the band snapped! How did you link up with the live band?

Those are my people. We all went to University of Illinois. They were in the music department and my homie Landon put me in contact with them. Without spoiling too much, my album that I plan on dropping by the end of this year will have their footprint all over it.

What has been the highlight of your music career so far?

Gaining Wyclef Jean as a mentor. If it had been just a one-off thing where we worked together on a track and to perform with him, that would have been cool. But having somebody who is as successful and highly regarded as he is to see value in what I’m doing and to take time out of his day to truly be a mentor, share knowledge, and give back – it’s really motivating.

How did you meet Wyclef Jean?
University of Illinois. It’s interesting because a lot of people think you shouldn’t go to school or college because you want to be a rapper but that’s where you connect. If I never went to University of Illinois, I would’ve never met Wyclef Jean. I would’ve never met Ro Marsalis. I never would have gone to SXSW. I probably never would’ve started rapping for real, I would have probably just stayed producing. I would’ve never met half the people I know in the Chicago music scene had it not been for University of Illinois. But I got lost from the original question. So, I got free tickets to go to a show. At the show, Wyclef Jean was like, “Who wants to freestyle”? I was hesitant to raise my hand but the homies pushed me to do it. It was like four or five people to get up on stage. So, I spit my verse. The crowd rocked with it. Wyclef rocked with it. So, he asked me to give my information to his person in the back because he liked what he heard and wanted to work on a project together.

You were also featured on the Netflix show Rhythm & Flow! Tell me about that.

When the show first announced it was happening like twenty people sent me the link like, “Yo, you need to audition for this.” So, I applied. The application process took about a month to get to the point where y’all saw me on the show. So, we get there and I was the first person to audition from Chicago. I was really nervous. What you all didn’t see was me getting up there and not giving them any background story as to who I was at all. It was cool though.

What did you learn from the experience?

Don’t ask permission, just ask forgiveness and leave it all on the table. A lot of times, you get in your own way by overthinking and being nervous. If you’re in a specific place, you’re there for a reason. So, be authentically you.

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