First Look: KOTA The Friend
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Ever since I’ve been on this earth my parents have drilled into my head the importance of education. You know how it is when you’re younger and you take what they say for granted but as you grow into your own you begin to really notice how important attaining an education is. Many people believe that this concept has been abandoned in the Hip Hop community. It seems that critiques tend to draw conclusions on the entire community. Many believe that at a time in Hip Hop it wasn’t “cool” to be an intellect or “cool” to have something positive going for yourself. Personally I disagree with that. Hip Hop has always been about bettering yourself as a person, whether that being mentally or socially.
With the “New Age” of Hip Hop hitting the scene, we are starting to notice a growing trend of college educated artists, artists like Wale, Asher Roth, and Shawn Chrystopher. Graduating from a California high school at the age of 16, Shawn Chrystopher then attended the University of Southern California. The kid also plays 5 different instruments, brings paintings to the studio, and says he doesn’t really listen to Hip Hop at all besides Kanye and Jeezy. “Other than that I listen to Coldplay, Radiohead, Nina Simone, John Mayer, Jackson 5, Queens of the Stoneage, Brazilian Girls, and The Killers, “says Chrystopher.
Read what these influences have lead Shawn Chrystopher to cultivate in his own music and more in an in-depth First Look below.
RubyHornet: For those who may not know you, who is Shawn Chrystopher?
Shawn Chrystopher: Shawn Chrystopher is a recording artist out of Inglewood, California who truly believes that music can cure all. Someone who puts his all into everything he does and does his best to create great art.
RubyHornet: Your rapping style seems to be different than what most Hip Hop heads are use to, who do you feel has influenced that?
Shawn Chrystopher: When I was young I would listen to 2Pac like no tomorrow. What I learned from listening to him is to put all of your emotion into a song; don’t worry too much about punchlines, but to be human, be flawed, let people into your life and in return you will produce artistic greatness. What also influences me is the fact that I’m a rapper that doesn’t really listen to rap. I’ve gone on record and stated that I basically only listen to Kanye and Jeezy in regards to rap. Other than that I listen to Coldplay, Radiohead, Nina Simone, John Mayer, Jackson 5, Queens of the Stoneage, Brazilian Girls, and The Killers. When you listen to different types of music, you find more artistic ways to express your feelings, rather than being so literal all the time.
RubyHornet: From doing a little research on you I found out that you received a record deal from Universal while you were a senior in high school, elaborate to our readers on how you achieved that at such a young age.
Shawn Chrystopher: Well, it was a little while after I graduated but the relationship was made while I was still in school. The Senior VP of Creative Affairs, Tom Sturges, was actually mentoring a kid in my class and would come visit her every now and again. He came to my school on a day that I was performing during a school assembly and we’ve been doing business together ever since. I’m guessing he saw something in me early because I graduated high school at 16.
RubyHornet: A lot of critics probably want to compare you to the likes of Charles Hamilton or Wale. What do you think single handily separates your music from theirs?
Shawn Chrystopher: What separates me is the fact that I’m an artist before I am a “recording artist.” I get inspired by all sorts of art: independent films, Basquiat paintings, classical music, basically anything with any hint of genius involved and this is exhibited in my music. I am also a composer. I play more than 5 different instruments, and, although Charles Hamilton does produce all of his music, which is great, I actually compose. The music that I have been creating for my debut album transcends anything I’ve ever done and will surprise a lot of people. There are key changes, bridges, everything that you would expect from an album that plans to change music as we know it. I just don’t think anyone else could do that, no matter who they are. Don’t get me wrong though, I listen to both of those artists you named, but I’m trying to do something more than rap, so I can’t honestly see rappers as competition or someone to be compared to.
RubyHornet: Hip Hop is changing faster and faster day by day with rappers like the ones I just named, how do you think you fit into this mold of “New Age” rappers? Or is there a mold?
Shawn Chrystopher: There are so many different lanes so to speak of that the “New Age” of Hip Hop artists are driving down. Asher Roth is bringing back the not-too-serious/fun side of rap that we haven’t had since Eminem, Charles Hamilton freestyles better than anyone I’ve ever seen, and can go on forever, and as for me, I’m more focused on creating songs; songs with meaning. I wont sleep for 2 to 3 days working on music, tweaking sounds, compressing drums, and I think that work ethic, that love and passion of all that is music is the lane that I’m actually cruising in right now. There’s no mold because none of us are similar in anyway. People who don’t understand the movement, who don’t understand the music, want to put us all in the same group because we dress a certain way. Is it our fault that we are bring fashion into Hip Hop? I didn’t think so.
RubyHornet: What are are your thoughts on the direction that the Hip Hop game is going right now, while keeping the “new age” thoughts in mind?
Shawn Chrystopher: This year, Hip Hop is going places where no genre of music has gone before. There is no age, race, or sex barrier that hinders Hip Hop like some other genres and cultures have and this year you will see just how far it can go. I love it, and am really excited to see the outcome of everyone’s hard work.
RubyHornet: Your recent mixtape I.W.G.(I Wear Glasses) had great success. The title is pretty interesting what cultivated the idea of this?
Shawn Chrystopher: I wanted to connect with the fans, with the people who listen to my music. I think people were having a hard time relating to certain artists and were really waiting for someone who is just like them to grab their attention. I looked at myself and said, what’s something about me that everyone on earth can relate to, and the fact that I actually wear glasses came to mind and I ran with it. So many people who are apart of the Hip Hop culture wear glasses, and there was a time when wearing classes wasn’t deemed “cool.” It was like anti-Hip Hop to look like you were educated. Well, I just wanted to connect with those people, the people who felt they didn’t have a voice in this culture.
RubyHornet: I’m hearing that you’re working on your solo album what can we expect from that, like features, bonuses etc..?
Shawn Chrystopher: The album is titled A City With No Season, which is basically a poetic way of describing the city that raised me. Out here in Southern California, you can wear shorts in July and December, the temperature really doesn’t change drastically like in many cities around the world, so it’s literally a city with no seasons. We’re pretty deep into the album right now, but its going to be a strategic attack, one chess move after the next, gearing up for the release, which is scheduled for August 11th. Our entire purpose of this album was to set me apart from those who I have been group with in terms of what other artists people may feel I sound like. So we spent studio session looking at paintings, playing everything from Jeezy to Madonna, to Vanessa Carlton, getting inspiration from everywhere to make the best possible product. You only get one first album, one introduction to the world so we have to make sure that it’s perfect. Me and my production partner Zaire Koalo are producing 100% of the project, giving it a certain feel and sound that is consistent from the first track to the last track. Like I said, it’s going to surprise everyone just how far left-field we are coming from, but in the end, people will respect the level of art, energy, and intellect that is being put into this project
RubyHornet: On a lighter note you had a song called “Dunks”. Being a Cali guy I’m sure you keep up with all the sb’s, 6.0’s and all the general relase joints, but what’s your favorite dunk that Nike has released period, and this year?
Shawn Chrystopher: I’m not really a Dunks person anymore. Like if you catch me in a pair, they are most likely a pair that I have had for a couple years and feel the most comfortable. But I would have to say my favorite are the high-top Supreme SBs. I own the white and orange joints and I get a lot of attention when I rock those. But honestly, this year I haven’t really been able to keep up with a lot of the Nike dunk releases. I’m actually working with a stylist this year named Lorenzo Diggins who is a fashion genius and is making sure that when I’m out in the public eye, I’m wearing something that people think came from Mars. So we put or brains together and come up with the perfect outfit, the perfect look.
RubyHornet: This will act as a formal introduction to Shawn Chrystopher for a lot of our readers. So with that being said can you tell them the 3 most important things that you would like them to know about you.
Shawn Chrystopher: I am an artist who is trying to take music, not just Hip Hop, to places it has never been before…. I am living proof that intellect and hard work, in any area of life, will succeed and surpass all….Through my music I hope to motivate everyone, who takes the time to listen to atleast one song, to be passionate about what they want to do in life, get up and go for it.
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