RH First Look: Sierra Sellers

The next edition to our RH First Look series is with Sierra Sellers, an upcoming singer/songwriter from Pittsburgh, PA. Sierra's music blends acoustic textures along with neo-soul and R&B influences to create a smooth lo-fi sound. With a self titled project and a collection of singles out, it's exciting to see what she has in store. We sat down with her to discuss growing up in Pittsburgh, musical influences, and what we should be on the lookout for in the future. Check out our interview below:


rubyhornet: For any of our readers not familiar, who is Sierra Sellers?

Sierra Sellers: If you were to meet me and spend time with me you would learn I’m very kind, humble and shy. Then when you really get to know me, I’m super goofy. I have a lot love for music and kids. I am really ambitious and have a business mind. I’m still trying to figure out who I am.

rubyhornet: You started singing in the church at a young age. Was there anyone that encouraged you to begin doing this?

Sierra Sellers: No one had to encourage me to sing in church. Singing in church was something I felt compelled to do. It’s not a forced moment, it’s something that naturally happened. Singing for god is an entire different feeling than singing for yourself. It’s hard to explain. But you feel it throughout your entire body and you don’t have to think about it.

rubyhornet: How did the environment at the church, growing up in Sewickley (Pittsburgh), and life in general impact the music you were listening to growing up?

Sierra Sellers: I had a unique upbringing. My mother passed away when I was five. My dad worked late on the weekends to take care of my sister and I. I would spend weekends with either my mom or dads side of the family. I’m half black and half white. One weekend I would spend with my mom’s side which listened to a lot of Neo-soul, R&B, and Hip-hop. Then with my dad’s side we listened to strictly country or Led Zeppelin. The contrast and exposure of genres was interesting. I would go from Johnny Cash to Jodeci in a day.

rubyhornet: You were originally going to attend college on a basketball scholarship. Did you end up going to college or were you fully focused on music at this point?

Sierra Sellers: Growing up in my environment, I knew I wanted to go to college because I wanted to shape my own life. I knew I had to make it through an academic scholarship or through sports. I got a basketball scholarship, but so much time was concentrated on basketball and not music. When it was time to commit for a full ride or the D3 offer, I took the D3 offer. This is because if I quit basketball they couldn’t take away the scholarship. I played for a month and then a quit, telling the coach I spent so much time playing basketball to get to college, and now that I’m here I want to focus on music. I still hoop for fun.

rubyhornet: How does the creative process start for you when working on something new?

Sierra Sellers: I am a Pisces which makes me a dreamer. I typically start with the beat. I close my eyes and a movie plays in my mind while I narrate it. The first idea I have I usually go with. Sometimes it’s just one word and I’ll create a word web around that.

rubyhornet: What does stepping outside the box mean to you?

Sierra Sellers: Challenging myself to try things I’m capable of but that I was afraid to do. Growing up in the church you hear amazing singers with amazing voices that no one can touch. I don’t think I have a voice like that. Sometimes that insecurity holds me back. I like to be in the studio with people that push me in the vocal performance aspect. Song writing for different genres like pop was super interesting and challenging also.

rubyhornet: The percussion on songs like, “Too Good” and “Be Wise” have a traditional Hip-hop influence to my ear. What other factors effect how your music sounds?

Sierra Sellers: I never listened to the radio growing up, so when people say, oh that song came out when I was in middle school or high school, I don't relate in the same way. I listened to Lauryn Hill, Farside, A Tribe Called Quest, and all these older 90’s artists. I found Prince and Michael Jackson at an older age. I still couldn’t tell you what the number 1 song is right now. I hate when the radio plays the same 5 songs.

rubyhornet: What should fans expect in the near future?

Sierra Sellers: I plan to put out a project. My intention is put it out in the fall. I hate trapping myself by saying what’s next. I don’t like to pressure myself or anyone I work with by doing that. The time and freedom I have right now to build myself is great.

First Look: KOTA The Friend

The 25 years young Brooklyn native, KOTA The Friend, makes his first appearance on our pages today. With three solid projects, a collection of singles, videos, and more, the independent rapper has been on our radar for a minute. He will be playing at Reggies in Chicago on August 23rd.

KOTA manifests the classic New York style into a California paradise. Palm trees and sandy beaches contrast the depression and real life problems that can be faced when coming to age in New York. Check out our full interview below:

rubyhornet: For any of our readers not familiar, who is KOTA The Friend?

KOTA The Friend: KOTA The Friend is an artist in the purest sense of the word. I believe that while art can be monetized, it will outlive any industry. It will always be important. I’m a musician. I’m a classically trained trumpet player and I taught myself guitar, bass, and keyboard. I’ve been writing poetry since I could remember which made the transition to rapping seamless. I’m a self taught pro - cinematographer and video editor. I’ve shot hundreds of music videos for artists from New York City to California to Japan. I love creating and I create as much as I can.

rubyhornet: You were born and raised in New York, but you mention California a lot. What do these places mean to you?

KOTA The Friend: For a long time New York has represented some dark times in my life that I wanted to escape from. Out here on the East Coast we were constantly talking about getting out of the city and moving to LA where the sun is always shining and the palm trees tower over highways. My first 2 projects were mainly about escaping to find something new and better, so that’s why I reference California a lot.

New York is home, it’s where things get real for me. I’ve recently started to express my feelings towards my hometown and I plan on telling the stories of me and my friends in my new music + the album.

rubyhornet: What’s your definition of a friend?

KOTA The Friend: A friend is someone that you can depend on. A friend is someone that you can bring the worst news to and they can make you feel like its going to be okay. A friend will love you for the person you are and doesn’t judge you for being imperfect.

rubyhornet: Your lyrics are very honest. How do you approach writing a new song?

KOTA The Friend: Every song I write is true to my experience. Almost every time I begin with the music. I hear an instrumental and I get to writing, singing melodies and rapping gibberish. Then once I get in the groove I put my life onto the page until I’ve painted a vivid enough picture. I always tell the truth in my music because that’s the only way I can connect. You can tell when people are disingenuous so I keep it real.

rubyhornet: The growth from Palm Tree Liquor to Anything is evident. If you could go back in time and tell yourself anything while recording Palm Tree Liquor, what would that be?

KOTA The Friend: Thank you for noticing the growth! I honestly wouldn’t tell myself anything because my life is so beautiful now and I wouldn’t want to mess with the natural order. I was in such a dark place when I created Palm Tree Liquor and even Paloma Beach. Every day I’m just grateful that I’m no longer in that space and I’m reaching more people with my music.

rubyhornet: You speak on depression and suicide on past projects. What advise would you give to someone who feels boxed in due to their mental health? Has music helped you get out of this stage?

KOTA The Friend: It’s not always easy trying to get someone out of depression. A depressed person can often be their own worst enemy. In my personal experience dealing with depression, I felt alone like many others. I felt like a failure, like I didn’t matter, like even God was against me and I hated myself. I turned my life around when I started to be grateful for the little things I did have. I would tell a depressed person that they are worth so much and that they are in control even if they don’t feel like they are. Even if you’ve been making the same mistakes for 5 years you can decide to live your life different from this day on. You don’t have to be the negative things that “they” say or think you are. I would tell a depressed person to take time to get to know the real you. If you don’t like something about yourself you can change it but you have to be honest with yourself about who you are and then make adjustments. No matter what, don’t let the thoughts of others define you. They are dealing with their own struggles and imperfections. On top of all of that, IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU. Other people are struggling mentally and it’s important to understand this. Be kind to everyone no matter what.

rubyhornet: As an independent artist is it a goal of yours to become signed?

KOTA The Friend: Not really. I like being indie. It’s super fun. But I don’t know what the future holds. I’m making music, feeding my family and I get to be around my son all the time so I’m happy right here

rubyhornet: What are some plans from here on out?

KOTA The Friend: Just keep making music, touring, experiencing new things, eating healthy, being a better person and keep showing my people love. That’s it.

RH First Look: PK Delay

I had the pleasure of sitting down with PK Delay a few weeks ago while I was back in my home town of Pittsburgh, PA. It was a solid 90 degrees outside which felt more like 100. After pulling up on Carson Street and walking over to one of his friends crib we sat down and started chopping it up.

rubyhornet: For our readers not familiar with PK Delay, what can you tell us about yourself?

PK Delay: I’m a rapper. I play video games. Born and raised in the Hill District (Pittsburgh).

rubyhornet: How old are you?

PK Delay: 24

rubyhornet: What was the attention like you received from rapping in highschool?

PK Delay: I was clowned for the first few years before people started taking me serious. It wasn’t genuine hate, just on my ass for wanting to be a rapper.

rubyhornet: Did other people rap in you school?

PK Delay: Yeah, I met Pet Zebra when I was in 6th or 7th grade. We best friends now. Some of his friends from his high school started rapping with us. We started recording at a home studio. The quality and production was decent so we sounded good. My father is a gospel singer and my grandfather is a drummer. It’s in my blood.

rubyhornet: Were you spending money on music at this point in time?

PK Delay: Yeah I was working at Taco Bell. Whatever I got from my check would be spent on music. We were recording our own shit, so we would be grabbing better speakers, interfaces, etc. I know how to mix well, but tend to head to other studio’s more now.

rubyhornet: What’s it like to be an artist from Pittsburgh and obtaining a platform?

PK Delay: We got a lot of rappers around here. Some of them suck. Some of them are alright.

rubyhornet: Where is most of your audience coming from?

PK Delay: 2012-2014 had a lot of growth on my social media. A good mix of the city (Pittsburgh) and other places like Atlanta and the west coast have been showing love online.

rubyhornet: Near the end of “On That” a saxophone comes in and the track fades out. Who produced this track? Who are some producers you have been rocking with?

PK Delay: Jay Card, he works out of I.D. Labs. My bro laid the saxophone down live at the studio. I wanted some live instrumentation on their, so bro came through and played the saxophone to a flow I had.

rubyhornet: How would you classify yourself?

PK Delay: Emotional. Comfortable. I be speaking my mind.

rubyhornet: Would you consider your fashion similar?

PK Delay: Yeah. I rock whatever. Wear my hair however. Tattoos.

rubyhornet:  Tell me about disappearing off Twitter and Instagram for the past few months.

PK Delay: I be dealing with anxiety and stress. Sometimes I be too tapped into my phone. Scrolling all day. 20 mins to an hour goes by and I'm like what did I accomplish just scrolling? I'm tapped into everyone else and I just needed to take some time for me. The break felt great. I had to get back on it now for the music.

rubyhornet: Plans from here on out?

PK Delay: Keep dropping music and videos. Got a few videos in the cut. Exploring different lanes with the music. Rap is boring to me. It’s easy. I want to try some more singing type stuff.

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RH First Look: KoVu

KoVu, a rapper who grew up outside of Chicago, sat down with us a few days ago. We chopped it up about representing the suburbs, going on tour with the likes of Tory Lanez, being well known in a small town, and more. Check out the full interview below:


rubyhornet: For any of our readers not familiar with KoVu, who is KoVu?

KoVu: KoVu is a young kid from the suburbs of Chicago. I grew up in Plainfield, Illinois. It was a small town where everyone was trying to be a rapper. I didn’t get into rapping until my freshman year at college in 2012/2013. Made a dorm room mixtape called Good Morning Nightmares. After taking a break, I came back in 2015/2016 and dropped my ep Contrast. Played a couple shows with Waka Flacka, Vic Mensa, and Tory Lanez. Now I’m here.

rubyhornet: KoVu comes from the Lion King, because your mom said you looked like Kovu, a character in the movie. What kind of influence does Disney have in the culture?

KoVu: Disney is like Apple, they have everything. I was a huge Power Rangers fan so when they took over that I was really upset. I’m looking forward to the new Lion King with Donald Glover and Beyoncé.

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rubyhornet: You originally wanted to be a singer, like Chris Brown, over a rapper.

KoVu: I got into music through R&B. My favorite artist is Chris Brown. I would imitate his dance moves. Then once Drake came out, he showed people you could sing and rap. Chance is another big inspiration.

rubyhornet: Do you still feel that way?

KoVu: If I could sing, I would do that 100x over rapping. I always hear these hooks and have a melody, but need to find someone to lay it down. I’ve taken singing lessons and practice a lot, but I don’t have the pipes like Chris Brown.

rubyhornet: In high school you were into dancing and theater.

KoVu: My parents were going through a divorce during this time. My study hall teacher Miss Dunham, who happened to be the choir teacher, saw that I was frustrated all the time. She put me in a second study hall where it was just us and she would teach me how to play piano and read music. Then I joined choir, and later theater.

rubyhornet: How did this translate to your music and stage performance?

KoVu: My DJ, 1981 Toyoko and my other DJ, Cookup Cam turn up with me on stage. We make up dance moves and try to incorporate the crowd as part of the show. I like to make sure the crowd knows I’m just a person like them.

rubyhornet: Tell me about going on tour. Meeting Tory Lanez, Waka Flacka, and Vic Mensa.

KoVu: The Tory Lanez show was on my birthday. I just turned 22 and his stage energy was on another level. We played a whole Midwest tour with Waka. He taught me a lot about the business. He has his hands in a water company and an app to discover underground rappers. I only ran into Vic shortly at our show.

rubyhornet: How does it feel being well known in a small town?

KoVu: It’s weird. When I walk in somewhere, people whisper and talk. My friends still treat me the same. They are still going to call me an idiot. Kids in high school that didn’t talk to me have reached out about my music or have gone to some shows. It’s crazy to think that I’m representing this suburban town.

rubyhornet: The creative process on Contrast and working with only one engineer.

KoVu: JLP Studies Jimmy Renyolds. It’s rare to find an engineer when you tell him what you want and where it comes out exactly how you heard it. After we dropped Contrast it went on top 50 on ITunes. The creative process on the new album is different, I am showing more about my love life, my personal life, and going deeper than just the party aspect that my previous work covered. 4 years deep with Jimmy and I.

rubyhornet: What should fans be on the lookout for?

KoVu: Playboy, my new project with 16 songs. Coming soon.

RH First Look: Sovren

Sovren has made a lot of noise in the underground over the past few years. For anyone unaware, Sovren is a Pittsburgh born rapper living in Chicago. He attended Columbia College studying music/music business before dropping out to focus on his own music. If you saw him around campus, you might recognize him for his unique style in fashion. Similar to the lack of name brands covering his chest, his music is low key, yet the sonic experience each track carries demands attention.

Check out our full interview below:

rubyhornet: Where did you grow up?

Sovren: I’m from Homewood/Point Breeze (Pittsburgh).

rubyhornet: What were some influences that led you to make music while growing up in Pittsburgh?

Sovren: A lot of influence came from Kanye West and Drake at a younger age. I went to the same high school as Mac Miller. Seeing someone you know follow their dream is inspiring. Wiz Khalifa was also going crazy. Both guys were putting the city on, so to be growing up at that time made me feel like I could really do this shit too.

rubyhornet: Who were you recording with while living in Pittsburgh?

Sovren: Big Jerm. Fucking love Big Jerm. Anything I record in Pittsburgh is with him. “Dance”, my latest track, was engineered by him. He was the first person to help take my sound to the next level.

rubyhornet: What led you to Chicago?

Sovren: I didn’t want to go to college. I wanted to take a year off, but I knew I wanted to leave Pittsburgh. It’s hard to obtain the platform I was looking for in Pittsburgh. Chicago was a good mix since the city isn’t as big as NYC or LA but they had artists such as Chief Keef, Bibby, King Louie. When I came to visit, I checked out some art schools, and decided to attended Columbia because I wanted to be in Chicago.

rubyhornet: Creatives you’ve met at Columbia?

Sovren: Jack Larsen was a homie I met early on at Columbia. He actually just signed to Closed Sessions. I also met Lil Jake before Lyrical Lemonade. In regards to producers/engineers I didn’t have that network built yet in Chicago, so I would create material all semester while at school, and record back in Pittsburgh during Christmas break or summer break.

rubyhornet: What are your fashion influences? You have a clearly distinct style that is evident on social media.

Sovren: A lot of my more unique pieces come from thrift shops. I have been getting more brand name shit lately, but more of the low key pieces. You can best describe it as ‘if you know you know’ brand name shit. I love fashion. I love style. My view is clothing is a form of expression, much like music. I have found myself putting together an outfit and changing it because it doesn’t match how I feel. It’s all about the energy.

rubyhornet: What are your goals for 2018 and beyond?

Sovren: Short term goal is to put out these two EP’s. The first is called Driving Music Volume 1. It’s the lane I’m creating with jams to ride too. The second EP is called Confessions, which is more R&B and love influenced. A music video for a single off the Confessions EP will be coming out soon. I also have a few random singles, and have a show at the end of this week (pictured above).

Hopefully by 2019 I’m on a tour. Definitely not pressed or want to rush anything.

rubyhornet: What does hip-hop mean to you?

Sovren: It’s funny you ask that. I often talk to my friends about the difference between hip-hop and rap. I feel like everything from the past 5-10 years is more considered rap. The elements that technically fall into hip-hop like, graffiti, b-boy, and emceeing are more prevalent in the 90’s era. There are so many sub-genres in rap. Very similar to rock with the amount of sub-genres.

[RH First Glance] Taylor Bennett

Taylor Image 3

Alright, let's get it out of the way. Yes, Taylor Bennett's brother is Chance. Yes, that Chance; the rapper. With that out of the way we can get on to more important aspects of Taylor Bennett's life, such as his sold out debut headlining show last Friday at Reggie's Rock House on Chicago's south loop that had fans lined outside in the freezing rain.The 17-year-old high school senior took the stage to his frenetic "Speed Racer" after a solid lineup showcasing the next wave of Chicago hip-hop to flow from the city. As a packed crowd at Reggie's rapped and sang along to songs like "Heartbreaker" and "Dear Daddy" before turning up to "Rolling With The Gods", it became readily evident that Taylor Bennett is not happy being known only as Chance's brother. Friday night, he looked like he was ready to make his own moves going into the new year.

This year, artists in Chicago had reason to be pressed and hopeful at the same time as they collectively watched Chance rise from the guy down the block to one of the biggest stars in the country. Perhaps no one had a closer front row seat to the experience than the younger Bennett. While there's always competition with an older sibling, Taylor has set out to carve out his own lane in hip-hop with a unique blend of pure rhyming talent, personable nature and thoughtful prose. To be sure, things are very different for Taylor than his brother. Through his success, more eyes are on the younger Bennett, who received a write up in XXL recently and has become a regular on blogs across the country. While Chano was able to come up under the radar, Taylor has been squarely on the map of a lot of rap fans for a minute now. With all the attention, nerves and pressure would be easily understandable, especially for a 17-year-old, but Taylor's not sweating. I had a chance to catch him on the phone after his show, as he was working on his next project, Mainstream Music, to chop it up real quick about living in and out of other people's shadows, growing up in Chicago, his mixtape-The Taylor Bennett Show and more. Check out our Q+A below.

[RH First Glance] Kris Kasanova: "Tomorrow" (Feat. SZA)

Kris Kasanova has been building a steady buzz for himself in the New York market for a minute now. Since popping up on Peter Rosenberg's New York Renaissance mixtape released earlier this year and featuring a full scope of NYC acts such as, World's Fair, A$AP Rocky and Ferg, Action Bronson and Flatbush Zombies, among others. Kasanova has edged his way into the limelight in one of the most competitive markets in the world and today teamed up with TDE-signee SZA for "Tomorrow", which got a video treatment the other day. Currently, Kasanova is hard at work in the studio, preparing his next project with producers like Justin Rose. Across the country we're seeing hip-hop branch into many different angles, proof the "Renaissance" isn't just confined to one market or another. Definitely keep an eye out for Kris Kasanova, who should be releasing new content throughout early 2014.

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[Interview] RH First Look: Supreme Regime

In Chicago's burgeoning Hip Hop scene, standing out is a challenge. The numerous cliques and crews offer a way to sort through the mass of artists, helping to draw distinctions between the styles and motivations that drive the music. This phenomenon is not a new one, however the idea of a crew had certainly faltered in past years. Artists seemed to see bigger benefits flying solo than they did by bolstering themselves with a solid cast of supporting artists. This is no longer the case. Chicago's Savemoney and 2008ighties are local evidence, while A$AP Mob and Odd Future are proving it on a national and international scale. It is indeed possible for artists to share the limelight, make great music and be rewarded for the collaboration.

Supreme Regime is a group with plans to pursue this philosophy whole heartedly. When asked what their role in the group was, each of the five members responded in one shape or form that it was "to make the group better." Hailing from the Northside of Chicago, the group members embody the cultural diversity of the city as a whole, which their debut project Sloane Peterson will reflect. With some big plans for the next month or so, the crew is focusing on the short term. Read on below to get a better idea of the crew, individually and as a whole, and look out for Sloane Peterson arriving May 15th.

RubyHornet: How'd you guys get together in the first place?

Supreme Regime (Paul O.): Jesse and I met in high school. We actually had class together. Jesse was the goofy kid always getting in trouble and they sat him next to me and we just hit it off. We started hanging out and after a while, because we both had this love for Hip Hop, Jesse was like, 'we should start rapping.' Smoko Ono was also in school with us and around the same time he got into making beats, bought an Akai and it was just like that, grind mode. As for Loudmouth, I went to middle school with him for sixth to eighth grade, but we were never really that cool until after we graduated from high school. Jesse met him, and told him that he rapped, and he just brought him around and we started writing songs together, rapping, drinking, doing normal shit and we got really close. After a while it was like 'why don't we bring him into this' and see where it goes. And around the same time we met Mulatto Beats. People filtered in over time.

RubyHornet: When did it come down to picking Supreme Regime as the name? How does that relate to yours guys attitude towards music?

Supreme Regime (Paul O.): It was the name before Loudmouth and Mulatto Beats joined. We were just sitting around one night at Jesse's house and someone came up with the name and when we heard it we were like 'Oh, shiiittt" that's it, I forgot who said it but we knew that had to be the name. It's pretty fitting, I don't want to say that we're the best, but we're good at what we do and we do a lot of different shit. We make beats, the videos are produced in house, the rapping. To a certain point we are sort of a regime. We're just trying to take what is ours, prove to people that we have talent and get the recognition that we feel we deserve.