Rapper “Watsky” talks music, poetry
Watsky, a young hip-hop artist from San Francisco just released his latest album “x Infinity.” This marks his fifth studio album since his debut in 2007. With a background in slam poetry, Watsky brings a unique style to the microphone when he gets in the booth. The rapper is coming into his own as an artist, and The Daily Campus was lucky enough to chat with him about his music and more.
Daily Campus: What made you want to follow music as a profession?
Watsky: I’ve always wanted to be an artist. I’ve loved to make things my entire life, and I started dreaming of a career in music when I was 14 or 15, and I started going to concerts religiously. My passion started with the love of the live show, seeing an artist up on stage and pouring their heart and soul into a microphone.
DC: How did you get your start professionally?
Watsky: My first ‘break’ was a slot on a late night poetry show on HBO called ‘Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry’ back in 2007. I’d been doing spoken word all through high school, performing at open mics and entering competitions. But after that appearance I started getting little paid gigs here and there and after that spent four or five years touring heavily doing little coffee house appearances at colleges.
DC: Do you think growing up in a place like the Bay Area, where hip hop is so prominent, influenced your sound at all?
Watsky: I think if anything growing up in the Bay Area has influenced my politics and worldview. It’s such a diverse place, and my generation was basically the kids of the grown-up hippies who moved to San Francisco in the late 60s. So we grew up going to rallies and protests and being asked to think about identity politics starting in elementary school. That emphasis on self-exploration and identity is also the heartbeat of the spoken word world, and for sure plays a big part in my music.
DC: You’re about to kick off a huge tour. Is there anywhere you’re looking forward to?
Watsky: Man. Boston, cause I went to school there. San Francisco and LA, because that’s my forever hometown and my new hometown. Oslo, because we’ve never played Norway. And Lawrence, Kansas, because for some reason Lawrence is always insane.
DC: Having released numerous albums and mixtapes in your career, do you think your style has changed or evolved?
Watsky: I think my perspective on life has gotten more nuanced. I wrote a lot of ‘work hard and follow your dreams’ anthems a few years ago. I wrote them because I believed it, and to some extent I still do, but my life is no longer focused purely on career aspirations. My goals involve trying to live a balanced life, and that’s reflected in the new music.
DC: Are there any artists you would call inspirations?
Watsky: My biggest artistic inspirations are people who haven’t been afraid to experiment and try different things. People like Andre 3000 and Donald Glover. I was just thinking about this St. Louis Cardinals player named Rick Ankiel the other day. He was a rookie pitching phenom, but suddenly he lost his ability to throw strikes. He converted himself to outfield, and after three years in the minor leagues learning a new position, he made it back to the majors as a position player, hit three home runs in his first two games back in the big leagues, and spent five more years in the majors as a center fielder. He had success, but wasn’t too proud to go back to the drawing board.
DC: Do you have a favorite song of yours?
Watsky: I’m proud of ‘Lovely Things Suite’ on my new album. It’s a collection of four through-composed songs tied together by narrative and musical themes and one of the more ‘high concept’ pieces I’ve done.
DC: How would you say your poetry has helped your musical career?
Watsky: Poetry has helped me write clearly and cut to the heart of what I mean. Also to respect every word choice and the effect it has on the work. I try really hard to make sure every word I choose in my writing is the best possible word for that intention.
DC: Do you have any tips for aspiring artists?
Watsky: Follow your passion relentlessly. Picture the life you would like to lead and take a step toward it every day. There is luck and good fortune involved, but you have to put yourself in the position to walk through a door if one opens.