Azad is having a great 2016. He’s VP of tastemaking LA label Mind of a Genius. He just released one of the best EPs of the year in the form of ‘A Very Emotional EP,’ a love-centric, bars and bravado collection of confessional raps.
The rapper and multi-instrumentalist dropped an undeniable single this week in anticipation of the album, the Pretty Ricky homage “Grind on Me.”
Tell me about ‘A Very Emotional EP.’ How’d it come about?
It came about cause of my last relationship. She kept asking why I wasn’t writing about her. A good friend kept asking why I wasn’t singing. This particular person is the owner of MOAG. He tried to sign me years ago because he was attracted to the melodic stuff I was doing. I was a bit lost: I was coming out of a bad management deal, getting into a new relationship, coming out of a bad relationship. I went from making this soulful boom-bap record to kind of flipping on my head and trying something new. It was fun. That was the main reason I [recorded the new EP]. It reminded me that making music is fun. It doesn’t all have to be painful. I just wanted to have a good time creating again. I kept it no features. I co-produced pretty much everything. I started off by finding beats online from my favorite producers, then I just naturally became friends with them from sending the record back and forth.
What’s the EP about?
It’s centered around lost love but wanting to find something real again. The girl I’m with now inspired a bunch of it, too. She’s always checking me on some shit like ‘Why are you still making the same mistakes you made with the last chick?’ When [the person you’re with] starts watching the narrative develop…[they start to think] ‘You’re putting out a project, you know you’ve been with me a year and half, almost two years, but none of the songs on your project are about me and its all about love?
Do you think the reason you don’t have features has more to do with wanting to have a pure voice on the EP or is it more about isolation? Do you feel isolated?
It’s a bit of both. Listen I’m lucky now to have friends in the industry who are really dope, talented artists, talented producers. But I’m just super insecure about letting too many people in at this point. Because I feel like I gotta re-craft my narrative, and I want to be able to do that by myself. I went from wanting everyone’s opinion to just putting the music out and whoever fucks with it, cool. If you don’t, it’s fine, cause I know I got bullets in the chamber. You gotta focus on you before you can add to someone else’s story or they can add to yours.
Speaking of your story, I read you grew up in Section 8 housing and went to UC Irvine. Did you start doing music in high school?
I grew up playing piano and violin. I was doing spoken word and poetry and it led into hip hop in high school. Then long story short I got expelled because of black brown riots. I’m friends with a lot of my brown friends from high school, but when the riots happened I had to pick a side and most of my friends I’d grown up with were African Americans. As a joke we made a song that was kind of dissing the predominantly brown gang that was jumping all my homies, and the song ended up getting three out of four of us that were on it expelled. I blame hip hop for fucking up that part of my life. I didn’t get back into it until my second year at SMC. I interned at Interscope Records. That’s when I really started to think ‘I can do this for a living.’ My father is a poet but we grew up in Section 8 housing. My mom did well for all of cause she’s a computer engineer, but I know she loved computers but didn’t love the act of doing what she was doing. There was no balance in my life. There was someone who was doing just their passion and unfortunately wasn’t making a great living, and then someone who was doing something that they don’t like at all and making a solid living, and then them never being together, the irony of all that was…
How did you come up with the name of the EP?
The name started off as a joke. People would ask ‘what are you working on?’ and I’d tell them im making a very emotional EP right now [laughs]. And that just became the name. I didn’t think too deep into it.
Do you think you’ll always make music?
Yeah. People ask me if being on the business side burns me out. But it’s honestly made me even more inspired. Because those gaps you see, those lanes for the next Otis Redding or Whitney Houston means there’s a space for new perspectives and voices. I’m learning to really appreciate that.