With singles such as “Not Over” and “Where Do All the Good Boys Go?,” THOMASINA is a pop starlet on the rise.
Exclusive: Rising Afrobeats star OG Picasso talks origins, AfroTrap, and the future of African sound
From his humble beginnings in The Bronx to the lush grasslands of Ghana, OG Picasso is a rising star in today’s Afrobeats milieu and is more than resolute about making his presence known.
As chief progenitor for what he describes as the “Tempoh,” Picasso’s sound is exuberant, vivacious and replete with good vibes and positive energy.
Colliding sonic elements of Afrobeats and Trap, Picasso prides himself on being a leading figure in the cultivation of a newfound genre: Afro-Trap.
Teaming up with Gelatto, who is the second half of the Afrobeats duo: G-Tempoh, they’ve been able to develop a strong international following. On YouTube, their first massive hit “Mottoh,” has amassed over 20K views and counting.
Their latest release: Welcome to TrapAfrica, which was shot on the real-life streets of Kumasi, Ghana, was released in early December. So far, it’s already gained over 10K views on YouTube.
In addition to his passion for creating musical vibration, Picasso dabbles in a litany of creative endeavors, some of which include modeling, photography and being the chief creative director for a Korean streetwear brand: Smoke Rise New York.
Being Ghanaian-American himself, Picasso is a major proponent for the unification of the African continent. He hopes to provide a conduit for that through his music.
With only four years in the game, OG Picasso has already covered a lot of ground with so much untapped potential still waiting to be unleashed.
Before reaching his ultimate apex, JaJuan Malachi of The Knockturnal was fortunate enough to speak with him about his origins, the AfroTrap movement, upcoming developments, his vision for the future of music in Africa and much more.
Here’s how the conversation played out:
JaJuan Malachi: So for those out there who aren’t familiar with OG Picasso just yet, tell us about your background?
OG Picasso: Well, I’m an African artist. My name is OG Picasso. I go by OG Picasso. My family is from Ghana. I grew up in the Bronx. My dad is a chief. He became chief when I was like seven, so he was away from me. Growing up, I didn’t really get to see him like that. As I got older though, I got to actually go to Ghana and to see what he’s been doing and everything. I kind of understand why he wasn’t there. I grew up playing ball. I guess that’s the narrative for the average Black kid in The Bronx. Don’t get me wrong, I was cooking but yeah. A few years ago, I got into music with my best friend Gelatto.
JaJuan Malachi: Oh word, what year?
OG Picasso: Probably like 2018. Yeah, we always used to freestyle and eventually, we were like yo! Let’s take it seriously. We formed a group called “G-Tempoh.” I’m one half of that group and we’ve been keeping it going ever since.
JaJuan Malachi: Dope! So what type of music do y’all specialize in?
OG Picasso: We specialize in Afrobeats, Rap, R&B, Pop. We’re very diverse but we mainly focus on Afrobeats.
JaJuan Malachi: Gotcha! We love to see it! So for my next question, what is the AfroTrap movement and how’d you first discovered the genre?
OG Picasso: Well I grew up in the genre a little bit. I grew up in the old roots of Hiplife, like Ghana Hiplife. That was like, older African music that my parents listened to, you know. And Trap. Since I come from the Bronx, you know where Hip-Hop was created, I naturally gravitated towards it. It just became a movement. It’s like getting your roots back. You know, there’s like a lot of Africans in the Bronx and in New York in general. It’s very diverse but there are a lot of Ghanaians where I live. The fusion was kind of inevitable.
JaJuan Malachi: So how does it feel to be a member of the first frontier of the AfroTrap movement in general? That’s actually pretty dope.
OG Picasso: It feels great! I feel like I’m a born leader. I’m going to be very honest with you but I feel like I really love being apart of it because I feel like I get to push it as far as I can. I get to move it the way I want to move it. I even created a niche movement called TrapAfrica – The “Trap” stands for “Those Representing African Prosperity.” So, you know, African Prosperity is very important to me. I feel like it’s really the only place where we’re not persecuted. Where we can actually be home and we don’t have to really deal with racism. When you go home, no one is really looking at you crazy. You can’t do that in Europe. You can’t really do that in America. Even in South America, they probably look at you differently if you’re a little too Dark. Ghana is where I feel home. That’s where my people are from and that’s where I feel like we should all build as a people.
JaJuan Malachi: I’ve never been to Ghana before but I’m a huge proponent for solidarity myself. I’m sure I’ll find my way there. Who would you say are some of your biggest influences, music-related or otherwise?
OG Picasso: A lot of great leaders, of course. I’m gonna be frank. I’ve gotta say Kanye is a big influence. I feel like I respect and admire his craziness. Because you know, people have always tried to put him in a box and everyone always tries to say something but I would never take advice from people who aren’t where I wanna be. He never does that and that’s what I respect most about him. Um, who else? Akon! I really respect Akon for what he does. He really came up out here in the U.S. but he really went back to his own country and started really developing like.
JaJuan Malachi: Oh, word! Senegal right?
OG Picasso: Yes, Senegal and other countries around there. I really respect that. I also wanna do something like that on an even larger scale.
JaJuan Malachi: What do you think about like, Saint Jhn and WizKid?
OG Picasso: Saint Jhn? I f**k with Saint Jhn. He’s hard. His whole rockstar aesthetic. His grind.I actually read about how he came up. He was like a writer, trying to write for Rihanna and everything and no one was really jacking him like that but he kept going. He linked up with Big Spark and he really went in. And WizKid, you know, he’s just a legend. He’s been doing this since, as far as I can remember. He’s worked with so many Ghanaian artists. Of course, I grew up hearing so much of his music before Nigerian music really became mainstream out here, you know because he’s already worked with so many African legends.
JaJuan Malachi: So now he’s pretty much just reaping the harvest of his labor pretty much.
OG Picasso: Yep! And he’s keeping it going and that’s what I really respect about him. He’s putting other people on the map and he’s putting his country on his back.
JaJuan Malachi: Hm, I feel that! So, I’m curious to know. What does your creative process look like? Does that entail you just being still in a quiet space or does that entail teaming up with some of your homeboys, bumping some music and catching an organic vibe? Describe that a bit for us?
OG Picasso: Recently, I’ve been linking up with a mixture of artists and producers in Brooklyn or Queens. Before, when I first got started, we would find a beat on YouTube or whatever but nowadays, I’m in the studio, I’m with the producer and we’re making the beat and the song from scratch in that order. I love to rap but truthfully, I don’t even write that much anymore. I really like to get in the moment. Like, I write after starting the beat production and while we’re creating the beat, step by step. Now, my songs are more organic. They are really written for the song.
JaJuan Malachi: So like the production and sort of like the songwriting process now go in tandem?
OG Picasso: Yeah, they’re more intertwined now.
JaJuan Malachi: So, now I really wanna know something. You’ve got some much going on. I mean, as a musician, a model, a creative director for a growing clothing brand and more, you do quite a bit. What is the motivation behind your hunger and how do you manage to execute on everything you touch?
OG Picasso: I wake up and want to see my dreams come to fruition. I want to be the highest selling and most influential artist on the African continent. I want to be an amazing performance artist in the arts (music, acting, fashion.) I want to go on a European music tour, an African music tour, and a worldwide music tour. I want to see the world and connect with its people. That’s what fuels my hunger.
JaJuan Malachi: So to my knowledge, you took a trip to Ghana sometime earlier this year. What was the purpose of that trip and how has it impacted your musical pursuits?
OG Picasso: Truthfully, it’s changed everything for me. The reason I went out there is because I have this song called “Welcome To TrapAfrica,” which I wrote when I was in Ghana like two years ago. And I was listening to the song during the pandemic and like, I just had a vision. I was like “oh, it was Africa.” Like I had to make the video in Africa. It’s crazy because I was talking to one of my childhood friends: Walter. I did a music video in London before the pandemic. When we were talking, he was like “yo, you gotta go do a video in Africa, what’s going on?”
Then after that, I got the tickets like a week later. I was like “yo, f**k it.” I wanna produce this s**t. Honestly, it’s changed everything because whenever I talk to people, I feel like it gives me a different level of credibility. Like “No, I’m not just any ole’ rapper from the Bronx.” I’m an international artist, I’m an international superstar. Like this is the beginning. This is what I did. You see this.
JaJuan Malachi: So, you’re adamant about showing more so than telling pretty much.
OG Picasso: I’m able to show. Because you know, we all tell but like, you’ve gotta show.
JaJuan Malachi: I mean for anyone who looks at your instagram, the content is there. It’s undeniable. The production is there. The musical prowess is there.
OG Picasso: Yeah, there’s this thing about Instagram that I really like. There’s a lot of content creators. I’m not a content creator. I really just use Instagram to document the stuff I do in real life.
OG Picasso: It’s not like I’m doing this for Instagram. A lot of people got that backwards. Like they do stuff for Instagram when you really should just be doing things in real life. And then use Instagram to document your process.
JaJuan Malachi: I got you! So it’s not performative, it’s just truly, genuinely you.
OG Picasso: Yeah! Real Life S**t.
JaJuan Malachi: That’s what’s up! So Afrobeats, now perhaps more than ever, wields a high level of appeal never before seen within the genre. What do you think about the future of it and what role do you plan to play?
OG Picasso: Alright so, current Afro-beats are really led by Ghana and Nigeria, so West Africa. South Africa is really coming up in the scene. They have a genre called Amapiano. Recently, I’ve been studying music from West Africa, East Africa, South Africa, West North Africa and Central Africa to get a more well rounded sound that’s not really based on the mainstream of Ghana and Nigeria. After awhile, certain things get repetitive because you know people get influenced by what they are surrounded by. Even with rap and drill music, everyone listens to drill music, so most people aren’t making drill music now. I feel like if you really wanna be a great artist, you have to study every aspect of the genre that you’re in. That’s what I’ve been doing. I’m creating a sound that’s gonna be a combination of all of them.
JaJuan Malachi: That’s super dope! So you’re just like coalescing different influences from the various regions within Africa overall and sort of just bringing them together.
OG Picasso: Yeah, I wanna go on an Africa tour. I wanna hit every single country, every island, every province. I want everyone to feel like there’s a little piece of me in every performance wherever I go.
JaJuan Malachi: The general aesthetic of your videos are super visceral and free-flowing. Walk us through the mindset behind your latest video: Tempoh Tantrum? It seemed like a lot of fun to shoot. It seemed like y’all were going crazy living life. Really painting a picture for people who’ve never been there before. Walk us through the logistics behind that and how you brought it all together.
OG Picasso: Well you know the name, it’s “Tempoh Tantrum.” You know it’s a high tempo, it’s going MAD! So in the video, we’ve got dancers. I’ve got my family. I’ve got a bunch of other dancers in there. I’ve got kid dancers. We’re just going crazy. Like, I was f**king chasing goats up in the video. You know why, because I’m a GOAT. Forreal though, it was fun. It was an experience. I really wanted to show how vibrant African dance and African beats are and how it really creates a different type of energy where it’s high paced and you can just go up. When you think about Hip-Hop, beats that were created early on. Most of that originated in Africa. I got to the roots and I just kept up the Tempoh. I’m apart of G-Tempoh, so we had to make the Tempoh go mad.
JaJuan Malachi: That’s fire. I think it was very high energy. High octane spirits going on in the video. It just made me wanna go out there and be a part of the movement.
OG Picasso: When they say, “why don’t you go back to Africa?” Yeah, you should go back.
JaJuan Malachi: I think it combated a lot of the ill-conceived notions we have about Africa in general and I think the portrayal of it was against the grain of what we’re used to here in America at least. So since getting started in this industry, what is some of the best advice you’ve received thus far?
OG Picasso: Be yourself and build yourself. Truthfully, a lot of people get too caught up in trying to find themselves. We don’t know who we are. We just came here on this planet. You get to choose who you are. You get to see different things about yourself. I like this about myself, I’m going to keep it. Oh, I like this sound, I’m gonna add it to my music. I like this look. Imma add it to my fashion. You get to build yourself. Music is a process where you build it. Even when I build it with my producer, we start it with a sound. You start with yourself, how you were raised and build it step by step.
JaJuan Malachi: Do you recall who told you this?
OG Picasso: It’s a process that I discovered. I actually don’t remember.
JaJuan Malachi: For my final question, I wanted to know as we enter a new year: 2022, these last couple of years have been kind of hectic with the advent of COVID, our supply chain crisis, people getting trampled at Travis Scott’s concert, you know all types of things. I’m curious to know: what are the next steps for O.G. Picasso, G-Tempoh and just the AfroTrap movement overall? What do you have in the works? What do you have in the inventory that you plan on dropping soon?
OG Picasso: I’m keeping up the tempoh’ man. Stepping on the gas. I’ve got a personal album coming out with one of my producers: Mike Ruiz. I got a G-Tempoh album coming out. I’m going back to Ghana in December to really like to create more and really build on the connections that I’ve made. Like last time I went, I was chilling with Michael Blackson’s cousin, next time I’m going to be chilling with Michael Blackson. I’m just gonna keep it going. I feel like the pandemic year really allowed me to really hone in and really see who I wanted to be. This year has allowed me to build the foundation of who I am. And next year, I’m going to f**king explode.
JaJuan Malachi: Alright bet, we’ll we’re here for it. I can’t wait to see what fruits come out of this next level.
OG Picasso: Thank you fam for having me!
For more of his content, follow OG Picasso on Instagram.
K-pop has begun to sweep the world as the “Hallyu wave” or “Korean wave” (the idea that South Korean pop culture has grown in prominence to become a major driver of global pop culture) has finally cemented its place in the west. After almost two decades of k-pop, the world has finally started to pay attention to the astounding accomplishments being made by k-pop idols and groups. Everyone is aware of who BTS are, but not many people know how astounding their accomplishments really are. In their recent years as a group, BTS has broken world records, been nominated for a Grammy, gotten Teen Choice, MTV, VMAs, Daesangs, Bonsangs, iHeart Radio Music Awards, American Music Awards and much much more. With BTS being the number one k-pop artists in the world, having just become the first asian act to win Artist of the Year at the AMA’s, it is finally time for people to begin to recognize these global powerhouses and pay attention to how incredible these groups really are.
(Seo Taiji and The Boys left to right: Yang Hyun-suk, Seo Taiji, and Lee Juno)
K-pop can be broken down into “generations”. Each generations designates a certain time period a group has debuted and attempts to define the genre and culture as k-pop evolves over time. The first generation took place from the 1990s to the early 2000s with notable acts like Seo Taiji and the Boys, H.O.T., and Sechs Kies. This first generation designated the official start of k-pop and acted as a stepping stool for many other groups to follow. Not long after came one of the most globally influential generations, the second generation of k-pop.
(Girl’s Generation left to right: Yoona, Sooyoung, Tiffany, Hyoyeon, Yuri, Taeyeon, Sunny and Seohyun)
The second generation took place from 2003 to approximately 2010. In this generation we saw groups like SHINee, Big Bang, Girl’s Generation, 2NE1, Super Junior, and so many other talented groups make their mark and help the spread of the ‘Hallyu wave”` with world tours and the introduction of “fanservice”, these idols began to drop the mysterious untouchable celebrity act and introduced the friendly approachable idol image.
(Seventeen left to right: Wonwoo, Jun, S. Coups, Seungkwan, Dino, Joshua, Hoshi, Jeonghan, Woozi, Vernon, DK, The 8, Mingyu)
Groups that began the generational transition shift in the early 2012’s became known as the third generation. Some groups from this notable era are Twice, Seventeen, BTS, Red Velvet, EXO, BLACKPINK, and NCT and tons more. Third generation had a very heavy emphasis on a global audience. Before the third generation many international fans had to rely on other fans to add subtitles to clips of their favorite groups, but the third generation introduced more content for the international fan through social media platforms, like Twitter and Instagram, along with streaming platforms, like YouTube. K-pop also began to expand and add more of a story telling element through the introduction of “universes” or the group’s “concepts”. The end of the third generation is a bit less conclusive, but many agree it ended sometime in 2018.
(Stray Kids left to right: I.N., Changbin, Lee Know, Felix, HAN, BangChan, Hyunjin, Seungmin)
Any group who made their debut in 2018 or 2019 was considered to be a part of the current fourth generation. The fourth generation shows k-pop at an unprecedented scale that we have never seen before. Groups are debuting and immediately gaining millions of views on music videos and going on showcase tours around the world. Groups like TXT, Aespa, Stray Kids, ITZY, Enhypen, ATEEZ, LOONA, P1Harmony, STAYC are among many other powerhouse groups debuting almost weekly. This new generation are showcasing their individual talents through k-pop to the world while showing there are no barriers and their possibilities of success are endless.
With the influx of new groups and the lack of “boy bands” and “girl groups” in the west since notable acts like One Direction and Fifth Harmony, k-pop has been able to take over and found a new sense of popularity throughout the global pandemic. Something that differentiates k-pop from the typical “teenage pop group” is the amount of time and production that goes into it. Some idol groups like Stray Kids and Seventeen are also labelled as self producing because they take part in writing, producing, mixing, choreographing, and doing many other things. These all rounder groups are insuring that they cement a place for themselves globally and need to be recognized for their hard work and legitimate artistry instead of just a “teenage craze”.
Needless to say there are many more layers to the K-pop universe and learning about what differentiates it or makes it appealing is only the beginning. Until then, here’s some of our favorites that you should definitely add to your playlists.
The newest Holiday EP from internationally acclaimed jazz artist Spiros Exaras is here, and The Knockturnal got the inside scoop. Exaras’s first ever original holiday single “The Magic of Christmas”, released on December 1st, brings joy to the world. Exaras is known for his impressive fusion of different musical elements, notably in his Greek- Cuban collaboration with Elio Villafranca, “Old Waters, New River” as well as in his signature Blue Note album “Phrygianics”. Along with title “The Magic of Christmas”, Spiros Exaras also released a second Christmas track titled “Christmas Wish”. In the title track, “The Magic of Christmas”, Spiros’ resonant guitar sound meets with Don Braden’s distinctive sax, and Eugene Ruffolo’s smooth vocals to create what is sure to be a future Christmas classic.
Inspiration for “The Magic of Christmas” struck when Spiros’ daughter was studying abroad and was unable to join the family in decorating the Christmas tree. With love and imagination, Spiros and Ileana decided to co-write a song expressing the holiday cheer that magically unites people, no matter the distance. A jolly journey of two solos is followed by a line in Spiros Exaras’ native language, Greek. “Ding, dong! Christou’genna pantou,’” (Christmas is everywhere), wishing happy holidays from his home to the world. Indeed, The Magic of Christmas knows no borders. The second track, Christmas Wish, is a heartfelt song about lending a hand to those less fortunate. It is a wish for a world where holiday joy is not a privilege for the few, but can spread to all people. Amanda Homi’s soulful voice along with Caryl Paisner’s stunning cello interpretation blend with Spiros’ dynamic arrangement to create a song that is both touching and hopeful. The Magic of Christmas EP is a joyful sleigh ride, a cheerful stroll through a sparkling city, and gift of heartwarming melodies that once opened, will bring smiles to all its listeners.
Check out our interview with guitarist, composer, producer Spiros Exaras below and don’t forget to check out the music video for “The Magic of Christmas” along with “Christmas Wish” now on YouTube and Spotify.
Tell us about your new song
In my family, we have a tradition of decorating the Christmas tree together while listening to Christmas songs- jazzy Christmas songs. One year my daughter, Ileana, was studying abroad and couldn’t join us for this annual tradition, so we decided to unite in a different way: by writing a song that we could look forward to listening the next holiday season we’d get to spend together as a family.
It had to be Christmas song- a jazzy Christmas song. If you listen to the lyrics, you’ll get to hear holiday spirit from four cities, all of which Ileana and myself have travelled to: Paris, London, Moscow, and of course, New York. “The Magic of Christmas” is about the joy- bearing holiday energy that knows no borders, and that brings us together no matter the distance.
It’s available on all streaming services, but Apple subscribers exclusively can also listen to the Atmos mix for a more cinematic and immersive experience.
What was the creative process behind it?
You would think that after being exposed to so many holiday songs in one’s life, writing them would be second nature, but its not so! If it’s a Christmas song, you want it to “sound” like Christmas. The challenge then, is trying to think about the song rationally- as in trying to come up with festive harmonies and thinking about traditional instruments like bells, while also trying to make it come from the heart- and that’s when all the thinking you’ve put in finally translates into emotion. After weeks of thinking and writing nothing, my daughter, Ileana, sent me a picture of herself in front of Saint Basil’s Church in Moscow, a historic landmark. As if by magic, memories came back to mind and the first lyrics landed: “Christmas in Moscow’s Saint Basil, Ding Dong, Saint Patrick’s in New York”. I sent the draft to the ‘master’ to finish it brilliantly. This is the first time Ileana and I wrote lyrics together.
What are some of your favorite holiday songs?
Holiday songs are more than just melody: they are memory, they are hope, and they can inspire comfort even in not so comforting times. Some songs that are timeless for me are “I’ll be Home for Christmas” “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”, and “Carol of the Bells”. I believe these songs have the power to bring moments of heartwarming unity. Joni Mitchell’s “River” is also an important and beautiful song, showing the angst that can be hidden behind the lights and ornaments of the season.
How was collaborating with your daughter?
Being able to work with Ileana is a blessing. I trust her and take her opinion very seriously. She is in touch with her generation, and her academic and experiential knowledge from living in different countries ensures that I stay up-to-date with the times, and reconsider any ideas that may be old fashioned, both in the music industry and in life. It is important to build a relationship of honest communication and respect with your children. You grow together, and most importantly, these are values that your children will export to society. It all starts in the family. Of course, at times we are both “stubborn Greeks” but that’s because we set the bar high. She has a great gift for translating the emotion I want to communicate into lyrics.
What’s next for you?
Next up, I’m working on a concept album with 11 songs inspired by ancient Greek mythology. You’ll be able to hear exotic rhythms, ethnic instruments, and progressive harmonies mixed with cool electronic sounds. It’ll be performed with my band, World-Jazz Ensemble. If you’re into myths, heroes, gods, and goddesses, stay tuned for a “mythical” jazz twist!
In the meantime, you can get an acoustic glimpse of a Greek-folklore fusion, featuring santurist Loukia Valasi (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vz63BOf0frk). Finally you can check out another very important project from this past year: a video for “La Ruta”, a song co-written with Jeremy Ryan dedicated to refugees who risk their lives for a better future, with original images from the Syria- Turkey Border, Greece, Serbia, and the United States, by acclaimed photographer Craig Ruttle and original text from NYU psychoanalyst Dr. Spyros Orfanos. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3-68KxF-bY)
What about “Christmas Wish”, the second holiday song you released this season?
The holiday season in New York City is a gift in itself, bringing in a rush of love, compassion, and gratitude. Not everybody, however, receives this love and compassion. “Christmas Wish” is a reminder not to lose sight of our consideration for others amidst the shopping and the sparkling spectacles. It’s a song that I hope will inspire those with a big enough hand, to lend it to those who do not have their basic needs met, physical and emotional. I hope that everyone will have something to feel grateful for this season. That is my wish.
Cover art by Pau Yaniz Gonzalez
In just a few years Corey St. Rose has made a name for himself and proved that he is a force to be reckoned with in the New York music scene. Hailing from East New York, he continuously proves that he is just getting started and has a lot more in store for his fans. I had the pleasure of speaking with him about his inspirations, influences, his new single and video “New York City” and any goals he has planned for 2022.
Often categorized as a “drill rapper,” Corey St. Rose wears many different hats. He has proven that he cannot be placed into solely one category and is a multi-faceted artist. From his music to his lyricism and content, there is more to St. Rose than meets the eye. He continues to show that he will create his own lane in the music industry, and the versatility of his sound needs no labels. He is a talented rapper, songwriter, CEO of clothing line, True Colors Worldwide, and has also tried his hand at acting and music engineering. St. Rose is known for his hit singles “ZAZA” and “Cheat Code.” He has also previously collaborated with fellow Brooklyn rapper, Smoove’L on the 2020 single “Julius Caesar.”
During our conversation, St. Rose discussed his passion for music, inspirations and what sparked his love for music. We also discussed who he aspires to work with and what influences him.
The Knockturnal: I’m curious to know about your inspiration. So what inspired you to start rapping? What inspired you to just begin a career in music?
St. Rose: It always started with like 50 [Cent]. Like, I always tell everybody Get Rich or Die Tryin’ because I couldn’t watch the movie because I was so young [when it came out] and my brother and my father went to see the movie and when my brother came back, he showed- I think it was on 123movies or whatever it was back in the day. He showed me Get Rich or Die Tryin’ on there- and ever since then, I was just so amazed by the music. You know what I’m saying? Just everything around it. Then that’s how I just got into Kanye, Drake, Lil Wayne and et cetera.
The Knockturnal: So how do you begin your creative process, like when you’re in the studio and you’re getting ready to come up with something? What does that process look like for you?
St. Rose: It could be a lot of things, you know, sometimes I’ll be- I’ll just be chillin and, you know, chillin, smoking, you know, having a couple of homies over, we just, you know, vibing to a beat or whatever. But most of the time recently, you know, I’ve been by myself. I’ve got an indoor studio now. So it’s kind of different, you know? When I first started up, I just had an engineer. I’d go to them and pay them for an hour but once I start having my own space and my own thing, I just like the- it’s just I feeling I have. So it’s not like I have the time limit [anymore] because, you know, when you’re paying for two hours, you’re just thinking about that time limit. Now it’s just like not all the time in the world, but like, oh, everything is here, you know what I’m saying? So that’s that’s one part. And then the second part, as far as me recording, I just freestyle everything right now, not like the whole verse, but like, I punch in. Ill play it out loud and see if I like it, see how it sounds a little bit. I live with my brother, so I’ll call him in my studio if I need another ear and say “yo what you think” and we just vibe to it.
The Knockturnal: Do you find it easier to just find the vibe than to write something down and to have a whole concept? Or have you never recorded like that?
St. Rose: It’s like- it’s 50/50, because I came up from writing, you know what I’m saying? Because it was crazy. I was actually looking at my phone yesterday while I was on the plane coming back from California and one of my favorite rappers around 2014, 2015 was Big Sean and Big Sean was like this big songwriter. He’s one of the great lyricists. So I came up from that era and like [J.] Cole, Rakim and Biggie. Every song is different.
The Knockturnal: So how would you describe your style of music?
St. Rose: Like, get fly music, right? I feel like when you listen to me, you just want to get fly, you just want to get jiggy or you just drive on the highway [and vibe.] I just feel like my music does that, like it gives me that feeling. It gives other people that feeling too. You know what I’m saying? Because I could go anywhere in this world and people just know I’m from New York.
The Knockturnal: What message do you want to give to your fans just about you- like where you come from and the steps it took for you to get to where you are right now? Tell us about your journey within the industry.
St. Rose: It’s not easy, not easy at all. I’ve been doing this for 11 years. At times I wanted to quit. At times I just said, You know, f- this. There’s times when I’d just feel like- yo, it’s not going to work out- but what kept me going was the fact that I just love this sh-. You know what I’m saying? I’ve got a natural love for it. It’s not like, oh, I saw something trending or like a phase. There was no phase. I questioned myself about that. Probably like a year or two ago, [I questioned] if music was a phase for me. I don’t have a manager this year and going forward, just because I don’t have to wait for anybody, I want that [for myself.] Whatever it takes to get that “yes.” I’m going to get that “yes.”
The Knockturnal: So you have a new single, “New York City.” You dropped the video about a week ago and I know you were motivated to make it because you’re from New York and you want to pay tribute, but what’s the real motivation behind the song?
St. Rose: To be honest, now that was another freestyle and I hit up T Blossom, he was on his way to Georgia. I was in the studio, he sent me that beat. I heard the tune and I just went in there and freestyled it. When I heard it back I was like, ‘wow this is fire!’ Just as far as the inspiration around the song, what I was going through at the moment. I felt like certain people believed that I didn’t deserve where I am or had something to say. So the first couple of words ‘I never did a hand out. Tunnel vision, how it planned out. all the ups and downs we here now. I got love in New York. I’m the man now.” That was in response to them. That was mainly just the inspiration. After that, you know, once I get the hook, once I get a solid hook, everything else is money.
The Knockturnal: How did you feel shooting the video?
St. Rose: We shot at 3 or 4 because we went to Citi Field. After Citi Field, we went to 42nd. After 42nd, we went to Yankee Stadium and after Yankee Stadium, we went to Williamsburg and got the Williamsburg Bridge as well. So all that took time. So as far as the inspiration behind it. Honestly, I just want to show New York. I feel like if you’re from New York, you got to be proud of that shit because like I said, I just came back from a trip to California, and they made me even more proud to be from New York because it’s just, our style is just different. Like, I feel like certain places you could tell in our culture. You know what I’m saying? I don’t feel like there are any other places like that. But yeah, it’s a different culture up here. I just love the game. I just love the culture out here forever.
The Knockturnal: So you recently dropped an EP Living Too Fast. What was your favorite song on that project and why?
St. Rose: “Living Too Fast,” because I was in the studio with my boy Davida X and we were just going through beats, he actually lives in Texas, so he was chillin with me, you know, staying with me for a little bit at my studio. And it was like 3:00 in the morning. He made the beat, actually he and T Blossom made the beat. We started recording at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. Then when I started recording, at first I didn’t like it. We both knocked out and woke up the next morning and I replayed it. We both look at each other like wow we made this last night? We knew our track was special. I would also say “Zaza.” “Zaza” is my second favorite. Every time I performed, I could see where I could take my music as far as crowd control and just getting people involved in my shows. I like having shows when everybody’s interacting. You can’t get everybody, but just to get up at least 75 or 80 percent. That’s powerful. When I went to Rolling Loud, Chris Brown performed “With You” everybody was singing it. That touched my soul, he sang it with no beat or anything. [The audience] sang the whole song. That’s dope, that’s the kind of crowd control I want at my shows. Check out “Zaza,” it has 100k views on youtube.
The Knockturnal: I saw on Instagram you had to put up a poll asking if they wanted a new project or they wanted a deluxe project and most of the people voted for the deluxe. So are you dropping it? What’s the status with the deluxe?
St. Rose: No, we’re going to do [the deluxe.] within like the next two weeks to three weeks. Definitely no later than a month. We’re going to get it out and we’re going to keep going. I plan on dropping three projects next year. Not full-on projects but EPs and capsules. Like, I’m really about to experiment and really just show the true artistic side of me. A lot of my songs that really go crazy are the “drill records” but I’m ready to expand and show people what I’m really about.
The Knockturnal: What is your perspective on being from Brooklyn and seeing how artists from Brooklyn have re-energized the New York sound? How has that helped you as a Brooklyn artist or how has it hurt you? I know you said you don’t like being categorized as solely a drill artist.
St. Rose: I like that the beats are fire, everything about a drill beat is fire, the kick, the 808s, hi-hats. But as far as being labeled as a drill rapper, they just put you in a box. You don’t want to be in that box for so long that when you put out different sounding music, people will say it’s wack, because they want that from you. You have to show them the best of both worlds. I notice that anybody that performs on a drill beat is categorized as a drill artist. That’s not always the case. Drill music is about ‘drilling;’ music that is on a drill beat, but doesn’t talk about ‘drilling’ isn’t drill music in my opinion.
The Knockturnal: For 2022, will you still be pushing “New York City” or any new projects in the works?
St. Rose: Yeah “New York City” will be on the deluxe.
The Knockturnal: So for 2022 what other goals do you have? What else can we expect?
St. Rose: I’m definitely going to do a cannabis line. We’re working on that. I’m definitely going to do a new season for my merch. True Colors. We’re doing new ideas for the merch, really just attacking it the right way as far as the brand. Getting better with engineering, shoutout to DaCor and Dom, my engineers. I started producing on the low, just been working and got a few placements from a couple big artists coming up. I want to be here for a long run, I don’t want to be known as just a drill rapper. I don’t talk about killing anybody, I talk about my life. I’m on a drill beat talking about my life. For 2022 I’m just working on everything trying to get better. Even the Living Too Fast project, I actually push the envelope even more, because if you listen to my past projects, I always put one Auto-Tune song, just one. For this project, I had like three of them. Expect this EP, expect great music, and expect for me to be out of my comfort zone next year. You’re going to see me doing a lot of stuff you probably couldn’t picture me doing, but I’m here now. Also, check out True Colors, my brand. https://www.truecolorsworldwide.com and get your merch.
The Knockturnal: Tell me more about True Colors, what does the company represent?
St. Rose: It means realizing the true colors in life. As far as the company and movement, I’m the CEO, we’re just trying to build, besides the music and clothes, I want to sign artists and look for talent. As far as for the community, we’re doing a lot for the community next year- fundraisers, giveaways. As a whole, you will see True Colors everywhere.
GStarr Entertainment’s New Signee DAISY SIMO Talks Life On Tour, Her Family’s Immigration & What’s En Route For 2022
I aspire for other people to see me and feel like, “She is making it. I can achieve what I put my mind to.” – DAISY SIMO
This week we have a special holiday edition of our NMR, featuring new tunes and music videos from Rebecca Black & Slayyyter, Emile Hirsch, Ravell, and many more.
On December 9, 2021, Red Bull SoundClash brought a truly epic clash of sounds to Nashville, Tennessee. The musical event pitted the smooth R&B sounds of Bren Joy against the inspirational pop signature of Jake Wesley Rogers in a thrilling live experience unlike any other.
Red Bull SoundClash is a long-running lineup of nationwide concerts that feature two artists on two stages as they compete head-to-head in a music battle. Originally inspired by the culture of competing sound systems originating in Kingston, Jamaica, during the 1950s, Red Bull SoundClash was born to break the mold of traditional dance hall and reggae-focused music battles.
The venue was outfitted with two stages to allow the competitors to face-off while performing. Emcee Noelle Scaggs (Fitz & The Tantrums) set the mood for the friendly yet fierce battle of rhythm, hyping up the excited crowd with the help of DJ Jerry J (Old Crow Medicine Show).
The SoundClash progressed in rounds. After each round, a round winner was decided via an applause meter. First, there was the ‘warm-up’ round. Each artist had a chance to perform covers of some iconic songs in their own unique style.
In the ‘wild card’ round, each artist performed with a surprise special guest. The challenge of the ‘SoundClash’ round was for Bren and Jake to each perform their own original songs but in two different styles or genres.
Jake Wesley Rogers took the stage at Red Bull SoundClash Nashville on December 9, 2021.
Red Bull SoundClash is a long-running lineup of nationwide concerts that features two artists on two stages as they compete head-to-head in a music battle. Red Bull SoundClash Nashville brought Bren Joy versus Jake Wesley Rogers to the stage in an epic four-round clash of sounds. Originally inspired by the culture of competing sound systems originating in Kingston, Jamaica, during the 1950s, Red Bull SoundClash was born to break the mold of traditional dance hall and reggae-focused music battles.
Before the rhythmic combat, Jake Wesley Rogers sat down with The Knockturnal backstage and talked Red Bull SoundClash, self-love, and the future.
The Knockturnal: How has it been to be a part of the Red Bull SoundClash?
Jake: It’s been amazing. It’s been a challenge, for sure. So different [from] normal shows. So much more prep work. And I have to shout out my band too because they’ve kind of done the brunt of the work, figuring out the arrangements and working with Bren Joy’s band. But it’s been super fun. It’s such a unique opportunity to share my music, and I don’t love the idea of competition, but whatever.
The Knockturnal: I never knew that you could do a music battle that wasn’t a rap battle because that’s usually what I’ve seen.
Jake: Exactly! I was hoping for some drag race shade moment where we can kind of just throw some shade.
The Knockturnal: Bren was saying that he thinks it’s going to be more of a celebration or collaboration than necessarily a competition.
Jake: Yeah, I feel that too. Totally feel that.
The Knockturnal: What do you think is going to be the biggest challenge of taking part in this music battle tonight?
Jake: I think Bren and I both put a lot of thought into our live performances [and] the flow [of] them. Obviously there are very strict rules as far as how the show goes and what we’re doing, and I think the biggest challenge is kind of just going with the flow. Someone else’s flow. Not having control. That’s hard for me; to not have control over my art.
The Knockturnal: You’re a little bit ‘type A’?
Jake: Oh, for sure. I feel like perfectionism in art is *mwah*. As long as it doesn’t keep you from creating the art.
The Knockturnal: Is there perfection in art?
Jake: Nope, that word is fucked up. I think it’s more just each time trying your very best to go as deep as you can.
The Knockturnal: I can feel your inspiration, your passion, and the emotion behind your music. I don’t like listening to music where I can’t feel the artist’s emotion. What are some of the inspirations that inspire you to create such impactful music?
Jake: So many over the years. I mean, I loved Gaga in middle school and loved Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks in high school. Love Florence and the Machine, you know, college. Fell in love with Joni Mitchell. Kind of these truth tellers. Really powerful songwriters. I think at the end of the day, performing is my favorite thing, but being able to perform my story is most important.
The Knockturnal: Are there impactful moments and times from your life that have inspired your music as well?
Jake: Yeah, for sure. I kind of look at my whole life as a chance to, you know, maybe make art from it. Not that everything has to be commoditized. I’m always surprised too. You think that the most mundane thing would not be an interesting song. All of a sudden you’re writing a song about your unrequited love when you were sixteen, and you’re like, “Oh my God, this is making me cry right now,” like, what? That’s in me. That’s still in me. It doesn’t leave.
The Knockturnal: Bren was telling me he’s working on a lot of love songs because he’s experiencing love. What about you, any experiences in that realm?
Jake: Oh, yeah, all the time. I went through the biggest breakup I’ve ever gone through a year ago. Honestly, [I’ve been] beautifully single since then and finding myself, so I feel like my whole MO is self-love right now. Learning to be in a relationship with myself and being good to myself. Dating myself.
The Knockturnal: I know that you’ve kind of gotten the stamp of approval from Sir Elton John. How has that affected your career and where you moved from after that?
Jake: I mean, I think it blew some people’s minds from back home. It blew my mind. It’s such an honor, and it’s so affirming to get the stamp of approval by someone who’s literally an icon.
The Knockturnal: That just means you’re on your way to being an icon. He’s passing the torch.
Jake: Thank you. He’s so good about supporting younger music and taking the time just to be a champion, and I’m really grateful for it. And the past few months have been more of that than I thought. More kind of outside validation from people I look up to. Something I’m trying to remember now is the reason they found me and the reason they liked it is because I was making art for the sake of telling the truth, being myself. And if those people are going to continue giving me thumbs up, I need to not do it for them and do it for the reason I did it before. I never thought that Elton John would call me.
The Knockturnal: I don’t think anybody’s ever prepared for that.
Jake: No, you’re not. You’re really not. When they say he’s going to call from 9 to 9:30 am, you either want to explode or find a bus to jump in front of. It was one of the craziest emotions I’ve ever had.
The Knockturnal: What would you say is one of the biggest obstacles that you’ve overcome to be where you are today?
The Knockturnal: I feel that.
Jake: Yeah, just learning to love myself. And it is continuous. It does not end.
The Knockturnal: It’s so strange ‘cause I’m sitting here, and I can just see how fabulous you are. And I’m just like, ‘Wow.’ You have nothing to be insecure about.
Jake: You’re so sweet, thank you. We all feel it, right? Even if you’re not gay or a minority or whatever. Even if you’re a fuckin’ straight cis-gendered white dude.
The Knockturnal: Well, that’s why people lash out. They don’t feel like they belong, right?
Jake: Exactly. Everybody feels like an outsider, and when people can immediately tell that you’re an outsider, you’re kind of, you know… I feel like in my queer experience, I’m feeling something everybody’s feeling but I’m feeling it in a very specific way, to the nth degree. So, you know, we can share our story. We can be this way. ‘Cause everybody’s in their cages. I think as artists, you just gotta drop the keys. One of my favorite expressions.
The Knockturnal: What is one of the biggest goals you’ve achieved for yourself?
Jake: I think just creating the team I’ve created.
The Knockturnal: You have a fabulous team, by the way.
Jake: Thank you. Creating the band I’ve created. That’s really the most important to me. It’s amazing to be selling out venues that I dreamed of playing. It’s so cool to play late-night shows and all these things. All those are huge milestones. It’s fun when Madonna sends you a DM. But I think at the end of the day, I’m really proud of this environment, and I feel like everybody just kinda loves the ship we’re building.
The Knockturnal: When you were building your core team, the people who are around you constantly, what were you looking for in those people?
Jake: I think just people who realize it’s not about them. And I say that as someone who’s like, “It’s not about me either.” I guess it’s my art, it’s my name on it, but this mission I have is bigger than me. And I like to believe it’s spreading consciousness, it’s spreading love, freeing people, dropping keys. And I need everybody on this team to help me do that because I can’t do that on my own. If my manager never found me four years ago, I might just be fucking writing these little songs in my little room and my mom would love them. And maybe that would be it, and that’s fine. But I do feel like my message and my capacity is supposed to be out there, for whatever reason, and I’m owning that. I think I used to be afraid to say that, but I’m trying to own that, and be like, I think this needs to be out there and it will help people, I hope.
The Knockturnal: What is one of the things that you want people to take away from your music? What experiences or feelings do you want them to have? What are you trying to create for their emotional story?
Jake: One of my favorite quotes I heard recently was [from] Alanis Morissette. She said, “Keep your heart guarded, and your music dangerous.” What I like about that is because I think the best music and the best art, it’s dangerous because you feel vulnerable. Because you’re taken to this place that you don’t want to be in but you also don’t want to not be in. You don’t want to ever be somewhere else because [that’s where] you feel the most you, and I guess that’s what I want [to make people] feel; that they can be themselves.
The Knockturnal: What’s next for you?
Jake: I’m working on the next releases, which I’m super excited about, and I’m going on tour with Ben Platt in the spring. A 27-date, mostly arena tour, opening for him. That’ll be really fun, so people in North America can come to that. And just movin’ and shakin’. Make some TikToks in between.
The Knockturnal: You’re one of the first people to start bringing ‘characters’ to TikTok. When you first started that, did you envision that it would become as big as it did?
Jake: Oh, no, some things you cannot plan.
Bren Joy took the stage at Red Bull SoundClash Nashville on December 9, 2021.
Red Bull SoundClash is a long-running lineup of nationwide concerts that features two artists on two stages as they compete head-to-head in a music battle. Red Bull SoundClash Nashville brought Bren Joy versus Jake Wesley Rogers to the stage in an epic four-round clash of sounds. Originally inspired by the culture of competing sound systems originating in Kingston, Jamaica, during the 1950s, Red Bull SoundClash was born to break the mold of traditional dance hall and reggae-focused music battles.
Before the rhythmic combat, Bren Joy sat down with The Knockturnal backstage and talked Red Bull SoundClash and finding love.
The Knockturnal: What is it like to be a part of the Red Bull SoundClash? Is it the first time you’ve done something like this?
Bren: It is the first time. Very first time. It’s crazy, it’s wild, the stage is insane. I think it is also very rewarding, and I’m very honored to be chosen out of all the possible Nashville artists. It brings me joy being from here, being able to represent Red Bull. I’m a Red Bull fan anyway.
The Knockturnal: How does a rap battle differ from what you guys are going to do here tonight?
Bren: I think the difference between a rap battle and stuff like that is that we’re singing each other’s songs, you know, at some point. We’re throwing this baton back and forth, and I think it’s less of a crazy battle and more of a celebration of both of our music and how different it is, and how weird we both are and in these completely separate lanes of Nashville. I think it’s really cool seeing both our trajectories. We’re [on] opposite ends of the spectrum, so I think that’s the difference. It’s less diss, more acceptance.
The Knockturnal: What do you think is going to be the most challenging thing about tonight?
Bren: Aw, man… Singing Jake’s songs is pretty challenging. I think just this back-and-forth-ness. Me and my band, I feel like, are very in tour mode. This set, we have perfected, you know, and so it’s very interesting coming right off of a tour into this completely different set-up. And balancing that and having this kind of free form experience… It’s gonna be fun.
The Knockturnal: What is one of the biggest obstacles that you’ve overcome to get where you are today, in the music industry specifically?
Bren: I think comparison is always the biggest thing. I’m always around singers. I’m always around incredible musicians. Everyone here has an insane voice, so I think it’s like getting to that place where I can believe in myself.
The Knockturnal: What is one of the biggest goals that you’ve had for yourself, personal or career, that you’ve been able to achieve?
Bren: To earn respect. I’m still getting to that point.
The Knockturnal: Respect from whom?
Bren: I don’t know. It’s very toxic, but I long for respect from people. … The more I make music, the more I just really want to be respected by the people I work with, the people I sing for, whatever. That’s a goal that I’m always trying to get to, and I really pride myself on how I handle my business and how I handle navigating right now.
The Knockturnal: What would be the next big goal or accomplishment that you want to achieve?
Bren: Happiness. Being able to express that happiness through music. I want it, and I feel like people around me can hopefully feel that… How bad I want this, and how bad I want this to work. I really believe in what I make, and it’s taken a lot to get to this place. I wanna be happy. I am happy. I’m very happy right now; don’t get me wrong. I’m blissful right now. But there are levels [to happiness], and then there is happiness with success, and my version of success is very specific, but I’m excited to journey there.
The Knockturnal: Is there something you wouldn’t do to get there?
Bren: Sell out my art. Doing something that I don’t believe in. Talking about things that I don’t believe in. I had such a long battle with being this artist from Nashville, being Black, being R&B, as well as being queer and kind of hiding that queerness, hiding that Blackness. I feel like you have incredible artists now that are coming up that embody all of that, and I think [I’m] trying to get to that place. That’s something I’m not willing to give up now that I found it, and I found that power in being Black and being queer and being an R&B artist and being from Nashville. Now that I have that strength, fuck that. Fuck losing that.
The Knockturnal: You’re predominantly in music now. Is there any other medium that you would branch off into? Television, film, commercials?
Bren: I want to be an A&R for music. I want to get to a place where I can figure this out for myself so I can help other artists figure it out. I can’t teach until I learn. As bad as I want this for myself, there are so many artists I see every day that I’m like, “They should be signed, they should be signed, they should be signed,” and I’m always giving my label people like that, I’m sending them new artists, like, “Yo, they’re fire, they’re fire.” So, I want to be an A&R in my thirties. Discover new artists, new talent, new money.
The Knockturnal: Is there anything you can tell me about what’s coming next in your career?
Bren: I think new music, a new album, and new opportunities. I’m about to move across the country, which is fun.
The Knockturnal: You’re coming to join the 420 club (California)?
Bren: I am, I am. Ah, it’s gonna be crazy. Every time I’m there (California), I stay for a long time and it’s just incredible. But new experiences… And I’m excited to show more of myself for the first time in my music than I have in the past. I’m experiencing love, so that’s the thing I’m talking about finally.
The Knockturnal: You’re a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. Does that inspire your music in any specific way?
Bren: Always. Queer people are trendsetters. Queer people discover or set now what’s cool and what’s not. So do Black people. People of Color and queer people literally run the fuckin’ streets. We make things trend, and I think that’s the power in what we do. So, yes, everything from my art and how I dress, to how I express myself is all defined by incredible queer artists. And I use ‘queer,’ you know. It used to be this derogatory term; I use it in a very positive place. I use it as a very inclusive term.
The Knockturnal: Who would be your favorite queer artist of all-time?
Bren: That’s a really good question. I don’t even know. I think it’s less of me having a favorite person and [more of] me having a favorite era. My favorite era right now… The 80s were amazing, right? Queer artists in the 80s were fire, and I think I really am proud of our generation right now. We have a lot of icons kind of coming up that are in that space, that are just unapologetic, whether you have the obvious like Lil Nas X, to the not-so-obvious smaller artists. We’re just cool. I don’t even think we’re trending right now. We’re just finding that space. We’re finding that stride and now that we’re getting that stride, we’re like, “Yo, what’s up!” I think it’s ‘cause we finally have idols. I finally am seeing someone that’s like me winning.
The Knockturnal: Representation matters.
Bren: Yes! Finally someone like me that’s able to book Coachella three years in advance, you now? And he hasn’t even seen the light of day, he hasn’t talked to anyone. That is power. … There are just so many Black queer men that are just on top and it’s very enlightening to see.
The Knockturnal: So, you’re experiencing love…
Bren: Yes, experiencing love. A lot of the songs I’m writing right now are about specific people.
The Knockturnal: And what about those specific people is making you experience love?
Bren: I’ve gone through so much life, longing to be desired. And I feel like now that I’m traveling, I’m finding those people that really are inspired and drawn to me. Instead of me chasing people or begging people… I feel like so many people long to be loved instead of owning that space and being like, “I’m fuckin’ great. I’m a dime. I’m a ten,” you know? So, I think right now the individuals that I have been really responding to really make me feel sane. I think that’s what my music is about. My music is about summer love, it’s all about summer, and that’s all I can give away.