Rapper Izzaldin covers hip-hop to fashion and now is following in the footsteps of Kanye and Pharrell. “They are setting the standard for how the youth adorn themselves,” says the upcoming sensation.
Izzaldin considers himself a hip-hop artist first though. The eccentric rapper blends 80s beats and futuristic video game sounds to create his own style and his newest album called Futura in Retrograde (Due July 28).
Born on the northside of Indiana, Izzaldin says he is a product of his surroundings. “I was inspired by hip-hop at an early age and was a b-boy.” He discovered Eric B. and Rakim at an early age and since then there was no turning back the clock.
I sat down with the budding rapper and fashionista to talk hip hop, styling for celebrities, and how Spike Lee had him kicked out of Madison Square Garden.
You graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Hip Hop from Indiana University? Can you tell me more about the program and what you learned from it?
I graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelor of Arts in Hip-Hop music. I was accepted into the individualized major program which is offered through the college of arts and science. Initially I was a business major and soon realized that although I was excelling in my courses I lacked the passion that it would take to sustain this course of study. I was hell bent on dropping out to pursue music, but my parents disagreed with my intentions. I researched the program and built a curriculum that consisted of courses offered through the school of music, folklore, and business. I was fortunate to convince Portia Maulstby an accomplished ethnomusicologist who studied hip-hop culture from an international scope to be my faculty advisor. Essentially, I had hands on instrumental training on drums and keys, also partaking in a student run orchestra. I learned about all the musical movements of the 20th century from history of Jazz to the history of rock n’ roll. David Baker who is a jazz legend also taught the courses on Jazz and to be able to get that intimate insight was special. The element of folklore was also interesting to understand the roots of American music, and black music specifically. My final project was an album and two 100-page essays on hip-hop and the cultural impact. In short it was a grand musical education that could all be applicable to my pursuit of music.
Where were you born and what inspired you to get into the hip hop game?
I was born and raised on the northside of Indianapolis and I’m truly a product of that environment. I was inspired by hip-hop at an early age and was a b-boy initially, which in those days it was hard for me to distinguish the elements. A friend of my fathers would sell bootleg tapes so I was always trying to procure some albums from him. The first time I saw and heard “Microphone Fiend” by Eric B. And Rakim it changed my life. I started selling tapes for him to the kids at school, everything from EPMD to public enemy. My first job was selling records and I believe that stuck with me throughout my childhood. I knew eventually I wanted to be an emcee but I waited to I was ready to take on the responsibility and cultivate my craft. I started emceeing at age 14 and wrote my first verses to the reprise instrumental from Outkast’s player ball single. From that moment I knew this is what I had to do in life and I’ve been on that path ever since.
Futura in Retrograde is the new album coming out July 28. What’s the meaning behind the title?
Futura in Retrograde is about writing the future while taking a look into the past. I thought that the title was fitting because we are in a constant motion of moving forward but sometimes that change is inspired by things that have already transpired. I didn’t want to lean too much on Nostalgia but I wanted to bring back the fun that 80s music possessed. I think we’ve lost that in time, to put music out that is fun and uplifting, which I think is the overarching element to this record. It is almost as if you were to envision the future from the scope of the 80s and how it would look and feel. I wanted to incorporate synths and other sounds that are reminiscent of the 80s but translate it in a modern/futuristic palate.
The track “Spike” is based on a true story about getting kicked out of MSG? Can you tell me more?
Yes! This track is really based on a true story without exaggerating any details to this interaction. Being from Indianapolis I am a die hard Pacers fan and the rivalry with the Knicks is real. My friend Evan hooked up courtside seats which were gifted to him by Ron Pearlman who owns the seats next to Spike Lee. We entered the arena and enjoyed all the fanfare that comes along with sitting courtside at the Garden. I think Spike was feeling himself because the Knicks were entering the playoffs as the #2 seed in the East. He started to talk a bit after noticing I was wearing Pacers attire….but I didn’t think much of it. I thought it to be friendly banter so I began to talk as well. Eventually I flashed a picture of Reggie Miller making the choke gesture, which caused him to erupt. He was on full attack mode disrespecting me and Indiana. In the end he was like “F you” and so fourth….and I responded “F you too N*gga”. At that point he became upset with that fact that I called him N*gga and proceeded to get security to kick me out. I was escorted from my seat in the first quarter and kicked out moments later. The reason why they said I was banned is because I used a racial slur in the garden and they don’t tolerate hate speech. I’m like the count of Monte Cristo so I exacted my revenge through song.
You worked with St. Laurent as a stylist in Paris. What inspired you to make the leap into fashion? Can you tell me more about that experience? Many rappers are turning to fashion now (Kanye West, Pharrell)—thoughts?
Good question….I actually worked for Celine in Paris and Saint Laurent in New York but they are almost one in the same. The experience of working in Paris was different because there exist a hierarchy when it comes to the fashion world. I previously worked for Celine in New York before Paris and I was the star of the show. I dressed countless celebrities and artist and had the trust of many. The culture of celebrity is totally different in Paris so I had to adjust to the cultural norms. I felt more free to do my job stateside but all in all it was a positive experience to be at the epicenter of where it is all happening. It was a strange time as well because I arrived 4 months prior to Covid so the action was minimal on this side. I was inspired artistically and I was able to find time to cultivate music and fashion during the endless lockdown and curfew periods. I always find that fashion and music has gone hand and hand, which has been true since the beginning of hip-hop. Bernard Arnault has profited immensely from the curation of hip-hop culture through his ventures and it’s evident that it is the dominant culture on an international level. All fashion trends today have origins in expressions found in the culture….so if you pay attention you know what to expect next. I think it’s a natural thing for these artists like Kanye and Pharrell to eventually be involved in fashion because they are setting the standard for how the youth adorn themselves. Influence is key and once you’ve reached that threshold many opportunities will open up. I’ve always been a person that understood style and that’s why I found myself in this world. I really got into the game to pay my rent living in Manhattan and it just so happened that I was decent at my job. I learned a bunch from being involved with fashion and how to best present myself as an artist by being authentic to myself.
Your vocals remind me of rap outfit of 90s hip hop duo Camp Lo, but your music sounds very futuristic. How would you describe your music/sound?
I’m happy to hear that you find my sound very futuristic….it’s a grand compliment for me. I would say first and foremost that I am a hip-hop artist. However, the music is interpreted at the base it’s boom bap. Though my musical education there are many different influences and I try to weave them in a form that digestible to a hip-hop connoisseur. I change a bunch so each album sounds different….depending on what influences I have in my life in the moment. The thing that I cherish most is evolution….to continue to cultivate my craft and become stronger over time. Musicians are the same as any other artist, but we aren’t seemingly on the same time line. We are told this is a young person’s game and sometimes we age out and never fully actualize our true talent.
What can we expect next from Izzaldin?
So, what to expect in the future is continued commitment to being the best artist I can be, which encapsulates everything that fits under that umbrella.