04 Feb 2021
“Yeah, regular means understandable, relatable. A lot of people think that regular means basic and the word normal is bad. In my opinion, you can get too creative where you're not taming the art for it to have a message. That’s the beauty of creation because you have artists that are pushing boundaries and doing stuff that just does not make sense to anyone but them. But you also have creatives, like me, that are willing to reach out to people and understand culture and patterns in how we think and tie it into music and art. When it comes to creating things, I think we have to take what exists already, learn from our past, and repurpose it. You got to take things from the 70s, 60s, 1800s and kind of update the idea, you know. So regular music, regular beats are just ideas and sounds that you are familiar with but in a new way. That’s how I would put it. We’re already so complex as human beings, why add on to that?"
“Yeah, my mom still plays piano. She’s amazing. She actually started out making beats on a Casio controller. She was doing that while she was in the Navy. My father was more of a fan of music. He was definitely responsible for my influences, more so than my mom. He was like, ‘whatever you like, enjoy it.’ He wasn’t showing us death metal and stuff like that, but it was stuff that he felt we should hear. The trade off is that my mom was more technical with it. She taught us how music works. She sat me down, explained how to download programs that could help me and explained music theory to me. She was a really great mother because she allowed her children to have their own playground with constraints. She wasn't really controlling as a mom. She was like, ‘Oh I see something in you, and you should go for that. Embrace it.’ Musically that did really help a lot. I found myself knowing myself early on."
“I knew I was going to be a creator. My mom was always telling me this story, I was maybe 3 or 4. We were at this computer store, I think it’s called Circuit City or something like that, and there was this computer that I was using really well. I was drawing on Microsoft Paint and people in the store were watching me like I was demoing how to use the stuff. It was the early 90s, so this stuff is really kind of new and they were like, ‘how did this kid learn this so fast?’ It was because we had computers at school, but I was just geared toward it."
“It was kind of like a confidence thing. I knew I would be able to teach myself the things that I needed to know in music but not with graphic design and I was really into it at the time. I’m still into graphic design now, but I use it as a tool for my music. I really save a lot of money doing it, ha. Although I’m not opposed to working with other graphic designers, I feel like I have a sense of what I want to create, so why shut that off? But yeah, I chose graphic design because it was out of fear that I wasn’t going to make it in music. I mean I loved music, but I thought I needed to get a degree in graphic design so I can get a job at Sony, RCA, or Universal. I wanted to design album covers and help an artist brand themselves or maybe work at a company that makes clothing. But I ended up blowing up in college and going on tour multiple times. If I had studied music, I maybe would've fallen out of love with it. I know a lot of people who have gone to school for music and found it a waste of time."
“I would say my album called North. It was the first album that I ever fully thought out, worked on and saw from start to finish. The times before, I was just experimenting a lot and didn't have any solid ideas. But when I was making North it was a firm idea that I had created and filled it up until I saw the body of work that I was seeing in my head. Then I got together with this record label called Soulection. They put it out and it did pretty well in my opinion. I still had a day job, and I was hoping to quit, but it was a long time until I actually could."
“I made baby oil. It was a night job. I would go clock in and fill the tubes up with baby oil. I did quit that job eventually, but I still needed to work so I did catering. That actually made me fall in love with cooking. Cooking is my hobby."
“Oh easily, jambalaya. Louisiana-style jambalaya. My great grandma’s sister, who’s still alive, she’s from Louisiana and I get all her recipes. I love southern cooking. I love Louisiana because my family is from there. Also, my wife is from Mexico, so I make a mix of Louisiana and Mexican style food. I love cooking."
Sango with Xavier Omär.
Jambalaya is a Creole rice dish of West African, French, and Spanish influence, consisting mainly of meat and vegetables mixed with rice.
“Play video games — NBA, FIFA, Spiderman (my favorite superhero). But I’m getting older now, so I like watching my nephew play. It’s fun hanging out with him. I do a lot of working out as well. I was an athlete in high school and parts of college but gave that up for music. I ran track and cross country. I was a runner runner. I was running the 800m dash, doing marathons, 5ks and competing."
“Live. For sure."
“You know it’s funny, the first project I ever put out ever on the internet was called ‘Unfinished and Satisfied’. So that’s been me, I’ve never known when I’m done, but I’ve always been finished and been like, ‘I'm definitely putting this out.’ I’ll feel confident though, knowing that it might not be finished. If a project is finished, I’ll maybe feel like I’m not thinking enough because there’s always room for improvement or ideas. But my process starts as an idea from a conversation or maybe something that I saw on TV or the Internet that was dealing with a style of music. Or like something historical that I find and I dive deep into figuring out how they did that and why they did that at the time. Or just a mindset, right now my mindset has been about pacing yourself. At first, I liked to go fast, like jump from one thing to the next. Since COVID hit I've been embracing pacing myself again. I would go fast because I was worried that I needed to make as much money as I can or get opportunities while I can because I don't know if it's going to last. I’m literally traumatized by that feeling. I’m never going to be able to rest. Like I went on my first vacation maybe last year. Yeah, I was always thinking I can't afford to go on vacation, I have to pay rent. But yeah, my music is created by starting with an idea. Then it morphs into these little bubbles. I take whatever makes sense and use it on the album or project that I’m making. Whatever doesn’t make sense, I’ll put those ideas aside and save those for later."
“I would say my peers, definitely. A few people that I work with. These guys that I work with in Michigan. If your stuff is not good, they’ll let you know. They’re hardcore. Also, my wife and I’ll put stuff on Instagram or Twitter and let people respond to it. It might not be something I’m actually working on, but similar, so I’m going to keep trying it out. I have three types of music making: I have music where I’m helping someone else out and it’s not my stuff. I have music where I’m totally locked in and this is an idea that I’m working on. Then, I have stuff that’s like practice and trying out. The stuff I try out I post. "
“I think it was when I first started traveling. I remember the first places I went to were Toronto and Montreal. It was with Kaytranada, a really popular DJ from Montreal. They were literally the first places I’ve been to for music outside of the country. What changed is I started realizing that people really want to see me in person opposed to having music being played in the room, or on the Internet, or in the car. It’s cool that they want to hear me play it. Traveling made me more confident and it made me interested in seeing more people and how they lived. It opened my mind to other people who grew up in a totally different way. When we travel, we should always try to learn. I feel like a lot of people just travel to show that they went somewhere and use it as a backdrop, rather than learning and experiencing someone’s culture or someone’s place of origin."
“I would say a person that inspires me is definitely my grandfather, Alandus. He’s the epitome of raw self-expression and I always struggled with that. I was really kind of shy growing up and I always had a lot of people around me that helped me be more out in the open and more upfront with who I am. It really helped with my music career because a lot of times when you’re on stage DJing or producing in a room with people, you have to be a vocal person. My grandfather is like the absolute most vocal person I can think of. He had a rough life. He’s from Chicago and he spent most of his early years in a gang and he changed his life around. Every time I have a conversation with him it’s always so robust. He’ll say the most outlandish things and you just have to accept what he's saying. He’s really passionate.
A place...ah man...okay, I was born in Seattle and I moved to Michigan when I was 10. I spent a lot of time going back and forth. So, because I’m from the Midwest and Pacific Northwest, I have this thing where I call it the ‘Pacific Midwest’. I would say that’s the place that inspires me. They inspire because of the working class feel I get from Michigan and the mix of the futuristic forward thinking I get from Seattle. That’s me. I’m very forward thinking as a person and how I treat my art, but I’m very grounded in tradition.
Fatherhood is the thing that inspires me. It’s very important to me. I have two kids. It challenges me every day. That stuff just brings the best out of you because you're not living for yourself. It’s a blessing for me because I get to see myself in them. I think kids are put on the planet to teach you how to be grateful for people who are able to have kids and be grateful for family and the community you have."
03 Oct 2021
“It grew out of frustration of having very veiled conversations with clients who wanted a specific look – at that time, everyone was calling it ‘urban content’– but they didn‘t have the language and were not in a position to say what they wanted to say. We wished we could do work that spoke to our own communities in a way that was authentic - made by US for US, so we decided to just do it ourselves. Everything we worked to put out in the world was made specifically for people of color, made by people of color. That’s where it was born from."
“If you’re a brand, it starts with having a diverse team. Not just bringing in people to fill periphery positions. When we’re at a table and speaking to a creative team, VP, or whoever is in charge of making decisions, those people need to be people of colour. You have to have people representing the audience you’re trying to connect to."
Photography by Travis Gumbs.
Art direction BY Cynthia Cervantes.
“As time has gone on, we’re trying to diversify the kind of work that we’re doing and spread into other areas. It‘s not just about creating content, we're really thinking about how our ethics and our intentions manifest themselves through our work and day to day lives."
“It starts with intention. What is the intention of what we're trying to relay? What is the intention of the story? In storytelling or stories we were told as children, they always end with ‘the moral of the story is…’ and that’s what we’re looking for. Second, is really understanding who or what it is we’re working with. Then you get a sense of what the imagery is. It’s about becoming inspired by that person's story and finding the nuances that are a part of that."
“I try not pressure myself to create anything or be creative at all. I just focus on the present and do something that makes me happy like meditate, cook, or spend time with my son. He likes drawing, so we draw together. It helps me get to a place where it feels good to create again."
“Now that our lives are so different because we have a child and our energy is divided into many different arenas of life, I think differently about my past accomplishments. I am thankful for them, and for the path that has led me to this place in my life, but more than looking backwards at the past, I am more so inspired to think about what my future accomplishments will look like."
Photography by Travis Gumbs.
Art direction BY Cynthia Cervantes.
“I am very excited about a project my husband has been working on for almost two years now. It‘s an extension of the work we’ve done together, specifically in regards to honouring our cultures and ancestral knowledge. It’s called Medicinal Plant Index. It’s an herbal supplement line and resource guide for medicinal plants. It’s going to launch at the end of the year. We’re currently working on building out the resource guide, which explores traditional uses of herbs, documents the people that have been working to cultivate medicinal plants , and provides an understanding of how herbs can be incorporated into our daily lives."
“Parenthood has exposed very specific parts of our partnership that are very strong and that we rely on daily in order to make it through the day. We often talk about the fact that because we’ve known each other for so long and have worked under extremely difficult circumstances professionally, our transition to parenthood has been really interesting and fun. I think it has also made us reevaluate where is it that we really feel is important that we show up for each other."
“Mexico City. Hands down. We don’t eat gluten and we eat a mostly plant-based diet, so the food in Mexico City is next level - you can just spend every single day eating your way through the city."
“New York! A lot of my friends are in nightlife so it’s always just a cute vibe. Also, there's such an incredible mix of people and cultures."
“That‘s really hard. I‘m going to say a tie. New York and Mexico City are so inspiring in such different ways. Both places really push you to want to make work, but I think the vibe is so different in each place. I think Mexico City is much more experimental."
“That’s so hard. They're so different! For me, in Mexico City, the best style is found on people you pass on the street, who aren’t necessarily in the fashion or art world. In New York, the looks I find most incredible or inspiring are usually on people who are in the scene."
“It’s been a journey! I definitely had my ‘fashion girl’ moment - a mushroom haircut with shaved sides and COMME des GARÇONS silhouettes. Now, I'm definitely giving off 'on-duty' mom vibes hahaha. It’s more about being comfortable because I am so active. Can I sit on the floor and play? Can I run to the store and grab something? It's pushing towards more classic, I think. I'm heading into like a more simple phase for sure."
“I am forever inspired by my grandmother, Ofelia Alvarez. I have her picture hanging by my desk and whenever I feel anxious or depleted I look to her for inspiration and for encouragement to push through. She was such an incredible human being, and she would always make sure I knew how proud of me she was and how much she loved me. Everything about her inspires me – her fierce and profound love for her family, her tireless work ethic, her style – everything!"
“A place that inspires me is Mexico City. I love being here. I love walking around the streets. I love hearing music. I love hearing Spanish all day. I love hearing parents talk to their children. I love everything about being here. There's nothing like it."
“The other truly inspiring driving force in my life is my son, Tenoch. He inspires me every day to be a good person and to live the kind of life that I hope he will emulate and take to the next level. I just want to create a life experience for him that is so full, rich, and undeniably full of love."