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Interview: Kevin Abstract talks “Drugs”, the Internet and more

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AliveSinceForever head honcho Kevin Abstract is one of the most exciting and unique up-and-comers in hip-hop. The Daily Hype caught up with him to discuss his craft, as well as his opinion on some of the biggest topics in music.

What sort of creative process do you go through when writing some of your more self-conscious and reflective work like “Drugs” and “Hell/Heroina?” Sometimes I write for me. Sometimes I write for my friends. It’s always personal stuff and it’s always based off of some truth. There’s always going to be truth within my art. Most of the time a lot of pain as well. I like to become my friends who were addicts in song. Sometimes I like to become the love interest I’m talking about. Just so many different ways to approach the way I create a world.

MTV1987 was a landmark moment for you. What was it like to record something so deeply personal, and how did it feel to let it out to the public as your first major release? It feels great to have it there. It’s awesome showing people something and being like, “Hey, I made this.” Even if the world thinks it’s trash. It’s my trash and I’m proud of it.

What compelled you to shoot the video for “Drugs” in a Wal-Mart? I was in class, thinking of a bunch of random stuff and it just came to me. It looked cool in my head so I pitched the idea to ASF.

You’ve been compared pretty heavily to Kid CuDi and Childish Gambino. Your Pigeons and Planes article this past month covered the latter very well, but how much do you think CuDi influences your music? Kid CuDi changed my life. My music would sound completely different if I never heard A Kid Named CuDi. I remember coming home from school just to watch him on 106 & Park. He premiered the “DAY N NITE” video. [Kan]ye was with him, and he rapped the acapella for “Soundtrack 2 My Life.” The song wasn’t out at the time. It literally blew my mind. I was super young at the time, but his approach sounded so fresh to me. I remember I started doing melodic raps that same day.

You have ties to both Atlanta and Houston, but your music doesn’t really have a lot in common with either scene. Was that a conscious decision to make something distinctly yours, or is the influence more subtle? My sisters were really into pop culture when I was growing up. Watching award shows was an event. I’ve always been into pop music ‘cause of them. I grew up on Justin Timberlake, not Slim Thug. That’s why my album sounds like something a teenage girl would dance in the mirror to.

How do you think the Internet has changed the music industry? Do you think it is a viable long-term platform for fledgling artists today? How much of an affect do you think free releases such as mixtapes and your album have on an industry that is already plagued by piracy and file-sharing? There are bedroom artists now. Kids who just upload a song to Soundcloud. Make a video with their friends and it pops off. They can tour and make money. It’s sick. I think there will always be kids out there who wanna buy music. Something they can own. Kids buy stuff they feel like they can connect with in 2014.

Your aesthetic, from the hair to your website (kevinabstract.com) is very idiosyncratic. How important do you think image is in your progression as an artist? It’s important. I don’t think about it that much, though. I just wear what I like and do whatever feels right. I put a lot of thought into my website, though; websites are important.

What do you think is the biggest trend in hip-hop that will define the next few years of the genre?
I don’t know. I know TheStand4rd will be huge, and I’m sure they’ll set trends. ASF as well.

The article you wrote on Gambino for Pigeons and Planes was very well-written, and the open letter you tweeted out when MTV1987 dropped was really heartfelt and poignant. Does your writing ability outside of music have any influence on your songwriting craft? Yeah, it definitely does. It’s funny, though, because with my music I’m not as focused on lyrics as some may think. I’m really into sonics – that’s why I work so closely with a producer. I’m all about melody. Melody is a fucking crazy language. My favorite.

The music behind your verses are definitely a major part of your appeal as an artist. What would you say is more important to you in your music, lyrical content or production? Don’t get me wrong, I pay attention to what I’m writing. I know what I’m saying and I think about how people would feel when they hear certain lines. But melody is just way more important to me. But with my songs, production and lyricism go hand in hand. My voice is just another part of the instrumental. I just want to make stuff that sounds good.

Also check Kevin Abstract on Facebook.