The code of the beat.

AmirSaysNothing: Blue Collar Priest, Rapper for the People

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Off the heels of a solid debut EP in Medium Rare (2015), AmirSaysNothing dropped his first full-length album, Employee of the Month in 2016. Well received by fans, the album has put AmirSaysNothing in a position to pop in 2017. In this interview, BeatTips’ own Amir (Amir Ali Said) talks with the New York-born/Boston-bred rapper about why he thinks being a rapper is like being a preacher, the impact of the American workforce on his creativity, the resurgence of ’90s hip hop, the making of Employee of the Month, the new direction he wants to take his music in, why sample-based beats bring out his most exciting ideas, why he believes Chuck D and Ice Cube had something to say, why he would never say hip hop is in a bad place, and much more.

BeatTips: You said your father is originally from St. Louis?
AmirSaysNothing: Yeah, yeah, he was born in St. Louis.

BeatTips: You also told me that you moved around a lot during your childhood, what was that like?
AmirSaysNothing: At the time it sucked. But when you become an adult, it’s got good things and its got bad things. Somehow you find yourself a little more – you’re able to embrace change better than other people. You know, other people are afraid to move, you know from their small town, or just to walk up to someone they don’t know and speak to them. People get uncomfortable from shit like that. But that was my life, since I was like eight years old – being the new kid every year. Now as an adult, at 25, like talking to people, I’m not afraid of anybody. If anything, if I’m afraid, I’m going to talk to you to get the fear out of the way.

My parents moved us (Brothers and sisters), to Cambridge, Massachusetts (near Boston), in like 1998, 1999 when I was seven or eight. So they moved us up there, and over the course of being there, my parents split-up. And at first, they both were in Boston, then my Dad went back to New York, so it was back and forth between New York and Boston every weekend. Then my Mom moved to Jersey, so it was Jersey to New York, that was like my two homes. Then my Mom moved to DC. Basically, my Dad stayed in New York or Massachusetts my entire life. But my Mom has lived in DC, Charlotte, North Carolina, so I was in Charlotte right before I moved to LA. But my Dad has been in Brooklyn now for like 10 years. And that was after a little bit of back and forth, because he was in Newton, Massachusetts for a second, too. So a lot of back and forth. But it was cool. The only bad thing that comes from it is that it’s hard to find stability in life, when you’ve grown up unstable. It’s like you’re looking for stability, but every time you find yourself in some stability, it’s almost uncomfortable.

BeatTips: Who’d you spend most of your childhood with after your parents split?
AmirSaysNothing: I mean, my Mom had primary custody, like moms usually get. So most of my time was spent with my Mom, it would be like a week thing, I’d be with my Mom then I’d be with my Dad.

BeatTips: Do you think some of the remnants of that split goes into your music at all?
AmirSaysNothing: Oh, yeah, for sure. As of right now, like one of the next places I’m trying to take my music is being a lot more introspective. I mean, I’m pretty introspective already, but I’d say right now that I haven’t even really dived into who I am, in the level of just me as a person. I’ve given you my feelings and shit, but I haven’t really told you like this is what happened when I was eight. So, that’s a place I’m really looking at taking the music in that direction. But without a doubt, it shapes everything.

BeatTips: What kind of person were you before the music?
AmirSaysNothing: I mean honestly, mainly it was just like– I’ve always been like– I was really shy when I was younger. But once I came out of my shell, I’ve always been like a creative, kind of loud, like to make people have fun, like to make people laugh, kind of dude. Like, all the things that go into being a performer, or an entertainer of some sort. Those are always the kind of things that I just did, because that was fun to me. Like I like singing songs, singing karaoke even, just because it’s fun.

So it’s like the whole becoming a rapper [thing], not really much has changed, in the sense of like, I don’t feel any different than who I felt like before. But I feel more like comfortable and proud of who I am. It’s cool, it’s like you turn like this thing of basically you being a human at the end of the day, and you turn it into this thing as a career. Hopefully it will continue to be so, go as far as you can, and you’re just being yourself.

BeatTips: So what is it that first got you into music? What is your earliest music memory?
AmirSaysNothing: The first thing that I can remember–well there’s two things. Midnight Marauders and TLC, “Chasing Waterfalls.” Two earliest things, first cassette that I remember was TLC’s joint, and then “Award Tour,” by A Tribe Called Quest is my probably my first favorite song, that I ever like knew every word to.

It’s funny because I even kind of like rapped to my Dad when I was a kid, and he would always tell this story–because you know how Q-Tip goes, “We’re on a world tour, with Muhammad, my man.” My last name used to be Muhammad, because my Dad was in the Nation of Islam, so I was AmirSaysNothing Muhammad at birth. And I remember my Dad always tells this story, like I was rapping “Award Tour, and I told him like, “Dad, I represent Harlem and Mount Vernon.” something like that. And it’s funny because now that I’m doing this (rapping), and I was doing it at six and seven years old.

BeatTips: It seems like hip hop was always in you.
AmirSaysNothing: Yeah, exactly. I mean, I grew up around the shit. I didn’t have too many musicians in my family, but my Pops worked with a lot of rappers. From Tupac to Guru, he just had a whole lot of things go on in his career. So I was always exposed to that.

BeatTips: What does your father do?
AmirSaysNothing: Well he’s a pastor, now. But he used to be a minister in the Nation of Islam, he was the head of Mosque No. 7 in Harlem, during the ‘90s, and he was one of the first dudes to come in and really connect with rappers. He had rapper friends like Biz Markie, Talib Kweli, Q-Tip, and you know all the people I mentioned before. They all knew and respected him. Like for example, I met Killer Mike out here (in L.A.), and he’s actually a good homie now, but when I met him – So my Uncle was out here, and he was talking to me about Killer, I guess they were friends because he lived in Atlanta. So when I met Killer, I was like, “Oh, you know my Uncle.” And he asked, “Who’s your Uncle?” I told him, and then he was like, “You know who’s really cool, his brother Conrad.” So I told him, “That’s my Dad.” Then Killer Mike grabbed me, hugged me and shit, grabbed me off the ground. So yeah, my Dad gets mad love and has built these kind of relationships with rappers. And it’s like not the kind of situation where like anything has necessarily forged for me, where people are like, “Oh, we’re going to sign your son.” Nothing like that. But there are these moments where I’ve gotten to meet, you know, legends and respected dudes, and have something to connect on. Which is cool, it’s a nice feeling, I’m grateful for that even being a thing.

BeatTips: I’ve noticed that you’ve called yourself “The Blue Collar Priest,” is that anyway connected to your father?
AmirSaysNothing: Yeah, it is. My dad used to always say things like, “My sons are going to become preachers,” and stuff like that. And obviously I was like, “I’m not about to become a Pastor or a preacher, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” But in a weird way, being a rapper is basically the same thing as being a pastor in some ways. You know, you come here to speak and give people something to leave with. Whether that’s something to turn up to or if they want to feel inspired. You’re here to deliver something to the people using your voice and your creativity. So, for me that kind of goes into the priest thing, and with my rap music shit, I’m not necessarily the dude that’s trying to sit here and tell you how ballin’ the shit is. I feel like I want to represent more of the people, the common person, not the people who are rich and doing well, just the people who are struggling to get that money together. Like the working-class.

BeatTips: Through listening to your music, I know that you also have worked a lot of different jobs. You’ve worked at Dunkin Donuts and a couple of other spots. What was that like?
AmirSaysNothing: I started working when I was 15. I was a camp counselor in Brooklyn, that was my first job. And my parents were always the kind of parents that said, “If you want something, you have to work to get it at a certain point.” So I started working as soon as I was able to work. But it was good. I mean you have different shitty jobs, and different good jobs.

Dunkin Donuts was actually tight to work at. You know, every day you get the same people and you start to build relationships with them and you slide somebody a donut here or there. I was 17— Like right now I’m 25; if I worked there now, I wouldn’t be enjoying it as much, maybe I might feel like, “Oh, this isn’t where I want to be in life right now.” But when you’re 17, you’re just happy to have a job at all. So you can appreciate a gig like Dunkin Donuts, because you’re not going to work there forever anyway.

BeatTips: What could you see yourself doing if you weren’t making music?
AmirSaysNothing: When I was 18, I wanted to be a pro skateboarder, that’s what brought me out here (LA). That’s what I wanted to do, and then from being around here– I just used to rap, to entertain people and because it was fun. Like, I’d hear some dude rap and then I’d jump in and rap. But as far as what I could see myself being, I don’t know. I’ve always been that kind of person that can’t sit back and be complacent and work from a cubicle. As much as I try, that’s just not me. I can’t do it. Like even going to college was a struggle for me, because I think, I’m constantly thinking, just making sure that I keep my sword sharp. I’m always looking for the best way to do something.

Like if you told me, “The only way to paint this house is with this one brush,” I’m going to be the dude that’s like, “Nah, that can’t be the only way to paint this house.” So for me, I don’t know what I would be doing, because at the end of the day, I tried all this other stuff. I went to college for graphic design, originally it was psychology. When you’re doing design there’s a lot that goes into that. And it’s hard for me to invest myself into something like that when it’s not actually invested in me. It’s like with creativity, I feel like you’re going to paint the best picture when you’re painting something you care about. Thankfully, life has gotten me here and I pray that it continues this way.

BeatTips: What’s ironic is that when we listen to Employee of the Month, the album is clearly about an employee. So do you think that all of your work experience impacted your creativity in a negative way? Or did it help propel your music?
AmirSaysNothing: Oh, yeah, my whole life has given me something to talk about. Like I’m not necessarily that street kid who can rap about how many packs I moved or how many people I shot. That’s not my life. I’m not going to ever be one of those dudes that’s out here talking about how many bitches he’s fucking and like turn up and do a drug because that’s not my M.O. either. So if it wasn’t for what I’ve lived, I wouldn’t know what to talk about. The whole rap shit comes from that.

That whole album is made out of frustration. Even the fun, enjoyable joints, the core of that album is frustration. It’s like I’m frustrated with my life; I’m tired of wasting my time working for these people that don’t appreciate shit. Looking at the whole work system in general, like you have employees that you don’t even pay enough to have a living wage and you expect them to come in here and break their back every day over that shit. I look at myself as like the fruit on the tree of dudes like Chuck D and Ice Cube and shit, because these guys had something to say about a system that they didn’t fuck with. And the system that I don’t fuck with, I’m talking about the work system we have, on the album. That’s what’s real for me right now.

BeatTips: Aside from the authenticity, what else are you trying to get across with your music?
AmirSaysNothing: I want people to genuinely enjoy the whole shit from beginning to end. But I don’t ever want to be somebody who’s just trying to preach to you, I don’t want to ever be somebody who’s not giving you anything, you know, substance. I’m just trying to give you everything you feel you would want. Like, “Damn, I like this song and it’s about something.” You know what I’m saying? That’s what I aim for. I don’t want my listeners to feel starved for anything.

BeatTips: So who do you make music for? Your audience or yourself first?
AmirSaysNothing: I make it for myself therapeutic wise, but naturally I’m a person who reads people. I’m pretty perceptive with the world. I pay a lot of attention you know, I’m an observant dude. So with that being said, there’s a natural thought about the listener when I’m making something. But I try not to forget that I’m a consumer too. I don’t want to be an artist that’s just like, “I’m out here creating and you’re gonna love it or you’re gonna hate it.” Because that’s not exactly the best way to keep your job. Because if that’s the case, then I’ll just write a bunch of records about how I really fucking feel about everything.

Like, you give what you really feel, but you also try to write it in a place that is able to be perceived by a listener. Because a listener isn’t in your headspace, they don’t necessarily get it and you’re trying to explain things. You’re trying to communicate something. How are you going to communicate if you don’t even care what the person you’re talking to listening style is? My music is obviously more to the traditional end of hip hop, but I’m not even trying to be one of those cats that’s like, “Yeah, we just keep it boom bap over here.” Because at the end of the day, to do that is to act like you don’t enjoy turning up, too.

BeatTips: Yeah, as if those two dynamics can’t co-exist.
AmirSaysNothing: Exactly. I enjoy turning up too. Like, I want to make Black Thought and The Roots proud, but I also want to make you move like Future makes you move. So it’s trying to find that balance.

BeatTips: So how does a song come about for you?
AmirSaysNothing: A song usually comes from a couple days to weeks of dealing with something or something being on my mind. Whether it’s good or bad. You could be thinking about some girl that you like for three weeks and finally you write a song about it. Or you could just be pissed off and finally you’re like, “I’m pissed off. I’m gonna get this out.” But I think for me, like for Employee of the Month, it’s not like I’d be like, “Let’s write a song to encompass how I feel at this moment.” I mean, yes, it was that, but it was using the work force as a metaphor. It’s a metaphor for everything, it has to do with being unhappy with a situation and like trying to get through it.

Like towards the end of the album, I was trying to give you a feeling of like, “You’ve went through all this shit.” But like on the song “Finally Free,” that song is supposed to be the “You’re going to be alright” moment. You’re free and you’re never going to be here again. You went through all this bullshit, but you can be free and here you are.

So it’s more so about energy. Like the song “S.O.G.” on the album. I made that song when I was dealing with some relationship shit and I was just mad about it. So you know, I was angry, but the song isn’t even about a relationship. I actually wrote it when my relationship was good. But when I had finally finished it and I recorded it, my sister was like, “You angry or something?” And when I asked her what she meant she said, “You just sound angry in your voice and delivery.” So that showed me that you may not always write a song about what you’re feeling at the time, but your delivery is going to transcend somehow.

BeatTips: What was the song “The Girl That Works Down the Street” about?
AmirSaysNothing: You know what’s hilarious, I swear people think that it’s about somebody, like I wrote about a specific girl, but it’s actually just about–anybody that’s been around the way or worked somewhere, there’s always girls that work nearby or a girl that works with you, there’s always a girl around. And it doesn’t matter if she’s the finest girl you’ve ever seen, but all the dudes that work around her are trying to get at her or they come and see her to flirt with her. You know, they’ll go visit her at work and shit like that. That’s basically what “The Girl That Works Down the Street” is, it’s that girl in the neighborhood that all the dudes are crushing on, trying to holler at her, and secretly like her. So I wanted to write like an Alicia Keys “You Don’t Know My Name” kind of song about it.

BeatTips: Since you come from a background of freestyling, how were you able to merge the two worlds between freestyling and written rhymes?
AmirSaysNothing: Well you know it’s crazy, for some people it’s easy and for some people it’s tough, and you know mad people like to say things like, “I didn’t write none of these verses,” and that’s all well and good and shit, but as someone who freestyled for a long time, it’s very important for me to write. I don’t like to do songs where I freestyle through it. Because it’s important for me to communicate and for that communication to have clarity. I don’t want to waste a line. So I don’t really like to freestyle my recorded songs. But when I first started writing, I would freestyle and try to write shit down, and it’s still kind of the same way, like you listen to the beat, you think about it and you’re kind of freestyling in your head, but you’re writing it down as you go. It definitely took me a lot of practice to really get it.

Because even now, I don’t feel like I have it mastered, but I’m in a better place where I can make sense of what’s in my head. Because with freestyling it’s just firing off words. But with writing a song, you’re trying to make sure the words you’re firing off makes sense. Because if we’re just freestyling I can be like, “Coffee, Toffee, bitch get off me.” You know, what I’m saying? And that’s just because I’m trying to keep rhyming. But when you make a song, you don’t want people to listen to it and go, “What the fuck is this guy talking about?”

BeatTips: For you, what do you feel more comfortable with, sample-based beats or non-sample based beats?
AmirSaysNothing: When a sample is involved, it feels good, it feels right. The thing about samples that makes something so much iller is that, once you touch a sample, like the Nas “The World is Yours” sample, nobody else wants to ever touch that sample. Like Pete Rock, “T.R.O.Y.” I don’t want to touch that sample. I love that sample. I don’t even want to freestyle over it. Because they made such a beautiful piece of music and it’s a part of the legacy of that sample now.

So I think that’s what’s dope about sampling, you can find a sample and you make something beautiful that everybody respects, now it’s becomes a thing where it’s almost like your thing. People are like, “That’s you. You did that sample.” People are going to hear the original record and they’re going to go, “Oh, that’s that AmirSaysNothing sample.” That’s what’s nice about it. But for me, as long as the beat is something with feeling that I can rap over, I don’t care if it’s samples or if you make it from scratch with just sounds. But there is definitely a nostalgia element to sample-based beats and that factor that it just feels good.

BeatTips: So you feel a difference when you’re recording?
AmirSaysNothing: It’s like this. Some beats you get and you’re really fucking excited about it. Some beats you get– Usually I won’t rap over a beat if I’m not excited about it, but there’s different levels of excitement. But I feel like the sample-based beats have brought out my most exciting ideas. I’m actually sitting on this sample-based beat right now that’s been one of my most challenging things to write because I haven’t written for like a month, and I’ve had the beat since the album came out. It was going to make the album, but I couldn’t get it done in time. And I love the beat so much that I haven’t really been able to write. I’ve been kind-of trying to let time work it out. Like I’ll write stuff here and there, but once I get the idea together, this song is going to be really fucking tight. And it’s because of that sample. It gives you a good feeling man. Like if I could rap with Gil-Scott Heron in the background, why would I not?

BeatTips: I hear you. Talk to me about some of your influences.
AmirSaysNothing: Well from the jump it’s A Tribe Called Quest. I always say that my top dudes were like Slug from Atmosphere, Guru from Gangstarr, Phife Dawg. Those are like the OG cats. Then of course like Outkast. Any of these groups that made ‘90s New York style-jazzy-like music, I love all of it. Like the Bush Babies, all that shit. Pete Rock is great. From new school cats I like dudes like Chance the Rapper, Action Bronson, Joey BadA$$.

But I mean, I’m always listening to old shit, like I was telling somebody the other day that I wish I was a better new music finder. Like, you know how there’s people who can just go on Soundcloud– My brother is like that. I was just with him a couple weeks ago and he’s playing all these random Soundcloud artists that no one has ever heard of. And I just wish that I had that skill, because I don’t. I have to listen to the same shit. Like, I keep the same five CD’s in the car.

BeatTips: What are those five CD’s?
AmirSaysNothing: Right now three of them are a mix, one of them is like a southern playlist to Cadillac music, and the other one is Action Bronson’s Mr. Wonderful album or Atmosphere’s You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having album.

BeatTips: How did Guru and Phife Dawg influence you?
AmirSaysNothing: The thing with Guru is that to me, he sounds like God when he talks. Like if I met God, I feel like that’s what God would sound like. Phife Dawg just has–I feel like people always gave Q-Tip mad love for being the smooth type of cat, and I guess I never felt like I was a smooth dude like that, so I didn’t necessarily lean towards that edge of the fence. And Phife Dawg has this like, “I’m the short, high-pitched dude with the sense of humor,” but to me he kind of stands out as being the better one. Because it’s almost like he’s working with less. It’s sort-of like, say a girl met both of them, you would assume that a girl would find Q-Tip attractive before she finds Phife attractive, but there’s something about Phife Dawg’s swagger that always made me feel like, “I feel more like that.” And obviously he had quotable lines for days.

BeatTips: What did you learn from your debut EP, Medium Rare that you applied to Employee of the Month?
AmirSaysNothing: For Medium Rare that was me trying to build some confidence. Because before that, I wasn’t sure how the world was going to perceive me doing this rap thing. So it’s like back then, I was trying to do it, but at the same time I’m nervous. And the EP was way more positively received than I ever thought it would be. I did like Shade45 and a bunch of shows, and I felt like, “Wow, this is crazy. This is music I made when I wasn’t really sure what I was trying to do.” But I just knew that I wanted to rap like this and I can do that.

So since that came out, I built some confidence. It’s like if you play sports and the first time you play basketball and you’re like, “Damn, I got dunked on?” Not even did I get dunked on, but I can’t even get near the rim. Then the next time you play, you’ve practiced a little bit more, and now you know for sure you can dunk. Then the next thing you know, you’re dunking on people. That’s kind of how I felt through this journey. You know, you listen to Employee of the Month and I’m like singing and shit. Like “Never Had a Problem” [Medium Rare], the hook is sung by me and Mina Knock. We’re both layered singing, but at the time when I made that, I wasn’t sure how it was going to sound. But it made me feel better to have his voice on top of mine.

And that song has been well received by people, which gave me the confidence to feel like I can go into this melodic-singing-rap type stuff, because apparently my voice doesn’t suck; maybe it sucks, but for some reason people like it. That’s why I feel like when you asked earlier, “Do I make music for me or for my listeners?” And it’s like how can you just make it for you, because making music is a relationship. It’s a relationship with your audience just as much as it’s a relationship with yourself. So it’s like, I have a relationship with the people who listen and they want a certain thing. And I’m not saying I’m out here just trying to give them what they want, but there’s a certain thing they’re enjoying and you have to listen to that and say, “Alright, so this is what you’re enjoying, then let’s see how far we can go with that. How can I expand, how can I build on that?” If you enjoyed this melodic-singing-hook thing, or the fact that I take time to write bars and to write actual rhymes instead of going into the booth and just mumbling through a record, then shit why would I abandon that? Because I get my own appreciation and validation from it. We all need each other, man.

BeatTips: One thing you said earlier that stuck out is you said, “You wanted to make music similar to the Roots and Black Thought, but at the same time you want to have that balance of making people move like Future.” So when it comes to the state of hip hop right now and we look at what music is popular, obviously trap and lean-sipping kind-of music, and you see that imbalance. What’s your take?
AmirSaysNothing: I think that imbalance isn’t good. It’s not good for anything to be imbalanced because then we’re not getting anything. Like I’ve watched interviews with old-head dudes and they feel like we’re in a dark age of hip hop. And those aren’t my feelings, but that’s what people have expressed. But I also think that sometimes the imbalance is good. Because let’s say like five years ago, I would’ve been closer to agreeing with that (old-head mentality). Like “No one’s rapping anymore, nobody’s rapping about shit.” I felt that way five years ago. But now, as I’ve started to look at it, there’s a lot of people that want to get more out of their music. But there’s a lot of artists with a lot of success that are bringing us back to the– Like the ‘90s is in a huge resurgence right now. From clothes to just samples. Have you heard Kamaiyah yet? You know, from Oakland?

BeatTips: Yeah, she actually just had a show with Jimi Tents that I went to.
AmirSaysNothing: You know Jimi Tents?

BeatTips: Yeah.
AmirSaysNothing: That’s cool. I don’t know him personally, but I have a friend of mine, Moxie (Moxie Raia) who’s on my album, and I know she’s worked with him. I never met him before, but I’ve heard of him, hopefully we will in the future, that’d be tight. But Kamaiyah has this song that’s sampling LL Cool J’s, “Loungin.” And the point is that she’s getting a lot of attention right now and the ‘90s in general is getting a resurgence and getting retroed right now. And as much as people want to be like, “Nah, that’s the old music, we don’t rap like that anymore.” That’s just one sect of the population talking. Because there’s this other sect of the population that wants more from their music. So that’s why oversaturation is good, but it’s bad.

BeatTips: So you feel like the oversaturation is covering up the fact that hip hop is about to shift back to what it once was?
AmirSaysNothing: I just mean that I would never say hip hop is in a bad place. I think that hip hop is in a place where it’s showing more potential in being more balanced. Because like I said, I do like Future and I saw Lil Yachty perform the other night and it was really tight. I thought Yachty really knew what he was doing. But there’s guys like Anderson .Paak that’s this soulful-gospel-like artist. And Chance the Rapper’s album Coloring Book, I loved that. It’s like dude, even if you don’t care for the music that much, it makes me happy to see someone in the mainstream music world making a gospel-rap album. Because that’s going out on a limb in general and that’s also not being another person to like just do what everybody else is doing.

I personally feel like at some point we’ve got to stop giving all these trophies away for people that are doing the same shit over and over. Like I’m 25 and you could maybe take my music and put it in 1998 and hopefully you would feel the same way about it that you feel today.

BeatTips: What do you think of our generation? Do you think our generation makes disposable music?
AmirSaysNothing: I think our generation is great. I think our generation is the furthest along that the world has ever been. I’m not one of those people that’s like, “Our generation is ruining everything.” Because I think our generation is great because of its ability to be open and want to learn. I just think that our generation has to stop killing each other. In the sense of, all that cliquey, you’re on that side of the fence, I’m on this side type shit, we dress like this, you dress like that, if you don’t have this many Instagram followers you not poppin’ type shit. All that shit has to stop. Because at the end of the day, we’re one of the most open and loving generations that has ever existed and we kill ourselves because we’re building our own little forms of classism within our freedom. Like don’t ruin the beautiful thing that we’ve created for ourselves. Because then it’s all bullshit. And I don’t want to see that. I want to see us continue to be open, love each other, and be able to learn from one another.

BeatTips: When it’s all said and done, what do you want to be known for pioneering?
AmirSaysNothing: Shit, I don’t know. I’m one of those people that believes that nobody really did anything first. But if there’s something I could say I want to add to, I want people to be able to see me and think to themselves, “I can be myself. Because that dude is himself. He’s not worried about all the other shit all these other people might be worried about, he’s freeing himself.” And that’s all I want people to do. It’s funny that you asked me that because I just opened my iPhone notes and the last thing I wrote a line that kind of has to do with that. It’s literally like the last thing I touched on last in my notepad.

BeatTips: What does the line say?
AmirSaysNothing: “Niggas wanna be like Drizzy, man be yourself. So a youngin’ could see you being you and still have wealth.” It’s not done yet, hopefully nobody steals that shit. And you know what it was, some of my friends was clowning another one of my friends who was in a picture. They were clowning him for looking like Drake in it and it just made me think like, “Ha, that’s funny. Everybody always wants to be like Drake.” And it’s like I just want to be myself, I don’t want to be like Drake. No shade towards Drake of course. [Laughing].

BeatTips: So what’s your take on New York and well, Cali rap since you’ve been out there?
AmirSaysNothing: I mean it’s cool, like you know even growing up, I don’t have the most traditional east coast accent, I never did. People used to ask me if I was from California before I even came here. I never used to understand and it used to actually piss me off. Because you know people use that as a way to take away from– like to say they’re more from the city than you are. So that used to piss me off. But at the end of the day, I used to listen to Souls of Mischief, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre. I’ve always loved a lot of the music that came out of here (Cali). It was fascinating to me. Maybe because it was just different, because I was on the east coast and there was nobody like Ice Cube. So it’s nice being here.

BeatTips: How do you feel about the music there now?
AmirSaysNothing: I like the music here. I had a show in Oakland the same weekend as Kamaiyah. And I didn’t get to make it to her show, but I made it to the venue. [Laughing]. But the spot was packed. Which made me wonder, “Who is this Kamaiyah chick? Let me check her out.” And the music is tight. I really like YG right now. You know how there’s this age-old argument about, “New York doesn’t support New York rappers,” and shit like that. It’s like that age old thing that goes on. And the thing I was telling someone the other day is, “I wish that the east coast, whether it’s New York or Massachusetts or Jersey– What’s good about the South is that the south embraces itself first.

Even my experience of being out here on the West coast, people love YG, people love Nipsey, that gang bang and hood shit from L.A. And I feel like part of that keeps the culture alive. Part of what happens a lot of times in the Northeast is that ever since boom bap and stuff faded out, there’s this cultural battle. Even guys like Joey Bada$$ don’t necessarily get the support from the East coast that a person like YG does from the West. And YG is making ‘90s reminiscent West coast music. They’re almost doing the exact thing. But the thing is that one is in a city that embraces them a little bit more. I feel like I get more embraced in L.A. than I might in New York. I’m not sure, but a lot of people in L.A. appreciate the sound that I bring. So that’s one thing that I appreciate about the culture out here.

BeatTips: What do you have coming next? Are you working on any projects?
AmirSaysNothing: Well right now, I’ve started writing the next thing. It’s too early to announce it, but I have started writing.

BeatTips: Is it a tape or an album?
AmirSaysNothing: I’m not sure actually. You know what I’ll probably do, now that I put so much into Employee of the Month, I’ll probably try and run some more series of EP’s, maybe a full-length mixtape, but I’m not completely sure at this moment. Because so much goes into an album, like when you use that word, it’s not meant to be used lightly. Like in my eyes, when you say an album, that means it’s got to be about some shit. But Mina (Mina Knock) and I are working on a project, I don’t want to give it away too soon, but we’re working on an EP that we’re probably going to try to put out sometime in the next year or so. I don’t really want to put a timetable on it, but that’s what’s being worked on. And you know, some more solo stuff for me. I’m trying to get some collabs going on as well.

BeatTips: Like with who?
AmirSaysNothing: Well, I’ve got one big name in the pocket, but we’ll wait on that one and we’ll see. Because nothing is for sure yet and I don’t want to jinx it. But the homie and I–when I was going to high school in North Carolina, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Lute, but he’s signed to Dreamville.

BeatTips: Yeah, I know of Lute.
AmirSaysNothing: Yeah, so we’ve been friends since high school and my friend Gabriel hit us both on Facebook like, “Oh, you guys need to do something together.” And so that like reconnected us, I sent him some music. Because you know we’ve both been doing our own thing separately and he’s signed to Dreamville, I mean, which is fucking awesome. So obviously if we can come together and do something then we’re going to try and do it. Be on the lookout for that.

BeatTips: You should try to work with Jimi (Jimi Tents).
AmirSaysNothing: Yeah, yeah definitely. That’d be dope. Once I meet him we can probably go from there. But I remember Slug from Atmosphere in an interview he said he doesn’t reach out to collab with people that they aren’t friends with already. And I kind-of feel like that’s something I agree with because I look up to them. But at the same time, I don’t want to be that dude– like I can call Lil Uzi Vert on the phone and pay him money to be on a song. But there’s nothing there, you didn’t make a memory, there’s no connection. So I want to meet people that I work with, you know? So I can be able to say, “That dude is cool. He’s always been looking out. Or I remember when you were doing this or that,” and then it’s like a memory in your friendship.

BeatTips: Do you have any shows coming up?
AmirSaysNothing: I actually have a show tomorrow. I’m rehearsing tonight. I’m performing with–I don’t know if you ever heard of Mac Lethal before, but this independent record company Rising Suns, they booked me for a couple of different shows. Like I did shows with Sage Francis, Abstract Rude, and Scarub from Living Legends and then this one is with Mac Lethal. He’s like an underground cat. I remember my homie played me his music back when I was like 16. And it’s always tight to me to do these shows where your life kind-of comes full-circle. That’s like a honor in itself to open for an artist I used to listen to. So that’s tomorrow at the Dragonfly in Hollywood and then I’m planning a release party for Employee of the Month. Just trying to get that whole thing together and make sure it’s as big as it can be.

BeatTips: Are you trying to do that anytime soon?
AmirSaysNothing: Yeah, yeah, I don’t want to give away a date until these venue situations are figured out, but it should be within the next three months. So that’s in the process, in addition to trying to set up some mini tours. I have some shows in Tacoma, Washington I’m trying to get together, trying to do something in Charlotte and New York if possible. Just trying to set some stuff up.

BeatTips: Where can we get Medium Rare and Employee of the Month?
AmirSaysNothing: Medium Rare you can get on iTunes and Spotify right at this moment. Employee of the Month right now is available to stream on Soundcloud and then you’ll be able to get it within the next month or so. Because I look at it like–you know it’s like getting married. I don’t want the first time you have sex with your wife to be after she becomes your wife. Like, I want you to be able to take her for a test before you get married.

BeatTips: That’s why you put it on Soundcloud first?
AmirSaysNothing: [Laughing]. Yeah, you get to drive before you buy. I’m a man of the people, I want my people to be happy.

AmirSaysNothing – ‘Employee of the Month’

AmirSaysNothing – “The Girl That Works Down The Street”

AmirSaysNothing – ‘Medium Rare’

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About Author

Amir Ali Said is Managing Editor at BeatTips. A writer, actor, and filmmaker from New York (now based in Paris), Amir is also the Co-Founder of Superchamp Books and Clock Theory. Follow him on Twitter at: @amiralisaid