So, since you left, what did you embark on? I’m sure you have a team now.
Actually, I’m my own manager. The biggest part of my team is Cara Lewis at CAA. She’s my agent and she has been basically for two years. She took me on when nobody really cared. She liked me, and she saw potential. She put me on shows with B.o.B and Cee-Lo. I was like, “This is nice, and this is good.” My booking rate just doubled ’cause I was with Cara Lewis. Now, I’m actually paying her back, selling out shows and shit.
Is that your main bread and butter right now? Shows?
Well, it was, until All American. All American was the first time I ever put anything on sale. Everything had been free mixtapes, singles, and when I put All American on sale, it did way better than we thought.
It was number 10 on the Billboard charts, right?
It was number 10, and we did 30,000 units first week.
How do you think that came about?
What I do, and my connection with [my fans], it’s real. You can’t really fake the amount of time I’ve put in with them, in terms of their desire to spend money on my EP even though it’s the only shit they’ve ever spent money on. It’s sort of the same thing as I’m sure Macklemore experienced, you know? People really appreciate that this artist exists and they’re part of their life and they want to make them get acknowledged and recognized. In my opinion, the reason why that whole thing took off was that fans immediately bought it and it hit number one and iTunes was like, “What is this? Let’s feature this.” Enough people liked it and became new fans from there. It just grows. I’m up to 80,000 albums now, which is a lot, considering I have roughly 250,000 real fans.
Tell me about Crew Cuts.
It’s my giving back project. It’s the first project I’ve done that has a lot of features. Most of my mixtapes are completely myself for 12 songs. This has my homies I’ve always wanted to work with and new producers. The reason I call it Crew Cuts is because it wouldn’t have been possible without the whole crew coming together. Same thing goes for the fans. Without them it wouldn’t be possible. It’s a project to say thank you for buying my last shit. Here’s a free album. That’s like the hip-hop model, man. If you abandon that, then you’re a pop artist. And if you’re only doing that, then you’re a mixtape artist. It’s good to be able to do both. I’m glad that people will buy my shit and I’m glad that people will download my shit for free, too.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but there’s been a huge spawn of YouTube rap stars. You guys have utilized social media more so than mainstream industry artists and were able to succeed without the support of major labels. Where do you see this going?
I think that major labels think that there’s a ceiling on what we do. If you come from this, you can do pretty well and make a career for yourself, but there’s like a glass ceiling. Truly, Macklemore just broke through it, he just kind of said, “Nah, that’s not true and I’m going to have the number one song in the country right now.” Seeing that helped me refocus and know that what I’m doing is right. There isn’t a ceiling. You can take it as far as you want and that’s why I’m so committed to being the next person that will have that number one album independently in the country. It’s there for the taking, it exists and it’s possible. It seems like every time it happens, people are still surprised, which is funny. It’s grassroots meets social media where there’s really these rabid people out there who love you and if they’re loud enough, if the music’s good, they’ll catch on. I think it’s only going to continue. They’re sort of two different worlds. They coexist now.
Your music has mass appeal. I could hear your music on the radio, targeting the “golden audience,” also known as the 12 though 16-year-old Caucasian girls from the suburbs.
I hope so. They show up to the concerts. It’s there. It exists, but at the same time, there are some barriers.
What would you say those barriers are?
If you’re working with an independent radio team, radio’s in line with major label staff. That’s whom they do business with and that’s whom they know. It’s always an uphill battle, but there are so many people who have done it. When Drake was starting out, those songs that broke through, he kind of did that independently. Everyone was talking about it so much that off the strength of that, he was able to make it happen. So, it exists. That’s my motivation.
I guess your song content, like you said, is very relatable because it’s shit that probably, most of the real rap audience actually lives through.
I know for a lot of people that rap is supposed to be very fantastical and it’s supposed to be about something that you’re not living, which is cool, but for me, I’ve just decided to do something that’s more true for me. It’s the only way I know how to do it. There’s an audience for it. There’s definitely people who fuck with it and relate to it and get it. I think both coexist.