The Come Up: Andy Mineo
Andy Mineo is probably not on your radar, and he’s looking to figure out why. “Many publications and outlets haven’t had too much rapport on us. I also think that some of it is probably some of my faith,” says Mineo. “It’s kind of like don’t touch with the hip-hop culture. I think the hip-hop culture is sometimes afraid to engage. It’s probably some fear to engage because they don’t mix.”
Whatever the reason may be, numbers don’t lie. The 25-year-old signed to Lecrae’s Reach Records has seen chart-topping success for Heroes For Sale, his first studio album, and the recently released EP Never Land, which occupied the No. 1 spot on the iTunes sales chart. The NYC-bred rapper delivers an eclectic sound—often mixing boom-bap rap, rock, and pop into one listen. Simply put, Mineo isn’t the stereotypical “Christian rapper” per say, as many critics have boxed him into. He’s been out to gain rap respect through his love for hip-hop and the message he intends to deliver with his music.
After years of an indie grind, Andy’s hunger to become a bigger rap star grows by the day. So, we had to find out why we’ve been sleeping on him all this time. Here, Andy speaks on linking up with Lecrae, how his music relates to everyone, what separates himself from other New York rappers and more. Get to know Andy Mineo in The Come Up.—Eric Diep
On getting into rap and meeting Lecrae:
Andy Mineo: For me, it was me and my best friend Ryan. We used to breakdance. We bought the CD singles because we couldn’t buy the full-length album. We didn’t have enough money. On the CD singles, it’s the instrumentals. When we get done breakdancing on the cardboard. We’d take out markers and start writing on the cardboard while the instrumental would play. We started writing like that and we started creating parodies of songs. We started recording ourselves in little computer microphones. Slowly, but surely over time, I used my birthday money to pick up more pieces of equipment. I learned more about myself until I built a full-blown studio in my basement in high school, which I recorded myself and some other people. Kind of turned it into a business. Started recording everybody in my city, in Syracuse. I became the recording engineer. I got really good at recording and mixing. Went to college for it. Then in college, I was really looking into solo stuff and I did a song called “In My City.” That got a ton of views on YouTube and it made its way to Lecrae.
My boy Alex Medina who is the Art Director now at Reach Records. We were boys. He was kind of putting the bug in Lecrae’s ear. Me and Lecrae connected. I did a chorus for him, a song called “Background.” It’s got like five million views on YouTube. It’s a really big song for him. Did that record with him and we just started dialoging. We realized that we were made of the same fabric. We both had a strong desire to create good music. High emphasis on art. High emphasis on communicating what we are most passionate about, which was serving people and helping people and giving hope to people through the message. That's when we really started connecting.
On the message in his music:
[Lecrae and I] have a similar message. We want to help people. We want to offer another route. Another perspective. I feel like hip-hop right now is driving the same message of sex, drugs, happiness at whatever cost, F-you I’m the man, stepping on your back where I gotta go. We are trying to come in--and not to bash anybody who talks like that--they are talking about what they know, what they experienced. We want to share what we know and what we experienced. And that’s relating with people. Relating with people in a way so we can see the full version of who we are and how we live out our faith day-to-day. And how that affects every decision that we make.
Sometimes I try to stay away from the title Christian rapper just because I feel like there’s a lot of stigmas that come around to it. Not that I am ashamed to be called a Christian in any sense, but sometimes the stigmas that come along with it can keep people away from the music at large because say they had a bad experience with Christianity up to this point. They could put all those projections on to me, on to my music and not give my music a chance.
You got guys trying to sell miracle healing clothes and you think, “Man, that’s probably all Christians” and it’s not. In our music, the message is: “It’s not pointing the figure at you, saying, get your life right.” More times, we are pointing at ourselves and saying, “Man, even though I messed up, I’m faulty. I’m broken. I’m sinful. God still loves me and he’s coming after me and he’s trying to change me.” And he’s changing me through transforming grace. We found forgiveness and that allows us to forgive other people. That allows us to love our enemies. That allows us to serve the disenfranchised and the disheartened to love and care for the people in this world that don’t get that attention. I think our message is hope. In my music, there’s a lot of honesty about my own brokeness, about my own jacked up-ness. I think people just relate to that. That’s why they hear a song and like “Man, you missed up like that? You blow it like that?” Dang, God really loves us that much? God really forgives that much? It’s a message of hope. It’s a message of grace.
On his influences:
I was into underground, backpack, battle rap hip-hop, which was like Canibus. I was listening to Copywrite. I was listening to J-Zone. I was listening to million artists. Like spitters. All the greats: Nas, Eminem, Biggie, Tupac, all those guys. But, then I had this side of me that loved R&B so I was picking up Usher. Jagged Edge and stuff like that. So I am listening to R&B. And then my brother was listening to heavy metal. So he was putting me on Pantera. I was listening to Rage Against The Machine. I was listening to all that stuff. So then, it kind of all mixed together and I think that’s why I have such an eclectic sound.
If you listen to my album Heroes For Sale, I got “Caught Dreaming” where I am singing on there. Some R&B stuff. If you listen to “Super Human,” it’s like me rapping boom-bap, hip-hop, cocky. I’m rapping hip-hop, New York. Bars all day. And the record “Cocky,” that’s the one I reference. And then on “Wild Things,” it sounds like Pantera. Heavy metal meets 808s and trap snares. So there’s a real eclectic sound I have so that’s why my appeal has grown so quickly cause when you put one of my CDs--Heroes For Sales and Never Land--you are gonna find something you like no matter where you are in your life. My influences are all over the place.
On separating himself from other New York rappers:
Big shout out to Action Bronson and A$AP Rocky and all the other rappers in New York because I like what they are doing and they are artistically gifted. I think what might separate me is probably my versatility. This isn’t to say that anybody else doesn’t, but I feel like I have the full package when it comes to artwork, music videos, live performances. My music is versatile. I think all those things are working in my favor. I’m the guy who sweats whether or not I am going to have the tag on my merchandise. An extra tag that says 1-1-6 on it at the merch table. I’m the guy that’s really attention-to-detail and I feel my music is multicultural and it just kind of transcends.
I also think my music--we don’t need an edit version of it. I think it’s able to get into more people’s hands more quickly. A mom or some dude is bumping my record in my neighborhood. He selling weed and I saw him on my block. I’m like, “Yo,what’s up?” “Yo, I love that ish.” You know what I am saying? He loves it. And then I am able to put it in a car with my mom and her four kids and she’s driving around. I think my music transcends just one group of people. And it can get to the hands of a lot of listeners.
On his statements that some Christian rap is "corny":
I think the reason why people were offended by those statements was because if not put in the proper context, it can sound really arrogant. Everyone else’s music is bad and mine isn’t. That wasn’t my heart in it. I think what I was trying to do in the original interview when I said that was trying to relate with the interviewer or listener. If you have an experience with Christian art in the past and it wasn’t good. I understand. I’ve also seen that sometimes it is not good. But, what I was ultimately saying, just don’t write it off. Give it a chance.
So that’s what I was trying to say, but it did sound like [at] first [to] some people, “Man, I was disrespecting people who laid the groundwork before me. Who influenced me and who I love.” And so, I feel like every genre of music has a majority of corny artists. Out of everybody that wants to be an artist, how many actually make it? It’s not just to say Christian artists are wack. In my opinion, I could name twenty dudes who can hang with anybody in XXL Magazine. I’d put money on it. Like, bar for bar. Production for production. Like that. I know dudes that are nice. And they are believers too. I think no matter what genre of music you go into, there’s going to be a lot less people who are successful because they are not as talented or not as fortunate. I think that transcends “Christian rap.” It goes in every genre.
On what's next:
I just put out the Never Land EP. I just got off tour. We just did 22 cities over the course of seven weeks and I just got home. So my next thing is I am going to take a trip to Japan and start working on my new album. When I come back from that, I am going to Argentina and I am going to do some mission’s work there. And just serve the people in Argentina for a couple of weeks. Just take off of music all together. And then, I’m gonna get ready for the summer which is a lot of traveling. Potential tour. That’s up in the air right now. I have a music video for “You Can’t Stop Me,” one of the singles off Never Land. I’m planning for my own headline tour late this year or 2015.