'Honestly, I didn't have a grasp on what story I wanted to tell with the songs. I just lived life, naturally created, and at the end of it all I was able to see my own journey.'
HXRY x Evan Dale // Feb 2, 2019
Though his debut project, PIECE OF MIND was released earlier this year, Chicago's HXRY has been a figure of his local scene and beyond for years. With a foundation in production rooted in an early desire to make beats he could rap over, HXRY is the definition of a modernist with wide range, and PIECE OF MIND puts it all on display. A songwriter, a producer, a vocalist, and a rapper, HXRY's aesthetic comes together as a silky, experimental blend of his influences ranging from Chicago house, to 90's R&B, to 2000's hip-hop, to the wide world of the internet. A self described sponge, the myriad influence he's been exposed to through his life bleeds into everything he makes, leaving him the complex transcendentalist he is today.
Though early on in his career, his years of musical foundation make him a veteran more than a newcomer, and leave PIECE OF MIND just the first step in a long journey of musically rooted self-discovery.
RNGLDR: As an independent artist of the modern cloth, to what do you owe your success as an independent? What are the advantages that wouldn’t have been possible with an overseeing label? And what are some of the disadvantages?
HXRY: If I had a label behind me, I wouldn't have to worry about the cost of things but I would have to fight to be a priority, and right now I am very protective of that. Being independent, I can choose my story, my pacing, my audience, and sound, but that comes at the cost of doing it alone, which is hard as as hell. But, that can always be remedied with consistency.
RNGLDR: Your ability to churn out music from top-to-bottom; from production-to-vocalism-to-mastering, is largely owed to your foundation as a producer. How did years of music behind the curtain prepare you for an all-encompassing career as a multi-facetted artist contributing each and every aspect to your musicianship? And do you wish you would have made the jump to a fronting vocalist and lyricist sooner?
HXRY: When I first started producing it was because I needed beats to rap on and after that I discovered SoundCloud and found out hella people were doing flips and edits and I was inspired like crazy by what I heard. I said fuck rapping man, lol. I discovered Soulection, Gravez, Fortune, Drews that Dude, Sango and so many other people who were just killing it and I leaned heavy onto them during the early years of my production. Doing remixes as a producer taught me how to write songs better. I produce in FL studio (GANG!) and I see songs in grid format at this point because I've worked with so many different types of acapellas and song structures throughout the years. My job at this point is "how can i do this different?"
RNGLDR: For us – and we imagine, for a lot of people listening – your vocal ability is most surprising when considering how young your solo canon is. What role have vocalism and lyricism played throughout your life, even if you haven’t shared it publicly until recently?
HXRY: I grew up listening to rap and R&B. Moms used to clean the house in the morning blasting Mary J Blidge, disco, and Isley brothers. She really put me on. My mother grew up singing so I would often be around singers all of the time, but I never joined in cause my ass was always nervous. But, I started to get over that when I did choir in high school. It wasn't until after college when I went down to SXSW with some friends and met a really close homie of mine named Christian (S/O Chromonicci) who produced just like I did. He had showed me a secret singing project that he was working on and i was like daaaamn. That shit made me wanna go home and sing my heart out again, lol.
RNGLDR: Obviously, hip-hop is also a big influence in your sound. Even though your particular approach to music can’t really be defined by any one genre, your affinity for rapping is apparent. How has hip-hop influenced you as an artist? And who are some rappers that have been of particular influence in your music?
HXRY: Lil Wayne
RNGLDR: Being from Chicago, the influence of hip-hop, R&B, electronica, and the coalescence of all those foundational scenes in the form of you, an independent artist, feels like natural collection of roots. Are there particular Chicago-centric scenes that played a role in you becoming the wide-ranging artist you are today? Are there particular elements of Chicago outside of music that shaped your artistry? And who are some influential Chicago artists that grant a glimpse into the range of your music?
HXRY: First off, Kanye as an artist truly inspires me just by the fact that he is so transformative. Second, House music all day. But, It wasn't really the Chicago scene by itself that influenced my sound. More so, it was just being a sponge of all of the different kinds of music I was exposed to at an early age. I really mean it when I say that ,I thank my parents for putting me on, haha. My dad use to play rock, hiphop, & blues. My mother always supplies the R&B vibes. But, it wasn’t until i started linking with other producers on SoundCloud who had super electronic backgrounds that inspired me to keep experimenting.
RNGLDR: Having so much experience in collaboration due to your background as a producer, joint tracks seem to come easily to you. What does work with other artists offer you in terms of both comparing and contrasting your sound? And what do you learn about your own artistry when collaborating with others?
HXRY: I Love collaborating with others because it gets stressful relying on my brain to do everything all of the time, haha. What I like about collabing is that I can really get an understanding of my style and strengths because I have someone else to go off of, giving me a chance to try something new. Collabs most def keep things fresh for me.
RNGLDR: We’re especially fond of your collaboration with Aaliyah Allah, I’LL BE YOURS. What was it like working with such a talented vocalist and songwriter? And what do you the track says about the collaborative and independent nature of Chicago’s music scene at large?
HXRY: You mean Bae?! Haha nah, but fact : Aaliyah sent me her vocals for I'LL BE YOURS almost a year ago because she wanted me to produce an original song for her. I literally sat on the vocals for months because I didn’t know what to do with them. But, when I got around to producing it, I just heard how fire she sounded and I knew that I wanted to offer more to the track than just production. Chicago’s collaborative scene has gotten better over the years. People are so much nicer and don try to pretend to be above the collaborating scene.
RNGLDR: I’ll BE YOURS was taken from your debut project, PIECE OF MIND. First, we want to say congratulations on the release of such a wide-ranging, but cohesive collection. And second, we want to ask, how does it feel to finally have a debut project out there?
HXRY: Thank you so much. It means the world to me to be able to release a project. My ass struggled a long time trying to get myself to make one. I think because I was just doing it for the wrong reasons. When i started to see that I can help people with my music, things started clicking and even post drop, I'm hearing how this project effects people.
Ill never forget the morning it dropped, the very first thing I saw was a DM from this one guy. He said that he had heard PIECE OF MIND that morning and that it came at the right time because he had found himself tying a noose for himself prior to. He thanked me for saving his life. I followed up and was able to reach out to him via phone call and actually make a friend. At first, it scared me but then I thought, this is exactly why I put out this project: to heal and reflect because that's what I did.
RNGLDR: PIECE OF MIND is incredibly proficient in exploring your range. From slower, R&B nuanced tracks like BACK N’ FORTH & HOLD ON; A collaborative, emotional hit, I’LL BE YOURS; and more up-tempo, hip-hop adjacent tracks like MRFREEZE, it’s one of the most successfully telling EP’s we can remember. Was its stylistic progression on purpose? And how did such a wide-ranging project inhabit such a small space in time?
HXRY: Honestly, I didn't have a grasp on what story I wanted to tell with the songs. I just lived life, naturally created and at the end of it all I was able to see my own journey. I think that was dope as hell to see for myself.
RNGLDR: Attached to your release, you noted in length the struggles that came on the road to PIECE OF MIND where at times you felt lost and out of touch with your own artistry, and even began feeling detached from your music and anxious about it based on its reception. Can you give us a little more depth to the path of struggling to find your sound, accepting it, embracing it, and how you’ll approach music moving forward based on what you’ve learned from it all?
HXRY: I started to get older and realized that I never TRULY believed in myself. I always liked to think I did, but I was dependent on everything other than myself and it wasn't fair to me because I wanted to grow. I wanted to live a life where I wasn't so insecure, where i'm not worried about how i look, or how many streams or how much attention i'm getting. It always seemed so far away, but that was only because I was afraid to go there with myself. But, I knew when i did, it was going to be a lot of work. So, I took time away from music and just lived. I was able to get peace and stability with so many things in my life and i feel amazing about it. Everything feels natural now and I feel like I can do anything.
RNGLDR: On the subject of moving forward, moving forward?
HXRY: Shows, videos, and more music. Got some crazy shit coming. Stay peachy...