How important is it to you to constantly reinvent yourself?
I try to do it every day. We all evolve. That’s not specific to me. It’s something I don’t fight—like, “Oh well, that might be too much.” And then you look up and a dude walks past and he’s done it. The universe is going to continue to evolve, and the ultimate feat in that experience is the perspective of awareness. It’s only when you deny yourself those gut feelings that the universe taps you on the shoulder like, “Yo, told you….”
People do reinvent themselves, but your reinvention seems so methodical.
It’s totally not. I just listen. I watch the signs and I listen. Other than that, this is not engineered—maybe by God, maybe by the universe, but not me. I was having a conversation with Justin Bieber about zodiac signs, and he was like, “I don’t get it. I don’t get why just because I’m a Pisces it means that all Pisces think like me?” And I said, “The zodiac signs only tell you what your tendencies may be, but if you look, most of them are there.” He was like, “So this person is a Gemini, and they complain about getting up in the morning, too.” And I was like, “It’s a little more subtle than that.”
I used to say, “I’m super lucky.” Teddy Riley built his studio five minutes from my high school, and now when I go to New York I’m like, “Who the fuck goes to Virginia?” I know who goes to Virginia. He went to Virginia, and he went for a specific reason. I’m not going to say what that reason is for me. But I know I was meant to be affected by his decision. So I know it wasn’t an accident and it wasn’t a mistake. He built a studio a five-minute walk from me. I could be completely wrong. God could be upstairs high-fiving E.T. and Tupac and they’re all laughing at it with a drink in their hands. But you asked me that question, now I’m going to ask you: Do you think there’s a method?
I do. I think that most people think about it more than you do. And it’s hard for them to understand how you don’t think about it.
That’s right. That’s completely right.
People want to know the exact moment when you’re like, “I’m going to pick this marker up and draw on my Timbs and it’s going to be a thing.”
I don’t question it. I sketched all over my boots like we did when we were kids—there was nothing smart or clever about it. You didn’t do that in high school? Of course you wrote on your pants. I’m a kid! So I just keep doing the shit I feel like I can do. By the way, there are times where I’m wrong as shit, and we all laugh together. You laugh having no idea that I’m somewhere else rolling around on the floor like, “Oh, my God, what a fucking mistake, it was hilarious….” But, you gotta be willing to do that. That’s the only thing you gotta do: Be unafraid to fail. You’ll be so thankful when you win. I make music and I make my decisions the same way. It’s all malleable for that one second that you’re able to have it, and then that second’s gone. You can go back and touch it in your mind. But in the physical, in the third dimension, you cannot.
Even that explanation is not how most people think.
I realized that the more opportunities I was being given the more I was setting myself free. In high school, as fun as it is, it’s like captivity. It’s where you got to choose your uniform. You’re either going to be a jock, a techie, a skater, a hustler, a ho, a music enthusiast—but you had to choose, and I never did. And I paid for it. That’s when you get called weird. I got called “Oreo” as a kid because I was black, but I hung with white boys and skated. I had black friends, and I noticed they were into the same things but a lot of them still chose a lane. You can’t fault me because my friends were teaching me what an ollie was and I was dropping in on a mini half-pipe, listening to Suicidal Tendencies and Dead Kennedys. It went from English punk into metal and then we watched it go into the Seattle sound. Hair bands to the Seattle sound and then it just kept going. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Benjamins” were the shit to me. Puffy was a rock star. He was a black rock star. He was liberating himself and setting himself free and didn’t give a fuck what anybody thought about it and you can feel that in the music. You feel that Kurt was going through some shit, and literally centered in on something and found his fulcrum when he put out “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” It was two different times, those were moments where two different groups of people from different cultures liberated themselves and did not give a fuck what anyone else had to say. The universe responded accordingly. So as a teenager, that’s what I was.
Those worlds collided for you.
I was a maverick. I never belonged to anything, and while I would love to sit here and act like it was all on purpose, the only way I could ever make sense of that is because I continued to be like, “Fuck it.” Nobody fucked with me anyway. I had friends, I wasn’t hated or anything, and I wasn’t totally picked on. Like, I wasn’t getting bullied and shit—I got my ass beat a couple of times, but that’s because I joked. That was the only thing I could do. We didn’t have all the money in the world, so that was my defense, to joke. Sometimes that shit landed me with my ass getting beat. I always had this “I ain’t got nothing to lose” attitude. Because I didn’t have much. The confidence to go out and march to the beat of my own drum was a lot. But as a child, I didn’t know that was a lot. No matter what my mom told me about being different and special, you go to high school and realize you got to pick a team. And because I didn’t belong to one, it was, “I’m going to do this, fuck it.” So when I was given the opportunity to write Teddy’s verse for “Rump Shaker,” it was like, “Alright, fuck it.” And then as we continued, continued, and continued, it just kept going. I’m basically operating like I did in high school, but in high school when I was given these opportunities, I was like, “Certainly this isn’t going to last forever.” Chad and I just continued and it’s landed me here.