The Underachievers have returned with a refined message and a new sound for their upcoming album, After the Rain. The first taste of the project comes in the form of "Seven Letters," with an accompanying video directed by Camden Marco for Lean House Media that finds Issa Gold and AK the Savior delivering a powerful message about battling personal struggles and finding a solution to share with fans. The triumphant performance is rounded out with a soulful hook from KingJet and Brasstracks' signature production.
Complex hopped on the phone with the duo to talk about the meaning behind the "Seven Letters" video and linking up with Brasstracks to create their latest project, due out Nov. 2 via Slang Music. The Underachievers will be performing at Heavyfest in Worcester, Massachusetts Nov. 10. Tickets are available here.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
The most immediate thought that popped into my head was all the phones in the “Seven Letters” video. What do the phones symbolize?
Issa Gold: The phones are transferring through all the scenes, right? And all of the scenes are supposed to symbolize places where problems either happen or are discussed; the church, the barbershop, therapy. The song is about problems and getting through problems, so the phone is a symbolic thing that’s supposed to represent reaching out to express your problems, because a lot of people keep their problems internalized.
With “Seven Letters,” I feel like what you guys are telling fans is there are two roads you can go down if you have a problem. You can go down the path where you don’t really do anything to fix the problem, and it just lingers. Or you can step up and get past it. And you’re taking your own story and sharing it with people to be like, “Ok, there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
I: A thousand percent. In today’s world, we noticed there’s certain things that are plaguing our generation, like depression, addiction, suicide, anxiety, and a whole bunch of other things. I’ve heard about this type of stuff in school. A new psychology has to develop to understand how we’re interacting with the internet, you know what I mean? We’re like guinea pigs right now, we’re the first generation to actually be growing up inside the internet age. So a lot of things are going on inside this generation that’s never happened before.
It’s happened in different ways, but this is new to everyone. So it’s like seeing all of these things going on inside our generation, and in the world, and in ourselves, because we are a product of this world as well. But, I’m seeing that the expression that’s coming out through most of the kids, it’s like a negative approach to dealing with these angsts that are plaguing us with depression and suicide. Which isn’t bad; it’s that their expression is a lot darker. There’s darker music coming out, and that’s just the way that kids are expressing those emotions. We wanted to interject our way of getting over those things into the game, not opposing the dark approach, but as more of a positive way to get through these types of things. We were very transparent on the album with the problems that we’re going through, but we’re also trying to present ways to try and get through it instead of just dwelling in it, which I think is where our generation is right now. Like, “Let’s dwell and sulk inside of fucking depression,” instead of getting out. Which isn’t a bad thing, but we wanted to show a different way.
AK the Savior: It’s like an alternative route we’re presenting them. How we got away from our depression and our addiction. We’re sharing our point of view on how to get up out of there, instead of, like Issa said, just dwelling and taking drugs, or whatever the case is. There’s another way to get out of that.
I: We’re together trying to get through, in a sense. Not so much like, “We’re the leaders and let us tell you what you should [do].” It’s more like, “We’re trying to do this together. We’ll show you some shit as well.”
A: It’s more of a relatable project. We’re all on the same page with you guys, experiencing the same things, and this is how we got through it. That’s what we’re expressing on the project.
When did you have that revelation? Because you guys have talked about using drugs and that was a part of your creativity and experiences in life. But when did you make the decision to be like, “OK, we rap about that, but let’s taper off from those subjects and go deeper on something different.”
A: Like we said earlier, the whole industry is on some negative vibes shit, so I guess we just wanted to stray away from all of that and put that positive input and just a different way of looking at things.
I: I would say it started probably like two years ago, in terms of these ideas of what approach we should take. We tried to figure out what would be our new sound and how we wanted to approach talking to the fans now. We needed a new way of talking to the fans. Our fans being on drugs, we felt responsible, in a sense. I didn’t know how to approach it, or what would be the way to do it. And then when Brasstracks came along, OK, we know exactly what to do now. We knew that we wanted to change what we were saying. Not change it, but upgrade it.
A: I feel like the music we’re making now is a reflection of how we’re feeling right in this moment, too. This isn’t what we were doing like seven years ago with psychedelics. Now we’re dealing with our problems the way we deal with them now, so we’re expressing that new vibe to the fans to let them know what to do.
This project was produced by Brasstracks, who bring very melodic instrumentation and bright production. How did that come about?
A: We linked up with Brasstracks for one of their songs for their project with Robert Glasper. It’s called “Improv #1.” When we linked with them on that track, we saw how amazing the chemistry worked out and how the music sounded and we just wanted a project like that of our own with them. It just was natural.
I: It was mutual. Both sides wanted to make the project, but they had reached out to us. It was like, “Yo, why don’t we turn this into a project?” It wasn’t specifically us wanting their sound or anything like that. We didn’t call them up like, “Hey, we want to do an album.” It was a team effort.
You guys, along with Joey Badass and Flatbush Zombies, recently linked up for the Powers Pleasant “Pull Up” remix. Could we see the full strength of the Beast Coast coming together for a compilation project?
I: I mean, it’s possible.
A: It’s definitely possible, they the homies. We’ll see. [Laughs.]