Meet Cantrell, the newest artist to sign to Nas’ Mass Appeal imprint. Hailing from Albany, Georgia, not to be confused with Atlanta but close enough to reap the benefits, the rising MC is a testimony for anybody with a dream. Read more…
Growing up as a kid skating throughout high school and even getting a scholarship to play college football, real name Steve Cantrell followed his heart and what felt right, which was hip-hop. With his recent Stardust 2 Angels EP, he flexes his ability to spit real shit while catering to this new generation of trap.
Plus, he’s got the Nasir cosign.
For those who don’t know, who is Cantrell?
Cantrell is a dude from Albany, a small town in south Georgia. Was raised in a single parent home. Had a lot of dreams and wanted to chase them all, but just had to figure my way through.
Where do you fit in the realm of hip-hop and R&B?
I feel like I’m a bridge to the gap. I came up in a time where I saw the shift from the Golden era to the Bubblegum era, and I also saw it shift back to the place where we are in now. I’m a good bridge to the gap as far as generations. I can understand the new generation and connect with them, but I can also make the first generation proud.
You’re from Albany, how does that play into your life and career?
It’s a certain thing you have when you’re from Albany. It’s a certain feel that you can’t explain you have when you’re from somewhere like Albany or the 229 area. I know you probably have no clue what I’m talking about…
I mean, I love Atlanta. How far is it from Atlanta?
It’s like 2.5 hours south. Put it like this, Albany on a general scale is like taking Atlanta and cutting it into eighths or sixteenths, and just pick one up. It’s pretty similar in some ways, but we have our own flavor at the same time. It’s just a sense of pride we have being from a small town, like small town pride.
Are there any rappers from that town specifically?
Field Mob, I think they’re the only ones that made it out. Of course, we had our hometown heroes.
How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
It’s important for up and coming artists to see new places period. Go to LA, go to Atlanta, go to New York, go to larger markets and just see something different. Especially if you’re from a small town like I am. The industry is in all those places. Atlanta is running things right now musically, but there’s clearly so much out here that you can do to better your career. Just get out and see things period.
At what point did you realize this rap thing was forreal?
When I figured out life was for real. [laughs] When life started hitting me, I figured it out. I was like “oh snap.” Trying to do both at the same time, that work life balance. When life hit me on the face, I was like “aight, bet, okay. I see what’s going on here.”
Is Cantrell your real name?
Yeah, it’s my last name.
What was the decision to go with your real name?
Well, I used to go by my whole government name, Steve Cantrell. We decided to take off my first name to symbolize removing sense of self, to accept a greater cause. As far as all the Cantrell’s in my family, now I represent a whole thing. It starts with me. It starts with my family representing something. I just project that outward and now I can represent hip-hop. I can represent the culture. Hopefully one day, I can represent the world.
“Keep Yappin” is a slap. Talk about “going broke to going global.”
We always rich in spirit. [laughs] I think that’s the goal and will always be the goal, no matter how much monetary value we may accumulate along the way. It’s always going to be the goal. It’s a mindset, more than anything. Just that dirt, that get it out the mud mentality. Just keeping that with you and letting it serve as a reminder to stay grounded and keep moving, but also keep the bigger picture in mind.
I love your music video for “Mo Time.” Talk about your relationship with the ladies.
Aw man, I love ladies and ladies love me. We get along very, very, very well. We understand each other.
What is it you want fans to get from your story?
That you don’t need permission to chase dreams. You don’t need permission to dream. You don’t need permission to go out there and work. Whether it’s school, trying to move up in a company, or chasing the wildest dream you ever had, you don’t need nobody permission to do it. You got everything you need to do if you go out on the journey and jump out on that limb.
Talk about signing to Mass Appeal and your journey thus far.
Signing with Mass Appeal felt right. For one, they care about each other in that building and it’s clear they work hard. I feel any time you have a building of — and I’m sure you can attest to this — a building of people that care about you and your well-being, and each other, and they’re diligent, the sky isn’t even the limit. The other thing, it just feels good to be around a group of people that can push me artistically, and push MiSCHiEF BOY, my producer. That roster is stacked and we’re blessed to be a part of it. That’s what you want, iron sharpens iron. It’s just good company to be in.
Any convos with Nas?
I wouldn’t say we had a convo, but we did get a chance to meet him. MiSCHiEF BOY and I both. By the way, Mischief Boy produced the entire thing. He’s the executive producer too, and we tagged team the creative direction and all that. We got a chance to meet him and he was just like, “Yeah, I fucks with it.”
But this is when I really knew, because the encounter was simple. It was quick and we were just chillin’ really. We played some other music and he was like, “Yeah, I see it.” But he told my momma. They caught each other in the hallway, he was like, “Yo, I just wanted to let you know, that your son is extremely talented.”
I just got chills.
He didn’t say it in front of us, he was just chilling. You can imagine how he is. He was just kickin’ it. We was all just kickin’ it in the studio, that was our first encounter just to meet him.
I would’ve been flattered.
Oh, I was stuck. When we first met in the hallway, Max you remember that? [speaks to Max] We were stuck. We were just like, “Yo, pleasure to meet you.” [claps hand] And I don’t even know if I said that! I could feel my mouth moving, but I don’t know if anything came out. He’s very observant, that’s what I got from him. Because I was talking to someone else, Max was talking to him and Peter, and he was just kind of reading the room. Like how do these two guys talk, how do they speak, how do they move in the room, and then everything kind of leveled out. Then he caught my momma. I was like, “Are you serious? You lying to me? Momma, don’t be lying to your kids.” [laughs]
What is your take on the music industry?
It’s interesting. I think you have to tough skin and you have to be focused. If you’re tough skinned and you’re focused, and you put good people around you, the music industry can be great. If you don’t have tough skin, or you don’t work hard or work smart, and you don’t have a solid team, then it’s probably going to suck.
What did you do with your first advance?
Save as much of it as possible. [laughs] They can tell you, I ain’t been trying to buy no t-shirts, no socks, I ain’t bought no new draws. I don’t know, I guess that part is interesting.
I’m the same way, I save everything.
I’m just trying to be careful, you never know. Just helping my mom out as much as I can with what we do have.
What’s a normal day in the life? Walk us through.
I’m pretty reclusive. I don’t know, what would you say? [speaks to Max]
Max: We wake at 9am and pretty much back to back stuff from 9am until 7pm, and then studio 7pm until whenever. And then do it again.
That’s when we’re in this space. But when we’re not in this run, I wake up and say my prayers. I pray through the day also. I’m just looking to be better. I do little stuff to be better. I listen to music all day. I’m studying all day. Studying artists and brands, writing, doing whatever I can get my hands on to be creative and to be better, as a person and artist. I’m boring I guess.
Who are you studying?
Right now, I’m studying people. I’m studying what people like and don’t like, whether it’s food, the small things. I’m people-watching online, seeing what they like, what they enjoy, what they don’t, how they take to certain things. Not just music though. If you study enough about the small nuances, you can figure out how to move musically with them too. I’m just studying people right now, more than anything. Before, it was David Ruffin and Prince for the last year. I was just really digging them two.
3 things you need in the studio?
1) Water. 2) Good energy, positive energy. It doesn’t have to be super exciting, just energy you can just feel. Energy is one of those tangible, intangible things. 3) Space to think. Space to be free. Space to give myself permission, to just be.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
The first thing that came to my mind was marketing, but I want to go somewhere way over. Actually, I’ll say this. If I wasn’t doing music, I’d probably be doing Forensic Investigation.
You watch those crime shows and everything?
I have some favorites, because I’m really in it. I went to school for Criminal Justice, so some of the shows I’m like “come on.” I do have some favorites that I’m really deep into.
What are you watching?
Criminal Minds is my favorite, because that’s what I’m into. I guess that’s why I people study. I’m into the mind of people and how they work, and what makes them tick.
Can you read me right now? [laughs]
I wasn’t trying, I’m sorry. [laughs] I wasn’t trying at all.
It’s okay! I was just wondering.
I feel like you’re pretty free, free-flowing. You probably lean into things rather than leaning against them just from picking up from your vibe, off top. Am I right? I know it’s super general.
Yeah, that’s dope. Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
The most played artist on my phone?You can totally check if you want. Is there a stat on my phone to figure that out? [pulls up Apple Music]
[looks at phone] Arin Ray is the homie. The Weeknd.
Jonathan McReynolds stays up there. Everything else kind of just moves.
Someone told me to listen to Aminé’s new album. I haven’t gotten there.
I like it. It’s interesting. I guess from a creative standpoint, he picked up things going on but he attacked them from his own different angles and with his own flavors. I thought it was dope. Everything else kind of switches up, but Jonathan McReynolds right now is probably the most played. Him and Arin Ray.
What advice to you have for an inspiring Cantrell?
Be bold, be yourself, work hard, work smart, put good people around you, and accept both the hills and the valleys. Because you’re going to go through some things in your low points that you will need, like tokens, for when you get to the top of your next hill. And if you skip that experience… you can’t. Just accept your hills and your valleys. Just keep going. Don’t give up, and don’t need permission. That’s it.