Read the full interview on YoungCalifornia.com!
Raz Simone is no stranger to the rap game, or whatever unique, eclectic, genre you want to call it. Hailing from Seattle, real name Solomon Samuel Simone isn’t worried about the big check, he’s focused on delivering only the most real, powerful, authentic music — the same one his day ones fans flock to. Read more…
A couple months back, Raz unleashed his Closer album, home to standout single “Cloud.” If this record doesn’t explain his outlook on the industry, we’re not sure what will. At 28 years old, Raz is less worried about the politics and more about the impact he has on humanity. Now, he celebrates with a new album, his eighth album, called Drive Theory.
For those who don’t know, who is Raz Simone?
An artist, a father, a man. [laughs] A son, a person.
Where do you fit in the realm of hip-hop and R&B?
I’d say there’s definitely a little mixture. A lot of my music has folk elements, trap elements, poetry, and all that stuff. And then I sing, so it’s a good little comfortable mix.
You’re from Seattle, how does that play into your life and career?
Everything. There’s certainly experiences that I had out there and there’s things that I want to do for the city. Seattle doesn’t really have a nationally syndicated scene. It doesn’t have a structure, so I definitely want to be able to help bring money, opportunity, and resources that way.
How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
It’s important. There’s lots of people that you’d miss out on meeting if you didn’t come this way. LA’s always been like a second home. I have a bunch of family here as well, so that helps out for me. I come out here and crash with people in LA.
You’ve been in the game for a minute. Talk about journey from beginning to end.
I started when I was 14, out of complete ignorance. I didn’t know what a music studio was. I didn’t know how to make music or how people put it on CDs or anything. I went from that to being fully involved. I produce on every track of mine. I co-produce with people. I bring in live instruments sometimes when it’s needed. It’s been a journey. It’s one of those things where you don’t know what you don’t know until you need to know — ‘cause you don’t know. It’s a lot of hitting your head up against walls and figuring things out. Hopefully every day, I’m learning something new. I’m like, “Oh wow, it would have been cool to know that back then, but it wouldn’t have been the right time.” So it’s perfect now.
What were your biggest influences growing up?
My mom, the people around me, family members, my environment, things like that. That was what was what coming out with the poetry that I was writing at that point, then that turned into the music that I was writing. I wasn’t listening to other people, it was just whatever I was feeling. That was what was going down.
You just dropped your new album Drive Theory. What was the creative process and how long did it take you?
The project itself came together real quickly. I have some songs that are on there that I might have made years and years ago, and some that I made like a week back. It was just a real natural thing. It was dope because I was able to put some different little pieces in there, which is when all those extra things come in. I’ll listen and listen and be like, “Oh, I can hear some strings here. I can hear cello here.” I’m just having fun placing other things and sequencing. It’s pretty smooth.
What instruments do you play?
I mean, I touch on certain things. I used to play the alto saxophone, but for the most part, I’m coming up with melodies for people. Then I’ll have them play it.
I saw your tweet that you dropped 8 albums, which is crazy. What sets this project apart from the rest?
I hope it doesn’t set it apart, I want it to be a part of it. But it is different, so I feel like that’s what’s good, when it comes to a good story or sequel or something like that. The beats on here are super hard-hitting. They’re gritty — way, way grittier than the things to come. Way grittier than the last album. The last album was hard-hitting, but it was super melodic. It was kind of more of a melodic rap, trap-type mixture, with live music as well. In this one, it’s more of a symphonic, hip-hop, kind of dirty grungy-type feel.
You have a rare feature from Tory Ave, can you talk about working with him?
He’s good friends with one of my friends, so it was just one of those natural little moves. It was dope. I felt like it was a great little feel. It felt like a flashback to 2005 or 2008, like a 50 Cent-type feel or whatever. [laughs] Most people aren’t doing stuff like that, but it still felt right.
On “Hatred” you talk about being in the same studio as 2Pac. What’s his influence on your music?
He was the first artist that I’d listen to when I turned 14. People were telling me, “Hey, you’re rapping.” I’m like, “Nah, I’m just doing poetry.” They’re like, “Listen to this.” Then I was like, “Whoa, this guy sounds like me.” [laughs] That’s what it was. Seeing his intentions and seeing what he was trying to do, I felt like he had a great heart. It’s one of those things where it’s like, you’re seeing other people that are trying to do the same things that you’re doing — and when you’re getting things done, it’s an inspiration in that.
What is it that you want fans to get from your story?
I want my music to be a light in the darkness for people that are going through different things. I want to be able to help meet people were they are at and bring them somewhere. I just want to be something that’s an outlet. People can listen to my music and say whatever braggadocious things as positive affirmations, or listen to the other stuff by themselves on a car ride. Just to get their mind right, meditation and all that stuff. A lot of it is very calm, some of it is very hard-hitting — so you get the little mixture if you want to let some aggression out or if you need to just sit and think.
You’ve been signed to a couple labels. What is your take on the music industry?
I did a partnership with 300. That was cool because I was able to be like a fly on the wall, but I was still able to do my own stuff and put my music out on my own label and not have anyone involved with that. Right now, I’m linked in and doing some business with this Korean label, H1GHR Music.
Jay Park’s? Oh, Seattle! That makes so much sense.
Yeah. We actually have an album coming out.
You and Jay Park?
Yeah. He’s a really good friend.
That’s crazy, he’s one of the biggest K-Pop stars in the world.
Yeah, and he’s a great, great dude. I’m still independent but we’ve worked together and we’re getting things done, so that’s really dope. I’ve sat down with other labels. All these labels wanted to sign me at some point. Even random ones like Shady Records and all the main ones you could think of.
I feel like the label makes sense if you were trying to get past a certain plateau or a certain glass window, as far as fame and notoriety. But if your goal is to just make money or to get music out to fans, then you don’t need a label. If you want to change from being like a Tech N9ne or an earlier G-Eazy or one of those guys — because G-Eazy had all these fans for a while, but still he didn’t have the respect and the name. But he could sell out more than a lot of people. Same with Tech N9ne, he’s selling out everything, but he’s only been on TV like once. I was there with them. We were on tour.
Yeah, his debut for TV. I was on tour with their crew. It was like a party. Everybody was celebrating in the hotel and stuff.
How’d you link with them?
Because I was doing a show in his hometown in Kansas City. Here I am, rapping in the middle of a crowd and out of nowhere — when I was on the last verse, spitting my heart out — he walks up into the pit. Super random, he just walks over and shakes my hand while I’m rapping.
While on the mic?
While I’m rapping. I was like, “What the heck?” I’m in his hometown and he just shook my hand. It was definitely an experience.
Was it your headlining show or you were opening?
I was opening. That was a few years back. It was kind of magical — you’re in someone else’s hometown and it’s like a legend. But if Tech wanted to get to a certain place where he was all over the radio waves, playlists, BET, MTV, etc., then signing with the right type of label with the right type of deal could help get him past that place. But if he wants to just keep getting on to the Forbes list every year, making way more money than every other rapper and having way more fans — and just not having as much notoriety or fame — then keep on doing what he’s doing pretty much.
3 things you need in the studio?
I need space. [laughs] I need people to leave me alone. People always think, “Oh, studio session!” Like “bitches and drugs” and “it’s about to be lit!” Nah. I look at it like, if someone’s in the car for a driveby, why would you have an extra person there that’s not even shooting?
For me, if you’re in the studio and you’re not doing something, then I don’t need you there. Because then it’s just sucking energy. I’m kind of like a magical-type person. I think of things like energy and all that, so I don’t want people just sucking or just being there. Sometimes it’s cool when someone is just there and observing, and their energy is good and all that, but a lot of times, I’m introverted in a studio. I just want my own space to flush out my feelings and my ideas.
What about the two other things?
Kale and water. [laughs] Nah, some good food, water, and solitude.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
A lot of mess. Nah, I’d be pursuing real estate heavily, and certain things like that. Just businesses. I love the art of business as well. That is definitely fulfilling.
Favorite song to perform in a set?
“They’ll Speak,” and I also really like “So Far, So Far.” That was the one that Tech N9ne came up to me and shook my hand. That’s the one I’m talking about my son and all that.
How old is your son?
He’s 10 now. He’s almost a little man.
Is he going to follow in daddy’s footsteps and do music?
He likes to sing. My mom just got him this little piano, so he’s kind of into that. I didn’t want to push him in any kind of direction. I didn’t make him play any sports, I didn’t make him do any kind of boxing or any kind of singing — things that I do. But he’s coming around to certain things. Like the other day, he started having hoop dreams like crazy. [laughs] He started waking up early trying to play basketball [laughs] And the singing. So now it’s like, “Alright, now you can think about what you want to do. I’ll support you in most things.” But I just don’t want to push them in the direction that I was in.
What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?
I’ve had some crazy ones. One of my fans, Grant Watkins, he died. He actually got shot over two ounces of weed, somebody was trying to rob him. I’ve never met him, but I went back. He was a superfan. He had my picture as his banner and profile pictures. He’d be quoting my lyrics all the time throughout the day. All of his friends, family and everyone — there were hundreds of people that reached out to me. They all live in Carson City, Nevada. They were like, “Grant was such a huge fan. We want to let you know what happened. He would want you to know…”
He would just preach my music to everyone. He would be spreading it to everyone in the city so everyone knew about it. They said he was such a good person and he cared about everyone. What I did was I cancelled some of my plans and I flew back — I was in Belize. I flew back from Belize early to catch his memorial and to go perform out there in Carson City. I bought all the stuff out there.
When I walked in, his mom, his dad, and his girlfriend just started bursting out crying. It was kind of an out-of-body feeling and experience because when I walked in, they were all crying. They were looking at me and double-taking, saying that it felt like he was there, like he was in me. It was super weird because then you’re there for the rest of that. The duration, a couple hours or whatever, and people are feeling like their dead love is like with you. It was like a heavyweight. It sucked a lot of energy, but it was also very fulfilling seeing everyone coping with it and going through it, seeing how much love they had for him and for each other. It was heavy, but it was a good experience as well.
Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
Myself, because I’m trying to figure myself out. [laughs]