‘Humble But Hungry’ isn’t only the name of Hi-Rez’ latest project, it’s three words that define who he is as a both a person and artist. Growing up on the East Coast and relocated to Los Angeles two years ago, the “3 Ft Tall” rapper embodies everything hip-hop originated on: bars, punchlines, clever wordplay, and lyrics with substance over hard-hitting production. Read more…
Coming back to the States from his European tour overseas, Hi-Rez is motivated to go harder than ever. With his latest project, the 24-year-old brings an authentic voice for the people to relate and look up to. Whether it’s a pick-me-up from a bad day or overall hope for greatness in one’s life, Hi-Rez makes sure you are strapped in for all life has to offer.
For those who don’t know, who is Hi-Rez?
Hi-Rez is — I hope people think — a nice human being. I like to embody just being honest and connecting with fans. Humility. I’m just a regular human. That’s why so many things have gone right and wrong for me in life, because I’m just super regular. So many people (especially in music) have overlooked me and I’ve missed out on certain things, which I found out was a blessing later on. Because I’m just like my fans. I am my fans. I am the people who listen to my stuff. I am the consumer, I just turned it into a job.
Where do you fit in the realm of hip-hop and R&B?
I’m young, but I’ve been doing it since I was 15. I was signed to Sony RED when I was 16. I started super underground, like real boom bap stuff, pushing the limits and really challenging myself. Currently, I’d like to think I sit in a mesh of everything: pop, electronic, rap, hip-hop, really a blend of everything. All my fans compare me now to people like MGK, G-Eazy, Logic. I love all the comparisons.
I used to hate it when I was young, because I was just like, “I’m me!” Then I realized the older you get, comparisons mean it’s lucrative. It means it’s money, and that they like your shit. Especially when they’re comparing me to more successful artists than me. Whatever you want to call that group, I’m categorized with those people.
You were born in New York and raised in Florida. How do both places play into your life and career?
I’m from the Bronx, so the boom bap got me into the real rap. Then I moved to Florida, and that really got me into a bounce and more Southern stuff. I listen to the Texas shit, I listen to the Florida shit. People like Trick Daddy, Ace Hood, even Pitbull when he was really rapping. New York kind of birthed me with what hip-hop is about, but Florida raised me.
How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
The resources out here are totally different than Florida. From New York to Florida, I did that. I feel like I reached a certain ceiling in my world. Obviously not in a mainstream capacity, but I reached a certain level. I did the shows, I met the people, I went to the studios, I did what I could do in my small area. I feel like LA is the last thing I have to do. There’s so many different resources out here between videography or even the landscape. We talk about that all the time, pictures were just so flat and boring in Florida. Everything just looks good here. You could just step outside and there’s a fucking mountain.
For an up and comer, it’s super important. I think there’s a misconception of people coming out here and thinking things will change. You need to have a solid foundation, which I’d like to think I’ve built in the last decade of doing it. Then you come out here and it’s like, “Okay, I’m not relying on anyone for anything.” Everything is extra.
What’s your favorite part of the city?
I love sushi. I eat Katsuya like 3x a week. All I eat is Thai and Chinese.
At what point did you realize this music thing was forreal?
I had hoped forever it was real, just from a dreamer standpoint. When I was 13, I was like “this is real.” A long time ago, I did a super duper viral Mcdonalds rap. That was the first time I got a corporate check. That was the first time people around me (like my family) started taking it seriously. I always saw it, but I kind of fed off the energy like “now that they see it, I see it even more.”
You’ve been in the game for nearly a decade. How has your sound evolved?
I have a whole new formula with creating. Just the writing process, it changes every project. I don’t know why, I don’t go into it like “this is what I’m going to do,” it just kind of happens. When I was younger, I used to get beats sent to me. I’d write to them, and that’s it. Somewhere in the middle, I’d write, and then create the beat around it. Now, it’s kind of a mix of both. I’ll write a concept or how I’m feeling, and write bullet points of random shit running through my mind. I create kind of a vibe first now, instead of confining myself to a beat or lyrics right away.
I create the vibe, create the energy, then feed off the producer at the time. People have such a misconception, especially when that whole shit with Drake happened with the writers. I realized that 5, 6, 7, 10 people might be in a room telling you that your stuff is dope, whack, or cool, and they might get writer’s credit for it. That’s what I learned out here whereas back in the day, I thought, “I need to write it, I need to produce it, I need to record it.” Now, I realize it’s okay to ask for help. I love when someone challenges me by saying “that’s whack, you should say it this way instead of that way.” If they get their name on the record, I don’t care. As long as I create the vibe and energy originally, I don’t care how the end goal is created. As I got older, I swallowed my pride a bit. I matured a bit. As long as my fans like the record, and it’s dope and it’s honest, I don’t care how it was created.
You just released your project ‘Humble But Hungry.’ Talk about the creative process and how long it took you.
That took me the longest out of any project. About a year and a half, but not intentionally. I wasn’t one of those rappers who are like, “I need to focus on everything. This is going to take me a year because I take so much time…” The chips fell that way with just life: bad management at the time, then good management, bad producers, then good producers…
I found a really good producer I reconnected with, Ryan Summer, who’s super big in the pop world. He works with Flo Rida, Jason Derulo. That’s what kind of molds my sound with that pop mesh. I reconnected with him towards the end of the album. I was like, “Okay I just created 15 to 20 songs without you, and now we just created amazing records.” I wanted to scrap everything and start again, but I couldn’t, so I just put it out.
He really helped me realize what goes down in these pop sessions. The writing sessions and writing camps, like when people hire 10 producers to come out to their crib and literally just create for them. He put me onto that wave and that’s how I’m creating all my stuff. I’m not making records if it’s not a smash anymore. I’ll do freestyles and remixes, but I’m done just creating fast rap tracks. Don’t get me wrong, I love rap and that’s what I do. If I’m going to do it though, I have to make sure it’s a smash. Make sure it’s dope production, dope BPM, dope everything.
The first track is so powerful. You say, “I saw demons everywhere I went / in about a year, I lost all my friends. Can you touch on that?
It’s literally just life. Over the last few years, doing something so unconventional is already under a microscope. Then trying to make a living off of something unconventional, you’re even further now. Then doing it. I did this at such a pivotal point in my life, between transitioning from high school to the real world. My friend groups, certain family issues: deaths, sickness, illnesses. Literally, just life. I feed off of everything. Anything and everything is yin and yang with me. Good and bad, positive and negative, I beat myself up so much. I’m my own devil’s advocate with everything I do. I’m my biggest critic, and biggest fan. That’s where that line comes from, just being so balanced, but not balanced. Right in the middle at all times, and trying to stay level headed in a crazy world.
You also say “Everyone around me said I couldn’t do it.” What do you have to say to those who doubted you?
I love you. No but for real, it was everyone from teachers to family. It’s the age old rap story. “My teacher said I wasn’t shit.” Mike Jones: “back then, they didn’t want me, now I’m hot they all on me.” It’s generic at this point to say it, but it’s so true. People will understand if they’ve been through it. Fans might be like “Rez, you say it all the time.” I’ve got that, but it’s because that’s what I lived. I lived with teachers saying you won’t amount to anything, you should quit.
Now, teachers literally tweet me “good job.” Like that shit with Mcdonalds, one of my teachers — and I respect him for saying it — sent me, “I thought you would have worked for Mcdonalds, but I didn’t think you’d get a check from them like this.” Just literally life experiences. I don’t like to go in depth with it because it’s so basic now. It’s not a real struggle anymore, but at one point it was. At one point, that’s all that plagued my mind: people saying I’m not shit. Now I’m doing alright, I’m doing okay, so I laugh at it.
You talk about pain a lot in your music. How has music been a form of therapy for you?
Without music and without a following — without people to connect to that music, and remind me it’s okay what I’m doing and relate to it — I probably wouldn’t be here. It’s literally just life, as I said. My brother has been diagnosed with cancer, my grandpa died of cancer, my cousin last year got shot in a school shooting and died. All that shit, most people would say it’s crazy, this and that. But to me, so many bad things happen in a string of things, it’s just energy. That can’t be for no reason.
I was on the Europe tour and one of the worst days happened, just from politics and behind the scenes shit. Just an annoying day, and then the best show happened almost ever, in my life. I sold out Amsterdam. People were telling me I changed their lives. Always whenever there’s a shitty day, I know something amazing is happening. When there’s a string of amazing shit, I know something shitty is about to come. That’s how I live my life, whether it’s good or bad.
You just got back from Europe. Best memory on tour?
Everything. Just meeting all the fans. It doesn’t hit you until you’re home, until the end. At first, we’re dealing with the money, all the politics, then towards the end, I’m like “whoa, these people connected with my struggles, my words, and my triumphs too.” In the beginning, you don’t realize that. When people tell me “you changed my life,” I’m like how? Because I don’t feel literally any different. I’m on the same level as my fans. I don’t feel better than my anyone. If someone tells me I’m dope, I think they’re lying. I don’t believe most the compliments I get, which is good and bad.
People writing me letters saying “you changed my life” or “my dad hit me when I was younger.” Kids were like, “I’ve been listening to you since you were 16, and I was 14,” whatever it is. That was the best thing that happened, all the way across the fucking world. That shit doesn’t even happen to me in my own hometown sometimes. It’s crazy.
Talk about shooting the “Boy With No Home” visual.
It was fun. I won’t be one of those guys that flexes like “that’s my jet!” My half sister is a pilot. She was super duper flex because most people pay for shit, and I got it for free. No budget, we stress the dollar with everything we do.
Like we turned the “We Want Change” video about the school shooting and my cousin, with a $50 dollar budget, into one of my biggest videos ever. We literally did it in a garage, and had a Home Depot light above me. That’s what I learned. Last year, I did $5000 videos that’ll never recoup ever. This year, I did $50 videos that make me money. Shout out to Johnny, that shit was crazy.
What are some goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
To keep spreading inspiration and humility. Try to spread good energy. That’s my biggest takeaway, just be a good person. I’ve been an asshole when I was younger. Everyone’s been an asshole at one point in their life. You have to be smacked and be humiliated and humbled. That happened to me when I was younger though a string of things, now it’s my job to smack someone else. Metaphorically [laughs]
What did you do with your first advance?
I probably did some stupid shit. My first check with Sony was so small. I was such a young kid. I was 16. They rolled out the red carpet. The normal shit like “you’re going to get this and this.” When I heard $5K or $10K, I was like “my life is going to change!” I realized a lot of that is towards the budget, and you have to recoup it. I had fans at the time, but it was kind of the decline of sales and before streaming became a thing. I took that money, and bought a bunch of food. I don’t buy drugs or shoes. Just experiences, I’d rather go somewhere and just buy a shitload of food and beer.
How important is social media for your career?
Super important. It’s literally everything. I hate it at times, but it’s a tool. If you use it as a tool, it’s cool. If you’re an artist and you’re spending your time as a consumer on there as well, which I have. I can’t be scrolling and creating, it kind of throws me off. I need to do one or the other. I need to be on here for research purposes, or on here to just scroll. It’s definitely important though. I reach everyone, and no one on social media.
What’s a normal day in the life? Walk us through.
I wake up. Sometimes don’t brush my teeth until 3pm, that happened today. [laughs] I’m always just observing. Wherever I go and whatever I do, I’ll write bullet points, thoughts, ideas, and just random things down. I’m not the guy that wakes up, makes a song, records it, produces it, and puts it out. I’m just always looking around.
I had a mixtape when I was younger called Product of My Environment, and it always holds true to me. Whoever’s around me, good or bad, I take after. This interaction, this room, my engagements throughout the day is what really inspires my music. Not on some Kanye shit like “this furniture…” I love Kanye, favorite artist, but not to that degree. By the end of the night, I call up my engineer and my producer, like” let’s get together and make some records.” That’s a day.
3 things you need in the studio?
Kaotica Eyeball on the mic, that’s my people. It’s basically like a studio for your mic. Every studio you’ve been to, 50% of them probably have it. A bunch of water. We always get some Thai food or Japanese food. Some sushi, some water, and a Kaotica Eyeball.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
I don’t even want to discuss that. I wouldn’t do anything else if I wasn’t making music. I wouldn’t be alive if I wasn’t making music.
Favorite song to perform in a set?
“3 Ft Tall,” which is my biggest record. I don’t know if it’s because how big it is that I love it, but the energy I get from my fans is insane. That shit is fucking crazy.
Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
People make fun of me because I’ve never actually had my own computer. I fuck people’s technology up. I don’t have music on my phone. I don’t have Spotify, Apple Music, I have nothing. [laughs]
What do you listen to?
Whatever I come across. Lately, I’ve been listening to jazz we put on. [laughs] I’m at that point where I don’t hate rappers, but I only listen for research purposes. Unless it’s old rap. I love the shit I grew up on because that’s what got me here. I don’t feel there’s any sense of competition, equalness, or pureness. That’s like my dad or uncle type shit, I respect them.
Currently, probably J. Cole or Kendrick. Ever, I would’ve loved to collab with Nate Dogg. Warren G still now would be dope. KRS-One would be super tight.
Anything else you want to let us know?
Shout out to Shirley. Shout out to Kaotica Eyeball. Shout out to all the fans. Humble But Hungry out now on streaming platforms everywhere. Be a good person, don’t be an asshole.