Nowadays, music with substance is both rare and appreciated. Insert Terrell Hines, who uses his voice to speak about important things happening in the world, intertwining his own life experiences with his overflowing knowledge of linguistics, synesthesia, and psychology. The concepts within his music can be viewed as “an even split of postmodern and post-apocalyptic,” as he blends multiple genres and sounds into one beautiful hybrid ball of energy.
Born in Georgia but now based in Los Angeles, Hines describes himself as “an innovator, a character to say the least.” Having graduated from Berklee College of Music with a full ride, he’s had some incredible moments in his career thus far, including being featured on Beck’s title track “Hyperspace” and his single “Get Up” chosen to be used in the 2019 Apple keynote. With no project or tour to date, he’s already amassed over 2 million streams and counting.
Most recently, Hines released the official music video for “St. Mark Rd.,” holding fans over for his forthcoming project Portal One: The Mixtape arriving on August 7th. Flaunt caught up with Hines over the phone to discuss his upbringing, thoughts on the current state of the world, his new visual for “St. Mark Rd.,” and collaborating with Beck on “Hyperspace.”
How have you been holding up with the state of the world?
It’s been interesting. It’s one of those situations where you have to really sit down and analyze. I’m in a place now where everything is outdated and it’s starting to show. The world is an outdated system, we’re living in the results.
Being a Black male, how are you coping? How are you using your platform?
It’s a situation where you really have to know what you’re talking about. Right now, I’m educating to actually help do things. A lot of stuff goes on locally in a lot of environments. All the systematic racism we see on the news and media, it’s happening in these small little towns. If everyone was more educated on the local stuff to see what’s going on, it makes sense as to why everything feels so outdated.
Even with Mike Brown a couple years back when that protest was happening in Boston, I remember being out there thinking “Damn, this is crazy.” You start seeing protests now, that’s the first call of action. More people getting shot during the protests than before the protests by police, something feels off. People don’t ask the question: what does the concept of protesting turn into? If you’re protesting and you have more people getting killed? I’m analyzing the definition and concept of protesting, it’s a lot. We’re living in the results. There’s only a couple of ways to get it together, but it’ll take everybody.
Being from Georgia, when did music come into play?
Growing up, I’ve been around music my whole life. Being from the South, music is the culture. If you heard people from my family talk, you’d be like “dang, their language has this weird melody to it. Why does it sound like that?” It’s the culture. Music is all around you, all the time. Going to church, that’s where all the real work happens. You go to college, learn these Western rules and have to apply it. I already had the musical vocabulary before I even tried to go get it and put a name on it, because of where I’m from.
What are all the instruments you play?
I play any instrument I can get my hands on. If I touch any instrument, I probably can play it. I might not be the best, but I have enough musical vocabulary to sit down with any instrument and make something cool out of it.
What is your favorite instrument to play?
Drums, that’s the first instrument I started on. I could say more than talking verbally. We could talk and I could explain something to you, but then when you have actual drums, different tones and pitches, I can say more. That’s how I feel when I play drums.
At what point did you realize you could do music as a career?
I was in Boston on Montebello St., it was 6pm. It’d been a crazy month, I thought “yo, I’ma start trying to produce.” Music is something I innately understand, I get it. I’m playing drums all the time and now I’m starting to understand drums for real. I thought “damn, I can’t really say enough.” I’m sitting in my room one day, took what I’m doing on drums, all the stuff I’m learning and put it in actual tracks. I thought “this is about what I’m going to do, I’m going to try to be the best artist of my generation.”
You just released “St. Mark Rd.” Who or what inspired this one?
I lived on St. Mark Rd. growing up in George, it’s my feeling of the energy of the place. The energy of what the road feels like is in the song. I wanted to specifically talk about what it felt like there and put it in a track.
What was your vision with the music video? You’re sitting in a robe and it gets virtual.
If I was to create what the world looked like, that’s what came out. I wanted to put myself into the world. You live in the real world but as an artist, there’s another world that my music and I can live in. That’s a certain space I can create. I went in and rendered every space in a 3D model, I wanted to show this is where I’m at. I wanted to put this road map in a digital space and put myself inside of it. If I can put myself inside this different space, I’m living in a space. Every room is different, but it’s all attached to the same thing. Beyond that, there’s a bigger world with more storylines. With those storylines comes more songs and more movies, something innovative.
You released the visual for “Promise,” what were you going through when you recorded this one?
“Promise” was polarity. If you listen to the first verse of the song, it’s windy. It’s chill. It goes into this whole other portal space of whoa, there’s 2 sides to this. That could be a metaphor for anything. A year ago, my life was not what it is now. With all the work that goes into where you’re trying to go, it’s a promise basically. It’s me promising myself “you’re going to do that.”
Your music speaks a lot to social justice, why’s it important for you to put out meaningful content?
Right now, we’re in a neo-digital world. The artist is still alive, but I want to make sure I’m doing my part as an artist to put out dope creative content. When people see your visions, it might inspire them to do something crazy. That’s the goal, you don’t know what you can build. I still have to be the artist, put ideas together and put it out there.
How do you create a vibe in the studio?
When I get up and go to the studio, I’m in different modes. If I’m making a song that sounds country, I’m in a country groove headspace that day. I turn into the actual song. I’m ready to make the song in whatever space I’m in. You take some 3D models, sit there and analyze it until something comes out. You might make something cool or something wack, it’s okay because it’s all trial and error. People will help, they’re there working with you. Sometimes you find somebody to do a certain thing they’re an expert at, and put all the pieces together. Whatever you need there, you’re going to make something good. It could be art, it could be paint, it could be colors. Whatever the concept is, it lives in the studio space. Whatever the architecture, how I feel about the world, a bird or something I’m looking at, I apply it all.
How was your journey to Capitol Records?
Shoot, I’ve been doing music since Boston. I went to LA, got an internship. It was cool, but I didn’t know if it’s for me. I understand I’m learning a lot and meeting people, but I’m in such an artist state of wanting to put out music and have my own thing rolling. I thought “I can’t intern right now.” I started networking with people, going to sessions. You meet a lot of people all the time, the right people started coming into place. I was trying to build the whole time, it all started to piece itself together. I got my records together, Capitol was interested and we did business.
Talk about linking with Beck’s on “Hyperspace.”
I met Beck at this party, it was a Capitol event. I just signed to Capitol, he’s standing there. Somebody told me he’s working on some records with Pharrell, “I think you’d fit if you’re open to it.” I said “yeah,” so I worked on it. Ran into him, I didn’t know what to say because he’s Beck. He’s just chillin’. He’s like “yeah man, I work out of such and such studios.” It was an interesting conversation, one of those moments like “damn, I’m talking to Beck.” It didn’t make sense at the time but I said “okay, let’s work.” He sent the track, I did my verse and him and Pharrell fucked with it.
I saw you post Michael Jordan, thoughts on The Last Dance?
I played basketball in high school, so I love basketball. I love sports. MJ’s the greatest. The fact that he can call himself one of the greatest basketball players to every play, is crazy to me!. MJ’s the overall inspiration, that’s Jordan. Nobody can take the fact away from him. He’s going down as the greatest, I respect that.
What can we expect from your forthcoming project, Portal One?
A lot of different combinations, a lot of different styles of me. A lot of constructed ideas, a lot of constructed sounds. A lot of good music. It’s me putting all my energy inside of my music. Portal One the portal we’re in right now, however you want to look at it.
Anything else you want to let us know?
Be present, we’re living in some interesting times. It’s some type of transition. This is not the post-modern Terrell, this is real life. Something’s happening and shifting, people need to be aware of “what’s happening?” That’s all I have to say.