I know it wasn't polished when I started making music. Trust me, I know. I know that when I released my first song almost seven years ago, it wasn't where it needed to be. Quality, content, skill - I was only beginning on this trip, and if you were one of the 500+ people who downloaded it on a file share site (I forgot which one), you heard how raw it was. Not raw like fresh sushi. Raw like uncooked chicken. It wasn't good enough, I wasn't ready to put anything out, and yet I did it anyways, in the best way I knew how. Over the subsequent months, and for the next few years, the only truly noticeable positive in my music was that I knew how to put words together so that they meant something. My words did speak to people - they told me so, to my face, not because everything was perfect, but because there was a deep meaning in the art I had decided to make. From the start, every verse was filled with promise, and a hunger to get better. Everything after that was another skill I had to sit down and research, study, understand. It was learning to appreciate a culture that I wasn't raised in, taking care to never steal from or disrespect it, but seeing if there was something I could add to it from my own life experiences. It was realizing, slowly and painfully, that moving to this massive city, with all its lights and stages, would never be the dream that so many believe it is. When I started, I wasn't good enough. I'm not afraid to hide that anymore.
But what no person can ever say to me is that I have not worked for what I want in this life. And that work is paying off, and does pay off every single day. My music has travelled so far, literally and figuratively. There are people who were close to me for much of my life, that I saw often and had strong friendships with, who heard my very first songs and laughed in my face and behind my back when I told them what I was doing. People who told me to get serious, to find a real job, to go back to school, to be realistic. Its hard to blame them now - the difference in quality as I release Rain III today and from all the way back in 2012 is apparent, and frankly kind of amazing to me. My point is: I'm so glad I didn't stop to listen to them, because I knew what I felt in my soul then was real. I still feel it now, and with each small success that faith gets stronger. With each failure, my resolve strengthens. To know I now have fans in England, Russia, Chile, Brazil, Germany, and in other countries all over the world will always be a humbling and indescribable feeling that I hope no artist ever takes for granted. We have the power to reach across thousands of miles to people who barely speak our language but respond to the magic in our voices and instruments, and the passion in our music.
For everyone listening to this new EP, of which I am so proud of, please take a moment to recognize where you've come from in the past few years, how much growth you've made happen, how much stronger, smarter and confident you are, and how hard you've worked to find your way through the rain in your life. For anyone from my past who may have stumbled across me or decided to give me one more chance, you will not be disappointed. I am becoming everything I always knew I would be, doing it the right way, and meeting goals all the time. My music and words are the vessels by which I show you this truth, my truth. Know that I'm with you in this, and however I can help you through these songs are the reason I do this - to help, to inspire, to create.
I can't wait for the next 6 years. While I'd like to think I can see that far, I can't imagine where we'll all be. I just pray I get to continue to grow and touch lives in the process. Thank you from the deepest parts of my heart for being with me as we continue to press forward into the unknown. As long as we don't stop, we'll get there, wherever "there" is. To the unpolished music before this, to this EP, and to all of the beautiful music still to be made - this is me. This is Rain III.
I'm not one for looking back too far in the past. Our memories can deceive us into believing things were much better or worse than they actually were. They can make us dwell on situations that we'll never get to re-live, decisions we never get to change. I tell anyone who asks: I don't regret anything. Ever. No matter what happened, it's a lesson to be learned. Our past is in most cases simply where we've been, and the beauty of it is - if we're smart about what we take from it - we never have to go back to who we were or what we did. There are certain opportunities though that allow us to expand upon and build on our past, because it deserves to be a part of our present and our future. Maybe its two people that finally find their way back to each other after learning more about themselves. Maybe its a passion that we lost in the shuffle of our work or study, and when we re-discover that passion, it lights our lives up again. Maybe its a song that you believe in, polish and re-release, and 6 years after the original version first drops, it receives over 20,000 more streams than it did before (Monster just did that, btw).
This project, Rain, the first 6 songs I ever recorded in Los Angeles, is one of those things from my past that deserves a place in the present. The year leading up to its original release in 2015 was the most difficult of my life. At this point, you probably know that I moved to this city with no friends and no idea how to make real music. It took months of research and long nights sitting at a tiny desk in a studio apartment in North Hollywood for me to even begin to understand what it was going to take to make something of myself in this business - in this life. I was in way over my head. I'll be honest, after about 6 months, my anxiety was so bad that my parents wanted me to move home. I didn't have a job or any clue where to start to get this music off the ground. All of the people who believed in me were at least 500 miles away. I cried real tears recording so many of these songs. My microphone was the only light I had, and I spent hours writing, recording and mixing, even still just beginning to learn some of the most basic techniques of audio engineering and mixing. I wanted to release a project at the end of 2014, but by October of that year, I realized none of it was good enough. I took everything I'd ever released offline and started over, with no real end in sight. I was lost, and music was going to be the only thing that helped me find my way out.
This project will always be a testament to how far I've come, the people I've met along the way who believed in me, and the proof that I will never stop creating. Many times, the words I write in a song don't unveil their meaning to me until much later. I know there's always purpose to my lyrics, so I let the meaning show itself whenever its ready, even if its months or years later. I find lines in this project to this day that mean more to me than they did three years ago, and that is how I know that these songs aren't just my past. They're the future too. My hope is that you'll be able to listen to this music for the rest of your life, and gain something from it every time - whether you're at the gym, feel like dancing, on a road-trip, or just by yourself smoking a bowl in your room.
It's okay to look back every once in a while. It shows us how far we've come, from the dark places we may have thought we'd never get out through. Sometimes the past can even give us the strength to move forward. You're a lot stronger than you think you are. I'm here to help you believe that.
2015 - 2019 - Forever
I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't know what mixing was, what compression or equalizing was, or have any idea what a master was. I was recording music on a $150 microphone that I plugged into my computer and sent to GarageBand. I had only a vague idea of what it was to create reverb and delays, or to add effects to vocals to make them sound better. I had really started exploring hip-hop artistry and writing rhymes less than 6 months earlier. Most of my friends were looking at me funny. I had just moved to a tiny town in New Mexico to finish college and play two more years of basketball. One of my best friends from childhood, then my roommate as well, was concerned that I was spending too much time focusing on a baseless side hobby and not enough time on what I had moved there to do. When he told me, I looked him in the eyes and assured him this was different from anything else. All I knew or understood was the feeling that creating music was giving me. I was exhilarated, it made my heart beat faster, it made me feel like I was finally home, like I had finally found an avenue of music that allowed me to express everything that I had been dying to let out for years. I knew from the minute I started recording myself what I wanted to do forever.
Don't let any of that fool you - I was awful. I wasn't yet confident enough in my voice or my direction to make good music or to make music sound good (two different, yet very connected skills). I just knew that I had to start, and that I was going to do whatever it took to get better at this craft. So I made a mixtape under a pseudonym. 13 songs. Freestyles, original songs, beats ripped off of YouTube, anything I could find with my limited resources and knowledge. I just started rapping and singing, and after 3 months I had a project. It wasn't special, and you can't find it anywhere. Unless someone somehow saved it on their computer, it is (thankfully) lost to history. But I was so proud of myself. I had followed through on this first step of the journey, and in the process had already learned an amazing amount about my abilities and my desire to be great. I was hooked, hopelessly and permanently, on creating music for the rest of my life.
And then I made Monster. In November of 2012, while I was looking for new instrumentals to write to, I found a beautiful, haunting, sound from a 16-year-old kid on YouTube (that kid is D. Boy, and I'm proud to say he's produced a lot of my music since then as well). It was perfect, and to this day its one of my favorite instrumentals ever. That beat played on repeat for days - I had no idea how to write to it, how to do it justice. This was one that I couldn't let pass without my best possible effort. On a team trip to Hawaii over Thanksgiving break, it was the only sound I played in my headphones. It was honestly infuriating - I couldn't come up with anything I liked. And then, on the flight back home, through 4 hours of silence, I wrote every word. The lyrics just flowed from somewhere I hadn't had access to before. The song was recorded the next day, and released on Soundcloud - my FIRST EVER track uploaded to Soundcloud - on November 29, 2012. I think it got about 600 plays. But if you ask any of the people in my life then what they thought when they heard that song for the first time, they'll all tell you a version of the same thing: "No bullshit, this kid can really do this."
Its been six years since that song changed my life - maybe not on the outside, but on the inside. It gave me the confidence to keep going and the assurance that I was on the right track. Some of my friends to this day will tell you its still their favorite song of mine. Many of them realized because of that song that I was serious and dedicated, and most of all capable. The raw songwriting and rhythm of the words are still so meaningful to me, so pure and powerful. So I brought it back. I stripped it down to the vocals, re-recorded the verse, and used all of the knowledge I've built in the last six years to bring Monster to life like no one has ever heard it before - clear, strong, and beautiful. You deserve it, the song deserves it, and everyone who has ever listened to my music deserves it. Thank you, whether you were on that flight with me in 2012, or this is the first song of mine you've ever heard. Thank you forever.