Wax has several talents besides spitting clever punchlines. Urban Magazine recently caught up with the newly signed Def Jam artist to discuss topics ranging from the relevance of his stage name, to expectations for his forthcoming mixtape, Scrublife, dropping March 15, 2011.
What is the significance behind your stage name?
I’ve had it ever since I was a little kid, so I don’t know the exact origin. Right now, I’d say “Wax” is about being a versatile musician. I play guitar, I sing, I rap, I write songs, I produce, I play a bunch of instruments, and wax is a very versatile substance. It can be a solid, a liquid, you can mold it into different things. Skateboarders use it to make things slide, and surfers use it to make things stick. Wax is used for a lot of purposes. I’m just going with the versatility. Plus, it’s always in your ears.
You mentioned your versatility. Do you feel being as versatile as you are is something more important today, rather than back in the day of just being a rapper, a singer, a producer, etc?
I guess so. In the words of a big music industry guy that I met, he said, “a guy walks in here telling me he can rap, just like a 30-year-old man walks in here telling me he can read.” Basically, everybody and their mother can rap that you run into these days. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a rapper. I guess there is some importance to that. A lot of rappers that are doing big stuff might not be considered the greatest rappers. There are a lot of people out there that can rap. Take somebody like Drake for example. He has such a good ear for melodies and a good voice to sing those melodies. It’s going to take you a lot further.
Where does your inspiration come from given your multiple talents?
I grew up listening to a lot of different types of music. My dad instilled being a couch potato. He got to a point where he pretty much watched TV all day. Because of that, we were one of the first people in our neighborhood to get cable and that was back when MTV mostly played music videos. I saw N.W.A. on MTV, I saw Guns N’ Roses on MTV. In my young mind maybe there wasn’t much of a separation between everything. I looked at everything as just music and stuff that made me bop my head and stuff that made my parents say, “ahhh you shouldn’t do that!” MTV played a big part in my influence because my parents didn’t really listen to music.
How did life transform from being an everyday Maryland native to ultimately signing to Def Jam? Were there any obstacles you had to overcome?
When I still lived on the east coast I was in a band for years. We traveled around as a 6 piece band and we never made any money. We toured around the Mid-West, the South, and New England. The band split-up, not because I wanted to, but people got jobs, girlfriends, and they didn’t have time anymore. I moved to San Diego not for anything for music, but because of this girl I was in really love with. She got a job there and the relationship didn’t work out. She didn’t like San Diego, so she left. I loved San Diego and she went back and I was really depressed. I’m already a pretty big drinker and at that point, for like a year, it was a dark period. When I wasn’t at work I was f*cked up. Then one day I woke up and things didn’t make sense. I was writing a lot of songs at the time and I had to get out of there.
I moved out to LA and that was around the same time I was putting videos out on YouTube. I grinded it out and realized that I had a chance to do it for a living. Now, I am doing it for a living. The Internet made it crazy, giving everyone the opportunity to put themselves out there and being in LA, I eventually met people who were in the music industry and gained some interest. It got bigger and bigger and I don’t have to worry about money any more. It’s crazy.
You have a strong presence online by using the power of social media to your benefit. Do you consider your YouTube videos as a defining moment? Did they provide you a ticket to your success?
Yea, definitely. I would say my success is based on my YouTube videos, that’s the main reason. YouTube videos is what draws anyone in. It’s what gets them excited about my stuff if they actually have a chance to sit down and listen to some of the songs on the album, especially the songs we are doing now. I would say YouTube is almost 100% of where I’m at. YouTube is the people’s choice. If they don’t like it, they say whatever they want. The cream rises to the top based on entertainment value. You have the power to grow if you people like your sh*t.
There seems to be an overabundance of YouTube clippings. Given the online saturation, how do you overcome it to get noticed and become successful?
Let me start by saying that when me and my brother first put up our YouTube channel, YouTube wasn’t like that. There was no concept as the “YouTube rapper.” I know the saturation you’re talking about, it was a little less saturated when it first started. The whole thing with people saying “this is my song” or “this is my mixtape,” I see that on my Facebook wall everyday. People need to find ways to make things more entertaining. Maybe we got lucky to get into that game when we first started doing YouTube. It was some nerdy sh*t, being a rapper on YouTube was super nerdy. Now, everybody wants to be on YouTube. Maybe it helps that me and my brother are actually nerdy (laughing).
You have your upcoming mixtape titled, Scrublife, dropping March 15, 2011, what can listeners expect as far as lyrical concepts and sounds? Who did you collaborate with specifically?
I actually didn’t collaborate with that many people. It is mostly produced by my boy EOM who has been doing a lot of my production for the past couple of years. I have a feature from my twin brother and a feature on another song from my boy “Dumbfoundead.” Besides that, it’s all me on vocals. I produced a couple of tracks, I got a track from the “Fire Department” and “Nobody Famous,” but mostly beats by my boy EOM.
As far as lyrical content, there’s a lot of straight-up rap sh*t. Some of the long YouTube freestyles, we went into the studio and recorded them and put them on there because people were requesting them. There’s some stuff about love, drinking, partying references, and battle stuff. I have a song about hating your job, some story-telling songs, some disturbing stories, there’s a lot of different stuff. I’m really proud of it. It’s real good and it’s a shame we have to call it a “mixtape” with the fact, like you said, there’s a million mixtapes smacking you in the face left and right as soon as you turn on your Internet browser.
Going through your website, there is the “Pump Up The Jam” promo video for Scrublife. Whose idea was that? The video is hysterical.
The “Pump Up The Jam” video was my idea. I was at a diner that I would go to right by my house. They make this amazing jam and you can actually buy jars of it. One day, I was sitting there high basically, and I’m like, “damn, I want to buy some of this jam.” I looked at the jar and it just came to me. I said, “dude, you put a basketball pump in there, pump it up, and play ‘Pump Up The Jam.’ ” I guess people thought it was funny (laughing). It actually got a lot of hits.
Given your character, it seems that acting is also a part of your multiple talents. Do you foresee yourself ending up in films?
Definitely. I am more interested in doing TV. Eventually, we want to do a sketch comedy show. Like a “Chappelle Show,” but make it more like a music show, almost on some “Flight of the Conchords,” or The Lonely Island. Those guys mixed with more comedy. I definitely want to do a sketch show down the road.
Do you have any upcoming shows to promote your upcoming release?
I have a performance on April 7th at the Viper Room in Los Angeles. It’s kind of like a mixtape release party show, but we don’t have an official release party. I’m playing the Bamboozle Fest in New Jersey on April 30th and Lollapalooza in August.
It sounds like your schedule is pretty hectic.
It’s been really crazy working on this mixtape. I was just telling someone I am going to take a day off. Really, take a day off and not do anything or think about anything.
Where do you foresee your career unfolding musically in the near and distant future?
The album I’m working on is definitely not straight Hip-Hop. It’s a lot of melodies and a lot of live instrumentation, that’s where I see it going. My sound that I’m working on is an organic sound. I know I might have a little trouble with it. Most of the stuff out right now is synth-bass and dancy, fall on the floor…
“Pump Up The Jam” type of stuff.
Exactly! That sound is coming back. That Jock Jams, early 90s, or whatever that sound was. You might think Lisa Stansfield might make a comeback. I think Jody Watley is making a comeback album this year. C&C Music Factory just did a remix with Lady Gaga I heard.
Did they really?
No, but they might as well. It’s funny how that sound is coming back. Anyway, the stuff I’m working is real guitar-driven. It sounds more like a band is playing it. I’m just having fun with a lot of the good stuff that’s been happening to me lately. Most of the music I’ve been making is happy and bright sounding, where as before I was making depressing music.
Being that you came from Maryland, going from nothing to something, what advice do you have for those aspiring to be in your shoes?
First and foremost, perfect your craft. You have to spend some time on it. If you up and decide one day you’re going to be a “rapper,” you might as well stop. It’s not how it works. You don’t ever make a decision to be a musician, you are born to be one. You should spend time working on your sh*t before you spend time putting it out there and promoting it. The most important thing is that you make good music. From there sh*t will work out for you. You’ll find somebody who is good at promoting it and if not, your life will be better because you are enjoying yourself.
*To listen & download Wax’s latest mixtape, Scrublife, click here.
-Words by DJ GooTz