Well$ Challenges Negative Stereotypes Of Mainstream Hip Hop
Exclusive: With the release of "MTSYD: The Revenge of the African Booty Scratcher," Well$ tackles issues of social media obsession, stigatized strippers and more.
Well$ is all about taking pride in his roots, whether it be his Congolese culture or his Charlotte hometown. Performing alongside fellow Queen City rapper Deniro Farrar last week at SOB’s, Well$ is adamant that Charlotte is on the rise and that talent wise they can “go toe to toe with anybody.”
Well$ also released his mixtape MTSYD: Revenge Of The African Booty Scratcher last week, and despite the incorporation of Biggie and Tupac samples, he claims his biggest influences are all new age artists. He doesn’t feel pressure to fall into “hipster things” as he calls it, such as hating mainstream or wanting Hip Hop to go back to the old school sound, but Well$ and his camp, Immaculate Taste, are only interested in pushing the envelope on sound, visuals and all things creative. Well$ articulates, “I’m not about being in the box, I’m about creating my own box.”
Why Well$ Questions Young Rapper’s Old School Allegiance
HipHopDX: You had your first NYC show last night. Tell me about it.
Well$: Yo, last night…matter fact yesterday in itself was crazy! It was a crazy day in general, so I wake up at like 7:00, and come to find out, my girl car got towed. With that being said, all my shit was in there—everything I needed to fly. I couldn’t get on a flight with just myself, because my ID was in her bookbag. I was racing all around town with an hour left to get on my flight. We finally find her car, pay for it and it came out to $500 before I even got to New York. I miss my flight by literally 30 seconds—just like that. I caught the next flight, got up here and went straight to rehearsal. Actually it was dope, we got to rehearse at Converse Rubber Tracks, so shoutout to them for that. Then I went straight to the show. This was my first show in New York, and the crowd was showing love...niggas show love crazy out in New York. I love the vibe, and I love the culture out here. I’d come out here every single night, and I’d pack it out every night if I could.
DX: Are you doing more touring in your future?
Well$: Yeah definitely, that’s in the plan. Right now we have a couple of things in the works that aren’t fully sorted out. But by late fall I should be on tour hopefully… Shout out to the homie Deniro for putting me on the show, that shit was crazy. It’s a big ass week for Charlotte Hip Hop. Charlotte is coming, so niggas need to watch out and get with the program.
DX: Speaking on Charlotte, you’re talking about it being on the come up because it’s not considered a Mecca like New York or L.A. What are the pros and cons of trying to build a career in a place that doesn’t have much of a recognized Hip Hop scene or sound?
Well$: It’s just harder, because no one is really paying us no mind. That’s literally just what it is. That’s probably the biggest con. Like you said, it’s not a Mecca of Hip Hop, and people aren’t really expecting shit to come out of Charlotte. When it does, and it’s actually great, it’s surprising and it brings eyes to the city. Look at Deniro for example, he got poppin’, and that kinda opened the door for me. And then who knows, fuckin’ around, we might have the whole Charlotte on the fuckin’ freshman list. We can do it; we got the talent. It’s a whole lot of pressure, but I welcome it. It’s what you strive for being an artist. You wanna be at the forefront. It’s welcomed pressure.
DX: That’s interesting, and listening to your music, you have the “Suicidal Thoughts” sample and Tupac references. Who were some other major influences growing up?
Well$: It’s a full explanation with this one. I’m about to hurt some Hip Hop heads’ feelings with this. It’s crazy, because I respect the old school. I love the old school. I listen to it, I enjoy it, but for me, they’re not what I grew up on. I’m hearing a lot of artists nowadays around my age, saying they grew up on Biggie and Tupac. And for me, that’s kinda hard for me to believe, because if we the same age, I know back in eighth grade you was bumpin’ Wayne. You was bumpin’ Da Drought 3. You weren’t listening to Ready To Die. I know you weren’t listening to Ready To Die, you were bumpin’ So Far Gone went it came out. For me, it’s not really artists; it’s tapes that define my life. I was 14-years-old, not really when I decided to do music, but it kinda made me who I am today. I was bumpin’ Kush & OJ, A Kid Named Cudi, So Far Gone, The Cool Kids’ Tacklebox, [The] Bake Sale...shit, so many other people. Pac Div, I was big and heavy on, and I would actually say was one of my biggest influences.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t have the substance of the old school; they’re just what I grew up on. It’s funny how artists now wanna come back...the fact that you’re young. I mean, enjoy it: enjoy the fact that you’re young, enjoy the fact that you like the new type of music. I feel like Rap is one of the only cultures that wanna go back. Everybody talking about, “Why don’t we go back to the old Hip Hop?” You got other genres that are pushing the envelope and making newer sounds, and Hip Hop just wants to stay stagnant. But we’re in a great place, because we got new kids who are bringing new sounds to Hip Hop.
Well$ Explains His MTSYD Acronym & Embracing His Congolese Roots
DX: I definitely agree, I feel like Hip Hop is in a great place. In what ways do your Congolese roots play a role in your music and overall sound?
Well$: My Congolese roots are big, and that’s first starts off with my cousin Alec Lomani, who also executive produced all my projects to date. He’s also my label mate and an artist himself. He put the mic in my hand, and he was my lifeline to my culture back home. It’s not so much what he said, it’s how he conducted himself. He conducted himself like, “So what, I’m African. I’m gonna take pride in it, I’m gonna love it and I’m gonna keep on pushing.” So as far as the Congolese influence in my music, it’s not so much the music, but the pride with my actual culture that drives the music to show people that, “Look, just because I’m African or just because I’m young, doesn’t mean I can’t put out quality work.” I feel like a lot of people look at the wrong things when it comes to music, like images or perception without listening to the actual music.
DX: Going into your tape, you tweeted something about that, that MTSYD: Revenge Of The African Booty Scratcher wasn't a conceptual project about African pride. How would you describe it?
Well$: So the title is MTSYD, Make Them Suck Your Dick: The Revenge of the African Booty Scratcher. We came up with a project that we released before this called $ay La V, and I didn’t feel like I got the love I deserved. And instead of being the mad rapper, I was just like, “You know what? I’m gonna come back and try to make something undeniable.” And then the term that we use, like, “Yo, stop sucking the nigga dick.” We were like, “Yo, what if we made the world suck our dick?” From there, we were like, “Yeah, make the world suck your dick.” The “Revenge of the African Booty Scratcher” part, it’s just something I’ve heard as a child. As a child growing up, I always felt like I wasn’t good enough or I wasn’t equal to everybody else because I was African. I was just an African booty scratcher. So growing up, taking pride in my culture, and to show people we can do what you do. Just ‘cause my parents are from a different place, doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy the same music as you, or I can’t make the same music as you. So it was just the revenge of the African booty scratcher. It wasn’t really a conceptual tape specifically on African pride, but just a tape on myself and me being who I am. I am African, so it works.
DX: That’s interesting. Is there a specific sound to Charlotte Hip Hop?
Well$: Charlotte is a weird place man, because you got people from L.A., people from Atlanta, people from up top coming down to Charlotte and moving and having kids. There’s really no specific sound that says, “Hey, this guy is from Charlotte.” But it’s because we’re so early in the culture, we’re still finding ourselves. Sooner or later it’ll be established. But right at this point, just because it’s just now starting, I can’t really name a sound like that. But in terms of being versatile, yeah there’s a lot of different sounds out of Charlotte, and no two rappers really sound the same.
DX: So going back into the mixtape. You've put a lot of time and money into this mixtape. You talked about working on it right after $ay La V, including shooting your latest music video in South Africa. What was the significance behind that?
Well$: That was actually my first trip to Africa to shoot that video. I felt like it needed to be shot there. People have this specific image of Africa, and I wanted to showcase it in a different light. [I wanted to] kinda play on their perception, but show it in a more modern way...a more cooler way to do it. South Africa is an experience for your ass.
First off, I wanna mention that the white girls in south Africa have got to be drinking different water—the asses out there are ridiculous. I’m talking about white girls put black girls to shame. I came back here, told the white girls, “Yo, something’s missing dawg. Y’all not getting enough nutrition out here.” Something’s in the water. Them girls are hybrids out there. Other than that, the city is just a beautiful, beautiful place. For me, that’s a number one vacation spot. That place is so dope, and they’re actually starting their Hip Hop culture.
DX: Well, they’ve been had a Hip Hop culture...
Well$: But it hasn’t been thriving though. Now because of Fader and Okayafrica they are actually getting some of the artists out. The scene there, it’s just straight love. They only show love. When I showed them the music and let them hear it, they really appreciated it. Being in another country and having your music resonate with those people, it’s on a different level. Just because they didn’t necessarily grow up the same way I did, they didn’t have the same privileges I did growing up. But to know my music still strikes a chord with them, that’s priceless and that capped off the trip for me.
Well$ Points Out The Positives & Negatives Of Social Media
DX: That sounds amazing. Let’s go into another track: “You just a slave to your Twitter feed, the type who rather type than make history.” Talk about “Cercle Vicieux (Vicious Circle)” and the influence of social media on Hip Hop.
Well$: There are two different cases. The chorus is you know trapped in the systems, and I feel like there are two different systems in the world: the social network system that you can be trapped in and the penal system—your typical trapped in the system. So, the first verse is actually dealing with the social network. And I just felt like for me personally, I wanted to let everyone know that there really is a life outside of your Twitter. For me, it was more personal, just because I had a littler brother who spent all of his time just on Twitter. He wasn’t really living life. He was living life through Twitter. I just feel like there definitely should be a balance of social media and actually getting out there and doing whatever you do. Just be out, because life doesn’t revolve around Twitter. People put too much into Twitter. I seen people who lose their lives over Twitter. It’s crazy how a social network can impact somebody’s life, negatively or positively.
I felt like that I should just express that and let people know that too much of a good thing is a bad y’all; let’s get off the Internet and connect. As far as social media in the music business, that shit is damn near the most important shit, just because that’s how you reach your fans. And that’s one of the positive things about social media, you can reach so many people at one time. With one click, a million people can see what you have to say. That is just a major impact; a lot of careers have been made off of social networks. A lot of people lied through social networks. I don’t wanna say it was a negative impact, but too much of a good thing is a bad thing, even in the music industry. If you really just out here on Twitter, you not really connecting with fans, you not really being on the block. You don’t really have artists out here going face to face and handing out the CDs anymore, because they wanna do it on Twitter. But you lose that connection with a fan. So it’s just a balance.
DX: Definitely and you need those relationships to prosper. Going into another track, “I’m plottin’ up on a rollie, contemplate selling my soul / ‘Cause it’s harder to get ahead then to get some head.” Knowing these things about the industry, how interested are you in entering the mainstream circuit?
Well$: I’m very interested. I got a plan for mainstream. I guess it’s a hipster thing to hate mainstream. But these old Hip Hop heads who are like, “Ah fuck mainstream,” but where the fuck were you listening to Biggie at? It wasn’t on no blog, it was on the radio. You were listening to Biggie on the radio. People got this idea of mainstream being a specific type of music. Mainstream is reaching a mass amount of people. Why not bring that dope back to mainstream? Why not bring that Biggie back to mainstream? We are the tastemakers for the mainstream. Right now, mainstream isn’t hot because they’re putting garbage rappers on there. Artists don’t wanna be on the radio for some reason or don’t wanna go that route. I don’t see why not. I’m not about being in the box. I’m about creating my box. I wanna be mainstream, but I’m gonna do it my way.
Well$ Shares Concepts Behind “Black Swan” & “Major Paine”
DX: I think it’s about finding that balance. You mentioned in a previous interview, that your love for storytelling comes from a really organic place. How did “Black Swan” come about?
Well$: It was just a collection of stories, man. I’m a good listener, and I’ve heard different stories here and there. I just felt like there are all these songs about strippers like “Bandz A Make Her Dance,” highlighting that strip life. I was like, “Word, nobody really talks about the girls’ side. Let’s see how it is on that side.” So I wanted to bring that to the world and show the world, like, “Yo, it’s not all kicks and giggles out here, man. Some people actually do this because that’s literally all that they had, and we look at them like they a piece of meat or they’re trash because that’s how they gotta make their ends meet .” We don’t shun the drug dealers that are selling this shit, who kill kids...kill anybody. We don’t shun them, but we shun a girl for showing people what God gave her. Granted it may not be right to some people, but she’s not out here killing people or selling drugs. So that’s how that came about. But I got a question for you, did you catch the response track on the tape?
DX: I don’t believe so.
Well$: Track eight, “Major Paine” is actually another side to that story. Most girls that are strippers, they have the typical, “My dad was never home. He never cared about me, and he never gave a fuck. I don’t have a father figure, that’s why I’m like this.”
DX: Oh, the “Daddy’s Little Girl” track?
Well$: Yeah the “Daddy’s Little Girl.” So I decided, “Cool, let’s paint another picture.” And what inspired me was there’s this skit on the Chronic with Eddie Griffin [“Ed-ucation”]. I forgot what he said exactly, but it was something like, “Yo momma out here telling you how I ain’t around, but little did you know, yo momma was a ho!” Let’s be fair, not every stripper has that troubled story. Some girls go into this life because they want to. It’s not the dad’s fault, and sometimes it’s the mom’s fault. I just wanted to show another side of the story.
DX: I didn’t think about those two being connected. But that makes sense, you encompass all sides, which is real, because life isn’t black and white.
Well$: Exactly. That’s another thing I wish we would get out off more. People wanna be too niche with their shit. Immaculate Taste, what we do here, we don’t box nobody in, we don’t tell people, “You’re really good at this. Stick to this.” Look at people like Tupac for example—he had songs that made you wanna go out and kill the next person you see. Then he had songs that made you wanna turn around and be like, “Yo, I just wanna hug my mom.”
That just covers all ranges of emotion. As a person, you’re not always trying to turn up, you’re not always trying to hear some conscious shit and you’re not always trying to be in your feelings. You’re trying to experience different emotions. So if rappers are just giving you the same thing in every song, the same emotion, how are they really real? I know you not turning up every second, hour in the day, my nigga. You gotta sleep sometimes. And that’s one thing we big on over here at Immaculate Taste. Yo, expand dawg...expand. The world is limitless, and sounds are limitless. You have the ability to do whatever you want, make whatever kind of sound you wanna make, make whatever lane you want as long as that shit is dope. Only dope shit comes out of Immaculate Taste; that name is there for a reason. We are our name, and that’s a staple behind everything that we do. Everything that comes out of my camp is gonna be quality.
DX: Quality over quantity.
Well$: Always. I might fuck around and take another two years on the album just to make sure my fans love it.
DX: Quality music entails longevity.
Well$: Niggas don’t want that longevity. For me personally, I could give a fuck if a label call me today, tomorrow, whenever. I’m not really in a rush to blow. I got so much shit I can perfect in my craft. It’s just putting in that work. I’m trying be here 10 years from now...30 years from now. I’m trying to make that classic shit. I want niggas 40 years from now, to look back and be like MTSYD and say, “That shit was a classic. That was a Mecca of Hip Hop, and that was when Hip Hop was at its finest. That’s when Hip Hop was at its Golden Age.”