Inteview with Antwon: Father of the Underground Rap Generation
Antwon has been in the underground scene for years with his own style of rap which featured heavy use of retro synths to complement his style of rapping that invoked themes of excess and hedonism.
Antwon has been busy recently after releasing his EP Double Ecstasy, featuring on Clipping’s new EP Wriggle and also working with Lil Ugly Mane and Wiki to create the trio Secret Circle.
Coming to tour in Australia for the first time Antwon was kind enough to allow an interview to detail his thoughts about subjects such as his recent works, collaborations and not being categorised when it comes down to what music he likes.
Aiden Benavides: Hey, how you doing today?
Antwon: I’m doing good, how you doing?
I’m good I’m here to ask questions about your upcoming tour in Australia
Yeah I’m happy to talk about Australia, I got all kinds of emotions about Australia.
Yeah? Anything you’re keen on doing while you’re down there?
I don’t know, I’m trying to experience things so I don’t know, maybe look at stuff. The one thing I wanna do is hang out with Roger the alpha male kangaroo at the kangaroo sanctuary.
Well you got heaps of locations from what I can see, so you’ll get to see a good chunk of the land but seeing as this is your first time touring in Australia is there anything you do to get prepped for a big tour in a new place?
I like stay at home, then I lay down, smoke weed then play video games, I’ll go outside sometimes, walk around then I’ll get some coffee. I mean the 1st week of the tour is pretty rough but then I get into the mode of the tour so there’s nothing I really have to prepare myself for, I just have to be prepared. It’s kind of hard to explain but you know you just have to wear in as you go.
I feel that. So you mentioned having a “Tour Mode” do you also have a “Recording Mode”?
Yeah I’m in “Recording Mode” right now.
Well, I know you released a new EP not too long ago called Double Ecstasy, and that was a big change from your last solo project Heavy Hearted in the Doldrums. Do you think your music has progressed a lot and what makes you progress as an artist?
My music has progressed a lot for sure, it sounds different. Everything sounds different, I think I pretty much just stepped it up, that’s what you gotta do – you just gotta step it up sometimes. The EP is just a trailer to my next album, know what I mean? My next album is like a total step away from all of it pretty much. Double Ecstasy seemed crazy but my next album is like way more crazy.
That’s so good to hear. So also this year right after you put out Double Ecstasy you also dropped the single Keep It Low with Secret Circle, the group you’re in with Lil Ugly Mane and Wiki. Is that album going to have that “New Antwon” heavy feel to it?
Secret Circle is not like any of us three because us three are on a different journey, know what I’m saying? It’s not gonna sound like old Antwon or new Antwon it’s gonna sound like some whole other shit, but it’s still Antwon, know what I mean? At the end of the day it’s not bad, you know what I mean? It’s not like some shit I do half hearted or some shit where I go in half soft, you know what I mean? I pull hard and fuck it I’m in the pussy, it’s like I’m hard and I’m going in there…
Don’t take that part out man.
Haha, okay. Now on working with Ugly Mane and Wiki, those two guys are established and have both made a strong name for themselves, so is their a competitive aspect when you guys rap together?
Yeah probably, but it really comes down to if you went off on the shit, you went off on the shit and it’s all good cause you did your thing, it’s just respect, we respect each other. We’re actual friends you know what I mean? Secret Circle is a rap group because we are friends it’s not like “Hey lets just do this project together”, it’s friendship first and project later.
I feel that.
We got an actual group here, some of these kids out here that go and do some shit but they ain’t really friends and they don’t really hang out, they don’t hang everyday and they don’t talk everyday so it’s not real, it’s fake you know what I mean? It’s all fake. Secret Circle ain’t about that shit, it’s not about that fake shit, it’s about real friends coming together so when the album comes the album comes, but it’s some other shit.
That’s good man because you keep it genuine. I know you and Ugly have collaborated for a long time as he has been producing beats for you under the name Shawn Kemp and I also know you and Wiki have been tight for a while now too. You have this great talent of finding great people to collaborate with in music and even your music videos, how do you pick out people to collaborate with? Do you go with friends cause of the close bond or do you go like “This guy is dope I wanna work with him”?
So I did like ‘Dying in the pussy’ and ‘Don’t Care’ with Cali Dewitt and Cali was a friend of a friend, so I met him and knew of his work so I trusted him because I know of who he is, you know what I’m saying? I know who Cali is and I know who the other person is so it’s easier to do business with someone if you know who they are. It’s harder to do business and gauge someone when you don’t know anything about them. If the business is in and out then it’s not a problem but if you have to work with them for a minute and you have to do work that’s smart you then have to go with the gut feeling. That’s how me and Cali did those two videos but most of the time it’s just with friends.
When it comes down to influences I know you had a different path to most rappers being part of the hardcore and punk scenes. Do you feel like that background of hardcore and punk has changed your sound significantly more compared to someone who just listened to rap?
I’m not like strictly hip hop dude or strictly a punk dude, I listen to a lot of different music like techno and I love reggae and like other types of music you know what I mean? I like a lot of other stuff so listening to rap and listening to hardcore aren’t that big of a deal to me, I know it’s a big deal to other people but it’s not a big deal to me because I listened to a lot of different music and there are a lot of the people in this world that do that but people are just catching on to that idea. Listen to what you want you’re free now.
So with your diverse taste in music is there any music you’ve been listening to recently that you want people to get on?
I’m listening to a bunch of shit that people probably won’t understand. I don’t think it’s about wanting people to get on shit, if you want to you can look at my spotify but that’s bout it.
Sick. So I know this is a common question for rappers but do you have a top 5 dead or alive rappers?’
You know people always try to go crazy with their top five, I think my favorite rappers would probably be… hmmmmm in no order, Pac, Jadakiss, Andre Nickatina for sure, E40… uhhhh I got more than five you know?
Yeah it’s hard to get it down to such a low number.
Ill Bill is good, I like Ill Bill but there’s a lot more rappers and I got a lot of favorite rappers and i don’t think it can be just 5.
Sweet. So outside of music what inspires you, I know you have done art and graffiti before and as a person you’d enjoy and do stuff outside of music, so what inspires you?
I used to do art, and I did do graffiti but then I went to jail for that shit, so I’m not really doing that shit no more because I have like a felony so if I get caught doing graffiti again I’d go to prison, so I stopped doing that shit and I never really went back. I enjoy taking film pictures, do a lot of film stuff cause I just got back from doing that for a little bit, real lowkey. I also have done a bunch of zines, under another name Antonio Williams, so I got like 2 zines done under my actual name Antonio Williams, but yeah that’s really it, oh and I play video games.
Haha, any particular game at the moment?
Fight Night Champion and GTAV all the time.
I’m almost out of time but before I go is there any question you want an interviewer to ask you?
Any question? Nah but there’s a bunch I don’t want people to ask like I don’t want people to keep asking if I like sounding like Biggie or if I’m punk, why am I rapping, like those two questions are fucking stupid. I don’t sound like Biggie, obviously [Antwon mockingly does a Biggie Smalls impression] I don’t sound like that you feel me? For the punk thing, it doesn’t really matter, it’s kind of an old way of thinking.
Like, “You can only be one thing and you can’t be anything else?”
Yeah of course man it’s crazy. But i get it there’s a lot of “old way of thinking people” who don’t understand that they ain’t free.
Finally do you have any words or shout outs for like the tour or any upcoming projects? Just give a shout out for the plug.
Oh yeah we got new Nature World shit, I think we at Street X and at somewhere else too. So lookout for Nature World the brand down in Australia, say whats up. Holla at NatureWorld.Us.
Antwon, thank you for doing this it’s great to talk to one of the pioneers of the American underground rap scene and you’ve been a big inspiration to me and probably many others, I and Purple Sneakers thank you.
Yeah that’s whats up, you know I’m like the father of all that underground US shit you know what I mean? A lot these little kids I birthed on this shit, all Antwon fans, know what I mean? Got all my kids out here you know? All these little rap boys are my sons. You should put that in there.
Haha I’ll put that in there, if you want I’ll make the title something like “Interview with Antwon: The Father of Underground Rap”, you know to keep it real.
Pffffft hahaha Yeah you should do “Antwon: Father of the Underground Rap Generation”
Hahaha Thanks again for doing this Antwon I’ll be sure to catch your Melbourne show.
I’ll see you bruh.
Words by Aiden Benavides