From the very beginning of his musical career, LA’s Antwon has exhibited a penchant for eclecticism well beyond even the ever-expanding sonic palette of today’s hip-hop, collaborating with a long list of left-field beatmakers (Lil Ugly Mane, Suicideyear, Cities Aviv and a lot more) and putting himself on the map with visceral, distinctive and highly quotable lyricism. A deliberate experimenter in music and in life, he’s no stranger to forays into the unknown. And so, we talked exploration, (a lack of) boundaries, and why he’s far beyond that unwanted “sexual punk rapper” typecasting.
Tell me about a time you successfully took a huge risk.
When I put out Fantasy Beds [in 2011]. I didn’t know I was taking a risk, but I guess I was. It helped me out for the better. I just kinda didn’t have anything else so I had to do something.
Was it a risk musically or in terms of life in general?
Life in general. At that time I just got out of jail and I was on probation, I was a felon. So I needed to do something drastic. I didn’t have a job or anything, so I needed to do something. So I did that, cause I didn’t really have anything else. It was do or die or some shit.
An all or nothing situation.
Do you feel like it’s worked out for you?
Oh hell yeah. Now I just work on music every day, I get to go on tour, I get to hang out with a lot of cool people, I get to make more new friends. I think it’s worked out for the better, I’m just trying to sustain it.
What were you in jail for, if you’re willing to talk about that?
Oh, for graffiti. I moved to Philadelphia, and I was going wild over there cuz it’s crazy, it’s like a no-man’s land. I pretty much moved there to play in this band, Leather. And I was doing [graffiti] heavy, sketching tags, everything. So [when] I come back to California, where graffiti is a felony… long story short, I get six months in county jail.
Do you feel like your musical persona affects the way people approach you?
Yeah, I think it does, sometimes. Some people think I’m like this sex-crazed person. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with having sex, I like to have sex a lot, it’s chill. But [they think] I’m incapable of having a relationship or being honest or something. I don’t know, I feel like the most dishonest people want to be friends with me.
Growing up, did you put up with a lot of raised eyebrows as a coloured guy in an ‘alternative’ setting?
Oh yeah, no doubt. Since I was younger, since I grew up, people thought I was weird. I had a bunch of people try to tell me “oh man, you ain’t white, you shouldn’t be fucking with, like, metal and shit”. It was so ridiculous to me… but I didn’t give a fuck, I just listened to that shit, opened my windows and cranked that shit. And people knew about me, they knew I didn’t give a fuck and was gonna keep being that way. And that’s why I am where I am today. Cuz I did not give up.
Seems like your comfort zone doesn’t have much of a boundary.
Yeah, and it makes it very uncomfortable for other people to be around me sometimes.
Can you elaborate?
I’m just a very intense person sometimes, when I’m speaking about my passions. And some people just can’t stand or handle that sometimes. But the people who actually matter in my life can, and they’re probably more intense than I am.
Does anything gross you out though?
Yeah, seeing people barf. That’s the only thing that really grosses me out. Nothing really grosses me out that much.
I’m not much of a fan either.
Of people barfing? Nah, fuck that. Definitely makes me want to barf, when I see people barf.
Yeah, and then you start kind of a cycle of vomit.
Definitely. No turning back.
This is prime insight. Does Nature represent anything?
Yeah, nothing forced, things happening naturally, being yourself. The whole world will make you feel like you need to buy this or that to get these hot chicks or whatever, but all Nature’s about is you needing confidence in yourself.
That said, will me getting Nature merchandise help me pull cuties?
Maybe I’m doing it wrong.
No, not at all – you wouldn’t wanna be with a girl whose whole thing is being very surface, right?
It depends how fine she is…
Nah, there’s definitely a lot of hot girls, but you need more. You need conversation, you need to relate.
So you go for substance?
Cuz for some people, there’s a time and place for substance, and there’s a time and place for superficiality.
I mean, superficiality, if I’m having a one-night stand or something… but anything else, I like substance.
I’ll spread the word.
Antwon took on Q-Factory, Amsterdam for his debut international show on 3 April together with local wordsmith Dusty and lifestyle collective deadHYPE Radio. This Sunday, 22 May, Antwon returns to Amsterdam, this time taking on the Melkweg Theater.