Enter the darker side with the latest artist on the dance music scene. Brooklyn based artist MDNT (pronounced ‘midnight’) talks to VIBE in his first ever interview after dropping his breakout track, ‘Dreamcatcher’, already landing the No. 1 spot on Hype Machine’s Originals Pop Chart. Read on to get an in-depth look at the man behind the movement he calls ‘future soul’ and discover why a dark side is sometimes necessary in order to become a star.
VIBE: Describe your sound in three words.
MDNT: How about two…Future Soul
How did you come up with your moniker?
As a high functioning insomniac, MDNT (pronounced ‘midnight’) was an easy choice. The dark side of us, of humanity in a social sense, has always been one-dimensional leaning toward the negative. As MDNT, I want to convey the dark’s deeper beauty as well as its sinister attributes.
Did your upbringing affect the way you look at music today?
Completely. I grew up as one of only a few minorities in my hometown, and this forced me to go through ‘music’ phases. I studied classical voice and jazz at first, and then tried to compensate for that by listening to hardcore rap and punk rock. Luckily, I was able to find a middle ground and appreciate all music regardless of genre.
Being a Brooklynite, where’s your favorite place to…
…eat? Pies-n-Thighs, seriously might snag that chicken biscuit after this interview.
…drink? WhistlePig Straight Rye Whiskey at my best friend’s place in Park Slope. I’m not much of a bar/nightclub person…yet.
…listen to music? In the editing suite with Colin Kelly (director of ‘Dreamcatcher’). On top of being a brilliant videographer, he has hands down the best taste in music. Spotify that dude’s playlists!
…dance? MDNT doesn’t dance, he vibes.
What’s the message behind your first single, ‘Dreamcatcher’?
I wrote ‘Dreamcatcher’ with a very specific event in mind, but I never want to sing at people what to feel when listening to my music. My goal is to have ‘Dreamcatcher’ be digested and processed differently by every individual that listens to it.
The music video for the single is also pretty intense. What is the concept behind the film?
My grandfather passed right before I wrote ‘Dreamcatcher’. My entire life, my family has compared me to his positive attributes – strong, charismatic, brilliant – but he also had a darker side, dominated by severely abusive tendencies, that led to him become ostracized. The video [‘Dreamcatcher’] takes my initial insecurities about possessing the dark parts of my grandfather and manifests them in the masked figure terrorizing both Jez Dior and myself. He represents our own uncontrollable sub-conscious, the unspoken narrative that shows our true colors in times of duress.
For better or worse, my grandfather’s legacy lives on through ‘Dreamcatcher’.
Starting out in the music industry, what are some of the biggest struggles you have come up against so far?
It’s an interesting dynamic. When you’re starting out everything comes with a hefty price – studio time, press, working with producers, etc. – but after you gain a little buzz and prove that being attached to your artistry can be mutually beneficial, that’s when those things come a lot easier (and cheaper…ironically).
Sometimes it’s about finding that guardian angel, and for me that was SmarterChild and Jez Dior. They took a chance and believed in me when no one else would, and for that I’ll always be grateful.
Is there anything in today’s EDM scene that you hope to change through your music and influence?
I respect everyone’s lane and never want to impose my style on someone else’s vision, but I think there’s a giant divide between truly innovating and recycling mediocrity. In the same way that most of popular electronic music is predicated solely on builds and drops, the R&B world is mostly all about sexual innuendos framed in food references…I’m not gonna conform to either cliches.
Which artists (DJs, producers, rappers) you would want to collaborate with?
Shoooot, that’s a hard question. I would love to work with producers like Diplo, Happy Perez, and Timbaland – they all have created their own unique style that defies genres. Same goes for Kanye, Crystal Castles, and Haim. As far as a Future-Soul duet, Jessie Ware would be incredible! Last but not least, my no. 1 influence has always been Maxwell. To be able to merge Neo-Soul and Future-Soul would be a dream come true.