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Marjua Estevez

Latin Trap Pioneer Messiah Gets The Last Laugh At SXSW: “Labels Didn’t Believe In It”

Messiah is by definition already a story of success, and he's only getting started.

Dominican rapper and vocalist Messiah El Artista went from studying the likes of 50 Cent to being cosigned by him; from listening to trap music to leading its Spanish-language movement; from rocking Sean John to fronting it as the brand's newest face.

Messiah is by definition already a story of success, and he's only getting started. Even after selling out New York City's Stage 48, releasing his 12-track opus Made in Europe and touring across The Pond while remaining entirely independent, Messiah has yet to record what we know to be a proper radio single.

Ahead of his South by Southwest debut in Austin, Texas, the Washington Heights representer gave VIBE Viva the inside scoop on all things Latin trap, crossing over, Drake comparisons and his greatest accomplishments yet, which now include being nominated for a Daytime Emmy. Not too shabby for a chico from around the way.

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VIBE Viva: Your first time at SXSW, what do you want to give the people?
Messiah: I want to give them that New York essence. I want to bring that out here. Texas is not like New York, it’s not super lit. And I want to bring that essence here. My stage presence—have these people rocking out to my Spanish trap.

You helped pave way for Spanish trap. How do you feel about others taking credit?
I just feel that you should give credit where it's due. You should know it doesn't make you less of an artist. It doesn't take away from your artistry, from who you are as a man just for saying, "You know what? I give it to this dude because he paved the way." And they do it. A lot of artists do it. But I see a lot of artists that it's like everyone wants that credit to say, "Oh, I paved the way." You got to know that if you didn't do that, then that's the credit you shouldn't be taking. So honestly right now, I'm just very political about it. I respect everyone, but at this point—all the media outlets know what's up, so I don't have to keep bragging about it. I don't need a marching band every time I walk through the room. I was definitely not the first one to do it, but I know for a fact that I was one of the first ones to really consolidate it.

Which is to say to make it a part of the mainstream?
Yeah, because you just go back to 2013… before that, there was not a big trap movement. When I came out with my first trap mixtape and people were like, "There's a genre, it's a movement here," you see a lot of these labels—before labels used to laugh about Latin trap. They didn't believe in it. Now everyone is like, "Oh you do Latin trap? You lit." Why? Because that's what's lit now.

Are labels wooing you with deals, and do you plan on signing with anyone?
Right now, I just want to get everything together. I just got out of management. I'm just rebuilding my team right now. As far as record labels, I've been reached out by record labels since I started, so that's the least of my worries. I've been doing so good independently that I want to keep it that way until we find the perfect partnership, because when I do partner up with a record label and give them some of my percentages, it has to be with the right person. We've been trying to do the crossover, you know? I want to do something on the Anglo side. I want to [work with] a record label that's also Spanish.

What does crossover success look like to you?
You know, a lot of these artists can't speak English that [well]. My English is not the best English. It's not perfect, but I can damn near hold a great conversation with anybody, so that's an upper hand that I have on a lot of artists here. So, as far as the crossover—perfect example: Spiff [TV] explained to me that whenever you're in the studio with a Latin rap artist doing a feature with an English hip-hop artist, it's really hard because you need somebody to come in and say what the song is saying. Me, I can explain the song for you. I would rather hear it from the artist because I do music all the time with different artists.

So, let's say I'm doing a song with a French artist, and he just happens to also know English. Now he can tell me, "What I'm saying in French is this.” I can be in the room with Meek Mill and be like, "The song is talking about, 'We in the club. We with girls,'" so he's hearing it from me and so we vibing together. So, I think when it comes to the crossover, I'm already doing the crossover. I have so many English stations that play my music. I have so many people that don't know Spanish that come up to me and be like, "Yo, I don't know what the hell you're saying, but I love your vibe. I love your flow." So, I already think I'm doing the crossover without even trying, so then when we do come with this record, this Spanglish, Pitbull-esque track—it's going to be lit.

Would you want Drake to come on a record and spit in Spanish?
He could be speaking French on the record. [Laughs] With Drake, I don't care what it is. Just having Drake on the record to me would be very monumental.

I understand that you’ve been dubbed the “Latin Drake.”
I take that as a compliment—the "Spanish Drake," the "Latin Drake," even though I was doing this before I even knew of Drake, you know? In New York, when I started doing music, I was big on 50 Cent, the G-Unit mixtapes. That's like what really inspired me to do hip-hop, but when I started hearing about Drake doing the singing and the rapping, which is what I do—I kind get it. It's definitely not an insult to me being compared to somebody as big and as dope as Drake.

Is Drake in your top five?
I think Drake is definitely one of my favorite rappers. He consolidated himself as like one of the best rappers. That's something dope. Me, I did the same thing. You can say that I didn't just change the Latin hip-hop with the Latin trap. You can say that I've kind of changed the urban game, period, because now everyone is just doing trap. So, a lot of people who were urban merengueros, urban bachateros, a lot of dudes are now literally saying, "Yo, we're just doing trap" and having a lot to do with that is definitely an honor.

When you leave Texas, what’s next? What’s up your sleeve?
We already got our single. We're just waiting for it to get mixed and mastered, so just moving forward with the single, finally. We have a lot of promo coming. The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Miami, LA. So I'm just excited for what's to come out of that. I'm working on a lot of people's stuff, too.

It's been a long time of me being an independent artist and doing everything underground, so now working my first radio record is definitely something to look out for because I have so many DJ friends that tell me, "Yo, Messiah. I think you've gotten as big as an underground artist can get. You sold out Stage 48. All the clubs you do are lit. You bring out something on the Internet and it's lit. Your last project Made in Europe debuted at No. 1 on iTunes." And with all of that being said, I still have not worked a radio record. I still have not said, "This is my single.” No Billboard charts.

Any recent testaments to your success?
Actually, I've been nominated for an Emmy—a Daytime Emmy for this radio commercial I wrote and recorded for X96.3 FM Univision Radio, in 2016. And Even if I don't win, I'm always going to be an Emmy nominee.

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Nic Harcourt hands Quincy Jones the AKG Lifetime Achievement Award.
Courtesy of AKG

A Night Of Timeless Moments: AKG Honors Quincy Jones At 'History of Making History' Event

Quincy Jones can hang.

As AKG Audio's special event honoring the legendary composer in Hollywood came to an end just before midnight on Tuesday (Nov. 12), the 86-year-old was in the third hour of meeting guests. Sitting on a piano bench with a wide smile, Jones showed genuine love, laughs and hugs with every fan who had their own special story of how his work changed their lives.

Jones and innovative sound leaders AKG Audio have a lot in common. For the last seven decades, both have commanded the world to open their ears to new styles of technology, music, and production. It's a bond that brought the two to the Capitol Records Tower for "A History of Making History: Celebrating 70 Years of AKG," an event honoring the massive brand while tipping its hat off to one of the most important music composers of all time.

Jones accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award in front of an intimate crowd that included guests like singer-songwriter Daley, Maejor, Bobby Brackins, Jones' protege Jacob Collier, longtime friend and host Nic Harcourt, and many more captivated by the musician.

 

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Quincy Jones, the legendary composer, producer and founder of @VIBEMagazine, was honored last night in Hollywood by @akgaudio with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to music for over the last 7 decades. Check out our stories for more with Mr. Jones and AKG’s legendary role in the history of headphones! #AKGX70

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"Thank you from the bottom of my soul," Jones said. "This is as good as it gets for an 86-year-old bald-headed beep bopper (Laughs). Seven kids, eight grandkids; life is great. I hope you all experience a long, long life filled with love to share, health to spare, and most importantly, friends who care."

“Throughout his legendary career, Quincy Jones has created some of the most iconic records in the history of the recording industry and we are honored to present him with a Lifetime Achievement Award,” Erik Tarkiainen, Vice President of Global Marketing, HARMAN Professional Solutions tells VIBE. “For 70 years, AKG has been creating headphones and microphones that empower the spirit of creativity and innovation, and no one embodies that spirit more than Quincy.”

Some of AKG's classic mics were on display like the model Beyonce used for the album 4 and another used by both the late 2Pac and Luther Vandross. Jones even shared how he's used their products over the years.

"For almost seven decades in this business as a musician, composer, arranger, conductor and producer, I have always gone for the music that gives me goosebumps. And whether it was Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Sinatra and the Count Basie Orchestra, the Brothers Johnson, Michael Jackson, the artists who contributed to the recordings of "We Are The World", right up until today, without fail that music was delivered through AKG audio products,” Jones said. “As you celebrate your 70th anniversary, I have no doubt in my mind that AKG will continue to be an essential part of the music recording and listening experience for many, many more decades to come."

Collier's covers revealed just how sharp Jones' ears remain over the years. Collier's jazz-tinged covers of Jones' compositions like "Human Nature" (Michael Jackson), "Fly Me To The Moon" (Frank Sinatra) and "Give Me The Night" (George Benson) included jazz and R&B blends with the multi-instrumentalist using his voice as the most powerful card in the deck. The Grammy-winning artist's performance was a gift to the audience and to Jones, as he sat front and center enjoying an icicle and while tapping his shoe to the new-wave rhythms.

Just before Collier united the room, several studios at Capitol Records acted as classrooms. One studio featured a conversation between Harcourt and acoustics expert Dr. Sean Olive where they touched on the history of AKG's role in the headphone industry, dating back to 1949's AKG DYN Series. Another room included the stems of Quincy's most iconic production—Michael Jackson's "Thriller"—available on laptops for guests to mix while AKG's latest releases like the AKG K361 and K371 were on display. In the Crow's Nest studio rested with elation is Ramzoid, who offered his own remix to Jones' music.

One of the main studios featured a DJ set by Austin Millz, one of the creatives behind D’USSE Palooza and admirer of Jones. "It was an honor to play for the Quincy Jones/AKG event," he tells VIBE. "Quincy is one of my biggest influences in music. His path, journey and all his contributions in music is countless and is a great example of setting the tone for what is an extraordinary career. His accolades and what he stands for is exemplary. Last night was a night that I will never forget."

The bubble with Jones and AKG was a music lover's paradise. As the legendary composer continues to receive his flowers, new and old friends are learning more about him each and every day. "It's the left brain and science," he said of the intersection between God-given instrumental talent and technology. "You have to master the rules before you can break them, so you better know what you're doing."

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Duane Prokop

Big Baby DRAM Is Prepping For A Big Comeback

In 2016, music connoisseurs were graced with the introduction of acts who injected fun back into hip-hop . These new rappers like Aminé, Lil Yachty and DRAM steered clear of hardcore trap beats, and instead supplied the industry with exultant, infectious records. DRAM stood out with multiple hits that year, including “Cha Cha,” “Broccoli,” and “Cute.” But as much as the Hampton, Virginia native and his fans hold his debut album Big Baby D.R.A.M in high regard, he is now ready to flip the switch and show a different side of his musicality with his upcoming sophomore album.

“For the whole history of me releasing music ever since my first mixtapes in 2014, I've had a couple of records that were so jubilant, uplifting and uptempo, just automatic feel good,” the 31-year-old shared. “There's no denying that those records in the past have been phenomenal, but that was for that moment.”

Although no physical sit down occurred with DRAM for his conversation with VIBE, it was easy to envision his signature smile on his face through the phone as he shared his album-making process from over the last three years, as well as his endless side hustles. From delving deep into songwriting, to partnering with Sprite and LeBron James, he has kept busy and obviously music has consistently stayed on his mind. But he's taking a new direction musically.

An illustration of this is “The Lay Down.” DRAM's latest single shows him shifting from his jovial, happy-go-lucky persona into a passionate, seductive lover. The bedroom jam shows off his vocal chops as he shares vocal harmonies with H.E.R. over a beautiful, soulful production by WATT that's highlighted by a soaring guitar solo at the song's climax. It's one of the greatest songs of 2019, and it shows just how comfortable DRAM is with his versatility.

Although his sophomore album has no specific release date, nor a title available to the public (he apologized for the vagueness), DRAM is ready to welcome his fans into a new, previously slightly hidden chapter of his music career.

* **

VIBE: I know you're currently working on your second album, but you've also kept yourself busy this past year with things outside the album making process. Last year you worked with LeBron James and Sprite, recently you worked with them again for a remake of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" for the upcoming holiday season. What has it been like to collaborate with King James on your Sprite partnership?

DRAM: It's just really dope how, it places us in the same vicinity. I don't know, it makes me chuckle because he throws me a can of Sprite every time I see it. I got on these glasses, looking happy as hell. It makes me happy to see it.

In working with Lebron and Sprite do you feel like you learned something from him? What did you admire working with him?

I just admired how the whole thing went down to be honest. That everybody agreed to do it. I think what I took from that is that you can rub shoulders with just about anybody as long as you be about yours and do what you came to do.

Getting into your music, it's been a minute since you've released a project, three years to be exact. You recently just celebrated the three-year anniversary of Big Baby D.R.A.M. In these three years how much have you changed artistically and as a person?

I think it's more so about growing up. Growing up into what this has become. I can think about it as me putting out a merch project, like a newborn baby. And now I'm at the age of like a toddler, like preschool. No longer having the spoon or the bottle, maybe even have a sippy cup and a bag of chips. It's just more mature. Things that would excite me and things that I would be eager or nervous about, it's almost second nature now.

You become accustomed to the lifestyle that comes with putting out an album or doing the things of album mode. Going out and doing shows, and now it's no better time. It's so time for the next effort. The question is, what's going to be next for me and it's really just growth. Evolution, a slight change of perspective in a sense.

For sure. And then back in 2016, you were releasing records like “Broccoli” which was more feel good and kind of poppy. Now, you just released “The Lay Down” with H.E.R. and Watt, which is more soulful. Why have you decided to go that route? Was it a smooth process for you to go from making records like “Broccoli” and “Cute” to “The Lay Down?”

For the whole history of me releasing music ever since my first mixtapes in 2014, I've had a couple of records that were so jubilant, uplifting and uptempo, just automatic feel good. But then as a body of work, its majority is sensual, thought-provoking, emotion-provoking records, such as “Caretaker,” “Wi-Fi,” “Sweet Virginia Breeze,” which was centered on the first Sprite campaign that I was on. These records are really what the core, diehard DRAM fanbase, that's where, in the grand scheme of things, the whole scale. As the years went on, you aim to grow towards what you really want. There's no denying that those records in the past have been phenomenal, but that was for that moment. That was what it was.

Now what's leading the way, it's the records that’s still with the substance, that keeps the actual diehard fans here and there. It's like for the outsider, it's such a sudden change because if you haven't really delved into the world of "Big Babes" then you wouldn't get it. To the point where the fans that's been there for quite some time, they're right on key. Anyone else who comes just there for that, the instantaneous party, you might stick around or wanna kick back with a Daiquiri, or go back and drink your drink somewhere else.

Getting more into your track with H.E.R. and WATT, what was it like working on “The Lay Down” with them? Was the process of making that song different from any of your other songs?

Oh no! Like I said, it's second nature. It really just comes. I'd like to say, I can't really think of myself just off of one lane, I know that I concentrate more toward the sensual, what I was saying previously. There's no box to put me in. Just last week I was in a session helping a very prominent rapper. I'm coming up with lines for somebody else in a rap song. This whole campaign, it's really just whatever I put my energy towards, and I'm just very thankful that I have the strength and the feeling that I can do it.

Do you feel like the industry tries to box artists into the specific genre that they first come out with?

I'm not gonna sit here and be the one that's going to give you a huge leftist, huge rightist position. I think it's all on what that person that's there, is the entity, the artist. So no matter who else is behind them, no matter how much shit is going on behind them, it's all on that person and what they choose to do with their craft. Somebody can go into the game and really be in it for the heart and once the money starts, and then it's like all right boom, boom, boom, and then they say they want to change, and they're like "well let me go back to that thing" because the coin is good, everybody wants to get that coin back. Make sure you invest and save, you're not watching them do enough of that, you still want to keep it around. Some people will go into the trash can, before they compromise their brain.

I think it's all about balance and knowing your fan base may be slightly different from your true desires that you want to get out there. The thing is lace up and weather the storm if that's what you want to do or sit back and chill in the breeze if that's what you want to do. Don't be mad when the clouds start coming.

You recently said in a Twitter post that you feel that no one really sings anymore and that there aren't any "true sangers" out there. Why do you think that is?

You know, it's very croonery, very “monotone-y,” it's not daring, it doesn't sound like anyone is willing to jump off of a cliff and see if that parachute thing comes up with hope and a prayer. Trust me, some hope and a prayer gets you down there if you really believe. Nobody's channeling, I feel like in the correct manner. There's some people that are really killing it and making phenomenal music in what they do. What I'm saying is that there's a certain type of energy, a certain type of presence that is no longer being made, being honored. I'm just here to let that continue to live on, and it never die.

Do you feel like there are still singers that are out today that give you goosebumps, that you feel aren't monotone-ish or anything like that?

When I hear that girl named Yebba Smith... it's this girl named Yebba. She's like low-key, but she's probably a lot of people's favorite singers’ favorite singer. She's gonna f**k up a lot of sh*t. Her sh*t is fire. I stumbled across her at a session at my publisher house, we have the same publisher and she was in the other room and I was like damn bro. They played me her sh*t, I had to walk over to the other room and meet her. When I hear her sing that sh*t f***ing....damn! And that's what we need, that's what I'm talking about. All that other sh*t, it's cool, but c'mon now we need that energy.

I know you also mentioned in your tweet that you've also been focusing a lot on songwriting, I wanted to know what your songwriting method is like and if it's always come easy to you?

Anything can inspire to do something musically. I can hear a door shut funny and have a note and be like oh sh*t. Or something like the phrase “gotta be quicker than that” or something. I like to just use the things that I really feel inside. When I hear it and then when I say it, it's gotta match. It's like a secret language that I'm speaking with the beat. I just want to make it feel right.

What more can your fans expect from your second album? What do you hope that they take away from it?

Take away the growth of where I am mentally, where I am musically and to kind of get a better understanding of why I've been in kind of a recluse type of state in these years and the things that I've been going through in regular life.

Why the three-year wait for your sophomore album?

It needed that you know. I don't want to sound like that, by saying I don't want to sound like that of course it's probably going to sound like that, but it takes time for these type of things. I believe that the bodies of work that I've been putting out and more specifically, the first mixtape and then the first album, that really changed a lot of today's music, to be honest. You gotta give them some time to really cycle out so you can really see how much you've influenced music. I promise to God the three-year wait was worth it.

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Brando

NEXT: Emotional Oranges Sing Tales Of Modern Love Behind Mysterious Blinds

As of late, New York’s Brooklyn Steel has acted as a safe space for budding performers of the R&B flavor to bring live music to the fans. On a brisk fall evening, fans of Emotional Oranges follow stickers that act as breadcrumbs to the venue. It’s a perfect treat for them given the anonymous nature of the presumed duo. Singles like the flirtatious “Motion” and “Personal” not only offer reasons to slide to the dance floor but an ode to their ability to marry disco blends, instrumental productions, and 808s, resulting in a very special cocktail of modern R&B.

When members known as "A" and "V" take the stage in front of the sold-out crowd, they’re imaginative in every way. The venue turns into a mood ring of sorts as their silhouettes are met with lavender hues during “Built That Way,” blue for “Your Best Friend Is A Hater” and a somber red for “Corners of My Mind.” They may be a wonder, but the stories heard on the aforementioned tracks reflect the ins and outs of modern love. Ins being the adrenaline of meeting someone new in a two-star bar and the outs being the situationship that follows it. Fantasies of what love should be and reflections of what it could have been flooding the Emotional Oranges' debut project The Juice Vol. 1, giving listeners honest storytelling. It’s something producer/engineer “A” and female vocalist “V” pride themselves on.

“I think a lot of our music stems from real experience, not just other people’s stories, but our lives as well,” V says a few moons later in the VIBE office. Their most daring songs like “Hold You Back,” a back and forth about a woman falling for another girl while in relations with a guy came from a simple conversation between the two. “Hold You Back” as well as songs from their newly released follow-up, The Juice Vol. 2 aren’t built for the radio or a speakeasy, but for listeners who enjoy a bit of spritz in their R&B.

“It goes back to the expectations,” A says. “People get in the studio and it's a writer setup with another writer. The expectation is a song for the club, or a deep song or something for the “quintessential” album, but with us, there's none of that.”

Due to their anonymity, Emotional Oranges don’t worry about playing up their personality or staying in a sound bubble. Their mysterious allure comes with creative freedom. “I think it actually helps us do things faster,” V continues. “Vol. 2 was written in two weeks. A lot of the production takes 5, 6, 7 months, but in terms of ideation that process was super fast.”

The Juice Vol. 2 continues to toy with their style of intentional R&B; songs like “Don’t Be Lazy” jump right to the punch. “Let me lick and taste it,” the two sing with other tracks like “West Coast Love” pays homage to East Coast legends A Tribe Called Quest’s 1990 jam, “Can I Kick It.” There’s also “Iconic,” that toys with the sounds of Miami’s 90s underground. Produced by Dante Jones of THEY., the track aligns with the Los Angeles-based duo's mission of keeping their music free-flowing.

A and V of Emotional Oranges came to be in 2017 but the group moved as a collective comprised of “normal people” in 2015. Those people included songwriters and producers, leading many to wonder just who made up the group. Speaking to Noisey earlier this year, EO shared how their debut single “Motion” doesn’t feature V, but another vocalist. "If you listen real carefully, on our first single ‘Motion,’ that’s our first singer. She's an A&R at a big label. The rest of the songs are our new singer," they said at the time. “We've all worked regular jobs. We're very regular people. And we came together for one unified vision. I tried a lot of things in my life that didn't work. I tried to put so many things together. It just came down to authenticity.” Some of the things that didn’t work were trying to bend towards a label's passive-aggressive suggestions.

“When you have labels telling you who you are as an artist, that doesn't work,” A says. “It might work for a song but not for the longevity of your career.” He also shared how artists should be mindful of the relationships they have with a label, a notion that might not be on the mind of a green artist. “It's not the idea of a label it’s the idea of someone telling you that you have to compromise your integrity in order to get to the next level, you have to eliminate that and eliminate the expectations of it to make money off of this tomorrow,” he says.“But for us, I think it's very liberating. We’re releasing music we love and not being given a deadline or told what to wear. To free yourself from all these things has been the most liberating for us.”

With their loyal and true fan base known as the “citrus squad,” Emotional Oranges got to experience just how deep their influence has been. Their fan merch with the simple words “emotional” across the right side of their tees and sweatshirts were later seen in the stores of Forever 21 without any credit. “I take it as a compliment,” V says. “They always copy what’s hot.”

Merch:

 

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- 🧡 Emotional Oranges 🧡 🍊 9/14/19 🍊 Tags: #emo #grunge #makeup #edgy #emomakeup #grungemakeup #dark #aesthetic #tumblr #tumblraesthetic #outfits #black #bandtees #rock #music #skinnyjeans #selfie #mirrorselfie #smokeyeye #eyeliner #alternative #alternativeaesthetic #sad #dark #nepali #canadian #explore #explorepage #emotionaloranges #chiiild @hellochiiild @emotionaloranges

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Forever 21:

They’re also one of the artists who provide a phone number for their fans. It’s not a way of funneling data for EO, but instead, a way for them to get to know their squad. “Even at the shows, they’ll come backstage and tell us their names. One time, there were four different couples in Toronto who bought meet and greet tickets twice," V recalls. "They spent $150 each twice in three months. They all said, ‘Do you remember us?’ and it’s like, ‘Of course!’ Moments like that have been great.”

“They’ll also tell their family members to come to shows,” V adds while asking A about a Texas-based fan who shared his love for EO with his twin sister from Durham. That curious person then became a fan, stretching the Emotional Oranges family a little further.

As their music continues to reach lovers of soul and today’s modern R&B, Emotional Oranges are holding on to the elements that actually matter. From storytelling, funky beats and universal perspectives, they have a gift of making it all work. “I think we haven't pigeon-holed ourselves, or put ourselves in a box,” V ironically says as she toys with an orange from our snack area. “I think we kind of live outside the box. We can really play, which I think is fun since where we go from here is up to us.”

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