“Seconds after pushing through the door like a cowboy, I spotted Intuition posted up on the far side of the bar draped in dark jeans, a black Dodger fitted, and a grey hoodie. I thought about chanting ‘Rudy, Rudy, Rudy’ to the Sean Astin clone working the scroller ball, but decided the sun drenched snow child behind ‘Girls Like Me’ would have more to say.” Our writer Ryan Monk hooked up with Intuition to talk about his upcoming album ‘Girls Like Me’, the L.A. scene, influences of blogs and much more.
As I’m driving up the 5 to Culver City, I can’t help but think I’m being thrown to the wolves. Earlier that day, a Los Angeles MC by the name of Intuition had his highly anticipated record, Girls Like Me, bootlegged on one of our affiliate sites a week before its release date. Even though it was a mix up due to a fake e-mail being sent out by someone posing as a promotional blogger, I had a sinking feeling this was going to be the most awkward face to face interview since Joaquin Phoenix met cocaine.
During my cruise from the valley to “screen city,” a few tracks from Project Blowed mainstays, Aceyalone and Abstract Rude, laced my speakers and I began to reminisce about the classic Los Angeles underground hip hop scene that launched my obsession with L.A. hip hop twelve years ago. Compared to ‘A Book of Human Language,’ 310 hip hop has added a friendlier twist to its abstract foundations, but still remains a paradigm of originality within a counterfeit culture.
Ever since Blu hit the world with ‘Below the Heavens’ (an album that was bootlegged almost 8 months before its release) and promotional blogs gave West Coast up and comers a shot in their posts, California has been exposed as the hotbed for fresh new talent by birthing artists such as: Blu, Fashawn, Exile, Nocando, Nipsey Hussle, Strong Arm Steady, VerBS, Versis, Sahtyre, Dumbfoundead, Alpha MC, Pac Div, UNI, Makeshift, and Intuition. It’s a scene that has always made a neon statement within the grey matter of hip hop fans on a global scale, and I couldn’t wait to see how an Alaskan transplant infiltrated its core to make his own noise.
After the 40 minute trudge through the Ventura-LA County auto-swamp, I pulled into the Cozy Inn parking lot. The film chemical spiked atmosphere made me instantly thirsty and I was glad that my interviewee chose a cash only dive with a shuffleboard spread as our meeting place, rather than a poster bar for the apple martini splashed plastics.
Seconds after pushing through the door like a cowboy, I spotted Intuition posted up on the far side of the bar draped in dark jeans, a black Dodger fitted, and a grey hoodie. Halfway through a glass of Guinness, he continued to eye a game of Golden Tee that was being worked all too vigorously by a pseudo-midget that resembled a young Sean Astin. I grabbed a Blue Moon, an extra apologetic Guinness and walked over to him. I thought about chanting ‘Rudy, Rudy, Rudy’ to the Sean Astin clone working the scroller ball, but decided the sun drenched snow child behind ‘Girls Like Me’ would have more to say.
You don’t really remind me of a ‘slimy arabic man’ like someone said in a blog comment.
Haha, well slimy sometimes, but not arabic. I’m all euro: Italian/Hungarian/Brit/German mutt. But it’s funny how often I get mistaken for other nationalities in Los Angeles, depending on what part of the city I’m in. Armenian, Mexican, etc .
I think that’s kind of one of the hidden beauties of the melting pot that is America now, you can’t really tell anyone’s nationality anymore.
Yeah definitely. The grey race shall soon overcome and then people will finally realize we’re a classist society, not a racist one.
You’ve taken the internet by storm, but I’ve noticed a little trend. What’s with all the hatred in the comments?
I don’t know. That has taken me by surprise too. I think when you’re on “the come up” you surround yourself with friends and supporters and yes men of sorts. So, when I was finally starting to get out there in places and circles I hadn’t been heard of before it was very new to me to be so polarizing and have some people just shitting on everything about me, and then the next comment telling them they are crazy and that I’m dope. Not gonna lie, I had to stop reading comments on blogs because the first couple weeks of pushing the record it was making me kind of nuts and socially awkward.
It seems as if you had a brigade of people with personal vendettas and it made me wonder, because I’ve talked about the LA scene in depth with a few other upcoming artists, is it really as jaded and fake like other artists say it is?
Well, the scene here is definitely broken into segments, everyone is cut throat and looks out for them mainly, and I’m sure I’m guilty of that as well. We’re definitely not a “hey it’s all peace and love let’s all help each other” scene you know? I don’t know, it’s really hard to talk about scenes without getting specific, and trying to not step on toes is tough, which kind of summarizes the LA scene.
I think that everyone talks shit but everyone smiles in each other’s faces. No one wants to step on toes. So when people get a chance to get on the internet in anonymity and do it, I’m sure they jump at the opportunity. But the fact of the matter is, all of my close friends in the scene are doing great things for themselves and they are all doing it in their own way and that makes me proud.
I’ve been seeing other sub-scenes get a lot of shine in recent years and now I’m hoping that it will be my “scenes” turn. I’m speaking about artists like Nocando, VerBS, Dumbfoundead, Open Mike, etc. I feel like we’re all a good network for each other but we’re all doing it our own way and I dig that.
The buzz around the city is that you and VerBS put on quite a show. What do you bring to a live performance that people get into so much?
I’m really not even sure what it is, but whatever it is it clicked the very first time that we did a song together on stage. The first song we wrote for the ‘Buzz EP‘ was ‘Touch The Moon‘ and we performed it at a little spot one night randomly and people flipped. I had seen VerBS perform a hundred times before and it’s one of the reasons I wanted to work with him. I was known for having a pretty good stage presence as well.
Also, we have a healthy competitive nature onstage and we feed off each other’s energy. I think that’s what makes it so entertaining, as soon as you think we can’t be any happier to be performing, we see the other person a few feet away working the crowd and get even more live.
I build off surroundings, so if I’m surrounded by good energy it makes me more energetic, and VerBS is able to be energetic even if there’s only one person watching him perform. His enthusiasm makes me get hype and our combined enthusiasm makes crowds go ape shit sometimes.
A former Gaucho told me she always came back for the topless moments.
Hahha…UCSB huh? Yeah, that’s where I played a lot of my favorite shows. I just get real fucking sweaty when I play. It’s those Italian genes! So, I started taking my shirt off at outside shows to not ruin my tees, but then it became something that made people remember the shows so it stuck for a while. I’m back to keeping the clothes on now, haha.
UCSB was great to me. They had me open for Method Man, Living Legends, Dilated Peoples, all kinds of shows. Crowds there are great! Santa Barbara is where I met my producer Equalibrum. It’s really random that a great producer from Connecticut and a handsome rapper from Alaska both ended up living a mile away from each other in a town with a population of less than 200k.
Back to VerBS; the on stage chemistry definitely bled onto your guys’ EP release, which was kind of overlooked on the internet, are you all planning on collaborating on wax again?
Yeah, we’re starting to toss around ideas and going through beats. Ideally, after the first one happened so serendipitously and worked so well, I want to do three more and release four 6 song EPs total and just do one a year until we’re sick of each other. We’ll see what happens. There will definitely be another one, hopefully by the summer.
The first one was literally an accident. Like I said, we were writing that song ‘Touch the Moon’; I heard the beat when I was giving him a ride home because he lives a mile away from me, I was like “yooo, I want to hop on this,” then he ended up leaving and going on tour, but in the meantime the homie Aspect was like “yo i want you and VerBS to hop on this OTHER beat together,” and the wheels started turning in my head , we already have two tracks, we might as well make four more songs and start playing some shows. We knew nothing about marketing it. We just dropped it and started performing and it eventually caught on and has a bit of a cult following to my understanding. We’re hoping to be able to recreate that energy a few more times so we’ll see.
Well, it seems you got your marketing on after the EP. This has been your first swing at using promotional blogs/websites to promote your new music– what do you think about these new trends?
I think it’s been really helpful. The response from the bloggers themselves has been overwhelmingly positive, and you know, in this day and age these dudes are the tastemakers and they have a captive audience. I’m hoping that trickles-up in the press where bigger media outlets will see these posts and cosigns from reputable blog, which will lead to more opportunities.
It’s really just one piece of the puzzle, though. My next step is to try and get my youtube presence up. I watch what the homie Dumbfoundead is doing and it’s ASTOUNDING. Also, NoCanDo is getting a lot of the really reputable zines/papers/websites/radio stations (your pitchforks and BBC’s, etc) picking up on his stuff. We all want to help each other get all three of those types of outlets working for ourselves at the same time.
Let’s move onto the new record. You say on ‘Hold Your Breath‘, “…and I’m a certified vet, but you’ve probably never heard a word of mine yet.” For those that haven’t heard your first solo record, ‘Stories About Nothing‘, How did you change and grow as an artist between your debut and your new album?
I started writing ‘Stories about Nothing’ when I was 21. I was a kid and was writing these stories that were inspired vaguely by things I’ve seen or heard, but still fictional stories. I had this high concept of making an album that didn’t mention rap music at all, and didn’t brag at all, and didn’t say “I’m the best lyricist” at all, because I wanted people to listen to that record and go, “holy shit that kid is the best lyricist.” But looking back it, personally, I think it doesn’t really represent who I am outwardly as a person, I think it was me acting smarter than I act in day to day life. I had a lot of people coming up to me after they heard that record saying, “wow you’re really different than I thought you’d be,” after cracking a few dirty jokes or seeing how loud and boisterous I am.
So with this record, I feel I’ve really begun to find myself as a song writer. I’m more comfortable being myself, and I really think that if you don’t like this record or what I’m talking about, you would hate me as a person. The friends that have heard it so far that know me well have said I really came off on this album exactly how I am in real life, and that’s all I wanted to do. I’m big into honest, almost to a fault.
On a more basic level, I got my tonsils taken out the year SAN came out and my voice changed. It’s not the weird, froggy, nasally, whiteguy voice, now it’s a more resonant white guy thing. Hearing my new voice made something click in my head too. I finally understood what people meant when they used to tell me my voice sucked. I go back and listen to the first record and it makes me cringe. I know in some (very small) circles people say it’s like some sort of indie rap classic (I don’t think that at all), but to me at this point it’s a really good demo. And I definitely don’t want to downplay EQ’s work on it because the beats were amazing.
You can hear some of the older stuff on the mixtape that comes out after the album releases on the blogs.
So, ‘Girls Like Me’, is basically going to be like listening to (the real) Intuition for the very first time. Is there any other set message or picture you wanted to paint with this album?
Well, I always approach albums from a thematic angle and there are a few ongoing themes on this record, but the main theme that ties it together is the cycle of a relationship told in my own cynical, humorous way. It starts with the break up song (‘Feeling the Emptiness’), which leads to needing to go out and find new women (‘Homegirl’), which can then turn into booty calls (‘Lonely’), until you meet the girl that’s like love at first sight (‘Future Ex-Wife’).
I really just tried to summarize who I am and what I go through on a daily basis this record and I think the things I go to, whether it is fun shit like ‘Homegirl’, downer shit like ‘Don’t Try’, or even pondering the fragility of life on ‘Otis Redding’, they are all relatable to people like me. I think there are a lot of people like me out there.
Photo: Dominic Cooley
It seems that people are missing/mixing the messages. It seems that a few reviewers think you made a record full of songs about how much top-rated SoCal pussy you get and how much you feel yourself on a daily basis. Where did the mixup happen? I hear self deprecating honesty from a cynical sex crazed secret romantic. Am I the one that’s off?
I read one of the reviews you’re talking about and I think the dude wanted to hear another ‘Stories about Nothing’ and this isn’t it, but it’s still an Intuition record. I think you hit the nail on the head. I might make that my tag line when I sell these hand to hand in fact, hahaha. It’s a cynical, but a humorous, self deprecating look at my life through my eyes. I only really brag about myself on one song on this record. Other moments, that could be mistaken as braggadocio, are really me pointing out what I feel are oftentimes character flaws.
The song about having a number of booty calls (‘Lonely’) was written not only because I have booty calls, but also because I’m often unable to relate to women on an emotional level, and that implied character flaw makes the song work on multiple levels, in my opinion. The depth is still there, I just don’t think it’s so in-your-face preachy this time around.
Song sequencing is a lost art, in my opinion. One thing about ‘Girls Like Me’ is how it flows and unfolds. What were you trying to show with your sequencing?
My biggest rule is that each song should in some way reference the last very subtly. For example, I put ‘All I Got’ after ‘Feeling the Emptiness’ because, not only do the beats both have a more raw sound, but you can’t mention your ex girl (“I got an ex girl blowin’ up my phone whom I can’t seem to convince I gotta be alone”) until you establish the fact you have an ex girl, like I did on ‘Feeling the Emptiness’. The intro “song” is really just a long verse that acts as a brief outlook of the record, and the second song ‘Hold Your Breath’ expounds upon the intro more, while preparing the listener for what they are in store for: “new voice, new sound, new town…SAME dudes…just a little more polished, we been payin’ dues, singing them sad songs wasn’t working so we changed tunes.”
The interludes, while some might think are filler, are there to break up the album into different sections. The first part of the album is a lot of “what’s been happening since we last spoke” and the second part (‘Don’t Try through Lonely’) are kind of “let me lament for a bit, but show you that girls like me despite me.” The last part of the album is the light at the tunnel. The pace picks up a bit, the confidence is boosted more, the songs go from talking about being king scenester, to ending up bored with the fact you’re king scenester.
I don’t record a lot of songs. The songs I recorded for this album ended up on the album, so figuring out the pieces to the puzzle as I go is part of my writing process. I think to myself “I need this kind of beat and this kind of song to fill in this song number.” I have a feeling that’s a bit different from a lot of my cohorts who record dozens and dozens of songs and then choose twelve or more random tracks from the batch.
A few features I would love to know more about where the standouts, Ex-I and Raquel Rodriguez, both who I think are extremely talented and know nothing about. Care to shed some light on them and your connection pre-recording?
Ex-I and I go way back. He and Nocando were actually two of the first people in the Cali scene that I collaborated with. The three of us did a song in 2003 called ‘Backstabbers’. If anyone has it, I wish they would send it to me. The three of us always wanted to do another song together so this was our reunion song. Ex-I is an AMAZING rapper and has been since long before I met him. Back in the day his crew (San Jose’s ThunderHut) sort of adopted them into their click at like 16 and molded him into this stylistic monster.
Raquel Rodriguez is just an amazingly talented singer that I had seen perform at a few loft parties around town. She is awesome live. Sounds like Amy Whinehouse if Amy wasn’t so terrible live. I had only heard a few of her cuts recorded, but her live show was enough to convince me that I needed her on that song after I had the hook written. Afterwards, I found out she grew up with Dom Kennedy and they’ve worked together a bunch. She will be a force to reckon with soon, most definitely.
I’ve had the chance to listen to the record, which is more or less how we came to meet here slamming down stouts. First, I’d like to apologize for the bootleg mishap, but I’m bold enough to say that it’s kind of a plus for a rising artist. What are your feelings about bootlegging and internet sites that offer free album downloads?
Bootlegging is sort of a double edged sword. On one hand, I absolutely love and am flattered by the fact that folks care enough to be seeking the record before I even have physical copies of it myself, but on the other hand it’s a shame that music is so readily available for free now. I remember going to the record store every Tuesday and buying new releases that week and enjoying the artwork. That doesn’t really happen anymore. But I’m not going to sit here and act like I’m some holier than a music snob that shits on people that download stuff. I download music too. It happens.
If I like it: I go to a show; if I really like it: I cop it; if I love it: I make sure I tell EVERYONE I know about it. So, yeah, I got put on to the fact that you guys had the record on your site by a blog homie. I asked you to take it down, but I’m sure it’s on a hundred other sites now, so what can you do? I would rather have the leak being sought after than not have anyone giving a shit, I suppose. I just hope a few people buy it on iTunes too.
Can you give us free loaders the release dates and where we can find the buy links as they come? I’m also interested in it being released on NoCanDo’s new Hellfyre imprint if you have any side information to share about that?
Hellfyre Club is a new imprint that my friend Nocando is starting under the Alpha Pup family (other imprints include Brainfeeder). He brought the offer to the table to help use their marketing strategies and digital release know-how to push the record. At the same time, we want to build our collection of artist friends up, but just because you’re a friend don’t mean you’ll get put on either. We really want to represent real talent and not politics or trends.
Hellfyre Club is handling the digital distribution, which will be available on all major outlets on February 9th and I’m handling the physical distribution, all grassroots unfortunately, and will have those available Jan. 26th. They will be available primarily on Cdbaby, but I’m building my mom and pop record store list now, so hopefully I will be getting them to a city near you. If you want one, I’m only a twitter post away, ha.
What’s next for you after the release of this album?
Well, I’m hoping this acts as a stepping stone to keep doing bigger things. Eq and I feel like we made a great record, and we hope it catches on. I won’t lie, I want to make this a career, I want to live comfortably off of music, and I would not mind working with major labels, so long as they recognize the fact that in the modern market the indie sound is marketable to a broader audience. If I was able to do what I do, with only a little bit of guidance and suggestion from an A&R team, I would be fully willing to do that. I want to be on the radio, I want to be on MTV (or at least MTVU), I want my songs licensed, but I want MY songs to reach those outlets, not some co-opted version of me.
I think I have the potential to write those songs that can appeal to a broad audience without “selling out,” but for now, the goal is to land a booking agent and get on the road and ride it till the wheels fall off. I have another side project I’m going to release soon and then a follow up to the ‘Buzz EP’, all the meanwhile working on another solo record. I just want to stay busy and push every day until I can be comfortable calling myself a professional musician. I also want to dip into things like co-writing and A&R’ing. One of my favorite things to do is coach younger artists and help them to find themselves as a songwriter and teach how to edit their raps into stronger pieces.
I feel you share a kindred spirit with someone, especially after hearing the album, and I wanted to share a few quotes and see what you had to say about them:
1) “If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you’re a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind.”
Hahaha. Vonnegut quote. He’s my favorite authors.
That makes total sense. I feel you made a Vonnegut album.
My English teacher gave me “Breakfast of Champions” as a high school graduation gift and said that “your writing style and sense of humor remind me of him” and i loved that book and have loved everything else I’ve read of his, so that’s a huge compliment you just gave me.
Haha nice, the quote reminds me of ‘Don’t Try’…
Definitely, Vonnegut always kind of had that “I’m not really trying” style of writing. He writes the simplest sentences that make the most profound and clever realizations. When he died, I remember making a Myspace bulletin saying “RIP Kurt Vonnegut, I stole my writing style from you.”
2) “Humor is an almost physiological response to fear.”
I agree with that sentiment 100%. If you don’t believe that, go watch Robin Williams stand-up and tell me he is not the most insecure bastard on the planet. I use self deprecating humor all over the record to reveal tidbits about myself, and to deal with, as stated before, fears, insecurities, emotions, shortcomings. If people mistake it as cockiness then I think they are forgetting the psych 101 adage that cockiness is a defense mechanism, as is humor oftentimes. Another thing I always say about humor is that it’s all rooted in truth.
3) “…the telling of jokes is an art of its own, and it always rises from some emotional threat. The best jokes are dangerous, and dangerous because they are in some way truthful.” Kurt Vonnegut again…
4) “Charm was a scheme for making strangers like and trust a person immediately, no matter what the charmer had in mind.”
You’re pulling really good quotes that make me feel like I’m half a mess and half a sociopath, haha! I could apply that last quote to my music, or my theories on picking up women…
5) “All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber.”
Man, that takes me in many directions, but as applied to my music it makes me instantly think none of us are as important as we think we are, for one. For two, it makes me think of timelessness. I always try to avoid outright trends in my music, or even references to dates or the year because then it’s not timeless by the next year. As far as taking it moment by moment, I believe in that as well, the whole “this too shall pass” theory. Everything works itself out as it should, and we’ll all end up where we’re supposed to be.