It’s not rare that you find a native New Yorker that identifies as a DJ/Model/Writer/Photographer, in fact it’s borderline questionable to find any New York resident that doesn’t minimally have a side hustle or four. As it’s more than likely a means of survival, it’s truly talented individuals that are able to mesh their skill set together into one defining title fusing everything they do to produce a fully developed end product. Not only has Melo-X inherently created this for himself, it’s apparent his continual evolution will only broaden his skill set.
I became aware of Melo-X via SoundCloud around 2012/2013, decidedly, a little late to the party. Upon moving to New York, we were introduced through mutual friends to which I’ve been able to witness his more recent, very impressive works.
On his suggestion, we meet at a Caribbean restaurant, MangoSeed right on Flatbush Avenue, in the neighborhood he was raised and still resides in, Flatbush, in Brooklyn, New York. Within the first 30 minutes they’ve played Alicia Keys, Donell Jones, Carl Thomas, Avant and old Usher, My Way era. Vibes dem. In preparation for the release of his upcoming EP, Curate, Melo sat down with us to discuss the many moving parts of being a multimedia artist, where he came from and where he’s going.
It’s been some time between EPs but you’ve been far from idle. It’s clear you’re making moves in the art scene. I feel like your work with Sean Kelley Gallery is almost the equivalent of what some DJs might consider a residency.
(Laughs) Word, word.
You’ve done a project with Hugo McCloud. How did you know it was time to put out a new EP?
I think that creatively, I got to a place where I felt like I could merge all worlds together cohesively. Ive been doing a lot of art projects and music. Sometimes they would connect but I feel like now with the work at Sean Kelley and the performance I did at the MoMa for Awol (Ezirku) for his Pop Rally event for his short film. These different things kind of gave me to confidence to mesh all the worlds together and give a concise idea of like what I’m doing as a multimedia artist, or whatever people want to call it. I just want people to recognize I have my visual side and my music and all these things kind of work together. They aren’t separate.
I wanted to talk about the event at the MoMa. You performed just weeks before Yoko Ono’s performance and exhibit, a huge event at the MoMa. Being a native New Yorker, what does performing New York’s at the Museum of Modern Art mean to you and how did the opportunity come about?
I mean MoMa is one of the biggest establishments for art in the world. The opportunity was amazing. It came about through my artist friend Awol. We’ve been collabing for a year or two. I did a film, a little short piece with him when we met and I performed at his opening at another gallery. So, we’re always talking. When I’m in LA, I chill with him and when he’s out here, we hang. We always had this idea of collaborating on a bigger scale. When the opportunity came for him to show his film, Serendipity at MoMa he wanted a performance, a live aspect to it, so hit me up. We just spoke about the performance and how he wanted it to go and kinda collaborated on an idea and yea it was amazing.
Yea it was an awesome summer Sunday evening event. What comes most naturally, singing, rapping, curating, producing?
Ummm, I don’t know. I think they are all difficult in way but they are all easy. The initial idea is kind of the diffiuclt side but then when its time to execute it just happens. Once I get that road I just go. I mean, all of them are equally important to me as well, but definitely rapping and MCing came first. Poetry. Writing my thoughts down and recording them to music, came first. Through that, through hip hop and rap I found my love for all these other things. The artwork for album covers, who did it? Who took the photos? How is this mixed? Who produced this? All those different things kind of got me to this space where I create everything people see from me as far as like video and everything. Its all important to me in some way.
A few months I remember texting our mutual friend and a collaborator of your’s Boyslashfriend…
Yea yea yea!
Like “Yo, Melo is in the Beyonce and Nicki video.” But obviously it was so much more than that. You worked on Jay and Beyonce’s On The Run Tour, can you walk us through what led up to you collaborating with her team and what you did?
I did a remix project for her album. I just bought her album and mixed the whole thing. I put it up and it got a lot buzz real quick and got taken down super fast.
I was just going to say, to which it got immediately removed. I remember listening to it on SoundCloud and then it was gone.
Yea, which means it was hitting the right places like when it reaches that pinnacle. So, yea it got taken down, but it became this glory thing like, have you heard it, have you not? Whatever. I would put up links some times and it would get taken down. I did a video for one of the remixes and I shot the video at the Sean Kelley Gallery. The video was basically a mix of my visual art and a live performance. It’s the audio from the live performance and I have projections and lighting I created with Jason Banker who shot it. That’s what she saw and that got her interested in working with me. She liked how I play with soundscapes and transitions through the music and what I added to it. So that’s what I got put on the tour to do. I kind of scored the film for the show. There was a film that was played throughout the show. I did a lot of the music for it. I did like 6 or 7 pieces that you see throughout. That was like my main thing. After that I did a couple other things. I did her CR fashion book. That piece that was on the internet I did msic for and her documentary she put online. I did the music for that, I scored it. It’s just cool to be able to work with someone that appreciates my weird sounding shit.
I bet. At the end of the day Beyonce is a fellow artist. What’s the biggest takeaway, as a fellow artist, when working with someone so established in their career and their team?
I think the biggest thing growing up, especially where Im from, East Flatbush, being in poor neighborhoods, or knowing people that are poor or having poor family in Jamaica, you kind of think when you’re rich and famous like life is good, its easy. Just working with her and her team I realized its 10 times more work. Whatever you’re doing independent, it’s 10 times more than that when you’re the biggest artist selling the most. It doesn’t get easier. It’s having thicker skin. And her, shes super chill and an amazing person to work with. So knowing that I could make it to the level potentially, work hard and still have a level head it inspiring.
Now, I heard that through a similar remix project you were also able to work with a large artist, earlier in your career. Maxwell. Rumor? True or false?
No, true, true. Same idea. I took his album, remixed the whole thing and I put it out. It bubbled for awhile. He tweeted it and started listening to it. Some of His bandmates would hit me up like “yo, he’s playing it by the pool right now, this is all he’s playing.” He was playing the whole remix project. When he started touring for that project, Black Summers Night, his label, Sony, hit me up to license some of the music for tour. At the closing of his show he would play my remixes. That’s probably the first big music check I ever got, which was cool. I paid of my school loans and shit.
Yea, Thank you Maxwell.
Right, thank you! (laughs)
Was there any specific inspiration led you to become more than a rapper, more than a singer, more than a producer but a multimedia artist?
Um, growing up I was hyper active. Like my mom tried to put my Ritalin at one point but she stopped. She like stopped. She didn’t want it to effect or anything. Growing up I was into everything. Into Baskeyball. Into Football. I used to skateboard, rollerblade and be on bikes. I was always into multiple things. I’m scatterbrained and hyper active. So, I started to getting into the creative side of my mind like drawing, painting, doing music, creating beats. I always saw myself kind of doing each thing. A lot of it was out of necessity like I wrote my own raps, I wrote music but the beats I would get weren’t good. Ya know they weren’t the best. So I would teach myself to do it. Then when it came to making album or mixtape covers or t-shirts, I was like I’m going to just teach myself to do it. So in high school I was like heat pressing shirts and like printing out CD covers and mixtape covers and selling them to teachers and school guards and everybody. So, just like wanting to know as much as I can about the creative process of making music kind of got me into everything else. Ya know the visual side, the art side, then getting deeper like who’s creating the art? Who’s mixing the music? Who’s mastering it? What label is running? Learn about music business and branding.
So much more your personal process in life and applying it to your work than a specific inspiration.
Who is your favorite producer of all time?
Um, wow. I mean, it might be cliché to some but Im gonna say J DIlla. I think he’s, as far as when I got put on to him young, I used to see JD everywhere. When I first started producing I would steal drums from like all these albums. So, I would listen to like Tribe Called Quest albums and any time there was a free drum, I would take it. I listened to Busta Rhymes, I take all the drums, I listened to Mobb Deep and just take it. Certain albums I listened to I would always see JD, and I realized those are my favorite drums. As I got into him more like 2 or 3 years, that’s like when he passed away, and delving into his discography and seeing how influenced other producers. He was kinda prolific in what he did. His production, his album Donuts, I listen to it like an album. Like I could quote all the words like it has lytics the songs have meaning. For him to be able to create that through production, it’s very inspiring to me and how I work as well.
What artist do you think will push the cultural needle most in final third of an already big 2015?
I want people to know your taste!
(Laughs) Hmm, what artist… not to be bias, but I’d say an artist like Little Simz. It might be real biased because I work with her all the time. Because I work with her I see the inner workings of her mind, how she works, how she writes. Shes working independent and making so many waves, winning awards, being nominated for certain things, that might be cool in some circles but it’s the fact she is being acknowledged by higher ups and shes not signed or anything. I think she might be a breakout UK artist that makes it big out here in the near future. She has an album coming out soon. Just her visuals and everything. Shes very now but also very forward. So I thinik her and maybe like…. I don’t know. Its hard. Maybe like Fetty Wap. (Laughs) I think its just crazy how he came out of nowhere. I like four songs on the charts and shit. I like seing records broken. Especially because he’s East Coast. I feel like we’re always, especially over here, we’ll jump on all the other shit that sounds like that but when someone from here does it, we’re all “Oh, nah that’s not real hip hop.” Its like youre gonna listen to fucking Gucci Mane, you’re gonna listen to Gu-Wop tomorrow. Fuck it, why not listen to Fetty Wap?
You were born and raised in East Flatbush and still maintain being a resident Why is this important? What is significance for you to stay in Flatbush in Brooklyn?
For me, growing up I always wanted to live in the city and be an artist. I think it was that movie, I think Big where the kid puts the coin in the machine and has a wish that he was older. With Tom Hanks. So I think movies like that, growing up and seeing how he was living in the city and it was always the coolest shit. I always wanted that. For me, since I travel so much and Im always in and out, it didn’t make sense for me to move out and pay rent when I could stay home and help my family, help my mom. But also, since I travel so much its good to come back to a place that has me grounded as far as family, friends, people Ive known since I was born. I’ve lived in this area since I was born. Its just good to have that taste of reality, not that everything else isn’t reality but this is a reality that brings me to a place of comfort, ya know?
Yea, because you come home and you are you, not your work.
Yea, right, Im not Melo-X. I mean everyone calls me Melo or people call Sean, everyone has a diff nickname for me where I’m from, its just good to come back to that.
We spoke about her earlier, Little Simz is on the project, are there any other features you want to talk about?
Well…. I don’t know yet. There are some but I might… it’s constantly in flux. Anything that’s out is going to be on it. So Simz yea, of course me, but you never know what’s going to happen. So until its out, the process is never done.
Curate is the name of the EP – what’s it mean to you?
For me specifically for this project, I wanted to curate an experience for people outside of just the music. Ive been putting up some street artwork. Ive been trying to collab with differnt artists on pieces and developing different ways to experience music. A lot of the music will start to come out as the music starts to emerge this month. For me, as someone that knows their audience and their craft and what they’re talking about and theyre able to convey and present iti to people in certain way to have them appreciate. I feel like nowadays music isn’t as much as it used to be. It used to be physical thing on a CD and now its just an mp3 among thousands on your phone or your laptop. So I wanted the mp3 to be a part of the full scope of what I’m doing but not the main part. The music is there, but then theres visual art and the shows where you experience stuff. There’s other ways for people to experience the full idea. Like taking your time to curate the experience, not just random video or a random song.
You’ve performed SXSW, you’ve travelled the world with Jasmine Solano with your Electric Punany, you performed the MoMa this year, what is the most significant day in your career?
Oh wow. Damn. A day. In my career. Hm. That’s a hard one. I might have to think about that. That’s hard. That’s a good question. It would definitely have to deal with family. I wouldn’t know a specific thing. Just having my mom and my sister or like m y best friends be proud of certain things I did. Like the performance at Milk Studios, the performance at MoMa with Awol, just to have my friends from the high school, junior high days, when they tell me they’re proud of me. Those stick out.
The ones that use to ask “When are you going to get a real job?”
Right! That’s what I told my mom too. There’s certain moments I ask her like “are you proud of me?” and she’s like of course. She was just proud I was working towards something but there wasn’t anything tangible yet. So now when she sees an interview or working with B, or like traveling here, she’s proud that Im making moves. I’m still struggling artist but not like that anymore. I’m becoming established I cant pinpoint a specific time. There’s so many.
But this feeling from your friends and family…
Yes, them being proud of where I’m going. That’s the best. That’s the best feeling for me. That’s kinda what drives me. My mom is like “I cant wait to pick out my Grammy dress,” and my sister is like “you better bring me.” I like those moments.