Switching gears to talk about music, what have you been working on lately?
I’ve been working on a special project for coming up on three years. I’m excited to share that. It’s been a very tedious and personal thing, and it involves everything that I do. Growing up, singing was always my hobby. It was just something that I did to feel good. Whenever I was sad or mad, I would just sing about it, make up a little song about it. And I feel like writing and acting and just expressing myself have always been things that I wanted to develop as an artist, so what I’ve been working on pretty much involves everything that I feel is my passion, rolled into one. That’s why it’s been three years that I’ve been working on it, and I’d like to share it with everyone soon.
So it’ll be similar to Twenty88, in that it’ll be more than just an album?
Yeah, that’s why I just want to call it a project. An experience. I would say, it’s definitely bigger than anything I’ve ever done. Writing has always been my real passion. If I wasn’t gonna do anything else, I’d be writing and creating—and I feel like writing is creating. This is why it’s taken me so much time. Nothing I do is rushed. How I work is very grassroots, with a small amount of people that just really care about what I’m trying to do and my vision.
I saw the Snapchat video with John Mayer that you posted on your Instagram. I’m sure you guys were joking about the “John 3:16” thing, but what have you guys been working on together?
[Laughs] He’s helping me with some music. My publisher helped set that up. I’m a die-hard John Mayer fan—there're only like three people that I’m die-hard for, and he’s one of them. We met a while ago and had a session, and I was really, really sick. It was bittersweet because I couldn’t give all my energy to the session, but I knew that I had to be there because I didn’t know if it would ever happen again. So during that session, I worked on some stuff and he was like, “Let’s do more.” The day that we did the Snapchat is when we had the other session. He’s so fun. He’s one of those people that—because I’m a fan, it’s really easy to be disappointed in someone that you are a big fan of. I don’t like to have expectations, but I do look up to him, so it would really suck if he was mean to me, or just not personable. But he was everything and more. He was so funny, so nice, so talented, and so real that it was just a really, really good experience. The group obviously was a joke, but you never know.
Who are the other two people you’re a die-hard fan of?
Kid Cudi and Tupac.
I loved that photo shoot you did! The one where you re-enacted iconic Tupac pictures.
That was fun! That was really, really funny because we were pulling up each picture and were really trying to get it on the head, and at one point I was like, "You know, it still can be me. I’m not Tupac. I’m not trying to say I’m Tupac. I do want the images to mirror his, but I do want to bring my own thing to it."
Considering that you were part of an early wave of alternative R&B, what’s your opinion of the state of the genre today? Are there particular artists who you think are standouts?
I think R&B right now is [comprised] of like, all of the kids who grew up listening to everything—myself included. The lines are blurred. I did grow up listening to ‘90s R&B like Brandy, Mariah Carey, and TLC, but then I was listening to Tupac and Biggie, and then the Spice Girls, and Alanis Morissette, Fiona Apple. I think that you can hear all of that in my music, but it’s titled “R&B” because I’m young and I grew up in an urban area. From me to PARTYNEXTDOOR, our music doesn’t sound the same, but it’s gonna be categorized as R&B because we’re urban and the songs are about love. But—especially because of the internet—we’re exposed to so many different sounds and so many different styles of music that it’s all just coming together. What R&B stands for is “rhythm and blues,” and we all have a sad story to tell, we all have a story of love lost or love gained, to some rhythm, so I feel like that is what is happening right now. But I’m really waiting for Frank Ocean. [Laughs]
He uses different sounds and instrumentation that, to me, is the best example of the R&B that we’re creating right now. It’s getting harder to prove the artist because, right now, there're so many songs, instead of artists who have proved that they have this discography of this sound. Everyone is more so on a wave, and then they just hop around to whatever producer is hot or whatever sound is hot. But Frank Ocean is one of those people that, even when he writes a song for someone else, it has that distinct sound. So, yeah, I’m excited to see what else people are experimenting with.