Interview Series: Angelo Mota.
In a hip-hop era saturated with autotune, cheap one-liners/ad-libs, and a non-stop overflow of formulaic trap beats, it’s unbelievably refreshing to hear from a rapper with raw energy, creativity, lyrical prowess, and musical originality – and one who’s getting the recognition he deserves at that. The New Jersey native hails from “The Oranges,” a group of four municipalities in Essex County – a region recently famous for its dichotomy of inhabitants, including both the “haves” and “have nots” of today’s America. It’s a cultural melting pot, and this setting seems only fitting for a rapper so aware of the current sociopolitical landscape.
In “it ain’t safe outside,” angelo mota and kweku collins paint a vivid picture of gang violence, racial tensions, and police brutality, which all, unfortunately, seems much too relevant in the wake of the senseless tragedies of late. The track puts both Angelo’s refined, nuanced production (yes, he is quite the multi-talented artist) and cultural sensitivity on full display, both of which sometimes seemingly in short supply nowadays.
However, while he is extremely capable of delivering insightful, introspective tunes – which draw from some of the cornerstones of meaningful rap: namely, storytelling and social commentary – Angelo is just as well-suited to pumping out some trap bangers, as evidenced by the hard-hitting “4:37 pm,” a track he did for a remix competition (the beat for which coming courtesy of SC maestros oshi and MadBliss).
Angelo’s forthcoming album is headlined by its first single, “Dawn,” a crazy catchy synth-pop meets R&B meets rap head-bobber, and another vastly different song from the norm. Don’t sleep on this guy – but then again, you may have no choice but to pay attention as he breaks through.
What is your musical background and how did you first get into rapping?
I’m not sure how to answer this, but I had a very broad musical background as a child. My parents played EVERYTHING, and it got to a point where I thought anything sounded great because it taught me that there are different styles and sounds and creative processes that go into making a musical body of work. My dad was the rap/hip-hop/r&b plug, while my mom was the soul/worldwide/live instrumentation plug. No one in my family is really musical like that, so when I started doing it they were surprised. I started songwriting at 11 and rapping at 13. Both have treated me very well! Haha.
As an experienced producer as well as a rapper, how do you wear those two hats and what is the interplay between, and benefits from your experience with, the two?
I feel like me being able to produce actually makes it easier for me to be an artist. There was a point in time where they weren’t on par with each other and I had problems making the shit I needed to for myself. With enough practice it kind of just came naturally, so it benefitted my upcoming project in a big way. I was able to finally paint the picture I wanted everyone to see. Aside from myself, it also enables me to work with more people, which is always fun. I love the collaborative experience and I love pushing myself to do new things I’ve never experimented with in terms of sound.
The first single, “Dawn,” off your new album dropped July 5th – what does the song mean to you and what can we expect from the project?
Dawn is a song I made at my lowest so you could enjoy it during your highest.
When I made Dawn, I wasn’t exactly in the mindset it portrays in the song. Not a lot of things were going right in my life, and it put me in a really dark place. One day, I found a synth sample I liked, did a simple beat to it, and Dawn was born. I decided to write a cheery love song to psych myself out of the place I was in, and the result was amazing. I got the amazing opportunity to add live instruments from my friend Rob McCurdy of Noise Club, and it really brought everything around full circle. At the end, what started off as a pretty shitty spot in my life ended up being a beautiful, bouncy, catchy summer tune that’s sure to make you enjoy the high moments in your own life. I’m not gonna say anything about the album, but it’s in the same realm of possibility (:
You’ve begun to do a lot more touring – what’s that been like?
Touring is fun, I don’t like flying but thankfully I haven’t had to yet. I’ll probably be fucked in a year or two because I’ll have to fly if I wanna keep pushing myself into this career, but when it comes I’ll probably be more grateful than scared. I love meeting people at the shows, especially if I’m way far away from home and someone knows me in Ohio or North Carolina. It’s always a blessing.
The instrumentation in your past work has been super eclectic, drawing inspiration from trap, soul, funk, jazz, and more… How has your musical palette progressed over time?
I guess my musical palette kind of progressed with my technical ability on production. I’ve always had these new sounds in my head; now I can make them, so now is the time to start flexing that muscle. I’m really excited to go even further into this sound and see what I can come out with.
You’re followed by some pretty big names, including the likes of Diplo. Although some might say its importance has diminished in modern times, to what extent do you feel that validation in the form of support from those sorts of tastemakers affects one’s career trajectory?
I think tastemaker/star/curator support is incredibly important, but I try not to pay attention to it. My managers always do a really good job at pushing me to do the most but acting like I only did a little bit so we work harder the next time. It was frustrating at first but now I know it’s actually essential if you wanna be a Diplo or a Kendrick or a Drake or a Kanye or whoever.
I think if you get that support it can go to your head and you’ll stop working to beat them and instead just coast off of a follow, which is outrageous because they might not even end up reaching out/liking your music in the future. Just keep on pushing!!
(Impossible question but…) Pac or Biggie? Kanye or Eminem?
I hate this question but I’m gonna set the record straight. Here it goes: each artist has their strongpoints that make them the best. Lyricism, I’m saying Biggie over Pac, Em over Ye. Storytelling, I’m saying Pac over Biggie, Em over Ye. Creativity, I’m saying Pac over Biggie, Ye over Em. You see? It’s impossible to pick favorites because at the end of the day it comes down to who you personally relate to the most. My answer would probably be Biggie and Kanye, even though Pac and Eminem are amazing artists and have done so much to push the culture forward. It’s just my personal preference.
And shoutout Immaculate Taste [whose roster includes a ton of super talented artists, check ’em out!].
. . .
Show the guys some love:
(And check out our full SoundCloud Artist Spotlight playlist for angelo mota here.)