For Alexander Spit, things couldn’t get much better. Since first rapping at 10 years old, Spit has yet to slow down, producing and rapping on countless tracks over a roughly 15-year time span. Now, in 2013, his hard work is finally starting to pay off.
His new album, A Breathtaking Trip To That Otherside is available now, via Decon Records. Alexander Spit recently joined a roster that made noise in 2012 with releases from Roc Marciano and the duo Gangrene composed of producers/rappers Alchemist and Oh No. The LP will be his Decon debut, and features guest appearances such as Mr. MFN eXquire and one of his childhood idols, E-40.
While he has put immeasurable time and effort into this project, Alexander Spit decided to take the visual route as well in promoting his new music. HipHopDX recently chopped it up with him to discuss the creative process for the album’s adjunct short film, as well as the music video for the lead single, “A Breathtaking Trip.” This aesthetic wonder, filmed by director Jason Goldwatch is a stunning visual that’s next to impossible to ignore.
“I’m very particular about being presented in a way that is really cored and has the Hip Hop essence, like it feels like a Rap video no matter how you watch it. But [the video] still presents a lot of new ideas,” says Spit. During the interview, Alexander Spit also spoke about Alchemist and Evidence acting as key mentors in his young career, as well as keeping his creative endeavors as authentic as possible.
Alexander Spit Discusses His Music’s Visual Aspects
HipHopDX: A Breathtaking Trip to That Otherside is the new album. Both the audio and visual aspects are crazy. What’s the back story to this project? Tell me about the creative process and the recording sessions.
Alexander Spit: Well everything is done very organically and in-house. Pretty much when I started rapping—when I was like 10 or 11—I’ve been making my own beats for the music I record. So 99% of the album is all self-produced. Everything is done out of a bedroom studio out of my apartment in [Los Angeles] with a vocal booth in the closet. Everything has been paid for out of my studio from working nine-to-five jobs. All the artwork was done by myself on my computer, and it was all self-taught and very self-produced. Just very [do-it-yourself] with everything. So with the album, it all came together with a couple concepts and ideas, but it was very much a solo effort.
DX: So basically it’s just you; then you only have to send it in and mix it down, and everything else you do by yourself?
Alexander Spit: Everything is mixed and engineered at my apartment. Yeah, everything from the ground-up. There was very little outside help and assistance with the music I put out. Like everything that people hear, it’s all very intentional by me, for what I want people to hear. [The production] that’s heard is not conceived by someone else, it’s all very intentional.
DX: I just saw the video for “A Breathtaking Trip” and that’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. What was it like being on set for that?
Alexander Spit: Man, that was a really crazy week in general. I got the pleasure of doing that video with Jason Goldwatch, who actually is one of the owners of the record label that I’m signed with, Decon Records. I’ve been a fan of his work for the past few years, and when it came down to him wanting to do a video for the title-track off the record, I was entirely honored. Jason from the jump, from when we was first meeting up discussing putting out the record, one of the biggest points he was saying was, “We’re going to do something epic for that track ‘A Breathtaking Trip.’”
I kind of just trusted his discretion and his creativity with that one. Most of the time I’m very particular with the music videos and the visuals I put out, and I have a hand in it. But with [“A Breathtaking Trip”] he had a very broad concept. He was like, “We’re going to get you a BMW. Let’s get some mushrooms, some whiskey and some weed, and let’s hit the desert and go to [Las Vegas].” It was a very broad concept, and we just went out and brought some homies along, got a lot of props—it was on my 25th birthday. We started in downtown L.A. at five in the morning and ended the video in Vegas later that night.
So it was in like a 120 degree desert in California. It’s hot as fuck, we’re tripping—we’re on drugs, we’re faded. Even with the professionalism of Jason Goldwatch, it was still hella fun due to the fact that he kept it really raw and [captured] the essence of it. A lot of it was spontaneous and on the spot, just him vibing off of what he thought the song was and what I think the song is. We really just vibed together and it was just a really cool experience. It’s definitely one of the coolest videos I’ve ever shot.
DX: There’s a promotional short film for the album that features some of the music. How much input did you have during the creation of that film?
Alexander Spit: So, the directors of that video is a group of kids that go by the name of High5Collective. They all don’t live in L.A. anymore, but they’re all L.A.-based. They’ve done a couple videos for a couple homies of mine, like this group Trash Talk and then this girl BAGO who I produce for. They shot a couple videos for them. They did everything themselves, and it only seemed right for me to work with artists on that [production] tip, or directors on that tip.
So they had reached out a while ago to me about shooting a video, and I hit them back like, “I got this album on deck. Fuck the video, let’s go out and shoot a short film.” It was a few months of brainstorming ideas back and forth, but it came together with us sharing this common interest of certain themes in movies and cinema. I presented them with what my conception of what the album is, and then they presented me with ideas of how they could visually manifest that.
And everything kind of fell into place. It was dope because that video was pretty much done with the help of them and just our own mutual friends and whatnot. Everything involved and every prop in the video was the result of some friends helping us out with a cool visual project. Another cool experience putting that together.
DX: A lot of artists these days are more focused on the visual aspect of their songs than they used to be. How big of a priority is that for you when you’re making music?
Alexander Spit: For me, it’s very much a priority. The way I consider my artistry is spinning plates: having a row of spinning plates and I have to make sure the balance of each one is on point for the entire presentation. By no means do I try to make up for any lack of artistry with visuals. Nor do I by any means try to make up for a lack of production with lyricism, or vice versa. They go hand-in-hand together, but I do really appreciate an artist that takes time to present their art in the best way possible. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything about big budgets to me. A lot of the stuff I’ve done and continue to do is very minimal budget and the manifestation of a lot of creative minds being together.
Like I said earlier, I’m very particular about being presented in a way that is really cored and has the Hip Hop essence. It feels like a Rap video no matter how you watch it. But it still presents a lot of new ideas and a lot of…I’m just trying to flip the way people look at what a Rap artist is capable of doing.
DX: And just going right along with that, you respect artistry. You’re an artist yourself and you don’t need a big budget to make a good video. Is direction or video-making something you could see yourself doing in the future?
Alexander Spit: I mean, with everything that has the Alexander Spit name attached to it, I’m going to be very much directly involved in it. In regards to the past few visuals I did, I just happened to be lucky enough to work with people whose vision[s] I fully trusted. So my involvement is: I try to keep it minimal, but I’m very much involved in every aspect of the visuals.
It’s definitely something I like to do, but I don’t think everything is for everybody. I’m not necessarily trying to be Alexander Spit the actor/director/musician/photographer. I know when something I do is not tight, or when something I do is tight. So I kind of just take the [loss] when I need to. When I know something is good and I’m capable of doing it, I’m going to continue to do that, because I know it’s: (A) the most honest way of presenting my work, and (B) the most efficient way.
Alexander Spit Discusses His “B.N.E.” Remix With E-40 and Mr. MFN eXquire
DX: You released the track “B.N.E.” earlier in 2012, but the remix appears on this album. What’s the story there?
Alexander Spit: I made that song during a time in my life prior to when I was on anybody’s radar. It wasn’t about making a song that I wouldn’t consider ever hitting the blogosphere or radio or clubs; it was real authentic, just a party track. At that time in my life I wasn’t giving a fuck about nothing for the most part. I was going out every night, here in L.A., and one of the kids I was partying with was the homie CBG, who was on the original version of that track. It was a pretty authentic presentation of what we did on the regular.
So when it came down to the response to that song, folks really was fucking with that track—just the energy, the innovation of the beat and just the dynamics of the artists on it. And when it came down to putting [A Breathtaking Trip To That Otherside] together, that song was just a song I knew had a powerful impact on folks and it was able to get peoples’ attention. So when it came down to putting the record together I knew it had to be on there, but it had aged for me a little. I wanted to give people a fresh, new listen to that song, especially for folks who hadn’t heard it. I like being excited about my own music, and sometimes being excited about my own music is switching up something I’ve already done.
If you perform a song enough times, the artist is going to get sick of it. It’s not that that had happened with that track; I definitely wanted to bring some new light to it. And for that, it meant me trying to get some rappers that I’m a fan of and some music peers involved. So for that, it ended up being E-40 and Mr. MFN eXquire.
DX: So how did you get in touch with them, and how did you decide on E-40 and Mr. Mr. MFN eXquire?
Alexander Spit: It was actually, to be completely honest, a long process of me trying to find out who I wanted on it. Up until this point in my career, I’ve always been very adamant about working very organically with the artist. For me, making music is a very personal thing no matter what the concept of the song is. It’s always been a matter of: I need a relationship beyond music with folks I’m on a track with.
But when it came down to this song, there’s a certain energy I wanted to be tapped into by other artists. I went through a long list of artists that I knew would sound dope on the song, and after a lot of people not responding, and people just not having the time to do it. From the jump, [Mr. MFN eXquire] jumped on the track as soon as we asked him to. But when it came down to me figuring out who the next feature was to be, it just crossed my mind one day, “Why don’t I hit up one of the artists that I grew up listening to that I’ve been a fan of, that is impeccable on a party track and can still kill it lyrically?” And it came down to E-40. We got in contact with his people, and he got in contact with me saying he was a fan of the track.
It all just came together beautifully. It wasn’t one of those things where I was trying to come up with ideas; it didn’t even cross my mind in the beginning. But it all kind of just fell into place.
DX: It seems like a lot of Rap these days has electronic elements, or like you said, there’s a party sound. In your opinion, how, if at all, has the West Coast sound changed over the years?
Alexander Spit: I think it’s not only the West Coast sound, but the entire idea of regional sound has very much so become a melting pot. With no disrespect to any region, I think the only region that’s staying true to its essence is a lot of music coming out of the South.
But it’s a lot of West Coast rapping [that’s changed] in the sense that it takes elements of New York and Southern rapping and vice versa to New York and all those other regions. Even Toronto, which is getting its own sound now, is kind of meshing into other peoples’ soundscapes. For me, it’s less so that West Coast music has evolved into a sound, it’s more like people have learned to appreciate other regions, and as a result people have adapted certain soundscapes and whatnot. No matter what, if a New York artist or a West Coast artist raps over even, let’s say a Trap beat, it’s still going to end up sounding like a West Coast track due to the fact that the artist’s vernacular and everything is indigenous to wherever they’re from. For me, I really try to apply that concept to any energy, any sound and any beat that I choose to rap on. At the end of the day, I want folks to know that I’m a [California] kid and I just happen to be rapping over beats that I think are good, no matter what sounds you might want to attach it to.
DX: So do you think sound according to region is going to be obsolete going forward?
Alexander Spit: You know, music tends to go in cycles. It kind of feels like music is going back into that Golden Era sound where folks are still very much so prideful for their region and where they’re from. Through a lot of trial and error—of artists trying to experiment with new sounds and whatnot—artists from my generation are realizing that the sounds they grew up with are the sounds that are most true to them.
Moving forward, I think we’re going to start hearing a lot more resurgences of certain regional Rap. But I think it’s going to be with a contemporary ear and contemporary viewpoint. Whereas before, with West Coast Rap you only associated it with Gangsta Rap, or some barbecue/outdoor party stuff. It’s going to maybe have that feel, but now be presented with concepts that are more universal.
Alexander Spit Talks About New Life at Decon Records
DX: The album is being released through Decon Records. Between releases from Roc Marciano and Alchemist and Oh No [Gangrene], it’s got to feel pretty good joining the team.
Alexander Spit: Man, it’s really crazy. This past year for Decon, they’ve been going ham, and they’ve involved themselves with a lot of cutting-edge artists. I really appreciate being on a label that prides themselves on trying to break artists in. Even with the artists that are already on, they’re not really worried about trying to have too much say in what they do creatively, and more just trusting the artist’s process. So it’s really a big deal for me to be involved with folks that back my music and have that viewpoint.
It’s definitely an honor. This past year has been crazy in regard to the artists I’ve been able to meet up with that’s not even up on some music shit; just having regular conversations with, to be able to relate and just share stories in regards to the come-up. With the whole Decon thing and the roster I’m a part of, I appreciate that none of us really sound the same either. Everyone is kind of doing their own thing and there’s a mutual respect amongst that.
DX: So were you shopping around or did Decon just hit you up?
Alexander Spit: The last couple years were kind of like…I’ve been making music, no joke, since I was 10 years old. And I knew I wanted my job in life to be a rapper, ever since I was 11. So, obviously over the years, my moves have gotten better. But I’ve always been grounded on the fact that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
And a couple of years ago, I was like 23-24, and it was like, “I’ve been grinding for 10-plus years,” towards making Rap a living for me. I’d gotten to a point where shit was getting dark. You try to make your way into the game after so many years, and sometimes you see kids putting up their first Rap song and getting signed to million-dollar deals and shit. It can get discouraging.
I blacked out and got into this place of going back to why I started originally making music, and I was no longer caring about the results. I came to a point that I’m still at now where I don’t really care about the results of my music beyond getting peoples’ respect and beyond me satisfying my own artistic views and whatnot.
As a result, it ended up being some of my best work, and it just started catching on. I put out a mixtape in 2011 called These Long Strange Nights, which for me was just a very humble presentation of where I was at in life. There was no bullshit involved; it was all the real, authentic shit about my life that was put into that album. And I really had no idea about peoples’ responses. But people just started paying attention to what I put out, and everything that followed that just continued to get bigger and bigger responses.
Decon, amongst some other labels, had hit me up pretty much recognizing the potential of where I was at as an artist. In my opinion, I’m still continuing to progress and grow as an artist. It just happened to be that Decon happened to be one of the people that recognized that early on. Moving forward, I only want to continue to work with people that recognize my progression. I’m far from my prime in my opinion, and I’m far from plateauing.
DX: I don’t want to use the word “breakthrough,” but this album definitely represents a major step forward in your career. Has anyone served as a valuable mentor for you?
Alexander Spit: Yeah, this past year, man, I got to meet up with a lot of folks. But the most notable were Alchemist and Evidence of Dilated Peoples. My relationships with them don’t really exist beyond a music relationship. But during the time that I have met up with them, it’s been to discuss music and work on music with them. I learned not so much, but I kind of relearned things I’ve always known.
It’s really cool just getting the encouragement and support from other artists whose careers are still flourishing after being in the game for hella years. All that means to me is they’re doing something right, and it’s still hella good. For me to get respect and guidance from cats that I essentially grew up listening to and grew up mimicking their style—just due to the shit that I used to listen to when taking the bus to school—that encouragement means a lot to a cat like me who’s continually trying to break through.
DX: Between the “A Breathtaking Trip” music video and some of your lyrics, you’ve got some references to mushrooms. I’m curious, what’s your craziest experience on hallucinogens?
Alexander Spit: The craziest was South By Southwest 2012. I think I arrived in town on Tuesday, and we stayed there until like Sunday. And Saturday night, after we were done with whatever showcases and meetings I had, I went all in. I was like, “I’m in Austin, Texas. I’m partying. I get to see live music whenever I want. I’m going in tonight.”
I remember I ate a shitload of mushrooms that night, and all the partying was all good. And I remember when we got back that night to the house we were staying at, at the time everyone was pretty much passing out. I couldn’t sleep. It was humid as fuck, and I just remember kicking it at the house, posted up in the backyard staring at the grass seeing the alligators chase me.
When the sun comes up, it’s really country out there. You start hearing a lot of birds chirping, and there was just a lot of animals in the distance [laughs]. I felt like I was in a forest or jungle flourishing with wild animals and whatnot. I remember it took me until like Noon that day to finally get some sleep. When folks was waking up, they was all well-rested and stuff, and I was definitely on still.
It was very much a fun experience more than it was a cathartic, life-changing one. But it was definitely one of the most fun experiences I’ve had.