Hip hop artist Graphene not only dropped his new album, ‘A Thought and a Half,’ at the end of this summer but also packed his bags and switched coasts. Now residing in New York City, Graphene has plans to go even bigger out east. We talked about what he has in mind, the music, and more in this back and forth exchange.
Kendra: When did you know that you wanted to be more than a fan of hip hop, that you wanted to create your own music and leave your stamp on the genre?
Graphene: In a way, I’ve always known that I wanted to be more than a fan of hip-hop. Where I’m from, a lot of kids either want to make music or go to the league because that is what we see as our way out. By pursuing the latter, I kind of subdued my urge to pursue music. I would always freestyle and write poetry through middle school, high school, and college, but I feel like I was called to take it seriously once my football career ended.
Kendra: You’ve been putting out music since last year, but you already have so much compared to some of your peers. What do you feel pushes you in your creative process most?
Graphene: My creative process is driven by life. Whether it be the past, present, or future, I have always allowed the spontaneity of life to guide me. Also, I have always channeled what I thought and felt through writing, so now the challenge has been having the courage to share those thoughts and feelings with the world. I feel like, for every song released, I have three or four that are written but not recorded.
Kendra: I wanted you to touch on that because ‘A Thought and a Half’ has a baker’s dozen worth of songs, 13! How long were you working on that record, would you say, from start to finish?
Graphene: I have been working on ‘A Thought and a Half’ since the beginning of the year. It started as an idea for an EP that would include loosies that wouldn’t make it onto the official mixtape, but it turned into so much more. As I continued to create, I realized I could turn this project into something special, so I challenged myself to make it a full project. It was a truly rewarding experience from a creativity standpoint.
Kendra: Among the 13, I wanted to talk first about “Stereotype.” We all have a handful of stereotypes people assume about us based on one thing or another. Are there any stereotypes or misconceptions people have about you that they’re surprised to find out aren’t true?
Graphene: “Stereotype” is funny because weirdly I’m trying to make the point that I fit into but also defy a lot of stereotypes at the same time. Depending on the perspective, at first glance or first listen, some people may have never guessed that I went to an Ivy League school, work a corporate job, etc. A person coming from a different perspective may not have guessed that I’m from Flint, MI, grew up poor, played D1 football, etc.
It’s wild but I realized that at the end of the day, people will paint their own picture of you using the brushes they have so we might as well just be.
Kendra: Then you have “Hey God.” I think a song many can relate to as we’ve all sort of sat there and thought, is this where I’m supposed to be? Can I have a sign? Have you always looked to a higher power for those signs?
Graphene: I have always tried to be hyper aware of God’s signs. It’s difficult because we probably misinterpret signs all the time. I wrote “Hey God” at a point in time where I had a realization that everything I’m asking for and trying to pursue is right there in front of me. I think God is funny in that way because a lot of times when we are looking up, God wants us to just look ahead.
Kendra: Before we wrap up, you’re from Flint, MI – a city that has been in the news for far too long. I say that because the water issue should’ve been dealt with long ago. How is your community doing with all of that, on top of a pandemic, continuing police brutality?
Graphene: The people in Flint are probably some of the strongest people you will ever meet. With all of the issues going on, people are still surviving and making a way. I hope we can turn surviving into thriving. There is so much talent, potential, and ambition in the city that gets trapped in the city and then diminishes. I hope I can contribute to changing that.
Kendra: Can you let the people know what else you have planned as we head into the last quarter of the year?
Graphene: For the last quarter of the year, I plan on continuing to create both musically and visually. I plan to finally do some type of performances for the first time which is exciting, and I am also working on recording new songs that will be released before the year ends. My next full mixtape won’t be released until early next year, but I am excited to get to work on it soon since I have so much written for it.
For anyone looking forward to hearing more, be on the lookout for the ‘Feel Something’ EP and ‘The BSE Tape’ which will be a joint project with my brother Stann Vango. I also look forward to connecting with more creatives while I am in New York City as I continue on my journey as an artist.