A few weeks ago, Joseph and I got a bit out of our element and deviated from the fashion world, to Chicago’s music scene. We were lucky enough to sit down backstage with Kidd Russell, Julian Spark, Nic Bavetta, Cato, and DJ BlazeWright, AKA the “Homeless DJ,” before they performed at Lincoln Hall. The results were words of wisdom, a lot of laughs, and me crouched in a corner on the stage watching the show.
ALEX: So how did you get your start in the music industry?
KIDD: I got my start in music in college. I was a college football player and broke my foot. I had this radio production class and I use to rap over instrumentals. I use to throw these big parties in the school studios…they don’t know about this…and then I wrote a song while coaching girls powder puff football, like a theme song, and it went viral around school. It was the cheesiest song ever, but ever since then I’ve been hooked on the song writing process. I moved back to Chicago after college and I’ve been grindin’ ever since.
ALEX: That’s crazy! Have you ever composed songs for others, or just for yourself?
KIDD: I’ve always just wrote for myself. I always start out with free styling, and then it turns into something. And then you write your first song and you’re like “oh my god, this is ready for the radio” and it’s not but it’s so much fun.
ALEX: What have you done in the industry so far? I’m sure there’s a lot to list off.
KIDD: I’ve pretty much almost have done everything in terms of success level. We’ve been on MTV, and done tours with artists that I’ve always looked up to. I’ve been in the studio with Cisco and Shwayze who are guys I never thought I would ever get the chance to work with. I did it independently which is such a great feeling. And I still get to rock shows with guys like Jake [Miller] and have our own shows. There’s nothing bad about it.
ALEX: Now Julian, how did you get your start?
JULIAN: Basically, when I was 13 I started writing poetry, and then junior year of high school, I decided to start recording. So I posted on Facebook to see if anyone could record me, and Nic said he could help me out, and that’s how we met. We would spend hours at his [Nic’c] house…
NIC: Recording in my closet, and that’s where we still record.
ALEX: Wait…in your closet? Was Rollin in my Scoota recorded in your closet?
NIC: Yup. All in my closet.
JULIAN: We’re pretty proud of the type of sound that we put on through a closet. We’ve gone through how bad I was starting out, using GarageBand, and his little knowledge at the time, to us advancing together, and it’s pretty cool.
KIDD: The fun part is the ride. The hardest part is the first step, but once you pass that first step, it just goes. That’s how I met Blaze… [DJ BlazeWright] I use to throw these huge parties at Columbia and bring in acts from all over the country. It was epic. One time my DJ bailed, and Blaze was there from Cincinnati and he did my set, and then I went to Cincinnati for a show, and then I got booked for The Roots in Milwaukee. It was my first big, big, show, and Blaze knew my set and was like “let’s go.” It’s been six years since that and we’ve been working together ever since.
ALEX: What’s your favorite show you’ve done so far?
KIDD: I always say the Shwayze and Cisco show, because for me, I got to work with my idols. But the first Flow Bot show we did, it was a sold out show in Milwaukee, was amazing. We just crushed it. It was beautiful. All the shows are fun. Whats fun now, is seeing Nic and Julian doing what I was doing five or six years ago.
ALEX: So would you say they’re following in your footsteps?
KIDD: For sure, and they’re music now is awesome. I think they’re going to do really, really, well.
ALEX: What obstacles have you had to over come?
KIDD: Learning the business. Now that I look back at it, the difference is exposure. It’s just about making good music and building a fan base.
NIC: When you go into this industry, you’re pretty much alone, with nobody standing beside you, except for your best friend [looks at Julian.] Everyone will be talking like “look at these wannabee rappers from Springfield, Illinois trying to make it.” You just have to ignore it and keep going.
ALEX: So what are you and Julian working on right now?
NIC: In hip-hop, a lot of artists grab other artists instrumentals, or remix other songs, and we’ve done that. Everyone has done that. So right now, we’re trying to figure out if our next release will be 100% original, a mix, or what. We have about 5 or 6 all original in the works right now.
BLAZE: So when are you going to put out a tape?
NIC: Whenever we can get it all done. Maybe in the next month. Like an EP of 5 original songs, or a massive mix tape or originals and re-mixes. We would like to think we have some cool stuff up our sleeves.
ALEX: Nic, is it weird getting recognized around DePaul now?
NIC: Yeah. People usually know I do music with Julian though. We’re like a Capri Sun and a Lunchable. We get some weird comments on our videos too.
ALEX: How would you describe your music?
NIC: I do some work for Sum 41, and we get some pretty good feedback from their fans, the rock fans, which is cool because usually people who only like rock would hate hip-hop.
JULIAN: I mean, we aren’t strictly hip-hop. We have guitar riffs in our songs, and we put out a different sound then anyone else, but of course every artist thinks that.
ALEX: How did you learn about the industry? Did anyone teach you what you know now?
KIDD: No. Nobody cared about us. John [Blaze] and myself, we had to teach ourselves everything, learn, make mistakes. Now though, I could manage careers because of what I know. That’s probably what I’ll end up doing, because I truly understand everything. If you know what you’re talking about, people won’t blow you off. Surround yourself with people who can teach you things, no matter what industry you’re looking to get into.
ALEX: Do you ever change your sets according to the audience?
CATO: Well, with certain crowds we will. Like if we know it’s an underage show, like this one, we edit out any harsh cursing. We still like to be respectful. We realize we’re performing in front of 16 and 17 year olds at certain shows.
ALEX: Do you guys ever get nervous before shows? I would be terrified.
BLAZE: Of course, before every show. But that nervous feeling is turned into energy that we give to the audience, and then they give it back.
CATO: The only time I’ve ever been nervous, in like the last five years, was opening the TimeFlies show, in front of a ton of people.
ALEX: Alright, so if you could give kids looking to get into the industry advice, what would it be?
KIDD: Always look to do it yourself, you always want to invest in yourself. If you’re looking to make music, buy your own equipment. In todays time, it is so much cheaper. It’ll be cheaper in the end for what you would pay for studio time. Definitely learn the business and build up your reputation. Keep good connections, and be nice to everyone you meet. Be fearless. Learn everything you can. Be humble.
BLAZE: Talk to people with confidence. Make declarative sentences, don’t talk with “question marks” at the end of what you say. As long as you’ve got heart, you’re going to do alright. And balls.
*Photos by Joseph Kerins for StreetStyleChi