“Everyone Thinks They Have Something to Say”: An Interview with Mobile Pro

Lucas Foster talks with Mobile Pro about the rise of Soundcloud rap, masturbation, and the future of music production.
By    October 24, 2017

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Nineteen-year-old Mobile Pro is more than a Canadian SoundCloud rapper with a cellphone-themed rap name. In the few years I’ve known him through a maze of internet underground rap communities, I have been constantly entertained by his unbridled enthusiasm (rare among teenage rappers vying to out-cool each other) and his rapid growth as an undeniably talented producer. After stirring some buzz last year with the energetic single, “Gasoline & Matches,” and its slick, self-directed music video was uploaded on the taste-making Astari YouTube channel, he has only released a few songs. This lack of output over 2017 and 2016 was not because of lack of work, instead he has spent months on Ableton fine-tuning his squeaky-clean electronic sound and building a well-constructed project that serves as an ode to this decade’s internet rap movement.

Listening to parts of his nearly completed unreleased project, I got a clear sense of an artist coming into his own and a strong feeling his talent will elevate him to a level of stardom in the future. His sound isn’t an erratic departure from the sounds developed on SoundCloud in the past few years, but rather an obsessive move to perfect and investigate them. The new project constantly satirizes tired tropes and cliches of internet rap with over-the-top rap hooks while still being an ambitious display of his production chops.

His preciously composed production carefully balances the clean, maximalist synths and snares of Yung Gud with more daring and experimental strokes of IDM influence heard in range-y basslines and wandering melodies. You can hear some of this in his older instrumental tracks like “Tangerine,” but these sounds, combined with full rap verses, produces a whole different effect. I recently got on the phone with him to discuss his music, his upbringing, the Montreal music scene, the cultural significance of “SoundCloud rap,” and the importance of bedroom producers pushing rap forward. —Lucas Foster


You grew up in Montreal, right?


Mobile Pro: Nah, not exactly. I actually grew up in Northern Quebec which is like the worst place in the world. Sorry to any Quebecers out there, it’s just a hellhole man. Northern Quebec is like—it’s a fucking hell hole, man—it’s where the frozen bears are and shit.


And you’re originally from what part of Africa?


Mobile Pro: I’m North African man, I’m Moroccan, but I was born in New York City.


Moving around a lot as a kid, New York City, North Quebec, Montreal, Morocco…That whole time growing up, were you drawn to music?


Mobile Pro: Yeah man I always was. When I was a kid—you know how some people say their parents were always playing music in the house—well my parents didn’t do that so when I was a kid the only way I got music was through the radio, video games, or my sister. My sister, she’s like eight years older than me and back in like the early 2000s she was bumping like 50 Cent, Eminem, Cam’ron, she was even bumping Insane Clown Posse. I went back through some of her old CD collections and I found like an ICP CD and I was laughing my ass off like, “Yo I can’t believe this is the shit i was subjected to as a kid!” So even as a really little kid like three, four years old, I remember hearing 50 Cent’s “Window Shopper” from my sister playing it, and even then I was really fucking with the rhythm. That song is still a banger, 15 years later.


When did you decide that you wanted to actually make hip-hop?


Mobile Pro: I must have been around the age of ten, I don’t think it was very solidified at that point. But, I remember hearing these rappers and being like “I could spit.” I was always the kid who was talking shit, trying to get attention, and I noticed after awhile I’d be able to get and keep people’s attention really easily. I mean, that’s pretty much what rappers do, they mesmerize a crowd, maintain an audience, they are able to express what they have to say in a way that people relate to. So just having that kind of personality naturally, I just gravitated towards, you know, rapping a little bit, talking shit or whatever. I was really attracted to the idea of being a rapper.


Were you also drawn to production at that young of an age?


Mobile Pro: I was, but I didn’t know it then. My sister also, besides hip-hop, she plays music. I remember as a little kid at my house there was always a piano, and there was a violin, a saxophone, a clarinet, drums, Moroccan drums—I don’t know what they are called in English. When I was 4 years old my sister was second in Canada in piano, so my parents tried to get me to go down that path. And this fucking instructor bro, she was like, trying to teach me the scales and shit, and I only lasted like two lessons.

When she was trying to show me the little scales and whatever I was like, “No but how about you listen to this melody that I made at home? I just made this melody at home and you better fucking listen to it I spent all day making it!” Then I played this little 4 note melody and she dismissed it immediately so I said fuck the lessons and never came back.


At what point did you actually sit down with FL Studio or GarageBand and actually try to lay down a track?


Mobile Pro: Oh I actually remember that. I was always super perplexed by how rap songs were made because I heard like a 50 Cent Songs and I thought, “Huh, how does someone actually make this stuff? That doesn’t sound like an instrument.” Nobody told me that it was made in a program. When I was 11 I actually looked it up and I saw all these people talking about FL online and I actually got FL and started to make a song.

I looked up tutorials on how to do it online, and I never listened to dubstep but I remember watching a dubstep song tutorial and that shit was so foreign to me. ‘Cause if you’re not a producer and you try to open up FL it’s just a foreign language, people don’t realize music production is really some nerd shit, it’s not that far off from coding. It took me 5 hours to make a 30 second beat and it was the shittiest beat of all time.


When did you start making stuff that could be described as SoundCloud rap?


Mobile Pro: I’mma be 100% honest with you, my whole life I was listening to strictly Old School rap. That’s what I came up on, Mobb Deep, Nas, Tupac and Biggie obviously, Big L, all that shit you know? Then in the start of 2013 my homie War Mendel, he showed me Yung Lean. This was way before Yung Lean was huge. He showed me “Ginseng Strip” when it had 80,000 views and I was immediately, like, in love. And you gotta remember back then I was fully against new school rap. I thought it was shit and ruining “real hip-hop.”


You were the proverbial backpacker.


Mobile Pro: Bruh exactly, but I heard that and I was immediately like “oh my God I’ve been looking for this kind of music my whole life.” That’s when my perspective on new age rap music started to change and then a couple months later Lean started poppin. And then my homie War Mendel also showed me a video of BONES and Xavier Wulf, back when he was known as Ethel Wulf, “Lame” where they in a mansion on a VHS tape. And it was the same feeling when I first saw the Yung Lean shit, ‘this is the music I’ve been trying to find my whole life.”

I basically started listening to all of Bones and Ethel Wulf’s music and I really loved the production behind it, so I tried to learn who all their producers were. I ended up finding artists like Fifty Grand, Eric Dingus, Misogi and countless others who were part of this alternative wave of music coming out the internet and back then it was 100% underground. I started following all these guys on Twitter, I made a fake Facebook with the name “Akg Lickhitter” and added all of their personal accounts too and just started adding a lot of people involved in the music world. That’s when the networking started, in February of 2014. Back then my locals thought I was a weirdo for fucking with all of that shit, it was pretty underground, very few people knew who all these underground rappers were.


That was definitely a moment, historically, late 2013, early 2014 when the underground as we know it, or like the wave of kids inspired by SGP and Bones and whatever, came together more and started communicating and you saw the output of SoundCloud rap in the scene just blow up, like a lot more names would be in your stream.


Mobile Pro: That’s history right there. It will go down in the books. What’s funny too is, back then, 4 years ago, people were clowning me heavy for my music taste. They’d be like “oh what the fuck they sound retarded this is just some stupid internet rap!” Know what I mean? And now that’s all they listen to.


When exactly did you first open up FL to produce the type of stuff your making now?


Mobile Pro: Well, it wasn’t really FL I started with, and make sure you include this ‘cause anyone who has read this far will wanna know, the first software I used was Cubase, and I’m sorry to all the Cubase lovers out there, but I fucking hate that program. So after a few months of using Cubase I made the switch to Logic Pro X. I started out with just a soundcard, a microphone, a mic stand, a pop filter and some Apple earphones in my Mom’s room in her closet ‘cause she had a decent sized closet. I was in there in 2013. December 2013 is when I first started writing and recording music as MOBILE PRO.

Here’s the thing: when I first started I really had no idea how to network. I had no following on social media, no idea what the fuck to do. So to promote my music back then I would promote them on 4chan. I would go on /b/ and in the /mu/ SoundCloud threads just spamming links to my SoundCloud tracks and just asking for producers. Somehow it actually kind of worked, that’s how I first got people to listen to my shit. I probably shouldn’t be name dropping in an interview but I’ll just say a lot of people who are poppin’ right now were in my SoundCloud stats back then and still are. I didn’t know that until recently… I used the feature in SoundCloud that shows you your top listeners for certain time periods. You can select any time period and it will give you your top 50 listeners and I only had like 300 plays a track back then 3 years ago so they couldn’t hide.

But, shit, to answer when I started producing: it wasn’t until the end of 2014 that I got into producing full on. December 2014 was when I really got into it. I realized that the production side of things is what got me into music as well. I cracked FL mid 2014 and ended up switching to Ableton at the end of 2014 cause I decided yeah FL sucks and Ableton is the shit.


How did that change your perspective on making music?


Mobile Pro: Production is really where the music is to me. I honestly hate rap right now a lot of the times. It’s been dumbed down to some stupid shit. The problem with rap is that everyone’s a rapper nowadays, everyone thinks they have something to say but shit you listen to a lot of new artists and you can tell they’re not really saying shit. If you got nothing to say, don’t be a rapper. I’m sure you have interesting ideas you wanna put out so put those ideas in a track; be a producer and make music.

If you’re rapping and you’re only rapping, you’re not necessarily making music in my opinion. You hear so many of these tracks from people who just bought a mic and decided they rap now and it’s just the shittiest raps, dudes are off beat on the shittiest instrumentals, poorly mixed and mastered and clipping, and they call themselves rappers. NO! You’re not a rapper you just had enough money to buy a mic, there’s a huge difference there. I’m not coming at people like I’m so superior ‘cause I’m the same thing. I’m also just a kid in his bedroom with a microphone, a computer and some headphones. I’m just sad that this is where the rap game is today.

People treat rap and music in general like a quick come up nowadays, like it’s a money making scheme. It’s not! It’s really fucking not. There’s people out here who really take this shit seriously and use music as an outlet to express themselves. So fuck you with your “fucking on yo bitch, im so lit, pull up with a stick, huh, pop a xan, i got bands, BRR-UUU–AAAHHH!” like shut the fuck up! You don’t got none of the shit you rapping about first of all. You not about that life. That observation is what drove me to realize I wanted to focus on production because it’s more authentic and it’s what got me into making music in the first place.

I downloaded FL in the middle of 2014 and I started making shitty beats on it. When you’re just starting, you’re gonna be making shitty music. That’s a rule of nature. Nobody is amazing from the start. The point of it is to keep going until you’re making great shit.


Totally, listening to your unrelesed raps you just sent me, I noticed your rapping and production abilities complimenting each other, which is actually quite rare nowadays. It seems like most people kind of pick one of the two rather clearly, obviously there’s exceptions like Chief Keef and other crazy talented artists, but most of the time a rapper’s production credit is like, he’s asking his guy in the booth to add a kick or something, and even with a production credit and a lot of producers seem, like you said, kinda the rap game nerds you know they can seem too shy to really rock a mic all the time.


Mobile Pro: I know a few producers who made a rap debut and fucking killed it. Off top, the one producer who handled the transition from production to rap masterfully is Night Lovell. He was making cool ass beats under the name KLNV back in 2015 and working on his vocals on the low. You know the song “Dark Light” ? He sent me a draft of it a few months before releasing it and I immediately knew that shit was golden as soon as I heard it. I don’t even know if he knew how good it really was. A couple months later he dropped it and shit blew up. That’s one of the few producers who did that well. Lovell’s on another planet now.


The last time I really heard you drop a track and like put the effort into promoting it and everything was “Gasoline & Matches.”


Mobile Pro: Uhhhh Well… here’s the thing….


I’m saying like drop it, promote it, put the time in though.


Mobile Pro: No, but actually here’s the thing: the last rap track I dropped was in January 2016 but I dropped the video for “Gasoline and Matches” in April 2016. Astari reached out to me to premiere it on his channel and it did OK numbers like 120k or some shit, but really, that song ain’t shit. That was a song I made in 30 minutes and released on Soundcloud the next day. The music video was low budget as fuck, me and my bro KTNG directed, shot and edited it together. Really, I don’t even wanna flex right now before I drop these new videos.


Might as well flex on em.


Mobile Pro: That was 2015, this is 2017. I’m working on a video with Felipe from Kantine, a clothing company based in Montreal and another video with KTNG. Right now I’m producing my own shit, rapping on my own shit, mixing and mastering my own shit, shooting and directing my own videos and editing them and I’m promoting my own shit by myself. I don’t have a fucking manager, I don’t have a booking agent, this is all me. At this point I’m 95% self-sufficient. I do get support from my friends to get my tracks out there and I’m thankful to be part of such a tight-knit community of producers and rappers on the internet that really fuck with eachother and help eachother get out there. But music wise I like having full control over my creative process.


Yeah you have 2,500 tracks liked on Soundcloud. How many hours a day are you on there listening to music?


Mobile Pro: Well I’m not on my computer 24/7 just browsing SoundCloud. Most of the time I’m just clicking play on a song and listening to whatever starts playing just when I’m out doing shit or studying.


Thank God for SoundCloud algorithms.


Mobile Pro: Yeah but at the same time, the thing about soundcloud now, is that in a lot of ways SoundCloud has gone to shit. People selling reposts and trading reposts way too much so a lot of shitty music gets recycled on your stream compared to back in the day when it was just what people were genuinely supporting organically.


So besides walking around listening to soundcloud tracks all day whats your day to day routine like?


Mobile Pro: Bro I’m 19 years old, I wake up in the morning and I remember that I’m a human being alive on this fucking planet which is always a painful experience. I don’t know if you can relate to that, but I’m like, “fuck.” But it depends, I just started university majoring in Biology, so during the week I have class. If I’m starting late like 1 pm I usually get a little jerk off session going on, I bust a lil nut and then cook myself some food. Most of my musical inspiration happens as I’m busting a nut, or maybe right after or right before I bust a nut. If you really think about it, you’re either busting a nut or not busting a nut, your whole life. Those are the only two things you could be doing.

Really though at some point during the day, everyday, there’s gonna be a moment where a melody or a drum rhythm will pop into my head and I’ll be like “where the fuck is my computer I need to lay this down now.” If I’m walking around town I’ll just leave myself voice memos on my phone singing the melody or beatboxing the drums or whatever it is, so when I get home I can hear it and lay it down on Ableton. Still, some days I look at ableton kind of sad, realizing i’m not shit, maybe a really angry song will come out of that feeling of frustration. I get some weird thoughts in my head everyday which I should probably get checked by a professional, but it’s definitely a huge source of inspiration. I also freestyle all day in my head or out loud so I probably look crazy to strangers.


You don’t really have a schedule except that you make music every day?


Mobile Pro: Nah I have a schedule I just don’t really do much besides go to class and make music. I’m either eating, jerking off, sleeping, studying, or making music. I don’t really go out, maybe once a month. I have very few friends ’cause I don’t fuck with most people and most people don’t fuck with me.


You’re not really trying to be the clout king of Montreal? How would you describe the rap scene in Montreal right now?


Mobile Pro: Bro the rap scene in Montreal is some Fuck. Ass. Shit. I swear to god, these kids– okay there’s some cool kids out here I fuck with but I’m not gonna namedrop nobody ‘cause these artists in Montreal don’t show me love. These kids pretend I don’t exist even though they keep up with my music shit online. You know how you can see on soundcloud what cities are fucking with your music?


Mm-hmm.


Mobile Pro: Montreal is in my top 3 listening cities in my SoundCloud stats. Los Angeles is the number one listening city but Montreal is a real close second. STILL though, a lot of people involved in the music world in my city act like I don’t exist. Even though I put on shows that are bigger than theirs, other rappers act like they don’t know who I am, even though I’m one of the rappers with the most numbers on the internet in the city, the blogs in my city STILL pretend like I don’t exist, the promoters pretend like I don’t exist and a lot of the artists too. So fuck all of that I’m not just saying this, they don’t even help each other out, they hate on each other, everyone acts like the only way to blow up in Montreal is to make something happen in the US, overseas or on the internet.

If somebody was trying to make a movement happen in Montreal the city wouldn’t fuck with them unless the US or Europe or the internet was on it first. So that’s why I’m like, fuck this shit I’m gonna make it happen on the internet. Then when I start making shit happen on the internet then people wanna fuck with me, invite me to the studio, book me for shows and whatever else. Most of them are just looking for a quick come up and it’s a mess. Fuck all y’all, I don’t fuck with 99% of y’all. There’s the 1% I fuck with and they know who they are.


Now that it’s more of a real life scene where people are making money, where do you see yourself in the landscape of the underground moving forward?


Mobile Pro: Nok From The Future said something beautiful. He said “when you’re just starting out, being a truly original artist is gonna hurt you more than it’s gonna help you. It’s more beneficial for an artist that is just starting out to stick to a sound and then introduce their own style to that sound.” How I see it, I don’t have any delusions of grandeur that I’m gonna get on this scene and just change it completely, obviously not. The scene already exists. I’ve been trying to put people on to this music scene for fucking years so I’m really happy that it’s finally a thing. People are willing to support the artists in real life, to tell their friends about us, to go out to shows and pay to see us. I just want to continue to push this scene because I’m a fan of it before anything else.

I came into this scene as a fan and I’m still a fan. The goal is to put my own stamp on the scene. That’s always been the goal, putting my own taste, my own style and my own vision on this scene because I know there’s kids out there who feel the same way as me about music and life in general. I remember in 2013 when I heard all these underground rappers and feeling like they were going through the same things as me and they understood where I was coming from. We’re all growing up and living in this internet era and are all very invested in this internet shit. That’s what the community is based on before anything. It’s a bunch of kids on the internet that fuck with some internet shit cause they’re some fucking weirdo nerds. That’s always been it. I’m a fucking weirdo too, trust me, so I just wanna make something that I can reach out to all these other nerds with and let them know what’s gucci, it’s fucking lit. We’re the same and if I did this shit you can do this shit too, but I gotta do this shit first before all that. You know what I’m saying?


Your music in the past has touched on the subject of isolation in the 21st century and feeling out of place growing up in this world that’s been so connected by the internet but also creates isolation with the people around you in real life. So what topics are you planning on investigating with your music going forwards or do you try to not really think about that?


Mobile Pro: Life! Look, if I start talking about politics, the world is gonna be a shittier place. Listen man, if I ever become one of those artists that uses their platform to talk about abortion, please somebody find me and put a bullet in my head immediately.


Any advice for kids out there who are just starting to make music?


Mobile Pro: Fuck yes I got advice for y’all man. First of all, anybody reading this, my twitter DMs are open. If you wanna talk to me about anything- advice about music, feedback on your songs, your girlfriend just broke up with you cause she figured out she was a lesbian- hit me up. I’ll give you tips on anything, I don’t know everything but I know some things. For any kids that wanna start making music, all I gotta say to you is if you really wanna make music then make music. Don’t listen to what ANYBODY says. If the people around you are not supporting you, FUCK them. I got clowned so much for making music when I first started. It doesn’t matter. If your music sucks right now, it doesn’t even matter cause if you keep at it you will actually start making some cool shit, I guarantee you that. Do it! You never know what could come of it.