“Music is Actually the Best Form of Therapy:” An Interview with LETSBENØTHING

Adam Gourabou speaks to the Phoenix-based artist about his harrowing upbringing and his influences.
By    September 25, 2018

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LETSBENØTHING, formerly known as THEEDESTINATION, tags all of his Youtube music video titles with #EMOTRAPGOD. “Trap” is a loose marker here, but still, assuming an emo-rap designation, he stands quite apart from the dominant tone of this subgenre. He’s a singer, and his music usually feels much more like the soft purples and pinks of a lonely sunset than the provocative black and reds of teen angst. His inspiration is Kid Cudi, and his goal, he says, is to provide the warm embrace Cudi gave him (you, me, us all?) during his darkest times. As he will enlighten me to, he has been through some unfortunately dark times.

Depending on what you click on, LETSBENØTHING is different things. His Soundcloud is not one of those concise exhibits with a carefully crafted aesthetic; there are some 40 odd songs touching different moods—some as I described, some fun and light—and styles—some rap, some singing, some both. It’s a bit of a dig to find the best stuff, but when it’s good, it’s really good. In those, it reveals a person with some delicate, sage familiarity of melancholy and injury. “Out Of Touch” is one of those songs.

“Out Of Touch” captures the exhaustion of his staying okay, his words planted in defeat yet brought through gentle, rocking melody comforting itself. His voice cycles along, dipping in and out of falsetto with a calm dissociation that, when combined with the sly provocation of the keys, stirs in you a nostalgia—a swirl of despair and truce. The video tastefully animates this world: he in a desert alone, singing and wandering expressionless under the Arizona sun. This sentimental sculpting is LETSBENØTHING at his best.

“Black Petals,” similarly achieves this height, keeping much of the colors from “Out of Touch” (stinging nostalgia; a comforting sway; pity) but it’s awake and not yet resigned; he’s still in arms-reach of the ledge, with vertigo. Another favorite, “Sleep Deprivation,” is thinner, your focus brought rolling atop a mantra and through shattering confessions. All of these songs are sewn together rather simply. It’s his self-intimacy that is the kernel of his prowess and potential, and the tools at his disposal are tri-fold: a great voice, melodic sensibility, and lyrical intuition.

Beyond fandom, my intrigue peaked at the intersection of his openness and mystery. His songs and videos seem to serve as crucial moments in some larger drama unknown. He’s from Phoenix, Arizona, and it wouldn’t be weird if you haven’t yet heard of him; his presence, for now, largely centers in that region. I called him up and we spoke for about an hour. Byron speaks without breaks, frequently diverting down smaller paths and overturning smaller stones until suddenly returning. His memory is visual and precise, and he rarely answers without setting up a scene. He tells me about life in Phoenix, his turbulent and, frankly, heartbreaking childhood, his plunge into music, and what’s to come.Adam Gourabou

When I first found your music, your name was THEEDESTINATION but now you’ve changed it to LETSBENØTHING. Where did those names come from?

LETSBENØTHING: Well, THEEDESTINATION is actually a name that evolved from another name that I had. When I started out doing music I started off as “Remix the Kid.” That was my original artist name, and the reason I had that name was because I always remixed other people’s songs. And then eventually that name broke down to “Re” and then “Re Boulevard,” and I was like “Okay, that’s kind of weird,” so I took it to THEEDESTINATION, pretty much meaning I could take you anywhere with my music.

And then as far as LETSBENØTHING, I actually came up with that name because I’ve been getting a ton of hate in my city. Like a lot of people pretty much expecting me to not be successful with my craft, so I said, “Okay, how could I flip that, how could I flip the word nothing and make it cool?” because there are a lot of people who have been told that. You know what I mean? Like, “Oh, you can’t do this, you can’t do that,” so I said “let’s be nothing.” Nothing lasts forever. Let’s be an everlasting stamp on the city.

Why do you think people are responding to you like that in the city?

LETSBENØTHING: Well the thing is, I’m from Phoenix, Arizona. Out here everything is untapped. It’s an unmarked territory. The best way I could put it is, it’s like Toronto before Drake. There’s a lot of people out here that’s trying to be the face of Phoenix. Right now it’s kind of that crabs in a barrel mentality. A lot of people see someone trying to elevate out and then there’s just people trying to pull them down. And for some time now a lot of people have been associating my name with the best artists out here, you know what I mean? And people hear that and they kind of get a little bit envious and they start running around spreading little rumors and things like that trying to discredit me and stuff like that.

What was it like growing up in Phoenix?

LETSBENØTHING: I would say it’s pretty different. But the only things that I could say are unique about Phoenix are things I read from comments on my videos, because obviously to me it’s like regular shit out here. But to other people, they usually go, “Okay why are you chilling with nothing but Mexicans? Why is it so desert-y out there?” Well, all I grew up with was pretty much Mexicans. And that’s pretty different, apparently, to a lot of people.

Other than that, the drug game out here is real. As far as like, the streets being flooded with drugs, and things of that nature. I guess it is different. You hear a lot about people getting into certain situations with groups across the border. I’m not going to go too in depth with it but there’s a lot of stuff like that going on that I’ve always heard about. People—luckily no one that I’m directly related to—getting found in the back of cars and people turning up missing. It’s very much real, but luckily my reality—it’s close to that, but it’s very much so more calm than that.

And the music scene?

LETSBENØTHING: I would say the scene out here…compared to LA and places like that, there’s really no hub. Or there’s no main hub. There’s little cliques, like groups, that kind of form their own industry but there’s no joint industry. That’s what our city really lacks.

I think the first song I found you from was your video for “Out of Touch.” What inspired that song?

LETSBENØTHING: Well the thing that inspired that song, honestly, was my surroundings. Parts of it do have to do with me, like when it comes down to the loneliness and stuff like that. But the chorus “I’ve been lost I’ve been out of touch / I don’t need a friend, man I need the drugs” pretty much came from being around my friends, because a lot of my friends do abuse substances. I remember particularly I was hanging out at a friend’s house and another one of my friends was literally slumped. And then I remember hitting him up a few days later—and this would later go on to inspire that whole EP I came up with “even after the drugs, I overdosed on sorrow.”

That whole project was based on that same dude. That title is pretty much saying, even after all the drugs that someone does, no matter what, when you come down from the high you’re still facing whatever you’re running away from. That’s pretty much what that project and “Out of Touch” is about. I feel like I can put myself in someone’s shoes, because honestly I don’t really do drugs, but when I was recording that I felt like I was embodying my friend’s pain.

You mentioned in your Instagram that you were dealing with crippling depression, and that it was to the point that you weren’t leaving your house for a year. That seems like a personal source relevant to your music.

LETSBENØTHING: A huge part of my story stems from when I was 10. And everything always goes back, you know what I mean? When I was 10 years old my mom went missing, like never to be found again, even to this day. When I was 10 years old. At first it didn’t really hit me. Until one day, I was just playing outside and then I came inside and my twin brother and my older brother were actually in the room crying. And I walked in there, and I asked them, I go “Aye, uh”—my older brother’s back was facing me and my twin brother’s face was facing me—and I remember asking my older brother “Aye why is Tyron crying?” My older brother turned around; he’s crying. I’m like “What are you guys crying about?” And they were like “We miss mom,” and to me, I never really cried about it because for me crying about it would mean that it’s real. You know what I mean? I kinda tried to ignore it.

And everything I’m talking about to you right now is literally realizations that I came to, because I honestly had forgot where—why—I became depressed and where it first started. But, again, these realizations came from me spending that amount of time alone. I figured out why I was alone, essentially, while I was in that state. I had to go back like, “When did this first start?” and I went back to that because in that moment when my brothers were crying I had two choices that I could have either done. I could have either walked up to them and embraced them and cried with them, or I could have walked away; and I walked away.

Like that day, literally I was 10 years old—my grandmother didn’t even like me crossing the street—I swear to you that day I walked as far as I could…away. And I ended up coming back later that night, and my grandmother was worried, but from that point on I always wanted to be alone from my brothers and stuff like that. Because I never ever wanted to…because I was kinda mad at them, you know, for pretty much crying. Because they accepted it. To me I wasn’t trying to accept that. And for a long time I actually never accepted it. And obviously my brothers were at a better mental state than I was because they were able to come to those [conclusions]. But that would affect me later on.

Like in middle school I would literally have nervous breakdowns in class. And this right here is where I started going even further into depression. Because peep, the elementary school that I went to was from kindergarten to sixth grade. So I accumulated a bunch of friends from kindergarten to sixth grade. And then I go to middle school. Everything from 10 years old to middle school I was kind of okay. I was good. But in middle school everything kind of just started hitting me and that’s why I broke down in class. And I watched all those friends of mine that I had, “friends,” all point at me and start laughing. Everybody in that school thought that I was weird.

And at that point I ended up acting out, and not showing up to school. And this gets kind of crazy a little bit, but I didn’t want to go to school so bad that I literally ditched class for probably a week and I would just chill outside in this tree. That sounds kind of weird but I was at the point where I didn’t want to go home, obviously, because I’d get in trouble, and I didn’t want to go to school because everyone was looking at me kind of weird, so I was literally just chilling in this tree, by myself.

I remember finally a teacher caught me and I got in trouble, and after that just stopped going to school. I would just stay home. My grandmother would let me. Finally I went back to school cause I had to, and I just threw a chair at my teacher, got kicked out and ended up going to a different school. From there I started all over, I had a new chance. No one knew me at this school, I had to switch districts.

Later on I would eventually lose my twin brother. I would eventually lose my grandmother. And after that is when I kind of just locked myself down for like a year and three quarters, and I was focusing on music because that’s the only thing I had. So to end off this answer, eventually I would break the depression. Two artists by the name of Cruise and Loh and my personal friend Kilo got me to come out for a show which I didn’t think I was ready for, and I ended up selling pretty much the most tickets at this show and shutting the show down, and after that I felt the need to go out, because before that I wasn’t really going out.

At what point did you become comfortable telling the world these things through music?

LETSBENØTHING: Before I really wasn’t. I was kind of on some cowardly stuff. Even with “Out of Touch,” I kind of mentioned some of my points in there, but honestly, it sounds kind of cowardly, but I was using other people’s stories other than mine. My friend—his name’s Samson—was one of my biggest mentors. While I was in that alone state and I was working on music and stuff like that, me and Samson started communicating and he actually taught me how to mix my music. During that time he asked me “How come you never tell your story?”

I was like, “Bro honestly, I’m not trying to awaken those past times.” I was like, “I’m scared, like I’m just barely starting to get good, I’m barely starting to get better, and at least having a want or urge to leave the house. I just don’t feel like talking about those situations or else I feel like I might go into a deeper depression.” And then he asked me, “Is there something that you’d want to tell your twin brother if you could?” And I honestly just broke down crying. Because there always has been something I wanted to tell my twin brother but I never said it.

I have a song called Sleep Deprivation and that song’s about my mom, and about my brother, and pretty much the overall point of that song—which was completely freestyle’d by the way, I just went back and added little harmonies but that song’s completely freestyle’d from my heart—I was up for three or four days and I was pretty much saying in that song that I don’t want to fall asleep because I don’t want to wake up without my twin brother and mom being there. And things like that I would say are thanks to Samson; Samson made me want to start speaking about those things.

What are some artists that inspired your style?

LETSBENØTHING: Definitely Kid Cudi. Kid Cudi is the GOAT for me. I’ll put it like this: with everything that I’ve experienced in my life, these were things and concepts that I had already developed as a kid before I heard Kid Cudi. And Kid Cudi, instead of talking about the same old things that everyone else was talking about—because again you gotta remember that Kanye West, before Kid Cudi came out with A Kid Named Cudi was talking about “The Good Life” and stuff like that.

And 50 [Cent] and all these other people kind of had these braggadocious, flashy songs talking about money and all this stuff, and don’t get me wrong I love those songs but, I could never relate. When Kid Cudi came out? I completely related to everything he was saying, because remember, I was a kid hiding in a goddamned tree, like I was that kid that was the black sheep. So when Kid Cudi came out with the song “Man on the Moon” and was talking about being different from other people I could completely relate and it automatically tugged at my heart strings. Everything that happened with his father and things of that nature were concepts that I was already familiar with and I felt like I had somebody that I could relate to. So I want to relate to people in the same way.

Kid Cudi, solely, is my inspiration.

Do you have any singing training, or did you just fall into it?

LETSBENØTHING: Yeah, when it comes to singing I just fell into it. Honestly I started rapping. I was just a rapper, and people weren’t really feeling it. And that’s the thing that I love, I’m very grateful that I had the people that were around me from the gate. The reason why people like my music today is because of the honest critique I got from my friends. When I was rapping people were just like “Nah, we don’t fuck with this.” Eventually I posted up a snippet to this song that I never released, and I got a response that I had never gotten before I was singing. People were just like “Stop that rapping shit, and start that singing shit.”

You mentioned on Instagram that you “overcame your demons.” How you doing now?

LETSBENØTHING: I am in a good space, but there are times where, especially with my music, I will end up talking about something very emotional, because I am a very emotional person. Like, if I just got done talking to a girl she will inspire an entire four songs—one situation with one girl could inspire that. I have so many songs, and most of my songs are about girls. That alone is where most of my depression comes from these days. But that will only last until I push out a certain amount of songs, because music is actually the best form of therapy, you know what I mean? This stuff actually helps me. Three or four songs and I’m good, I’m back.

What’s coming next for LETSBENØTHING?

LETSBENØTHING: My debut project, a mixtape called From Nothing. That project features my day one brother 4:44, and an artist named Ayanna. It’s looking to be 9-13 tracks. Production-wise everything has been stepped up and as you know all of my music is on Soundcloud, but this will be on itunes and stuff like that. I got a ton of music videos that I’ll be putting out with these songs. And I have a From Nothing documentary video. I was trying to avoid the word “documentary,” but it will be like a mini-documentary. This documentary will be explaining everything that me and you just talked about and more, you know what I mean? I want people to know my story. I want people to know who they’re listening to and that I’m a real person.

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