Act Like You Know: An Interview with Blxst

Yousef Srour speaks with the Los Angeles rapper/producer about moving to Inland Empire, his collective TIU Muzic, where he sees himself in ten years, and more.
By    October 9, 2020

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Blxst is an evocative storyteller and Los Angeles is his muse. From the streets of South Central to the suburbs of the Inland Empire, Blxst believes that the modern Angeleno lacks a coherent archetype; everyone’s story is different. As the omniscient narrator, Blxst’s narratives see everyone and everything: from the artists to the star-crossed lovers. Yet his lens is keenly fixated on the idealists. In particular, those hopeless romantics willing to endure the trials and tribulations of searching for intimacy in a city filled with virtue and vice — just to find that magical person who makes sitting in traffic slightly less miserable. 

From hearing his mother spin Lauryn Hill records to being introduced to the craft by his uncle (a former rapper), the artist born Matthew Burdette has been surrounded by hip-hop for as long as he can remember. Growing up in South Central, he viewed the streets as a place of both camaraderie and tension. Blxst was constantly moving around, meeting people in his community and observing their day-to-day lives. He watched as his neighbors were racially profiled and frisked; he saw those whose reputation on the streets preceded who they were as individuals. 

But once Blxst moved to Upland in the San Gabriel Valley, his worldview became much darker. His parents had separated; his father worked long nights, and the son felt isolated from the world around him. Taking all of that distressed energy, he find solace in rhythm and melody, producing his own beats and penning his own lyrics to escape the confines of an idle life.

Blxst launched his career in the L.A. rap scene with the collective known as TIU Muzic. He was invited to join the crew by his friend King, and by working with one another, TIU Muzic built their own brand, acquired experience in the industry, and gathered a local following. Blxst originally joined as a rapper and producer, but soon recognized that he had a knack for videography too. He created a vintage aesthetic for his music videos, directing his lyrics to the camera like an XXL cypher, but used video filters to highlight orange hues, cinematically capturing the warmth and nostalgia associated with 35mm film. It was through TIU Muzic that Blxst learned the fundamentals of building a brand, from generating name recognition to connecting with his fan base at house shows and developing a strong social media presence. 

Founded in 2015, his label, Evgle found him maneuvering as a businessman, and selling self-designed t-shirts and hoodies, emblazoned with the scowl of a bald eagle. Roaming the streets from Manchester Blvd in Inglewood to Gramercy Park in South Central, Blxst shot videos of him and his crew in the vein of the early Pharcyde. Spreading hs music on SoundCloud, he organically built his own online following. Earning renown for his lyrics and production, things started to take off through his collaborations with Bino Rideaux, a slurring L.A. rising star and Nipsey protege. Blxst also constructed the G-Funk-inspired hit, “Right Wit It,” for Kalan.Frfr, further showcasing his versatility as a producer; he even co-wrote the Jack Harlow song, “Yikes,” for Scoob! The Album, a companion to the latest movie adaptation for the Scooby Doo franchise. In the last year, he’s entrenched himself as one of the brightest young stars of L.A. rap. 

Even though he’s been rapping for over five years now, No Love Lost is Blxst’s solo debut. This September’s project has no features, every song is self-produced, and we’re introduced to Blxst at his darkest and most personal. He’s suffered heartbreak, he’s trudged through unrequited love, and now, he’s readjusting to a life focused on himself. No Love Lost is a reflection of the pitfalls of relationships, explored through a light and breezy production style that blends L.A. rap tradition with elements of contemporary R&B. Laid-back guitar samples that could have easily been featured on Ice Cube’s The Predator, but with revamped beats and whirring, refined synths. Throughout the tape, Blxst pulls heavily from personal experiences, working through fallouts with his close friends and reminiscing about a past lover. 

Despite the loves and losses, Blxst remains optimistic about the future. When I ask him if he believes in happy endings, he hesitates. After giving it some thought, he illustrates to me that pain and disappointment are inevitable, but as long as you have hope, there’ll be no love lost. — Yousef Srour

What have you learned from living in L.A.?

Blxst: What I learned from living in L.A. is that you’ve got to find your own path. It’s easy to get lost in a lot of the BS that’s going on outside your doors, but I think really believing in yourself and staying true to yourself is the definition of finding your own path, so you can navigate through all the BS that goes on.

What was it like growing up in South Central?

Blxst: Growing up out here, it was pretty fun. As a kid, you don’t really know what’s going on, you’re just hanging out with your friends, coming home late, getting in trouble, and just moving around. As you grow older, once you start getting in fights and start seeing inspections in certain neighborhoods that you shouldn’t go through because of reputations that they have, it’s just an eye-opener. I feel like it was just a crazy transition that you have to realize.

How did moving to the Inland Empire impact you?

Blxst: Once I moved, it was more peaceful. People aren’t outside as much, everybody’s to themselves, and also the school system was completely different. The teachers were more strict and more on you. It was just more strict.

Did you like it more over there?

Blxst: It was kind of a unique situation for me. Even though I moved out there, being that it was a different environment, I felt more isolated because I felt away from what I was used to. My dad still worked in L.A., so I was just figuring things out on my own, and he would come home late from work. Most of the time, I’m spending time by myself, whether it’s at home teaching myself on laptops, music, or skateboarding and stuff.

When you moved, did your taste in music change at all?

Blxst: Nah. I was still listening to the same stuff I grew up listening to. Music progressed of course, but my taste in music pretty much stayed the same.

When you were younger, what was the energy like around the house? Were you surrounded by a lot of music?

Blxst: My uncle was the first rapper that I ever knew, which introduced me to the art. He always told me, “If you want to be a rapper, find a word in the dictionary every day and find the definition,” and it’ll help me with my wordplay, so to speak. I also remember my mom and my sister having vinyl in the house, using the record player to listen to Lauryn Hill and stuff. I would say it was always around me growing up.

How has your family shaped you?

Blxst: They shaped me to be a level-headed person. I really have respect for my mom and my dad, because even though they’re separated, they still made an environment where they could still coexist as parents, which gave me a sense of security.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received from your parents?

Blxst: My mom making sure that I always worry about myself first. Selfishness is not always bad, because you can’t look out for somebody else if you’re not 100% – kind of like the airplane manual. When you get on the airplane, you’ve got to make sure to put the thing on your face first, before you take care of whoever’s next to you.

Who have been your biggest influences when it comes to music, as both a rapper and a producer?

Blxst: I would say artists that produce as well, like the Pharrell’s, Kanye West, Ryan Leslie, because their reach is bigger, and I can relate to it.

What was the catalyst for you to start rapping?

Blxst: I feel like it was just happening. I never remember consciously saying, “I’m going to start rapping.” I guess it started as a hobby, and then when I put music out, the response I got was what motivated me to keep going. The response was like, “Yo, you dope. You can be big one day,” and I just used that as fuel, or subconsciously, that motivated me to keep pushing.

I remember reading that when you first started out, you were posting your songs on Myspace. What’s your relationship like with social media, as an artist?

Blxst: I really give all the credit, as far as my music, to social media because it gave me a bigger reach on who’s really rocking with me. It made me believe in myself to see that people from different parts of the world believed in me too. I even put my music on Myspace. They had the situation where other people could put your songs on their profile page. When I would go to different girls’ pages that I liked, and they had my song on their page, I was like, “Dang, I really must be somebody out here.”

You were in a rap collective when you were in high school called TIU Muzic. How did that come about?

Blxst: That came about with a friend I had; his name was King. In high school, he stayed in Upland, which is in the IE. Because he’s a year older than me, he moved back to LA after he graduated. He hit me up and was like, “Yo, my sister started this group called TIU Muzic; we want you to join,” so we ended up recording together and that’s how it took off. I moved to LA, and we was just based out here, moving around the city, making music at the crib, we had a home studio. We was just pushing like that.

How did TIU Muzic mold you as an artist?

Blxst: I think it really taught me the structure of things and how important building a brand is, because even though we were solo artists in a camp, the brand was TIU. Our motto was, “Let’s boost up the brand, TIU,” to where any artist that funnels through this is going to be accepted in a certain light. I think it molded me as far as making sure that I built the biggest brand.

Speaking of brands, what pushed you to start your brand Evgle back in 2015?

Blxst: It was really just a lyric that I wrote a minute ago, and then my friends started calling me BLA the Eagle. That was my nickname amongst me and my friends, so one day I was like, “I really want to come up with a clothing brand,” and this is before I even thought of making it a label and an actual company. I would just make shirts, 24-pieces, and just sell ‘em to people who rock with them. I just kept pushing it like that, and once I went solo, I was like, “Let me make this a bigger brand to where eventually I can sign other artists, sign producers, and just take it to another level.”

What are your plans for the brand now that you’ve partnered with Red Bull Records?

Blxst: My plan for the brand is just to exhibit this project under Evgle, as well as Red Bull, and carry out my end of the partnership that I have, and eventually, as I said before, sign other producers and other artists. Right now, we’re just focused on No Love Lost right now.

Your uncle and your older sister were in a rap group. Did that affect how you wanted to approach your career?

Blxst: Not really. It kind of sparked the entrance as far as becoming an artist, but as far as creativity, I just went my own way.

Is there a story of how you ended up producing Kalan.FrFr’s song, “Right Wit It?”

Blxst: It was actually kind of random. I sent Kalan a beat pack 6 months prior, before he even recorded that song. It’s this other artist that I have a relationship with, his name is Chris O’ Bannon, which he’s on the original “Right Wit It.” They pulled up the beat pack and I guess that was one of the beats in the pack, and they just recorded to it. It wasn’t nothing special.

You co-wrote “Yikes” for the Scooby-Doo soundtrack. What’s it like writing for a movie versus one of your own projects?

Blxst: That was different. Even being at the writing camps at APG, I never experienced no workflow like that. Working with a bunch of different writers, coming up with crazy ideas, it was an easier workflow than working by myself. We was knocking out like, I would say, 8 to 10 songs a day, for like 2 weeks straight. It was a real dope experience. You get free lunch; you get the opportunity to be on a movie; it was a win-win for me.

From Mozzy to Ky Richy, you’ve collaborated with a number of different artists from the Bay. Why do you choose to connect with artists who don’t necessarily have the same sound as you?

Blxst: I think it’s good for your brand to outsource to different genres or different sounds, different areas of music, because it’s a big world and I understand that just because I’m known in one location doesn’t mean that everybody has to know. I feel like cross-branding is very vital to your brand.

You released Sixtape back in 2019. What’s your relationship like with Bino Rideaux?

Blxst: My relationship with Bino came about through the Kalan song actually. I produced that song, he reached out to Kalan and was like, “Who produced it?” He plugged me with Bino, and he exchanged our contacts. Initially, I just produced 5 songs on his tape, which was the Sorry 4 Tha Wait tape. Then, I sent him a song, which was “Savage;” he put that out on the Sorry 4 Tha Wait tape, and the streets was rocking with it so much, he was like, “Bro, let’s do a tape together,” and that’s pretty much how that came about. We knocked it out in about a week or so, and then we just put it out. I really didn’t have no intentions of it going crazy the way it did; the streets loved it.

Do you consider your music strictly hip-hop, or do you think it’s more of a combination of rap and R&B?

Blxst: I would say it’s like a melodic [strain of] hip-hop. I definitely lean heavily on the R&B side as well.

Since you produce your own music, how do you approach your time in the studio?

Blxst: I record most of my music at the crib, so I could take my time. Usually, my recording process is I lay a hook, I lay a verse, then I let that marinate, and come back to it. If I play it for my friends and they’re rocking with it, then I put a verse in and finish it out. I also produce as I record, so I might come up with a stem, about 4 sounds, record to that, then come add some more to the production, record – like a building process.

Walk me through the genesis of No Love Lost. It’s your first solo project, even though you’ve been putting out music for over 5 years now.

Blxst: Initially, I based it off the first song – the first song that I added to the project was “Hurt.” It’s a song about me falling out with my previous situation, and I formed the storyline around that. Basically, No Love Lost, the meaning is, sometimes I’ve got to be selfish to execute the mission that I feel is for me, but it’s no hard feelings at the end of the day. I also based the storyline around personal relationships, outside just my friends, my love life, even family sometimes; everything doesn’t coexist the way you want it to, but you still have to fulfill what you need to for yourself, but it’s no love lost.

Along with the record, you’re releasing a 4-part video series. Why did you want this visual component to go with your EP?

Blxst: I feel like that was really important because a lot of people know me through music, but I feel like I haven’t had the opportunity to give myself a visual aesthetic. I wanted to make sure I attached the storyline to it, and make sure all the videos are cohesive and really hit on all the points I was talking about, as far as the love life falling out, friends falling out, and even spending time away from my family; I just wanted to pinpoint that in the storyline, with the project.

Why did you opt for no features on this new tape?

Blxst: It wasn’t intentional. I wanted Bino on the project, but things happened to where he couldn’t be on the project. Hopefully I’m going to have him on the deluxe.

Like you said, conceptually the album revolves around love and intimacy, celebrating the highs of a relationship and sulking in its lows. How does it come from personal experience?

Blxst: You deal with that on a day-to-day basis. Me, having a family, I have a son and I’m currently in a relationship, so I feel it first-hand. These are personal experiences, when I’m either going to the studio or even making moves, politicking with other artists. The hours of an artist are not really set; there’s not really a schedule we have, it’s up-and-going. That’s one thing that I can really relate to first-hand, that I’ve dealt with on a day-to-day basis.

Do you believe in happy endings?

Blxst: I have hope, I’m going to say that. Honestly, creating this project, I was really in a dark space – at least the darkest space that I have ever experienced in my personal life, even falling out with my friends. It was a confusing point, but I still do have hope that everything turns out in a positive light, so yeah, I guess I do believe in happy endings.

Who or what is the greatest love of your life, and how has that person/thing changed you?

Blxst: I would definitely say music because it’s like therapy. You can really say anything you want, and it’s already off your chest by the time you let it go. Of course, it’s going to get judged, but to the individual, it’s therapeutic to release that energy.

In the next 10 years, what do you want to see yourself accomplish?

Blxst: In the next 10 years, I want to see myself owning several properties in different sides of the country. That’s one of my goals. For music, I just want to continue to put out more projects and build my legacy. Also, I want to produce other artists’ albums, I want to executive produce, like I said before, building a brand to where it’s bigger than just me. I want to create an actual legacy where I can help other people’s families.

What do you hope for people to understand about Blxst?

Blxst: I want them to understand that everything is possible. Anything is possible. I remember with myself, just being isolated in a room thinking about the future like, “Damn, what if I really become an artist, really sign a deal, and really have music videos.” The small ideas that I think are small now were big to me back then, so as you move through life, you realize the possibilities are endless. You’re always going to want more, you’re always going to create endless goals, but everything’s possible and everything’s attainable.

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