“God Resides In The Southside”: An Interview With Wahid

Eric Diep speaks to the Orlando rapper about splitting from his former nine-person collective seeyousoon, God being his biggest influence, his new album feast, by ravens and more.
By    March 13, 2024

Image via Wahid

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Eric Diep lives to blog another day.

“Oh God, must be dreaming, but I’m trying to wake up/Oh God, must be dreaming, why do I feel stuck?” – Wahid on “Solstice”

In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic shut the world down, Orlando rapper Wahid attempted to capture his feelings of loneliness and futile attempt at self-medication. “Shorty come take my whip, I really can’t drive/my vision all blurred up/night shift, feeling like this when the rain come by.” On “Solstice,” he mentions one of his best friends who passed away – the person who taught him how to construct rhymes, and whose loss led him deeper into darkness. It became the first song to end up on his Innovative Leisure debut, feast, by ravens.

Overcoming pain allowed Wahid to find hope in moving forward. After splitting from his nine-person collective seeyousoon, he learned to focus on himself. He began to rap at university in Tallahassee, immersing himself in the hip-hop community by doing shows with another lyrical hip-hop collective CAP 6, and rapping in cyphers. By the time he returned to Orlando, the scene had evolved with pockets of rap, metal, pop-punk, rock, and electronic scattered throughout the city.

At his core, the 30-year-old rapper is a traditionalist whose careful attention to expressing emotion and creating reflective moods places him in the more conscious cluster of the Florida rap constellation (Chester Watson, They Hate Change). As Wahid explains, Orlando’s hip-hop scene is comparable to Chicago, crisscrossing cultural hubs and so widespread that one sound doesn’t represent it all. “You have the drill scene, but you also have Mick Jenkins, Saba, and Noname. That’s what I would compare it to.”

As a student of hip-hop, he’s a sponge: you can hear Yasiin Bey, Black Thought, Isaiah Rashad, and even hints of Nas in his music. If you follow him on @wahidpraisesdue on social media, he is not shy to show appreciation for Little Brother albums, telling me about how he’s seen the May the Lord Watch documentary multiple times, seeing himself in Little Brother and their origin story of meeting at an HBCU to create music that stood out with friends.

The release of feast, by ravens on March 22 via Innovative Leisure is an important stepping stone. It’s a natural progression from his time in seeyousoon, developing himself enough to establish an audience for his long-awaited IL debut. Inspired by Elijah and the first book of Kings, Wahid worked closely with his producer Vitamn to create this EP. In intimate sessions at Vitamn’s home, Wahid described being in a “flow state” as he was writing and doing demos with him, then recording with his engineer Ignacio in the studio to finish the final product.

I spoke with Wahid over Zoom in February, the day before “Solstice” officially came out. He was easygoing as we broke down the meaning behind feast, by ravens, where his “God resides in the Southside” catchphrase comes from, coming up in Tallahassee and Orlando’s music communities, and what he wants to accomplish as an artist.

When did you begin conceptualizing feast, by ravens?

Wahid: With feast, by ravens, I wasn’t writing for a project specifically. It wasn’t like I sat down for feast, by ravens and began writing songs to that. They were done in different periods. The oldest song “Solstice” is over four years old now.

Two records I believe were done in 2021, two in 2022. And the last one was last year. It’s a culmination of that period from 2020 to 2024, what I was doing and going through at the time. Each song was done for another project that fell through, but those were the standouts. This period captured a specific moment in my life.

And then the name, I was looking into Prophet Elijah’s story and the First Kings. The Most High was trying to save him from these assassins who were trying to kill the prophets of the Most High. Elijah was led into the desert by the Most High to save him from impending doom. God was like, ‘Yo, chill out. Just chill in the desert for a little bit. Motherfuckers about to kill you over there. I got these ravens that’ll come and bring you food and water.’ Ravens are nasty, they’re unreliable. As a sign of good faith, God came through with food and water through the mouths of ravens. He was good in that little moment. To me, that resonated in those four years.

Are you religious?

Wahid: When people ask me what my influences are when I make music, I always tell them, ‘God and Black women.’ That’s my foundation. I’m inspired by God or that theory of God: who is that, what is that, and understanding that it is a force that has been guiding me my whole life.

The video for “Mezcal” begins with “God resides in the Southside.” What does that mean?

Wahid: That’s a cool little tag that I use. I used it in my “Hell Is Hot” video. For me, “God resides in the Southside” goes back to my foundation. I used to always say “Only God is great.” Shout out to Lupe Fiasco, he’s the influence of that. There’s this mixtape he put out called Enemy of the State. That’s why we used to say, ‘Only God is Great! Enemy of the State.’ I’m also from the Southside of Orlando, so it was just some cool fly shit.

What’s the message behind “Mezcal?”

Wahid: It’s not meant to influence drinking at all. The hook is, ‘I just hope my liquor saves me/It done told me it is my self-esteem,’ which is not good. It’s a vice at the end of the day. I wrote that for moments of insecurity. I was drinking a lot to feel some real shit, what I perceive to be real shit. Nothing wrong in using it in moderation, but using it as a crutch was something I was doing. I said in the first verse, ‘I might go chill with the silence.’ It’s not a song that’s glorifying [drinking]. I’m sad and I’m using this vice as something to make you not feel sad. I think it is helping but it’s probably not.

“Victory” has you taking on the perspective of a Christ-like figure. With the beat switch in the song, it sounds like you’re wrestling with some demons on this one. Can you unpack the “Victory” meaning?

Wahid: I wanted to experiment with going from seemingly everything is cool in that first section to finally having a bit of a resolution. But I was like, ‘Nah, it is really real out here.’ In that song specifically, I was speaking about betrayal. That’s almost a precursor, a cliffhanger to this next EP that I’m about to finish and turn in. Just speaking about knives in your back kind of thing. Judas betrays Jesus. Even in the intensity of the first half, you get the forgiving Christ. But then in the second half, you get the Christ in revelation. You come back with a sword.

You were born in The Bronx and raised in Orlando, Florida. What was it like coming up in Orlando as a hip-hop artist?

Wahid: It’s funny. When I really became a true MC and got all my runs in, it didn’t start in Orlando. It started in Tallahassee. Me and my best friend Lucas were teenagers and we would find cool, little things to do around the city. But at the time from what I can remember from 2011, 2012, we always asked, ‘Why doesn’t it feel like the city has a [music scene] specifically for hip-hop?’ Because Orlando is famous for the boy bands. It had a dope heavy metal scene, a dope rock n’ roll scene. But when it came to local hip-hop talent, I’m not saying there wasn’t any. I’ve heard stories now about all the OGs in Orlando, I just didn’t know them at the time and it wasn’t on Front Street.

When I first started rhyming, it was to myself or I was doing shit after school with Lucas. It wasn’t until I got to Tallahassee that I met my guys, getting down with this group called CAP 6. We were doing a lot of shit around Tallahassee where we doing a bunch of shows, a bunch of cyphers, recording a bunch. That’s where it happened. It wasn’t until I got back…while this was all happening to me in Tallahassee, I’m checking back home like, ‘Damn, now shit is poppin’ when I’m not there. What the f*ck? I wish I was there!’

I’m seeing these dope artists poppin’ up like my guy Kim. Great f*cking rapper. You got motherf*ckas like Niko Is and Danny Towers, who is very popular for the underground, grunge for the rap shit. Swamp Posse. I’m like, ‘Damn, where were y’all n****s at when I was coming up?’

Where were y’all?

Wahid: Yeah! And a slew of others. And not just hip-hop, it was a big bang from my perspective that just happened when I wasn’t there. My come-up happened in Tallahassee. I became an artist in Tallahassee. I was doing everything but going to class. I was always at the studio with Julian Cruz who does Dominic Fike’s music and Kenny Mason’s shit now. That was my big homie, that was my mentor. He had a studio in Talle. That’s where I came up. That’s where I honed my skills. When I came back to Orlando, that’s when I started to infiltrate the spot, put my foot down, and put a stamp as an artist in the city.

When did you start putting together seeyousoon? Did that happen after you moved back to Tallahassee?

Wahid: Yeah, it happened right after I moved back from Tallahassee in June 2018. I think it was a weekend, I moved back to the crib. And then that Monday, my boy NZO was like, ‘Yo, we got a session in East Room with this engineer named Iggy. I was like, ‘Oh shit, alright bet.’ And that first session where I met Igs, I could tell him and I musically are on the same wavelength. We see and feel the same thing. It’s like we’re in sync.

From there, I did a couple of sessions with him. He’s also this incredible f*cking producer. He also brought his homeboy with him, this dude named Kenny. He came to a couple of sessions just sitting in. We were just building a bond. He was like, ‘Yo, I know this chick. Her name is Maddie Barker, she’s f*cking fire.’ I had her pull up, boom. I was like, ‘Man, this is dope. We should start a group.’ And at the time, it was just us four that was seeyousoon. Then we were doing a lot of songs, just cooking up little records here and there whenever we could, whenever made sense. Eventually, Igs hit me on the side and he said, ‘Yo, what if we add more people to the squad?’ I remember at first I was like, ‘I don’t want this shit to be Brockhampton.’

That’s like the quickest comparison, right?

Wahid: And that’s all we kept getting. That shit pissed me off, but it was cool though. I wasn’t against it. I was like, ‘Shit, it just depends on who it is. Who are you thinking about?’ Then he started naming all my friends like Dre, Lucas, and Mitch. My guy Denny, who I have known for years. He is another producer. He was a part of a band called Polyenso. I was like, ‘Alright, bet. You are kind of just naming all my friends so I guess I’ll do it. You just gotta see if they’re cool with it.’ Kenny is involved, Maddie and them. We got this rapper Drex Carter, who was boomin’. We all linked up and said, ‘You trying to do this shit?’ It was like, ‘Yeah!’ And then from there we just started cooking up.

That was some of my favorite sessions. I started in 2018 and then we made our first album. Those are some of my fondest memories of making those songs. That was probably my favorite time of my life. 2019, in all those sessions, we were doing music. It just felt so fun.

In the documentary for your first album VIDÉ, you said each member was an individual artist first. Did that ring true while you were in seeyousoon?

Wahid: When I said that at the time, I was speaking about how our individuality helped the group become a bit more vibrant.

The group came together to form this powerhouse, breaking into the industry and doing something they hadn’t seen before. I’m curious if that holds now: Are you still who you are back then or have you evolved from that?

Wahid: I still think I’m the same, for sure. Evolution is natural. When I think about evolution, I’m thinking about how my sound has changed or that I’ve gotten better as an artist. I’m older now. How I was then, the same essence is there for me.

I remember in the beginning we were doing a lot of seeyousoon workouts. Chop shop. Wash, rinse, repeat. It was easy to forget that I also had another side to me. I gotta cater to my own personal [art] and what I want from me as an artist. As much as I loved seeyousoon and wanted that, I was still doing all my shit for myself. A lot of time was trying to build up this thing. I was still able to cultivate and do what I gotta do for myself, but shit this is my life right now. This was the thing that was moving, so I had to give it my all.

Talking about the present day, how do you leave that group mentality behind and start doing what’s best for you?

Wahid: I already had that foundation. I was always going to do me regardless. I was always going to figure this thing out myself regardless. It wasn’t too much of a crazy transition. It was just amplified, ‘Okay, bet. This is all on me now. I got it.’ It was a blessing to have the connections and make the connections with the people that I did while I was in the group. Those people have now helped me as a solo artist.

I was listening to the albums you dropped. Y’all had something for sure.

Wahid: Yeah, it was so nuts. I remember when we put out our first single. My manager told me this shit, ‘Every single label called when that first song came out.’ I was like, ‘Shit! God damn bro.’ In my head I’m like, ‘Is this song even that tight?’ It’s getting these editorials on Spotify and Fader premiered it. I’m like, ‘Man, is it really that good?’ I guess it is. What the f*ck. We gotta keep going.

I’ll never forget when we spoke to Barry Weiss. The former president of Jive who signed A Tribe Called Quest. He told us, ‘Man, y’all have the potential to be international superstars.’ I don’t know if he was blowing smoke our asses and just wanted to sign us and shit. But that meant a lot to me because of who he has under his belt.

Yeah, sometimes those music executives see something you don’t see yet.

Wahid: Agreed. So to hear that from him, it was like sheesh. That was tough. So that formed this project in a way because of records like “ineedacig” or even “Mezcal.” Those two were deep in the like, ‘Damn, we blew it.’ And I’m just right into that part of the desert. That was tough to deal with. But everything happens for a reason. At least that’s what I like to believe.

In the headspace you’re in now, what do you want to accomplish with your music?

Wahid: I just want people who hear my music, I want them to hear an artist that cares. The attention to detail. I hope that is what is accomplished. People tap in and stay along for the ride.

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