Written Wednesday | Interview With Shawn Crysis

The mission has been revamped for the current time. Shawn Crysis, bred from New/North Brunswick, New Jersey, has had change at his core from the moment he realized the impact he can have. Passion rivets through him as he expresses all phases of his life, thoughts, dreams, questions and everything in between. This is for the bigger purpose of aligning the world with love and truth. He is #hereforthechange.

Shawn Crysis, is a writer, poet, rapper, and a performer. We got a chance to talk to him about being a multi-faceted artist in the digital age. Read on to find out what we learned!

Tell us about your journey and introduction to poetry/rap.

Before all, it was poetry. I had a crush on a girl named Tamilia in middle school and my interest sparked from there and I began to write. In total, though, I probably only wrote  4-7 poems during those times. Then it started as a love for making beats on lunch tables; I used to be the unofficial drummer for the cyphers at my high school, NBTHS. When everyone was done rapping, the crowd was just in awe; the words that flew out were tight. And in certain times, I was able to control the pace of it: how the breakdown sounded with the bars that were coming. But, the rappers were always given the love.

 I wanted that kind of love and appreciation so I began to write. I broke out my Sidekick (cell phone), opened the notes, and began to write. I noticed that I made sense a lot, and I enjoyed making things connect and associate with each other. Words were fun. I then brought them to the lunch tables and my peers were feeling it. I remember practicing mad freestyles to make sure I had something to spit.

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From there, I got into the studio first with my boy Marquis. He was rapping as well so we formed a group called L.S., short for Light Skins *LMFAO*. We made, probably, a total of 5 tracks and I loved every bit of it so I continued to write and flow. Actually, if you look up L.S. – One Night Freak on Youtube you’ll see the work. The rest I have archived for my own amusement *LOL*.

After writing, I began to see it was making me happier and helping me process through events and situations in my life. Writing brought me clarity and a different perspective. It was therapy after a while. My first album, Table for One, was just that – therapy for self before I ever cared to appease the ears of folks. It was about aligning my self with me.

From there came performing. My very first open mic was at Soul by the Pound in New Brunswick, NJ and I had to sit down, actually, due to my nervousness. But they (the audience) enjoyed it. They enjoyed my life, pain, questions and struggle I was dealing with. They could relate. That’s when all hell broke loose for me. I loved giving my words in any form I can, song or spoken word.

While your music is easily accessible online, you do have CD’s available for sale. Tell us about what you learned regarding selling music this way in today’s digital world.

It is more personable. You know your answer right then and there whether someone will support you rather than waiting for a follow or a comment. It’s a more genuine connection with someone, especially cause it was done face to face – breaking todays social norms of actually interacting with people and allowing an actual relationship to be formed. I remember almost every face. It is bit harder, though; especially ’cause CD’s are becoming obsolete, more especially if you don’t have a car to listen to it in. But, the aspect of going up to someone to ask them to buy something from you makes it easier for online sales to be interacted. For me, now, it’s learning the marketing behind it.

Which way do you find more popular and why?

Online. The network is endless and folks are reachable at literally anytime of the day. I can be working or on the toilet making a sale or having someone tell me about my music. It is Mr. Fantastic reaching level, from Jersey to Beijing all with the click of a button.

Which way makes you feel more “successful”?

Hand-to-hand. You see the impact that you had on someone and their willingness to support, especially if I just performed. It’s like getting paid at the end of the day when you work and not waiting for a check. Someone enjoyed me and connected so much that they will support me to keep on doing it. I love that and I pray that it helps them do what they want to do.

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What was your inspiration behind your most project “nice to meet u ep (a she cursor)”?

She is. She is the women I have been in relationships with. Things I have learned, gained, took, given all while still appreciating who she is to me. It is my ode to woman. ‘nice to meet u’ is the pre-cursor, (she-cursor) to my album entitled she. which is an acronym for she’s his everything. It is the exploration also of my voice and looking into ways to bend it, pitch it and still make good sounding music while giving some bars.

In what ways do the samples used in the project help convey your message?

It helped set the tone of what the song was to be about or the feel I wanted to give. Earth, Wind and Fire was about how she was all of these natural forces all in one; in each verse, each beat breakdown/switch up I used the elements and described who she is to me. Sade eloquently provided the soul of the track and I followed suit.

Never Let Me Go was a quick run, something of an interlude but still a track, still impactful, still meaningful and pivotal. As just as quick the sample and tempo was, I wanted to match that and began to drift in between it.

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You have been seen performing at various platforms across the country. How do you secure a spot at these venues?

Networking from past events, people will inquire if I want to participate at the event. If I can, I’m there. Before being reached out to, it was looking in every nook and cranny of the tri-state area to find out where there was an open mic or showcase that I can be a part of. My friends would also tell me about events happening and who to contact if they seen a flyer online or knew someone.

Tell us about your experience(s) with competitions using your art.

I have made it to California for free – flight, room and board all paid for. I was apart of Daze Summit created by Scott Morris, which is a week long run of music shows, workshops, and a panel in NYC. It’s main purpose was to generate scholarship money for high school students.

This past year was the Fly Me to LA edition in which the two winners would receive an all expense paid trip to California for the BET Awards and I was sold on it right there. Being apart of the Deans List Tour, a musical artist based tour out of NYC, helped greatly with the gearing and rearing of performing and artist development. Having been apart of that, I knew that I had to simply perform my heart out -in which I did.

In a certain case when performing solely poetry, I was in the running to be a part of the New Jeru Slam Team. It was a heavy day when it comes to the greatness that was in that room and I had no idea that there people were SPITTING. There is something about poetry that I love with every inch of my heart. It enthralls me because I appreciate the words of people and what they are saying -and they were saying some SHIT! Sadly, I did not qualify to be a part of the Slam team. But, just the experience of doing it riveted me to want to try again. I love being heard, I want my words to be heard, no beat, no melody, just me.

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While also working towards growing as an artist, you volunteer your time at local schools to work with kids in exploring their own artistic identity. How have these experiences been for you?

Shawn luhh da kids! They teach me so much about the world they live and how it impacts them directly. I’ve learned about the school-to-prison pipeline working at the Dr. Marion Bolden Center in Newark. Having them (the students) explain what is so relevant to them and the sensitivity of being in the face of the dragon inspires me to help sharpen their blades. They bring me glee and hope for the future. Seeing them doing what they love to do brings me so much happiness. I want to let them know that their art, their talent, their actions are appreciated and can take them anywhere they choose to go. They explore a territory in which the process isn’t celebrated, only the creation. But it is showing them to celebrate the process of trying new things, failing, resiliency, all while trying to get what is in their mind out into the world.

Tell us how your life experiences have shaped your artistry.

They allow me to speak my truth and uncover my lies I have told myself. They make me deal with things I’m afraid of or unwilling to. They allow the passion to speak through me and come out as vividly as it came in. They teach me more about myself and the world and how to portray it to myself and others. It has been my life and while the artistry is only a part of me, it’s a major component of how life has been experienced.

Complexity and Clarity with Sadaway| Written Wednesday

While not a huge fan of labels, Sadaway would call himself an artist in the broadest sense. He creates visual art (mostly in the form of pen and ink works, but occasionally paintings and, recently, jewelry), poetry, raps, sings, and produces beats. While he wouldn’t go as far as to say ‘I do it all,’ Sadaway is definitely open to trying it all.
For his art and image as an artist and performer, Sadaway puts a lot of thought and effort into cultivating a unique aesthetic.  He has managed this through choosing specific motifs that persist across all mediums of his work. From the visual pieces released to his sound and, even, the style of his outfits, Sadaway keeps certain elements in mind.
If he were to put a name to his specific genre/aesthetic, Sadaway thinks it would be something along the lines of:  Post-Apocalyptic Alternative Vapor Rap (ridiculousness intended).
To check out what he means, follow his Instagram, SoundCloud, and art page?? (find these***). If you are interested in learning more about the creation behind his aesthetic and style, read our interview with Sadaway below!

 

How do you cultivate and maintain a following on social media?

Building an Instagram account up to 10k followers was easier than it sounds, actually.  In all honesty I could of grown the account even more effectively if I had stayed more consistent with the content I posted. But, I decided to compromise sheer numbers for individuality and creative freedom.  The account started as a meme account which, unsurprisingly (at least in my experience), grows very quickly. Humor is a great medium, as it transcends particular interests and has huge sharing/reposting/whatever potential.  The theme of my meme account was Fallout, as that game franchise has been near and dear to my heart since I was the ripe young age of 13. I started it on a whim during my first semester at college, just for fun, to see how many jokes I could think of.  Unbeknownst to me there was already an entire community of similar content creators on the platform. Connecting and collaborating with these community members gave a huge boost to my following and introduced me to some really cool people. Eventually, I decided to transform my account into a showcase for my art and music as this is what I am truly passionate about.  Making the transition was difficult as the account did stagnate to a degree and I lost my momentum. The account is still a pet project and asset of mine and I’m confident I will accumulate new followers with the same techniques. (@sadaway.jpg if y’all wanna join the wave)
Overall my advice to burgeoning content creators would be to stay consistent both in content and uploading habits.

 

What inspired the song “Fuckin’ Cat” ft NGGA? What is the meaning behind the song?

Fuckin’ Cat was my first venture into the sometimes frustrating but ALWAYS rewarding realm of beat making.  Beat making, for me, is pretty straight forward albeit time consuming (not helped by the fact I’m lazy and distractible as fuck).  It sometimes starts with a concept, it sometimes starts with nothing.  I find that having one specific sound or feel in mind is the more difficult route. It’s easy for me to pigeonhole myself into a mindset of how the beat should come out and lose my creative edge. For me, it’s often best to just sit down and start plucking keys and experimenting with drum patterns. Depending on what I’m feeling at that moment, my beat will come out accordingly.

Not only do you rap but you make your own beats. Describe your beatmaking process.
Ok, so bear with me on this one. Speaking of Instagram, y’know those sponsored ads in your feed for clothing brands you’ve never heard of before? The ones selling overpriced streetwear, ironic graphic tees, or something like that? Well, one day I happened upon one selling all-over print ski masks. More importantly, they were giving away the first 100 units free (just pay shipping). So, one was a kitten and immediately I thought, “damn, that shit’s tough. I need me one for shows.” It just so happened that when that mask arrived I was just beginning to experiment with making beats. As soon as I got it and proceeded to put it on, the idea just came to me along with the music and I got to work. I had the beat completed in time to perform it the same day. Thus, Fuckin’ Cat was born.  It’s definitely a lighthearted, sort of gag track. I’m not trying to impress anyone with it, I was just having fun.  But, at the same time, it was my first ever song completely produced and written by just me. It’s special for that reason.  There’s really no rhyme or reason to this song. It’s just a 5 minute bombardment of awful cat puns and wild ad libs (shout out to NGGA for coming thru with those).

 

You have very fast-paced, multi-syllabic verses. How do you learn to balance complexity and clarity?

I personally feel that’s it’s one thing to rap and have a catchy hook, but it’s a game changer to have lyrics that flow seamlessly or, even, poetically on a track. That’s why I have such a tremendous amount of respect for artists like Earl Sweatshirt and MF Doom, I think they really own this style of music. I try to emulate this style too in my own work. But, my approach has evolved as I have grown as an artist. When I first started writing and performing, I would often cram as much wordplay into a verse as possible. Usually this would lead me to being forced to rap really fast which, in turn, lead to me choking or running out of breath. On top of this, most listeners couldn’t appreciate everything I was saying. So, over time, I slowed my pace and started writing in spaces to breathe.  Now, writing a line is kind of like a game, the objective being to see how many rhymes and how much wordplay I can fit into the shortest amount of words. My takeaway here is that if you want to flaunt how clever you are on a track, emphasis comes first. Speed is a bonus.

In what ways do you combine your different art forms and present them to your audience?

As was stated earlier, I try my best to capture a similar aesthetic across all mediums of my art.  This means that most, if not all, of the visuals I put out should be almost interchangeable with most, if not all, of my music.  And, of course, you have to dress the part too. I aim for bright neon colors and gradients that compliment each other and contrast this with drab, piecemeal designs and textures like rust, corrugated metal, and  torn fabric for my outfits.  My visual art shares many of the same elements along with computer generated graphics and scenes from popular post-apocalyptic games and movies (mostly Fallout if you hadn’t already guessed).  For my music, I use a lot of synths and electric instrumentation to create elaborate, serene soundscapes then contrast this with rough, heavy percussion and sound effects.  My goal is to establish a recognizable and unique aesthetic that permeates all fields of my work.
In what ways does your music style allow you to discuss different topics while maintaining a consistent theme?
I think that my style of music should not have a significant impact on what I communicate through it, on my own beliefs, or values.  While the instrumental aspect of my music may be fairly homogeneous, thematically, my lyrics and messages could ultimately be anything. That’s the beauty of poetry and hip-hop to me.  People expect rappers and poets to give them something raw and real, something they can relate to.  Rapping allows an artist to speak their mind as frankly as possible. It’s really just rhythmic talking. Whether that talking comes in the form of a story or a conversation is at the artist’s discretion. For instance, in my own music I’ve discussed everything from childhood nostalgia to regret, from love lost to being that fuckin’ cat.

 

As a visual artist how do you ensure you are being properly compensated and credited for your work?

This is a tricky one. In short, I don’t.  Unfortunately, being a novice independent artist and putting your personal creations out into the world always poses the risk of having your ideas be stolen, especially in the internet age.  I used to get fired up when seeing someone post a meme I had spent time imagining and editing without so much as a mention of my name. After that, I began to watermark my work. But, even then, anyone could crop a watermark out of a photo, edit it out with a program like photoshop, or even reproduce the same idea on their own.  Now, I take these situations in stride as they’re really just a fact of life for artists like me. The dream is that once you become established, your work will be able to stand out from the rest and immediately be recognized as your’s, with or without your name attached.  For compensation, it’s pretty much the same, you win some you lose some. I think the visibility that the art I make for others provides me is more valuable than the $20+ I ask for small pieces anyway.

 

In what ways do you network and collaborate with other artists?

I network with any opportunity I get to. You never know who’s a creator, who’s a connoisseur, or who has connections.  It’s not like we all have sticky notes on our backs that show who’ll fuck with the vision and who won’t.  So to that end, I just engage people about their interests and go from there. I really love a good conversation and, for the most part, I’m an open book. If someone asks, I’m more than willing to share what I’m about. In my opinion I think that’s the most natural way to go about it, just get out there, drop the phone and talk to another human being face-to-face dammit. I really can’t stand the guys sliding into every dm or comment section they can with the shameless self promotion. I guess I give them props for their tenacity but I find it really obnoxious and a sure fire way to have me never check out your stuff.  For me, it’s as simple as if you appreciate what I’m doing and the feeling is mutual then let’s swap contact info and make something radical.

 

Over the span of your career, you have changed your stage name multiple times. Tell us about the process of deciding the right name for you. How do you know when it’s time to change it? How do you ensure that your audience remains familiar with who you are despite your name change?

Hahaha, damn. I knew this one was coming. I can make it short for this one.  Basically, being a successful artist or visionary means not giving a single fuck about what anyone thinks of you,your talent, and making your own way.  In that respect, I do what I want because I want to.  If I’m not feeling a name, a look, an idea, or whatever it might be, I switch it up.  Typically there’s been a good reason in the past. I change, my art changes, and I need a fresh start to seize upon the new energy and direction. Other times, I just realize the old name is lame and that’s that. I see it as no harm no foul since I don’t exactly have legions of adoring fans to catch off guard. And for the fans who might be confused? They either get with the program or move on, I won’t lose any sleep either way.  As for the name itself, it’s whatever the coolest thing to pop into my head is.

Submission Saturday | “Ode to the Medusa in Me” by Stephanie Dinsae

Ode to the Medusa in Me

At the age of 3 or 4

I remember being a free child

In Daycare

I would run wild

Whenever I could

Scraping my

Bare knees against brick walls

Had there been no confine

My knees would have been fine

You would think the sting of rubbing

Alcohol would keep me bound

But… it didn’t

Like me, my hair would also run wild

Yearn to be free

Stretch to the sky to claim that agency

Imagine a wild child’s surprise each time I

Was called to come be still

So my mom could tame my hair

She tried so hard to tame it

Only successful temporarily

Because of my hair’s wild nature

I earned myself the nickname

Medusa

In ode to her intense, passionate locs

So many years have passed and for fun

My mom will still call me Medusa sometimes

Confession: I still like to run

Free and my hair as well

Little did I know how lucky

I would be to have been

Named after her as a child

What I’ve realized since then is that

Medusa is synonymous to Black woman

And…Black woman is synonymous to monster

Monster — because they can’t tame her

When she shoots them daggers as gazes

Naturally they can’t take it

Call her gaze an attitude

Call a hurt ego being turned to stone

They tell Medusa she has too much

Backbone

They figure they’ll call her terrifying

Since her confidence

Is jarring

Of course they don’t expect a

Black woman, a Medusa,

Like me

To own her pride

They want Medusa, to

Shrivel up and die

Shrink up and make them

Feel better about themselves

Give them all the space and

Leave none for us

Which is evidently why

They reduced my namesake

To a Gorgon

A bitter, vicious thing

A monster easily defined

Why are they unaware

I, like Medusa, am not someone to be confined

Why else does my hair, like hers

Not fit into neat, straight lines

Medusa knows best that her hair

Has a mind of its own

Defiant and wanting to be left alone

Away from their harm, their danger

Her body or her hair or her mind

Is no stranger

To the slander they bring

So I, like Medusa, use my gaze, my lack of

Response to protect me

My hair is wild, I am wild

And because they fail to tame me

In my entirety, her entirety, in our entirety

They tear down pieces of our appearance

Collage them together to create the narrative they want

For us

And we shock them with our brilliance

Since that narrative does not come from us

The glory of our story

Reduces their narrative to a mere phrase

They’re bound to feel their lies coil around them like snakes

Wrapped around their body

Binding them to their disgrace

There’s no wonder they feared Medusa’s hissing mane

No wonder why it was subject to be tamed

My hair is wild, I am wild

Medusa, Black woman, I, am not someone to be confined

They knew their narrative would be dismantled

It was only a matter of time

See, they attempted to

Handcuff us to the labels of Scary, Imposter, Bitter, Vicious

And in return, we only bounce back more ambitious

So if the definition is “A Black woman becoming stronger”

By all means, call ME, Medusa… a monster

–  Stephanie Dinsae

The Other Side Of The Game: An Interview With Diya Drake

 

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Naadiya Drake

Age: 21

From: Willingboro, NJ

Singer, Writer, Rapper/Lyricist

Interviewed by Steven Ikegwu

How did you get the opportunity to become a radio host? How nerve wrecking was your first broadcast?

I was pretty anxious to get on the radio. I did some research on radio stations on the campus of Rutgers to see what their operating hours were, who I should call/email. When I found what I was looking for, I put on my shoes and headed to the Core’s location. From there, I got to speak to a couple of DJs who actually let me sit in on my show. After that, I made it my mission to complete all the necessary training for my own slot. I was pretty nervous for my own show, but it didn’t trump my excitement. I tried to make sure I was well prepared by familiarizing myself with the equipment/rules and putting my first playlist together the night before.

What factors do you consider when choosing to work with someone, both in music and in radio?

Pertaining to music, who I work and collab with has a lot to do with style. It’s all about the vibe and the sound. I believe music isn’t just something you hear, but something you feel. I want myself to feel it, the person/people I’m creating with to feel it, and the audience to feel it as well. In short, I like working with people who can use their art to create different atmospheres. As far as radio is concerned, I signed up in hopes of developing a platform that gives a voice to the unheard. While I like to play “what’s hot”, I also like to put the spotlight on artists who aren’t necessarily top 40. Whether they be local, independent or just working with a smaller audience, everybody deserves a platform to share their talent. A lot of my fellow DJs share a similar mindset and its nice to be apart of it. For both music and radio, there’s, of course, a certain level of professionalism and respect. I need to trust that you’ll respect what I’m doing (and I’ll do the same) in addition to respecting the physical, mental and emotional space.

Who are your musical influences?

TOO MANY to name but here’s a few off the top of my head: Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, India Arie, Lalah Hathaway, Queen Latifah, Sade, Solange, Kelela, Chance the Rapper, Chance the Rapper, Chance the Rapper, Chance the Rapper, Noname, Rapsody, The Roots, Kendrick Lamar (and many more but we’ll stop there)

 

You work in OSG and Divine Write. How do you express your individuality in collaborative projects?

I believe everyone plays a role in collaborative projects. You have to know that everyone is bringing something different. Whether it be my tone, choice of words or overall style, I just try to make sure that whatever I’m bringing meshes, but stands out at the same time.

What does OSG stand for and how did you and Naomi come together to form it

OSG stands for Other Side of the Game (like the song by Erykah Badu). Naomi and I were at TGI Friday’s after a performance with our friends and we were talking about how we always introduce ourselves as “Diya Drake and Naomi Jay” before we start. We still go by those names but if we were gonna continue to perform as a unit, it would be best to have a name that can be associated with both of us. We discussed possible names in the past but none of them really made us wanna jump on it. The idea of naming our group after a song by a huge musical influence seemed pretty cool. “Other Side of the Game” just fit. We hope that when people heard it, they would know off bat that we were trying to bring something different to the table.

What is your creative process like?

The creative process varies. I could be inspired by good conversation, an argument, or a crisis. I go for walks a lot and I often get ideas while doing so. I have a journal where I dump a lot of my thoughts. In some cases, I take what i’ve written and reflect on what I was feeling in that moment. From there I try to build off of those emotions. Other times, it’s not so structured. I like to free write as well. There are times where I just put on music and say whatever comes to my mind. It honestly depends.

Do you ever feel limited when it comes to performance venues because you and Naomi carry instruments along?

Yes! If it was possible, we’d have an entire ensemble everywhere we go, lol. Having our own equipment definitely makes travel a LOT harder but it’s an important part of what we do. I’ll always appreciate Naomi for bringing her keyboard along because it is definitely heavy. Hopefully as we expand, transportation of instruments and equipment will be easier, but right now we just make it happen the best way we know how. We always take location of the venue and spacing into account when it comes to our set.  

Did you ever receive any vocal training?

I’ve been apart of different choirs, but I’ve never had any private or one-on-one lessons. I am definitely looking into a vocal coach or taking lessons!

Interested to learn more? Check out OSG’s music on SoundCloud!