Interview - Let Alexander Spit Take You to the Rap Séance
Photo by Brick Stowell
From the heart of hyphy comes Alexander Spit, a rapper and producer who marries the odyssey of a mushroom trip with beats that hit hard enough to inspire the likes of Alchemist and E-40 to rap over them. Although West Coast hip-hop has recently been dominated by praise for the projects-kid-turned-rap-savior Kendrick Lamar, Spit’s story is closer to a ‘30s film noir clip than good kid’s after-school special-style moralism. “You know that Jesus saves / But Alexander spits” he raps at one point, inverting Kendrick’s moralist pyramid with a sardonic, confident humanism that pervades the rest of the record.
Though Spit’s certainly done his homework, it’s impossible to say that he’s old school. The elements of his forthcoming record A Breathtaking Trip To That Otherside feel more immersive and weirder than when the Santa Ana winds hit Los Angeles in the middle of December. In the DIY spirit, Spit produced 98% of the beats and created the album art himself. As for the songs, ghostly, jaded rhymes cut-in with fierce independence and a desire to create music—not sell records or make fans. Spit took some time away from recording in his apartment studio and closet vocal booth to chat with me over the phone.
Check our premiere of his A Breathtaking Trip To That Otherside short film, and see what he had to say to me about séances, namechecking R.Kelly and where your ear cells go when they die below.
I was reading this interview where you were comparing your beats to a séance. What spirits would you say you’re connecting to if this album is a séance?
Anything of a supernatural nature—nothing necessarily evil, nothing necessarily peaceful. Something that has a lasting impression, it could be a ghost, or a holy ghost. Something that’s lingered on or a story that continues to be told. I’ve dabbled in a bunch of different types of spirituality. My knowledge of a lot of different—whether it was religion or different spirituality type things—is kind of all faulty at this point. I’ve been more creating my own ideals and what-not. It’s more just general spirits than actually people or places or things. I’m more in tune nowadays with energy than I am with spirits I think.
Despite being known more for his production, The Alchemist raps on one of your tracks. How did that come about?
He’s like a legend, you know? I grew up listening to Dilated Peoples and a lot of Alchemist production and Mobb Deep, a huge array of his stuff. Even before, this point where people say he’s one of the best. And through like mutual music peers and whatnot he had gotten ahold of some of my work and it was literally like he got ahold of the track “Getaway Car" that he ended up getting on and he asked me if he could write a verse to it, and he got on it. That was huge for me because I respect him! Like up until that point I knew The Alchemist could rap, but his accolades were more for production. And the fact that he respected my track enough to want to write to it blew my mind.
You use a sample on the song “GREAT SCOTT!!!“ where there’s a certain pitch playing and the woman says “You know that ringing in your ears? That’s the sound of your ear cells dying, like their Swan Song” Is that true?! You could’ve warned me first.
[Laughs.] It’s a clip from Children of Men. That scene in that movie, the line is one of those lines that’s just thrown in there and open for interpretation. For me, I kind of took it as, "Alright, this is what you’re about to hear, prior to the song—enjoy the song while you can." That’s kind of the mindset that I was on when I threw it into the track. I mean, I think in the case of losing your hearing, that does actually happen. But you won’t lose anything from listening to that.
On “B.N.E. Remix” you reference R.Kelly by quoting his first spoke lines “Ignition (Remix).” Let’s discuss.
Honestly? I’ve always wanted to do that. It's one of those huge references. Sometimes references are so big that you don’t even have to say R. Kelly’s name, you don’t even have to say, "The remix to Ignition.” You just gotta say that first little line and people know exactly where it’s from. I've always wanted to do that if I had a remix track, and it just so happens that I had a remix for “B.N.E.” I was recording it myself and I kinda did that like jokingly because I engineer myself. I remember recording it and being like this is stupid—but then I just kept it.
E-40 is also on that remix. What was working with a legendary West Coast figure like?
When it comes to E-40 that shit is legendary to me. Like, I grew up for years, grew up being taught that E-40 is a legend even before the rest of the country and the world thought he was a legend . It took a bunch of years, even up to this point its still taking time for people to realize how creative, and what an important factor he is in west coast music. But he’s been an original since the very jump and he’s one of those OGs where if you made music on the west coast you have to respect. So it was like when it came down to being able to get him in on a track I was all in with that. It was like, when I finally got he verse back I lost my mind when I heard it—this is E-40 on one of my beats!
If you had to define “hyphy” to an alien, how would you explain it?
Hyphy is a state of being created by people native to the Bay Area land and it is summoned by the hearing Bay Area rap music, hyphy rap music a sort of genre of music, and it’s a state of being. But beyond that, it involves dance, overall lifestyle. Shorter I would just say it’s when you go dumb. This record isn’t hyphy, it definitely encompasses that though. There’s the second track on the album entitled “Ride” and I actually made that track during that time; it was kind of my rendition of a hyphy beat. I opened a random folder on my hard drive and I had forgot how much I liked that beat. That’s my strange and little ambiguous flip on the hyphy movement.
Caitlin White lists her religious views on Facebook as "The Hyphy Movement." She is on Twitter - @harmonicait