Did your parents put you on to both the Barry White, Luther Vandross stuff and the Rakim, Nas stuff, or was some of that exploration on your part?
It's a bit of both. My parents put me on to the old school stuff. My dad, I remember, when I was seven he bought me the Jackson 5 Anthology. From there he kept giving me stuff from time to time, but then I stumbled upon his jazz record collection and put all of that on my iTunes. Now he doesn't really listen to much hip-hop, so all the old school hip-hop was really me. I started getting into J Dilla who is the reason I make beats.
[laughs] When I heard J Dilla I was like, "I have to do this! I don't know what he's doing, but I have to figure out how to do it!" I think I was about seven or eight and that's what really made me go back and say, "Well, what happened before J Dilla?" What he's doing, somebody had to have done it, so I started to really research.
Is it accurate to say that being original is a centerpiece of your philosophy on music?
To an extent, being original is really just people taking from other people who came before them and making it their own. My parents have always instilled in me, in [my] personal life, that being yourself is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself. It always keeps you balanced as far as how people look at you. When people see you, and they see the same consistent identity all the time, they're comfortable with that identity and take that for who you are. Whether it's your friends, your girlfriend, whatever the case may be.
As I moved further into music I started seeing that I was different and didn’t exactly fit in but at the same time I was doing things that people were like, "Oh, that's cool, I'll listen to that." So for me, from very early on, I said, "You know what? I have to be me." When you try to be other people you lose yourself and it turns people off.
Speaking of identities, you've been an actor for a while and, like you said before, the persona that people see most often is the way they'll think about you. Has your previous career caused any problems as you've tried to go into music professionally?
I think I'm not judged off of the records per se. I don't like being treated different or being treated special because of what I've done but I feel, a lot of the time, I get special treatment because I'm an actor and people don't necessarily listen to the record. [Opinions] from people who know me are difficult because they say, "Oh I love this, oh I love that," and I know it's not genuine.