Interview With VinLa’Infinite
SBS: VinLa’Infinite – thanks so much for taking some time to rap it out with us here through an interview! Stoked to talk to you about your new record Mortal & much more homie, it’s great to have ya with us. Let’s get everyone on the same page before we start – what got you starting to rap? Since deciding you wanted to be an artist, what’s the journey been like & where has it taken your music?
Vin: Lupe Fiasco is the person/thing that got me started I didn’t really like music at all but around 06’ or 07’ when I double backed to Lupe Fiasco for his second album that’s when things changed. (Disclaimer: I did rap a little bit when I was young but I did that only because I hung out with some friends who liked to rap so it was like a peer pressure type of thing). Lupe’s “The Cool” was the first time I actually listened to the music and it captivated me, the lyrics and the production. At first since I didn’t have faith in my voice, I decided to make beats like his and to further it with Kanye’s music they were major influences who eventually motivated me to finally to rap over my own production.
SBS: What separates the rhymes of VinLa’Infinite from the rest of what’s happening out there in rap right now? What are the defining qualities that make a track identifiable to the VinLa’Infinite sound?
Vin: Hmm I don’t really think anything separates me from others when it comes to my rhymes I mean I say some things that I feel are important and yet I don’t view myself as a lyricist with crazy bars. What really defines my sound is my beats and what I do with my voice, most people say I sound like Kendrick that’s mainly because we are both conscious artist with similar high pitch voices which is funny because honestly I was really trying to emulate Schoolboy Q the most out of any artist lol.
SBS: Define integrity when it comes to being an artist…what does it take to maintain integrity in music as a career goes on?
Vin: First off, integrity could be staying true to who you are but most people don’t even understand what that means they think “hey if it’s not your lifestyle why talk about it? That isn’t you.” But in truth staying true is literally a subjective thing. If it’s the topic you can talk about best then I think that’s being true to yourself or integrity, key phrase “I think” it’s not the end all be all but whatever suits you best is staying true to you or in other words integrity. But that’s just integrity on the individual level in music in general but as a whole within a genre of music it’s different for example Hip-Hop, integrity would be sticking to the essence or foundation of what made hip-hop prevalent, the storytelling, the guts and glory, and the struggle. I do admit though it gets tricky how people decide how you lose integrity when representing a genre because some think it’s when you go mainstream aka selling out but what if you make the guts and glory type of music i.e. the gangsta rap that sells or the drug and idgaf type of music even mumble rap or whatever you want to call it. That style of music falls into the category of guts and glory and or even the struggle and yet that type of rap is what’s considered mainstream now. It gets deep and how you lose integrity is convoluted in a sense so I’ll leave it at that.
SBS: So…you can correct me if I’m wrong here brother-man, but…we reviewed the Heroes Don’t Exist EP back in 2015 and we didn’t hear from you again until this year with the release of Mortal. I do my homework, I keep my ear to the ground – I can see that you’ve released at least a couple more records and I think a whole bunch of singles as well between that EP we first checked out and your latest album. What I want to know is…was there a reason that you might not have promoted the other records just as hard as Heroes Don’t Exist? I’m not saying every album comes our way of course – it ain’t like that…and I get that sometimes just switching up the places you put your music out into can be a great benefit, so I really don’t expect to see or hear every release out there, I probably wouldn’t have the proper time to listen if I did! But sometimes there are other reasons as well…less confidence in the material, creative rights, straight-up laziness, immediately working on new material…it could be many things that keep us from promoting a record as much or as long as we should be. And then here we are with Mortal, and VinLa’Infinite is back on the scene and on our radar again…so I’m curious I suppose, if there was something that kept those other records out of our speakers and something about Mortal perhaps that you wanted to make sure the people noticed?
Vin: Work and laziness lol. Well the laziness consisted of me catching up with my video games and work was something I needed to do, no judgment to the following but I can’t just abandon everything for a rap career. I mainly didn’t promote as much because I didn’t care to really, I just didn’t feel like it. I always want people to notice my work but I’m not dying for the attention. Mortal was a full on project which is different than a bunch of singles here and there to me any project, EP or LP, that I create I want as many eyes to witness my progress and ability to create a work of art.
SBS: Hit us with the real Vin – did I get anything right in my review of Mortal? What did you feel was accurate about the review, what missed the mark? Was there anything in there that you hadn’t thought of yet, or made you look at the music through a new perspective, or feel differently about it?
Vin: Spot on with everything except the track “Countdown”, that wasn’t a self anthem type of song entirely. I was just trying to get deep about how the struggles in life connect us and etc. Thus finally getting to the hook where I’m solidifying the “we are the same” idea with a we are one movement “you and I numbers wise our time is infinite” I also referenced things I said on the first track of the album that people are just a name and a number you know? There were clarity issues which have to do with the fact I was trying to create a high quality grunge rap type of album but I had a hard time mixing the beats that caused the vocals to lose their clarity yet I still liked what I got out of it. Like I said before I’m not dying for attention but I do want as many eyes on this as possible but that doesn’t mean it will cost me my creativity and obstruct my goal and the goal was to force the listeners to actually listen and replay it to understand. Which isn’t a good idea I admit but my integrity is intact regardless also I was already over this project by the time I created track 9 and wanted to start the next one with what I’ve learned. I made simple mistakes that were spot on in the review that I’m still happy with, my perspective hasn’t changed at all lol. It was a bunch of pre-calculated losses but I’m very happy to hear someone with an ear give me criticism.
SBS: When it comes to music-reviewers like myself or like my peers – us critic-types…it’s well-known that most of us do what we do because we can’t do what YOU do…that’s facts for many of us. Even if we do the music thing alright, we still don’t do it great enough to give up writing about it…so make no mistake, each and every one of us, in my opinion, should show respect for the artists/bands out there that are working their nuts off to get their names out there, hustlin’ & grindin’ at the dream daily. That being said, I know I don’t always personally get the reviews I write ‘correct’ all the time, and at the end of the day we all hear different things in the music we listen to. I definitely don’t always agree with a lot of what my peers have to say & think there are a million things they could all be doing to show some actual respect for the independent music-scene. My question to you is – what does that change in the relationship need to be, in between music-reviewer and music-reviewee? How can we, as writers & critics, better serve the music-scene and artists like yourself than we are right now?
Vin: They should tell the truth, that’s pretty much it. You’d be surprised how serious people really take yelp or movie reviews. I’m not saying crush the artist but be the coach if you can and list negatives and positives and say some things they could change to get their game right. But if that happens from the critics/writers, artists need to man-up and take the criticism. Also I’m not saying everything a writer puts out there about an artist is 100% full proof to help you get the job done but just as we try to find sounds that we love or captivate the audience we need to find the pieces out of what they say that we know can help us, negative and positive.
SBS: In general, how do you feel like you respond to criticism when it comes your way? It comes for us all at some point – but are there tangible benefits you’ve seen comments made about your music that have helped make it evolve and grow towards that next-level? How can criticism be a good thing or an artist or for their music – or is it?
Vin: Criticism is like a lie or a bunch of lies but we know some piece of the truth is within it, I don’t mean that literally but for analogy purposes it’ll do. That truth is a piece of information that will steer you in the right direction to help your sound for your own purposes or for the audience.
SBS: Do you think that we know we’re making our best album while we’re making it – or is that something that we can only be sure of later on, seeing how it holds-up over time? Should an artist’s current work always be their best work?
Vin: Maybe while we are making it? Probably, I always find myself on that path I feel like it’s the best while working on it, but not every current work should be your best work that’s for sure. An artist could make a project for learning purposes or for fun or for whatever reason they feel like it but it doesn’t have to be their best work.
SBS: When it comes to your own music from the past – do you still feel the same about the music you’ve made when listening to it now? How do you feel the material is holding up over time and has your opinion of your past records changed at all over the years?
Vin: It’s only getting better quality wise but I feel like I lost my creative touches here and there and I want to get back to it. Back when I had no blueprint and was just going at it, I was more creative and I need that back. Of course I’m speaking on music I never released but it applies and the old records were cool but nothing I wanted to keep up and available I took them down because I found the sound I like and I only wanted music that represented it available.
SBS: For you to personally take pride in the accomplishment of making a record, what has to take place for that to happen? For you to feel proud of the end results and want to put that official stamp of VinLa’Infinite’s name down on it, what has to occur in the process for you to feel satisfied you brought everything you could to the music at every moment along the way?
Vin: I really need to have fun with the track. The more fun the more I can get out of myself and create the song that is truly all me.
SBS: When it comes to rap – who do you feel is the greatest of the great out there and what makes them that way? You don’t have to narrow it down to just one, unless of course that’s what it IS homie, but you get the idea – what makes a rapper stand-out from the rest as one of the GOATs?
Vin: Hov of course, besides Biggie and Pac, Jay-Z is the most pivotal character in this genre of music. He’s legit the pinnacle, I like to fool myself and say it’s all about the music but I know it isn’t there are plenty of politics and business that come into play and I feel like that is what it takes to be the GOAT and Jay-Z is that. That’s what it takes to be the best and if you think about anytime you talk about rap he is always a face and name you mention. He’s never been irrelevant and in a game where artist really do come and go yet with hip-hop probably being least favorite of all genres to the world population, relevance is key.
SBS: Precision, vocabulary, passion – you need all those qualities as an emcee if you’re going to make it right? I’m assuming you’d agree with that Vin? Sounds like you got all three of those qualities in your arsenal in my opinion. But let’s just say…hypothetically speaking…if you had to give up one of those qualities – do you think you could still make quality music? Which one do you think you could give up and still come out with something bangin’ – explain how/why you’d still be able to get by with the other two!
Vin: Vocab definitely even though I like to say something meaningful I can still make a meaningful song without vocab. It’s proven you don’t need to say much to make a good song, it’s all about the motions, the precision of your words, or melodies and the passion behind each instrument can create an audio-cinematic experience right from the mind of the artist. Movies are the best example, pure instrumental or orchestras painting emotions with just sounds behind those wordless scenes of pure tragedy or happiness. That my friend is key, words sometimes are just a bonus or guides through the sounds, with lyrics we carve the path you should take through the music but we still don’t need a vocab for that.
SBS: With the experience you’ve gained as an artist now, if you could go back in time to advise the younger version of you just starting out at the mic, what would you say? Was there anything that could have been said at the beginning of your career that could have changed the way it is now?
Vin: Hmm that’s tough I really want to say nothing because I really feel like I’ve progressed fast compared to most of the artists you hear about nowadays who have been rapping all of their lives but that’s nothing special there’s probably an artist out there who started about a year ago or less and is years ahead of me in talent so I can’t brag. But when I look back and think of changing things maybe I should have taken more risk for exposure but I feel like I’m taking a lot of them already with the kind of music I make. So to answer your question there’s nothing I would change every step I’ve taken led to me doing something bigger and better including the steps that led to mistakes.
SBS: I’ve seen a couple videos from you out there on the internets…but it doesn’t seem like it’s been a massive priority for your music…yet. Any plans for that to change? How important do you think it is for an artist to establish a visual presence to go along with the music? What about in relation to Mortal – any videos being planned? What makes a great video anyhow?
Vin: I would love to make videos but time is against me my friend. Well not really, I just prioritize other things more like retirement cause you know to get a good quality video you got to cough up a good amount of money and the visuals I would want would cost me a fortune. Still, I don’t think you need videos. I learned from several electronic artist who barely have any videos out that you can be supremely successful or an outstanding artist. But if I could I would love to make a short film for the whole album to really let the world see what the album was really about.
SBS: What would you say the state of the rap community is in? Back in the day when I was growing up, it was all about the east-side vs. west-side…not necessarily everyone always getting along and pretty damn divided right down the middle, by something as simple as geography of all things! Do you feel like that same tension still exists out there in the rap scene or are things different now?
Vin: No, but that conflict has been replaced with internal homefront affairs or in other words east-side vs itself because no one knows how to work together and compete in a healthy manner. It’s all lame, everyone is a troll or aiming to piss someone off or wanting attention in a specific way I think it’s all wack and it’s a waste of my time. Life is short man, create your art and remain the student to the game.
SBS: Do you feel like there has been a particular moment along your career where you had to compromise your music in any way? Why/why not?
Vin: Hmm maybe in the beginning when I was finding my sound, a couple tracks I deleted off the webs because they didn’t represent my current sound, were the songs that could be considered my way of compromising sort of? I guess but some people told me I needed to add something mainstream to my sound to really get the people going and I was like “shoot I thought I was doing that” in the beginning of my career.
SBS: When it comes down to all the different messages spread throughout Mortal – do you feel like the record has a more like, ultimate message at its core? What about this record on a lyrical-level did you want people to notice or hear in what you’re rapping about?
Vin: Let me first say I used that mistake of clarity of mine to my advantage and focused on the right track list which to me is always an essential part of creating a project. Your review hit on the head as the listener gets further into the album the more clarity you get mixing wise and message wise it was stupid brilliant to me but truthfully it was just me trying to compensate for my shortcomings yet it worked out. The ultimate message was a little deep and the title of the album was my theme to base all songs around but for the message it was about “us” man as a collective how we made life so difficult for a higher percentage of us and how I myself walked through that struggle mainly, how others may have been through it, and how we all truthfully relate through the struggle though we may be blind to it. It’s really crazy how many things we let come in between us or make us the way we are that’s what I highlight most but through it all without me saying it there’s a beauty to the struggle I tried to create with all the flashy effects and change ups I tried to make the struggle sound cool in a way that is visually capturing through the ears if that makes sense.
SBS: I’m always interested in how artists define success – so what’s it mean to you Vin? What’s it look like? How does life change…how do you know you’ve made it and what is it gonna take to get you to the end-level boss of your career? How do you win?
Vin: Musically, as wack or unbelievable as this may sound, I just want to master the art of music, that’s pretty much my conditions for victory. To create flawless art at my leisure, I say this because I’m not ready for the glory of it all because it comes with fame and fame grants you power in a way to control the masses but I’m against control in a sense. I don’t want to be the guy to tell you how to live your life and with fame that’s what it’s like it puts you on a pedestal as a target and your words are almost like law and people are willing to abide by it so if I stay at a level away from that pedestal my words can be taken as optional advice while I perfect my craft.
SBS: Suppose we better ask about what happens now. Where do you go next from Mortal? Any immediate plans in the works? What did you learn from this particular record that you’ll be able to take with you into the studio next time to use to your advantage?
Vin: Production is the next goal. I want to reach the next level. I feel like I found the door to the next level, I just literally have to find the key to open it and that key is in one of my cargo pants pockets, that’s how close I am, it just feels like I’m moving in slow motion haha.
SBS: You have made it my friend – all the way to the end. Appreciate your time & efforts in putting up with all my ramblings and getting to the heart of these questions brother-man. Take this final space and opportunity to say anything you like in our ‘open floor’ – anything that comes to mind, anything at all. Keep doin’ what you’re doin’ Vin – and keep in touch homie! Cheers & thanks!
Vin: Thanks man I got nothing left to say I think I somewhat explained myself in the music as much I could, I appreciate you taking the time to ask all these questions!
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