by Jacob Uitti
Seattle rapper Raz Simone is obsessive, verbose, and prolific. His mind moves a million miles a minute. If he ever met the Energizer Bunny in a standoff, he’d surely intimidate.
Simone’s latest release, the video for his song “Hatred,” (embedded below) clocks in at a tight three minutes. It’s about what can happen quickly to a couple of people in a motel room.
The gruesome piece deals with fear and betrayal but it is also something of an artistic release valve for Simone, a native of the Central District, who says he often feels pressures placed on his shoulders by people around him. To celebrate his work and to get a better sense of the motivations and inspirations behind his creativity, the Emerald talked with the rapper about the new video, why he writes so much, and how he continues to shape his robust, burgeoning career.
Jacob Uitti: What was the inspiration behind writing a song titled “Hatred”?
Raz Simone: It was one of those things — what was going on in my life. There are lots of people around me that I care about, people that I grew up with. But there’s this different side. I see a lot of love and get a lot of love from people. But the more people know you, there is also a level of hatred that comes with that. People who hate you, just hate what you stand for. The song was about going through the feelings associated with that reality.
JU: The video offers a close-up look at death. Why was this important for you?
RS: We wanted to incorporate the element of death in the video because there are a lot of things that people experience that are life or death in this world. And I think that sometimes it takes seeing death for people to check their own mortality. In this last year, I’ve lost so many people to things like overdoses, or whatever. A crazy amount; it gets to a point where it’s too regular. You can get desensitized by it. So I wanted to portray it in a more graphic way. That’s what was on my mind at the time. And I wanted to show this idea of betrayal and the different ways that could go.
JU: Are we supposed to believe your character did the shooting?
RS: That’s the possible. But it’s also, you don’t really know. Because we didn’t show it. In a way, they kind of killed themselves.
JU: You recently released a new record, Drive Theory, in August. What’s been the best part of that whole process?
RS: My favorite part is seeing people enjoy the music. Whenever I create something nowadays, I always try to think of the people and how they’re going to receive it. I picture them listening to it, and I wonder what it’s going to do for them. I’ve seen and heard from so many people who say the music means a lot and does something for them. Music can be a lifeline. It’s weird — this one guy told me he was thinking about killing himself, and he called the suicide hotline. And they basically told him they didn’t have enough people and could he call back. A lot of times people might not have someone to talk to, but they can listen to the music. That’s how I think about most of my songs. I try to make it more conversational, like I’m talking to you. That’s huge for me and I don’t take it for granted. I don’t have to check myself on that because it’s the most important thing for me.
JU: In terms of your career, you’ve often talked about it like it’s a slow burn rather than a race to some finish line. Is that philosophy still working for you?
RS: Yeah, and it feels good. The thing is, I’m always so excited about exploring my different sounds and feelings, all the things in my head. I like creating a lot of different experiences, living different parts of my life. I feel like a lot of people who listen to me think that I’m a versatile musician, but there is so much more stuff I haven’t even released. I’m excited to keep exploring and put out new stuff and people notice how different it can all be.
You can see the numbers as motivation and they can get you excited, but I’ve already learned they’re a lot more fleeting. I try not to put too much weight into the numbers. It’s always more about a personal thing and how the music is affecting someone on a person-to-person basis. Numbers are cool but I want to stay focused on quality. If I don’t have the infrastructure to build my mom and pop shop into a great franchise then I’d rather keep it a mom and pop shop or a few local locations rather than spreading it through the U.S. or the world and having it get sloppy. I’d rather keep it dense and potent.
JU: You work so prolifically. Where do you find relief between projects?
RS: In truth, the music is the relaxation, which I guess is why I’m so prolific. I spend a lot of time trying to make sure the people in my life are all right, but I’ll always come back to the music, come back to the pad and go in. I put a lot into it because it keeps me sane. Before, I didn’t think I’d need anything to keep me sane but then I realized when I don’t make music, it affects my brain. You don’t always notice when the fog is rolling in, but when it’s there you see it. And when the fog is in for me, I know I probably need to go write.