Premiere: Discover MeLo-X's Blissed-Out Banger 'The Cure'
MeLo-X is the true definition of a Renaissance man. He is the sort of person for whom labels are deemed totally useless, thanks to the long, long list of ways in which he chooses to express himself. The visual artist, photographer, producer, and rapper captivates his audience across the senses, rejecting the barriers of sight and sound so that he can meld the two together into something fresh and new. “Since I started making music I always had a visual side. I see colors and imagery when I hear songs–certain songs give out certain colors, I think they call it synesthesia–so there was always a need to convey these colors and imagery in a certain way that accompanies the music,” he tells me over the phone.
Born Sean Rhodes, MeLo-X originally hails from Flatbush, Brooklyn, where he grew up listening to the thumping Caribbean music beloved by his Jamaican family. But while that bass heavy music remains a constant source of inspiration, it was actually through venturing out and encountering other people from other cultures that he was able to find his fresh, unique sound. Curate shows him at his most exhilarated. Collaborating with the likes of Raury, Little Simz, and Kilo Kish, the rapper’s EP is a beautiful, ethereal look at what can happen when a group of talented people come together.
All of MeLo-X’s work is dream-like, personal, and dancehall worthy, like being submerged underwater above an Atlantean night club. That is, the base drops don’t “drop,” so much as they do engulf you entirely. From the the MoMa’s curators to Beyoncé and Jay-Z (whose On The Run Tour he produced the score for), MeLo-X captivates all that he encounters. So we’re pumped to premiere his new video for “The Cure,” fresh off his new EP Curate.
How did you get into rap?
When I was very young I used to do poetry, I have my poems in my school yearbooks, so I think that, and growing up in Brooklyn, was a thing that influenced me. It was the first form of expression that I had as an artist, and that kind of made me venture into visual art, production, and DJing. That was my first experience with expression as an artist–I started from poetry and grew from there.
What other ways has your upbringing influenced your art?
My family is Jamaican, so there is a lot of elements of Caribbean music, that real bass-heavy music that influences my sound. I grew up in Brooklyn, but when I started venturing into the LES and the Westside, meeting people from different backgrounds, different races, and being able to hear different music that I wasn’t used to hearing in a club setting, that definitely influenced my music and my art. Growing up in a melting pot influenced everything that I do now.
What draws you to visual art specifically?
I see colors and imagery when I hear songs–certain songs give out certain colors, I think they call it synesthesia–so there was always a need to convey these colors and imagery in a certain way that accompanies the music. I also bought CDs and records and saw who did the artwork and the booklet, and how that correlated with the sound of what I was listening to. Like DMX’s album Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, he was in a bathtub with just blood running down him, and that imagery is crazy, but listening to album, it makes sense. Just being influenced by an artist like that, I wanna make sure that people understand the full scope of what I’m trying to say as an artist. I feel the visual side is as important as the musical side.
“I see colors and imagery when I hear songs–certain songs give out certain colors, I think they call it synesthesia.”
I thought the video for “The Cure” was very beautiful and interesting. Being the focus of a video as a beat-maker, was that done with intent, or did it just happened naturally?
My performance style is based more so in production than anything else. I usually perform with my drum machine and with a keyboard player. I also like to freestyle my performances, and do live remixes and defragment songs and just have every element be different from each show. The idea for the video was just to capture that. We had this spot in Brooklyn, this warehouse spot where we set up all these lights.
We wanted to use these people in the video with the iPhones, just like living sculptures, because I feel like when you go to shows a lot of people have their phones up and they take video images, but none of that goes back to the audience, it goes on Instragram or goes on Twitter. So I kind of wanted them to capture the performance in their own way, and then give it to me so I could use it in the video as well. At the end of the video it cuts to their footage, that sort of dithered down, lo-fi feel, mixed with the visual aspect of how it started. I wanted to capture that live feel in a cool way.
If you could work with anyone, who would you want to work with?
Man, that’s hard. [Laughs] I’d love to work with James Turrell. I think I could do something real cool with him, kind of meshing the sounds of what I do with the color palette that he uses. As far as musical artists, I don’t know. Maybe Pharrell [Williams]? That would be pretty cool. I would like Pharrell to rap on one of my tracks; that would be ill.
You also worked with a lot of interesting people on your EP, Curate. Is there anyone in particular that you were particularly excited to work with?
The idea of the project was to cultivate this sound and try to attack a project the way a curator would attack a museum, and how to convey a message for an artist. Every artist that I worked with I was excited to work with. Raury, I started working with him when he first came to NY, before he started putting a lot of music out. We worked on a bunch of music in LA–I was in LA with him for two, three days straight, just working on music. It was exciting to finally put some of that music out. [Kilo] Kish has always been a real good friend of mine, and her DJ Kitty Kash. I remember when they were first going on tour, I’d give her DJ lessons on how to rock a crowd.
Seeing them working, [doing] what they do from the ground up, and being able to collaborate once again with her was cool. Little Simz, she’s one of my favorites artists worldwide. We’ve done a lot of collaborations. I worked with her when she first started putting music out, jumped on remixes and produced for her. Getting to work with her again for this project was cool. Each one of them definitely brought a different energy to the project. Each of them have their own sound, their own voice, that meshed well with the sound that I was creating.
How did you mold each song on the EP around each artist?
On the track with Raury, we were kind of talking about his childhood, and what got him into music. I created this beat where the synth kind of just flows. I wanted every sound on the project to be in flux, so it always sounds like it’s being warped, or pitched up or pitched down, and it has a movement. His idea was to talk about him actually moving in life as an artist. We talked about taking the train to the studio, or being in school, or leaving home late night to go the studio and work when he first started making music. With Kish, while she used to be in Brooklyn, she’s now based in LA. That track specifically felt like some real chill, LA shit. A real low-light, top-down kind of thing. I saw a lot of slow-motion imagery.
I’m on the track as a singer. I’m not even rapping on it. I kind of just let her tell the story. She tells the story of meeting this guy in the club, and how that plays out. On the track with Little Simz, we were actually in New York, and we were watching the video of the guy who skydives from outer space into Earth, some kind of Red Bull thing. We were just imagining how it would feel to be looking at the world from that far away—how would it feel to be free-falling from space; that’s why it’s called “FFFS. “It stands for ‘free-falling from space.’ My verse starts with “the planet looks so small from here,” and her verse starts with “Tumbling, tumbling, down.” We’re both looking at the Earth from an almost Godly perspective, seeing how we want to inspire, and how we’re inspired by that imagery.
You sat down with your friends and created something that is very emotional, and relatable. What’s next? Are you planning on doing more works like this, more collaborations?
Yeah, I’m always trying to collaborate with artists, even more so now than before. Before, I used to just only collab with people that I know personally, which I still do. But now, I’m more open to finding people on SoundCloud. People always hit me up on SoundCloud, Twitter, and Instagram. I’ve just been connecting with them.
I’m trying to find new music, new sounds, new creatives, new people, to inspire and also to get inspiration from. I’ve been working with some artists that are still in high school. [I’ve] kind of been mentoring them, having them in the studio and teaching them how to record vocals correctly and mix. I’m more open now to just collaborating with anyone that I think fits into this idea of new, progressive music.
Check out Melo-X’s Curate EP and app, available on iTunes
All photography by Hannah Sider