Drawing Inspiration from (and with) Lando Chill
It's been three years since the last interview with Lando Chill (at the time known as Lando Chillrissian) was published on JRECOGNIZE. That was back when he had just released his first solo mixtape, Broken on the Wheel. The interview really broke down the mixtape, track by track, and also touched based on his musical influences.
A lot has happened since then! Lando Chill is now signed to Mello Music Group, an independent record label based in Tucson, AZ. He's released a lot of dope music and beautifully filmed music videos. Lando has gone on tours and along the way, continued to develop his sound, his artistry.
Now, Lando sits in with us and reflects on recent success. He talks being signed to the label, standing out in Hip Hop, his thoughts on the Hip Hop community in Tucson and more. You can also check out his recently released music video for "Early in the Morning" at the end of the post.
I feel like in this past year, you’ve accomplished a lot and you’ve gotten a lot of recognition. As you reflect on last year, what do you want to bring with you and what do you want to leave behind?
I don’t know actually. I guess one thing I learned last year is that there is nothing that needs to be left behind or necessarily valued as something more important that needs to be taken. It’s really using both the good and the bad and taking something positive or negative from it… I learn from every mistake (or try to). If we forget where we fuck up, how will we know not to fuck up again? Every bad habit, every character flaw is important. It’s all a part of who we are and only until you recognize that and don’t try to forget it are you able to learn from either your mistakes or yourself. There doesn’t have to be that voice in the back of your head that says, “Don’t do this. Don’t do that.” It’s really just this inner database of experience that we take from everything - the good, the bad, and the normal. If there’s anything to take from last year it’s that the good and the bad, the Obama and the Trump, are sadly both a part of life and both the yin and the yang. They’re both needed. Now don’t get me wrong, we don’t need no fuckin’ Trump but to think as though there isn’t evil, that there isn’t misuse of power, it would be very naive of us to do so.
You are now signed to Mello Music Group. What has that experience been like? Coming from being an independent artist and also coming from a space where not many get signed to a label?
It’s a blessing. It’s really cool to be a part of a musical family. One that’s as talented and diverse as Mello Music Group. But I mean like, I want to put my own weight. So nothing has changed as far as my content, when I want to talk about it, how fast I make music, who I make music with. It’s really just having a home, having a back, or having someone in your corner who appreciates your art and appreciates you and your message, and doesn’t want to silence either! It’s really like having a business partner who believes in your ideals and your brand per say. When you have a label, you don’t have to have a brand, but you have to have something to hang your hat on. A lot has changed and nothing has changed.
A lot has changed in what I have to learn - the industry I’m a part of. As far as backing, that’s changed. As far as opportunities, there are some in which I would’ve never gotten because of the label. There are other things that haven’t changed. They’re both there.
Were you hesitant at first?
No, not at all. Hell no. You kidding me? It was like, "Fuck yeah." It was like a dream come true in a way, you know? In this society it’s seen as a pipe dream. It’s of the arts. Who wants to be an artist nowadays? Who wants that? We have to make money, we have to have a career, have a j-o-b, have to hit the nine to five. Being able to not do that and be considered a working citizen is trippy. It’s cool.
I read that you were shooting an artist documentary the other day for the label and you were shouting out all the people who’ve had some kind of influence on you. Who would you say has had a significant influence on who you are today and where you came from?
I would say, top, my mom. My mom - number one influence. As far as the opportunities she afforded us as a single parent. The knowledge she ingrained us with and the ability to think for ourselves. That was something she really stressed. If there’s anyone who’d be my number one influence it’d be my mom!
Musically, there are many and far and few between. It will continue to grow, that list will continue to grow with the amount of music I listen to and I have listened to.
So how’d the filming go?
It was dope! It was sick. Shot it with Malcolm Critcher and Chance Roberts (Malcolm’s production company Mild West). They have shot pretty much every music video I’ve been a part of. But yeah, it was dope honestly. Very simple. It’ll have a lot of questions that you don’t really think about until you’re asked them. It was cool. I was able to put everybody in it. And showcase them in a certain way. Just people who I’ve come across along the way.
A lot of people want to be rappers. Whatever the intention may be, many get the same reaction when they say “I want to be a rapper” or “I rap.” How do you stand out in an industry that’s seemingly saturated?
Be yourself. That’s the simplest thing I can say. I remember a time when I was mediocre as shit. I was not always this good or this person that y’all talk about and stuff. It took a while as far as commitment to the craft and actually wanting to be a musician not just half assing it. Practicing, running shit past people who aren’t yes men, finding the right situation because I’ve been in so many weird ass places, as far as recording and opportunities and just stuff that doesn’t come into fruition. You can’t be like, “Well that sucked, this bums me out. I’m just gonna sit and chill.” You have to really make a commitment. Just be yourself.
I remember when I wasn’t myself and it didn’t sound authentic. It sounded alright. It sounded like music but it didn’t sound good until it sounded like me. Sound like yourself. Be yourself. Don’t be afraid to take risks. A lot of people in Hip Hop don’t take risks. A lot of people are being safe. They just do what’s popular because it isn’t a music move, it’s a money move. It’s a power move. A lot of people are rappers just to make money and if that’s what you wanna be a rapper for then... no.
First off, you’re not gonna make money like you wanna make money. Learn some sound engineering, put some work into it. Make it a career if you wanna be about it. If you’re in it for the money, it’s not it. I’m lucky enough to have some sort of backing. To have the opportunity to support myself through the music but a lot of people they ain’t got that. If you’re in it for the money - no. Be in it to be you. If it’s a hobby, it’s a hobby. If it’s a passion, it’s a passion. Follow it to the day's end but it’s not a means to an end. It’s an expression. It’s a part of your soul. It’s rhythm in poetry.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
From a lot of people and things. I guess I’ve been listening to a lot of Bon Iver, a lot of Anderson Paak, a lot of Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus, some John Coltrane. I’ve been bumping a lot of brazilian records. Just been listening to a lot of different things. People who like taking risks. I like listening to people who take risks. A lot of Kendrick. That is what’s inspiring. It’s not only their music but the fact that they take risks. And it took them a while. A lot of those people had to establish themselves within a genre but that’s taking risks in music. I think it’s really cool to listen to.
What are your thoughts on the Hip Hop community here in Tucson?
It’s cool. I fucks with it. As far as the community I’m a part of it’s amazing. There are a lot of people who don’t get a lot of recognition. There’s a lot of people who do amazing jobs as far as putting together events and giving people opportunity (shout out Pike, shout out Jivin’, shout out Cash, Marley, HRG, Jaca, Johnny, all these people, Mike, Benbi, Enrique, DJ Dirty Verbs). All these people that put in work and time into making this community what it is. I appreciate each and every one of them.
But I also think there’s a lot of room to grow, a lot of things we can do to make it better. But like I said we have to put in the work. I think the community as a whole needs to start recognizing how valuable we are to music in general but also to the community. What we do as far as giving back, as far as philanthropy. What a lot of people do as far as being a voice. Like Flowers & Bullets!
I am very thankful and I feel very humbled and appreciative that I got a cover and a lot of shine but I’m not the only one. I just got here. I’m not from this place. There are people who have been doing it five, ten, fifteen years in this b****. I come in and all of a sudden I blow shit up. Not to say I did but like all of sudden people act like they haven’t heard of Hip Hop before.
From all the venues you’ve performed in, what’s been your favorite experience?
There were a few that stood out. I’d say… (in no particular order) it’d be my second release show For Mark, Your Son. Or maybe the first one. Those… shit. That shit was fucking ill. How many people came out to support all the music there, not just me. It’d have to be a tie between those two at Congress. Packed it out liked I’ve never seen. It was dope. Then I’d have to say… my rap van. I’d have to say the second week, last show. Shout out to Johnny Redd and Jaca that were in there. The energy! I was showcasing my new album that’s coming out this year and everything felt right. Andy did an amazing job on it. Shout out Lasso, Chris Pierce, Jimbo, Zaya, Dave (who are very significant parts of what makes my music go). So I can’t not shout them out while talking about shows. And I think… fourth of July at the Think Tank in 2015. That was the show that blew me up to the bar scene, local cool bar scene cats. Shout out to the Think Tank and Parker. That was one of my most favorite shows. It felt like a fuckin’ house show. We were at Parker’s house! Shout out to Parker for having it at his house. We were in an atmosphere where everyone was so close.
Earlier you mentioned having gone through some weird experiences. Could you share a story?
I’ve been to a lot of studios that don’t look like quintessential studios but if there’s a mic, a computer, a place to record - you can make it sound good! I remember recording with Headlock and we just put the mic up in the room and shit. People would probably come in and think, “What the fuuuck?” But that’s music! That’s what people used to do back in the day! They didn’t have all this shit. And it still sounded amazing (if you like lo-fi shit. I mean I like lo-fi shit). It’s really about the message. It’s really about the musicians behind the music. It’s really about the engineering too.
But yeah, there have been a lot places where people weren’t worried about the music, they were there just to hang out. I’d say if you want an OG story... one of the most OG studios… I was in my second studio (and it wasn’t OG for any particular fancy reason). Me and my friend Sam Smith, we used to record under this exercise machine! Hold on now... y’all don’t know how it used to be! We put a fuckin’ towel over the exercise machine. He had the mic setup. It came out dope as fuck! It was love! It was love! I think Sam low key was a really good audio engineer or was really good at mixing. But that shit came out pretty fucking good. We had the mic underneath the machine and shit, I held the papers, I had to hold the light under my arm (‘cause you couldn’t see under that b****). So I had to hold my phone light, couldn’t see the papers and stuff! I will always remember that. People still listen to that tape! We recorded Tabernacle. That was one of the first mixtapes I ever recorded in my entire fucking life. It’s not my best but me and Sam represented. Y’all don’t know how it used to be! We all come from somewhere!