Raphael Sebastian ’20 creates and produces rap music and has recently released an EP on his Soundcloud, Swagman111, entitled “PHONEY.” His music is skillfully carried by his poetic sentiments and his sensational backtracks.
Q: Do you want to tell me a little bit about your EP that you dropped over winter break?
A: My most recent EP is entitled ‘PHONEY.’ I made it over winter break splitting my music into two parts: before Phoney and then Phoney. What I call ‘before Phoney’ is a pre-album collection of four songs none of which are produced by me. Three of these songs have backtracks that I found on YouTube and the final song is produced by Union alum Aj Hubbard ’18. The actual EP itself consists of five songs that I produced.
Q: What does the EP mean to you?
A: To me, Phoney means a lot of things. The philosophical concept that we’re all “phoneys,” that nobody is really their truest self, is one of the main takeaways from The Catcher in the Rye, a book which the entirety of the EP is referencing. I am not a big fan of the novel, but I do appreciate the style it’s written in and the philosophical concept it focuses upon. He’s criticizing so much and calling everyone else a phoney, while he’s a phoney himself. Essentially, I’m doing the same thing in my EP.
Q: Could you tell me about a couple of your songs?
A: The intro track is entitled “forthebirds,” this song paints the vibe of the EP and is also the most genuine song on the album-between the words and the feel of it in general-it sounds like I’m saying something, and I am saying something: that for the rest of the time I’ll be saying nonsense. It’s a warning of what’s to come, but the nonsense is surrounded by this dark shroud, demonstrated best by the second song of the album, “LETSGETHIGH.” This song is the upbeat banger.
The chorus is a real mentality people have these days that times are hard. This song kind of pokes fun at it, makes light of it. I originally got the idea to create this song from rappers who spend so much time rapping drugs that are killing them, and a lot of them are truly being killed by them.
Q: So, you would say “LETSGETHIGH” is somewhat of a criticism?
A: Yes, it is a criticism, as most of my songs are, but there is definitely a large portion of hypocrisy laced within it.
Q: Okay, so you say that “forthebirds” is nonsense, would you say that the chaos that’s embodied in the nonsense has meaning?
A: Always. A lot of what I write, poetically, has a lot of meaning to me. Often other people draw out of my lyrics sentiments that I wouldn’t even think of just because I’m writing about moments that are very specific to me, but we’re all people, we’ve all done things, we’ve all experienced things, and we share feelings. That’s the beauty beneath the chaos and the nonsense.
Q: Is most of your music based off of poetry you’ve written? What is your writing process like, and your music production process like?
A: I wrote the entirety of the EP over break, and entirely composed each song as well (with the addition of some beats I had beforehand). I go through streaks, especially with writing. Right now, I’m kind of in a writer’s block, and I haven’t been writing that much, but I’ve been making a lot of beats. Something will happen, like summer will hit, spring will hit, and I’ll be inspired to write again, and I’ll make music.
Q: How long have you been making music?
A: I started rapping the end of my senior year of high school, me and my friend Bennet. He made some beats and then we went into his mini cooper in the middle of nowhere, in this empty kohls parking lot, and we parked the car and recorded on his laptop. Those were the best acoustics we could get.
Q: I love that. Going back to your current work, I was a big fan of “Kirby.” What was the process in creating that track?
A: I wanted to sample a song from a video game and I found the Kirby dreamland theme song from the gameboy. Then I cut it up and slowed it down, put some drums on it, then I rapped over it. I had so much fun making it. I was playing around with my flows on that one.
Q: What about “First Off, Your Welcome,” your response to “Thank you, Next.” How do you feel about that song?
A: That was for the memes. I actually really like that song I’m not gonna lie, it slaps, I love Ariana Grande. However, as the song grew to be increasingly popular, those “Thank You, Next” lyrics were being appropriated by the worst people I’ve ever met. So, I created a response track, you know, I wanted to start some beef with Ariana, I was hoping it would trend on Twitter. It didn’t happen, it’s not too late though.
Q: Finally, could you tell me about “Overrated”?
A: A beat that I made on my phone a while ago, another one that I had a lot of fun with, I just remember recording it, one of the first ones I recorded, because I just wanted to get something down, to see how I sound, I spit it once, and I was like this is kinda dope, and it was going to be the first song on the album, but then I started writing “forthebirds.” The process of this album changed a lot, originally it was going to be called PHONEY because it was going to be composed of beats entirely off of my phone.
Q: What are your hopes for creating music in the future? What current projects are you working on?
A: I want to create music as a hobby for as long as I can. I think music is beautiful, it’s so therapeutic, it’s also something I could foresee me doing professionally, at least in regards to production. Short term, I’ve been working on some weird stuff.
Q: So, I was listening to your interview with Angie Dedona on her WRUC show “Undeclared” the other day, and I remember that you mentioned that you felt that one thing that distinguishes you as a rapper was your ability to talk about mental health. Do you care to elaborate on that?
A: I deeply care about mental health issues. Realistically it’s the main reason I make art. I have seasonal depression so winter is hard. One of the things that helps me get through it is music. I’m kind of using it as a motivator. Also in regards to speaking about mental health in my music, why not talk about it? Not enough people are talking about it in hip hop, and it’s something that a lot of people deal with, and a lot of people don’t even know they deal with. Mental health at the end of the day is health. It should be just as important as physical health.
Q: Do you have anything else to say, regarding your music, or anything to add?
A: Any last words? I’d say, love your friends, tell your friends you love them, spread love. It’s hard out here for a lot of people. You never know what someone’s going through. A little smile can go a long way.