FLANNEL ALBERT, a NYC based rap artist and WH9LE Collective Member whose visual "the get down" was recently our DOPEST Of The Week featured video, talks about what song from his catalog personifies him the most, his experience as a K-Pop artist in South Korea, and much more.
After reading this exclusive Q&A with the talented emcee, be sure to follow FLANNEL ALBERT on social media, Soundcloud and check out "the get down" video.
If you had to select one song from your catalog that personifies you the most as an artist, which one would you select? Why?
Of the stuff I’ve released, probably "aok". At first listen it’s a really upbeat, almost goofy sounding song. But when you really get into the lyrics, it gets pretty aggressive—my asshole side comes out. I grew up as kind of a people-pleaser, and as a result of that I feel like some people didn’t take me seriously. ‘aok’ represents my graduation from that—like underneath that outgoing exterior, I’m hungry and ready to kill shit. It’s me telling myself to block out what people think and all the distractions and just focus on what’s important to me.
When searching for instrumentals to write to, what do you listening for and generally, do you have ideas for songs in mind already while searching?
I only recently started writing to other people’s beats/instrumentals (used to produce most of my own stuff). I’ve learned that it’s all about a vibe. I try to keep my mind open—I don’t go into a beat with any real expectation. If I find myself humming a catchy melody to it, that means I can make a song to it, and I go from there.
If I have some lyrics or melody in mind already, I usually just produce to it according to that vision. I need my beat to fit perfectly.
Tell us about your experience as a K-Pop artist in South Korea. What did you enjoy most about living and being an artist there?
Hahaha, it was cool—I wasn’t huge by any means and I was still in high school, but my parents paid for studio time so I could send my CD to colleges. I was making some really poppy shit back then (think hellogoodbye, Owl City) and it was all in English. The dude that owned the studio liked it so much that he offered some free promotion. Cut to a few months later and I would get calls from friends being like “yooo they’re playing your shit at Starbucks”. I got recognized a few times on the street too—it was good for my high school ego.
And Korea is cool—I was lucky to have the opportunity to live in the motherland. You gain a respect for the culture and understand where your parents really came from. Night life is crazy too.
Following up on the last question, compare the music scene in South Korea to that of the United States. Would you say that it is easier to get exposure in one country as opposed to the other? Also, in what country is the average fan more supportive?
When I was in Korea, I feel like the mainstream music scene was pretty homogenous. It was just K-pop run by the bigger corporations. I think recently, it’s become more like the US’s. More diversity in the genres and more independent artists coming into the light—I love it. But I wasn’t really in the Korean music scene so it’s tough to say much about the fans or exactly how everything works. I don’t want to make some sort of generalization and have them come after me—I’m political like that.
We're big fans of your latest visual "the get down". Will the track appear on an upcoming EP, mixtape or album? If so, when can we expect it's release?
That’s a good question—it’s supposed to be on my next project, but it’s the only beat on the tape that’s not original. I basically took the sample for Let the Beat Build by Kanye and added my own drums. I’m gonna have to look into how I can clear that. I love the song—it just let me be really creative lyrically, but there’s some stuff on my new tape that’s better. The project itself is basically done though, just working on how/when exactly I’m gonna release it. Follow me on Spotify and you’ll know when it comes out.
What is the WH9LE Collective and how did you become a part of it?
WH9LE (pronounced whole nine) is a music collective based in Maryland. It was started with a mission to really empower artists and give creative control. Before I joined, it was made up of my college friend Chuku and some people he knew from back home. Chuku literally hit me up one day and was like, “hey, we want to talk to you”. I got on this video chat with him and two people I’d never met before and they were like, “Yo, do you want to join WH9LE?” I’d been hoping for that call for a while so I was like “hell yeah” and here we are. We’re all a little different in terms of style, but we share a similar vision and complement each other very well. We also make dope hats.
You have a very effortless and confident flow on your tracks. From when you started writing rhymes, to now, what are your most proud of about your progression as an emcee?
First of all, thank you. It was not always like that—I look back and cringe at how corny and try-hard some of my old shit was. But it was all about listening: listening to the greats, listening to the up and comers, even listening to people I hated so I knew what I didn’t want to sound like. As I did that, there was just this progression and I didn’t have to think too hard about what I wanted to write. My biggest accomplishment is being able to let go and be natural. I’ve found confidence in my voice and flow, and with my last few projects, I’m getting closer to finding my sound. That shit opens up the creative process so much. I’m still critical of the stuff I put out—I have to be. But I’m more comfortable with who I am as an artist now, and I’m proud of that.