Bad Perm: Back to cinematography because we got a little off track there. The VLI Network is constantly playing videos that are very cinematic in their appearance. Why is it so important to you to have the appropriate visuals accompanying the music?
Sean Leon: Because we’re in an age where everything is being consumed so quickly. My profession is being cheapened just as your trade [photography] is being cheapened. To combat that you need to have amazing and awesome shit all the time, consistently. So, it’s not enough to have an amazing song – you need with that amazing song an equally breathtaking visual. The problem I’ve been having with visuals is that I will spend a lot of time on music and when it comes down to working with a cinematographer, they won’t put in that same effort and it’ll cheapen my music and rather than have my music cheapened, I’d rather not have it be official.
It’s like the video is this girl that you’re dating that you really like and you want to bring her into your world. You’re tired of being by yourself and you really like this girl. You say “Tonight, baby, I’m taking you out. We’re going to this fancy red carpet gala, I’m gonna take care of everything. Just look like a princess. You’re a princess, you’re royalty to me, you’re my queen. Get a dress, do you hair, whatever it costs, bill me, I’ll take care of it. Just look like a princess.”
I get in my limo with my tuxedo on and my corsage for the girl. I go to the barbershop, I do everything. I’m dressed to impress. Physical aesthetic is really important. Image is everything. And I walk up to the door. I’ve got everything perfect, everything is right. I’m outside getting ready to open the door for my lady and I open the door and she’s in sweatpants and an Ed Hardy t-shirt. And I’m like “Babe, what’s going on? You need some time to get ready? We gotta go now.”
And she’s like “Nope, this is it. This is me, this is it, this is what I’m wearing. I know you put in all this time and I know it meant a lot to you and I’m a reflection of you. People are going to be judging you from what I’m wearing and this is what I came up with. Give me your money.”
[I burst out laughing]
BP: That’s an interesting analogy. So, since you’re comfortable with having the music stand without the visual if the visual isn’t up to par, how would you describe your sound? What differs it from any other Millennial rapper that’s putting out music right now?
SL: Attention to detail. I obsess, like I obsess. When the work is done, if I’m in the studio I’m gonna start at 2PM and when it’s 4AM and I can go home, I’ll sleep here because I don’t want to be away from the music. I don’t even mean I’m sleeping here because I’m working still, but I literally don’t wanna be away from the music because if at 7 in the morning I have a dream and it sparks something, I wanna be able to work on it right away. I don’t wanna have to table that emotion or that feeling, channel it and bottle it up and have to reference it later. I really care. Like people say ‘I love music,’ but I love music. I see colours when I listen to music. Synesthesia. I did some research on it, my friend told me that shit.
What happens is I’ll listen to production or I’m beat-producing and I’ll start seeing colours. It’s like being in a black hole and then out of nowhere…like splashes of colour. Blues, reds, oranges. Colours I’ve never even seen before. I can’t even label [sic] because I don’t know them. Just like swallowing me whole and like taking me places with emotions. And it’s like, why wouldn’t I wanna be doing that all the time? If my life is a black hole and when I listen to music I see colours for the first time, why wouldn’t I be doing that all the time?
There’s no better feeling than finishing a song. It’s better than sex. It’s better than any drug, it’s the best high in the world. It’s that moment after rolling the dice and before you find out what the result is. It’s that little moment of ecstasy. Why would I not chase that feeling all the time? I think a lot of people love music and I see it all the time because I work with artists. But I love music.
BP: But my question was, how are you different from Rocky and Kendrick and The Underachievers?
SL: I love music. That’s what I’m saying, my difference is I love it. And I know that word gets cheapened everyday and I cheapen it by saying ‘I love you’ to people I don’t love but when I say I love music I mean it’s this or oblivion. There’s nothing else I care about – nothing is as important. That’s all I can say. I love it. I know a lot of people say they love music, a lot of people are passionate but it’s just different. It’s literally my…meaning. I’m in the studio and I look at the [security] camera and I think, somebody might kill me in here but I don’t even think that’s tragic. As me, Sean Leon, where else would I die? What’s more beautiful than Sean Leon dying in the studio? It’s tragic, but it’s romantic. It makes perfect sense.
My whole thing is again with like not shoving my music down people’s throats. Where I’m at right now in the city, in this cold city, I’m an artist to be discovered. I’m not brought to you. It’s like poetic and perfect for me to be here. It makes sense for that to happen. Sean Leon fans are the greediest kind of fans. I have conversations with them – don’t share my music. They discover me and once they discover me, they put me in a special place, in their hearts or wherever, in their core, in their minds. They don’t want to give that to people. They don’t say “Yo, listen to this guy!”
Because I mean a lot to them so it doesn’t matter if I mean something to everybody else. I mean a lot to this individual person. They don’t wanna risk sharing my music and have somebody shit on it. You don’t want anybody shitting on somebody you care about. IXXI fans understand that. They see the movement as like a cult. I have a cult of fans. I don’t want casual fans. I want cultists. I want ones that would fight for me like I would fight for Jigga. There were times when I couldn’t listen to Nas. You know how long it took me because of the Jay Z-Nas situation? I had to go back and realize that he’s [Nas] one of the greatest, ever. I never discredited him, I was just like, look, I’m on this side.
Jay’s the reason I started rapping and these songs mean a lot to me and that’s just how it is. That’s just how I feel about music. My art can’t coexist with the art of others.’ My shit demands a level of assertion that tolerates no company. That’s just how I feel about music. Every time I make a project I want it to be all anyone listens to. That’s why I do what I do, why I spend the amount of time that I do. That’s how much I love music. That’s the difference. That’s really the only difference I can think of.
I think everything under the sun has been done a million times. I’m as ratchet as Gucci [Mane], I study [The Great] Gatsby. I like the ratchet brilliance thing, like the day Gucci Mane met Jay Gatsby. Like the day Don Juan DeMarco met Don Draper. That’s my whole ratchet brilliance…that’s just who I am naturally. I can go from having an eloquent conversation to doing dumb shit with my n****s. It’s just who I am. I think that’s the difference, I just love it and I’m trying to do massive things.