NYC Rapper, Elliot Sang, Drops Slick Trap Mixtape
Based in Queens, NY, Elliot Sang is a tour de force of creativity. His latest artistic endeavor finds him dropping crankytapes, the first mixtape of his SANG SZN series under the production moniker, Rice Killa. Released yesterday, the record is a seriously impressive look into the smooth trap tracks he'll keep putting out.
crankytapes opens with "THIRTEEN," a straightforward rap that introduces us to Sang's velvet vocals and nonchalant delivery amid insistent percussion and a jarring looped beat. "FAR" comes next, clocking in at just under a minute and a half, a hypnotic shoegaze-y track swelling with dreamy vocal riffs and cloudy subdued rhythms. On "FAMILY," we hear a radio-ready hip-hop anthem built on buzzing beats and consistent quick-witted verses, a chill otherworldly trap tune to mull over.
"SIGN UP," produced by Yung Dripp, shares the similar sparkly percussion and rapid verse treatment as early Chiddy Bang work, holding its own, though, with shimmery vibes and moody, sluggish delivery expertly mirroring the track's anti-adulting subject matter. Later, "NO BITCHIN" has Sang's songwriting in the spotlight. Dropping lines like "Workin' my DNA like I'm K. Dot / And your girl do me like I'm Jay Rock / Bitch I rap but I look like I do K-pop," his flow is effortless, spitting quick-witted references like it's easy. crankytapes ends with "ANYWAY," an entrancing conclusion in which Sang confesses "life got messy so I had to renovate" atop a fizzy drum machine and layers of dismal, hazy beats.
On crankytapes, Elliot Sang shares his vision for hip-hop's future: one in which creative kids can thoughtfully develop their own talent, pen slick lyrics for listeners to unapologetically spit in the comfort of their own car at top volume, and produce sequences of trap soundscapes like it's a science experiment. As Rice Killa, Sang stands out in the over-saturated abyss of Soundcloud rappers constantly propping up. His delivery is confident, clear, and modest, detailing real-life young adult issues in his raps, administered to listeners on a bed of neon rhythms and warbling beats.
We caught up with Elliot Sang about the new release, the lyrics he's most proud of, and a few fellow artists you should know:
The Music Mermaid: First, can you tell The Music Mermaid a little about yourself and your music?
Elliot Sang: I'm basically just a mixed kid finding himself. I've always had a ton of creative interests, and a ton of allegiances, as I'm half Chinese and half Dominican. Through it all I've always written and made music. Often my music takes perspective of conflicts that I feel; a lot of times on my songs you can hear me struggling to find myself, which is true to my life. Generally my musical styles are eclectic and mixed-up, and I try to just write things that pique my interest, draw people's attention, or are just straight up what I'm going through.
TMM: You’re based in NYC, one of the most musically saturated locations. What are the advantages and disadvantages of putting out music here?
ES: NYC is mostly a place where artists from other places come in and put themselves on. Homegrown artists here very rarely have their own distinct NYC thing; they often take from a lot of other places, because it's such a huge melting pot with no real singular identity. Even people trying to do a New York thing now are basically just biting stuff that happened in New York years and years ago; thinking of artists like Nas, Jay Z, Biggie, Dipset. The one thing that's super necessary to being a New York artist, that I think you don't really see in other scenes, is just how much hustle has to go into it. The great NYC artists had huge waves and movements with them; they're entrepreneurs. Diddy was an artist, but of course, we know him for his ventures. Jay Z was the same. There's a real culture here of getting money and being your own business that you see less everywhere else, which makes sense, because New York City is really the home of commerce (and also one of the most expensive places to live).
Personally, I've always found myself drawn to other places, like LA and Atlanta, that have their own distinct subcultures, sounds, and tight-knit communities. Here, it's way more difficult to get on because there's no local wave to follow; you have to be your own wave, and your wave has to be huge, or else it feels like it might as well not exist.
TMM: What was the production process like for crankytapes, the first mixtape in your SANG SZN series?
ES: The beats that I produced on there under RICE KILLA came about a number of ways. When I'm producing, I'm in a different head space than when I'm writing, hence the two names (although I'm gonna play with that more in the future). Mostly, if I make a beat that I really like, I'm coming up with something on the spot and recording a whole song right there and then, or else I might never make anything of it. The last three tracks ("FUCKIT," "NO BITCHIN," and "ANYWAY") are cases of that. Beats that are from other producers were just taken from me digging for free beats on YouTube. The YouTube beatmaking culture is super sick -- it has become its own subculture. And it's funny, because when I started rapping, you could never find good beats, so that's why I learned to make my own. If I had started rapping now, I'd never learn to make beats, because there are all these amazing free beats on YouTube coming out every second. You could never run out.
TMM: What’s the songwriting process like for you regarding themes, song structure, rhymes, etc?
ES: The crankytapes writing process was held together just by remembering the theme of self-reflection, frustration, crankiness. On "THIRTEEN," I had something to get off my chest about hip-hop, so I wrote that verse. On "REALITY," I wanted to talk about how depressed and fed-up I feel. Sometimes I'm in that space when I write, sometimes I'm not, but I'm [always] speaking from experience.
Most tracks start off with just freestyling and making gibberish melodies on beats. I take the vowels, the consonance, and the melody of something I improvise that I like, and then I put words to it. "Jojo" was 50% freestyle. I don't usually write stuff trying to be super clear; I usually prefer writing lines that make me feel something. I know if the line causes a physical reaction from me, I should probably go with it. I wanted the messages to be relatable, and I always like to say things that feel strange or ugly, because those leave the most impact.
TMM: What lyric(s) are you most proud of on crankytapes?
ES: Oof! Um... "I ran to the far side looking for God/ But I think I might have found him in what I have run from" off of "FAR." This was something I came up with super quickly when I had that melody and it made me very happy.
"Life got messy so I had to renovate" off of "ANYWAY." I didn't think much of this when I wrote it -- it just came naturally but it seems to really stick with people.
"Bitch I rap, but I look like I do K-Pop" off of "NO BITCHIN" was just one of those natural lines. I'm always rapping about being Asian, so again, I didn't think much of it when I wrote it. But then I played it at the listening party, and I've never heard a crowd of people get so loud before, especially for my music. People really like that Asian self-love shit.
TMM: You work with a couple fellow producers on this tape. Can you talk a little about your collaboration process?
ES: As far as the producers, they put those beats up for free, so there was really no consultation. At this point I guess that's how rap goes. I just made sure I credited them and I'll be getting at them soon to make sure they at least know about it. With Brusho and Sumgyi, who featured on "FUCKIT," those are dudes that I work with in person. Brusho comes over to record all the time, and he's just got awesome energy. Both of them are awesome people who have been super positive and are gonna make names for themselves, no doubt. I really look forward to working with them more soon.
TMM: How has your sound evolved since dropping your beat tape, THIS FOR YOU, back in 2016?
ES: *laughs* You found that! So on This For You, I was just working with a couple of different musical ideas. At that time I liked just taking simple, bright synths and layering them on trap beats. I also had some boom bap type of stuff on there. That was my first time just taking acapellas and throwing them on beats. Since then, I've definitely gotten better in my opinion. I understand how to mix records a bit better. Also, the musical landscape has changed, so I kinda changed my style too, because I was really enjoying Pierre Bourne's beats, Mexikodro, all those Soundcloud producers.
TMM: You’ve dabbled not just in music but also vlogging and fashion. What’s it like to be such a creative jack-of-all-trades?
ES: It's an absolute pain in the ass! I wish I just loved one thing. J Dilla loved making beats, and he just did that, and became the greatest. So many producers are like that. Kendrick Lamar is all about his music. When you focus on one craft, you truly develop yourself, and you stay calm forever. Me, I'm bouncing from one thing to the next, which just throws my anxiety through the roof, because I'm not sure where to put most of my energy, or my money, or whether I'm really advancing the way I want to. But at the same time, it allows me so many opportunities, because I have knowledge and passion for different areas, so I have different ways to make myself happy and get paid.
TMM: Walk us through a typical day in your life.
ES: This past winter break, God knows. One day I'll be going out and seeing friends, doing productive things, the next twenty I'll be holed up watching YouTube videos and reading articles. I'm really not a winter guy. It just takes too long to get ready and I have no patience or energy. During the school year, I'll usually go to class, hang out on campus, make sure all of my clubs and friends are straight, then go home, watch YouTube videos (you see a pattern here), and work on music. I don't even have to assign music time because there's always a point in the day where I'll naturally gravitate towards making music.
TMM: Who are three musicians you think the world needs to hear ASAP?
ES: One -- All I listen to is Brockhampton right now... if you're not on their shit, you're doing yourself a disservice.
Two -- Tim Luxe is my co-worker and he's a really cool guy, but also a super talented singer. We're gonna make a record or two soon, hopefully. He has a song on Apple Music that my girlfriend enjoys more than anything I've ever made, and that makes me happy.
Three -- Brusho is on my record and we've done several tracks together. He's still finding himself but he's already super unique. I saw potential for him to blow up from day one and he's working way harder than most people are to get there.
TMM: What has been your most memorable musical moment so far?
ES: It was [the other night] at my mixtape release party. I knew I needed to do one and I'm really glad I did. My friends showed me so much love and actually really enjoyed the tape, so that's good.
The Music Mermaid: Finally, what’s next for Rice Killa?
Elliot Sang: Many, many things, God willing. SANG SZN Volume 1.5. will be completed in a month. Me and Chris [Napolitano, Sang's creative partner for their YouTube channel, Shoodowop] are doing records together and making YouTube videos every week; remixes, covers, discussions, music videos, and just whatever interests us. The summer will be crazy, I have no doubt.
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Featured photo by Kevin Reilly.