The Honest Hustle interview series highlights some of the amazing artists we have listened to and had the pleasure of supporting. We ask questions that will help people like us, listeners and fans, learn about the artist and discover more about their music.
For this installment we link up with Los Angeles artist, VéFROMLA.
LFL: Who are you?
V: VéfromLa. That is how I get people to remember it. It is simply just Vé.
LFL: VéFROMLA what does that mean to you actually?
V: I don’t know if I can really explain what it means. It’s where I was born and raised. I feel like it’s the one place that I actually know and claim, you know? I’ve only moved to a few places and they were all in California. I was in San Jose. It’s kind of like my second home. I was in Sacramento (where we met). When we met, I wasn’t living there. I had just moved away from there. Even though I don’t know everything about LA, and even though the older I get, the more people I meet are not from here – I still feel like it’s comforting and it’s home because I can see certain streets or see certain things, and always have a memory. Or at least have a sense of direction..
LFL: Home is where the heart is basically?
V: I think that’s kind of really what it is to me.
LFL: You talk a lot about home. Home is a sensitive topic, but it’s an important thing. It’s dope that it’s a part of your title.
V: I mean I throw it in there because it works. If I was from somewhere else, I couldn’t say “Vé from Sac”, just wouldn’t click. Most people can remember a rhyme scheme, you know, if they put their mind to it. You know what I mean?
LFL: Yeah. You said something, if you put your mind to it, I mean. How many people do you really think actually put their mind to your music?
V: To my music, I don’t know. I feel like the people that are, quote “fans”, they are fans because they paid attention. You know what I’m saying here? But, I’m pretty unknown. I think the ones that actually listen, especially if I met them personally and then they listened,I feel like they put their mind to it. The people that just like kind of find it on Soundcloud, maybe a few or just finding out like whatever other streaming sites, probably a few of them listen. Most people don’t listen to hip hop and rap to put their mind to it. That’s the sad truth. You’re going to just listen to it because it’s like a fun listen. So I’m not surprised that not a lot of people put their mind to it.
LFL: You said you don’t have that big of a following and that you’re not that well known, but from my experience everyone that is there is at your shows is reciting your lines?
V: I do a couple of the same songs all the time. Which enables people to then kind of have favorite lines from those song. And then I always switch up my set list. And then sometimes people that happened to have a favorite get lucky and they hear their favorite. So then, you know what I’m saying? They get excited because I got a bunch of songs. So people usually have a few lines that they know from the song. They can’t know them all. Or I like to get people to recite choruses and hooks so then they do that too.
LFL: When I think of an artist that manages to mesh sonics and content, a bunch of people come to mind, but right now Kanye is top of mind. Do you mess with you Yé?
LFL: Do you mess with modern, Yé?
V: I’m not big on pop culture. I mean, I’m not huge on pop culture, so, I don’t follow a bunch of artists’ lives. Kanye is kind of artist where you have to be involved with his life. If you listen to music, you kind of see this stuff. I get billboard notification, so they sent me all this stuff. I mean he’d probably have to say some really outlandish stuff for me to actually like stop listening to his music. I still like modern Yé, like, old Yay, and the new Yé. I was listening to Yé on the way here. The Kids See Ghosts. For sure.
LFL: The Trifecta, the first time I heard you explain it, was at your show. Where or when did you come up with that?
V: Yeah. That was the first time I explained that – I made that shit up. I never had coined it The Trifecta, I think until that night. I always would just say, I got three one word songs, that kind of, vibe with each other as far as the story behind it, or the concept. I think that was the first time I actually told myself like this is the Trifecta. The Trifecta is Questions, Opinions and Answers. Questions came first and Tech Dizzle produced that track, and that was literally just what I was just going through at the time. Each verse was kind of in response to a personal relationship type stuff. Like I was saying at the show a lot of of these songs just write themselves. People are nosy, you know what I’m saying? Like “questions, you ask too many questions”. I’m secretive. You know what I’m saying? So when people ask me shit, honestly, if I don’t know you, I either just tell you some bullshit. Straight up. Or I’ll just be like, “why do you care?”. I just get annoyed, and it’s not everybody, but a lot of people – one : they don’t really care. They just ask questions because the air is there. They just want to talk. Two : some people are just nosy for their own reason. They just want to go gossip. That was kind of how Questions came up. Just interacting with people and people asking silly questions or being on social media, writing comments about dumb stuff or remarks I’ve gotten, and then each verse was Kinda about that. The second verse is – “Is your girlfriend white Yes?” I love doing that because, people are always thinking, even if they don’t say it, they think it. So that’s a direct response, to let people know if that’s their thought, this is how I think about it, without having to even have the discussion. People feel like we should discuss you being black and having a white girl.
LFL: You have people asking you that?
V: They don’t say we should discuss, but people will ask questions. That’s not an everyday question, but just for the one-two-four people that ask, this is your answer type of thing. Opinions was the same thing. Just people were just talking and thinking that I really care to respond or that I valued their opinion and half the time I don’t. If I valued everybody’s opinion, I wouldn’t be where I’m at. That’s kind of how that came. Answers was just I told Felipe the producer I had that concept. Like I said in the first verse, “how many my homies you going to take from me? I ain’t got much left that I can bargain with.” Somebody had just passed. Had me thinking like, damn, that’s crazy how quick life happens. People just die. We had a family friend new years he was with us. No bullshit, two family friends. That’s where it came from. Two family friends, they was with us. Both of them were with us on new years and within one or two months they both was dead. That’s where the concept came from. I needed some clarification on this process. That’s where the concept came from. Those three songs are just one word songs that I felt like just kind of go together. So I never planned for them to be The Trifecta, but it felt good.
LFL: The Trifecta makes sense. You could hear the progression. As a fan I feel like you see a real progression in your music. Speaking of progression, the new album is?
V: Crazy Noches.
LFL: Would you say with Crazy Noches you see a progression in your music?
V: There’s definitely some progression. You live everyday you’re getting older, so if you’re doing something every day you should get better. I worked on the album for a long time. Anytime I approach a project, I try to have a concept. So anytime there’s a concept, it’s basically just a thought. It’s just an overall idea. And typically that means that there’s some beginning and there’s some end. You start it, then the project ends. So there is definitely a progression.
LFL: You said you lived in that time that you were creating the album. How important do you think it is that there is this amount of time?
V: I think it took as long as it did, just because I didn’t have the financing to finish it and even when I did my Kickstarter, and raised the money, I still wasn’t finished writing. You know what I’m saying? I just text my boy on the way here because we’re working on a song for a soundtrack and I just have to mentally note it that I’m gonna work on the song this weekend, but I don’t force motivation. I don’t force music. I don’t force songs. Until there is some real money involved, unless there is a money deadline, then I’m gonna take my time. When I put out the Opinions and Questions, that was during the whole time I was doing a song a week. If you listen to those 19 songs, then this is Vé writing very fast. None of those songs were old. It was me writing every week and they’re recording it. That was me quickly writing and recording 19 songs. Then the album started recording in 2016 to now. That’s just a slower process. But I work based on motivation and circumstances.
LFL: Releasing nineteen songs in nineteen weeks was one of the wildest displays I’ve seen watching artists. Was that a new experience for you? Have you ever done anything like that before?
V: When I was younger I used to write a lot just for practice. This was before streaming and everything, so you basically would get Limewire instrumentals (is how I would get my beats). I would find instrumentals on Limewire, download them to a CD and make cd’s of instrumentals or the homeys would have instrumentals, however they got them and then you would just write. I would just write to these songs day after day after day and I never was recording them but I was just writing and practicing. I definitely was writing a bunch then. What last year showed me is I was really just trying to prove a consistency thing to myself and then wanted to see if that will then equal some type of success. That was kind of the motivation behind it. “How consistent can you be?” Cause that’s pressure every week and it costs too. I said, okay, I got to write and I got a record and I got to wait to get it mixed and mastered. And then I got to upload it.
LFL: You’re doing everything from a studio?
V: Yeah, I did all of that. I went to a studio. Yeah, recorded every song. It showed me I got better at creating. It also showed me how I work under pressure. Shit, man, some of those are some of my favorite songs. I would have never traded that. If I had a budget, I would have put out 52 songs, but I ran out of money. So I stopped recording (laughter). It taught me that I could do it and it taught me that even though I didn’t get the results that I wanted, it still showed that I was consistent. The only reason I stopped is because nobody was about to front me however much money it costs to record and put it out and then take the time to do the artwork, so I just stopped due circumstances, but I definitely put out 19 and it felt good. That was a learning process, just teaching myself, look what you can do. Cause I didn’t have any idea. I just said I would do and then you figure it out.
LFL: You always do talk about Dear Fans and what you declare the reverse psychology of fandom. Can you tell us a little bit more about that reverse psychology?
V: I’m kind of blanking on where it actually came from. I just know it’s facts, you know what I’m saying? If someone was trying to sell you something or offer you something and you can tell that they are an interested party in whatever it is that they’re giving you, most people will naturally put the guard up and go, why are you showing me this? Or why are you telling me this? Is it true? Is it real? Yeah. But if you show no interest in whatever it is, if you’re not an interested party, if you’re not benefiting from it, then people consider, okay, maybe this is legit. This person doesn’t care if I listened to the music or not. Like it’s not going to help them pay their bills. So maybe I should listen. You know what I’m saying? There’s always somebody in your face saying, “check this out”, “look at that”. And people don’t like really being nagged, you know what I mean? And then like with critical thinking and you talk about fallacies, where you say something and then people are already formed an opinion about it without knowing anything about it. So if you say, “oh, this is my friend”, they already start thinking of what your friends could be. If they’re not signed and it’s your friend and they’re not successful, it’s not quality. They already put that in their head. So if you just do the opposite, it usually it peaks enough interest that people would want to listen and then they kind of formulate their own opinion and then you can say, oh, “this is such and such”. We do real estate, me and my pops, and before I started in real estate, he had family that didn ‘t use my dad for what reason? I don’t know. They think “I don’t know anything about real estate. I’m related to you. You mustn’t know anything about real estate. If I don’t know shit about real estate, how can you know something about real estate? I’m going to go with Dick, Bob. I’m gonna go with Harry. I don’t know Harry. But Harry is pretty smart. And then you can have a stranger trust you, the same people that our family didn’t trust.
LFL: How long were you working before you opened for Jay Electronica in Sacramento? Was that a breakthrough for you?.
V: No, it wasn’t a breakthrough in a sense of, oh shoot, I’ve been grinding so I’m opening for Jay Electronica. That show is easy to get. I had to sell tickets. The company is Sean Healy Presents, that’s what they do. They get artists to sell tickets and open for acts basically so they can pay the acts. I’m not really too interested in doing those shows now. A lot of people call those pay to play and it makes sense because some people can’t sell the tickets, so they end up paying for the tickets they don’t sell to play the show. I sold all my tickets, so I didn’t lose any money. The company says it too, “don’t buy the tickets”. They try to get people to sell them, but they know people buy the tickets themselves just to get on the stage. Honestly, I did a few of those shows and they never benefited me in any way outside of gaining a few fans. I never got a deal or I never got any management or publishing, a publicist or anything. So they never were like huge steps, but they are baby steps. Basically I got the email, the show is April, 2016, I got the email probably like March, at work, at the airport (I was working at LAX). I was still doing construction and I was working in the field and I got the email and I had a relationship built with them where basically if I say I want to do it, then they’ll just let me do it. They wouldn’t make me put a deposit or whatever. They’re just like bring them money. Like we did enough shows where I sold tickets. I got the email, I called them right away. “I’m in L.A., but I got to do the Sac show. Jay Electronica for sure. “And they were like, you live in la. I’m like, “I live in L.A., but I just moved from Sac. I’ll sell them tickets. No question”.
LFL: So you had your people?
V: Yeah, because I was working construction in sac before I moved back home to L.A.. I worked construction Summer 2014 to winter 2015, so a year and a half basically. I got this email like three months after I moved back and I’m like, “Yo, I got fans out there and that’s where the line came from”. “Have you drove a hundred miles to see me perform?”, on Questions “then you ain’t no day one, you can’t say much.” I had like, like four or five people that drove a hundred miles from San Jose to that Sac show because that was like the only show I did in northern California. Those is fans. They drove a hundred miles to see me perform, but the reason it was a breakthrough, was just because of being accepted from strangers on the scale with, who some people will say is one of the best lyricists alive. I know Jay Electronica fans have a high caliber of what is talent because they fucking with Jay Electronica, this dude is a lyricist. He’s not coming out, and just rapping the tight beats, some beats ain’t even that tight, but he can rap. I was like, alright, I’m going to go out there and basically just test the waters and show people that hell, I can stand on the same stage with Jay. And that’s what I did. And so for me it was a breakthrough. You ain’t just rapping for yourself, like other people enjoy this and you can put on the show. And that’s what I gained from that.
LFL: How long into your journey was that? How long have you been doing this for?
V: I say in Dear Fans, I’ve been doing it since I was 10. 10 is a solid even number, but it was probably like nine. I probably started writing when I was nine. I didn’t start performing on stages, like seriously performing until probably like 18. 13-14-15 I started battle rapping and that’s probably where a lot of the performance comes from because I used to battle. You had to have delivery, you had to be able to get the crowd involved. So I did. 15 I started writing actual songs and trying to record stuff. That’s when I recorded my first mixtape. I put the mixtape out June 15 2004 (I think 2004). I did that Jay Electronica show in 2016, that’s 12 years. 12 years in the making.
LFL: 12 years. You’re on a steady mission. That’s it. It’s pretty wild. The battle rapping? Weren’t you doing something on a radio station in LA?
V: I was on Power 106, every night, Monday through Thursday for two weeks. I had won, this one Mic Challenge or whatever. You had to write eight bars, I think it was like 30 seconds and eight bars maybe. And you basically didn’t know who you were battling against. The first one, I had no clue who I was battling against. I just tried to write the most compelling like battle eight bars I could. And I won that first one and then after that. I still didn’t know who I would be up against. It was just kind of always bring your best. So I did it for two weeks and I won. I won eight times straight and then they retired me.
LFL: Eight times straight?
V: I won eight times straight. It’s on my SoundCloud, you can hear it. It’s DJ sour milk and DJ incredible. DJ Incredible was like, “Yo, the winner tonight is Vé my man VéFROMLA, and that’s his eighth time winning, so we’re going to have to retire his Jersey and put him up in the rafters.” (laughter)
LFL: As far as your performances, the last two years I’ve seen you perform a ton of solo shows. Were you always doing a lot of solo shows?
V: I didn’t use to collaborate at all. I grew up not collaborating, because people just didn’t have their shit together. And I think a lot of people became successful from collaboration and, not worrying about having their shit together. But I never was like that. I’d be like, I want to do stuff and I don’t want to wait on people. I liked the content people were putting out, but I didn’t want to rap with them. I was doing stuff solo the whole time. So I did a bunch of shows, just solo shows. I did a couple shows with my boy and we had a mixtape together over commercial beats and we performed some of those. But for the most part I was always booking stuff for myself, whether it was through Sean Healy or just like the recent stuff I booked that wasn’t through Sean Healy. It wasn’t pay to play.
LFL: Speaking of collaborations, and working with bands and instrumentalists. The Manuka Black collabo, you have to know how special it is. How did that come about? How did you start working with them?
V: Just trying to get better. Just trying to make my live shows more interesting. Like I said I grew up in L.A. and it was crazy because my neighbor, was my first best friend and I hadn’t seen him since I moved from that block. I hadn’t seen this dude in straight up 18 years and I was at the Blue Whale one night and there was a drummer. And they were like, “the drummer is from South Central”. I’m like, “South Central. A drummer here?”. So I’m sitting, I’m looking at him and my mom is like, that is Jonathan, our neighbor. Then sure enough his mom was there and so my mom was like, that’s him. I’m like, “Yo, this is my first best friend, and he’s a drummer, a successful drummer”. He went to Berkeley School of Music, and UCLA has a various theme jazz program. He went there. He graduated from that program, as a drummer. So he tours and plays jazz and all that stuff and I’m just like seeing him and just being around more music and live instrumentation. I started asking my friends that play stuff, “how much does it cost to get a band or what’s it take to get a band? What pieces do I need?” Cause I didn’t know music theory. I got a homie P Wild, he does black rock and roll, and he told me you just need guitar keys interchangeable, basically bass and drums. So then I hit my drummer up, “can you do this?”. He was like, “nah, I’m doing gigs. I would love to, but I got this gig, that gig.” So then I said, “okay, next best thing is you got a recommendation?” He said, “yeah, it’s my boy.” So that’s how I got my drummer. Sheldon is Jonathan’s best friend from school and stuff.
LFL: Practice definitely means something to you. In terms of performing, or even when you’re not with a live band. What’s that prep like? When you are with a live band, are you doing rehearsals?
V: I’m probably the worst preparer for live shows. I always, I always procrastinate. I write all my songs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are then memorized. So each song is kind of written different and some songs are easier to remember than others. It’s pretty much the same prep no matter what. The only difference with a live band is you actually have to make an appointment and show up for it. When I’m just preparing by myself. I don’t have to do that.
LFL: Back to Crazy Noches. When can we expect the album?
I don’t know when I’m gonna put it out. I’ll probably have a listening party in August. I could give a release date, but I don’t have any money to give a release date. So until there’s either a label, an indie label, preferably, behind it or some big money behind it, that’ll help, get the right eyes on it. Like the money’s not gonna help the music. The music is about to be mixed and mastered and done. But just being able to promote it cause people put out music every day. People putting out classics that you didn’t even know about, because they didn’t have the support. So I put out my album, in 2015 to no avail, I don’t want to do that again. So the release date is kind of going to be dependent on what type of financing I get behind it. Whether it’s my own – shit I might sell the apartment downtown, the album is coming out (laughing). But until I get some real financing behind it, then, I’m kind of just waiting. But it’ll be done. I’ll probably have a listening party like end of August. Cause everything is pretty much recorded. Just gon’ mix it, master it and let people hear it at least.
LFL: It was what, two years in the making? 18 months in the making?
V: Yeah. I don’t know what the oldest song on it is, but I was in the studio with my engineer and we was pulling up the sessions to continue recording – it was definitely mixes from 2016. Yeah, I said on one of my songs, it was like 9:00 PM, I was recording in the studio cause I had got off work late and rushed to the studio to record and that was 2016. I don’t know what season it was. May or whatever, 2016 and I was still working in construction and I was recording it and now we got stuff that I’ve written post-construction and then more recent. Some of that is going on there too. So, yeah, it’s been like two years. It’d be great to get it out 2018, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen.
LFL: Too many people release great projects without the right backing and it ends up falling by the wayside. Let’s say you do get lined up with the right release, you do have a huge catalog behind you for people to dive into. Do you even have a count on your total catalog? The total amount of tracks?
V: I don’t know how many singles I have. I don’t have too much music that’s out as I did before, like the 2015 album. That was kinda like the first thing. I had mixed tapes and stuff that were out from like 2015 and 2017. All of those – I don’t think they’re out anywhere. So like the only thing available is the 2015 album, just like 14 tracks. And then in 2017, when I was releasing the songs every week, those were all EPs. I put out those, there was like 17 songs worth the EPs and then, two singles I didn’t put them on EPs (Vanilla’s Skies and Opinions). That’s like 33 and then this album is like 12 songs. I probably got like five singles : Lay Back, Wallflowers. I got a song with an Italian producer, Federico, that’s on Spotify. That’s out too, called Slow Down. So I would say like publicly right now, you could probably find 40 to 50 songs. I got some features too. In between like 45 minutes to 60 songs out, I think
LFL: So a real healthy catalog, when the album comes out and people want to go back and find it, what is that brilliant SoundCloud domain?
V: SoundCloud.LA. I gotta, promote that more (laughter). Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
LFL: Anything else you want to say before we get outta here?
I don’t know. This is an easy interview just cause we know each other, but I fucking hate interviews. I mean I love talking to people, you know, but it’s something about interviews and stuff. Just living forever and being on wax, outside of music, that I don’t really care for. I like watching them. I really watch them to learn and learn as much as I can, but like I don’t necessarily enjoy doing them. For whoever is paying attention, I hope they listen to a song and maybe they find one that they really enjoy and they go listen to my catalog. That’s how I kinda did my favorite artists, is I’ve seen something or I’ve heard something and then I said, “okay, well let me now listen”, and I say, “oh, dope”. That’s what the interview is good for, is connecting. You can kinda get a sense of who that person actually is. Cause another thing in pop culture is you take people for what they are, what you see. You don’t actually know, you can’t meet them. I never met LeBron. He’s my favorite player. Never met him. I might meet him, he might be an asshole. But in my head he’s the coolest basketball player.
So yeah, VéFROMLA on on a social, pretty much everything. V-é-F-R-O-M-L-A. Yup. That’s pretty much it man. Thanks.