Friday, 30 January 2015

winter blues



nora in nolita

nora: i'm freezing today
me: maybe you need a bigger coat 
nora: no, i need more body fat

we found out we have mutual friends in europe, asia, america, south america, and australia. i think once you have lived in hong kong you are within two degrees of every person in this world.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

new ro rhymes



i’m confused as hell when i first meet jay rano. i was scheduled to meet his manager, carter, the day before our scheduled interview, but there was miscommunication about the meeting time. after a delay of 8 hours (time well spent at moma), i catch them on a studio break. he introduces me to his best friend, aaron.

aaron excuses himself within 10 minutes and heads home. after he leaves, i ask 'what does aaron do?' carter is not sure if i’m serious, 'aaron is rano.' initially i think this is incredibly embarrassing... but then i remember sloths can grab their own arms thinking they’re tree branches and fall to their own deaths and i feel 0.0001% better. when i finally meet jay rano the next day, i’m looking for answers.

oh na na, what’s your name? i had no idea you were you yesterday.
my name is aaron johnson, but i go by jay rano.

how did that happen?
jay is for my surname johnson. rano is an anagram of aaron with an ‘a’ removed. i’ve got people in my family who i’ve known my whole life that call me ‘rano’ so it just stuck with me and now it’s my rap name.

i was hoping it would be a crazy story.
na, na…  

what is your story? it doesn’t have to be crazy.
i started to rap when i was 6 years old. i used to freestyle with my older brother. as i got better, he began bringing me to record in a studio he had set up with his friends. over the years, i fell in love with it, and started making beats of my own at about 12. i took drum lessons from my best friend’s dad early on. i was freestyling at lunch by the time i got to high school. i began recording my own music and releasing it on facebook for my classmates to hear. people took notice and liked it. after i graduated, i left new york to go to school in florida. i made and released more music which got attention from people in the industry. i ended up leaving school and moving back to new york. when i got home, we made some music videos and then finally released my first project, ‘the love always ep’ in 2012. that’s a really condensed version, but that’s some basic insight into how this all began.

when will you release the lp version of that ‘really condensed’ story?
[laughs]



your tracks are basically short stories, and you present a picture in every song. you’re incredibly lyrical at 22, i thought you’d be older. where are you pulling all these experiences from?
the experiences are life experiences, they are just drawn from my friends’ and my own lives growing up. i guess i experienced enough at a young age to stand out. sometimes people experience a lot of things but can’t necessarily put those things into words, but for whatever reason i’m able to.

can i see your driver’s license? i don’t think i’ve ever seen the ny license.
[yep, he just turned 22]

this looks way better than the maryland one.
it’s okay.

cliched but genuine question: musically, who/what shapes/d your sound?
jay z, kanye, drake, j. cole are definitely artists who have influenced me. as for sounds, i was a gamer growing up. i also watched a lot of pokemon—

—did you want to be the very best?
that no one ever was. 

[sings entire pokémon theme song]
yeah, that made the way for the influence to a lot of gaming soundtracks, and the strings and piano from anime soundtracks. there’s also the influence of classical and soul music. i’ve always wanted to be different, which means exploring beyond boundaries. i try to find sounds that the average person may not hear. the world is so trendy now. 

‘the world is so trendy now’… that would look really profound as graffiti.
everyone is a fashion designer because they can slap a logo on a t-shirt in photoshop.

who do you make musical decisions with? who’s on your team or is it a very one-man process?
my musical decisions are almost never a one-man process. my team consists of myself, my brother barry, who is my mixing engineer and also helps with a lot of business decisions. my best friend from the time we were children, carter, who is my manager. my friend moe, who works as a fashion designer. and ryan, who is also part of my management team. the name of our team is ‘one wing angels’.

when people receive music, it’s a finished product. how much of the process do you involve yourself in when it comes to creating a track from conception to release?
i’m involved in every part of the process in one way or another. when i started, i was doing everything by myself. but even now that i have a strong team around me, i still make sure i’m a part of all the steps in the process.

jay rano track 101?
well, every song is different, some songs i have already written and i have to put a beat to them, which is the more difficult way of doing things. other songs, i dive into my stash of beats that i’ve previously produced and just start writing. generally, after i write and record a song, i sit down with my brother while he mixes the record, and he gets some insight from me about what direction i want to go with the sound. then i sit down with my managers and plan out how we want to release of the record.




the internet has kind of changed the way people deliver and consume. what are your views on how people release music in the modern day—has it made it easier or more difficult?
the internet has given talented people a straight shot at the consumer without having to go through a label or having anybody pour tons of money behind them to get the music into the public’s hands. that’s a good thing for independent artists like myself. at the same time, it’s kind of opened the market to pretty much anybody who wants to make music, which could be difficult for your music to be heard. the internet is over saturated, and people are a little afraid to click certain links. you also hear things like ‘this person is a twitter rapper’ or ‘this person is a facebook rapper’—and they won’t want to click on links from artists like that. at the end of the day, it’s always good to have a platform where there’s the opportunity to hear the music. i’m pro-internet, because without it i wouldn’t have as many fans as i do now. i guess just certain aspects of it have to be cleaned up a little bit.

what would be the ideal situation for you?
ideally i’d like to keep my music independent. in terms of a contract, i’m much more interested in the terms of a contract than the money. right now i have complete freedom to do what i want with my music, and that’s very important to me because of how personal music is for me.

what’s the most important thing to you in what you create? 
for me, the most important part of my music is the honesty within it. i don’t want to be one of those rappers that people can’t believe. i think i write my music with intentions that somebody out there can relate to it, but these are very personal stories from me and the people that i love and care about. i hope that is one of the first things that people notice when they hear the music. like, wow, this guy is telling me stuff that i probably wouldn’t tell to a stranger. i think a lot of people are scared to be honest with themselves. and i’m not. i’m very honest and open with myself, and very honest with my listeners.

what’s important in life then?
God, family, friends, and happiness. i won’t get into too much about religious beliefs, i believe that many people have spirituality within them. a code of conduct for themselves: personal laws that they abide by. morals that they look toward to determine how they’re going to conduct themselves on a day to day basis to be a better person. happiness is different for every person. when i say happiness i mean my personal happiness which comes from: seeing the people that i love and care about happy, achieving my goals, and being able to change other people’s lives for the better. that’s where my happiness is derived from. if you go through every day and you can’t crack a smile, i’d say life pretty much sucks. happiness is important.

where can we find you? 
twitter @_jayrano, instagram @jayrano, soundcloud

Friday, 7 November 2014

south korea: school, suicide, surgery



(published 2012)

thank you emma (my favourite lead paragraph writer) for scanning this. we did this interview together in australia over skype (which is never recommended because the call may drop any time thanks to ancient broadband, plus my parents live in the bush). i really wanted to share this and the last interview with you. i would love to hear your thoughts and/or insights.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

heart of a lion



(published 2012)

you can find cabra missions on facebook. i'm always moved by the work they muscle. deng is one of the most humble, down to earth, and joyful souls i have ever met. if you're in high school, please keep them in mind for your school fundraisers; prayers would be equally wonderful. there are now three schools!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Friday, 3 October 2014

a fifth of the land on earth is her

there was a girl named savannah, her skin red like the australian sand. her eyes hid a library of stories in a language even she didn’t understand, for the better. she told me she was half vietnamese, half australian. she later cried, telling me she hadn't been entirely honest, she was ashamed running through her veins, was more than 40,000 years of history and 200 years of pain. she grew up in adelaide where her daddy was a myth, and her mama tried to hurt her. she had scars that ran like rivers across her left cheek, breaking into braided streams upon her lips. from afar it looked like lightning. the kids were ruthless. she'd pretend she didn't care, tilting her head back to gaze at the ceiling whenever taunts were thrown in class. no, she wasn't inspecting the smoke alarm, but stopping her hurt from showing. a few times she retaliated by telling them to 'eff off', on those occasions the teacher sent her to the principal's office.

she was often late to school, but one morning i found myself walking alongside her. 'savannah' i spoke, her name echoed free and beautiful. 'hey' she replied, carrying the weight of four thousand three hundred and eighty sleepless nights. she sounded as though she was surrendering a war. 'how are you liking netball?' i persisted. she nodded, but it wasn't a yes. her mood swung like a pendulum and this morning was leave me alone. i saved her a seat in class that day but she didn't show. rumour broke out ashley from the year above pushed her into a wall. this wasn't a fib. she broke her nose and the school nurse took her to hospital. when recess came i followed the trail of blood drops from the lower playground all the way to the teacher's parking lot. she didn't come back to school, at least not this one.

her desk was cleaned out a week later, i didn't see her but chloe did, 'she looked fine so quit worrying, you weren't even friends!' i was ten and worrying was reserved for dessert options, and true we weren't friends, but from then on, i viewed the world with her in mind.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

fe fi fo fum



shop kinobi / a curation by ally

when we shot this ally showed me some references she liked. she didn't know but one of them was a photograph that i took. i was given my own work as reference. #myworkisdone #startedfromthebottom #dropsmic

Sunday, 3 August 2014

our beta test




you know when people stir the dreams you carry, reminding you every day is game day? we walked all over new york city, often finding ourselves submerged in the aspirations of others. everyone has a reason to be here, or at least everyone believes they have a reason to be here. which is a good enough reason by any means, but no one wants to be just good enough. you want to be the very best (pokemon master #that no one ever was).