Thursday, March 12, 2015

Mod Sun: "Hip-Hop Is Ready for Positivity Again"

Posted By on Thu, Mar 12, 2015 at 5:31 AM

ModSun_Eric_Gorvin.jpg
Photo by Eric Gorvin
Mod Sun will perform at the Firebird this Saturday.
By Jack Spencer

Minnesota-born rapper Mod Sun has released a ton of mixtapes and EPs since 2009, under the self-described genre "hippy-hop." Now he's on tour in support of his just-released debut album, Look Up, on Rostrum Records.

An outspoken proponent of self-love in his music, he's continuing his trajectory with this new batch of upbeat tracks. Ahead of his show Saturday at the Firebird, RFT Music spoke to Mod Sun about the journey leading to his new album, and how he fits (or doesn't fit) within the music community at large.

Jack Spencer: How are you?

Mod Sun: Yeah, yeah! Goddamn, I'm fucking live. I'm out here in Pittsburgh. It's as snowy and cold as it is in Minneapolis, I promise you. It's a fucking winter wonderland up here. The architecture -- it's an old city, and the architecture here is like old brick, probably like 200-year-old churches. It's beautiful. That's my vibe right now. If you can picture that, that's my vibe right now. Stained-glass windows in a 300-year-old church.

Sounds like the tour's been going well.

To say it's been going well is an understatement. It's brilliant. This is something that's got me geeking. It's everything I imagined plus a whole lot more.

How's it been premiering some of your newer work?

I've been touring forever. I started playing drums in bands since I was sixteen years old, playing in front of people, but this is the first time I've ever toured and been able to say a few words and hold the mic. It's incredible, man. It's called the Look Up Tour; it's supporting the album, which [was released] on my birthday, March 10. I'm playing a bunch of new songs out here, but I have an hourlong set, so I'm definitely playing songs that I wrote eight years ago. It's a wonderful mix, but the new album is the music that I always thought I could write. People have been able to watch me develop from when I didn't know what I was doing. It's breathtaking, man; it's been wild. All the new ones, they love them the most already. The reaction to the new ones is definitely what I wanted. It's like the first material of mine that is everything I've wanted it to be.

What's different about the approach that you took with the debut album?

The biggest thing is patience. It's been in the making for two years. I started making it when I was in Minnesota, and ended up in California finishing it. At one point I thought my album was completely done, and I was about to release it on my own, but then I met up with Rostrum Records, and something divine happened that became a real relationship. Also, last year I went on tour with one of my friends, Blackbear -- one of my favorite artists of all time -- and I played him my album. And he was like, "Yo, this is amazing, but it could be better. You could make sure the music and the words completely coincide. It's one thing to have great music; it's another thing to have great words, but if they don't fit with each other, it's not going to be as good." 

So I literally reconstructed my entire album for a year after that. I will be an artist that is able to say that every single song on there, there will never be a time in my life where I wish that I had done one more thing. I've given it everything, absolutely everything I heard in my head, and I could never recreate this album. I could never anticipate that. It's one of a kind.

What were your beginnings as a musician, and what drew you to rap initially?

Initially, I played drums my whole life in rock bands. In high school, the first band I was in called the Semester. That was like a pop-punk band, and then the second band I was in was called Four Letter Lie, that was a post-hardcore band, and I was drums for both of those bands. It was a very wide array of music. I grew up in a place called Corcoran, Minnesota, when I was real young, on a farm, and all I listened to when I grew up was like the Band, Bob Dylan, Neil Young. 

But, man, I had literally the widest array of music, and of course being from Minnesota, there's an amazing hip-hop scene that was already going on. That was inspiring me in a way that's not like everyone else, because I wasn't even aware that hip-hop and rap was meaningful at that point. The only hip-hop I knew at that point was Eminem, shit like that. It was cool music, but it didn't feel like this huge meaningful thing. But Minnesota has this huge hip-hop scene that is, to me, very poetic. 

Continue to page two for more.

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