Conducted by Sophia Guerrier & Thomas Herron
Q&A: Brockton's own Meech on his past year and what's to come in 2021
Coming off of the biggest year of his life in his own words, we caught up with Meech, the artist behind projects like "Barriers to Knowing", "I’ll be back soon, I promise", and the "NineFour EP". The Brockton native’s catalogue is proof of the development that comes from dedication to the craft, showcasing a range from straight bars to bops.
A member of Brockton’s lead collective, Van Buren, the face of the Greater Boston Hip Hop scene, Meech joined VB in 2018 but has known fellow labelmates such as Ricky Felix since he was a toddler. Meech’s approach to his art is one that takes as much as possible into account – from the emotional feel of the record to the scientific spacing of the drums, and a melodic sonic exploration of each individual track. "Barriers to Knowing" is the pinnacle of Meech’s career thus far, combining his natural flow with an expanded sonic range and a growing musical talent, dropping in December of 2020.
We got a chance to catch up with the Brockton artist and former Elms College hoops player, after a career year for both himself and Massachusetts leading label, Van Buren.
Listen to the podcast here.
Sophia: How you doing, man?
Meech: I'm doing good. How are you?
S: I'm pretty good. I’m here with my boy and co-founder, Thomas.
Thomas: How you doing? It's nice to ‘sort of’ meet you.
M: Haha via phone call. We gotta do what we gotta do during COVID so I appreciate it.
S: How you been? How's this year been treating you?
M: Last year has been definitely the most interesting year of my life. And COVID coming is kind of like the cherry on top to everything that was kind of happening in my life. I can say last year is a year I won't ever forget, even if COVID didn't exist, it would still be that for sure.
T: So how do you feel that COVID impacted your artistry saying that it was a good year for you kind of regardless? How did COVID help or hurt that one way or another?
M: I think initially, it was just me and my friends in this collective, like ‘shit, you can't perform this new music.’ And that was our bread and butter for the last year and a half within the Boston scene, so it was just kind of like, ‘Okay, how do we kind of just do this?’ And the biggest thing was dropping content, working on music, videos, project ideas and rollouts, etc., etc. We got kind of a blessing being able to go back to the drawing board and focus on individualism a bit more. So that was the biggest thing for me because it gave me the last 9-10 months of my time, after a couple years of being very busy with my line of work outside of music. It was honestly way more eye opening on self-care more than anything.
S: Especially like you said, there were no shows like COVID just straight up terminated everything. But like you said man, you definitely did drop a lot of content this year. Did you originally plan on dropping two projects last year?
M: Yeah - Yes, I did. Because I think that was the intent with the first one. The whole reason for that project being named what it was that I recently left this corporate job of like three years, just to kind of chase this passion of mine that came up within the last decade, you know, more and more every day. And that's why I was like, "I'll be back soon, I promise" - just kind of like okay, I have one more project before the year is over, but I need all this time to kind of condense everything and understand what I want to talk about, sonically, and then hit him with the visuals and etc., etc. and what we're really trying to delve into right now. So that was definitely the focus, after the first time I was like ‘Yeah, I gotta get more out there.’
T: Absolutely – you’re talking about the scene that's growing in Boston and Brockton’s role in that, especially Van Buren in particular – What’s your opinion on what it's like to be a part of the label that's leading the way?
M: It can be stressful, but it's also like the greatest thing ever. Its pros and cons are equally balanced. It's very interesting to kind of be in a group where you can grab inspiration from everyone because you get to see a product in the process, whether it be like when I see Luke [Bar$] and Saint Lyor and all them make their project without being able to see – you know, hear a couple demos, etc. etc. It’s just dope to watch your label mate legit create something out of thin air, and you were there from day one. It is really dope to see that process because it keeps you engaged and keeps you focused on your own shit. But the downfalls of it is also just like critical praise is interesting to me, you know, to have a media outlet attached to one of the eight people within the Van Buren collective, and then like the other seven to be left out or to be five and then another two are left out. That's the downside of it sometimes, because you'll see articles - I've seen personally articles I’ve been left out when it's like, okay, I dropped a project, I dropped videos as well. And you have those doubts and those moments of lack of clarity for a second, but those are all part of the process because it definitely helped me become way more self-centered, and just understanding to focus on your own shit, your own world, your own ideas, and not worry about kind of that appraise. This is all just a reflection of my life, everything I’m creating. It's definitely better, you know, going into this year, that's gonna be my mindset – not really with the outside noise since I'm not with the politics and everything and that’s really how it's kind of been the last two years for me.
S: What you were saying about your label mates getting awards from the Boston Music Awards and stuff like that, do you think that also growing up with a lot of those labelmates has impacted your view on things as well? Almost like a competition, like a sibling rivalry in a way?
M: I think it's subconsciously there – we never say anything but when you see like posse cuts when we all jump on one record, the moment as we all lock in, it just happens. No one really says oh I’m gonna have the best verse or I’mma do this or that, but I know for sure, initially, I was just like my boy’s dope, everyone’s dope. Who cares what the BMA’s and all them say and then when [Lord] Felix got the award last year for New Artist of the Year, I was like ‘Oh, shit!’ In that moment, I was like ‘this is crazy, to be in the House of Blues with 1000 people in there watching us perform right after we win for a 25-minute set, just like holy shit. And I’ve known Felix since I was two, three years old. It was very weird because I’ve seen him grind the last five or six years, trying to create his persona, create his ideas and growing with the music. Okay. And then this year with Lyor, it was kind of different because it was kind of like, ‘Alright, we put out 16, 17 albums and projects – you gotta give us something, and they all made noise and we kind of expected Luke or him to win something. So, to see Lyor win, it wasn’t surprising to me. I was wishing we've got that album of the year award, but it’s just little things like that, I think everybody knows, within the group regardless of what they say we know what it is, and that’s dope to have in your corner.
S: I must say like you guys are always saying on Twitter, you know, timeless music, timeless tapes, but all you guys did drop that for Boston. I was telling Thomas before this interview, if anybody was to look back into the Boston hip hop scene 50 years from now, it's impossible to not see Van Buren. It's impossible to not see Lord Felix, Meech, Jiles, everybody you know what I'm saying? Regardless of not winning album of the year, I definitely think you know you have a shot hopefully next year if you drop new music - we'll see. But I'm going back to the "I'll be back soon, I promise EP" which came out starting in the summer. It seemed like you were just having fun, getting your flows off, getting some melodies off, especially on songs like "All Night" and "Thief," and I just want to ask, like, how did that EP come about? And what was your direction for the tape?
M: In the summer of 2019, I had this spurt of - I was out a lot, you know, going to whatever, maybe bars, etc. etc., birthday parties, all that and it was just full of life at that time. I'm normally not an outside type of person when it comes to gatherings and shit like that, so I went on like a month spurt where everything was very bubbly type production. It was very upbeat type production, which is different from the "NineFour" project I dropped. I've got probably 20-25 demos of all those out of the four records I chose. The thing is kind of like if I went back in time, I probably would have done six records because it was like two records I still have on my phone to this day where I was like ‘Yo, I love this record but like, it's really weird and it’s really different. I think I kind of took that note from here on out for sure. I want to create all the things that I've seen, like I love cartoons, I'm in love with colors, I'm in love with jewelry. I generally am really attracted to bright things. But right now, everything's been kind of dark, you know, the last couple years and it's been tough so my thought process is kind of like, ‘Okay, let me just for this moment try to get a summer banger off, which I knew would connect with people. "Loss of innocence," I couldn't avoid because that was one of my favorite moments in the studio making that song with Luke [Bar$] and Ricky [Felix] was there too so that's why I threw him on a random bridge in there and it came along naturally. That's like my least stressful time he got me so far.
T: That absolutely comes through especially with the video for "Thief," being something that caught both of our eyes, I think with the kind ‘90s, Nickelodeon sort of vibe adding to the whole playfulness - was that concept like your idea and who contributed to that as well?
M: Everything you kind of said was all in my head and I was with my boy that does all my photography and directing everything. He normally has a different style, so I just came to him with them like bro, it’s a vibe, it’s a bop, like we just need to get a green screen and just do weird shit. I got like a $30 green screen on Amazon and it was so out of character, my director was like “Yo I can do anything, I did not expect you to call me and be like ‘let’s just get a green screen and throw random shit on there,’” and I’m like “yeah, bro!” And it's chaotic and it makes perfect sense. So that’s how it kind of stirred up and then we kind of bounced off of me and followed the lead and he already was interested in a bunch of shit and added a lot of things to that too. It was dope.
T: Absolutely, another thing that jumps out with your music is your own ear for production and that's something that clearly came through on top of that innovation with those videos and those two projects. Who as far as producers do you try and work with the most, and what do you look for in a beat?
M: I'm gonna be biased out the gate whenever I'm making something and be like ‘can any of the Van Buren producers make what I need, and I’ll hit them all and then just kind of see what I get. Sometimes it connects and sometimes it doesn’t, and when it doesn't the process goes to - I probably have two producers that I found through YouTube when I was in college that I really fuck with and I’ll hit them up. I connected with them, especially last year after the Van Buren stuff, they became more personal relationships with me. So I hit those two up, and if that doesn't work, I kind of move on from that process for a second and just let life come and study and go back to studying and listening to a lot of music. Right now, that's kind of where I'm at all over again, at Ground Zero as I work on video. I'm already thinking about the next thing. The process this time is totally different because I'm trying to have it be a foundation as if you're building a building. It's all feeling, you know, so I'm getting more scientific with it. I want specific drums, I want specific instruments in the background, I want spacing to be like more R&B spacing. Even if it’s trap, I want it to have R&B spacing - like little things like that I'm getting way more analytical with. To summarize it in the past, it would just be a feeling and asking a bunch of people and if that didn't work, going back to studying. But now it's way more legit starting from scratch, starting from study, and then going to meet with the producer in person now and be like, hey, let's do this, let’s do that and build off it from there.
S: Totally and it's very evident from the "NineFour EP" up to "Barriers to Knowing" that dropped in December. One thing that stands out, as we were saying is that your versatility and sound, your flows, even approach to your music has continued to develop with each and every single project that you've done. Why are you now just more conscious of diversifying and showcasing a lot of different sides of yourself as an artist?
M: I mean, growing up, especially being Black, it's like you get put into this box immediately. I remember all the times I would play like "Tony Hawk Pro Skaters," stuff like that, "Spiro," you know, when it was like ‘okay’. It was always that syndrome. That's why Kanye West, Early Kanye West, that’s the GOAT to me. You got to see another person with your skin tone, come up there and have a teddy bear with weird glasses, on a rocket ship and you just kind of like oh, okay, so when I am feeling a bit weird. You know, and I think that that's kind of been my thought process in diving a bit more into my interests that I always had as a child. I think initially when I made my first tape, and on "NineFour", the Kendrick Lamars and those types of artists did so much damage for me I wanted to make something that’s a bit more conceptual. After that, "I'll be back" was what it was, which was just fun. But I knew I had to grow a little bit more with the sound and production-wise, so I challenged myself again with trying to get a bit more upbeat type of things. Then with "Barriers," I think it became more so, I'm starting to understand who I am as an artist. And when I say that, like I want to have art pieces to be able to grow off of just my music. I want someone to be able to find therapeutic energy from it to be able to even read, do yoga, to paint, you know, to draw and that's the biggest thing I'm thinking of. I'm getting a bit more in depth with just trying to have flows and pockets that are very different. The biggest person that's done it very well is Frank. Frank Ocean like, he took a Chanel bag – He took a brand called Chanel and flipped it – like that metaphor and the production to it makes no fucking sense. How I feel, the fact in my life I’ve never even touched a Chanel bag, it’s just like how’d he do that? That’s what I’m trying to figure out, you know.
T: Absolutely. Talking a bit about how artists like Frank and Kendrick have kind of made you focus a bit on the conceptual side and that originality while honing in on your interest, I kind of am curious honestly, when you talk about like your first tape being freestyle based before "NineFour," who were the artists for you that kind of made you want to start freestyling and making a tape at all?
M: J. Cole, Wale - Kendrick was one of the biggest catalysts for me. Joey Bada$$, Mac Miller, you know, it was just a fun time, during their earlier work. A$AP Rocky would just make a 30-song album like, it was just a mixtape. You’d drop a mixtape and then three months later, you drop another one. There was so much consuming it was just fun, but they were just rapping. Song concepts and all that stuff -the writing was there - but there wasn't too much like calculation to it, it was very pure. I think Cudi is another one, you know, and those types of artists are what drew me into that wanting to rap. Just like freestyle and who cares? Like, this is just an idea I have – just have fun. I hate listening to it though, I cannot listen to that first project, so I buried it in the back of my head.
S: Moving on to your latest project "Barriers to Knowing," can you further explain what the title means to you?
M: Yeah, initially, the project name was going to be "Why are we running for" and the cover was totally different. It was like this obscure figure of me walking in a parking lot and the cover was blue. Everything shifted, when ironically, I was reading this book, from this author, OSHO, and he’s like this huge Buddhist influencer and he had a book called Emotions, and I remember reading it and there was this old statement in there and it was just talking about being silent, you know, and allowing the universe to speak to you, and you will know. I'm just like, ‘Ooh!’ when I see that I was triggered because the last three years of my life, I've had the opportunity to uptake silence, but I never really took it. I never really appreciated the time with myself, and I would go out making up scenarios in my head, and had mad anxiety, you know, a bunch of bullshit that definitely manifested itself from social media, for sure. I just shut off everything and this year, for sure is when I took that first step into not looking up something or researching something before making a decision, I just did it off my intuition. And once I did that, I mean, since April of last year, ‘til now, that's where the message kind of lied. Like holy shit, I know who I am in all facets, way more than ever, in my last 25 years of living. That's where I was like, okay, I had all these barriers, "Barriers to Knowing", and it just kind of came together that way. The cover art kind of stems from my faith and the apple is the representation of Adam and Eve and that form of temptation. And utilizing the cross under the apple to showcase that I have to have my faith, which is in the palm of my hand but there’s this temptation all around us every single day. Let me go use my faith till I'm gone.
T: The growth absolutely comes through on that and the concept behind it. You mentioned something there about the toxicity of social media and you know the role that it can have. I want to ask about, how do you find a balance as an artist who needs to promote themselves on social media, and still avoiding that kind of like toxicity that's only going to grow with you?
M: It is, it is. That’s facts. Man, I'm learning as I go. I would just say to everybody who gives a fuck it's like a statement of 2021, all I want to tell everyone is the motto is this just who gives a fuck? Just truly be yourself, express. I think, for me, that's when I'm practicing. Of course, I have people that are involved within Van Buren when it comes to the business aspects and making things look cleaner when you come with the initial idea, and I'll continue doing that, but the biggest thing for me is that I'm not trying to compromise for anybody, whether it be my 1000 plus followers, or whoever it is, my emails, all that bullshit, I can literally just tell you like, okay, the music is what we're talking about. The music led us to this conversation and that's the power of music and the beauty of music that I fell in love with as a child. Leading up to this conversation and talking to you both, it’s dope. I don't really care about a Tweet, you know what I mean? Like if you were to Tweet like, ‘Yo just had a dope conversation with Meech,’ that's cool and all, but at the end of the day we know what we said, we know what we talked about and that’s a memory in itself that we have to hold onto. My music will come from that place, 110%.
S: Yeah, for sure. It's something I find interesting that you're saying that "Barriers to Knowing," you liked how it represented silence and letting the universe talk to you. And it's just funny, because social media is definitely the opposite of silence and you spoke about social media a few times on "Barriers to Knowing." I just want to ask you, what do you think is social media’s influence on the music scene of our generation, and the upcoming generation? What do you think is going to be the future product of it all?
M: It’s damaged the music game already, you know, and I’ve seen it. Streaming didn’t help at all, it just put more kerosene on the fire. Now what I realize is that even with underground music because I love listening to underground artists that aren’t big and don’t pop, even though I hate what the Spotify CEO represents for the artistic community, I love what Spotify can do with introducing you to new talent. That’s a dope aspect of social media because Instagram and Facebook forced their hand – Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal’s hands, to be able to create an algorithm. Now they’re creating algorithms and once upon a time my cousin was just buying CDs at FYE and that’s what you got. Or you downloaded illegally off LimeWire and hoping that this song works. That time is gone, and that parody is gone so now what I’ve started to see even on a local level is you won’t see authenticity, you don’t see originality no more. Rest in peace to the Pop Smokes and the Juice WRLDs of this world and this universe, but you’ve seen their offspring kind of manifest off that and it’s very interesting to me. I respect their genius level of creating the sound but it’s the same thing to me as how the world is just in a very damaged place. I’ve had conversations with my 16-year-old cousin, and he knows what depression is. I didn’t even know what depression was until I was like 22. It was just shown to me, it wasn’t spoken to me like in this music. They provided a solution, the Kendricks of the world, the J. Cole’s of the world. They provided us with all these problems that we had – even Drake. Older Drake you saw those things and were like ‘oh, shit’ he’s going through something I’m going through. That relatability level on a massive scale is why at this very moment you don’t see VB as the top record label. Griselda’s one of the few being able to crack through in the last two, three years. For them to be able to really, finally crack through last year was just inspiring because it was like you can still be real and get through to people.
S: And then that goes back to Van Buren representing timeless music. And just something that I want to point out is that I believe that "Heaven's Gates" was one of your best songs on the tape. And it just goes back to what you're saying in that a lot of a lot of mainstream music has just become oversaturated, not too much relatability and all that type of stuff. But when it came to "Heaven's Gates," you were very real, you're very deep onto the song. What was your writing process when you're making it?
M: For that, man I, I recently had lost an uncle, so it was in that timeframe. It had me in a space where I'm just like, man, you can't avoid that. And the other thing was Kobe. Kobe Bryant is and was one of my favorite people ever, period. That was someone that inspired me, to touch a basketball and aspire for more, almost like one of my family members. His passing left me so confused at life. And I think the biggest thing I realized through listening to him speak, and a couple other people, like my uncle and my grandma who’d passed and all the things they had done for me to be in America - I’m Haitian and they were Haitian immigrants. I was like, man, you just have to do your service before you reach "Heaven's Gates", before you're off this earth and path on Earth. I was just digging deep, you know, and that was the first song I actually wrote after I quit my job. This is reassuring, and you kind of hear it in those lyrics as well, I kind of tell myself, like, this is what you're doing, this is your profession. You’re making a message, don't stand down to anybody, don't stand down to all the negativity and all the failures that will come with this is. This is what you’re meant to do. That was my mindset in writing it. Then from there having Andrew, who was featured on the verse, he normally produces. And we've urged him to rap a bit more this year. I was happy to kind of have him involved in it because we have billions of demos, you know, that we make that never see the light of day and if you don't rap just for fun, I’m like ‘Yo Drew just say some little shit bro, like where’d all this come from? Cause you’re definitely a quiet guy” and he looked at me and was just like ‘I don’t know,’ and just kind of looked at me so I asked him to join it. Then the saxophone solo came from the guy that produced it, Versus, and he’s just insanely talented but I'm just like, ‘Yo I know you made the beat can you also add a saxophone?’ and he said I got you, so yeah.
S: What's the next step for your sound after "Barriers to Knowing" And what can we expect from you in 2021?
M: To keep it concise, the best way I could say right now is I'm listening to a lot of composer music the last two, three weeks. I listen to a lot of Swedish composers, Japanese pianists, a lot of West Coast jazz. I've been listening to composers and all these artists. Miles Davis, I was already triggered on that, that was a big influence on why I did four songs for I'll be back soon, I promise. Jazz musicians back in the 70s would have four song albums but they'll be 60 minutes long and they’ll just be going off. I was stuck on that and I actually want to translate that with the production, whereas it was just the concept of the name and the track listing. You'll get the idea and the persona of what Meech is about. I think everything else, I've talked a lot, so I'm just gonna leave it at that, you know? I’m listening to a lot of composer music, I don’t know where your minds go off that, but…
T: You got us excited and we’ll keep an ear out for some more complex composition. I just wanted to say thanks so much for finding some time to talk to us, this has been awesome.
S: For real Meech, we really appreciate it.
M: Same, I appreciate y’all and reaching out, making it quick and efficient cause a lot of people beat around the bush. I appreciate y’all making it a point, y’all just want to get it.
S: Thanks again Meech. We really appreciate it.
M: Yeah thank you for the time. Y’all be safe, stay COVID free, wear your masks.