Interviews

Jazz infused alt hip hop artist MODEST gives a break from negative reality with an excellent, chilly album “Clouds”

MODEST
In an era where many artists hype up projects that turn out to be one-hit offerings or half-baked playlists, MODEST‘s thoughtful embrace of the full length format is truly refreshing. “Clouds” is a moody, thoughtful  and introspective masterpiece that caught out ear immediately and it’s our pleasure to showcase this amazing release through a special feature with first-hand artist commentary.

On “Clouds”, MODEST adopts a borderless palette and smart amalgam of jazz, alt hip hop and soul influences that feels natural, organic and without lull. The album allows us into his personal place full of emotional intelligence, and interesting takes on various personal experiences. Play the full thing below, let his voice grow stronger, and learn more about MODEST, his work, and other stuff we asked him through his narration below (COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, Vermont music scene, and Top 10 science-fiction movies included!).

Asked about the background and the backstory of his project, MODEST offered the following:

“Back in 2010 I had just gotten out of a band and was trying to start another one. After months of searching and not finding the right people I found myself at a bit of a crossroads. I thought about how I wanted to continue with music, but wasn’t sure how to. I had always been interested in hip-hop/rap, but I had never really experimented with it before. I started practicing in my spare time and writing lyrics as much as I could. After a few weeks I started to fall in love with rapping and decided to start taking it more seriously. I called myself Industry. For years I bounced back and forth between Industry and a handful of other embarrassing names I won’t mention, lol.

My early years in hip-hop were pretty basic. Most of my songs didn’t have much depth to them, or introspection and aside from putting music out online, I didn’t really have any shows.

Around 2015 there was a big shift. I wasn’t very happy with my music or where I was as an artist and I wanted to make some big changes. The first was my name. One thing about hip-hop that has always bothered me is the level of arrogance that a lot of MC’s carry. I know it’s a natural part of the music, and I do incorporate that into some of my songs, but it’s the ones who take it too far that really inspired my name. I didn’t want to be the typical, cocky MC. So, that’s how I came up with Modest.

MODEST photo

𝐼 π‘€π‘Žπ‘›π‘‘π‘’π‘‘ π‘‘π‘œ 𝑏𝑒 𝑠𝑒𝑒𝑛 π‘Žπ‘  π‘‘β„Žπ‘œπ‘’π‘”β„Žπ‘‘π‘“π‘’π‘™, π‘Žπ‘›π‘‘ π‘Ž β„Žπ‘’π‘šπ‘π‘™π‘’ 𝑀𝐢. π‘…π‘Žπ‘‘β„Žπ‘’π‘Ÿ π‘‘β„Žπ‘Žπ‘› π‘‘β„Žπ‘’ π‘π‘œπ‘œπ‘™ 𝑔𝑒𝑦 π‘€β„Žπ‘œ π‘‘π‘œπ‘’π‘ π‘›’𝑑 π‘ π‘’π‘’π‘š π‘‘π‘œ π‘π‘Žπ‘Ÿπ‘’ π‘Žπ‘π‘œπ‘’π‘‘ π‘šπ‘’π‘β„Ž.

From here, not much happened. I changed my name, put out a few songs, and then took a year long hiatus.

In the very beginning of 2016 a really good friend of mine whom I used to make music with got ahold of me. This was LifeLesson. He reached out and asked me why I hadn’t been doing too much with hip-hop and I just said I wasn’t feeling it. He asked me if I wanted to perform a few of my old songs at a show with him and I said, why not? Well, I went and performed this show and that night everything changed again. I got to work on writing new music, put out my first EP, and the rest was history. Almost two years later, I put out my first mixtape: Hard Times Bring Harder Rhymes. I’m proud of the project to this day, but I’ve definitely outgrown it. After dropping my first mixtape a lot happened. I was part of several different groups, performed a lot of shows around Vermont, New Hampshire, and Mass, met a lot of MC’s, producers, fans, haters, etc.

2018 came around and I was doing as many shows as I could. Usually 2-3 per weekend as I also work full time to keep the bills paid. I kept thinking about how I needed to put out a proper album. Something that would really show off what I could do. But, I scrapped close to six projects before I landed on something I was feeling. Over 2019 I wrote a lot of music, probably close to 40 songs and I had no idea what my plans were for any of it. But, around November I had an epiphany and everything just started to come together…

π‘‡β„Žπ‘Žπ‘‘ π‘π‘Ÿπ‘–π‘›π‘”π‘  𝑒𝑠 π‘‘π‘œ π‘‘β„Žπ‘’ 𝑛𝑒𝑀 π‘Ÿπ‘’π‘π‘œπ‘Ÿπ‘‘.

In November of 2019 I wrote a song that was inspired by one of my favorite artists, the late and great Mac Miller. Coming up, Mac was always one of my favorite MC’s. His body of work was a huge influence on me. But, when he dropped Swimming my whole perspective on hip-hop changed. That album to me was perfect. And I loved the blend of hip-hop and jazz, it was truly inspiring. I started looking for beats that had a similar feel. I really enjoyed the idea of having a more organic feel to the songs, rather than the more electronic feel that modern hip-hop has taken on. It was also my first time experimenting with singing in my songs, which has really shifted how I make my music. I had a really clear idea of what I wanted the album to be and I decided to call it ‘Clouds‘.

Clouds

I called it that because I’ve always been more of a dreamer, so I thought of the saying ‘Head in the clouds’. And that’s where the name came from. The album is an autobiography on the last decade of my life. I recorded it myself at home, and sent the tracks off to Burlington’s Skysplitter. He did a killer job mixing the album. I’m super proud of it.”

Clouds: Track by Track commentary:

1. La La (Intro)

This was the first track I wrote for the album. And it just set the tone for the record from there. This song is about waking up and just having one of those days where everything goes wrong, but it doesn’t matter. You’re going to see the day through and get ready for tomorrow.

2. Clouds (Day By Day)

This is the title track of the album. And the chorus kinda speaks for itself. It’s about doing what you wanna do even though some people may not approve. It’s also about my life after high school and the experiences I went through after. I wasn’t really sure of who I was from 18 to 25 and it took me a while to figure out. During that time a lot of relationships were severed. But, I learned from it and it’s made me a better person.

3. Rest In Peace

Unfortunately since I turned 18 I have buried many friends. This song speaks for itself. There’s not much to say about it.

4. Higher Thoughts

This song is actually the sequel to La La. It’s all about waking up after that bad day and owning the next day. That shit is yours, and no one is going to take it from you. The second verse also touches on my life as a teenager and going into my twenties. I had a lot of social problems growing up due to anxiety and my desire to fit in.

5. Broken

Growing up I had a huge, happy family. But by the time I was 23 that seemed like a dream. Over the years my grandparents passed, some relationships went sour in the family and things were never the same. It’s something that has bothered me ever since. It also touches on some problems I had with alcoholism in the past, the trouble I had from my family moving around a lot as a kid, and trying to fit in growing up. It’s definitely the most personal song on the album aside from Rest In Peace.

6. Phony Tony

I wanted Clouds to have something a little less serious to give people a break from the heavy tone of the album. So, I wrote Phony Tony. I was going for some fun bars that people could laugh at over a dope beat. It’s definitely a fun track, and I can’t wait to perform it live.

7. Wouldn’t It Be Nice

Wouldn’t It Be Nice is one of my favorite songs on the album. It’s all about the world in 2020 and how times were so much simpler in years past. It’s all about the anxiety that’s been brought on by our modern problems like Covid-19, Racism, the Trump administration, the American government, and the movement that has sparked because of it.

8. Goodbye

Goodbye was the last song I wrote for the record. The meaning behind the title is me saying goodbye to who I used to be. And it’s all about the work I’ve been doing on myself over the past couple years and how I’m going to put the past behind me and become the person I need to be. It was the perfect way to close the record. But, Clouds is going to be continued in my next record…

MODEST

Plans for 2020

“Because of Covid-19, shows have been put on hold for a minute. BUT, there is one huge show in July I will be taking part in. Unfortunately, it’s a secret show so I can’t spill the beans on the info. But, I am hoping to have my camera man there to document the performance so I can post for all my people missing live music. I have other big plans for 2020 though, Clouds is my favorite piece of work I’ve ever come out with. In the middle of making the album I knew I was really starting to discover myself as an artist and what I wanted to do. So, I decided that Clouds was going to be a double album. Coming later this year will be the second half of Clouds, titled, Flying. It’s going to feel like the second half of the album, but Flying is going to be a lot more upbeat and funky. It will still have the same introspective feel, but it will be a lot more fun to dance too!”

The George Floyd protests and Black Lives Matter

‘All I have to say on this subject is, Black Lives Matter. And if anyone has a problem with that, they can leave the country. America is the melting pot, it always has been. Racism needs to be erased from existence. I only hope that everything that has happened this year finally shows people the truth. But the thing that scares me is seeing how real racism really is in our country and in the police force as a whole. There needs to be complete reform.”

Covid-19 pandemic

“No one in our lifetime has seen anything like this. And it’s been a crippling event for both the economy and people’s mental health. Personally it has been quite the obstacle for me as I am an extrovert and am very used to going out and spending time with friends. But, it’s necessary. I know a lot of people write it off as a hoax and or don’t take it seriously and that really bothers me. I’ve taken the ‘better safe than sorry’ approach and that’s how I think everyone should view it. You’re not giving up your rights by wearing a mask, you’re showing that you care about other people and are doing your part to keep others safe. That’s the bottom line.”

Vermont hip hop scene

“Vermont’s hip hop scene has been thriving for the past few years especially. I’ve never seen as many artists coming out of the woodworks as we have lately. There’s a ton of vets, and there’s a ton of fresh talent making themselves known. In normal times it’s easy to find a hip hop show in the 802. For a small state we have a lot to offer.”

Other artists worth a check

Swaga is an artist from South Royalton, Vermont. But he really comes from the bay area in California. His name says it all. He raps with a swag that can’t be matched over hard beats, but there’s also his R&B side that is sure to impress. Here’s a link to his music.

Spacey Jones is from Bradford, Vermont and has a whole library he’s been building for the past few years. You can find all sorts of styles in his music and he’s only getting started. We frequently work together and he has been an invaluable asset to the team for a long time. Here’s a link to his music.

Extra: Top 10 science fiction movies by MODEST

1. Blade Runner 2049. I would say the original, but the sequel was just amazing. I couldn’t have been happier with it.

2. The Thing. Carpenter was always one of my favorites, and The Thing was just such a great movie with a great cast. The effects were amazing for the time as well. I watch this movie regularly.

3. Event Horizon. I saw this movie as a kid and always thought it was just nuts. Another great cast, and one of my favorite endings of all time. So messed up, haha.

4. Alien. Ridley Scott created one of the best scifi universes of all time with the first Alien. It’s also one of the most terrifying movies I’ve ever seen. I think I was about 7 or 8 years old when I first saw it. The chest burster scene haunted me for a long time.

5. Aliens. James Cameron took the helm on the sequel to Alien and he absolutely killed it. Even though this is in place number 5, it holds my number one spot. This movie is balls to the walls from start to finish. To this day I still can’t believe it came out in the 80’s. The effects were astonishing for the time.

6. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. I’m a huge Star Wars nerd. (Do NOT ask me about the new trilogy.) But, Empire is my favorite. The pacing of the movie is perfect, great story telling, amazing effects for the time, and that final battle between Luke and Vader will always be one of favorite moments in cinema. Amazing film.

7. Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring – The whole trilogy is phenomenal. But, my personal favorite has always been Fellowship. Perfect pacing, perfect storytelling, amazing score, amazing cast, and amazing acting. I’ve seen this movie over 500 times easily, haha.

8. Jurassic Park. Saw this as a kid when it first came out, and my parents probably wanted to kill themselves because I watched it every day for like two years. ‘Clever girl.’

9. Transformers. I’ll never forget seeing this in theaters for the first time. It was just an awesome experience and Michael Bay killed it with the first one.

10. Godzilla: King of the Monsters. This is the 2019 version of the film. I saw this in theaters as well, as a kid I was a huge Godzilla fan. So, getting this movie was a dream come true. Seeing Rodan, Mothra, and Ghidora had me jumping out of my seat in the theater and the finale of the movie was everything I could have hoped for. Can’t wait for King Kong Vs Godzilla.

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