Weeks ago, I got in touch with Curbside Jones to chop it up and see what he’s been working on. He sent me some new music and needless to say, I was impressed. He had truly outdone himself.
It’s not everyday that you get to talk to artists that continually overcome obstacles and improve on their work so definitely each time they decide to make a release. The Austin, Texas-based artist/producer joins me to talk about his Wolves’ Clothing EP. He does well to clarify some things for me and the fans while giving us a look at the Hip-Hop music scene in Texas.
First and foremost, thank you for including Artistic Manifesto and myself on this 3 part journey that we’ve been on the past few weeks. We started out with the “Been Wolf” music video. Next, was the release of the Wolves’ Clothing EP. Now, we bring it full circle with an official interview to go more in depth.
Curbside: Thanks for having me! It’s been a very busy couple of weeks.
Wedding bells are in your future. We want to say congratulations to you and your fiancee. We spoke briefly about a trip to Tokyo. Is that a part of the wedding activities, also?
Curbside: Thanks, and yes I’ll be in Shibuya for about 2 weeks for our honeymoon. I’m pretty excited because I love traveling and seeing new places and meeting people. My Japanese is more than rusty but I’m sure we’ll manage with the almighty Google.
Your work has been on Artistic Manifesto over the years, but this is a chance to give fans a more personal look. Tell us a bit about yourself, background, and where you’re from.
Curbside: My background isn’t too colorful or interesting. I’m an army brat so I moved around quite a lot as a kid. I spent some time overseas in Germany for some years (2001-2005), I was also born there. Moving around a lot has shaped my views on the world and it’s why I think worldly. I’ve been to Spain, Italy, Czech, France, Switzerland, and a gang of other places at an age where I was old enough to grasp it. I lived in Fayetteville, NC, for 9 years…so I am the original J. Cole lol.
As far as music, I’ve been recording since I moved to Texas in 2005. I never really had a clear goal until I hit adulthood. I’ve released more music than I can remember or count. I started producing because back then soundclick was like the only place to get beats that weren’t popular instrumentals. I worked at McDonald’s, so ya boy wasn’t balling at all and I just became self sufficient.
Outside of music I work at an RTC for severely neglected and abused children. My title is Therapeutic Child Care Specialist level 2 (soon to be promoted to level 3). I enjoy anime, jrpgs, fashion, and recently I’ve gotten into the Pokémon TCG. I’ve been building decks and playing here and there. I collected cards as kid super heavy, but playing is almost more satisfying.
When it comes to your music, I always find myself singing your praises. You truly create a full package for your fans. The music is deep and it balances with your formidable production. Beyond that, your concepts are on point. How did you come up with the idea for the Wolves’ Clothing project?
Curbside: Wolves’ Clothing came from an idea I saw in a movie. I was watching ‘Zootopia’ and at the end the sheep tricked everyone and was evil. Why? She was fed up with how society treated her kind and those like her. I took that concept and applied it to my life and everything just fell into place.
After having conversations with friends, the concept seemed to be getting positive reviews, so I decided to stick with it. People were saying, “Man, how do you come up with this stuff?” Aesthetically, I was thinking about the cartoon ‘Sheep in the Big City.’ You can see those similar colors in the Been Wolf video. Shout out to Digsbot! Sonically, I wanted it to sound like what I would imagine a thrift store would sound like if it were a project.
The creative process can look different for everyone. I’m curious about yours because you handle so much that goes into your final product. What’s the process like when it comes to crafting the instrumentals, recording, creating the visuals, and everything in between?
Curbside: First, I start with a vision board/image to keep me from straying too far from the original idea. I’ll find a picture on the internet or an art magazine and I’ll have it up somewhere where I can always reference it when I’m not sure of something. The vision board is actually more for the production because if something doesn’t sound like it goes with the picture or feel like the colors in the picture it gets scrapped, or saved for something else.
I never make all the beats up front because most of the time I alter them or I make something that’s more fitting for what I’m trying to do. I’m probably the worlds slowest verse writer so it can take me anywhere from a month-three months to finish a song. I usually start with a bar or two here and there then I piece all the fragments together to make a verse. I pay close attention to how I’m saying things and I believe each word has to have a reason to be in the verse. This could be why people say my songs are packed with a lot of subject matter.
Recording usually happens off and on when I’m working on a project because some days I feel it and others I don’t. I’ve gotten into the habit of recording a song at least 3 times before I go in and do spot treatment to tighten up delivery and adding fill-ins.
Visuals are tied into the vision board I mentioned and are usually completed close to the end of the project. If the cover doesn’t fit the music I need to either change something about the music or change the cover. Mixing and engineering come last because it’s the most time consuming of all the elements, and since I’m self taught I go through phases where I doubt my own abilities and I take breaks from the music.
Give us more clarification on the sheep analogy. You definitely gave us those looks in the raps, so tell us more about how you have been the sheep in your life. What are some experiences you’ve been through that made you feel like the “sheep” of society?
Curbside: The answers are in the verses. I’m very transparent on this project so everything you hear is my actual life – dealing with the death of friends, ending relationships that led to suicide attempts, my relationship with my father, being cheated on, hyper masculinity, feeling like I’m not where I’m supposed to be with music, being denied by society due to the color of my skin…it’s all there.
The analogy is that we’re all born as, “pure” beings, similar to how sheep are seen; white wool, they need to be led by someone, and they are protected by something more dominant because they lack that power to do so. What if those who are the sheep get tired of having to be seen as weak and want to break the mold? What is the breaking point for the sheep? We always hear of the wolf fitting in to take advantage of the sheep, but what if the sheep wanted to fit in with the wolves? I wanted the listeners to look within themselves and make their own answers after hearing my stories.
I remember I watched the movie ‘Moonlight’ and talked to one of my friends about it and he said that ‘Moonlight’ and Wolves’ Clothing exist in the same realm. I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone, but the choices made in ‘Moonlight’ are the same ones that many black males have to make to not be seen as a sheep.
While talking to my friend he told me he could relate to Wolves’ Clothing because he feels like he’s 3 different people; he has a street persona, a persona around me, and a persona around his kids and family. He admitted he didn’t want to be a wolf, but in order to survive and not be preyed on, he had to adapt and become what he resented the most. Wolves’ Clothing is my story, but on a worldly view I wanted to make something that young black males could see and say, “Damn, I’m not the only one.”
Accepting one’s blessings before it’s too late is the morale of the EP…sadly the sheep didn’t learn that lesson in time, sadly it’s an ending that we’ve all seen play out many times in black neighborhoods.
There are certain areas around the U.S. that people typically consider “Hip-Hop hubs.” They’re usually large markets/big cities. Texas is one of them, particularly Houston. You’re actually based out of Austin, Texas. Tell us a bit about the Hip-Hop and overall music scene there.
Curbside: Austin hip hop is a strange thing to me and it’s hard to explain. I think the problem I have is that 1) There aren’t many black peoples here to gate-keep the culture 2) Too many hipsters and festivals/venues that aren’t willing to have rap or hip hop artists/fans in their lineups out of fear. There are some really good acts in the city, but often times I don’t see them get the credit they deserve because too many people are focused on trendy stuff.
What are some things that need to be improved in Austin Hip-Hop and how can it be achieved?
Curbside: I feel like if the artists in Austin stop with these petty local beefs, drop the egos, work together, and spent more time creating quality work, things could go far. All of the big scenes that got noticed on a national level did it because everyone worked together for a greater good. I try to help out people but most of the time they flake and are all talk.
As for the fans, they need to actually come out to events, spread the work of local talent outside the city, and stop letting these hipsters dictate what’s hip hop and who should be “on.” The radio stations, hosts, and curators need to actually curate and bring the quality to the light and use their platform for more than just clout.
I’ll be the first artist to tell you, I don’t get much love in my local scene at all unless it’s a live show. The love, support, and opportunities I get are mostly coming from out of state. I’ve have more people approach me via the internet to work and do things than in the city and it’s very odd. I know people that could help me out but they choose not to and that’s ok because like I mentioned earlier, it’s bigger than a local scene in the end. I will say shout out to ovrld for their continuous support and being one of the few media outlets in the city that actually pushes artists of all genres.
I feel that. Sometimes, creatives get wrapped up in an imaginary rat race when there is actually room for us all to win. I’m all about connecting the dots and creating opportunities. Who are some artists in Austin and Texas, overall, that we should all be looking out for? Also, who are some people you’d like to work with creatively there?
Curbside: All the cats I’d like to work with in Austin I’ve worked with except for Boombaptist, Deezie Brown, and this group called MDK (Mindz of a Different Kind). I feel like people should look out for them along with Dre Prince, Jake Lloyd, Pliny Science, Rippa, and Lonely Child, those are all the homies/acquaintances and I feel they all bring something different to the table, even outside of hip hop.
A manifesto is a declaration of intents and principles. What is your Artistic Manifesto?
Curbside: My Artistic Manifesto is simple – Do it for you and make yourself happy before others.