Photography by Oscar Valdez.
Brian had the pleasure of interviewing Joaquin Pineda and keep track of his artistry, from inspiration to the creative process. It’s only a matter of time before he releases something new and fresh to his Soundcloud. As one of the few rappers in the School of Architecture, he delivers ingenuity through his music while he wraps up his Master of Architecture track this semester. Questions asked by Brian are bolded, answers are left in regular.Featured on Volume 2.
When did you start creating music? Ever since I was 9, I would write poems and random thoughts down onto paper. Once, in 7th grade, I was asked to read my poetry out loud in front of the class. I had the best one, and so I decided that was what I was good at. It wasn’t even always poetry, but just words that rhymed. About anything: girls, life. Damn she has nice hair, why is life unfair. Stupid shit like that [laughs]. My friend Mike, wants a brand new bike. Wants to fly a kite. Nursery rhymes. I had a notebook where it eventually transformed into Hip Hop. In middle school I became more exposed to different genres of music. Middle school was also a crazy time for me: I would skip class, get into fights, and graffiti on teacher’s doors. You were that rebellious, poetry-writing, kid. Yea. Like that movie Dead Poets Society [Laughs]. I’ve always been to myself, even in High School where everybody knew me and i would speak to everyone, but I would still sit alone. I was super social, but I liked being by myself sometimes. I’m an introvert. That’s exactly what being an introvert is like! How would you like being famous? I don’t want to be famous. I want to be local. I want for my city to know who I am. And what does it mean when you say I put on for my city? Kanye made that famous. It means that you represent your city and you do what your city does. Miami is a huge melting pot. You can do anything in this city and still get recognized. A lot of these artists who paint on [Wynwood] walls, for example, are not that well known; they’re local. But when you visit Wynwood and see their murals, you’re like Damn, I really fucking like that! You post it on your Instagram, and even though you don’t know who it is, you like it, share it, and relate to it. That’s the effect I want to create with my music.
Do you put all your energy into your music? With everything you do you should put all your energy into it. That’s just a successful human being’s qualities. And I’m not cocky, but rappers like Kanye and Jay-Z, or even rap in general, are cocky. I got cars, bitches, and chains. You want to sound confident but not cocky, that’s the key. You don’t want people to hate you, or think Damn this guy thinks he’s the shit. I want to inspire, that’s the difference.
Where are you from? Nicaragua and Cuba. Really?! Yea, I was born here though. Most people mistake me for Dominican or Puerto Rican [Laughs].
We know you write your own lyrics. Which one of your lyrics do you think is best to you and why? Or what was your most clever line? Damn, I don’t know, I have written so much music. Those 2 mixtapes on Soundcloud are at least 2 years old already. When will you release a new mixtape/album? I’ve written a bunch of things down but there’s no theme to it. For me to release a new tape it has to have a cohesive feeling or thought throughout. You have to think of one song as a cohesive piece, and then the album as a whole also needs to come together.
Do you dictate your life experiences or narrate a personal story through your lyrics? What would you say it’s really about? I like for my songs to have meaning. Or just something clever. For example, if I make a song about a girl, I try to add symbolism or metaphors. On Mile High Club, I personify Mary Jane and that’s what’s clever about that. I use terms for smoking or rolling up as relating to relationships between two people. I feel like artists find things from their life and others lives and make it relevant. Its kind of like us in architecture: we create a concept based on nature or whatever and make it be what we want it to be. It might be something that happened to me or a friend or maybe something I witnessed, and then I’ll make it as the theme to the song. Another key thing is that I try to be relatable. I try to be relevant in the sense of timelessness, where I can say something that you can relate to and it’ll still hold true years down the line.
What is your creative process? Drugs. What was The Beatles’ creative process? Jimi Hendrix? It was drugs [Laughs]! My process starts like this: I hang out with my boys who also have an interest in music and we freestyle. And freestyling is a lot like sketching: you’re just throwing out ideas even though it might not make any sense whatsoever, but that’s the spirit of it. What we do is we bring up Pandora on one of our phones, put on a station with instrumentals (no lyrics), grab our blunt, and freestyle. And we’re recording the whole thing! Everything. Even when the commercial comes on, we do skits or just mess around. Has studying architecture helped in making music? Hell yeah. I wouldn’t say architecture per se, but the design process. It applies to art and even science; in science you have a hypothesis or proposal, and you try to see if it works with process or experimentation.
How do you come up with clever lines? I like writing lyrics completely alone, and in my room. It’s my haven. I draw all over the walls and shit. It’s where I’m most comfortable. It’s me. That’s cool because now when I listen to your music, I’ll know that it was written when you were alone with your thoughts, and away from any influence. Like I said, I’m kind of an introvert when I’m creating stuff. I don’t like for people to influence them. With architecture, I don’t like look at precedent, because I feel like it blocks my mind and forces me to see a certain image. You get a tendency to do the same thing, even subconsciously. For example, let’s say I listen to Eminem all day and then I write lyrics, everything is going to flow and start to sound like Eminem whether I want it to or not. That goes back to what you said about originality, that there’s no such thing. Yea, I think it represents Hip Hop. Hip Hop is a collage of things, and it’s up to you to know the history of it and know what combination of things work. Every artist has a style, and I’m still trying to find mine. You’re nothing without your style. What made Ronchamp have a style? Or Pollock? There has to be a consistency with your product. But I’m still young, and I’m evolving, ultimately finding my niche and my sound.
How do you come up with beats, is it random or is there a process behind it? There’s different ways: you can either find a beat to write your lyrics around, or you can write first and get a beat produced specifically for it. I personally write to the beat, so I find it first, and then I write. Do you produce your own beats? I find them on the internet and I steal them [Laughs]. I have a plugin on my Firefox that can download any sound online. Any sound. No way! Awesome [Laughs]. So okay, I want to ask you this. You know how you have classical or Renaissance art, and then you have contemporary art where it’s people copying and pasting old art and putting it into the new? Do you think music is like that nowadays? I feel like there’s no real originality anymore. It doesn’t exist. It’s hard to come up with something brand new. But that’s something that has always existed in Hip Hop, though. The first Hip Hop artists sampled blues and sounds from other genres like Jazz, etc. and look at what they’ve created. But lately it’s not about sampling anymore.
Why are some of your songs so short? I’m just trying to create a different format for music. Everything nowadays, because of technology, has became so fast and sped up. Most people don’t even listen to a whole song anymore. I like messing around with the formats: just the hook and the verse. It’s short, sweet, and to the point. The good part about it is that it leaves you wanting more. It’s a strategic plan to make you interested enough to listen to my full length songs. A lot of people challenge the format. Eminem, for example, who’s my favorite rapper, plays around with this idea in his last few albums. His story is mainly about overcoming hard times, especially recently how he almost died from drug overdose (Relapse, 2009, and Recovery, 2010). He went through a tough phase in life, and he became addicted to sleeping pills, drugs, and his best friend died. For me, my message is just to be yourself; to do whatever you want. If there’s a stereotype for what a rapper is, I want to break that mold.
Who’s your inspiration? You mentioned Eminem. Ludacris and Eminem, both of them are my inspiration. Lately, though, Ludacris has gone into acting and other businesses. But when he did music, I really liked how animated he was. Like when he would say bitch, he’d be like “BEEEATCH”. I love that. You can see some similarities between Ludacris and Eminem (in his early days). Eminem was really animated, too. What do you think of rappers nowadays? I think the whole genre has gone to shit. There’s no thesis or main idea behind it anymore. So many shitty songs out. What makes shitty songs so successful? There’s so much to it. I have friends, for example, that know Rick Ross’s crew based here in Miami, including his engineers, and stuff like that. All you need to do is know one of them, have some basic rhyming skills, and they’ll put your stuff out. Also, a catchy beat, and a catchy hook will sell your song better than anything else.
[As Brian was recording the interview, he almost mistakenly erased the entire recording by overriding a new one over it.] That’s happened a few times to me before! Since I use the same recording app on the iPhone. It sucks. Sometimes I do the best freestyle of my life – that sounds like a verse – then I LOSE it. And it’s hard to repeat that kind of stuff! Yea! There’s a famous line by Kanye West that goes: I forgot better shit than you ever thought of. It’s like saying I’ve forgotten awesome rhymes that you never even thought of! [Laughs]. That’s a good quote! You like Kanye West? I like his mindset. Maybe not his music, but I like him more as a producer and an orchestrator. He’s good as an artist though, because he’s all about pushing limits. If you think his music is weird, he accomplished his task. So that line always strikes me. Every time I don’t record a freestyle or I forget it, I’m like DAMN, nobody is ever going to think of that or even know it. In one of your songs you say “I could be Yeezy or Cole for all I know.” What do you mean by this? That line is from Typical Rapper, and it’s about a girl who I like but is not interested. She’s not interested because I’m a typical rapper. It’s about me breaking from the stereotype and claiming I’m not the typical rapper. That thought that you have to be ghetto, or from the hood. Not an architecture graduate. Right, not an architecture graduate. Which I think would be pretty interesting to be an architect and a rapper. A lot of people compare my music to Kanye’s and J. Cole’s. What do you think the reason is for that comparison? I think because my voice sounds like theirs sometimes. Also, J Cole is someone you could relate to. He’s very educated, and talks about real-life issues, such as #blacklivesmatter. To me he’s like the new age Tupac. And Tupac really started a movement, and motivated followers to make a change. I could see J. Cole doing that, too, in a contemporary sense. But back to you trying to break the mold, which is also why you make your songs short, does that also have something to do with your album covers? I designed both of my album covers. In one of them, I made myself into a silhouette, and I triangulated it to make it as if it’s my own vision, or my view of the world. In the other mixtape, I sampled music from a producer, whose mixtape was called Make Do, so mine was called Make Smoove. I made it smoother. The sound is really good, too! In one of your songs the background voice in the beginning is so catchy and mesmerizing. I sometimes find background sounds that inspire me and sound really good and sample them. The one you’re talking about is on Soundcloud, We Don’t All Hear, and it’s about how many people do not perceive what the artist is trying to say. At the end of the chorus I say, “Lend me your ears this time, ‘cause we don’t all hear.” We hear the beat, and the catchy hook or chorus, but we don’t listen to the lyrics.
What is Dirty5ive? Dirty(f)ive is derived from 305, while also representing the Dirty South. The grimy, slimy look to the logo eludes to that. And Dirty5ive is the collective? Dirty5ive is the label. It’s a collective thing, similar to the Wu-Tang Clan. A few of the members are connections made from open mic events, or people I knew who just make good music. We go to open mic events and spit. I went to a few, like one called Vice City Cypher, which showcases local talent. It’s a great place to network. You buy drinks, chill with the people, and exchange emails. That’s the only way to network: to go out there and meet them in person. It makes a huge difference when you see the artist perform in person rather than just listening to them digitally.
How do you stay AWAKE? Café Cubano and Red Bulls.
Follow his SoundCloud: www.soundcloud.com/jackse