The most complex relationship in rapper Bryce Vine's life is with the city of Los Angeles. "My ego wants people to know I'm not Cali-born," says the 27-year-old rapper, "because I feel like I have a very East Coast mentality."
Vine spent most of his childhood living in L.A. County and currently lives in Hollywood, a city he feels still deserves its reputation of being unrealistic and self-indulgent. "L.A. is what happens if you had heaven's weather and hell's population," he says.
In a new song, aptly titled "Los Angeles," Vine raps, "I hate it/Maybe just enough to vacate it/Because the more I learn in Los Angeles, the less I think about staying." Los Angeles also serves as the backdrop to the anti-muse anthem "Glamorama," another track from his just-released new album, Night Circus.
"It's really a lack of options," he says of the album's omnipresent L.A. theme. "It's where I live."
Vine, who revels in '90s nostalgia, first caught our ear when we heard "The Thug Song," a throwback rap track that samples Green Day's "Brain Stew." It's a ballsy song, something the Green Day fans leaving nasty comments on the song's YouTube page don't seem to appreciate.
During our interview, Vine can't stop gushing about his parents, actress Tracey Ross ("the best person I know or have ever met") and restaurateur Brad Johnson ("a very hard worker and an extremely easy person to admire"). He attributes the core of his character to a humble upbringing in which he and his mother shared a small apartment in New York City before moving West so she could pursue her acting career.
"My dad is naturally charming and treats every guest that comes into one of his restaurants like family and makes them feel special and appreciated," he said. "And my mom was a rarity in the industry in that she never shorted her own values to get ahead. She's also never done a drug in her life and also always chose me over everything else. Our relationship was more important to her than any opportunity — even when she was broke."
His mother landed a lead role on the daytime drama series Passions, which allowed Bryce to spend the majority of his youth in Westlake Village, an affluent suburban enclave that straddles Ventura and Los Angeles counties. Some of his closest childhood friendships were solidified aboard his mom's small party boat named Laissez-Faire (the inspiration behind the title of his debut EP, Lazy Fair).
A friend of Bryce's mother suggested that he send an audition tape to The Glee Project, a reality series that served as an audition for Fox's Glee series. Vine, then still going by his given name, Bryce Ross-Johnson, was one of the 12 finalists but was the first to be eliminated — an outcome for which he is thankful now. "That was not the right place for me," he says.
Fast-forward five years to today, and Vine is riding the highs of college tours and posing in photos with fans (mostly female), some of whom drove up to 35 hours to see him perform in Charlotte, North Carolina, earlier this month. It's easy to see why he's a success with the college crowd: His style is diverse and his lyrics are infused with a millennial's social tribulations.
Fans might be surprised to know the rapper is most influenced by his favorite band, Third Eye Blind. In fact, "Semi-Charmed Life" is the type of song Vine most aspires to write: intelligent and honest lyrics topped with an infectious chorus.
"I have never met Stephan Jenkins but 3EB did favorite my tweet about them one time, so I feel like we are pretty close now," he jokes.
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When asked if he would consider contacting Jenkins for a collaboration, Bryce is hesitant. "I will as soon as I'm more famous," he says. "Maybe he'll follow me back on Twitter. Dream big."
Bryce Vine will be performing Saturday, March 26, at the Roxy. More info.