Recently L.A. rapper Wax told us about his Internet-generated fame, the raunchy hit video for "Rosana," and being signed to Def Jam. But even more recently he had surprising news: he's parted ways with the label, after being on it for about a year year. (His widely-watched YouTube video announcement is below.)
In our conversation this time around he is unexpectedly upbeat. "I don't care about fame and money as much as I care about making cool music," he claims. Our interview is below.
What happened with Def Jam?
I'd been signed to them for a while, and I've been working on songs. They really wanted me to make a radio single. You know, I gave them songs I thought were singles, but the last batch of songs, they didn't believe in. So they dropped me.
Was it a shock to you when you were dropped from the label?
No. I was happy. I was hoping that it would happen, actually.
Why didn't the label think "Rosana" was a hit, even with all the YouTube views and radio play?
The day after I put the "Rosana" video out, I signed the paper that I was no longer with them. I don't know why they didn't believe in it.
The video was released in July. Were you dropped from the record label when I interviewed you last?
Well, in a sense, I was lying to you last time. We hadn't released the info yet.
Why did it take you so long to break the news?
I was making sure what I could and couldn't say. I was actually thinking you would be the person to break it, but then I thought the best way to do it was to sit in front of a camera and tell the fucking truth to my fans. Did you think you were the jinx? [Laughs].
I was hoping that I wasn't. How have your fans reacted?
They've been positive. They just want me to put out more shit. A lot of my fans never thought this shit was right for me anyway. They never thought I should have been on a major label.
Did the reps at the label work with you to try to make a hit single?
They were putting me in with songwriters that were known to make hits. The songs I was making with these people was stuff they would write for some 16-year-old pop star kid. Most of the things they wanted me to do were gay. I just wasn't into it.
So they wanted you to change your style significantly?
They wanted stuff that sounded more like the music on the radio, but everyone wanted something different. Even they don't know what they want. People meet you and you bring them one of two songs, and they think they know who you are. This one time, this dude was in the studio, and I was in the recording booth. I was going to layer a harmony over this thing that I sang. And he was like, "No, Wax doesn't sing harmonies." That was the first day that I met him.
Did you tell him off?
In my head I thought, "I give up." That's how that session went. I didn't get anything out of it.
You said your new album is going to be released around Halloween. Are you going to use many songs from the Def Jam project, or are you going to make an entirely new album?
I'm definitely using songs from that, and some new ones, too. It's mostly shit I did with them.
Are you going to release the album under another label? Do you have interest in signing with someone else?
I'm putting it out myself. With the Internet, it's really easy. If I put out this album and a label comes on and said, "Yo, we want to blow this album up because we like it," I would consider it. It's not the corporate environment that I have a problem with. I don't give a shit about that. If they try to change what I do, I'm not down with that.
Is the album still untitled?
I think I finalized the title today. I'm going to call it Continued.
What does that mean to you?
It means that, in life, you always have two options: you can either kill yourself, or you can continue. You go through stuff. You lose a girl or you lose a record deal. You might feel bad for a little while. But, you just keep going. You have no choice but to be persistent. You might think getting a record deal is the pinnacle, but it's not.
What do you think is wrong with the music industry today?
When was the last time you paid for an album? It's getting harder and harder to make money. You don't need a major label if you're not Rihanna or Lady Gaga. You can get the word out yourself. The labels really need you to be a huge pop success, and they just follow the formula from the last hit. Everyone is operating off fear. Fear of being fired because something failed. So they go the safe route. They tried a song of mine, and it didn't work. So, it's not totally their fault. It's my fault, too.
Which song didn't work?
They put "Two Wheels" on the radio, and it didn't pick up. I'm not blaming them for that. That song had its problems. It was one of my most popular songs with the fans, but it didn't take off.
You claimed you were really unhappy in your video that you posted. Did you start drinking and doing drugs again?
Honestly, I wouldn't say my level of drinking is any different. It might have been that my reason for drinking was much darker. I just didn't give a shit anymore. I couldn't wait to get out of the studio to drink and not think about that shit. I don't think I knew at the time that was why I was depressed, but now I know for a fact it was that because I'm not anymore. [Looks over to another table]. I like that dude's pants. Is that gay?