With the release of his sophomore album, Uncomfortable, Hip-Hop artist Andy Mineo has created a thought-provoking and conversation-starting masterpiece. Executive produced by !llmind, the album is a an evolution from his debut album, 2013’s Heroes For Sale. Signed to Reach Records with the likes of Lecrae and Trip Lee, Andy Mineo is an incredibly thoughtful and deliberate soul who uses Hip-Hop as a tool for conversation in addition to artistic expression. The riveting performer, Mineo took some time out to speak with Parlé Magazine to discuss the recently released album as well as his views on the current state of Hip-Hop.
Parlé Magazine: For those who might not be familiar with Andy Mineo, give them a quick introduction.
Andy Mineo: To put it simply, I am a mid-twenty-year-old rapper from Syracuse, New York. I am a recently married man. I’m inspired by things in my life, my faith and good art. Those are some the biggest points that describe me as a person.
Parlé: What in your life made you want to get into Hip-Hop music and become an artist?
Andy Mineo: Hip-Hop is the music of our generation. So growing up, I was a huge Hip-Hop fan. It was always around, and I was hugely inspired by it. Early on, I was a break-dancer, and I used to buy the CD singles because I was too cheap to buy the full albums. Actually, I was too young and poor to afford the full albums. My friends and I would get the single CDs and break dance to them, and some of them had instrumentals on there. One day, we grabbed pens and starting writing to the instrumentals. We were inspired by the rappers, who came before us to create our own vibe and express ourselves. One reason Hip-Hop has always been an alluring culture to me is because of the lack of male father figures and men in my life. Hip-Hop always had a strong presence of men that I would gravitate towards. Those are just some of the reasons why I fell in love with Hip-Hop. It’s an opportunity for me to express myself artistically.
Parlé: Let’s talk about the sophomore album. Why the title, Uncomfortable?
Andy Mineo: I chose the name Uncomfortable as the title of my album because it is an honest reflection of where I am, who I am and where my music is. That word just kind of encompasses really where I am in my life right now, an uncomfortable space. My life doesn’t make sense for lots of different reasons. With this project, I was trying to be honest about that and invite other people into that. I want people to know that it’s ok to be uncomfortable. I think Hip-Hop has such an arrogance and flaunting of itself, you know from the money and the flashy things. I wanted to create a space of honesty, and hopefully that space would create meaningful conversations, experiences and moments with people because that is more of what I’m about. I’m about putting out meaningful art rather than music that is just about anything. If I have an opportunity to be an influence in somebodies life, I want to be one positively. Doing that through creating honest music, being relatable and vulnerable is what I am trying to do.
Parlé: Who are some of the influences behind your music?
Andy Mineo: Cole and Kendrick Lamar are great influences. I feel like Drake is influencing everyone right now primarily because of his ability to incorporate melody into Hip-Hop music. This concept has made it a lot easier for me to use some of my singing abilities in Hip-Hop and not have it be viewed as taboo. There were a lot of rappers using melody before him, but he opened that lane for a lot of artists. He created his own genre of music in a sense. I am influenced by good art period. I try not to listen to too many other rappers. I respect everyone, and I love their artwork, but I’m trying to create my own lane and my own distinguished sound. Those guys are great and I keep up with them, but I try not to listen too much to them. What has formed me as a Hip-Hop artist, from the past, are a lot of greats. People like Nas, Biggie, Eminem, Jay-Z were around when I was growing up and created that spirit in me to be the best lyricist I can be. I listen to all kinds of music and I pull from whatever is good. I said this in another interview recently, “I don’t believe that there are many genres of music. I think there’s only two, there’s good music and bad music. Wherever there is good music, I’m going to enjoy it and find inspiration in it.”
Parlé: You mention you are looking to create your own lane of music, how would you describe your music?
Andy Mineo: I would say my music is very eclectic, which comes from me being inspired by so many different things. Just by looking at my wardrobe, you can tell that’s the kind of person I am. I like a lot of different things. It is hard for me just to get locked into one type of mindset, which is beneficial to me but also has been a detriment to me. Let’s say that your strengths are your weakness, so for me that’s been true. I tried to meld my being eclectic and my love for various types of music into my previous projects. I think in the past that melding has hurt me. It made my album sound a lot like a playlist. The music and the soundscape are everywhere. On Uncomfortable I was intentional about creating a body of work that felt cohesive, but still had enough variety to make you feel like you’re not listening to the same song. So I would describe my music as eclectic, energetic, and insightful. I think that a big goal of mine when creating artwork is to create stuff that is provocative and helps people have meaningful conversations and moments. You’ll notice on this album specifically that there is a lot of live instrumentation, solos and moving parts.
Parlé: What made you choose to start the Saturday Morning Car Tunez show?
Andy Mineo: Everything that I do is based on inspiration. For example, I’ve always been inspired by seeing the creative process from other artists, such as the Behind the Music segments and documentaries. I love hearing a song, and it mean something to me and later finding footage on how the project was created. I love to scour YouTube to find footage of Kanye in the studio, for example when he was working on a record with Maroon 5. To see video footage of those sessions is very inspiring. You have such a great finished product and being able to peek in on the process has always been something I loved. I always wanted to be able to offer that to my fan base and those who are interested in who I am. I took that inspiration and transferred that idea to say let’s document the creative process and give people an extra piece of media and content to peer into the story of the album. That’s how Saturday Morning Tunez was birthed. Every Saturday morning, people would tune in and get to see the creative process of each project that I put out. It is something that I’m very proud of.
Parlé: Your album covers so many different topics, do you fear that listeners will not be able to comprehend and appreciate your music or do you just hope for the best?
Andy Mineo: It’s a little bit of both really. It also matters when you say words like greatness and success; those things are relative to each individual. So success for me isn’t necessarily what you would consider to be chart popping and fame. Those are aspects of success. True success for me is faithfulness to doing what I originally set out to do. That is what success and greatness are for me. When you create a body of work you want as many people as possible to experience it, you feel like it is great. Who doesn’t want to share something with the world when you love it and enjoy it? That’s one of the things where I say I’m content with what I’m doing because I’m fulfilling and being faithful to what I set out to do. At the same time, you always want to maximize the potential of your artwork. Even for me, I’m sitting here thinking that there has to be better music on the radio between the ten artists that just spun nonstop. I want to be the one to discover who those other people are. There are tons of people who have never heard me on the radio, and I’m sure if they did, they would say “man where’s this music from? I would love to hear more from this person.” The message that I bring does ostracize me in some ways because of stigmas that come along with rappers who are conscience about lots of things, but I think that is more of the gatekeepers issue than mine.
Parlé: On your track “Vendetta,” you make the comment, “Cause Pac did a lot more for me than Barack.” Talk about what you meant by that line?
Andy Mineo: I’m a writer and I use symbolism, words and people for ideas and messages. A lot of people have been asking me about that record because they think that it’s a literal shot at Barack Obama. In a lot of ways, the comment is not. It’s just using those two people, who are symbols of two different worlds. 2Pac is a huge symbol of Hip-Hop and Barack Obama is a huge symbol of politics. I’m just saying that Hip-Hop and the arts have done more to shape who I am than political structures. If you listen to the record, it says a lot of things like “Mr. Mr. or Mrs. Politician, you just can’t relate to how we are living. Artists are more influential than the politicians.” Those are lyrics that are just true to me that I’m able to relate and connect with the people who speak to my heart and those are typically the artists. There is a lot of power in the hands of the artists and they should not neglect that. We should say something meaningful since we have access to so many people’s hearts.
Parlé: What was one of your favorite tracks to work on?
Andy Mineo: I would say “Uptown” was one of my favorite tracks to create. That record for me is very special for lots of reasons. The first being that I’m talking about uptown, which is where I live, and it’s nostalgic for me. The second reason is it has an incredible, simple Hip-Hop feel that I feel like is missing in music right now. There is a lot of live instrumentation with the trumpets on there, and lastly an interesting song structure. The song doesn’t have a true chorus, and it doesn’t have a true structure because the song evolves. It goes from a rap verse to kind of a chorus breakdown to a rap verse to a kind of turn-up section to a jam out musical sing-a-long section to a Spanish section. What songs are evolving like that in music right now? I wouldn’t say many. I’m excited about that record because I took risks just to do me, and I think it came out artistically excellent. I want to be an innovator in music in that way, and I think that that song is a step in that direction. You hear records, and they are all Hip-Hop, all turn-up and Southern or they are all musical and sing-songy. I was able to find a cohesive way to bring all those things together, and that’s the direction I’m excited about stepping into with my next project.
Parlé: What can we expect from you in the future?
Andy Mineo: I think Uncomfortable was a steppingstone in a new direction for me as an artist. I think going through this process and creating this album has created confidence in me when trying new things. This is especially true based on the response that this album has gotten, which has just been all flame emojis. People are enjoying it and I’m surprised by that because I didn’t go with the current sound of music. I did what I thought was dope, which gives me a lot of creative freedom to continue to go down that path and create new inspiring pieces of work. I feel like you are going to get more innovation and more songs that break the current structure of music and that are innovating and exciting. I feel like I’m starting to find my sound and I think the next record is going to be defined. It is going to be Uncomfortable times ten. It will be just a far better record. I love the record as it is now, but I think I’m going to have the time and the team together for the next one to tie it all together. You can definitely expect continued growth. I’m passionate about the craft. I don’t do this for the money or any other reason besides the fact that I love it. If I continue to be passionate and excited about the music, I think you’re going to get that. I think you are going to get what Kanye was creating when he was 26/27 years old. My passion is in innovating and creating awesome bodies of work right now and I want to create as much as I possibly can while I still have that vigor.
Parlé: Do you have any last comments for listeners and readers?
Andy Mineo: Come and see me on the Uncomfortable Tour this Fall. I will be hitting 30 cities. You can purchase tickets at AndyMineo.com. Come out and see Uncomfortable with the live experience. I’ll be at Irving Plaza in New York City on October 30th.
Images by Robbie Klein