As music fans we’re always on the hunt for new sounds and creators. Through Highsnobiety Soundsystem Co-signs we’re connecting with the next generation of artists that we’re excited about. These are the origin stories of those pushing boundaries and shaping the future of music culture.
Where: Los Angeles
For Fans Of: Ty Dolla $ign, 6LACK, Buddy
Playlisted: “Overrated,” “Pressure,” “Be Alone”
At the beginning of December, those approaching the corner of Melrose Ave and Spaulding Ave in Fairfax, Los Angeles were struck with the declaration that “I ain’t heard one bad Blxst song.” It’s unlikely that many will have disagreed with the statement on the billboard overhead.
Blxst is Los Angeles’ worst kept secret. He’s the artist you itch to tell your friends about; as a result, his music was passed around the globe this year via word of mouth, while he sat home and watched. Despite acclaim for his debut project No Love Lost, an international fanbase, tracks on Hollywood movie soundtracks, and support from a host of musicians and sports personalities, he’s yet to even play a headline show in his hometown.
“Once a certain amount of people start speaking about you, then it becomes a trend,” says Blxst from his living room sofa early one morning. “So now it’s kind of a cool thing to listen to Blxst, which I’m aware of, but also that spreads out of LA as well… I’m building a foundation instead of shooting straight to the top. Which I appreciate, because it’s a real support system.”
While many musicians concern themselves with building big moments and going viral, Blxst would rather chip away with consistent quality. That mentality was part of his musical DNA before he ever thought about recording. He remembers his mother’s neo-soul leaning record collection – D’Angelo, Lauryn Hill and Jill Scott – and made his own lifelong connection to music when she picked up a copy of Kanye West’s Graduation. “Most of my favorite artists have a good catalog,” he says. “Even when we see the Verzuz battles it’s all based off catalog. And I just wanna start my classics now. I wanna be able to perform these songs ten years from now, and I wanna keep putting that quality out.”
Blxst’s music-making journey began at 13, when his family had relocated to the Inland Empire in Southern California after his sister was jumped, and his mother wanted to keep her only boy safe. While adapting to his new environment, he channelled feelings of isolation into creativity. “You feel like the oddball. It kinda made me go into my shell. It made me keep to myself and find out who I am as an individual,” he recalls.
With a laptop that his father gave him (and a USB mic procured from a pawn shop), he’d make the most of whatever free 14-day trial software he could get his hands on, devouring YouTube tutorials on recording, beat-making, post-production and graphic design. No Love Lost continues in this DIY vein. Blxst admits that his setup hasn’t changed all that much since his teens, and the majority of the project was recorded at home. “I can create in any circumstance: I’m used to recording in my room and building from nothing,” he says. “I plug my aux into my laptop and I just vibe out.”
Shot by photographer Brandon Hicks, No Love Lost’s cover art depicts the intimacy and vulnerability of Blxst’s creative process: in the candid monochromatic portrait, Blxst looks as though the weight of the world is on his shoulders, while his hair is being braided by his son’s mother. The project is a snapshot of an artist in pursuit of his dream, on the verge of making it, documenting the highs and lows of his experience as they happen in real time. “It’s easier to be authentic, because you don’t have to try,” says Blxst. “Once you get past that wall of not caring what other people think, then you can just feel free to spill it all out, and it’s actually rewarding at the same time too. It was like therapy, making this project. I was going through a lot mentally, and to let it out was much needed.”
Finding the balance of career and family has been the most difficult thing he’s had to deal with in his pursuit of musical success – and that conflict burns at the core of the record. “I’m still learning, but that’s definitely been the biggest challenge so far,” he confesses. Testament to just how fine that balance can be, Blxst would often find himself recording with his son on his lap. “When I’m in the studio he come in trying to press keys and stuff, so he’s always around,” he says, laughing. “Man, it’s annoying, first and foremost. But you can’t let that inspiration die. When I feel inspired I don’t care what’s going on. I gotta work. So even if that’s having to put him on my lap while I’m working, then that’s just what it is.”
While he felt confident in his debut, Blxst admits that he wasn’t expecting the overwhelming response that No Love Lost received – prompting the expansion of the project for its deluxe edition. “I’m proud of just being able to stay true – actually tell a story, speak on events that I really went through, and actually get a good reception off of it,” he reflects. Now he just wants to take the music, that’s translated from his living room across the world, to the live stage: “Creating a buzz in your own city, the first thing you want to do is headline a show,” he concludes. “And I haven’t been able to do that yet, which is top on my priority list for sure.”