Vocalo sat down with Minneapolis singer, rapper, dancer and “the greatest since ’96” Aaron Aye at this year’s Lollapalooza to talk about his latest projects Orphan EP and full-length F.E.A.R., as well as his love of dance and the Minneapolis rap scene.
Gabe Mendoza: You’ve had a busy 12 months. You’ve released the Orphan EP last year, and now you have F.E.A.R., a full-length album that just dropped this year. Talk about your creative mindset recording these projects. As I understand, you were working on both of those project at the same time.
Aaron Aye: Well, I think that for these two bodies of work, it made sense to do them together. But I know that moving forward, I would probably do certain things differently just because I’m always one album ahead of whatever’s coming out. And the hardest thing for me to do sometimes is when I’m in a new space and having to go back to whatever space I was in when I made that album and put myself in the mindset because you’ve got to promote it, you’ve got to talk about it, you’ve got to perform it, and I love that but, at the same time, by the time you hear it, I’m in a whole different space. So, I think moving forward, I would want to drop things more in line with whatever’s happening right now.
You’ve had quite a life that you’ve been able to express in your music. For those who are not in the know yet and who are still learning about who Aaron Aye is, you lost your mother early; you don’t have a strong relationship with your father, which is where the “Orphan” EP title comes from. But you still carry a lot of your mother’s wisdom with you and express a lot of it in your music, including the song “Over My Head,” where she advises you: “don’t trust people,” and you’re grasping a lot of her wisdom and lessons but sometimes it comes after the fact…
Yeah, 100%!! It’s been a lot of trial and error for me because she passed away when I was 15 and ever since then I’ve had to figure things out on my own. I had influences and certain people who are there to support and guide me but, you know, there’s nothing like the unconditional love that you get from your mother or your dad, whom I never knew. So I had to figure things out on my own, and I didn’t put together some of the things that she was saying to me because it hadn’t happened yet, whatever scenarios that she was trying to prepare me for. You know, you’re a little kid and your mom is talking to you about all these things, and you’re like “yeah, I hear you” but like that’s not my reality. And then years later, you end up in situations where you’re like, oh, she kind of warned me about that. That’s just what comes with being young sometimes.
One of the other things I’ve read was that your mom kind of encouraged you to be a triple threat: to not only be a performer but be a producer and also learn how to dance. And you learned that through YouTube and watching Michael Jackson perform.
All 100%! Yeah, she introduced me to Michael Jackson. My mom had full control over everything I listened to for like the first however many years of my life, so I didn’t get a chance to hear anything other than people like Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and the list goes on. But when you hear that, and that’s your introduction to music that does something to you. And yeah, I mean, Michael, that was the first artist I ever saw perform on TV. It was a rerun. But you know, if the first thing you see is Billie Jean, and you see him doing the moonwalk, that’s going to do something to you. And that’s what happened with me and made me want to want to perform.
Minneapolis is a great town for Hip Hop. You have Rhymesayers, Doomtree, and so many other artists that I’m a huge fan of. Do you feel like you have a lot to put on your shoulders to carry Minneapolis as you propel your career?
Yeah, I think growing up, I felt a lot of pressure because I’ve been sort of after this for a long time. And for me, it always felt like there was this curse on Minneapolis, like a wall that artists couldn’t break through. I know it’s just all in my head but that’s how it really felt for a long time. And, when I see the Rhymesayers and everybody there – Slug, Atmosphere, Brother Ali, the Doomtree label and everybody else, they really set the foundation for a lot of artists to even be able to come up in Minneapolis. So I really respect what they’ve done. And I used to feel a lot of pressure. But now I’m kind of like just doing me. And I want to be the guy who puts Minnesota back on the map. I don’t even know if I could say put it on the map, because Prince really did that already. But I want to continue what those people started. And there is pressure that comes with it. But I’m treating it like hey, I’m just doing me, you know, and if I continue to do what I do well, hopefully, I can bring a lot of positive energy to the city. I want to be one of the greats to come from that city, for sure!
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Photos Courtesy of Nate Ryan and Alex Currie
Interview by Gabe Mendoza