[Interview] @CrypticWisdom Is Creating A Rap Rock Rawkus On “X’s & O’z”
“Creating A Rap Rock Rawkus”
By Jesse James
We first heard about Cryptic Wisdom and his explosive style of rap-rock fusion a few months back when he dropped his video for “Fall From Grace”. Ever since then we’ve been spinning his new album “X’s & O’z” non-stop in the office and have been completely held hostage by this Tucson native’s ability to write infectious hooks and soaring melodies. We caught up with Cryptic Wisdom to get the inside scoop on his new album and everything he’s got going on.
RR: Your sound mixes hip-hop and rock, were you always a fan of mixing genres?
CW: I didn’t start out by mixing genres. I was always very hip-hop oriented when I was in the beginning stages of making music. The funny thing is that I never listened to a lot of hip-hop growing up. An Eminem album or two on cassette tape here and there as a child, maybe, and the Cradle 2 The Grave soundtrack just before my teenage years, but music was something new to me in every way possible. I actually didn’t like rock as a teenager, but over time I felt like it started to speak to me the more I gave it a chance. Over the years, I practiced singing along to my favorite alternative songs by bands like Three Days Grace and it eventually just kinda fell into my groove when I wrote new songs of my own.
RR: Your album “X’s & O’z” runs through a gamut of human emotions and there is dark stuff as well as optimism. Is this just a reflection of your own thoughts and feelings?
CW: This entire album is a reflection of my own experiences with a dangerous drug we all know as crystal meth. I’m an addict and I will be for the rest of my life, and this album was my way of processing the pain it put me (and the people I love) through. It’s, in my opinion, my most consistent release as far as sound and general attitude or emotion are concerned. I want somebody to feel like they know somebody else out there in this great big (or small, depending how you look at it) world who feels the same and has been through the same things. You can be alone but you don’t have to be lonely when you’re listening to this CD.
RR: Do you ever worry you’re being too personal with your fans in your music?
CW: I think that’s why a lot of them have developed such a strong, personal bond with my music. It’s real, honest, sincere. At the end of the day, it’s a source of ventilation for me and a source of escape for them. Everybody wins. Some may find that the rawness in my art is a little too personal, but I would still definitely say that there’s something else of mine for them.
RR: Tell us a bit about your new album “X’s & O’s” and how you approached shaping the sound on this one as opposed to previous albums?
CW: I’ve spent years shaping and fine tuning my hip-hop sound on previous records. Yes, I tend to always throw in a little singing and some rock hooks, but this approach was a little more extreme. Instead of going for a hip-hop sound with a rock influence, I went for a rock sound with a hip-hop influence. I decided to explore my interest in alternative music further and really hone in on my singing abilities. Down the road, I’ll be able to find the perfect balance for hip-hop and rock on my new records.
RR: Tell us about the producers you’re working on for this record and what each bring to the table?
CW: I worked with a few different producers on “X’s & O’z.” We don’t work personally together and the instrumentals made by him were licensed through their websites. The only one I worked with personally is Life & Death, who produced “Look At My Face” for me. The guitars were recorded by Wes Jerdon for Westley Leon Studios. Life & Death Productions and I are still working closely and are preparing to start another project together.
RR: You have Irv Da PHENOM! on this record, who is highly underrated in the hip-hop scene, how did you two hook up?
CW: Irv and I were brought together by a former booking agent of mine (David Dickens of CTA/Headbang for the Highway). He showed Irv my music and the rest is history. I’ve been listening to PHENOM! since his verse on Tech N9ne’s “Hunterish.”
RR: You hit the iTunes charts with your album for a completely independent artist. What was that like and to what do you attribute your independent hustle?
CW: I attribute a lot of it to the personal relationship I’ve got with my fans. They hold all of the power. My manager has also spent countless hours helping me promote this project. I couldn’t do it without my graphic designer, Chris Vetrano (www.ChrisVetrano.com), my director Michael Shahin (www.mikesvideoproduction.com), or my engineer Kyle of Extract Engineering, who mastered this album (http://www.facebook.com/extractengineering). It’s very rewarding to see my hard work pay off, but even more rewarding to know that people care about what I have to say. My work helps people and that feels good.
RR: You recently played the Gathering of Juggalos alongside Cypress Hill, Hopsin and Insane Clown Posse. Tell us about that experience and your best moments from this year?
It was a good time. I spent a lot of my time there on a sprained ankle and, unfortunately, didn’t get to see too much this year. I did have a good time and people were actually up at 4 am to watch me perform on the last night. It’s a lot to ask of anyone to stay up that late for you, but I’m grateful that it was such a good experience overall. Oh, there were titties. A lot of titties. Hey, I’m a man. I looked.
RR: What does it mean to be a Rebel in 2014?
CW: I’m not sure if this is some sort of branding tactic for you, but I can tell you what it means to be an iLLien. What I want is to leave behind a legacy. I want to be the voice of the people that nobody wants, that nobody understands. I know how it feels to be alienated and I want to leave something behind for the people who feel like that to turn to and feel like they have somebody they can relate to. You might be alone but you don’t have to be lonely. Outcasts. That’s what we are. That’s what it means to be an iLLien and that’s what makes us family. Rebels are welcome.
RR: What’s next for Cryptic Wisdom?
CW: I’m in the process of setting up tour dates. I’ll be in Norway next week doing a few shows in celebration of a successful release, and I’ll be gearing up to hit the road when I come home. Aside from that, it’s time to promote and start working on new music. Thank you for having me on Rebel Row.