So often today, we as avid listeners of the Hip Hop genre glorify the hardcore lyrics of a contemporary artist who feels the need to conform in order to remain competitive. Hip Hop always being a forum for self expression, when did it become more acceptable to not be you while being self expressive?
It’s a fact that not every lyric recited over a track is forthright; not every rapper drives a Bimmer or Benz upon the release of their music where the chorus recounts a time that they did. It’s a fact that most rappers never owned a luxury car until after the check was cut; and most rappers never really got the goods from females before the cosign. So what contemporary artist should we most glorify?Reach Records signee Aha Gazelle can attest to the desire of wanting to be heard so badly that he too was someone who at first thought he had to aim in a certain direction. But with all aspiring rappers doing the same exact thing, the authenticity to follow is pretty much lacking. Consumers get weighed down with the same mundane sounds heard over and over before because up-and-coming artists are too afraid to do something more, something so outside the box as being themselves.
Defying stereotypes, a two-time grammy award winning rapper Lecrae would discover the likes of the empowerment filled rapper over social media and began to follow him. Before his deal with Reach was inked early this year (February 2017), Aha was getting airplay on sites like WorldStarHipHop and Baller Alert with his “#DNLB” single in 2014, followed by his “Sauceonallmeh” video going viral in 2015, and a steady following would ensue.
“I was in Orlando in 2016 doing music and I came upon Lecrae, he was on BET on the Hip Hop Awards doing a cypher and that’s when I kind of checked him out; he had dropped a mixtape called “Church Clothes”. I started following him on Twitter; and he started following back, and when I got that update, of course I’m like, “Bet!”. So I’m just kind of like “This is crazy, but that’s whats up.” And then a few months later, he sends me a DM saying, “I see what you’re doing, keep working,” yada-yada, you know the ole’ G quotes. And then from there it was from a DM to an email from the A&R of Reach, and it kind of went from there. I went chopped it up with him. Told them my vision, I listened to their vision, and from there you know, history is written.”
The New Orleans native conceded to his truths of having a dream since the age of 14 when he purchased his first music software to begin finessing his skills. Unbeknownst to him, after a playful freestyle while over at a friends, he would discover his passion.
“That was like the first stage and I just kind of never really looked back.”
With top favorites like Lil Wayne, Kanye West, J Cole, 2 Chainz and Big K.R.I.T. , songwriter, producer, and performer, Aha molded himself as the complete package. With a basic passion to spit rhymes a bar at a time and having the real ability to sing (minus the autotune) as a performer, the innate capacity to join lyrics like a songwriter, and a nonexistent budget as a young rapper unable to afford dope beats, he would add producer to his belt. The true makings of a hustler, like a Master P, who not only was from New Orleans as well, but as Aha recognized was the definition of a true hustler in his eyes as Percy was known to handle business, Aha would later see himself as doing the same thing. So here it is, taking his cue from folks like Master P and Soulja Boy who was also as self-made as they came at the time, Aha would write his first track “Hater Blockers” back in high school off of another fellow New Orleans great that we know, Lil Wayne’s “Stuntin’ Like My Daddy” instrumental. From there, he would hone his sound, mastering each level of his artistry that we will come to know.Asking, who is Aha Gazelle and how would you explain your sound? Aha coolly responds, “I think Aha, my sound more than anything you hear somebody is not afraid to speak on certain things, not afraid to showcase who I am – unapologetically. I think I want my listeners to walk away with feeling empowered after listening to my music. I want you to walk away with saying, “Man, it’s okay to be who I am, with all my flaws. I know how much I’m worth.” And you know, let people go live their life the way they want to go live it. When I make music, its like more than anything, the people that listen to it can hear the passion through the music. When I listen to Aha, I know this is the real deal.”
“This isn’t a front, this I isn’t a brand. I try to always keep my DNA.”
Often times, when signing on to the mission of becoming a highly recognized rapper or performer, the DNA sometimes gets watered down. A syrem, not to be confused by serum, gets proposed and is taken like a pill, later stripping of ones morality and true self. But to catch yourself slipping is a blessing. Aha asserted himself into his music in a way that seldom do today; still good, still catchy, making it clear, and plain.
“I use to make music to try to keep up with everybody or you know, be the hottest out. And then you know, all of a sudden, I switched and said, I just wanted to rap about my life, what I go through and who I am. Sonically, it started to turn into more of a diary. And I think that was the turning point for me.”
To speak one’s truth in a certain manner, amid the expected metaphorical talk and conversation most might get lost in while pondering hard on the knocks of the beat like one would while listening to a Future’s “Mask Off” for example, which most wouldn’t look to as being a conceptual record, but when you further dissect, literally taking the mask off, it is absolutely one to consider conceptual. Depending on one’s ear for a particular sound and the given moment, one can expect a plethora of facets to draw from while listening to one of Aha Gazelle’s tracks. If empowerment is what you seek, you will get it to the umpteenth degree. Like a Future, the beauty of Aha’s music generally lies within the message. But that’s not to miss out on the high energy intensity that may or may not overshadow the word. “If you don’t want to care about the message, you don’t have to care about the message; the music is still good.”
“That 808 is still going to knock, you still going to twerk to it.”
Aha’s most recently released record “Momma House” off his Trilliam 2 mixtape which was dropped back in June, the sequel , serves more purpose than being a simple “momma song”. Switching up the typical delivery of a rapper talking about his momma over a 3 minute plus melody, Aha revealed it came naturally to deliver the narrative behind this momma song. “Live from my momma house/I ain’t got no bills so my pockets never drought”.
“I feel like I wanted people to understand that it’s a smart way to do this. I’m out here grinding, if I’m a rapper and lower my pride to say that I’m a rapper, living with my momma, chasing my dreams, and someone out there there is a college student, a future doctor, a future lawyer, any dream chaser period. And I think we always demean the person that stays with their momma but I’m like, “yo, be smart”. If you could live with your parents, if you are fortunate enough to live in that situation, be able to stack your cheese while chasing your dreams, on your terms, do it.”
Working hard at building his lane, Aha released Trilliam 2 following his debut tape titled Trilliam, revealing what that his intention the second time around was, to wake a few people up to his name. Like a light-bulb suddenly turning on in one’s head, “I wanted Trillian 2 to feel like you were walking into a movie, midway through the movie. And it’s almost like when you are flipping through the TV, channel searching and you find a movie that you never seen before and you just start watching it from midway through because it got your attention, and then you go back and watch it again. That’s how I wanted Trillian 2 to feel, as a listener walking in saying, “Okay, who is this dude?”With hard work always comes great reward as nothing worth having is ever free. If you check the stats, many of those legendary talents grew out of sleeping in studios, going from venue to venue to get their music heard, pushing those limits and those boundaries in order to acquire their respect. It is too often that we expect the ladder without lifting a hammer. “I feel like a lot of artists are waiting on a magic moment, and it’s like, the magic moment will come, that’s timing, things you can’t control. But while you wait on that magic moment, are you recording everyday, are you writing everyday. If somebody pulled up on you and says, “I need you to drop a freestyle.” Can you freestyle? If you go to a studio session and just walk in, are you going to wow somebody?” And yes, while it takes your own special confidence in your craft before a stranger will buy it, it is important still to take a real objective listen to yourself before boasting. Are you really doing something more than you are actually dishing out?
“Just do your workouts before the game because if the game comes and you’re not ready, you’re going to get exposed real bad.”
With a hefty schedule promoting his music and preparing his next body of work, Aha will be busy shaking hands and connecting with the people. Big, big plans are in line for the future, in addition to a slew of shows from Atlanta, Chicago, Orlando and more, Aha has warned us about his Trilliam 3 which is coming sooner than later. Prophesying and speaking life over his music, “It will be sensational. It will be incredible. It will be vibrant.” Indeed, it will.