No matter how you look at it, Atlanta has been running the rap game for the past few years, being a hot bed for new talent. Sh–, the hottest rappers out right now are from the A and even some of the most sought after producers are coming from there – everyone and their mother’s want to make trap music.
It seems like every time I look, there is a new rapper from Atlanta either getting signed or making a viral hit. With so much new talent coming out of the city, it’s hard to keep track and sometimes you miss out on some of the dopest acts.
One artist coming out of Atlanta that has been quietly growing his buzz is the multi-talented Brooklyn born rapper, Michael Aristotle. From a very young age, Michael has been talented with words. Before he even decided to start rapping, he used to write poems for the girls that he liked. One day instead of writing a poem he wanted to write a song and he did just that. After finishing the song, he performed it for his friends and they co-signed him as really being able to rap. From that point forward, Michael Aristotle decided that he was going to be a rapper and start taking it seriously.
Already talented with his pen, Michael began recording and mixing his own music until he linked up with longtime friend Wili Hendrix, who was learning to produce and engineer. After going to his house one day and knocking out 5 tracks in a matter of hours, the two realized together they would be a force to be reckoned with; and since that day, Wili has executive produced all of Michael’s projects, usually handling a majority of the production. The two hit the ground running forming their own label East Chain, which is a collective that includes all of Michael’s best friends that make music.
In 2014, he released his first mixtape What Tomorrow May Hold which was well received and included the hits “June”, “Hiya”, and “Panola.” Since the release of his debut project, Michael Aristotle has gone on to release ‘Thanks For Nothing’ in 2015 and ‘Mega Millions’ late last year. With each release, he gets better and you can see the growth from project to project. Being influenced by vets like Jay-Z and Biggie, and new comers like Drake and Gambino, Michael has created his own unique sound that is constantly changing; so you can never put a finger on his style, but there is one thing for certain, the kid has bars. If it’s not his lyrical abilities that draw you in, it will be his infectious hooks. With three amazing projects under his belt and his new EP ‘Toni’ out now, his debut album on the way, Michael is bound to have a breakout year.
I had the opportunity to sit down with the rising Atlanta rapper and discuss Toni, teaming up with Wili Hendrix, creating his own album and single covers, where he got his name from and much more. Check it out below and make sure to give Toni a listen, you won’t be disappointed.
Growing up your parents used to throw “block parties,” they played reggae, pop, funk, and soul. When did hip-hop get in the picture and were you influenced by any of the music your parents played?
Well, it’s crazy because my Uncle was also a DJ and I was surrounded by music all the time, but it would never hit I just felt like that was the norm. I think music kind of hit when I would watch TV, like how MTV and BET would have the countdown. I would go to school, I’m talking about elementary school and really talk to my homies about the videos and music just became a part of our lives. From there we would kind of rap to each and find cool ways to make things rhyme that’s pretty much how it started for me.
When did you decide to pick up the pen and pad and what was the point that you said to yourself “this is something I want to put my all into”?
I remember I was 12 years old and I wanted to be the cool dude, but I was real quiet, and shy because I was used to moving around a lot. So the girls that I would like at the time I would write poems for and they would really be touched by it, they wouldn’t give me a chance but still. I was like yo I really have a way with words, so I said what if I really challenge myself and write a song. So at 12 years old I really sat down and wrote a two-page rap front to back. I rapped the song in front of my friends and they were like yo you need to be a rapper. So in the 8th grade, I got up in front of the class and rapped in front of everybody, I’m talking all the kids that used to pick on me because I told the teacher I wanted to be a rapper. From that day on I got respect and I told myself this is what you need to do.
Who would you say are some of your major influences musically?
Biggie, first of all, that’s one person I thought was the norm, I looked at him like Jesus when I was little. His music just gave me chills so he inspired my ability to switch flows. In our generation, Drake and Childish Gambino their my biggest influences because they taught me how to be honest in my music, step outside of the box and don’t ever limit myself. JAY-Z of course, A Tribe Called Quest and J Dilla.
Your name is Quintin. How did you come up with the name Michael Aristotle?
This girl I used to kick it with she was two grades higher than me, of course, she graduated before I did. So I would kick it her every summer and we would be in the driveway listening to Kanye West albums because she was his biggest fan. Then one day she said this is my name from the Kanye West name generator. So I put my name in and Malcolm Aristotle came up, but I didn’t really like the Malcome part. I thought about what I would flip it to and I was like oh shit Michael, Michael sounds kind of cool and there’s a lot of great people named after Michael. So I was like Michael Aristotle, that’s a cool nickname because at the time I went by Y Peezy. I was just going to use the name Michael Aristotle to create a project about this mythical pimp, but all my friends were telling me this has to be your rap name and I was like nah. Then months later I had a whole bunch of music and I said to myself I’m going to start over and went by Michael Aristotle.
Wili Hendrix has produced your last three projects. How did you guys link up and what made you decide to solely work with him? What would you say some of the advantages are of working with one producer?
I met him when I was 12, like right after I started writing. He wasn’t really doing music at the time and every time I would see him we would say what up and he just became my homie. When I was 14 I started recording myself, I had a headset and a software and then when I turned 16 he just got some equipment and started making music. It’s a funny story he got about how he asked Zaytoven for equipment while he was recording Gucci, he didn’t get the equipment though.
I would have blank CD’s of music not even no words on it and I would pass them out and of course, he would get the CDs. So he told me he finally got some equipment at his crib and that he wanted to record me. I was used to doing everything by myself at the time so I was like I don’t know, but since he was my dog I gave it a try. It was like 09 the day Michael Jackson died crazy enough, and I had sent this song to Wili he had mixed it for me and he had sent it back and I’m like what the f*ck this sounds perfect. I got back in town, I went to his crib recorded and I ain’t leave since I’m 24 now. We just got a new crib before then we’ve just been recording at Wili’s crib. I just found a sound with him that’s why I decided to stick with him. I do work with other people but I feel like we know what we’re doing.
So you just dropped your new project TONI. What is the significance behind the name?
Well, it’s my mom’s name. Her name is Antoinette, they call her Toni for short. Basically back in the day before she had me she had dreams of being on Broadway. My parents are immigrants they come from Belize and the first thing she had seen when she came to New York was Broadway and she was like man I want to be like that. She started taking dance classes and she would go so hard at it and she kind of got this little foot injury. Then she slowed down and had me then my younger brother. So with me being in my twenties and me going after my dreams and not slowing down or settling, I felt like this is Toni’s son, this is the continuation. The whole project is not a concept around my mom, but it just has the energy of being young wild and free and going after your dreams. That’s kind of what the energy of this project is, just going after it, being young and being a continuation of my mom. Also, Toni is another moniker from me I’m like the little Toni. We had made this funny acronym for TONI meaning “The Other The Nigga Inside.” It’s really aggressive too, so whenever people hear me talking my shit on the song there like oh that’s the “Toni” shit.
What was the creative process like when making TONI and how did it differ from Mega Millions?
Well with ‘Mega Millions’ we spent like a year working on that. ‘TONI’ the songs came so fast they came out of nowhere. Mega Millions came out December of last year and we never got started with ‘TONI’ we were just recording. I had my big debut in mine but I didn’t start working on that I was just doing songs. We were going to make a continuation of ‘Mega Millions’ kind of but we wanted the music to stand alone. We had a set of songs and were figuring out what to call it and we came up with ‘TONI.’
What’s your favorite song off the project?
I like “Pick A Number.” “Pick A Number” is tight to me, I know it’s going to sound soft that I picked “Pick A Number” because it’s a love song. I like “Pick A Number” because I feel like it’s my first real love song. I get deep into wanting love. On ‘Mega Millions’ I had a song called “Falling” and it was a love song to but it was me saying I like you but me and you will never work. With “Pick A Number” it’s kind of saying I’m imperfect, I know I be busy, I know I’m inconsistent with a lot of stuff, let me be honest with you, I know you want this so let’s figure this out. That’s what “Pick A Number” is about.
Now that the album is out what else do you have planned for the rest of the year?
Just videos, more shows. I’m doing a TONI concert like we did with Mega Millions but this one is going to be free. Of course, I want to pack out the venue again, but I think this one is going to be special because it’s going to be free. I want to tour, I want to do more visually. I just finished writing the script for the ‘Mega Millions’ movie. Once everything get‘s done I can focus on doing that.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Get TONI and Mega Millions too. Look forward to everything else I have planned, I got some big shit planned.