[Interview] Herobust: Making Waves in ATL
Herobust has been all over the EDM scene lately. Mostly due to a well-managed PR schedule surrounding his latest EP I'm Aloud [Mad Decent], as well as the Bottoms Up Tour he just completed with Protohype. Herobust's new EP is making waves. Not just because it's a very solid body of work, but because it gives listeners something new, in the form of a jarring, metallic sound that permeates his drops and leaves your teeth rattling. I've been wanting to "get Busted" for a while now, so we sat down the man of the hour prior to his show at Terminal West for a few questions.
How has coming from Atlanta influenced you as an artist and as a person?
It's so hard to differentiate the two because so much of my life has always been about creating. I was always making music. I guess being from here and growing up on southern hip hop and southern music obviously affected the kind of music I make, but it also affected how I carry myself. I think hip hop taught me confidence before I knew what it was and how to really find it in myself. I feel like people find that in various places, but for me that was hip hop, and it wasn't the New York brand or the west coast brand, it was southern hip hop and I love it. It'll always be really important and special to me for that reason.
We're seeing more electronic music shows move to a "live" format. What do you think this says about the future of DJing?
I think if you look at that trend closely and you look at who has made that transition, the majority are people who are now making melodic music; music with more depth, music with maybe less energy. Music that isn't defined, live, by the hype and by the intensity of it. If you're on a bill and you're playing music that is deep and takes a little longer to digest, it is melodic and not as hard and intense as some of the others. If you're just DJing, like everyone else, then you're really at an unfair advantage I think, because you're just playing their game and when you are DJing music that's all about the intensity of it, then it's all about the hype.
Visually, playing an instrument... that's where they pick up the slack because it's more pleasing to watch somebody perform something than it is to DJ. Since they don't just have the raw energy of the song they rely on the visual aspect. It's nice. I like going to shows like Lido, he does it very well. If you haven't seen that definitely watch it. I love a good rager, but it's nice to go to a show that feels a little bit more like a concert sometimes too. What I'm saying is, it's not a sweeping trend that's hitting all DJs the same. Some people are choosing to make music that is better performed and better perceived in a live sense, as opposed to DJing.
Do you worry about the perception of that, having audiences are demanding more than decks and a video wall, because maybe they don't understand the complexity of what's going on with DJing, and they perceive live acts as more apparently talented?
I don't care about anything that results from people not knowing what's going on, because they've been doing that for a long time and nothing changes. I encourage fans to know more about what they love, you know? Figure out what we're doing with the headphones, be my guest. But no, I'm not concerned with that. I really just focus on what I'm doing. I like to play the way I play, and if you've been a fan of me for awhile I used to perform everything. I used to play on an MPC, and have a keyboard and play with a live drummer. I've done it. That was when I was making music that wasn't as intense. Had I DJ'd, I would have come off sounding like elevator music next to some dubstep guy four years ago. Since I did what I did people walked away saying, "That was different."
If you don't differentiate yourself with the live show then what a lot of fans can do is they can just assume that it's apples to apples and that the crowd was visibly freaking out for one set and not for another. They'll say that that set was better, which is just not the case. I've seen some sets where the crowd hardly moves, but after the show people will tell the artist that he changed their lives. You know what I mean? So it's just all different. I'm glad that it's happening because it means that fans are responding to different things. The more different ways people are doing it, the more cool shit there's gonna be happening, period. I think it's ridiculous that so many people DJ. Why do we all perform the same way? I don't know. I mean, I do it... but like... I'm the best at it, so it's different.
Herobust smiled and batted his eyelashes here in a way that let me know he was joking on the inside, but that he wouldn't get mad if you actually did think he was the best.
What kind of music did you listen to before you started producing your own?
The first shit I listened to was whatever my parents were listening to. For my dad, it was James Brown and shit like that. He was always into funk. For my mom, it was altnerative rock. Once I started making decisions for myself, the first record I ever bought was P. Daddy and the Fam, I think. Then The Fugees. It was always rap from early on.
As a society, how can we encourage young people to pursue the arts, who do you think this responsibility falls to?
I don't think that the answer is encouraging young people to pursue art. I think the answer is just to encourage them to do something they're good at. Create something shitty over and over and over until you're creating something dope. I don't want to tell them all to be artists. Our economy would not function if we were all artists. I don't want to say everyone try to do art, then the best ones get to be artists and then the losers will be our doctors. That sounds terrible. If you do what speaks to you for long enough and hard enough, you will learn how to do it well for sure. I think people just need to be encouraged to continue to do whatever they're doing while they're failing. It doesn't have to be art.
Who, in your opinion, is the best rapper of all time?
That's impossible. I can't do a top five or top ten of anything. I can't because so much of my opinion, and I think everybody's opinion is in the context of time. There have been moments where I heard some music and I said I didn't like it, but what I really meant is I don't like it right now. You say "I don't get it" but what you really mean is "I don't get it yet." Sure there have been albums that you've heard and not liked and then later you're like, "Wow, I love this now!" You know what I mean? Because it's in a different context. It's at a different time. I'll say this. The one thing I can say is the best rap album of all time is Illmatic. That's unanimous among respectable people. It represents everything that hip hop is in addition to being a great hip hop album. It's the most "hip hop" hip hop album in all of hip hop history. I've gone through phases where I was really into ignorant sounding shit, not to say that it's dumb, but it is guilty pleasure type music. And then I've gone through phases where I'm all about underground. It's all amazing to me. It's all great. It's just in the context of time tastes change. It's dope. I like it like that.
What are some upcoming projects we can look forward to in 2016?
In 2016 a lot of hip hop and EDM has been merging. I want to be one of the pioneers that really heads that movement. I want more features from rappers that people know and love. I want features from rappers that people don't know, and are like, "Holy shit. I love that person too!" I want more crossover because I know people in that world will love what we're doing. I know that people that love what we're doing would also love that. I exist between two groups of people that don't know they're in agreement. You just have to expand their horizon.
When Herobust says he's trying to merge hip hop and EDM, I believe him. Although his special guest opener, Mike Floss, was a disappointment to most of the crowd. Seeing a young rapper open up for a DJ is a reversal of the norm and shows the direction Herobust wants to pull us in. His sold-out crowd at Terminal West was very young,which is usually a good sign for any performer. However as a result, a few of the usual concert tropes were lost on them. At one point he told the crowd to split down the middle before he played Flosstradamus' Mosh Pit and Bulls on Parade by the iconic Rage Against The Machine. Nobody had a fucking clue. While I raged out with a couple other metalheads and tried to get a pit going, oblivious teenage girls who failed to remove themselves from the center of the crowd were getting shoved left, right and sideways. Even once the moshing began they had no idea what was going on and just responded by kicking me and a couple other guys in the shins while we moshed. Maybe I'm the old guy now, but I felt a lack of energy from the younger members of the crowd.
The show was pretty fun overall, though there were some technical difficulties which forced Herobust to stop the show while Terminal West staff helped fix the decks. The crowd chanted "it's okay" after he apologized, it was a minor disruption and one nobody could have prevented.
The end of the night was where it really felt like a homecoming as Herobust was joined on stage by Mayhem, ATLiens, Debroka, and Popeska for a six-way b2b finale. Herobust may not live in Atlanta anymore, but he's got friends and family here who love him. His dedication to southern hip hop is encouraging to see as the influence of trap and bass spreads across America. Herobust started the show with a meet and greet for fans and ended it with a free pizza party in the parking lot. He proved himself to be a solid DJ, a friend to the ATL scene and a rising star with big plans for the future.
Photos by Ryan Purcell for Bullet Music.