The A3C Circuit tour made it’s second to last stop Tuesday in our nation’s capital. As people filed into U Street Music Hall, the atmosphere gave way to a sense of Hip-Hop community, connecting artists, tastemakers, and fans alike. However, there was another side to the story, the brewing and palpable sense of competition between MC’s to make it to Atlanta this fall. Every artist that graced the stage put on great performances, but in the end, Laelo stood victorious. Having covered the event personally, Laelo’s stage presence and ability to demand an audience is what ultimately decided the event. He MADE you listen-he MADE you become a fan. Short set times and somewhat anonymity to spectators allowed the “High Definition Society” front man to flourish, not only in a competitive nature, but in a performance setting. His music does contain heavy weed influence, but his messages aren't dictated by the sub-genre, only used as a stylistic foundation for deeper, more meaningful rhymes. We chopped it up with Laelo about the performance, not being labeled a weed rapper, future projects and his journey to A3C. Next stop, Atlanta.
A3C: Congrats on winning the DC leg of the Circuit Tour. How was the experience competing with other artists in a showcase like that?
Laelo: “It was dope. I just wanted to put on a good show. As they say, “confidence has no competition” so I wasn’t really concerned with who I had to beat out for the slot. I wanted to put on the best show possible so no matter what happened I left with new fans.”
A3C: You looked in your element on stage. Is performing something you emphasize?
Laelo: “Nobody is buying music these days so yes. It’s the number one thing I emphasize. Sometimes people think your music is dope when they hear an mp3 but don’t really buy into it until they see it live. I’ve been trying to perfect my performance for a while. From body movements to how I use my voice. Everything matters on stage. My goal is to always command the stage. I’ve never been one of those rappers to have to tell people to quiet down or pay attention. Once I start rapping, they listen. Presence is everything. You can’t be up there looking like you wouldn’t even buy the sh*t you’re selling. I guess making honest music makes that easier too.”
A3C: What's an opportunity like A3C mean to an up and coming artist like you?
Laelo: “A lot! I mean A3C is one of the biggest hip-hop festivals in the country, so obviously any artist on my level would love to have that exposure. I’m blessed that I got this opportunity and I’m looking forward to putting on for my city like I always do.”
A3C: For anyone who isn't familiar with you yet, describe your style and when you got your start in Hip-Hop.
Laelo: “I think my style is slightly aggressive with a marijuana influenced vibe. I smoke a sh*t ton of weed. I love it. It’s what I do. (Laughs) So in my rhymes I often reference that pack. But, I AM NOT A WEED RAPPER. I was sponsored by Raw Rolling Papers. I did their official theme song. I had songs with Smoke Dza and Fiend on my marijuana themed album, "Life in High Definition." My company logo has a weed leaf in it. So, people wanted to immediately put me in a box. I’m having no parts of that sh*t. I make all kinds of hip-hop music. I love making songs about real subjects that touch people’s lives. I rap about relationships, religion, politics, and anything else I deem worthy of a song. I speak on my real life experiences in records hoping to inspire, encourage or simply help someone get by. That’s why my new album is titled “Deeper Than Plenty, Higher Than Most.” That title embodies me as an artist. This music thing is everything to me and I hope people hear it when they listen to my sh*t. I love hip-hop. I’ve been doing this for a minute. I dropped my first album on iTunes in 2006. I’m not a rookie. It just took some time. The grind made me appreciate every win. I’m glad it’s all happening now. People are starting to pay attention. All I need is their eyes and ears to prove what I can do.”
A3C: From projects like "Fu*k The World," Lifers Never Die," and "Life In High Definition" how have you artistically grown, what's the process been?
Laelo: “Well, when I recorded “Fu*k The World” I was a lot angrier. I felt I was not getting the recognition I deserved locally. People respected what I did but in my mind they weren’t putting me in the upper echelon of local emcees. That sh*t offended the fu*k out of me so I was going hard on that album. But that album definitely changed things for me. The Internet world started showing love and the streets loved it. The cover art for that joint is an all-time classic. So that album will always hold a special place in my heart. But I had to move on from that. I had to grow up and realize no one owed me anything. If I was going to get peoples respect, I was going to have to earn it. Regardless of how long it took. When I went in the studio to record "Life in HD" I was in a totally different space. You can hear it in the sound. I was just focused on making music people would enjoy. That album got a lot of pub because it was sponsored by DJBOOTH.net and I had some major collabs on that joint. At that point I was in my groove. I knew who I wanted to be as an artist and from then I’ve just grown. "Lifers Never Die" is my most recent and best work. It’s my most mature piece. I’ve managed to figure out how to balance entertaining and educating while still making a cohesive project in sound and theme. That sh*t takes real effort.”
A3C: Speaking of "Life in High Definition," breakdown The High Definition Society. Is it your individual brand, crew, etc.?
Laelo: “Yes it’s my brand. It’s not a crew. It’s a company that my producer Str8 Beatz and I started back in 2010. Right now I’m focused on getting HDLIFE APPAREAL off the ground. It started as just a regular artist merch line then turned into something way bigger. People just gravitated towards to movement and what we represented. Plus the designs are dope! The marijuana culture has been on the forefront of media platforms these days and the idea of representing the culture is becoming less and less taboo. Stoners are cool with wearing gear that lets people know who they are. My ultimate goal is to do what legends like Dr. Dre, Jay-Z & Master P did with their businesses. I know my goals are lofty but so what. I ain’t going anywhere any time soon so I got plenty of time to make it happen.”
A3C: What's your main objective for A3C in Atlanta this October?
Laelo: “First and foremost KILL every stage that I touch! Gain new fans. Then after that, build working relationship that can help me move my career forward. Also, sell some merchandise and spread the word about my brand. That’s it. It’s a work trip. But the great thing is, I love my job!”
A3C: What's next from Laelo? Projects, shows, etc.?
Laelo: “My album “Deeper Than Plenty, Higher Than Most” is scheduled to drop on my birthday, September 23rd. I’m gearing up for that right now. I’m just putting all the pieces in place for a big fall. The main thing is getting more shows so that I can show people what it is. Once they see it, they believe in it. It’s just how we humans operate.”
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