We’re told that acceptance and knowledge of self are crucial. To acknowledge our shortcomings, flaws and wrongdoings in order to live a somewhat serene and decent life. Red Pill‘s awareness is rather acute, one of his biggest attractions even. ‘Instictive Drowning‘, his forthcoming sophomore record, is a continuation of internal and external struggles – a new collection of seeking self identity and reaching at faith.
It’s continued depression, trudging the happy road to destiny. It’s being the new kid in middle school coping with death. It’s handling fear. It’s accepting your privilege as a white male. It’s feeling uncomfortable in your own skin. It’s a real self analysis from a blue collared, big hearted artist. Recent health issues seem to have arose due to “self medicating” as well. This is reality. If you’re familiar with Red Pill’s catalogue you will agree that this is not surprising, but this time around there’s another layer of rawness that’s clear. It’s what he is good at and why people cherish his artwork. Hip-hop doesn’t offer this level of [honesty] and self awareness too often on a mainstream level.
Themeatically ‘Instinctive Drowning‘ is an ode to Chris’ great grandmother Mabel. More so, the records are inspired by her and her granddaugher Jody’s personal struggles. The title track however finds Chris reliving his mother’s passing and his outrage towards this deadly disease we call alcoholism. It’s spinning out of control in a sense, with his grip getting looser by the year. There’s sure signs of hope throughout the record, but it’s few and far between. It’s a precious 10-track voyage through the mind and thoughts of Red Pill – relatable to many on multiple levels.
Aesthetically there’s something appealing about him and Ill Poetic‘s experimental take here. It’s new for Chris. He describes it as a psychedelic rock album. There’s a record for every ear in this body of work. “F*ck Your Ambition“, the first released single, and “Club Privelage” are more up-beat. “Club Privilege” is basically a brolic, drunken stooper. Almost like, let’s forget about the bullshit and go have a good time. 2015’s “Rum & Coke” seems to have received a follow-up with “Gin & Tonic” – brighter hook, a darker set of lyrics and a play off of 12-step programs. Again, indirectly suggesting he sees a light at the end of this stale tunnel.
This record is a concrete follow-up to his Mello Music Group debut ‘Look What This World Did to Us‘. It offers identical perspective, but a completely different arrangement of sound and palette. That’s all we want – an artist willing to provide slight variations and jump into different playing fields while remaining rooted and true to self. Or not. Maybe you’re the strictly mid-90’s Dj Premier kind of guy who shut the door on PRhyme or Torii Wolf. That’s fine. But Red Pill is still early enough in his career to where you don’t have to be entirely pinned down to one particular sound. Take ‘Ugly Heroes‘, ‘Look What This World Did to Us‘ and ‘Instinctive Drowning‘. One boom-bap and heavy drummed, one jazzy and the latest atmospheric and a bit textural. Also, almost no features will be found except P.O.S. – on the newly released single “F*ck Your Ambition” which is available to stream below.
We had the pleasure of talking with Red Pill about the new record. We hope you gain insight and connect in one way or another – peace and love:
RESPECT.: It’s always a pleasure catching up with you. Tell us about your great grandmother Mabel on the cover, and your mother Jody if you wish.
Same with you man. So, I didn’t know my great grandmother, she died in her forties after dealing with her own battles with alcoholism. From what I know, my great grandfather wasn’t the best husband to her. He owned a big company back then called Angott Distributing, which was the main distributor for Wurlitzer jukeboxes throughout most of the Midwest. They made a ton of money, but he was apparently a jerk to her. She was known in the industry as a great hostess for these big music industry parties they’d throw. She drank a lot and dealt with her demons like a lot of people in family do. But that’s really all I know of her.
As for my Mom, her life was much different. She grew up with money and was really comfortable but my immediate family with her, my Dad and brothers, we struggled with money a lot. You never know what drives someone to drinking, or substance abuse for that matter. It seems like a lot of times there may not be a reason at all. But a lot of people in my family point to a particular time as when my Mom’s path might have changed. When she was in her teens, she was really close with her aunt. Her aunt also struggled with mental illness and eventually killed herself. My mom was devastated. As she got into her twenties the drinking really picked up. I watched it my whole life and eventually she ended up passing away from health issues related to her alcoholism when she was 45, in 2007.
RESPECT.: ‘Instinctive Drowning’, sonically a new effort that we think fans will have to open their minds up to. How did working with Ill Poetic entirely come about?
I had met Ill Poetic awhile back in Lansing, MI at a show. Probably 2009 or so. We kind of kept up on each others careers and followed each other on Twitter and Facebook, but never worked on anything. After I finished “Look What This World Did to Us” I was trying to think of who to work with and my engineer, Charlie Beans, suggested I hit Ill Po up for beats. I did and I was cool with what he sent but it didn’t fit what I was looking for. Ill Po is originally from Ohio, but he moved to San Diego recently, which happened to be the first stop on the Murs tour I opened up for last year. He came out and we talked about what I was thinking. I had no intention of having him produce the whole record, but eventually he kept sending more beats and I was pretty blown away at the sound. After about 5 or 6 beats I decided I wanted him to produce the whole project. It’s definitely a different sound for me and for people who have come to know me through Ugly Heroes, it might not be for them. But I hope they come in with an open mind that this record is really an experience.
RESPECT.: Every release is exposing your issues with alcoholism more than the last, ‘Instinctive Drowning’ seeming the most intense. A beautifully painful continuation as far as content.
Yeah, man. I think on the last album, as ridiculous as it might sound, I was more lighthearted about my issues. I’ve always been the type of person that laughs at myself, self-deprecates, makes light of my problems. This one the humor is gone. I wanted to take it more seriously. And for me, being heavy through music is all I’ve known. It’s how my brain is wired to create. So people kind of get this highlight reel of shitty moments over the course of two to three years, but there’s plenty in between those moments that I just don’t know how to tackle creatively yet. Like I just don’t think I’d be good at making a happy song haha. But I hope this record will be important for people who struggle with mental illness and substance abuse.
RESPECT.: You’re bleek, hyper-honest in a sense – regardless what type of production you’re working over. If only you could give an eighth of your realness to these brainwashed, radio rap figures.
That’s really kind of what I wanted to do with this album. Like, I have no problem with the actual sound on the radio. I like the beats, I like the melodies for the most part. It’s pretty undeniable. But I think what’s missing at the mainstream level is just rawness. No one is talking about shit anymore other than Kendrick and Beyonce really. Even in rock, like everything right now is really bland as far as lyrics (again at the mainstream). I wanted to tackle some really tough and honest issues, whether religion or war or race or my own personal problems and try to make some really great sounding music as well. Rap feels like it’s in it’s 80s glam-rock, hair band era. Everything is drugs and girls and over the top outfits. I’d like to see raps grunge moment. When some really powerful, heavy music kind of takes over and captivates people.
RESPECT.: Are you and Mello Music Group happy with the record?
I was really scared to take the record to Mello. For better or worse, I think some people see Mello as like a guardian of a certain sound in hip hop. Which really isn’t fair, because there’s a lot of progressive and alternative shit happening with the label. What I think Mello is more than a guardian of a particular sound, is that we’re championing honest, thoughtful music. I hope that’s not pretentious, but to get back to the question: Mello and I are super happy for the record. We have our concerns; it’s a risky album. But Mike called it “the album of a lifetime”, meaning my lifetime. This record is very important to me and Mello is standing behind it happily. We’re excited and nervous for it to drop.
RESPECT.: It’s safe to say that your story telling abilities are notable. The new album’s title track cuts through the heart.
The new album’s title track cuts through the heart: It’s the hardest song I’ve ever written. Not because of it being like technically difficult, and not even because I was scared of saying what I said, but because I was and still am worried about what family and friends will think. I’ve said before that on my previous work, I was worried what strangers would think of me. I’m more worried about what people around me will think when they hear it. But it’s important for me to put that shit into music. I’ve never been scared of an album being released before, but this one scares me.
RESPECT.: We’re all excited for the album to be released. It’s going to help a lot of people, really. What do you want fans to know about this body of work?
I think a few things: 1.) Like I said, come into it with an open mind. I sound like a dinosaur, but I really, really do care about making albums that aren’t designed for the songs, but making songs that are designed for an album. Every piece of this was purposeful, every song was written so that it would flow into the next one. I want people to throw on their headphones, press play and just let it run. I want people to hear the first guitar part on “The New Normal” and then 45 minutes or whatever later hear the final harps on “Jeffrey Star”. It’s a different sound, but it’s still me. 2.) I want people to know that I’m alright. Again, this is a highlight reel of bad moments. This isn’t me every day. And 3.) That if you’ve ever struggled with mental illness or addiction, I hope this record helps you out.
Incase you missed his Mello Music Group debut, we’ve attached the full album stream below. It’s highly recommended if you haven’t, just saying:
Mello Music Group:
Pre-Order ‘Instinctive Drowning‘: