There are several things you should immediately know about Ameer Van: he’s ambitious, he’s smart and he knows what he’s doing. An integral member of the hip-hop collective, Alive Since Forever, Ameer Vann‘s music incorporates an eccentric, rebellious, and outlandish electro sound with raps that showcases his wide spectrum of highly evocative thoughts. His music flirts with the heaviness of despair, cursing the anxieties that accompany the unstable emotions of adolescence. “I draw influence from anyone that truly creates art that benefits and pushes forward human thinking and understanding of what art and music is, and can be,” he says, referring to the inspiration that lends to the his distant-sounding, indie-hip-hop style.
With his latest track, “Disconsolate,” the transformative rhymester leaps further down a path that overrides the constraints of the traditional musical styles we’re accustomed to. In a time when hip hop is dominated by 20-something-rappers, like Earl Sweatshirt and Joey Bada$$, the 17-year-old is confident about his position and where he’s headed with his group. “We are today’s creative, we are the next big thing. We spend every single day making this shit happen and that is the lifestyle that kids are going to emulate. ” We caught up with the rising rapper to discuss the inspiration behind his music, being compared to Odd Future, and how he wrote his riveting song, “Disconsolate.”
Your group Alive Since Forever, has been compared to Odd Future. Are you conscious of this comparison?
I’m extremely aware of the OF comparison. It’s definitely something we all hear often, some more than others. Getting that comparison used to be a drag, but I can’t deny that I’ve learned a lot from the members of Odd Future artistically, and I latched on as a 14-15 year old to the do-it-yourself, fuck-what-people-have-to-say, just-make something-you-think-is-rad-and-the-rest-will-follow theme that they push in all their shit. Like when Tyler won that VMA I was freaking out; it felt like I won that shit. It was the first time I saw someone that looked like me up there and it’s one of those moments that’s going to stick with me for my the rest of my life.
What do you think the biggest difference is between ASF and Odd Future?
The biggest difference between ASF and Odd Future is distance. It’s a huge challenge to keep a group together that’s separated by a hefty majority of the continental United States. Pretty much everything we do together is through a screen; every show we have someone needs to get picked up from the airport, or bus stop or whatever. We overcome huge distances and adversities to make this work and it forces us to be a lot closer on a personal level. If I need to get files to someone for mixing or editing, it’s not a matter of me just going to their crib and giving it to them. It’s file compression, constant emails, texts, phone calls back and forth and sometimes shit goes wrong and you have to be on your feet and have a plan A, B, and C in order to make sure the best product gets out for appreciation.
Do you feel sometimes that the music and the way people perceive you could be misinterpreted—I mean you must have a lighter side to you?
Not necessarily, the reason I take the perspective I do, and touch on the kind of subjects I do is because the media, the companies that create products for consumption, the television writers, even the film writers and directors, have the wrong idea of the “average American Teenager.” The average American teenager can be much more than just a cell phone-clutching zombie. There are all kinds of things going on in these kids’ heads that you wouldn’t even believe. Yet, no one seems to see it or hear it. But if I bare it on myself, if I place that brand on myself and focus it through the correct channels and in the correct way, it’s a more effective at making the right people pay attention.
Don’t let LED screens raise your kids. Remember your youth and where you were sitting at 16, 17, and 18 years old. At those ages you’re asked to make huge, life-altering decisions, yet at the same you’re time told you’re still very immature. It can be a bit of a head trip, and can make for less than positive and dangerous thoughts to become the background score of your day-to-day life. As for me, I’m just the “average American Teenager.”
Who or what makes you laugh?
I have the most hilarious group of friends. I honestly don’t know what it is but it seems like every time we’re all together it’s a never ending cycle of jokes and laughing. Like, our entire crew makes me laugh.
On your latest track, “Disconsolate,” you appear vulnerable and sinister in equal measures. How do you create that feeling of anger or despair?
I don’t have to create those feelings. Everyone has them; it just so happens that I make music where people can hear and see it.
How do you think “Disconsolate” compares with other tracks you’ve done recently?
“Disconsolate” is a lot heavier than anything else I’ve done. It’s not a song you can just glance over with your ears, you actually have to stop and listen, which isn’t really the trend lately as far as I can see.
What was going through your head when you wrote the lyrics?
When I started the EP, I made the decision that I wouldn’t use any instrumentals unless I could see what I was going to write about first. For “Disconsolate,” the first time I heard the instrumental I saw a couple arguing in an apartment, throwing shit around and just fucking screaming at each other, the woman holding her bags and heading towards the door, she opens it, turns around, says one last thing and slams the door. The man sulks back to the couch in the living room and you see the coffee table in front of him. It looks like he’s been binging on various different things for days, maybe even weeks and then I saw his face, worn, and decrepit, and I decided I would write what he would have to say, to himself, about himself, and to the woman he loves.
It’s a really personal record – very different, content-wise, compared to “Rabbits”.
Yeah, it definitely is, pretty much every song grew out of one polarizing emotion or another.
Do you actually do any of the things you talk about in your lyrics?
Bits and pieces of these songs are based off a brief period of my life where I was making really stupid decisions and others are just sonic portraits. At the end of the day, I wanted this EP to be more like an art gallery than a collection of songs. Each song is a portrait in a frame or a scene in a film all drawn from the same sonic color palette.
What would you say the inspiration, or message, of your music is?
My thoughts and feelings, of course. The message really is, there isn’t one? It’s there for people to appreciate and build their own messages from. I’m not going to say this is the way you have to feel when you listen or this is what you should take away because that sets a margin, and guidelines and that is against the very nature of art. What I take from a song may be, and probably will be completely different from the person to my right or left. I guess to answer your question the message to me is that it’s okay to have to those dark thoughts and feelings, but just find a way to get them out and leave them somewhere. Don’t carry baggage with you because it’ll make you cold and bitter and life is way too short for that shit.
What do you think it was that sparked your interest in hip hop?
I got put in a teen leadership class in 10th grade and met Ian (Kevin Abstract). That’s it, that’s the only reason I started making music or even became interested in it. I grew up in Third Ward, Houston, so I was always around hip-hop, all my cousins rapped and freestyled. I never thought about being a rapper until I got put in that class with Ian. A computer algorithm decided the course of my future and I couldn’t be happier.
Did you ever consider a different career?
I wanted to go to school to become a petroleum and mechanical engineer but that never really felt…. right, like what I was supposed to be doing.
Who was the first famous person you met?
I met Beyoncé, when I was like 4 or 5, at a charity event my mom took me to in Houston. I think that was the first time I met anyone famous.
Have you experienced any crazy moments on social media?
No, not really until I recently got called “Ghetto Drake” in a YouTube comment. I think that’s like my favorite insulting thing I’ve ever been called. I probably shouldn’t be reading YouTube comments in the very first place. Other than that I stay quiet and keep to myself so there’s no room for people to go out of their way to insult me as of now.
Were you surprised when you were called in to support Chance The Rapper? How did it happen?
Yeah, definitely seeing how I only had one song out at the time. Actually it was ASF, Chance, other affiliates of Save Money/The Village, and a bunch of other acts opening up for BIG K.R.I.T. in St. Louis. We were put on the bill to open and they were as well. That’s how that came about.
You really seem to have a handle on exactly what you do. Tell me about some of your influences.
Definitely not, I still have a lot of growing and learning to do. My main influences are: King Krule, Earl Sweatshirt, Yeezus Christ, Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, MF DOOM, Eminem, Radiohead, Tool, Nucleus, BADBADNOTGOOD, Kevin Abstract, a lot of Jazz/classical composers, and basically anyone that is universally accepted as groundbreaking pioneers of their craft. I draw influence from anyone that truly creates art that benefits and pushes forward human thinking and understanding of what art and music is, and can be.
Is there an end game for you and ASF? Will there be an album, a record deal, or a music video?
The end game is to show people what we have made and work so hard on. We’ve been turned away from a lot of opportunities because we don’t fit the criteria for what is considered for publication. Music, or getting people to support your music I should say, seems to be less and less about the product, but the packaging. The who you know is engulfing the who you are and it would be really rewarding to still make the kind of impact that everyone I’m influenced by has without having to fall into that kind of tar pit. I guess the real end game is to show people who we are without forgetting who we are. Every person in our group is different – of course we are, look at how spread our entire collective is. It should be enough that we’re still able to make this kind of product with that kind of obstacle. That is our lifestyle, our image, we are today’s creative, we are the next big thing. We spend every single day making this shit happen and that is the lifestyle that kids are going to emulate. The fact that our circumstances don’t change the fact that we make good music should be proof enough. Hands down, end of story, we create better product than other groups that have spent their whole lives together. I guess this is a good time to announce my full length, it’ll be coming in the winter of 2015 is all I can say as of now.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for letting me rant. I hope I’ve answered all the questions anyone has about me or the collective I’m apart of.
For more from Ameer, click here.