The Detroit MC on musical influences, vulnerability and his forthcoming EP.
You’ve probably heard Detroit’s Curtis Roach’s reflective rap tracks – referencing everything from his struggle with anxiety (see 2017’s single “Anxietea“) and self-discovery to love and relationships, Roach’s tracks are infused with a 90s nostalgia and sultry melodic sounds.
In line with the release of his latest single “WJIT” – the first drop from his forthcoming EP, which pays homage to Detroit-born club dance style JIT and celebrates the freedom of movement and “the free world”, we spoke to the rapper about his early musical influences, 2018’s project Highly Caffeinated and what we can expect from him in 2019.
How did you first get into music?
I started writing raps in fourth grade, but they were trash so I didn’t think anything of it. In middle school I was heavy into poetry, and that eventually turned into raps in high school. When I was 15, I decided to buy a mic with my Christmas money. I started recording music at that point and fell in love with it.
Who did you grow up listening to?
My parents would play all types of music around me, so it made my palette wide at an early age. My Dad played a lot of old-school and West Coast hip hop. My Mum played a lot of Stevie wonder, Fugees, and Maroon 5. I loved Ludacris, Lil Wayne, Eminem, Kanye, Missy Elliott and Busta Rhymes as a kid. Throughout my teenage years though, I would say Tyler, the Creator and Chance the Rapper have influenced me a lot.
What inspires your music?
I would say life influences me a lot with my music. I’m an Earth sign, a Taurus, so I love nature just being out in the sun. And when people tell me how much my music has helped them through a tough time in their life, that shit just inspires me to keep going.
How would you define your sound?
Dope. I just make music that sounds me, I don’t want to make a specific sound. You could say it’s alternative hip hop. At the end of the da,y in my heart I truly love hip hop, that’s my whole life.
You’ve been quite open about your struggles with anxiety and depression – would you mind speaking about how this has influenced and informed your music?
Life is overwhelming at times, and music is medicine. It’s therapy for me. And also to help others – if I feel like if my music is helping someone who is down or going through a dark time, that’s when I feel the happiest. That’s when I know I accomplished something great and that means the world to me.
Do you feel vulnerable dropping music that has so much of yourself in it?
I guess you can say that, but like all great artist who are true to themselves, you have to be a little vulnerable, right? It’s the reason we like Frank Ocean and love Tupac so much. I feel like it’s an important way to connect with my audience.
Highly Caffeinated payed homage to the by gone era of hip hop – what made you want to do this? Highly Caffeinated really was just vibe at that time in my life, and still is, in a way. In high school I would do my homework and write raps in cafes and diners, either by myself or with the homies. I wanted to make a Jazz Hop Cafe themed tape that you could do your homework to, essentially.
How do you think your sound has changed since your breakthrough mixtape Highly Caffeinated?
I’m having more fun with it. it’s still me but this time around but I’m a little more energetic and loose. It’s groovy to me. I’m trying out different cadences and melodies. I’m just having fun with it.
How do you think growing up in Detroit has fed into your music?
Lately, Detroit has inspired me as far as the people I’ve met here through art, fashion and music. Honestly, no bias, Detroit is so beautiful, especially the artsy black kids that grew up here. They’re now hosting photo galleries openings and doing really cool stuff. It’s also just the energy we carry – it’s something you’d have to come see for yourself.
How do you want people to feel when they listen to your music?
I want people to feel free and alive when they listen to my music. I want someone to feel good about themselves and maybe feel inspired to draw a picture or design a cool fashion piece.
You’re still so young, do you feel a lot older than your years?
Yes and no. I feel very matured and but I know I’ve still got learning to do.
What would you have done if you weren’t a musician?
If I wasn’t a musician I would try to get into the cinema – either acting or directing. Photography or modelling too.
Who would you love to collaborate with?
There’s a lot of people I would love to collaborate with, but Matt Martians of The Internet. He is so tight, I think we would do something groovy as hell.
What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve had on any of your music?
When people tell me my music helped them through tough times and told me to keep going, that type of stuff is so cool to me.
What’s next for you? What are your goals?
More music. More videos. More content. More performing. More travelling. And my new EP “The Affirmation” is coming soon, very soon!