UA– First of all, thank you so much for talking with Urban Asian! Can you give us a little background on yourself?
Flawless– I sure can! Lets see, a little bit about me. Well, I am a DJ turned producer and I started off, gosh, maybe five or six years ago. I started off DJing in Chicago at a lot of parties and college shows and whatnot and then I started kind of making a lot of remixes and came out with some CDs. Most of them spread virally once they were posted online and that’s when things truly started to go from national to international. I started to get exposure in a lot of different countries. And from there on out, I kind of felt like I hit a wall creatively being a DJ, once I, you know, had done all the trademark and headlining events and then thought “Well, what’s the next step?” So the next step really is to stop playing other people’s music, and creating your own, right? So then I moved out to New York, enrolled in a music academy and have been studying music production. What you hear here is really just a reflection of what I have been studying and learning. I feel very much that I’m still a student in the process, but I think so far so good! Definitely DJ turned Producer.
UA– That’s awesome! A few days ago actually, you released a teaser to your new online video series “Headphone Diaries.” Congrats on that! Can you tell us a little of what it’s about?
Flawless– Thank you, thank you! I sure can. So, here’s my whole thing. And this is where I stop being funny and I get really serious because I’m really adamant about this. I think music, and actually art in general, is just underappreciated and is consumed all too fast. I feel like, back in the day, if art was food, people would chop it up, they would chew it, they would swallow it and they would savor it and they would love it and it would stay in their stomach. Now, its like, they just take everything, put it in a blender and mix it all together and drink the whole thing down without really having a taste for it. They don’t really get to experience the music as it was created. So for me, it was really about documenting the creative process that goes into creating anything, whether it be a concept behind a photo shoot, or the inspiration behind a track or what caused an artist to write a certain song. I just really wanted people to understand that back story and wanted to tell it in a compelling and interesting way. I think that was what was missing for me. I think the internet and the immediacy of everything is to blame for it. The fact that you can just go online and get music before it is even released, I think has definitely trained the need or the want for the music. So, for me, it was really just about being able to document that process and really inspire people. If you actually see the process that goes into creating a track, you can really understand what parts of it you like and what parts of it you love. Then ultimately you can understand all the work that goes into creating art. That was really the focus of this project.
UA– The whole series was developed by the creators of MTV’s “Diary,” correct? How did you link up with them?
Flawless– Oh man, dude, [laughs] here’s the reason why this project was two years in the making. It took me a really long time to find the right people. Initially, when I had such a good idea and drafted it all up I promise you I met with close to like 6 different direction teams. Literally, some people just didn’t understand the vision or the direction I wanted to go or they weren’t on board with it and wanted to do it their way. Honestly, if there was ever a favorite show on MTV for me, it would be “Diary.” The style that it was shot, I loved it because it wasn’t the greatest editing and it wasn’t the greatest cinematography. I mean I’m not knocking on MTV because it allowed artists to be able to showcase their lives and let people see beyond just their music and you got to see things out there. You got to see them backstage, you got to see them with their families and that is really what made it so interesting and compelling, to be able to see that these guys aren’t just popping bottles all day. Not that I would do that, but to be able to show this side of the industry was that one direction that I really wanted to go in. It was just the luck of the draw that I ended up being a part of the team with people from the original MTV project. We started talking and they were totally on board because they felt that the same thing was missing from music and so they signed on and we brought on some editors and camera men. Having the right resources makes literally the world of difference.
UA– You actually just mentioned that it took about 2 years to make this video series. In the whole 2 years, did you have a favorite part of the production?
Flawless– I honestly love just being put on the spot. What I mean by that is, I think that anytime a person, not just an artist, steps out of their comfort zone, even for just a fraction of a second, they are able to learn something new about themselves. For me, when we sat down to do the interview portion of the different episodes, the director was asking me questions that I wasn’t really fully prepared to answer. Some of them took me completely out of my comfort zone because I felt like I didn’t really have the answer. I expected the questions to be all about how great I was, how tight my jeans are, and all about that. But she asked me all these questions that I really didn’t have answers to. Some parts of the episodes you’ll see me kind of shut up or quiet down because I don’t really feel comfortable but I think that’s the beauty of it. You capture the moments you feel really confident and you capture the moments that you are the most vulnerable. To see that is probably my most favorite part.
UA– So, do you actually talk about your jeans and your shoes in the episodes? Because that might be one of my favorite parts.
Flawless: [Laughs] I think in the first episode…I’ll give you a sneak peek! The first episode is really about mapping out a new look for myself. To be completely frank with you, two or three years ago I was creatively a different person versus now. My style and even the way that I talk has evolved. You carry yourself differently. So for me it was important for me to introduce that with the new look. We definitely talk about different looks and what kind of things I like to wear and what kind of attitude I carry. So, a good portion of the first episode talks about the evolution of my personal style. So yeah you do definitely see some tight jeans and some shades. I don’t have tight shirts on though, which is probably for the best.
UA– No v-necks?!
Flawless– Nooo, I don’t think I’m wearing a vneck! [Laughs] What are you implying? [Laughs again] You know whats funny is, me and Pree [Mayall] started just joking around about this whole tight jeans thing and combat boots but now it’s a funny thing to play on. Now, anywhere we go, if you know it’s going to be a serious party, leave your dress shoes home and put your combat boots on.
UA– Actually, when Urban Asian spoke with Pree, we asked him if he thought that swag was something you acquire versus something you are born with, he said that it is definitely something you are born with. What is your take on this?
Flawless– Oh man. Well here’s the thing. I think that everybody at some point discovers their swag. For example, I have a friend who is a complete nerd. From head to toe he is a total nerd. But he embraces that. He doesn’t try and fight it. He doesn’t try and take off his glasses and put on contacts. He says “you know what? This is me with my big glasses,” and that’s his swag. But I’ll tell you what, if you try and be somebody you’re not, there is nothing more transparent to a woman than that. If you’re trying to play off and carry yourself off like you have the Trey Songz swag, but you really don’t, then that will show in the worst way possible. Believe me, I know. So now I don’t even try to be cool. You’ve got work with what you’ve got.
UA– I completely agree. Back to the series, how is it set up? Are there weekly episodes? Are there daily episodes? Do we get a new episode every hour on the hour?
Flawless– Initially I want to try and release them either biweekly or monthly. I’m leaning towards monthly just because each episode is about 5 to 7 minutes long and each episode debuts a new song and each of these songs really eventually leads up to the making of the album “The Headphone Diaries.” So, that being said, I want each musical release be in the market for enough time and I don’t want to saturate the airwaves every two weeks with a new track. But, it is certainly a possibility. I think that the first track off the first episode, which I am super hyped about, is an original production we did with Navin Kundra which is called “T.N.K.” Both of us feel really strongly about the track and we feel like it could be really big. We wanted to make sure that everyone has enough time to digest it and of course we want to make sure that there is enough time before the next one is released. So that’s probably why I’m leaning towards more monthly than biweekly. So, for right now that is what I’m thinking.
UA– Can you tell us a little bit about that collaboration? How did you get together with Navin?
Flawless– It’s actually a funny story, as is everything in my life. I went to London late last year and while I was down there I basically tried to get in contact with a bunch of managers. I mean, I’ll be completely honest with you here, I think about 90% of them just didn’t respond. But I mean, I’m not bitter, no big deal [laughs], but one team that did actually respond was Navin’s team. I was so happy for that because from his first single, I felt so strongly about him as a vocalist that I was like, “this guy is so talented,” and I was so happy that I finally got a chance to meet with his team and first talk with them about what I do and they said “yeah definitely lets do this man.” What you hear on the first episode is really kind of the skeletal making of the track that we sent to Navin. We produced the track and we talked about the flow and the vibe that we wanted and I constructed the song accordingly and then we went back and forth a couple times and then we had a hit! I think that this track shows Navin in kind of a more organic light, in his more natural state. That’s ultimately the kind of music you want to make in a collaboration, where both the artists stay in their comfort zone creatively but still are able to deliver a new product. That is definitely what him and I have done here. He stayed in his lane and I stayed in mine, but ultimately we both had the same destination….which was Swaggerville.
UA– Swaggerville is always your destination!
Flawless– [Laughs] That’s always where I’m going. I never really go anywhere else. I actually sleep there, work there, party there, do everything there.
UA– Are there any other cameos that we should look forward to in the series?
Flawless– Well that’s the interesting thing. The other exciting thing that I forgot to mention was that this series really shows how I got to explore and discover new artists. I’m not working with new artists because established artists don’t have the time, I’m working with new artists because to me that is really the fresh sound, that’s really the new wave. No disrespect to the established artists that are in the industry, but their sound is very reflective of a certain era. They are, I guess, a reflection of David Guetta, meets Flo Rida, meets Jay Z, meets Nicki Minaj, meets Drake. Hip Hop has taken a complete 180 in the past 4 years and the music is very reflective of that. So, they still listen to the South Asian acts that they draw their inspiration from which is what is really exciting about it. Navin Kundra is very reflective of the UK sound, but when him and I come together it sounds very Timbaland meets Jamie Fox meets Drake type sound, and I think this is something that really neither one of us could have accomplished if we hadn’t come together. There are going to be new artists such as Mickey Singh, who is literally the best kept secret of the industry, you have Pree, you have Navin, you have Sam Hasan, and really a bunch of other amazing new artists. What really excites me about it is all the different kinds of sounds that will be in the episodes.
UA– What else should we be looking forward to from you in the near future?
Flawless– Honestly, what I really want to do is elevate the industry’s perception of what entertainment is. Do you remember back in the day when you saw a Michael Jackson video? That made your day. That made my week! I would stick around the TV waiting for the video to come on! If I got a magazine with him on the cover, that would make my month. That’s lost now, people’s value of entertainment has just depreciated so much, and I want to be able to inspire people to bring that back. I want to be able the level expectation that the fans have. That’s the driving force behind everything I do.
UA– Thank you again for talking with Urban Asian. Is there anything else you want to share with us or your fans?
Flawless– I honestly really just want to thank the team at Urban Asian for taking the time out to talk to people that are really trying to change things around. I want to thank everyone who has been emailing and messaging and tweeting me, and everyone who is a fan on facebook. You guys are awesome. And, of course, I want to give a big thanks to my parents and family for all of their love and support.
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