What's up Leafers? Welcome to the latest edition of On the Rise where we interview upcoming hip hop talent. Today's guest is rapper, iso. iso hails from Oakland, California. Often compared to J.Cole, Andre 3000, and Joey Bada$$, his inspiration comes from a wider variety of musicians; from MF DOOM, Amy Winehouse, 2Pac to Bob Marley.We can definitely see him performing on major stages such as Coachella or Rolling Loud. The rising MC is making a buzz in his city so we had to tap in with him. Check out the interview below.
Westleaf Staff: What's up, ISO? Your music is dope! When did you start making music?
iso: I started making music around 2013, my sophomore year of high school. Once me and my patnas found the music studio on campus, you couldn't get us out of there. By my junior year, I released a mixtape on DatPiff with a bunch of the songs we made in that studio. The songs were all rough, sonically but it gave me confidence in my skill set and laid the foundation for what I'm doing now.
Westleaf Staff: That's dope! What city do you represent?
iso: I represent Oakland, California.
Westleaf Staff: Shout out to Oakland! There's hella talent there. So how did you create your stage name?
iso: It honestly came to me so naturally, that most of my meaning behind the name came after I decided on it, but my stage name is "iso". Yes it's all lower case. It comes from my real name, Osi. I just flipped it backwards, that was my initial thought process behind it, but it also plays into my belief in my ability. I believed I was the best rapper alive back when I was in high school and I've just been competing with myself since then, so I feel (iso)lated constantly competing with the best rapper alive. I also played basketball from elementary through college, and anybody that hoops knows what's supposed to happen when you call an iso.
Westleaf Staff: That's a dope name. It's super creative. Shoutout to your hoping days. So how did your early life shape your interest in music?
iso: My music interest was shaped by the non traditional musical influences imposed on me by my culture and family. I was born in Nigeria, so all the music I heard were Highlife, Gospel, and early Afrobeats that my mom would play around the house. Those influences aren't directly expressed in my music, but it definitely gave me a wide range of sounds to base my art on.
Westleaf Staff: Dope! Shoutout to your Mom! So who is your biggest Musical influence?
iso: I have so many musical influences that represent different eras of my life and for different things, but the ones I can recall now are Lil Wayne, MF DOOM, Eminem, Amy Winehouse, Tupac, J Dilla, Madlib, and Nas.
Westleaf Staff: Dope! I feel that. Those are some legends. What's been the defining moment in your music career thus far?
iso: One was definitely my first time putting together a full body of work, from the recording and engineering, and releasing it to the world. Another defining moment was working with internationally renowned artists, Zoro and Illbliss on a track for the Netflix original series, "King of Boys: Return of the King".
Westleaf Staff: That's dope! So what makes you a unique artist?
iso: One of the biggest things that makes me unique as an artist is my ability to express all my influences in my own unique manner to the point that it creates a life of its own. I also believe my love for music and sound makes me unique. I don't mean love for music in the cliché sense, but think about genuine love... It's more than that.
Westleaf Staff: Dope! You're super unique. So what does art mean to you?
iso: Art is the greatest form of expression God blessed us with. It allows us to communicate with each other across language barriers, cultures, and beliefs. Some form of art inspired every great man action since the beginning of time. As artists, we move culture and society forward because we experiment right on the edge of order and chaos and that experimenting can lead to something awful or something special. When it's special, the world reaps those benefits.
Westleaf Staff: That's deep! Where do you see your music career going over the next few years?
iso: Over the next few years I would have built a catalogue of renowned bodies of work. I would be able to take care of my family through the business I'm building around the brand "iso" I would have the resources to be able to work with all the artists I want to work with, while having complete creative control of my art. I would also be in the position to help smaller artists grow into more competent human beings, so it would reflect in their music.
Westleaf Staff: Are you releasing a project in the near future?
iso: Yes! Just finished my first full length project, it's set to release on January 21st.
Westleaf Staff: What can you tell us about the project?
It's called "ECCE". Executively produced by my boy Dev.OTS. We came together to explore a pretty dense topic, without sacrificing the sonics of each song. The beats are powerfully diverse, the bars are no short of elite, and the melodies won't be able to leave your head.
Westleaf Staff: That's dope! I wish you much success! Before we go, describe music in three words.
iso: The divine language.