As I’ve alluded to in previous posts, Indiana is finally starting to place itself on hip-hop’s map. Artists ranging from Ye Ali to Freddie Gibbs are lighting the industry with hits – exposing the world to the long-forgotten Midwest.
I get especially excited when the artists and tastemakers in today’s urban culture are from my same stomping grounds. It’s not too often that my tiny, private alma mater, Butler University, is mentioned in rap songs – so when it is I have to show SoulCulture love!
Double A Muzic, Aaron by government, is an up and coming hip-hop artist with a fresh approach to the new direction that rap is taking. From opening for T-Pain at Butler to starting his own business, there never seems to be a dull moment.
Last week, I sat down with Double A to talk about his inspirations, aspirations, and the state of his thriving consignment shop. Tune in!
Double A’s Intro to Hip-Hop
SCB: You like all kinds of different music genres, what made you want to be a hip-hop artist?
DA: I honestly kind of fell into it. I definitely didn’t grow up with rap at all.
SCB: So what’d your parents play when you were growing up?
DA: My parents played a lot of John Mellencamp when I was little.
[Side note: Play this as you read the rest of this interview to set the mood. 😹]
SCB :Indiana boy!
DA: Exactly, Indiana boy! That’s definitely my white side coming out… For some reason nobody thinks I’m white when they first meet me.
SCB: So weird! I didn’t know that until maybe a few weeks ago…
DA: Yeah and then I tell people I’m a big John Mellencamp fan and they get it. “Oh, this dude is white!” [laughs]
But yeah, they also played a lot of Michael Jackson and Nat King Cole.
SCB: Oh, so they’re soulful white people!
DA: Yeah! I was into that kind of music, a pretty good mix. But then I first got exposed to hip-hop in third or fourth grade – I just fit into that crowd more than any other group. All my friends were talking about it, but I had never listened to it. I wanted to be able to join in on the conversations so I decided I was going to learn on my own. I asked my mom to go to Target and the first CD she let me get was a Jibbs CD. You remember him?
SCB: No… who the hell is Jibbs?
DA: Chain Hang Low guy.
SCB: Ohhhhhh yeah! Do ya chain hang low, do it wobble to the flo’? [Sorry I forgot, Jibbs.]
DA: Yeah, that one! They bought that for me for my birthday because he didn’t cuss in any of his songs. They were at Target looking for a CD for me because I told them I wanted to listen to rap…
SCB: Aw, this is the cutest hip-hop story ever!
DA: I know, my street cred just flew out the window… but, they were looking for a CD and some other mom recommended Jibbs since he didn’t cuss. So I finally could listen to rap and played it to death. I have every Jibbs song memorized… never got to put it to good use, though. Who knows what happened to him. Could be working at Walmart. [He didn’t mean that, Jibbs.]
When I finally got to go to Target and buy my own CD I got Kanye’s Graduation.
SCB: That was one of my first albums, too. That was on my graduation cap! My claim to fame. I love that album and Kanye is one of my favorite artists.
DA: See, this is why we get along! Yeah, that’s my favorite album of all time… to this day.
So after that, it was history. I couldn’t stop listening to hip-hop, I was hooked.
I couldn’t stop listening to hip-hop, I was hooked.
SCB: Actually, that’s quite admirable. Most people do what they do, wear what they wear, listen to what they listen to, because of their upbringing or their environment. It’s never because they have a natural inclination to do it. So it’s pretty cool that you like it because you like it – not because that’s all you were exposed to.
DA: Yeah, exactly. And I will say, my family was pretty cool about it. They could’ve said no, rap is a bad influence we don’t want you listening to it. But they were supportive from day 1. With me making my own music, it was kind of the same thing. I don’t make squeaky clean songs, so I was so scared to tell them I rapped, let alone show them my music.
SCB: So when exactly did you go from just enjoying rap, to wanting to make the music yourself?
DA: Freshman year of high school. I played around with it in middle school but it was trash. And my freshman year of high school I was in boarding school at Culver Academy. So I had a dorm room which was my own personal space to brainstorm and write stuff down.
I started listening to more current artists at the time, like Lil’ Wayne and Kanye. I took after them and thought: if these guys can do it, so can I. So I started recording stuff. Got a mic my sophomore year for my birthday and my dorm room became my little recording studio. I taught myself how to do it. The validation was showing people and they liked it. Like strangers – these weren’t just my friends gassing me up, it was people who didn’t know me who said they liked to listen.
SCB: You listen to Eminem? [half joking, half serious… had to ask]
DA: I do. Especially for white rappers, he’s the pioneer so he was definitely in my rotation.
SCB: Okay so just to clarify, you’re not mixed with anything you’re just white?
DA: Just straight Wonder bread. 🍞
SCB: I guess since I didn’t really know your background, it wasn’t so much a shock that you were a rapper. You don’t look white so it wasn’t like immediate expected corniness… whereas I remember when certain people tell me they rap, and they’re obviously white, I’m expecting it to be trash. That’s a horrible way to think about it, but that’s going to be the reaction from lots of hip-hop heads.
DA: For sure, people are still really surprised. People can think whatever they want about me, but I am who I am. A lot of people perceive me to be this goody two-shoes type of person so they’re genuinely surprised when they hear my songs and they say I sound different when I rap.
SCB: You kinda allude to that in your songs too. Like in Cool you talk about how you tried so hard to be this type of person but then just gave up and started to be yourself.
DA: Yeah, that was a really important song to me. First, because it sampled one of my favorite songs Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat) by Digible Planets. But also because I wanted to rap on that message – you being you is what’s cool. But then Chance came out with that song on Surf so I was salty – like I had this idea a minute ago!
SCB: It still counts!
DA: Yeah, whatever! That song still means a lot to me.
SCB: So what do your parents think about you rapping? Are they supportive?
DA: Yeah, they’re so supportive. I was so scared to share my music so I didn’t tell them about it. Then one day, my dad came in my room and was like “Hey, I’ve been listening to this one artist a lot… I think his name is Double A…?” He was tryna be funny, that’s just my dad. But he said he really liked it.
My parents have always been pretty chill and supportive. But my mom, I’m her baby. Some of the stuff I talk about is real for me, but she doesn’t wanna hear that. So when she heard it she was a little worried about some stuff but for the most part she really liked it. Since then, nothing but support. When I’m headed to the studio, they know how important that is to me. They know that I need that time and that I need to do shows, and spend money on certain things.
SCB: Wow, that’s awesome. Most parents push their kids to have a backup plan rather than focus solely on the music.
DA: My mom stresses still getting my degree even if something does come up. It’s crazy though, because when I talk to people in LA most rappers don’t go to school or work – they’re fully committed to the artistry. This is their job, it’s their life. I’m in school and I have a job. I definitely want to be an artist and I’m fully committed, but I also want to be sure I’m doing it the smart way. I’m still trying to leverage every opportunity I have and make a name for myself, while still being sure I have a backup.
I’m in school, have a job. I definitely want to be an artist and I’m fully committed, but I also want to be sure I’m doing it the smart way.
I know other people love the music I make so I know that I could make a career off of it. If 99% of your feedback is positive, you’ve gotta be doing something right. People ask me for new stuff all the time, and if nobody fucked with you they wouldn’t be asking you that.
Motivational Support from His Girlfriend and Friends
SCB: Does Jordan like your music?
DA: She does! I ask her all the time if she’d tell me if I was wack, she says she would. She knows all my lyrics and she’ll be the first to tell me if some shit was wack.
Sometimes though, I may make a song that has a different vibe and I’ll ask her “what do you think of this?” and she’ll say “it doesn’t sound like you, I don’t think I like it” but I still respect her feedback obviously because I respect her as a person but then when she gives it another chance it might grow on her and she might like it.
It just goes to show if you don’t get the initial reaction that you wanted, sometimes it just takes time for it to grow on people. You even see that with popular artists when they switch up – Cudi switches up all the time, or when Wayne had that rock phase – and the fans say they don’t like it immediately, but they look back and like it a bit more.
SCB: That’s good that she’s honest with you. Because as you get bigger, you’ll probably have your group of yes-men who tell you that they like your music no matter what. You need somebody to keep it real with you.
DA: Yeah, that’s true. For me, it’s great when Jordan says she likes it or any one of my friends. But it’s validation for real when a stranger says they’ve been listening to my music and they enjoy it, it means the world to me.
But it’s validation for real when a stranger says they’ve been listening to my music and they enjoy it, it means the world to me.
SCB: That’s so true. Even with blogging, I might wonder sometimes, is anyone even reading this? Then somebody I barely know will say “yo, the blog is awesome!” And it feels great.
DA: Yeah you’ve gotta start somewhere. I remember one of J. Cole’s first tweets was like “hey, I have 500 followers right now, I want to let everyone know I appreciate you.” That was one of his first tweets, and I love it because he appreciated what he had at every point – we all start somewhere.
I think it’s important to be self aware, but also to be exposed to new things. The more you learn and expose yourself to the music, the more you learn to be more selective on the brand you’re building and how you want your music to be perceived. Back in the day I might have just thrown any track on the internet just to get it out there, now I’m a little more selective about the music I’m putting out because of the brand I want to build. You don’t get to go back – people can see everything online and if they don’t know you, they’re figuring you out based on what’s up there.
I think it’s important to be self aware, but also to be exposed to new things.
Putting on for Indianapolis
SCB: Are most of your fans here in Indy?
DA: For the most part. But the cool thing about going to boarding school is that the kids who I went to high school with are all over the world. Mexico, China, every state in the US. I look at my Soundcloud stats and the second most played country for me is Australia, which is so random but you never know who’s listening or sharing.
With the Internet, you can connect with anybody, anywhere. My store Naptown Thrift gets so many orders from Australia, you never know who you’re reaching.
SCB: So with that in mind, do you think that Indy can get you where you want to be as an artist? Or do you think you’ll eventually have to go somewhere else, like to a bigger city?
DA: Before this summer I thought you needed to be in NYC or LA. But being out there [in LA] made me respect the vibes that we have here. I’m a strong believer in making my sound bigger right here. I don’t want to escape to the big cities for music if I can be the person to make the sound right here in my own city.
SCB: Sort of like the Wiz of Pittsburgh…
DA: Exactly. I want to bring it to where I’m from. I want to showcase the vibe we have here. I don’t want to take the style and have it tainted somewhere else. And now you can send your music from anywhere – even a hotel in North Dakota! Doesn’t matter where you are, it’s just the resources around you. Obviously there are more resources in places like LA. It’s so easy to meet people out there. When I was interning, I saw Will.I.Am I saw Lil’ Mama – just walking out of Roscoe’s Chicken headed to a recording studio. Ceelo Green. These people are there. You don’t have that in Indy where big artists are just walking around – you have to seek them out.
SCB: Who are you favorite Indy rappers?
DA: I’d say Pat App – super dope. He goes to Purdue and he’s from Carmel. I had him on my first tape Graffiti. He’s somebody that makes me want to be better. When you’re on a track with him, you’ve gotta bring your A-game. Healthy competition.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Flaco, a local guy that’s been making noise. He’s going to be performing at Chreece the hip-hop festival. I’m trying to perform next year. [Chreece management, hit him up!] It’s in Fountain Square next Saturday. They’re showcasing different hip-hop talent with different stages, like a mini Lollapalooza.
I’ve been listening to Mathaius Young. He’s worked with Sonny Digital. Those guys are definitely setting the bar.
SCB: It sets you apart that you know more about the music industry. A lot of people go into it blindly without knowing what shit to expect. You’re passionate about the music, but have the knowledge and book smarts to know how to approach it.
DA: Yeah, I know not to jump at the first opportunity that comes my way.
SCB: So does that mean you’re more willing to make what you think is your sound?
DA: It’s finding a happy medium. At the end of the day, you want to make music that makes you happy. You want to make money, but personally I wouldn’t want to make whatever my label tells me to make. I couldn’t live with myself if I allowed other people to tell me how to make the one thing I love doing. Just gotta pray that your personal style will be the next wave that people want to hop on.
I couldn’t live with myself if I allowed other people to tell me how to make the one thing I love doing.
Hopefully I can stay with the times, but still have that Double A sound.
Double A’s Influencers
SCB: I will say, I was listening to the Feel EP and some of the tracks on there reminded me of Chiddy Bang. They have those poppy type, funky beats. And whatever the black dude’s name is raps on it.
DA: That’s a new one – I’ve heard Logic and J. Cole. I could see it though, because they have a whole different vibe with how they make and choose their beats. Zaphoon, the guy that produces, has a whole different sound and he’s super talented at what he does.
SCB: I like your music because it’s authentic – we know you’re not from the hood but you don’t rap and act like you’re doing something you’re not.
DA: Yeah, I try to be diverse in how I flow on a song, but also be authentic. I know a lot of people try to bite Drake’s flow. The Atlanta sound is definitely taking over too. I try to steer away from heavy bass and high-hat – that’s what everyone else does. And talking about bitches. I want to be different.
SCB: If you could collab with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be? Has to be one person, only one.
DA: Ye. He’s been a big influence on me. When he adds his creative twist, it adds a buzz. Everyone’s talking about it. Being in the studio with him would be fun, since he pushes the boundaries. I want to experience that. If you work with him, you probably grow as an artist.
I could probably say the same thing about Chance or even a Drake. I can only pick one person though so I’ll say Kanye.
SCB: You just got back from Los Angeles! What were you there for?
DA: I was doing a summer internship with HipHopDX. It was dope – I was doing a bunch of different things for them and getting exposed to the vibes in LA.
SCB: Did they know you make music? You had to capitalize on that opportunity.
DA: Yeah, they all knew – but I didn’t push it on anyone. There’s a certain way to do it, it’s not really professional for me to be pushing my music on people, and you have to consider who you’re talking to. I don’t know if Lil’ Bibby would be super interested in hearing my music. [laughs]
But at the end of the summer they let me do one of their Hollywood Freestyles.
SCB: That’s awesome! So you’re entering your third year at Butler, right? What are you studying?
DA: I am a recording industry studies major which is audio production and music business – best of both worlds.
SCB: So, it’s still music related. You’re completely invested in the industry.
DA: Yes it’s very music related, but not so much hip-hop though. References in class are usually to classic rock and stuff like that. So I have to relate it to what i know on my own. At the same time, music is a universal interest so it’s dope either way.
SCB: Is your ultimate goal to be an artist or producer or something else?
DA: To be an artist no doubt. I’m passionate about creating music and I know for sure that being an artist is my ultimate goal. From my studies at Butler, I’ve realized – I don’t know if I want to be on the other end of it in the studio, like setting stuff up for other people to record or working on the sound board. It doesn’t interest me as much as being the actual artist. But the music business side of it is super interesting to me.
Like for one of our projects for a music business class we had to act like we were A&R and go out and talent scout and find a local folk group in Indy to promote to our class, and it was so fun! I loved it – me and Charlie [Breeze] went out and we just found a folk band and presented them to our class to record at Butler next semester.
SCB: So you actually enjoy the business label side of the music industry? That’s so interesting because there’s a whole hype behind being independent and shying away from the structure of a label.
DA: Yeah, definitely. People always ask me – if a label offered you a contract right now, would you sign it? Honestly, I don’t know. As somebody who’s not really shit right now, if a label offered me something it’d seem like a no-brainer to take that opportunity. But you see the success of people like Chance, Mac Miller, or even Macklemore to an extent, and you see how much money they’re making for themselves without that resource. That sounds more appealing than experiencing some of these terrible label stories that you hear other people go through.
SCB: Yeah, with the Internet damn near anything is possible.
DA: Exactly! But at the same time it’s harder – sort of bitter sweet. With the Internet, it’s so easy for any Joe Blow to get a mic, create a Soundcloud, upload their music and push it into someone’s DM’s everyday on Twitter. It’s getting watered down. So for me, it’s like if you’re getting hit up by 15 different artists a day on Twitter, why would you take a chance on me? You’d probably assume it’s trash just like the other 14 people rushing your inbox. All about differentiating yourself.
…if you’re getting hit up by 15 different artists a day on Twitter, why would you take a chance on me?
Naptown Thrift: His Current Hustle
SCB: Are you making money from your music now?
DA: Not really. Partially because I didn’t have the rights to all the beats I was using. It was mainly just for exposure. I’ve been trying to start purchasing rights to the beats I’m using so I can start putting them on iTunes and places like that to make money. And then I want to make money from some of the shows I’m doing.
At the same time, getting out there is just as important. I’m more worried about gaining a fan base.
SCB: You sound a lot like Taylor Bennett in his Sway in the Morning interview. It’s not all about making the money right now, it’s about exposure and being able to have people say “Oh, that’s Aaron’s sound”
DA: Exactly. I had a bunch of CD’s made that were nicely packaged with my social media accounts on there. Was planning to sell them for $5 a pop, but then I thought why not just give it out for free. If even half the people who get the CD look me up on Soundcloud and give me a follow, that’s worth the $5 that I originally would’ve sold it for. It’s worth it to me.
SCB: Have you thought about merch?
DA: I’ve been trying to figure out how to do it the right way. You don’t want to just have your name on a t-shirt.
SCB: Exactly, that’s so important now. All of these big artists are teaming up with high fashion labels – it’s a fashion statement now.
DA: Yeah, cause you don’t make money off of music anymore. It’s all about merch and touring.
Then you can be Kanye where you can sell a t-shirt for like $90 and nobody blinks an eye.
SCB: And it’s almost a perfect correlation for you, because you have Naptown Thrift!
DA: Yeah, so that started at the beginning of last summer. Me and my dad liked going to thrift stores and finding retro sports gear. Like old Nike stuff, Reebok, Tommy, Polo. There’s a whole market for it because that style is already back in fashion, and what people are wearing in popular culture. We got a bunch of it and started to resell it. I knew I had friends that would wear it and they knew I already was good at finding that stuff so we started Naptown Thrift.
We started in a really tiny storage unit we just put stuff in there. I started taking guys in there to shop around and look through it. Now we moved to a bigger one on 52nd street, it’s set up to look like a store. We’re at the point where we have almost 1500 followers on Instagram, getting orders everyday – we have a whole inventory of stuff. It’s gotten to the point where I tell my dad what to look for, so he can go around to shops and look around. We ship out to anywhere in the world and just have people pay through PayPal. But then guys here in Indy can come in and look around the storage unit.
I’m working on a website and my dad is also looking into a whole storefront. There’s nothing like this in Indy – but people are looking for it.
SCB: That’s an awesome concept! There’s a huge streetwear following here in Indianapolis, but the need isn’t completely being met. You gotta go to Chicago or New York or LA.
DA: We’re also selling it at an affordable price – so that’s completely different. T-shirts are sold for like $10, sweatshirts for like $20 or $30. People respect that and come back to us.
After hearing Double A’s story and witnessing his passion for the culture, I gained a deeper respect for his tracks that I may have previously overlooked. His determination to be a relevant hip-hop artist and contribute solid content to the genre is unmatched.
Be sure to keep your eyes on Double A Muzic. He’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Listen to The Feel EP below, along with one of my favorite tracks Gold.