For as long as there’s been hip-hop, there’s been an ample amount of producers and those ample amounts of producers have been influenced from and taken their influences to brand new heights of which those producers have been influenced by and so on and so on. From DJ Premier with his signature style of Boom Bap which was popularized by KRS-One to J Dilla with his signature style of afro-centric style sound which was popularized by the likes of Common, The Roots and even Pharoah Monarch who’s Organized Konfusion group formed the basis of Stones Throw Records.
Lonelier is one of those producers who has taken influence from the boom bap of old and the beat tapes of new. Coming from Los Angeles and the new generation of producers who have listened to J Dilla’s Donuts album on repeat, he is one of those rare producers who is able to build on J Dilla’s titular blueprint while incorporating his own image and stylee as evident by his very faithful production work that incorporates samples that give off emotion and depth while also showing inner pride and respect that is common for afrocentric hip-hop.
He has been in the production game for a pretty long time with projects ranging as far back as 2008; gaining the respect of those OG’s like Fatlip, forming a small collaborative circle for which one of those members even made an entire album rapping over Lonelier production and even performing on the regular on a lot of producer showcases throughout the LA/IE area pre-pandemic. Even though you may not know his name, he has put in a lot of work polishing his work, making his mark and climbing the ranks to eventually reach the top.
With his unique image and production style, Lonelier is amongst the few (alongside Knxwledge) producers who have the raw talent and skill to possibly bring back the afro-centric movement of hip-hop that has been overtaken by mainstream rap and make it popular again. Of course the question you’re asking yourself is… “Who is Lonelier really?”, well here he is to say it in his own words, Lonelier.
Nodball: I’d like to thank you for sitting down with me for this interview. I’ve taken the time to listen to your entire discography and I have to say, it’s an impressive body of work. Especially the album you did with Kweze.
Lonelier: Thank you as well Nodball for reaching out to me to set up an interview. I greatly appreciate you checking out my discography, it’s quite a bit. The Kweze – Aztec Gold record is over 10 years old, fun fact. I just got back in touch with him, I’m hoping we can make more records soon.
N: I’ve noticed that you have a lot of art associated with you. It is really high quality and distinctive art. I have to ask, did you do that yourself?
L: I’m a huge fan of animation, anime, and cartoons, so I found a person who was able to capture a unique style for my aesthetic. Haha I wish I could draw, but I’m terrible at creating hand drawn art. I like my art direction because no one else is doing it really. I’m not on the same page with what is going on with the internet, so I tried to get creative with how I present myself.
N: I’m pretty sure everybody is curious to know, what’s your origin story? How did you get started?
L: The origin story… It’s a lot to be honest but I’ll try to give you the highlights. Started making music in middle school on an old Yamaha keyboard. In high school I used Fruity Loops 3, and a Roland Fantom-S. I also had rappers that I worked with at the time until we all split. Started a production company (JaeSwitch Productions) where I continued making music and recording. After that folded, I started doing Indie Rock and got out of Hip Hop from ‘09 – ‘16. Got into a car accident and couldn’t use my right hand, so I made beats in the meantime. That turned into something serious which got me back into making beats. I still do Indie Rock (Sleepy Smith) which is something that I’m currently focused on, along with learning Jazz Guitar. Lonelier came after Jin Kuvira, which was the name I used previously. Lonelier works better for me, and is a better representation for everything that is me.
N: Living from the Los Angeles area affords you a lot of inspiration with various art scenes from Los Angeles to Long Beach to Pomona. Which Areas of Los Angeles inspired you the most?
L: For me, I like Long Beach because it isn’t very crazy compared to Hollywood, Santa Monica, DTLA, etc. Long Beach is really chill, and I feel like there is a lot of room to breathe, and it’s a destination all in the same. Pasadena and Whittier are places I love too. There is a record store in Whittier called Mxxnshine Records, they really keep hip hop alive there, and ran dope shows pre covid. Pasadena has beautiful scenery which inspired a few records too. I would’ve included Inglewood where I lived, mainly before the stadium was built. The stadium changed the culture of Inglewood a bit in my opinion. I really take those changes to heart.
N: Some people use the computer to produce, some use equipment to produce. How do you produce your music?
L: I use a computer mostly. Beat machines are temperamental at times, but will give you a unique sound. Along with Ableton Live and Ableton Push 2, I run effects through the SP-404SX, I play guitar, bass, and keyboards on some tracks as well. I’m trying not to be reliant on sampling these days since I do have a level of musical training, and I’m getting trained for Jazz Guitar right now. Gotta be able to mix it up and step into any situation and produce results, ya know?
N: The producer field is crowded with especially good producers. As a producer with a distinctive style, how did you manage to stand out in the crowd?
L: Be myself and not follow the crowd. I think with Hip Hop it’s very trend oriented, so it’s easy for people to simply go on social media and see what is trending, or cool. In my opinion, it doesn’t allow people to actually be who they want if they’re different. My name Lonelier is a testament to that. Be happy doing what you love, especially when no one is around.
N: I hear from your production work that you’re a big fan of J. Dilla (specifically his album Donuts), how did that album inspire you and what did you learn from that album?
L: Donuts mostly taught me not to cut corners with sample chopping, or it taught me that sample chopping is an art. Don’t Cry is the biggest inspiration for my approach. I think it’s kinda cheap when someone samples something, but doesn’t chop anything at all to make it their own. Don’t put shitty drums behind an incredible sample. You gotta change it to where it’s YOUR voice, and not the original anymore. Dilla was different in every way, and I acknowledged that. Most people only like his lofi, mid ‘90’s stuff, but don’t dig deeper into what he was doing. I mean, have you listened to Ruff Draft, or The Shining?
N: Do you have any other inspirations besides J. Dilla?
L: I have many actually. I’ll list them out: Madlib, Sigur Ros, Grizzly Bear, Radiohead, Nas, DJ Premier, Coldplay, Jay-Z, (Late Registration) Kanye West, Knxwledge, Theo Hux, Arckatron, SP The Soul Prophet, The Smiths, and Chet Atkins. It’s an unusual list, but this is why my music is kinda crazy. Some of these artists aren’t even Hip Hop artists.
N: If you could collaborate with rappers in your field of expertise, who would it be?
L: Man… Fatlip from the Pharcyde for one. I’d love to work with Rhapsody, I always thought she was nice with it. I’d also love to work with Jay-Z, but only if I could somehow get the Black Album Jay-Z when he felt like the end had come. Lastly, I’d want to work with Pusha T. His bars, and delivery are something to not overlook.
N: And if you had a chance to work with the hottest trend of the week, would you do it?
L: Nah, I honestly don’t follow any trends at all. It would be the start of running on a hamster wheel of fleeting gratification, and/or validation. That’s how a person loses themselves in this world. Sorry, I promise I’m not trying to be philosophical.
N: The underground hip-hop scene and the mainstream hip-hop scene have differing views on hip-hop, one is focused on sounding modern and getting on radio, the other is focused on lyrical bars with soul samples. Which one do you favor or do you favor both?
L: I can handle both, however there are issues on both sides. Old heads (for good reason) trash modern hip hop for their lack of vision with rhymes, and aimless lifestyles. Not to mention a lot of the music sounds the same. But, there are some good rappers who could be amazing if they weren’t focused on selling mainstream music. Old school hip hop is what got me into hip hop. I love it because it isn’t exclusive. It was about the movement, whereas modern hip hop feels like I have to meet certain requirements just to be involved. I dunno, I just like being ready for either side. If Nicki Minaj called me for a track, I’d be ready. If Jean Grae, or Rhapsody called me for a track, I’d be ready.
N: If you ever become famous or discovered, what path would you take in terms of your career?
L: I hope I answer this question right… But I’d probably step out of Hip Hop as soon as I could, maybe. Being just a producer is rough. You really need to get into live music where you can actually tour, and play for large audiences. Playing beats vs playing with a band is two different animals. There isn’t a strong outlet for producers, and if there is, it’s heavily guarded by gatekeepers of the scene which makes it that much harder to get support if you aren’t liked. I’ve already been there to be honest. If I did make it I would help artists that I’ve always believed in make it.
Careerwise, I’d want to make sure I’m touring a lot, playing live music, not just beats, but with a band. A hip hop band would be dope for sure. I’d also want to make sure I have several lines of revenue outside of Hip Hop so I’m not struggling to make money.
N: In the underground hip-hop scene, there are a lot of cool people you can interact with, a lot of concerts you can go to and just relax. What were the coolest people you ever had the opportunity to meet and kick it with and what were the best events you ever had the pleasure of emceeing or witnessing?
L: Meeting Fatlip was one of the coolest moments back when my brother Theo Hux and I were running Late Night Lofi in Hollywood. The next I would say would be meeting the guys from Kick Snare Go. They’re all great producers, and great people so shoutouts to them! Also, this isn’t Hip Hop related, but I used to play guitar at a place in Venice called “The Bank” before they stopped having live music. I loved the environment there, it was really chill and I met a lot of people there.
N: It must have been difficult for you to find your style, your flow of producing. You did put in a lot of hours to get to where you are so do you have any advice for those reading the interview?
L: It took years to get there to be honest. I wish it was an overnight thing. I have dozens of unreleased beats between ‘04 to ‘09. A lot of it is trash lol, but I could hear where I was trying to go then. Now, I feel like I have control. Being abing to mix your own stuff, or use peripherals like a VCR in the workflow helps with the ideas. Lastly, being able to actually chop samples well, and blend drums well helps immensely.
N: One last question. What do you have in store for the future?
L: I’m planning to start doing beat tapes without samples since I’m learning Jazz Guitar. I think it would be cool to do shows where I’m playing an instrument live. Most Hip Hop gigs don’t feature that, unless Bad Snacks is there. She is the reason why I started taking guitar seriously again. I do have a few beat tapes that I need to drop, so I’m just going to keep making content until something changes in the future. I also have several EP’s I’m doing with various artists too, I’m really excited for the potential of those collaborations. I’m gonna start a YouTube show as soon as I can get back to LA. I’ve been stuck in Dallas since covid started. I really want to pick up where I left off with Late Night Lofi, not do it live, but do it as a show.. I feel like it could be a great platform for producers if it’s done right.
I’m hoping that I can tour and play with a band someday too, but that is out of my control right now. Best thing I can do is just be ready if I get my chance!
N: Thank you for your time!
L: Thank you as well, it’s been a pleasure!
Lonelier can be found on Bandcamp, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Make sure to support him; buy his albums, tell your friends about him and if you get the chance, send his music to everybody you know.