“The Ah-ha’s of Existence”: An Interview with S. Reidy

Norman's Lo-fi Hip-hop Hometown Hero Hits the Big Stage at Norman Music Festival Following His Landmark 2022 LP

Released earlier this year, S. Reidy’s An Album, With Songs is unquestionably his biggest accomplishment to date. While sticking to his self-made bedroom rap methodology, he has broken through to a new plateau in his music career with record streaming numbers and an Open Mike Eagle feature in tow.

This weekend, he will be performing to arguably his biggest crowd to date at Norman Music Festival’s Winston West Stage on Friday, April 29th, starting at 9:00 pm.

The following interview was conducted for a feature in the Oklahoma Gazette, which you can read here.

Make Oklahoma Weirder: Why did you call the new album An Album, With Songs?

S. Reidy: I’m glad this is the first question because it’s sort of important. I haven’t really explained it publicly yet, but the really lame answer here is that none of these songs were really supposed to go together.

In the start of 2020 I released “Abstract Gravity” with the intention of it being the single for an album I was working on called Open: Honesty. When the pandemic hit I put together about nine songs I wanted to put on the project but I told myself I wasn’t going to put it out until I could do shows again. I didn’t really find myself able to do shows till about summer 2021, and by the time I had a very serious falling out with a collaborator on the record, so I more or less ditched the album entirely. I started collabing with beatsbypond, late 2020 so I opted to focus on songs with her and we put out I Started Grieving Today.

I then started recording songs for second EP called I Started Healing Today, and while I was recording that I realized at some point I liked the songs I was writing but didn’t like them as a complete project. Somewhere along the way I wrote some loosies, ditched some tracks I wasn’t in love with any more, and then after I was like “dawg, why don’t I just put the best songs I have on a record?” So my record became a one stop shop for the singles I had put out along the way, my favorites from Open: Honesty and I Started Healing Today, and broke it down to An Album, With Songs. Lucky for me its all pretty cohesive and I don’t think people noticed that the tracklist is a jumbled up mess. Haha. 

Make Oklahoma Weirder: What makes this an album and your other work not an album?

S. Reidy: Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t really care either. Haha. Hilariously enough I named my last record A Mixtape because I once again thought the tracklist was really messy. But if you asked me how many albums I have I’d say three: Until the Darkness Comes, A Mixtape, and An Album, with Songs. Then all the projects that has like 5 songs are EPs. But they’re all just projects to me. Whatever people want to label them as is fine by me.  

Make Oklahoma Weirder: What/who are some of the inspirations on this album?

S. Reidy: These past two years I’ve felt inspired by so many artists in different times and different ways. Because of the inconsistent sonic palette there’s kind of a spectrum of influences. But to name a bunch real fast, Sufjan Stevens, R.A.P. Ferreira, Owen, WHY?, Ceschi, Mac Miller, Field Medic, Earl Sweatshirt, callmestevieray, and a bunch more.

Make Oklahoma Weirder: Did The Midnight Gospel really literally save your life?

S. Reidy: Haha, I mean no I wasn’t at risk in any way at the time of watching it or anything and came out on the other side healed of all emotional turmoil. But like many people after watching the show, I truly felt its healing properties working on me. I tried to dive into philosophy when I was younger. I knew about the baseline concepts of meditation and the teaching of Ram Dass and such. But my dumb brain can’t contain lessons or ideas until it’s put into something like an insane acid trip of a cartoon like The Midnight Gospel, so it truly was a gift from God.

Make Oklahoma Weirder: How did you get Open Mike Eagle on a track?

S. Reidy: I became obsessed with Mike’s music in 2013 during my freshman year of college, and he truly changed my entire perspective on what hip hop could be and how one could write it. I had sent emails back in the day with songs, but I didn’t ever really blow him away, and it surely never would have worked on account of me not making good music at the time, haha.

Our paths crossed multiple times in the seven years since then, just being in the remotely same scene and meeting and knowing several people in his sphere, we were casual acquaintances, and by the time I wrote “Pipeline”, I had felt much better about asking him to be on that song with me. When he emailed me back saying he liked the songs, I really felt like I was dreaming. One of the best days ever.  

Make Oklahoma Weirder: What has the response been like so far to the new album?

S. Reidy: It has been really good! It’s pretty neat because I thought this album would have further reach and more replay value, and I’m glad the online interactions and streaming numbers have validated that to this point. Definitely going to strike while the irons hot with some touring and more art related to the record this year!

Make Oklahoma Weirder: Any thoughts on booking a big stage at NMF this year?

S. Reidy: I couldn’t believe at all that they asked me to be on the big boy flier this year. I’ve been to every norman music festival since I was 13 years old so it’s a dream come true. I’m excited to give myself the challenge of making a large festival set work when most of my performances have a up close and personal approach to them!

Make Oklahoma Weirder: Any surprises since the album came out?

S. Reidy: Having some of my biggest influences start to find the music and compliment me on it has been crazy for sure. Fantano retweeting Pipeline was crazy even though he didn’t acknowledge it otherwise. It was still cool! Hannibal Buress reaching out to compliment was insane for sure. I wasn’t sure how douchey it was to share that conversation on Facebook, but I was so proud of that, and I had to flex a little, haha. 

Make Oklahoma Weirder: All of the Producer credits on Spotify for the new album are blank. Why is that? What was/is your approach to the production process?

S. Reidy: That’s just me being lazy. I will fix that soon. Like I said, I just put the best songs I had on this record and it just so happened I produced half of them, beatsbypond did 4, Team Astro did one, and Vhsceral did one. When I produced specifically, I really like for there to be a hook in the instrumental, which most times is a loop I create in hopes the listener can get lost in it, and something simple enough so you can hear the words I say because they’re truly the star of the show.

Make Oklahoma Weirder: How do you determine whether you’re going to go with a sample-based hip-hop instrumental or an acoustic guitar instrumental?

S. Reidy: Man it’s all just so random. I have so many moods, so much source material, so many feelings, so many things I like to record and how it sounds. I wish I had a better answer, but it just depends on what I want to hear and truly I want to hear a bit of everything, haha. 

Make Oklahoma Weirder: How do you handle sampling & copyrighting? How are some samples cleared & others not? 

S. Reidy: Typically, I just reach out to the people I’m using from, and if I don’t hear back from them I just don’t release it. Toby Fox somehow never got my emails (lol) so I only released “There’s No Way” as a loosie on Soundcloud. “The Midnight Gospel Literally Saved My Life”, I honestly just took a chance and threw that sample in there because I was just hoping to get away with it. Luckily, Duncan Trussel heard the songs and he liked it! So I’m going to assume that I’m in the clear there, haha. But I’ve sampled music reviews, other musicians lyrics and what not, and most times they’re kind enough to reply and give me permission.

Make Oklahoma Weirder: A lot of your music is light on bass, which contrasts from a lot of rap music out there. Any intention to that?

S. Reidy: I know right! It’s one of the weirdest things about my music, and I don’t have an answer for it really! Maybe it’s subconsciously so that my poetry can be the true star like I said. It’s kind of hard to really feel a message from a songs if your car is vibrating like an electric toothbrush. I’m certainly not opposed to it, but I guess I’ve never felt like more bass would drive the point of the song home effectively! 

Make Oklahoma Weirder: What does the light bulb symbolize (other than being a call back to Until the Darkness Comes)?

S. Reidy: I’d like to think that the root of my music is in the “ah-ha’s” of existence. Self realization, epiphanies, and things that make the light bulb in your head go off. There’s an old interview I did where I grossly said “one day I want to be seen as more of a philosopher than a rapper,” and while I find that statement detestable now, I feel like what I was trying to say is I want the very foundation of my music to be in self realization. I want the music to grow into something as we grow into ourselves. Not to mention my music can clearly be pretty dark at times. But no matter how brutal it can be, I always want the focus to be on the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Make Oklahoma Weirder: How do you decide to work with other visual artists vs. drawing things yourself?

S. Reidy: I became kind of obsessed with drawing things myself once I found a style that I could draw that I found to be half way competent. They say when it comes to social changes and issues sometimes the people who know the least come up with the best ideas because nothing sounds impossible to them. I feel like I’ve taken that approach with my visual art. I have no proper training and no real grip of the past of art so I just kind of do whatever and I feel like it makes it the most “me” something could be. 

Make Oklahoma Weirder: How would you describe your aesthetic? Or would you use that word at all?

S. Reidy: I don’t know if I would use that word at all. I’m not sure how I would describe it through very no frills and down to the basic essentials. The embodiment of every feeling I’ve ever felt boiled down into a stick figure or 2 minute rap song. 

Make Oklahoma Weirder: What are some of your proudest social media moments?

S. Reidy: Oh jeez, there are a lot haha. All my streaming challenges like when I got kicked in the balls because Elderly Smackdown EP got 1,000 streams in a week. When “Sicko Mode” got 1,000 streams in a week and I chugged that can of chili on Facebook Live. Going viral on Tik Tok for making peanut butter ramen and making fun of sad white boy artists. The Fantano retweet was a big one. The Duncan Trussel reply to the TMGLSML video was a big one.

A big regret being accidentally making people think that Post Malone preordered my album on bandcamp, haha. I thought that post was so ridiculous that no one would take it seriously, but I get asked about it all the time now. 

If I had to pick one favorite, I guess it would be the time I told everyone I wanted 1,000 streams on my song Flowers because I really wanted to buy 2 McChickens with the streaming money it would get me. That one was funny because I never implied once that streaming services don’t pay artists enough money. I just brought to light every 1,000 streams artists get paid about $2, and people started implying that for me. It was a real “if the shoe fits” situation.

@sdotreidy Spicy peanut butter ramen is the greatest food invented by man. You’re welcome. #recipes #ramen #cheapmeals ♬ Love Song for the Apocalypse - Maulskull Remix - Ceschi

Make Oklahoma Weirder: Why do you hustle Spotify numbers so much? Like, was it worth that kick to the groin?

S. Reidy: Of course it wasn’t, haha. I just like to have fun with it. That stupid <1000 streams Spotify displays before you hit a thousand just drives me nuts, so I like to find creative ways to make that go away. It’s a win-win because it encourages people to listen to my music in a way that makes them a part of something fun, and it brings a fun element to my music that is most of the time anything but fun.

Make Oklahoma Weirder: What are your thoughts on honestly in music? In rap music?

S. Reidy: Hip-hop has always been a genre that values honesty. It makes sense because when you’re spitting poetry over an emotional instrumental like so much rap music does (especially early rap music), it lends itself to an atmosphere of being taken very seriously, and it makes you want to believe every word coming from an emcee’s mouth. As an outsider to hip-hop in my early years of S. Reidy, I feel like I was accepted in this cut throat atmosphere not because my music was good (because it wasn’t) but because I was being 100% true to myself. People in the hip-hop community have a sense for it. It’s in their DNA truly. I’m proud that little 19 year old Shawn didn’t have to learn the hard way that it was okay to be himself. 

Make Oklahoma Weirder: What are your thoughts on the music industry?

S. Reidy: I don’t man… probably the same thoughts anyone could have on any industry. There are amazing people, there are scumbags, and there is a gigantic gray area of people with all versions of in-between. People become very successful and realize they’re being exploited after it’s too late. I would blame capitalism but it’s truly just human greed. The only thing you can do is make your best judgment of people and stick with the people you think will truly build you up. Sadly, the biggest thing I’ve learned is if something seems too good to be true there’s a 99.99% chance it is, and if you can do something yourself you should. 

Make Oklahoma Weirder: Would you consider yourself “underground?” What does that term mean to you?

S. Reidy: Underground in the sense not many people know me, yes. But like this question implies it’s hard to define what it means to be underground and when someone breaks that ceiling. All I want in life is to stop waiting tables and be able to support myself by just making art and doing what I love. I’m closer than ever to reaching that goal, and once I’m there I probably will care even less about that definition than I do already. 

Make Oklahoma Weirder: What does it mean to be DIY?

S. Reidy: It’s like I said, not relying on someone to do what you can just do yourself. Making it work by any means necessary. Some promoter needs you to submit a logo so you can be on a show that will be good for you? Download a free graphic design program and just make it happen. Some venue wants you to pay $200 to open up for a has-been one hit wonder from 2004? Screw that, rap to 11 of your friends in your living room. Your own version of anything is probably gonna look stupid, but who cares? If people want to see a polished product, they can go listen to Doja Cat or something. I mean, I love Doja Cat too, and if you want to be that calculated and shiny go for it. But even Doja Cat had to create her own lane by making do with what she had at first, and nobody gets anywhere by trying to sell someone something they already have. 

Make Oklahoma Weirder: Hip-hop is defined differently depending on who you talk to. Do people consider you a hip-hop artist? Do you consider yourself a hip-hop artist? 

S. Reidy: I 100% consider myself a hip hop artist. Sure there are people who wouldn’t consider what I do hip-hop, but every 5 years a batch of artists burst on the scene with something brand new to offer the genre and people go “Oh thats not hip-hop” and those people either feel incredibly stupid in the years to follow or they get buried by the sands of time. People will bend over backwards to put hip-hop artists in a box (which truly to me is a product of putting people of color in a box to stifle their creativity, but I won’t speak on that) but people like Main Attrakionz, Open Mike Eagle, and even Juice WRLD have taught me to never accept that as criticism. 

Make Oklahoma Weirder: How do you balance being authentic with being marketable?

S. Reidy: I’m sorry my answer to every question is “I dont think about it too much about it,” but it’s true, haha. And not even in a deep way. I just don’t think much at all in general. I’m pretty stupid honestly. Kind of like I said before, I’m a music fan as much as I am an artist. I put together all my favorite things to hopefully come into a sound no one has heard before, hopefully in terms of marketability that comes across as “fresh” and “daring.” All the music I’ve ever loved has somehow been marketable to me. Hopefully me combining it all is marketable to someone else. But the dick headed answer is I don’t care. I like it. Haha. 

Make Oklahoma Weirder: How do you balance having an ego with checking your ego?

S. Reidy: I truly believe anyone who’s identified as an artist as long as I have has a part of them that believes they are the most interesting and important person in any room they’re in, so to mix that with checking your ego gets sticky. That’s why there’s so many dick heads in this industry. I guess the only way I treat my ego is truly treating everyone the way I’d want to be treated. I’ve been on the other side of the power dynamic between artist and fan relationship. The least I could do if those roles ever reverse for me is to remember where I came from. 

Make Oklahoma Weirder: How do you stay inspired/creative?

S. Reidy: I just feel a lot all the time. I really don’t like to vent unless it’s in song or art, so that’s probably why so many emotions come out. But on the other end I love just living life, spending time with people, going places, experiencing life. That’s a big part of it too. That whole “I live in the studio” lifestyle is so boring. I’d way rather listen to a song about your car breaking down on the way to an art gallery in the middle of nowhere than a song about your “grind and hustle.”

Make Oklahoma Weirder: What’s next for S. Reidy? 

S. Reidy: A Midwest tour, some collabs, and definitely another project that I’m already working on. But who knows? Maybe I take 4 songs from it and a bunch of other tracks 2 years from now and put out an album called A Music Project With 14 Tracks On It haha. 

+ posts

aka Jarvix, the Chief Executive Weirdo of Make Oklahoma Weirder. His out-of-the-box music coverage has been published by the Oklahoma Gazette, KOSU, and The Oklahoman among others. He also makes DIY music as a solo multi-instrumentalist live looper in his spare time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *