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Last week I sat down in KSPC with Pretty Boy Aaron, an R&B producer and rapper from Dallas, TX, to talk about his experiences in the music industry. Pretty Boy Aaron has been making music since college and has funky hits like “Comb My Hair,” “Nicotine,” and “Something Good.” He recently performed at Kahuotek, an annual music festival held at Pitzer College. We chatted about his inspirations, COVID, politics, and more. You can find the interview below.

~ Emily Gibbons, KSPC Music Director

How is it like being in California?
Right now? It’s a good question. Right now, it’s cool.  I’ve only been here a couple times when it’s rained. So it’s very interesting how it’s been, like, raining all day. I also feel like where our b&b is as we’ve been talking to more locals and it’s pretty cool. It’s been nice. 

Now for a random question. But I was curious after we talked. Do you have any tattoos?
I don’t but I really want some. I really do. I’ve always wanted the Mac Miller swimming logo. It was a submarine looking character. I want to get down on my calf really badly. 

Is Mac Miller a big inspiration?
Yeah, he’s a very big inspiration especially when I started doing the more like disco electronic stuff I was really trying to tap into, Divine Feminine energy, and then some of the stuff off of Swimming. And seeing how he was able to make tracks like that. I would just try to emulate that. 

What do you think is a key aspect to all funky songs? What does a funky song need?
It needs a good baseline. That always helps.  

When you make music, do you lose yourself or find yourself?
A little bit of both. For example earlier this year, I was literally just in my room. You know, you just get lost in the music, just making it, and all these things are happening. But other times, like earlier this year, when I was working on music, I was trying to figure out how to make something new and it’s been fun trying to figure it out.

How do you like to consume music?
I definitely listen all alone, and mostly in the car. If a new album comes out, I don’t listen to it with headphones. Usually if I see someone has dropped something, I’ll add it. And if I’m traveling or like driving around places, I’ll just put it on and try to consume it. 

How would you say COVID influenced your music,  because I know Comb My Hair got popular during COVID. So how would you say that whole pandemic era influenced you to make music?
I always wonder if there’s  two timelines out there. It was like if COVID didn’t happen, or wasn’t as impactful how would my music have been? I think because I was  inside my house, I had a lot of time to not just only make music, but also learn a lot about the industry. And so through different experiences and seeing how things have played out. I was really able to mature as not just a musician, but as a businessman too. I’ve learned how to read contracts and figure out if I want to distribute music through a certain company and how I would be able to do it efficiently.

So during this COVID time, you were making music and you were making demos. Who is the first person you send your demos to?
To be honest, I don’t think I send demos like that because for a while we me and my friends didn’t meet up during COVID. And then, when we started meeting up, I would say, “Oh, let me play y’all this music.” It would either be my friend Khalid, or Trey AKA Bruhnice that I would show demos to. It’s kinda the same way now. If I have a song, I don’t send it to them. It’s more so, I want to play it for you in real time. I don’t know why I do that now. But I tend not to send demos.

And then in terms of writing demos, how long does it usually take you to write a song from start to finish?
I would say it varies for me. Sometimes I can write a verse in 16 minutes. Other times, it takes me two or three years. Sometimes I just have to live a little. And then I’m like, “Okay, I know how to write this verse or know how to approach this.”

Do you have a favorite live Performer? Someone you’ve seen in concert so many times, or someone whose performance really impacted you?
Vince Staples. I have seen Vince Staples probably 10 times. He’s changed how he performs throughout the years, but when he first was starting, he did a lot of crowd interaction. People didn’t really know his music but he was able to capture the audience. I’ve always been like “I like how Vince does that. Let me see if I can implement that into my live performances,” because you know, a lot of the time these people don’t know your music. So it’s like, how do you capture them and make them into fans? 

Have you ever written songs for other artists?
That’s what I’m working on now. It’s taken me a little bit to get to that point. But now I’m ready because that’s where the real money is. I like making my own music and stuff like that. But really, being given a prompt and being told you have to make a song about this. And then it’s going to this person, and you see if they like it, I enjoyed that. Because it’s like a challenge or a puzzle, you know, like, “okay, how would I make this sound like them but also sound different from the other stuff?” We try to make the whole track and see what will happen.

Would you say it’s necessary for musicians to challenge themselves in order to be true artists?
I guess it depends on the type of artists, because there’s some artists, I’m not going to name any names, but you know what you’re gonna get from them. There’s just some bigger artists where you know how they are going to sound. I think to be a true artist you do need to challenge yourself. You don’t necessarily need every album to sound different. But if you are able to be comfortable enough to try different things, it’s gonna take you further. You might not necessarily have the biggest fan base if you’re being experimental with your music but the people who really really, really like your music will love it. And I think that’s important because those people will stick around.

Do you think you have to be able to play instruments in order to make music?
Definitely not. There’s kids on Tiktok using Bandlab and stuff like that. And yeah, it’s different because they’re like using YouTube beats or  someone else makes the production, but they’re still adding their own flair and own twist, and I think that’s really important. People always used to tell the story of Michael Jackson. For one of his records he layered in vocally. He didn’t play an instrument, but he said “Okay, this is gonna how it’s gonna sound.” He did it through his vocals, and it made it to the song it is now you know, so if some can do things like that it’s tight. 

Do you think arts and music in general should be political? Do you think it should be apolitical? Or do you think it’s an artist choice?
The only reason I’m against it being political, is because there’s some really stupid artists out there. No offense to people who lean certain ways, but I’m not trying to hear their views on the country, or how the country should be run, you know what I mean? But I think political art or political music is very important. We don’t necessarily need artists to tell us what to think. But if they’re just able to give their views, and are open, I think that’s important.

I need to know, how did you get the name Pretty Boy Aaron?
I used to be called Brother Man Aaron, and I wanted to change my rap name. I wanted my name to be in it because I don’t want people to call me by a different name. I made a remix sample to Heartthrob by Father. And, in the song he says “pretty black heartthrob.” And in my remix I said “pretty boy heartthrob.” And then I thought “Oh, that’s cool. Let me see if I can add that to my name.” And then when I did I thought it was pretty catchy so it worked. 

You’ve said recently that skating videos inspired you to make music. Before that, did you feel a pull towards music?
Not necessarily to be honest. I liked it.  I used to be in band, and the only times I would have fun was when we played a popular or more modern song. Even then I wouldn’t be like, “Oh, let me download the songs on my mp3 player, iPod, or whatever.” I think skating videos really made me realize that music is cool.

A lot of people say that the music you listen to when you’re in middle school is the music you’ll listen to the most for the rest of your life. Do you think that’s true for you?
No, not at all. I was listening to Eminem and Jay Z and all that. As I’ve gotten older, I think they’re so corny. I don’t listen to that at all now. I’m not trying to get back into politics, but with them there were a lot of violent things directed towards women and I don’t want to associate with that or listen to stuff like that.

How has growing up in Texas inspired your music?
I like a lot of bass because of it. My uncle would always make jokes about how the reason East Coast music doesn’t hit as hard is because it doesn’t have bass. And you know, in Texas, people  have subwoofers on their cars and stuff like that, so I’ve always loved bass. It’s kind of screwed me over, because I’ll mix my own music sometimes, and I’ll crank the bass up too high because I love it. 

What are your go-to artists when you’re feeling sad? What is your go to artist when you’re feeling happy?
When I’m feeling sad I’ll specifically listen to Sweet/I Thought You Wanted To Dance by Tyler the Creator. If I’m happy, and I’m gonna go out and go to a club, I’ll play Family Ties by Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar, but I’ll stop after Baby Keems part because I just love his part so much. 

Walk us through your process when you make music.
Sometimes I can just hear melodies in the world, even though that sounds pretentious. Sometimes I’ll just hear something and try to build off of that. And so then, I’ll go to my room, and play on the keyboard. I usually start from production. Then I’ll add vocals, or I’ll send it to a friend and ask what they think. And then, then I build that until it becomes a song.

If you could change one thing about your music career, what would it be?
I ask myself this question a lot. It kind of goes back to the pandemic answers. Like, if the pandemic didn’t happen, how would my career have been? I’m not glad that happened, you know, because, you know, it was terrible, but I feel like the situations I was put in during that time have really influenced and pushed me to like this point of my life. And so I can’t be like, “Oh, I wish it didn’t happen.” I just have to keep going.

How has your music allowed you to meet new people?
Through shows mostly. Or, for example, there’s a band I’ve been working with called Mamalarky. I love their music and we have the same publisher. One time I came out to LA and we started working together. And I really liked those people, those guys are my friends. And so music has helped me meet more musicians who are like minded. And I’m glad because I don’t have that many friends outside of art. It’s cool the way you can relate to people through it.

What is your favorite city to perform at? And what is your dream city to perform at?
I really want to go to the UK and go to London, but I need my passport still. So outside of that I really want to perform in Richmond, Virginia, because I’ve heard there’s a real quality scene out there that’s not necessarily like New York or LA. In terms of my favorite place to perform, I do like Dallas shows a lot, but there’s something different about San Antonio shows. No offense to San Antonio but they don’t have a lot of stuff going on out there, so whenever  an artist is in San Antonio, they really like they really support them, and I love that. That’s awesome. 

Who is your dream collaborator, living or dead?
What’s crazy is that a lot of my favorite artists, I don’t want to work with them. For example, I love Stevie Wonder but how can I help Stevie Wonder, you know what I mean?  I guess I would love to work with Mac Miller. I’ve always thought maybe I would have opened up for Mac Miller on tour or something. That was always a dream, and then he tragically passed. I would love to work with Coco O, who was in a band called Quadron, and now she makes her own solo music, and it’s so fire. I love her voice. I want to work with her so badly.

Last question! What moods do you want your songs to evoke?
I hope it evokes happiness, you know, I don’t want I don’t want people to be sad listening to my stuff. A lot of things I’ve been writing lately have been sad but I don’t want people to listen to it and be depressed. I don’t want that. If you listen to my music, I want you to be uplifted in a way. I remember this one person I met in Houston who had said, Comb My Hair made them more confident because like I  rap about having a gap in my teeth, and I’m confident with that. And it made them more confident about their gap. I felt like that’s something I will always remember because I wasn’t confident with my gap until I saw my favorite artist Tyler the Creator, who has a gap. 

Listen to KSPC to hear Pretty Boy Aaron live on air or stream his music on Apple, Spotify, Bandcamp, or wherever you get your music. You can also find Pretty Boy Aaron on Instagram and Twitter at @aaronispretty.