Concert Review and Q&A: Joey Aich at Double Happiness
With what began as a step-in on local hip-hop duo Partners In Irony’s set with a single verse, Cleveland rapper Joey Aich brought the high energy early on this past Saturday night at Double Happiness’ third annual ‘Six One Flow.’ Between setting the tone for the sets preluding his own, or finishing out the night, even live streaming a song on Instagram for family and friends unable to attend, it’s absolutely apparent Aich has his audience as his number one priority on stage.
A recent graduate from Denison University, Aich had released two projects during his college years, including College D.egree and Aichfiles. The albums delve into his journey through college and the importance of education all while beginning to come into his own style. Recently featured in Clevescene’s “21 Local Acts You Should Pay Attention To In The New Year.” Aich has big plans in store, including the release of a new project ‘If Money Grew On Trees.’ The two of us sat down prior to his set to talk about his beginnings as a rapper, his inspiration, goals and ultimately his plans for the future.
So growing up on the east side of Cleveland, a city that despite its setbacks has been delivering music wise as the birthplace to a multitude of rappers, where did you ultimately find your inspiration pouring in from?
“As far as Cleveland goes, Kid Cudi was a huge influence in early high school. Cudi was all I listened to in ninth, tenth and eleventh grade. Now he was a huge influence but as far as influences go, I knew what people were doing in Cleveland and I was like I don’t want to do that. I’ve always wanted to find my own way and my own style.”
What about lyrical inspiration?
“Freshman year of college I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, I didn’t really have an identity. On campus you were like well that’s this guy and he plays basketball or this person is in this singing group or they’re in that frat and I was like, well I play 2k all day and occasionally go out on the weekends. So music was kind of my way for people to say he’s the guy that raps. I found my identity as the campus rapper. Learning about myself has really shaped my lyrical content since. I know a lot of people don’t think you need to go to school but my education has definitely shaped me as an artist.”
You seem to have evolved an incredible amount both stylistically and in lyrical content between your projects.
“Yeah — Early on a lot of people would describe me as a frat rapper or say things like he’s not mature, or his lyrics aren’t mature. I wrote this song 40z because I knew people wanted something to turn up to, something that you can play at a party. I wouldn’t say it was satirical because it felt right at the time but I was trying to be something other than myself. I was trying to be ASAP Joey or SchoolBoy Aich. As I got older and started to experience things I started to realize I could use stuff that happened, tell a story and try to make it relate to other people. In ‘GED 7249,’ which is my car’s license plate number, that song was more about me being here, I feel like I’m here for a purpose. I got into an accident two years ago and totaled my car. At that point in time I was just down. I felt that every time I would take a step forward, something would being me two or three steps back and that was one of them. But then I had to say ok I made it out of that, it was just another test and I kept moving forward. So in music I may not make the best artists list, somebody’s top 50 artists or whatever but I’m still taking my steps forward and doing what I have to do.”
Let’s talk more about that song ‘GED 7249.’ You repeat the phrase, “stage fright doesn’t happen to a pro I hope you know…” now are you referring to yourself here? Has stage fright been an issue for you?
“I love being on stage. I love being the center of attention with my friends and all that. Stage fright hasn’t been something I get often it’s more of like I’m anxious to be on stage.”
You were just featured in Clevescene.com’s piece ’21 Local Acts You Should Pay Attention To In The New Year’ which is absolutely exciting. Can you tell me a little bit about what this year’s project “If Money Grew On Trees” is like?
“The concept of the whole project has been something I repeatedly talk about all the time. The past two years I’ve told everyone, including myself that I’m making music my job and I’m going to continue to work on it as hard as I can. The past couple months I’ve asked myself if money grew on trees what are all the things that I would be able to do. I see people like Chance the Rapper and other artists doing great things and they have the capital to do so. I want to be able to help people. So with this album I want to pose that question to people, if money grew on trees… what would you do. I talk a lot about money in my music but it doesn’t impress me. My grandmother always asks me when I’m going to bring home the big bucks, but I just want change. I want to make music so little kids can find something like Kid Cudi was for me. So if the money doesn’t come, so be it, but if there’s kids who say you’ve helped me or you’ve influenced me that’s what I’m here for.”
You had mentioned that your latest project is going to be the most Joey Aich its ever been, what does that mean people can expect from your music moving forward?
“My older music and songs like 40oz were made because I wanted to make music like ASAP or Schoolboy Q. I wanted to find my way of being like somebody else. My last project Aichfiles was me being more of myself and I wrote about my experiences, myself and my life. But I still found myself going back to different artists. I feel like now I’m really starting to get into myself. I’m not trying to use other sounds to create what is Joey Aich. I’m happy to be myself. I can listen to a song now and say hey this is me, this is my flow and this is my style.”
For more info visit www.joeyaich.com.
Photos by Grace Fleisher.