Rich Robbins • DemONE
We live in an era of music where excess is the norm. With streaming services, listeners have access to hundreds of thousands of different songs, artists and projects at the touch of a button. Every week that catalogue only increases with new release Friday. This has its pros in that it makes finding music so much more readily accessible but it has cons in that it can also make music easily expendable, where many listeners bump an album once and only once before moving onto to the next one, where it’s rinse and repeat. This causes many projects to not be truly appreciated as they should.
Rich Robbins’ newest project decides to buck that trend. DemONE is a lengthy project filled with some of his best and most vulnerable music yet, despite many of the tracks being unfinished. The purpose of this project is meant to be replayed multiple times and find the tracks that resonate with you the most. Depending on your mood though, those tracks might change everyday, but that’s practically the point of the project. Take a peek at Rich Robbins’ creative process and like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, you will find a world of pure fun and imagination.
You describe DemONE as a project that is meant to be sifted through and appreciated over time yet we live in a era of music where artists typically try to put out as much as possible only to be forgotten a week later. Why was it so important for you to release a project that goes against the grain of current music?
When I think back on it, a lot of artists I’ve come to look up to are artists that put out mixtapes in between albums. Rappers like Wayne and J. Cole have a catalog of lengthy projects that fill me with nostalgia and inspiration every time I listen. A song like “Sky Is The Limit” from Drought 3 reminds me of why I love Wayne so much. When you take away the unpolished feeling of a studio album, you get a more human peek into the artist, and I want my audience to be able to see me at an incomplete form. I also want fans/supporters to see just how much content I’ve been making since the release of Red Butterfly in May. I’ve been endlessly experimenting and trial-and-erroring in the studio, so DemONE is a creative way to showcase that. It’s here forever now. People will always be able to go back to it when they want me in my rawest state of mind.
You’re an avid fan of comics and anime even though they usually carry a negative stereotype of being “childish.” What role did these interests play in your development as an artist and in the development of this project?
Ha! Yea man it’s funny how comics/anime are seen as childish when they carry so many life lessons and commentary in them. Comics often reflect current political climates, and anime often commentates on the importance of overcoming obstacles through determination. As a kid, I always had a huge imagination — collecting action figures, setting up worlds with my friends in the backyard, etc — and now that I’m an adult, I’m seeing these mediums as a form of expression that still maintain some type of youth. We get older and lose the piece that allows us to imagine in fantastical ways, so being a fan of these things allows me to tap into that when I make music. It inspires me to keep the imagination of a kid but translate it into a more adult concept. For example, going into a comic book store and sifting through the action figure bins to find the collectibles is an experience that inspired DemONE. I want people to sift through the layers of the project to find their own “collectibles”. I’m at a point right now where I’m learning just how connected everything in my life can be: from rapping, to teaching, to my hobbies, and how blending all those together will make for a really unique story/artist.
You call this project your take on Kendrick Lamar’s Untitled, Unmastered. How important was it for you to give these unreleased tracks a proper home?
So important. I would listen to these songs and hear a different side of me with each one. I want my audience to see how many angles I approach music, and this was the only right way to do it. What better way to showcase versatility than to give a whole catalog of experiments in the lab? Some songs have features, some of them I produced, some are straight YouTube beats, some are more storytelling, some are just singing, etc. There’s no theme here. As much as it goes against the grain of how music is being released, it’s also fitting right into what the wave is right now. It’s a series of vibes and emotions that’s meant to be listened to on shuffle. Right now people are listening to playlists — meaning they’re looking for a constant shift in feeling — and that’s exactly how DemONE functions.
What are some of the mixtapes that inspired DemONE?
Drake “So Far Gone”
Wale “A Mixtape About Nothing”
A$AP Rocky “LiveLoveA$AP”
Lil Wayne “Da Drought 3”
& J. Cole “The Warm Up” all come to mind.
All projects where you can hear how hungry the artist is and how willing they were to take different approaches to hip hop.
What’s next for you musically? Some of the most memorable mixtapes of all time are a part of a larger series of tapes. Do you plan to make DemONE into a mixtape series?
I definitely want to make a “Demo” series. As I continue to work I’ll continue to have songs that don’t fit a theme but still showcase quality. This is really just Vol. 1. As far as my next piece of work, I’m working on a more polished album that I’m really excited about called “How RU RN”. If DemONE is a series of experiments, How RU RN is what it sounds like when those experiments are more perfected.