Electronic Producer RL Grime on His Ambition to Become a 'Legendary Figure' and Why EDM Lacks Authenticity

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RL Grime performs at Mad Decent Block Party at Mardi Gras World on August 29, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

Electronic producer RL Grime isn't interested in talking about trap music -- surprising, since his dark, menacing sound caught on during the genre's second wave in 2012. "That label is corny to me," says the 23-year-old, born Henry Steinway. Still, like contemporaries Lunice and Hudson Mohawke, the Los Angeles native gained notoriety by blending bass-heavy dance music and Southern hip-hop as exemplified on breakthrough track "Tell Me" and a viral remix of Kanye West's "Mercy" (10 million-plus clicks on SoundCloud and YouTube). Now, he's looking to break new sound barriers with his Wedidit debut, VOID (Nov. 17), a shift from his house music side project Clockwork. Currently on a worldwide tour through February, Grime talks dropping out of college, graphic design and the state of EDM.

1. He was studying at New York University -- until Vegas called.
"I had to decide whether messing around on my computer was worth dropping out of college -- it was surreal," he says. "Landing my [2013] residency in Las Vegas made for this nice cushion because I could see exactly what my life would look like six months out, and that I'd have work."

2. He has superstar aspirations.
Inspired by Justice's Cross and Boys Noize's Oi Oi Oi, he felt that the next step in becoming a respected artist was to make a rarity in single-happy EDM: a good album. "Building a formal catalog allows you to potentially become a legendary figure in your genre," he says. "A household name."

3. He saw his album before he made it.
Before he began recording Void, he flew British graphic designer David Rudnick (Clouds, Evian Christ) to Los Angeles to craft a visual concept. "We had a mutual fascination with the deep sea," he recalls. "It's this vast, mysterious area of nothingness that feels suspended in time but has beautiful creatures if you look hard enough. I was like, ‘That's the world I want this album to live in -- dark, but with these moments of emotion and beauty.' "

4. He thinks EDM lacks authenticity.
Grime says that the genre is less about self-expression than it is about pleasing others. "I'm totally not interested in that. My managers don't tell me about super-cheesy opportunities because I don't want them. Too many producers get caught up in whether or not a track is going to catch on."

5. He can fold paper airplanes better than you.
"I'm very good at origami," says Grime. "I think I learned it in elementary school and it just stuck, probably because it relaxes me."

This article first appeared in the Nov. 29 issue of Billboard.


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